SEX is another word for gender. Now that I have your attention . . .

There is some canon House/Cuddy and canon Sam/Wilson, however it is eventual House/Wilson slash. So, no worries! Also, I have been working on this fic since May 25th and it's finally finished. This is a case!fic, so even though I have done TONS of research for it, I AM NOT A DOCTOR-thus, please excuse any medicinal mistakes. That being said, the patient does not actually show up until chapter three. Since he and his family have a neo-Nazi lifestyle, I would like to point out they do not reflect my own beliefs, and I have kept all anti-Semitism and racism to a minimum.

Thanks to dissonata for all of his help!

Paper Faces on Parade

Chapter One

Screeching tore him from his dreams of spices and steam wafting around his nostrils, and the stark contrast between fantasy and reality hit him straight in the gut. Soft jazz had been playing in his mind, some made up tune that half-resembled a song he used to play on his organ, and now all he heard was the loud cries of Rachel. Fabric softener and the vague scent of fruity shampoo replaced sizzling banana peppers and garlic, and he ran his hands across his face tiredly, the scratchy feel of two-day stubble scraping his palm.

The wailing wouldn't stop, that he knew. It never really did. Even when Rachel wasn't crying, he was on edge for the next moment when she would. Predictably, Cuddy came into the room after probably two minutes of House staring at the ceiling.

"Greg," she snapped, and his eyebrow quirked at the use of his first name. Even still, he could hear the briefest of hesitations before she said it. "Could you take care of Rachel for a minute?" The slight edge to her tone belied the fact she was trying to appear congenial.

He glanced at the clock. 5:48.

She had an early appointment. Something to do with finances or rocket science or curing world hunger. Something important, he supposed and half-remembered. He really didn't care. But he let out a sigh and swung his legs off the bed, ignoring the twinge in his thigh (something he'd gotten good at ages ago-after all, he was used to twinges, and it hadn't been very long after the infarction he'd realized it would never go away) and didn't tell her for the twentieth time that Rachel probably didn't actually need anything. She had conditioned herself to cry whenever she was bored. Holding her whenever she bawled only reinforced the behaviour, instead of abolishing it so she would only cry whenever she actually needed something.

He had told her several times but stopped the third week into their relationship.

When he stood up properly and nodded at her to convey he was going to take care of Rachel, she didn't say thanks-instead, she just let out a huff and left.

Rachel sat in her crib, in all her one-and-a-half year old glory. Her face was bright red while she screamed and shouted, cheeks shiny with tears, and he stood at her crib, watching her for a moment. She must have sensed his presence because she stopped crying and just stared at him. Her big eyes shone with tears and she blinked, then lifted her hands out and whimpered.

House picked her up and held her at arms' length. He'd only known Rachel for about a month, and she still stared at him like . . . Well, like the same way she stared at a pillow. She blinked and he held her closer to his chest and she squirmed, as she always did, and started whimpering and hiccoughing and babbling. "Para novella," she stringed together, as if it really meant something.

He wouldn't tell Cuddy that she'd said something in Spanish, even if it made little sense. He'd made that mistake last week, and wasn't very interested in making it again.

He stumbled tiredly to the bedroom and flopped onto his side of the mattress. He placed Rachel beside him. She sat and blinked at him, face scrunched up like she might cry, but she didn't. She simply ignored him and started smacking the blanket like it really did something. "Appals, nanas," she trilled, then giggled. "Look is. Look is sick," she mumbled and blinked at him again, before sighing and smacking the blanket again.

It wasn't 'look is' she was saying, but House wasn't going to start another argument about who Rachel preferred holding her.

She continued to babble while House watched her through half-closed lids, speaking a mixture between Spanish and English but not well enough for him to consider it Spanglish, and he could smell bacon sizzling and sausage. Rachel turned to him and giggled and he snarled a bit when she began chewing on his clothes, but he couldn't really do much about it since he was strapped to the bed and all.

"What are you doing tied up?" Wilson asked when he walked into the room, hands on his hips. "Honestly, House, is Basil at it again? I wondered where my ties went."

House sighed when Wilson pulled Rachel away. He undid the tie around House's wrist and dropped it to the mattress with a thump, and opened his mouth to wail hysterically.

House jerked awake just as Cuddy burst into the room, fully dressed all except she had one heel in her hand. "House!" she snapped angrily, forgoing his given name and even though she said it in anger, he preferred it to 'Greg.'

The confused daze from being forced awake suddenly drifted above him like the scent of sizzling bacon that he realized a moment later didn't actually exist, and his stomach growled. Cuddy bolted across the room and plucked a shrieking Rachel from the ground.

"I asked you to watch her!" she yelled, checking Rachel over frantically, although she was clearly fine.

House remembered three days ago when Rachel, who was old enough to walk, had hit her head against the wall. Purposely. Then started crying when Cuddy came running towards her. House had taken it upon himself to tell Cuddy that young children and babies often hit their heads repeatedly to release endorphins and get high. It was the same thing he'd told her when four days before that Rachel grabbed the table, braced herself, then smacked her head against the top. Both times had ended in an argument.

"She's fine," he said instead, ignoring the way Rachel grinned at him when Cuddy hugged her tightly. House thought he saw Rachel wink, but that might have been because he was still a little sleepy.

"I asked you to watch her-you know I have to leave soon-and instead you fell asleep!"

"I didn't get to sleep until three so-"

"Then you need to go to sleep sooner! What if she'd been seriously hurt?"

"Christ, woman, she's almost two years old, not three weeks!" he snapped tiredly, then winced when he heard the small intake of breath that meant Cuddy was about to get annoyed. Well, more annoyed than she already was. "I'll get off the bed," he forestalled, then pushed himself off the mattress, thigh muscle stretching underneath his scar very awkwardly, pins and needles dancing along his skin.

He'd gotten used to Wilson's half-hidden looks of concern when he winced. Although he didn't always comment on his own pain it didn't mean it wasn't there, despite the fact everybody this past year had been under the impression his thigh had been magically cured through Ibuprofen. Apparently, unless House was actively rubbing his thigh and/or bitching, Cuddy was completely unaware. He supposed it wasn't really all that bad considering he didn't have to deal with her pulling a Cameron and getting all starry-eyed and sympathetic if he so much as limped slower, but it did mean he had to deal with pained expressions and lectures that even Wilson would've blanched over every time House shook out an extra pill.

He limped over to his girlfriend, which even two months later still felt awkward, and took Rachel gently. Rachel sniffled and whined a little, apparently not too ecstatic to be held by House. She reminded House about a dinner they were putting together for some big-wig contemplating donating to the diagnostics department, gave him a quick kiss goodbye, put on her heels and started out the door. "Don't be late for work!" she called over her shoulder before the door shut soundly.

It was nearing six and he heard Cuddy's car driving away.

House put Rachel back in the crib and was halfway to the bed when she let out a shriek.

He knew she didn't really need the attention. He'd barely gotten three hours of sleep, and if Cuddy expected him to be able to do his job, he would need to get some more.

He closed the bedroom door and Rachel screamed louder.

Sighing, he turned back around, left his room, and pulled Rachel out of the crib, clenching his jaw at the babbled name of Cuddy's ex-boyfriend.

"Dammit, Rachel!" House shouted as blood trickled down his face, the searing, burning slice blinding him for a brief second.

"Is not dormir para candy?" Rachel asked, blinking her huge eyes, then went over to the toilet to start opening and shutting the lid very loudly.

"Most emphatically not," he spat in her direction, then glared down at the droplets of shiny red against the pristine porcelain of the sink, then at himself in the mirror.

Apparently, beard burn was not a plus in the Great Book of All Things Lisa Cuddy. She hadn't minded the first two weeks, but then after a vigorous make out session that had been interrupted by Rachel deciding that climbing the bookshelf was fun and safe entertainment, Cuddy had rescued Rachel and said; "You need to shave, House."

The third week had gone by without so much as a kiss, and he'd decided that shaving wasn't too much of a hassle. After all, it was just a beard.

Shaving nicks bled a lot, apparently, and stung like a bitch, and so he washed off his razor, cleaning it of blood, and then pressed a cold, wet cloth to his face.

The banging echoed throughout the bathroom while Rachel babbled uselessly. He preferred her making incredibly annoying racket with the toilet seat than grabbing a fistful of his shirt and dropping to her ass, thereby making his torso lurch and arm slip, cutting his otherwise-fresh face.

He pulled away the cold rag, a bloody circle spiking against the fabric. He looked at his reflection in the mirror; at his smooth, clean, elongated face; at the wrinkles around his lips and across his skin that the beard had always managed to hide. Maybe it wasn't the lack of the beard that made him look older, but something certainly did.

He remembered Wilson once telling him he looked good unshaven. Truth or otherwise, House agreed.

That was when Rachel barrelled right into his thigh.

"DAMMIT!" he shouted, dropping his razor into the sink as he crumpled forward, the searing, blinding pain radiating up into his abdomen and making him nauseous. Bright white circles popped in his vision as he fell to his knees, hitting the hard floor, and he let out a howl of pain.

Rachel, who had been giggling and had probably just wanted to play, as House was sure she did with Lucas, suddenly burst into hysterics.

House gritted his teeth and hissed, then opened his eyes (which had been shut tightly although he didn't remember closing them).

He shakily stood and opened the mirror, revealing the medicine cabinet, while Rachel tottered off into a corner and held her breath, cheeks puffing out. He shook out four extra-strength prescription Ibuprofen, the rattling not nearly as soothing as the sound of Vicodin although it didn't technically sound different, and put it in his mouth, cupping some water in his hand and swallowing while Rachel stomped.

She was angry and he knew it. House hadn't wanted her to be wandering around without supervision while he got ready, and so he'd done what he did every morning-bathed Rachel first and then himself. He kept her in the bathroom as he bathed because he didn't want her running around the house without supervision. This hadn't gone too horribly, except that as he'd closed his eyes to lather a soaped-rag across his face, Rachel ate the slim bar of soap, which she'd thought funny, especially when she burped up a bubble.

Actually, in all honesty, that had been pretty hilarious and somewhat not un-cute, and so House had joined in on the laughter. Until she'd tried to eat her mother's razor, but House simply removed that from Rachel's grasp and put that away where she couldn't reach it.

Getting ready, back in the pre-relationship days, had taken House less than twenty minutes. He'd throw on some random shirt and jeans, pick whatever shoes he wanted, eat some grub, brush his teeth, and go. He preferred bathing at night.

However, Cuddy didn't like House coming to bed after a bath and dampening the sheets and pillowcase and blanket, and so he'd switched to taking his baths (he absolutely refused to take a shower, despite the fact Cuddy said it saved time and water in order to shower. Something about the environment and that she'd gotten a shower mat and a shower chair but House preferred baths even if they took more time) in the morning, which was never all that fun for him considering he rarely went to sleep before two. It wasn't that he purposely stayed awake that long; he just literally was not tired.

Normally this wouldn't have bothered him, except that Cuddy was so damn adamant on him having a 'normal' sleeping schedule because it wasn't healthy to stay awake long past midnight, but sleeping pills didn't work half the time and warm milk was disgusting.

At any rate, Cuddy normally went into work earlier than he did, which meant in the mornings he took care of Rachel which he had expected of course but it wasn't an easy change to make.

He'd moved into her apartment after a month, but it wasn't what most people thought. He still paid his apartment utilities and rent, but seeing as Cuddy had started asking him to come over early in the mornings to watch Rachel, so that the nanny wouldn't have to come in until later, it just made sense for him to spend the night. Which turned into her clearing out a drawer and eventually him bringing over most of his clothes and toiletries.

It had been gradual, he supposed, and seeing as Stacy had moved in with him after a week, it wasn't necessarily fast by his standards. Wilson had seemed to think otherwise, despite the fact Sam had moved in a month into their relationship as well. Once House pointed that out to him, Wilson had sputtered, turned pink, and left his office with House scowling at his friend's retreating back.

After bathing, he would then get dressed, letting Rachel either rest on the mattress or wander around the room while he picked out his clothes and tie.

Yes, tie.

Out of all the changes, that was the newest. Apparently doctors were supposed to dress professionally, since everybody knew that if a doctor didn't wear a tie he obviously knew nothing about diagnosing colds in the clinic or some other such nonsense. Cuddy had been talking to some boring billionaire who wished to altruistically get a tax break by donating large sums of money to the hospital. Being a teaching hospital, Cuddy realized that they needed as many donations as possible but apparently the wonderful specimen of republican that had spent a few days looking around had decided to give his money away elsewhere because the Dean of Medicine was dating a doctor who didn't dress professionally.

Since people can be judged by the company they kept (which explained why Wilson was indeed a complete jackass with hygienic problems and an excellent taste in ties . . . Oh, wait . . .) Cuddy lost her money and therefore took it out on him and she'd shouted at him about why she'd decided to try and keep their relationship secret, or at least only news to their friends (Wilson) but House had calmly and diplomatically told her (re: yelled) that he was not about to treat their relationship like some filthy taboo. And so she'd insisted he start wearing a tie to work.

He drew the line at French shoes and slacks. That was just too far. If she wanted to date Wilson then she should've jumped that bandwagon when she had the chance. She could've been happily divorced by now if she'd wanted.

So for the past week he'd been donning a tie over a button-up shirt. Of course, he still refused to wear a lab coat and wandered around with jeans and obnoxiously loud Nikes, and the ties, so far, made Cuddy cluck her tongue and purse her lips at his chest, but it was the principle of the thing that mattered.

After getting dressed, he usually checked the fridge to see what Cuddy decided to leave him for breakfast (Wilson she was not and he wondered if the kosher thing really mattered if he was dating a vegan) and it was usually dissatisfying (like a yogurt and a piece of fruit, which really didn't curb his hunger any) but he ate it, then wasted Taub's money on a vending machine snack when he got to work. Today he'd decided to forgo the breakfast because he'd taken a bite out of a vegan sandwich (tomatoes, some weird sauce, lettuce, mushrooms, his dignity) and decided it tasted like crap, so he'd tossed it in the bin and mentally told himself to get something in drive-thru because Taub would probably avoid him in the lobby for the next few weeks.

So he'd brushed his teeth and decided to shave, another new habit in the Life of Fixing Greg House, and the rest, as they would say if this were worth noting, was history.

He watched Rachel stare defiantly at him through the mirror, her face turning red from holding her breath, and he stared at her reflection, too. He wasn't Cuddy, who would've ran to her side as soon as her cheeks puffed out.

In fact, he calmly walked over to her, stared her down, and folded his arms, thigh still screeching in pain, cheek still stinging slightly while she stared up at him, eyes swimming with tears.

She passed out, and House caught her as she fell. Her body's natural instincts took over and she started breathing, and he carried her to the living room, limping the entire way, and placed her on the blanket he'd laid on the floor. Her big eyes opened just as he managed to stand and she started wailing. "Dammit, Rachel, can't you stop crying for one minute?" he growled and rubbed his thigh.

There was no way he'd be able to drive with his leg in the state it was now, not to mention the fact lack of sleep made his vision a little blurry. House had always hated mornings-Wilson could attest to that-but he especially hated mornings with a child.

It was seven-thirty, which meant he had a half-hour until he had to leave if he wanted to make it to work on time. He had to stay until the nanny showed, and she usually didn't come until about seven-fifty (which was ten minutes before she absolutely needed to, so he was grateful) and so he whipped out his cell-phone while Rachel continued crying and stared.

He could call Cuddy and see if she could leave to pick him up, which would be the first time he'd asked her to drive him to work, or he could call Wilson, whom he hadn't called since he and Cuddy had started dating.

Or he could brave the pain and drive to work, his thigh aching and chirping noisily in agony.

Rachel sobbed theatrically, not even bothering to fake a few tears, the half-muted television babbled something cutesy while colourful shapes danced on screen, and House stared at his open phone as his stomach rumbled.

All in all, it was a typical day in the life of Gregory House.

Every morning Wilson woke up, didn't have any problems with waking Sam who slept beside him, and showered while she cooked, if it was her turn. They alternated meals-every other day she would cook breakfast and he would cook the dinner, except on Saturdays when it was fend-for-yourself day, and date night for the evening. It worked for them. Schedules always worked for them.

Today it was Sam's turn to cook breakfast and although she wasn't as good as Wilson, she wasn't bad, either. So he woke her with a lazy good morning kiss, not long enough to get sidetracked, and took his shower. Sam showered in the evenings, which freed him up to shower in the mornings. She didn't mope or complain about his hairdryer or steal half his breakfast while they ate, either.

Since carpooling saved gas and money (and the environment, he supposed) after their morning rituals of eating, brushing teeth, getting dressed, and doing their hair, Wilson would drive Sam to work, drop her off, and then go to the hospital. They woke early enough so they wouldn't be late if they decided to have some early-morning sex, but they didn't always and today was one of those days, so instead Sam made a light-hearted comment about him joining her at the table when he habitually sat on the couch to watch muted infomercials.

Despite the both of them deciding that him being more open about his annoyances helping them, Wilson often let things slide that had House done it, he wouldn't have. It wasn't anything worth mentioning anyway and it didn't cause any problems, but even though Sam had insisted she'd wished they'd had that argument nearly twenty years ago (he hadn't corrected her erroneous math; then again, they'd had some emotional ex-sex twelve years ago but decided to forgo a relationship-perhaps that was what she was referencing) she had abruptly left the last time he'd raised his voice to her and so he didn't want to chance it again. That wasn't to say they never got a little snappy towards each other or had discussions, but they didn't argue. Not like they had that day over the banana peel.

Sam almost always picked up after herself. Well, she often forgot to use a coaster and he knew he should have told her that books or magazines were not a substitute, but she never left her dirty clothes on the floor or wet towels beside the tub so he allowed it to slide. She always did the dishes on her night (which wasn't all that difficult since they had a dishwasher) and she didn't watch the TV at obnoxiously loud levels well past midnight, or play a guitar or an organ all night long. She didn't hoard the TiVo list or wake him up in the middle of the night to ask him if there was a deeper meaning to Mojo Jojo or some sort of psychological aspect behind Blossom's colour of clothes.

All in all, life was . . . good.

"We'll need to pick up my dry-cleaning today," Wilson stated as he situated his tie in the mirror so it wasn't askew.

Sam spat toothpaste in the sink. "Okay."

It was domestic. It was the life every man dreamt of. They weren't married (yet, grumbled an Inner House who scowled and impaled some food with a fork) but even if they never decided to go through that again, what they had now was good and normal and . . . boring.

Wilson wasn't naïve. He knew that all relationships lost the fireworks and the explosions and melted into domesticity. That was life. And really, Sam was everything he should want-did want. When he thought of the perfect marriage, what he dreamt of all three times he'd walked down the aisle, this had been the moment he'd anticipated.

He remembered House and him living together. Domestic, yes. Routine . . . Well, for them, yes. Boring?

He shook his head, forcing that thought away. He couldn't remember the last time he and House had actually talked. They sent a few emails, left a comment or two on each other's facebook (House's always bordering on odd, random, and hilarious, spawning ridiculous conversations between them for dozens to read and leave "wtf?" responses of their own) but an actual conversation?

It had been awhile since they'd had lunch together. He often had lunch with Sam, and on the few occasions House had joined them it had been brief because House would get bored and leave, and then he'd started having lunch with Cuddy . . . He'd been taking more patients, most likely also due to Cuddy, and any time they did talk it was either a quick, two-or-three minute hello, a brief catching up in the hallway, or a consult.

Most of the "is it cancer?" consults were very obviously not, and Wilson indulged him simply because he knew what House was doing and didn't blame him.

Just like how he had locked his office door every single time he'd come in to find House sleeping on his couch, drool on the side of his lip. Nobody would go in to wake House, and Wilson could find someplace else to do his paperwork. Unless, of course, he had a meeting, in which case he had to wake House, but House never seemed to mind. There had been a few times Wilson just quietly did his paperwork to the sounds of House breathing until he had to do his rounds and when he returned, House had disappeared, probably to hide from clinic duty.

That seemed to be slowly dissipating. Not the sleeping-which tended to happen more often-but the hiding.

It wasn't that he didn't want to hang out with House, but he'd been so busy with his caseload and Sam and House had Rachel and Cuddy and his own patients to deal with that they had been drifting. Wilson had choked on his coffee the first time House came to work without stubble, and it had shocked him how old he'd looked. House didn't look very pleased with the situation, and so Wilson had resolutely not mentioned it at all.

"Notice anything different?" House had asked two days later.

Wilson had stared directly at his chin, hummed, then went; "Losing weight?"

They'd laughed. That had been their entire conversation.

Sam was great and just what he should want, and he really, really didn't dislike his life with her, but he would be an idiot to try and convince himself that something wasn't lacking.

"I was thinking," he began, smoothing down his chartreuse tie, "that maybe I should invite House out tonight."

She turned a look to him. "I thought you said you needed to pick up your dry-cleaning?"

"Well, I can do that before. Or after."

She rinsed her toothbrush and spat out the excess saliva and toothpaste. He wasn't an idiot; she was just buying time. Although she had always claimed to like House well enough and had always been kind around him, and while she'd never flat-out said anythin cruel when he wasn't around, Wilson wasn't an idiot. The lack of House in the loft had cheered her considerably, and whenever he brought up one of House's patients she quickly averted the subject, or got a plastered smile on her face that people faked when they weren't really interested but wanted to look like they were listening.

"Well, it could be like a double date. I'm sure Lisa would enjoy a night away from Rachel," she said, smiling sweetly at him.

It wasn't exactly what Wilson had wanted. He'd wanted a night with just him and House. He'd gone out with other married couples (or dating couples) when he was with Sam the first time, and with Bonnie, and with Julie. It wasn't that he hated those nights, and the evening with the transsexual hooker wouldn't have been too bad if not for the fact House had obviously been bored and saddened and distressed, plugging his ears against the happily conversing dates. Were House here, he would probably say something about double dates only serving to one-up each other on cutest, most loving relationship, and he doubted House would like spending time with Sam.

Then he remembered the few disastrous double-dating experiences he's had with Bonnie, Stacy, and House, and he very nearly chuckled. "I'll talk to him about it," he promised, figuring it was at least something, and then his cell-phone rang.

He knew who it was before he glanced at the caller-ID. "Speak of the devil," he said, smiling thinly at name Evil Bastard that House had changed his name to ages ago, and answered the phone, turning away from Sam and walking out of the bathroom. "Hey," he greeted and grinned far wider than he should have, but considering he hadn't actually talked to House on the phone for a long while, he couldn't help himself.

He was used to random phone calls at three in the morning. Now he was lucky if he heard House complain about inconsistencies on a soap opera, of all things.

"Could you . . . ?" he asked quietly.

He didn't beat around the bush, and Wilson had had enough of these calls to understand just what that meant. Rachel giggled insanely somewhere in the background, and he heard obnoxious singing that was probably from the television.

"Yeah," he answered sincerely.

There was a beat of silence, then House let out a sigh. "Okay."

They both hung up and he turned to see Sam in the doorframe of their bathroom with her eyebrows raised. "We need to pick up House. He can't drive when his leg's . . ." he trailed of when he saw Sam purse her lips for the briefest second, then smiled falsely and nodded.

House had, once again, screwed up Wilson's routine. He really didn't mind.

In the end, House had called Wilson. Of course. He was sure nobody was surprised at the information, but the Ibuprofen had barely dented his throbbing thigh muscle. Cuddy had talked to him a few times about taking up physical therapy again but he'd flat-out refused, every time. House could walk. It hurt, but he could do it, and he'd be damned before he got his hopes up at ever being able to live pain-free again. The ketamine treatment failed, the physical therapy hadn't taken away the pain the first time, and even though living with Wilson had soothed the pain somewhat, eventually that had fallen through.

Oh, the pain hadn't disappeared. Of course not. Anybody who thought that was either an idiot or in denial. But it had been far more manageable, and even if the Ibuprofen was weak in comparison, he hadn't had to do the mental checklist; hadn't needed to find the exact amount to take so he wouldn't slip by numb and vaguely hazy and barrel right into unfathomably high. He hadn't needed to check his eyes every morning, and although his thigh hurt, it hadn't been nearly as painful. But soon enough that had stopped, the pain had amplified, and nobody seemed to notice.

Complaining about his leg got no sympathy from Cuddy, who either didn't believe or didn't want to believe that he had chronic pain. Even Wilson hadn't been foolish enough to assume the pain had dissipated entirely and when House exerted himself more than usual, Wilson always had a remark ready, teeming with thinly-veiled concern.

But that was okay. Wilson was too much of an enabler. House needed someone stubborn. Someone who wouldn't give in so easily. He wasn't happy with who he was and he wanted to change; wanted to be happy. He just wished she wasn't so damn blind to the fact that his leg really was in pain; wished she hadn't thrown the fact he'd crawled under carnage and wreckage to get to Hannah in his face and left his cane behind the first time she'd spotted him taking more Ibuprofen sooner than deemed necessary. He'd been obsessed with finding out the noise he'd heard; focused on yet another puzzle. It dulled the pain, although not as much as he'd hoped. As for the cane-he'd taken Hannah's leg and perhaps it was his self-destructive, self-loathing half that made him decide that give up his, too. He deserved the pain.

Had he decided to amputate his leg, would he have died too? Would he have been happier? Or would he have been resentful and angry and just as pissed off at the world as he was now, prosthetic leg or otherwise? He'd been a better, happier person before and now he was just some shell of his former self; he didn't deserve that cane, not when he'd taken away Hannah's limb; her life. Right?

Wilson would've seen right through it. Wilson would have asked about his leg, put his hands on his hips, and lectured about him careening right into the danger of collapsed rubble with no concern for his own safety.

He sighed. This was what he wanted and needed, so he should stop bitching. He was just having a bad morning was all, and if things were going to get better he needed to have a more positive outlook.

He scoffed at how ridiculous that sounded in his own head. Hell, a few months ago, who would choked on laughter at anyone who so much as suggested he'd be pursuing elusive happiness by trying to change. He hadn't been happy, though. Had he?

He rubbed his thigh in thought while Rachel shrieked in delight and then began laughing so hard he wondered if she was going to pass out from lack of oxygen again.

There were a few quick raps on the door and he recognized them with a sigh. He walked lopsidedly to the door and pulled it open to see Rachel's nanny, dark eyes bright but with the air of exhaustion. "Hola, Mister House," she greeted before brushing by him, her accented English not nearly as bad as it could've been.

She was legal, of course; Cuddy would never be so irresponsible to hire someone who'd hopped the border.

Rachel squealed and got on her feet, hurriedly tottering over to the nanny. House felt nauseous and then a surge of something not unlike annoyance when the nanny greeted her in Spanish. He didn't blame her; Spanish was her native tongue and she had only been in the States for three years; any chance she could speak comfortably she would, as would he in her situation. Still, the look on Cuddy's face when Rachel had started singing head, shoulders, knees and toes in Spanish flashed through his mind.

"I need to have a chit-chat with you," he said abruptly, grabbing his cane from off the wall he'd leant it and pushing towards her. "I'm gonna have to ask you to cut down on the Spanish when you're watching Rachel."

The nanny looked at him liked he'd smacked her. "Sir, I meant no disrespect." He knew she was a little miffed because she'd called him 'sir.' Until that point, he'd always been 'Mister House.'

"I know that and hey, she rolls her R's better than most teenagers. Lisa," and he hated how awkward that word sounded in his mouth, "is having difficulty with that fact Rachel doesn't make sense to her half the time. She doesn't speak Spanish and it's making her feel like an unfit mother, do you catch me?" Although the words weren't necessarily harsh, the lack of proper sleep and the start of what was to be sure a horrible day tinged his tone with the annoyance he wasn't going to bother to hide.

She looked downwards in shame and were he a better man, he might have felt guilty for making her feel that way. But he wasn't, and so he didn't care; his girlfriend meant more to him than the nanny who watched Rachel when he and Cuddy were gone and when Cuddy was unhappy, House's mood was sure to follow.

To be fair, his mornings weren't always this bad. There were times Rachel was still too tired to complain and he got to sleep in, and she was very cooperative during her bath. Sometimes they watched mindless cartoons together. Sometimes he tried to teach her to say long and complicated-sounding diseases. But that was as close as they'd ever gotten to bonding or whatever Cuddy called it in the back of her head. More like indifference with a side of amusement. Most of the time, he got the distinct impression Rachel didn't like him, which Cuddy had told him multiple times was completely ridiculous. She was a baby; she didn't dislike anyone.

House never did try to point out that Rachel was a toddler, not a baby.

As for Rachel's relationship with her mother, it really wasn't all that bad. She brightened up when Cuddy walked through the door; they hugged, and Rachel tried to explain something that probably made sense in her infantile mind. She could string sentences together sometimes; half-coherent sentences. Mostly, though, she just talked to prove she could. Rachel knew more than she let on but Cuddy responded more when she babbled. Probably because then she wouldn't worry about how she'd missed much of Rachel growing up while she was at work. Rachel instinctively did what she knew Cuddy responded better towards. Such was life.

House opened the fridge to get a bottled water and scowled at the gallon of soy milk beside it.

The next succession of knocks was also familiar to House and he actually smiled so briefly he wondered if he'd only thought he'd smiled and he shut the fridge and limped to the door, bottled water in one hand and cane in the other.

"Buh-buh, Hoss!" Rachel called and House's chest did something strange that wasn't necessarily pleasant, but it wasn't unpleasant, either. Something felt strange about that; strange in a not-quite-good way, but maybe that was just the suddenness of it or maybe something in the back of his mind clicked and he'd have to figure out what later.

He opened the door, pushing out and past Wilson, who was standing there with a grin on his face like he'd expected a hug or something else unlikely to ever happen.

"Nuclear holocaust?" Wilson asked, raising his eyebrows at House's brisk walk.

"Had to have a little discussion with the no habla anglais," he muttered, the car looming like a safe haven on a dark, stormy night, and although it wasn't technically a lie, he couldn't think of any other reason he felt slightly unnerved. Then he saw the soft curls of blonde in the front seat and he couldn't help but scoff and snarl. "What the hell, Wilson?" he muttered, jutting his chin in the direction of Sam, who was casually looking through the windshield and not at them as they made their way to the car.

"I drive her to work every morning," he explained. "We'll have to drop her off before we go to work."

"Can we stop by McDonald's first?" he asked, climbing into the backseat, right behind Sam. He moved to slam the door shut but Wilson's grip on the top stopped him. Wilson quirked his eyebrows in question. "Breakfast was unsatisfactory," House explained, then tugged the door again and this time there was no resistance.

Sam waited until Wilson had started the car and had pulled away from the curb to say; "You look nice today."

House and Wilson met eyes in the rear view mirror. House refused to say thank you, but he did grunt to show he'd heard her.

"I guess Lisa's really shaping you up," she commented with a cheery little tone.

Wilson's eyes left the rear-view mirror. House stared at his lap.