As the car pulled up outside the large house, Cuddy could feel the knot in her stomach twist and tighten. The twisting had begun, oh, about three and a half hours ago at the start of the drive and had been getting progressively worse since then, certainly not helped by the inane chatter of Rachel and the other baby in the car.
Other baby had been commenting on Cuddy's apparently irrational need to attend this family event, and her insane decision to bring him along. She'd spent the last two years of their relationship pathologically avoiding House from meeting her family, and had just woken up one day - about a week ago - and had decided that he should go with them.
After many sexual favours and the promise of many more to come, he'd agreed. How bad could one week be? And admittedly, it was with the Cuddy family - and only the female Cuddy adults as the only male member was currently six feet under. House grimaced, realising not for the first time that he was in for an oestrogen fest. And a kid-fest. He had enough trouble dealing with Cuddy's one, and thankfully pretty docile, four year old. Let alone the five devil spawn that Julia had popped out over the last decade.
She'd given him a crash course, names and ages and so on, but he hadn't been paying much attention, not when the blouse she'd been wearing had been virtually see through and aimed right in his face. All he'd gathered was that there were five, and...well, that's about it. Cuddy's cleavage was more captivating than she liked to think.
House was not looking forward to this one week Easter Cuddyfest that he'd been blackmailed into attending - well, not blackmailed per say, more like worn down by blow jobs and the idea of more blow jobs on the horizon - as it wasn't at Julia's house, as he'd first believed. It was at Mother Cuddy's establishment.
House grimaced again when he thought about the fact that he was voluntarily going to be sleeping and eating and breathing in the same space as the famous Evelyn Cuddy - Cuddy had given him a crash course to her also, though she'd been wearing sweats and pajamas, so he'd heard every, single detail - for the next week. Shudder.
Thank the Lord that the last man Cuddy had introduced to her family had been Lucas. Seeming more impressive and worthy than the manchild couldn't be that hard. Especially if House had his game face on.
He glanced over to Cuddy, who knuckles were white as they gripped the steering wheel as she parked. He knew how paranoid she was being about this trip and the laboured breathing she'd been doing for the whole drive either meant that she was pushing a child out - which given her officially barren status he doubted - or she was doing her yoga relaxation breathing. And although the current wheezing was highly irritating, House could put up with it as long as she continued with the yoga. He hadn't realised just quite how bendy Cuddy could actually be, and safe to say, he appreciated it.
The car slid into it's stop position and Cuddy turned off the ignition, but stayed where she was. House watched her mouth something that looked suspiciously like, please please please, to herself before whipping round and saying brightly to Rachel, "ready to see your cousins?"
"Yay!" Rachel squealed, clapping her little hands together. While Rachel never showed any malice nor dislike to being an only child, she was evidently aware that brothers and sisters were not mythical beings and did really exist... As proved by her soccer team of cousins. And while she seemed content being the sole receiver of her mother's attention at home - aside from the large chunk House insisted on having - a week with five additional kids to play with at all times certainly had it's perks.
Cuddy deftly unbuckled her seatbelt and got out, walking round to open Rachel's child-locked door and hoist her out of her booster seat. House exited the car too, but merely stretched out his leg, having had it curled up in the cramped legroom for far too long.
After House had successfully relieved some of the tension in his muscle, he turned to actually look at Casa de Cuddy. And boy, was it impressive. It was a mansion of a house, all creamy brickwork with ivy trailing up the side and large glass windows on the three visible floors.
"Wow," House acknowledged, "I didn't know you were quite so rich, Cuddles."
"Don't call me that," she warned, sending him a black look. "Call me Lisa."
House frowned. "Lisa? But I never call you Lisa."
"And my family don't call me Cuddy," she reasoned, "and I want you to make a good impression."
Of course she did. She'd been obsessing about this trip for weeks, and now that they were finally here Cuddy realised that the stress was just beginning. "House," she turned to him, "could you, you know, not be you this week?"
He smirked. "You think your family won't like me?"
"I don't like you half the time!" She countered, to House's amusement.
"And the other half, you love me," he replied, "so logically, so will they. Isn't that right, Lisa?" He frowned at the use of her first name. "Hmm... Doesn't sound right. How about... Boobs McSexyAss?"
Cuddy slapped a concerned hand to her forehead while Rachel's mouth settled into an 'o' of shock and surprise. "Mommy," she whispered, tugging on the bottom of Cuddy's shirt, "he said ass."
"I know," Cuddy sneered at him. "But you mustn't, sweetheart."
"Why not?" She inquired, with the innocence that only a child could possess. House didn't like Rachel most of the time - she was the main reason of Cuddy withholding sex - but there were the rare moments of amusement that House quite liked observing.
"Because it's bad word," Cuddy said absentmindedly, taking the two cases out of the boot - God forbid that House actually help her with anything.
"But House gets to say it," Rachel said slyly reminding her so much of House himself in that moment that Cuddy thought about reexamining how much time she left her daughter in House's unsupervised care.
"There are a lot of things that House gets to do that you can't," House cut in smoothly, reaching over and snatching Rachel's beloved bear out of her arms. "Like that," he taunted, waving the bear over his head.
"Mama!" Rachel wailed, while throwing herself at House and thwacking her head on his stomach in her fruitless attempts to retrieve her bear. "Mama, he's being mean!" She whimpered, giving up and collapsing on the floor. Rachel was not particularly a fan of driving anywhere, let alone for three hours straight - it was the one bad thing about visiting Nana - and being teased as soon as she'd vacated the car was just a plain bad idea.
Cuddy shot House the look that said "if you do not give her back to toy you may find that the next time you wake up your balls will be in the next room". It was utterly amazing how much she could convey with just the slight narrowing of her eyes. Or that when her eyes were hooded House knew she had some seriously X-rated thoughts scrolling across her pre-frontal cortex. "House," she warned.
"Okay pipsqueak," House sighed melodramatically. "Here." He threw the teddy roughly on the ground.
Rachel leapt for him, but didn't make it in time. "Wilson!" She squealed, picking up the furball and cradling him close.
House frowned. "You called your teddy Wilson?"
"Wilson gave him to her for her fourth birthday," Cuddy hissed to him, "which you would remember had you not been drunk out of your mind."
"Kid's parties bore me," he said simply, as if that were explanation enough for collapsing in front twenty screaming kids, with everyone thinking it was some horrible medical thing and only Cuddy smelling the Scotch that was leaking out of his pores.
"Mommy," Rachel whimpered, "Wilson's arm is hurt." She held out the fuzzy limb for inspection.
House was to scoff that 'Wilson' would be fine and that she was being overdramatic, but Cuddy pinched his back before he could even open his mouth. "Oh no," Cuddy sympathised, leaning down and surveying the injury. Of course, he was only covered in a little gravel dust. "Shall I kiss it better?"
House wrinkled his nose at the idea of kissing furry dust. "Yes please," Rachel said meekly, and Cuddy obliged. She then proceeded to plant a multitude of kisses on Rachel's adorable face.
"All better?" She asked.
"Yes!" Rachel leapt up. "I want to see my cousins now!"
Perfect timing as ever, a brunette head poked out from behind the big oak door. "Lisa!" A woman - who House assumed must be the other Cuddy - shouted, running over and embracing Lisa warmly. House knew that however much competition there was between them, their father's death had brought them back together again. Still, naturally, the state of competition existed. While Cuddy was the one with the amazing career, Julia had a loving husband and five bundles of joy. It was as if they couldn't have both, just one. And while Cuddy had admitted that sometimes she was jealous of Julia's life, House was sure that Julia was equally jealous that Cuddy was highly respected professionally while she was just a housewife.
"And Rachel!" She exclaimed, taking the cherubic face in her palms and pressing smacking kisses to her cheeks. "You're so big!"
Rachel smiled bashfully, but giggled all the same. "Where is Georgia?" She asked, referring to her four year old cousin.
Julia grinned. "In the pool, honey." It was then that a loud shriek was heard from behind the house, accompanied by the sound of water splashing.
House raised his eyebrows. "There's a pool?"
"Yeah," Cuddy admitted, "Julia, this is House."
Julia shook his hand. "Yes, I've heard a lot about you," she said coyly.
"The same to you to - though all good things of course," he replied, with a warm edge to his voice.
Cuddy stared at him in disbelief. She used House as her venting board - about work, herself and especially her family, and everything in-between. Her sister was an sore point, and House knew that. And she was expecting him to exploit that in the most evil way possible - hence the crippling fear of coming here.
"Shall we go in?" House said warmly, picking up the cases like a gentleman.
"Your leg - " Cuddy started, but House shushed her.
"I wouldn't make you carry them, sweetie," he assured, kissing her cheek while Julia looked on fondly.
While her sister and House chatted companionably about God knows what, Cuddy merely stood there. Sweetie? House never called her sweetie. Nor baby, or honey, or any term of endearment past "Nice rack." And just after they'd arrived he was being nice? WHAT?
Then she remembered her earlier words: "House," she turned to him, "could you, you know, not be you this week?"
Hmm... Was he finally playing by her rules? Or was this going to backfire spectacularly?
Realising that there was only one way to find out, she headed inside.