Disclaimer: Don't Own, Etc. Except OCs

House was probably a beach person - before the infarction, that is. In most of the places he'd lived, there weren't many hills and he'd never considered them one way or the other.

But, apparently, Ann had.

"Why did we pick this particular piece of land?" House asked as his car cranked its way up the driveway. They had come through the iron electronic gate that surrounded the property and were heading up a steep hill.

Even as his car labored, House was positive his bike had enough juice to get up the hill, although he would be pushing it. And he didn't want to think about this driveway in the winter, until he remembered it was heated.

"I liked the view," Ann answered his question simply.

"You're sure this is okay for security?" House questioned. He noticed Ann flinch a little.

"For once, I honestly don't think I took that into consideration."

"Seriously?"

"Yes, if I had, I wouldn't have picked this spot. According to the security people I've consulted, we are much more vulnerable up on a hill than we would be on flat ground."

"I'm not so sure about that. If we were trying to protect ourselves from an air attack, probably, but otherwise, aren't we safer on a hilltop? I seem to remember that in every battle history John forced fed me, when the skirmish occurred before the advent of air power, the people winning were on higher ground."

"Except World War I."

"Yeah, but nobody won that."

"True. Anyway, I don't care any more."

"Please."

"No, I don't."

"Come on. This is the woman who plans so much, anyone lifting our basement freezer would get a hernia because of the thousand pounds of food in there."

"It's more like a hundred pounds."

"Well, I'm sure the movers were reassured that they only needed a forklift instead of an overhead crane."

There was a pause.

"I guess I was just willing to forego some safety for a reminder of home."

"The mountains in California are much bigger than this."

"California was never my home. I was thinking of New York."

"What?'

"New York. Catskills covering a lot of the lower half of the state and Adirondacks covering most of the upper part."

"Manhattan doesn't have any mountains."

"As amazing as Manhattan is in its own right, it really is an aberration."

"How so?"

"Most of the state isn't Woody Allen able to sleep because of the traffic – it's Diane Keaton able to sleep because of the crickets."

"If you say so . . . "

"Why don't we just see the house, okay?"

They were at the top of the driveway, which lead to the side of the house, or, more specifically, the four-car garage.

"Tell me again why we decided we needed this much garage space?" House questioned grumpily.

"Since we've finished off part of the basement, we don't have a lot of storage space."

"We still have plenty down there, and we have an actual storage room off the garage."

"We made that room into a workshop."

"Why? Didn't you call me the diagnostician who doesn't know one end of a hammer from the other?"

"Yes. "

"So why put in a workshop if we needed the storage? This isn't making any sense. What's really going on here?"

"You're right that is isn't about storage space. I thought it would be nice to fit all of our cars."

"I'm still not following you. We have two cars and a motorcycle. Are you going to be starting up a side business as a limo driver or something?"

"Funny. No, I'm just planning for the future."

"Explain."

"Well, I think that at some point, maybe when you're in your seventies, you'll consider giving up the motorcycle."

"I'm not going to agree to that now, but I'll admit there will come a time when, just maybe, that's true. But that means we'll need even less garage space."

"Not really. At about that point, both the kids will have licenses."

"Kids? Last time I checked, we just had the one. Are you trying to tell me you're pregnant?"

"No, but we have talked about it and we haven't ruled it out."

"I guess. But I still don't see how an infant needs garage space."

"Infants grow up and become teenagers, alas. And they'll probably both have cars."

"As long as they pay for it themselves, including maintenance, registration, title and insurance."

"Thank you, John House."

"One of the few things I agree with him about. If my parents had ever bought me a car, aside from dying of shock, I'd have beaten the piss out of it because I didn't have any skin in the game."

"Wow, your metaphors are making my head spin."

"But you know what I mean, right?"

"Yeah, and I happen to agree with it, mostly."

"Mostly? Did Daddy buy his little girl a car for her sweet-sixteen birthday?"

"No, but he did slip me some cash toward it. How he got that past my mom, I'll never know. In spite of the fact that my mom bought my brother a car."

House found that admission interesting, but he didn't want to get sidetracked from their current discussion. "Anyway, you have this image of our two cars and theirs sitting happily in the garage together."

"Well, when you put it that way, it does sound unbelievably sappy."

"I just don't know how realistic that is. I mean, David will most likely be either off to college or almost there if/when Kid Number Two is getting his/her car."

"I guess."

"Wait a minute – you don't think they're going away to college? You think they're going to be living at home, don't you?"

"A girl can dream."

"Why would either of them want that? Why wouldn't they want to get away as soon as they could?"

"Maybe because they actually like their parents?"

"You're past dreaming and into delusional."

"I don't think so."

"I do. Show me the rest of this monstrosity."

They looked at the aforementioned workshop. The room was empty except for metal cabinets along two of the walls, and a bench with cabinets and drawers of varying depths underneath. It would make a good work room for someone, House thought. Well, if it didn't get trashed while they were living there, it would probably help with the re-sale value, anyway.

They entered through the mudroom and House looked at the half-bath adjacent to it. It was very basic with white cabinets and the only non-granite bathroom countertop in the house. That was a good idea since the people using it would be coming in from outside and possibly be quite dirty. He suddenly had a mental image of David at seven or eight, covered in mud, trying to get it off his face and arms and making a total mess of the room. He smiled inwardly.

The mud room itself had a wooden bench running along one side, with a place to sit and a spot underneath for shoes and boots. On the other side was another bench, this one a little higher, which lifted up to allow for people to put items in the cabinet underneath. At long last, House hoped he could find a way to keep from losing one of every pair of gloves he had ever owned. There were wooden pegs at two heights attached to the bead board paneling above this cabinet. The lower one was for shorter jackets and was accessible to children, and the higher one was for longer coats and was accessible to adults. It was a small detail, but it made House realize how much thought Ann and the designer had put into most aspects of the place.

They turned left and entered a room that was empty except for counters of various heights and plastic storage bins that rolled out under them, with spaces in between. This room opened on to smaller room in back that was similarly finished.

"Is this where we're doing the vivisections?" House asked, as his face displayed a diabolical grin.

"I thought arts and crafts, school projects, and possibly a darkroom, but you never know what hobbies will interest children," Ann deadpanned.

They came out of the room and took a left. They went down a short corridor, past a closet with double doors. House paused and opened it, to find empty wooden shelves. "I thought you said there wasn't enough storage."

"Well, you know how much I food I tend to store."

"I think I once said it was enough to impress a survivalist."

"Yeah. I thought I could put overflow canned-goods and non-refrigerated food here so I wouldn't have to schlep it up from the basement."

"Overflow?"

"From the pantry in the kitchen."

"Which is already chock-full, no doubt."

Ann smiled sheepishly as they entered the utility room. There were more shelves and cabinets, a big sink and the washer and dryer. Next to the door on the opposite corner of the room was a large laundry cart on wheels.

House looked at it quizzically.

"I can wheel it to our side of the house and put all the dirty laundry you leave on the floor of the master bedroom, bathroom, and closet in it and wheel it back here," Ann answered without his asking.

"Why not just leave it there?"

"Not really a place for it, plus I kind of hope that the kids will chuck their dirty clothes in here, since it's right next to their bedrooms."

"More wishful thinking, eh?"

"Probably worse than hoping they stay at home when they go to college, yes."

"More unrealistic, that's for sure."

The headed across the hall to the children's rooms next. David's room was a little bigger, but it had a slightly smaller bathroom and a smaller walk-in closet.

"He's never going to put his shoes on the appropriate shelves and hang his shirts on the lower racks and his pants on the upper ones, unless he's gay."

"Not that there's anything wrong with that."

"Better keep him away from Wilson, just in case there's any nurture involved."

They went back out into the hallway to the other room. This room had a window in the front of the house.

"You're sure this should be Kid Number Two's room?" House asked.

"I just thought the smaller room should be for the younger child, that's all," Ann responded. "Why do you ask?"

"Well, suppose Kid Number Two is a girl?"

"Well, she'll have the bigger closet and bathroom, so that works, but I'm guessing you meant something else."

"I just don't want Little Johnny Pervert across the street watching her while she undresses."

Ann chuckled.

"What?" House asked, perplexed

"You have to know that across the cul-de-sac is what, a football field? Not to mention that we are higher up than they are by twenty feet."

"Yeah, so?"

"So I don't think even if 'she' stripped on the front porch the boy across the way could see her, let alone if she decided to undress in her bedroom, behind closed blinds."

"What are you saying?"

"Just that it's adorable that you are already so possessive of a teenage daughter who is little more than a gleam in our eyes."

"Are you mocking a concerned parent?"

"I'm mocking a jealous father."

"Someone who's decided to send away any girl who shows any interest in David until he's at least thirty-two has no right to say anything."

"Yeah, well, you're going to keep your potential daughter under lock-and-key until she's at least forty."

"I know what men are like."

"Which is?"

"Totally trying to score, without any consideration for the consequences of their actions."

"Um, wasn't it you – a man - who decided we should have a relationship after our first date?"

"I think it might have been our second date, but, whatever, I did bring up the subject."

"Was that because you were trying to score with no consequences?"

"Well, obviously not."

"So how can you say that men are like that?"

"Well, I didn't get it until I was in my fifties."

"I'm thinking Stacy would disagree with that."

"And that went so well. Remind me, what is the point of this discussion?"

"Just that if we give her an example of a loving couple, she'll understand what to look for and make good choices, at least most of the time."

"Now who's planned out the entire life of a child who hasn't even been conceived?"

"She will know what to do, though."

House rolled his eyes, for no other reason than his stated worldview didn't allow for imagining people who didn't exist yet (even though he'd done it himself). But, if he was at all truthful, and completely to his own surprise, he wanted this second child very much.

There was a powder room and a linen closet outside the bedroom.

They went down the hall, turned left and looked at the foyer. There were pillars separating it from the dining room, so it felt like a large, open space, even though it was only one story.

They glanced inside the library on their left. Their books were placed on the copious shelving. There remained room for expansion here, and that didn't count the bookshelves in all the bedrooms or in the finished rooms in the basement or the office. Ann thought that she might finally live in a house that had enough space for all the books she could ever want.

What had started out as a living room across the hall had been transformed, with Ann's knowledge and taste, into what the Victorians used to call a conservatory. There was a glass-domed roof with a lot of large, potted plants, including an orange tree. Ann's harpsichord and House's piano were there, along with overstuffed chairs and the rest of their instruments hung along the walls.

Across from the conservatory were the kitchen, dinette and the family room. This was the center of the home, and where they would probably spend most of their time together. The kitchen opened on to the conservatory and the dinette area, and that room went into the family room.

They had considered making part of the basement into a home theater, but, because of House's mobility issues, they had decided to use the family room instead. A full screen TV covered most of the wall that was against the garage. There was a lot of natural light in the room, but it was not direct during the day since the house faced east, and, of course, it wasn't an issue in the evening. Ann's large couch had been donated, and they had purchased an even bigger sectional sofa for this room, along with some swivel chairs.

They traveled along the back of the house, through what originally had been designed as an open porch, past a heated, indoor swimming pool that went along the rear of the house from the conservatory past a guest room to the back of the master bedroom. Of course the pool had an alarm in case any toddler got anywhere near it without adult supervision.

"That guest room was supposed to be a den," House groused as they walked past.

"Am I denying you a man-cave, dear?"

"Yes, and you'll owe me the rest of your life."

"What, exactly, are you expecting as payment?"

"Three guesses. But, office first," House grunted. Ann pointed at a door. She opened it and they headed down a corridor that extended off the back corner of the house.

She opened another door and came into a small kitchen with a table and four chairs. They walked through the door on the other side, and found a bathroom, with a toilet, sink and a large shower stall.

"Remind me why we need a full bathroom in here?" House questioned.

"Technically, it's a three-quarter bath because there's no tub," Ann answered.

"Whatever. Why do we need it?"

"I know how obsessed you get about cases. I can see you staying in this office for days. I thought you might like to be able to freshen up a bit."

"Fine," House grunted. Again, he was moved by her awareness and acceptance of the way he worked, and her thoughtfulness in designing a workspace that would fit his peculiar habits. Not that he would tell her that.

They walked into his office. It had a large wooden desk with a credenza in back. The walls were lined with shelves which contained his medical books and journals, along with his models of various parts of human anatomy, and other scientific toys. Even his large red tennis ball sat on the edge of his desk

"There's not much left in my office at Princeton Plainsboro," he announced.

"That's okay, isn't it?" Ann questioned tentatively.

"Yeah. I don't see myself spending a lot of time there anymore, except virtually."

There was a pause.

"Hey," House said gruffly, "You put in a shower for me to 'freshen up,' which is way too gay for me, by the way. I don't suppose I have any place to sleep here, do I?"

"Both of these couches are fold out king-size beds," Ann replied, gesturing to the two large leather couches that took up a sizeable portion of the room.

"Woot!"

"What?"

"We have a place to escape from the kids. Yes!"

"Please. This from a man who, when I remind him to put his infant son to bed, takes a half hour reading to him, talking to him, cuddling him and kissing him goodnight."

"What are you saying?"

"You want to get away from your kid or future kid as much as a menopausal woman loves heat and humidity."

"Are you having a hot flash?"

"I'm a long way away from that, old man. Sorry, I meant late middle-aged man."

"Thanks."

They walked through another doorway to a room with a conference table, and several large screens on the walls.

"I take it the electronics for this media extravaganza are in these cabinets?" House pointed to cupboards underneath the screens.

"Some have electronics, but most are empty, so you can use them for storage. There are some built-in file cabinets, too."

There was a door on the opposite side of the room.

"Does that go outside?" House questioned.

"Not exactly," Ann replied.

House limped across the room and opened the door to find a sort of foyer. Once again, it had bead board with hooks for coats, benches for sitting down to change boots and cabinets for storing outwear.

"Why do we need this?"

"So your employees have a place to put their coats and things."

"Don't want them to get too comfortable."

"And you don't want them to be cluttering your conference room with all their stuff, either."

"Fine." House walked over to look out one of the windows. He saw a small parking lot that connected around the house to the main driveway.

"Is this heated, too?" he asked with disdain.

"Yes," Ann responded.

"We shouldn't have done that. They're going to get spoiled. Not to mention the electric bill will be outta sight."

"Well, if we're willing to pay someone for all that plowing, we won't need to turn it on."

"Can't we just save the money and let them take their chances?"

"If you want their cars stuck in the snow until spring, which would strand them here with us . . . "

"Okay. Heat the damn driveway and parking lot."

They headed back through the office and the corridor to the hallway outside their bedroom.

They went through the door. The late spring sun was pouring through the skylights in the vaulted ceiling. The king-size bed faced toward the back of the room, which was one giant floor-to-ceiling window, with the pool behind it and another wall of glass beyond that. The view was from the top of the hill out over a rural valley of hilly fields and farmhouses.

Right now they could see freshly plowed fields, and white and pink flowers and soft green on the trees.

Ann imagines it in high summer – corn fields and fruit trees hanging heavy and cows and horses lazily feeding in their pastures. Her husband is grousing about the noise his children are making as they shout and laugh, rolling down the big hill in their back yard. They drag him into the kitchen to make their lunch, because they know only he will indulge their taste for marshmallow fluff and peanut butter on white bread with the crusts removed. And grape soda, which their mother will discover later because they simply can't hide their purple tongues.

And autumn, with tractors harvesting and people picking the fruits and vegetables, the yellows, reds and oranges blazing against the clear blue sky in the yellow, the fading sun, and the first, slightest hint of the cold to come, barely perceptible like a soft scent on the breeze. Ann sees herself standing at the bus stop, to get David and Katie (she likes the name, but the ultimate decision will be made when she sees her someday daughter's face and knows it's right).

She watches her daughter, a first grader, run unabashedly to jump into her arms while her brother, now a big third grader, holds back, attempting to look cool in front of his buddies on the bus. Of course, the minute they're back in the house and the front door is closed, he's hugging her tightly. And House, just taking a "random" break from work in his office, pretending to be annoyed as they bolt down the hallway to carefully embrace his legs as he reaches down and envelops them in his long arms.

Then it's late fall and early winter, the trees bare, the plants gone and the ground is a dead brown gray, with the last of the root vegetables being pulled up and only tan stubble left in the cornfields. Most people find this time of the year depressing, but not Ann. She loves the first real bite of cold and the silvery frost of the mornings. She and her husband prepare Thanksgiving dinner as her children "help." Ann is grateful for the food and the people around her table.

And then it's winter. Thick, white flakes swirl past the windows, only allowing peeks at the landscape below, which is not much more than a blanket of white, dotted by red barns. Ice hangs from the trees and the sky is a light gray. It's a snow day, David and Katie burst through the bedroom door climbing into bed in between them, snuggling under the blankets and falling back to sleep as they all indulge in their Sunday morning ritual on a Wednesday. The wind howls outside, reminding them all how safe and warm and loved they are.

Then the soft wet brown of early spring, and the first, most tender green plants peeking through. The mudroom earns it name in this season - David and Katie splash in the puddles in the backyard as Ann watches through this same window as she tries to get some work done. She feels her husband's arms slide around her. "Great view, huh?"

"Annie, are you listening? I said it's a great view, huh?"

"Yeah."

"Danielle and Chase are keeping David tonight, right?"

"Yes."

"So, we have plenty of time to 'enjoy' the new house. Wanna break in the bed?"

Ann simply smiled slyly and retreated to the bathroom. She emerged wearing nothing but a smile. In the meantime, House had had the opportunity to remove his clothes, too. They both experienced the thrill of seeing each other naked, something that had never gone away, and they hoped never would. They found themselves lying on the bed together.

Because it had been a while since they'd had the opportunity to make love in the daylight, House paused to really look at Ann.

He started with her face, but not her eyes. He knew he'd see affection there and he was never sure, after over forty-five years of making himself impassive, if his face would show any feelings at all. He usually considered that a positive thing, but with Ann, he didn't want her to think he felt nothing. She probably knew the volcano of feelings that was buried deep inside, since she had seen at least a small piece of it, but he didn't want to take any chances.

So, he ran his hand along her cheeks. His thumb traveled lightly across her lips. His fingers slid along her throat and collarbone. Ann's back arched toward his hands as he caressed her breasts and her nipples. She sighed contentedly at the touch.

House made his way down to her abdomen. Without his conscious awareness, he began lightly tracing the scar from her caesarian. He refrained from touching her stoma and her other scars. He could never actually tell her how incredibly beautiful they were to him. They made her who she was, and, because he loved her, he was grateful for all of them.

Ann felt House drawing his finger along the scar. Her first thought was to tell him it was ugly and to push his hand away. Ann knew she would be called on that. No scar of hers, no matter what emotions it evoked, could possibly compete with the mother of all scars, the one on his right thigh. It was pointless to declare one's scars ugly in the face of that.

House continued to run his finger across the mended skin. He wasn't really looking at it any more, Ann noticed. She wondered what he could possibly be thinking about. She wanted to know, but she knew she'd have to be careful how she asked.

"It doesn't look too bad, does it?" she questioned.

"Not really thinking about how it looks," House admitted.

There was a long pause. Ann knew pumping House for information at this point was worse than useless. If she tried, he'd just shut down, say it was nothing and move on.

"I was just thinking about when David was born," House mused.

"Well, that's not a bad memory," Ann noted.

"It's not a good one."

"What do you mean?"

"Your blood pressure was so high. When they did the c-section and pulled him out, all I could think was that it was like removing a tumor. I bet you didn't know I felt that way about my own son."

"Don't be so hard on yourself. It was a tough situation. You were concerned."

"Concerned? I get 'concerned' when there are no handicapped parking spaces. This was terrified, shitting in my pants."

Ann was taken aback by that. She'd known her medical condition had been serious, but she'd just decided not to dwell on it, since it was over. Hell, she'd been so busy, she hadn't had the time to think about it. She was sorry she had put House through all that, but she also knew he'd consider the regret a wasted emotion. So, she tried to logically respond to what he said.

"Well, then, you had an even tougher situation," she noted. "So, it really shouldn't upset you."

"Not 'upset' me?" House asked, his voice biting Ann with its sarcasm. "How could I not feel like a piece of shit? What kind of a father considers his child a tumor?"

"Wait. Think about what you said. You said when they took him out of me, you thought it was like removing a tumor."

"Yeah. So?"

"So, you compared the process to getting rid of a tumor; you didn't think of him as one."

"Semantics."

"No, it's an important distinction."

"Maybe. But I still didn't pay any attention to him. Chase was watching more closely what was going on with him than I was."

"First of all, I'm guessing that my blood pressure didn't drop down to 110 over seventy in five seconds."

"It only went down to 150 over 100, and that took several minutes."

"That's still pretty high, isn't it?"

"Yes."

"So, you were kind of focused on what was happening with me."

"Fine, maybe I was too distracted to hear details like apgar scores and height and weight, but I didn't feel anything, either."

"I don't understand, what did you think you were supposed to feel?"

"I'm his father. I'm supposed to love him."

"Greg, you expected to be overwhelmed with love for him the minute you saw him? I think that's not very realistic, especially for you."

"You mean because I'm defective when it comes to emotions?"

"No! I mean because you've had so many people that matter to you 'teach' you that your emotions are to be used to hurt and manipulate you. And, in spite of that, you still feel deeply. It's just that all that pain makes you cautious. You hold back until you can understand the situation. When you feel it has at least a chance of not hurting you, then you plunge in, with more intensity than anyone I've ever known. It's beautiful."

"So, I was just 'holding back'? That seems like a convenient excuse. It still sounds to me like I was crappy father."

Ann was frustrated that House was too guilt-ridden to get her point. She decided that launching into a lecture about how long it takes some parents to bond with their children was not going to help. She decided to try a different tack. "Let me ask you something."

"Okay."

"Do you love David now?"

"You know I do."

"How much?"

"I don't know how to quantify it . . . there aren't units of measurement for love."

"Spoken like a true scientist. Well, then, how about this? What would you be willing to do for him?"

"You mean like take care of him?"

"Yeah, that's part of it, but I mean something beyond just diaper-changing, helping with homework, driving him around to his activities, and paying for college. Something involving genuine self-sacrifice."

"Explain."

"If he needed a kidney and you were a match, would you give it to him?"

"After what I've done to my body, it's hard to imagine anyone would want my kidney."

"If it were in decent shape, would you give it to him?"

"Of course."

Ann was about to continue with her questions when she noticed House staring off into space again.

Ann knew it was better to wait. House finally spoke.

"I had this patient once. He was in his early twenties and he was an alcoholic and his heart was failing. He became unconscious. His father had been in a vegetative state and I woke him up temporarily to help with the diagnosis since I couldn't talk to the kid. We diagnosed him, but we couldn't save him without a transplant. The father knew he was going to return to the vegetative state once the drugs wore off, and he killed himself and gave his son his heart."

"Wow, just . . . wow."

"Yeah."

"Would you be willing to do what he did for David?"

"Absolutely. Although that's not as generous as it sounds."

"What?"

"I wouldn't want to go back to being vegetative, so I would be getting what I want, too."

"Let me ask you this, then. If David needed your heart and you're weren't avoiding some terrible fate by giving it to him, would you still do it?"

"There are rules against that sort of thing."

"Yeah, when I think of you, I think of a stickler for rules. Not. And you found some way around the rules for the father of your patient. So, I'm asking again, would you do it?"

"You'd be mad at me."

"And if you were dead, that would affect you how?"

"You'd haunt me."

"First of all, genius, I'd be alive and you'd be dead, and the dead haunt the living, not the other way around. Second, we're atheists, and we know there's no proof of anything like an afterlife. So, quit trying to distract me and answer the question!"

"Yes, I would."

"I thought so."

"Remind me, what was the point of this little exercise?"

"To show you that, even if you weren't aware of loving David when he was born, you know without a doubt that you love him now."

"I loved him from the first moment I held him. But – "

"But, nothing! You love him. End of discussion."

"But, what if he finds out about what I was thinking?"

"Well, other than your telling me just now, did you tell anyone else?"

"No. But Chase must have noticed I wasn't really paying any attention to David."

"Which he no doubt knew was because you were worried about me. And even if he figured it out somehow, why would he ever tell David?"

"Are you saying I should lie to him about this?"

"No, not at all. I just think you don't need to tell him."

"Ever?"

"Certainly not while he's a child and can't understand everything that was happening. And I'm not sure he needs to know it as an adult, either, unless he finds himself in a similar situation – I hope not - and you need to tell him he's really a good father and use yourself as an example."

"Of a good father? Seriously?"

"Of course."

"And, on what, precisely, do you base that assessment?"

"What you just said to me."

"Those are just words."

"Then how about your observable behavior since I woke up in the hospital? At least once I stopped being an idiot and let you near him. You take care of him, and hold him, and talk to him and kiss him."

"It's easy now."

"You mean because he's so adorable?"

"That, and he can't stop me."

Ann blanched. It probably wouldn't have shocked or hurt her more if someone had actually slapped her in the face. How much rejection had this man suffered over his life that he assumed that no one, not even his child that he demonstrably adored, would want to be with him? Ann wanted to reassure him, but she wasn't sure how to do it.

"David is old enough now that he could squirm when you hold him. Does he?"

"No, he doesn't."

"Does he just lie there?"

"No."

"What does he do, then?"

"He, um, he kind of , well, he, um . . . "

"Snuggles against you?"

"God, that word is so not manly."

"Well, does it describe what he does?"

"Yes, I guess so."

"So, even now, he likes being with you."

"He hasn't heard me say anything to him yet."

"That's not true."

"Yes it is. I mean, he doesn't understand words yet. I'm not exactly explaining theoretical mathematics to him."

"What do you say to him?"

"I don't know; mostly lame stuff."

"Like?"

Much to Ann's surprise, a blush traveled up House's face. "I, um, well, I tell him how blue his eyes are, and how smart he is, and a bunch of, um, . . . "

"Do you tell him that you love him?"

"Yeah, I guess, um, yes."

"Nothing else you say to him matters more."

"When he's a teenager – "

"Let me rephrase that. Nothing you say to him will ever matter more than that. And you know that, Greg. Because when you were a child, no one ever said that to you."

It was a harsh thing to say, but Ann knew House would respect her for speaking the truth.

There was a pause.

"Listen, you seem a little uncomfortable about telling me what you say to David. You know you don't have to be, don't you?"

"I'm not so sure about that."

"What? What do you mean?"

"Well, you remember that time when Wilson was over, and you practically called me effeminate for expressing emotions toward David?"

"I did no such thing! I never used that word at all."

"Okay, you said I would be the less dominant one in a gay relationship. What word would you use?"

"I don't know, I mean, why is this, I, I was just teasing you."

"Yeah, that's John used to say, too."

"You can't possibly be comparing me to him."

"Well, he used to mock my pain and my feelings."

"But, I wasn't . . . " There was a slight pause as Ann absorbed what House was saying. "Oh my God, I was. I'm so, so sorry Greg."

"I'm sure you weren't trying to, I mean, I'm sure you weren't even aware you were doing it."

"Well, as long as I'm not deliberately hurting you, and I'm just oblivious, then I'm sure it's okay. Not!"

"It's not a big deal."

"Anything that I do to hurt you is a huge deal."

"Hey, it's not like it hasn't happened before with other people. And in much more craptastical ways."

"So, the fact that I didn't rip out your still-beating heart makes it okay?"

"Well – "

"It's not okay and it'll never be okay. I'm supposed to know better, for one thing. And I'm supposed to love you."

"You do love me, I mean, most of the time. Right?" House's voice was soft and small.

"Oh, baby," Ann sighed as her heart ached for him. "I love you all the time, for all my life. Whether you want me around when I'm so cruel to you – "

"Stop exaggerating."

"Fine, I will. And the other thing I'm going to stop is mocking your feelings. I promise you I won't ever do that again."

"You mean you're going to become deadly serious and never bust on me again?"

"Of course not. I'm just never going to make fun of your feelings again, especially about David. You are a wonderful father, and David is going to worship you."

"Hey, if he just avoided calling me an asshole, I'd consider it a good day."

Ann smiled.

"What?" House asked.

"I'm just picturing the first time he kisses you. You're going to turn into a six-foot-two-and-half-inch pile of goo."

"Are you teasing me again?"

"No, not at all."

"Then what would you call it?"

"Appreciating the breathtaking beauty of my husband's love for our son."

There was a pause as House thought about what Ann had just said. He wasn't sure anyone had ever described anything he did as "breathtaking." Brilliant, unbelievable, outrageous, yes, but not breathtaking. And to use that word to describe how he loved someone? Even more beyond his experience.

Honestly, so much of his life now was outside anything he had ever known before. He had enough money to live comfortably. He no longer spent his professional life expecting it was only a matter of time before he was going to be fired from his job. The physical pain he'd experienced for the last dozen plus years was still there, but it was tamed to manageable levels, and, even more importantly, he could always ask for help if it worsened. The people he considered his friends now actually respected him, and didn't spend their time trying to fix him.

And he'd found love. The genuine, abiding, passionate love that he thought he was incapable of feeling. And even more surprisingly, that love was returned in full measure. Sure, she had teased him about how he felt about their son, but she'd also apologized for it. Heck, just the fact that she didn't try to blame him when called her on it was completely different than what anyone else who ever meant anything to him had done.

"Hey," Ann pulled him out of his thoughts, "Is everything okay?"

"No," House replied.

"No?"

"It's not okay. It's good. Really good."

With that, House returned to one of his favorite pastimes, which was enjoying his wife's body. Over time, he'd had the chance to map out the traditional erogenous zones. He knew she liked soft, tender, deep kisses, with their tongues caressing. He knew just how to make her sigh with pleasure when he tenderly touched or kissed or licked her breasts.

He knew that in contrast to the gentleness she liked with her breasts, she wasn't crazy about a soft caress of her ample behind. She found that ticklish and annoying. She much preferred a vigorous kneading there, and House preferred giving that to her, too.

He knew that she found direct contact with the tip of her clit to be too intense of a touch. He had learned her favorite place to be touched was slightly to the right. It made her come in a most spectacular way, and she could handle multiples when he touched her there. And his tongue knew every nook and cranny in the divine place between her legs.

House decided he would use all this not-so-hard-won knowledge soon, but right now he wanted to focus on the places that were not usually considered erogenous. He wanted to see what would happen.

He loved the slight turn of her calves. Not straight up and down, but not too much of a curve, either. He couldn't keep either his hands or his lips away from this little piece of perfection.

He had discovered in one of his many investigations that she had small hollows in her lower back, just above her ass. Hollows? No, the better name was dimples. Of course, House would never utter the word, as it was nauseatingly cute, but that didn't keep him from gliding over them with his fingers and putting his tongue into them for a thorough licking.

The underside of her arms near her elbow was white and soft as warm butter. Even though House's beard scratched her, she sighed contentedly as he tenderly kissed this nearly forgotten yet lovely place.

And then, her temple. Was there anything as exquisite as this spot? Ann was lying on her back, which made her hair fall away from her face. House noticed something. Usually, she wore makeup here to cover the scars from where she had been cut. But, she didn't have any makeup on right now, even though House had seen her applying it this morning. She must have removed her makeup in the bathroom before she inserted her diaphragm. House pondered why she chose to do that. It wasn't just before bedtime, it was the middle of the afternoon. Had she wanted to avoid getting makeup on the sheets or pillowcases? That had never bothered her before.

The only conclusion House could draw was that she wanted him to see the scars, or, at least, she didn't care if he did. House's chest pulled at the thought. She was willing to let him see all of her. It was an expression of trust, with no reservation of any kind. It was almost too much for him to deal with.

He decided to focus on the physical, the real. Even with the scars, the spot was smooth. Seeing the throbbing pulse point always did something incredible to House. Well, so much for defusing the situation. He could feel himself responding to her as he kissed her there and she murmured her delight.

God, he loved her so much. He moved her gently on to her back and covered her body with his, resting his head in the space between her neck and shoulder.

Ann noticed his deep breaths, and knew from past experience that House was overwhelmed. She knew his emotions were very near the surface, and that if she said anything, he would just stuff everything back down. So, she put one arm around his waist and held him. She put her other hand on his neck and gently caressed him, and she kissed whatever part of his head or face she could reach.

House felt her hands and her kisses. He knew she knew that if she said anything or pushed him, he would retreat. He was grateful that she understood both the strength of his emotions and his need to avoid talking about them or displaying them. Unfortunately, this thought did nothing to help him cope with what he was experiencing. If anything, it made the love he felt for her even stronger. House's chest felt like it was about to burst, and his body took the only way it could find relief. Tears formed in his eyes and began leaking out.

House knew he could stay buried in this spot, his spot, until the tears subsided. Ann would make no demands other than to be allowed to touch him. But, he thought she deserved more. She reserved to see what he looked like. She deserved to see just how much he loved her.

He lifted his head and looked into her face, or, at least, he looked in the direction of her face since his vision was so blurry he really couldn't see more than an outline. He waited for her reaction.

Ann was holding House and feeling his tears. She continued to rub his neck and hold him, occasionally kissing the top of his head. She would ride out this storm as she had the others before it. She was just grateful he was able to express his feelings after his having felt forced to bury them for so long.

Suddenly, House lifted his head. His eyes were slits, his faced was contorted, his cheeks were dripping wet with tears, and is nose was running. And it was the most exquisite thing Ann had ever seen.

Ann put her hands on either side of his head to support it. Her thumbs caressed the sides of his face.

Her tender reaction caused even more emotion to surge inside him and his entire body seized into a hard sob. He knew his face was wet, snotty and horribly contorted, and yet Ann's face seemed, from what he could make out, blissful, like she was looking at the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. House was astonished at the intensity of the love he saw in her face.

The deep sobs continued for a while. House eventually put his head back down on Ann's chest as he settled down into more gentle tears. Eventually, that stopped as well. There was a pause as House recovered a bit.

Ann was the First to speak. "I bet you have a roaring headache right now."

"Uh-huh," House winced.

Ann eased him off of her chest and went to the bathroom. She soaked a washcloth with warm water and returned to the bedroom. She tenderly washed his swollen face, removing all the dried on remains of his outburst. She went back and forth to the bathroom three times, returning with the washcloth rinsed out and warm again. The throbbing in House's head eased a bit, and lessened greatly a few minutes after he took the analgesic Ann brought to him on one of her trips.

They lay back down again and held each other.

"So," House asked hesitantly, "What are you thinking right now?"

"That April is a little early for either my birthday or Christmas, but I don't mind getting my present now."

"What? What present?"

"You. Seeing you. Your beautiful face."

"Beautiful? That contorted, wet, snotty face?"

"It was what you felt, and you shared it with me. That's the gift."

House had no response, so he kissed her, tenderly and tentatively at first, but with increasing intensity as the kiss deepened. When they paused to take in some oxygen, she sighed. It was like music.

House's hands traveled along her body, this time greedily seeking out her erogenous zones. Her breasts seemed eager, as always, for his touch and his lips. The space between her legs was welcoming to his fingers and his mouth. Her taste was better than anything else he had ever had on his tongue. And he loved her reaction. She was his and he was pleasing her completely, and, he was sure, in a way no one else could. She climaxed at least twice.

Suddenly, he found himself on his back and a mouth around his cock. She worked him for a few minutes until House gently pushed her away.

"I don't know how many rounds I've got in me," House informed her. "And I don't want to come on your chest."

Without a word Ann moved to lie down on her back. She spread her legs and held out her arms to him. He never imagined another human being would be this open to him. It was everything he had wanted his entire life. And here it was. Here she was.

House paused for only a second outside of her. As he entered, her body welcomed his as it always did. He tried not to push too hard. There would never be another first time to make love in their new home, and he wanted to enjoy this and he wanted her to enjoy it, too. He continued to push in and out of her as she moaned with pleasure and the pressure built between them.

"I love you so much, Greg," she whispered as she started to feel her climax. House barely had time to register what she said as he joined her in his release. And, for the first time in his life, he didn't care how he looked or what emotions played across his face. She wouldn't use them against him. She had promised and he knew she would keep her word.

House stayed inside her for as long as he could, and finally slipped out as his erection waned. They continued to bask in the afterglow.

"Well, I have to say the first time we did it in the new place was certainly memorable," House remarked.

"It was fantastic," Ann agreed. "An auspicious beginning."

"Indeed."

"Welcome home. I love you, Greg."

"I love you, too, Annie.'

They held each other and fell asleep, imagining all their tomorrows.


A/N: Well, there you have it. The journey that started at the end of season six is now over, just in time for the last few episodes of the entire series. I hope you enjoyed the ride as much as I did. Thank you for taking it with me.