Cuddy stood over Rachel's bed, gently pushing her daughter's hair out of the way so she could kiss her forehead. Cuddy ran a slender finger down one of Rachel's perfect cheeks, feeling the smoothness that only comes with toddlers. She gave a little smile and left the room.
House was sitting on the couch, watching some show that Cuddy couldn't have cared about. She sat down beside him and laid her head on his shoulder, sighing softly as he squeezed her knee. It was this, this equilibrium of sorts that they'd fallen into that Cuddy loved. After ups and downs and more bumps than she could count, the drama had subsided.
If only she could keep it that way. But - especially around this time of year - she always thought about House. About their history. She'd done this since she was eighteen, long before they'd ever got together. With all that in the past, she was trying not to let it crowd her thoughts. She wasn't succeeding.
She held her tongue until a commercial came on of a laughing baby, then she couldn't help but sigh dreamily, "wouldn't we have made a gorgeous baby?"
House stiffened immediately and looked at her. "I don't think I like where this is going," he said awkwardly.
"Oh relax," she chided. "I'm not suggesting we try. I'm just saying, our genes would have made one beautiful kid."
House shrugged, but she could see the cogs whirring in his mind. "Just think," he said after a moment, "If I hadn't been expelled, we could be two decades married with a thousand tiny huddies having popped out of your lady parts."
"Yeah," she sighed. "All blue eyes..." She looked at him, embarrassed. "Anyway, I was just thinking about it."
"Why?" He asked, curious.
"I'm not sure... Just, I love Rachel - more than anything - and I love you, but... maybe we could have had more. If we hadn't shied away from this for so long, there could have been time - "
"For babies?" House cut in incredulously. "Cuddy, just 'cause I'd have been a little younger doesn't mean I'd have let you harvest half my chromosomes."
She shrugged. "There's still a part of me that wishes I could have a part of us."
"Wow," House whistled. "I'm so glad that your uterus is out of use, or I'd be very afraid of where this conversation is headed."
She shook her head. "You're an ass."
She tried to get up but he held her down. "Don't get pissy because I pointed out something that would be true no matter who you were with. You could be with the youngest, most studdly specimen of a man - though let's face it, you're not far off - and still, babies wouldn't be on the horizon. I'm telling you the truth."
"Do you ever think that maybe you could be sensitive? That maybe I've given up so much for you that you could try showing me a mere ounce of compassion?" She hurled at him, and he was taken aback. "I lost some of the chances I would have loved to have, because of you, in one way of another. And all you can do is tell you wouldn't even consider giving me what I want, even if it was an option?"
"What chances?" He shot back. "Sure, I ruined a few grants or donations and made you pony up over ten million for MRIs, but come on! Don't overreact. You could have gone and got what you wanted from any number of guys, but you didn't. Don't blame me for your choices."
"Maybe if you'd been there, it wouldn't have been my choice and it would have been our choice," she snarled.
House paused. "What the hell are we talking about?"
She glared, but then whipped round. "Forget it," she mumbled.
"Hey," he stopped her, stroking her arm almost tenderly. "Tell me." The anger was gone, and replaced unusual concern.
She sat down on the couch and put her head in her hands. "I was hoping to avoid this conversation for... forever. I never wanted to bring this up since it's so far in the past, but lately... It's been on my mind. A lot. And I don't blame you, but I do want to talk to you... about it."
He collapsed next to her. "Okay," he drawled. "I'm all ears."
"You remember our night, while I was an undergrad," she smiled at the memory.
"Of course I do," House reassured. "Got me through many lonely weekends."
"Anyway, you never called and that was fine. I knew you... of you. Everyone said that you were unreliable and that you'd run away and break my heart. Deep down, I knew they were right. But I didn't care and when everything they'd warned me about happened I told myself to get over it. That I was prepared for this. So... I went to my classes and went out with my friends and on dates and I let myself forget about you." She took a deep breath. "And then I missed my period."
House's eyes widened and his breath hitched. "Are you... trying to tell me we have a secret child out there somewhere?"
"No," she shook her head. "I freaked out. When I worked out it was yours - the doctor told me roughly when I'd conceived and you were the only guy around then. I knew I was too young and had too many plans, so I decided to... terminate. I thought about calling you - or rather, tracking you down - and asking you. Getting your opinion. I was almost a hundred percent sure that you'd tell me to abort, but I was clinging on to the hope that you might change my mind. Anyway, I decided against it."
"I couldn't call my mother," she continued. "She'd... you know my mom. She'd never let me live this down - she'd have killed you - and I didn't have enough money to pay for it. I called a friend who'd always said she knew someone who did it for $50 - and that they didn't even ask for your name."
House just sat, no longer looking. He could hear her saying this, and yet he couldn't turn away.
"I went, with her. This guy took me to dirty, tiny room with obviously unsterilised equipment, and... two bloody stirrups. I was a pre-med - one of the best pre-meds - and I knew how dangerous this was. I knew what I was getting myself into, but I felt like I didn't have a choice."
"I'd have paid," he muttered. "If you'd found me..."
"I know. But... I didn't want to involve you. I wanted you to remember me as the girl you spent that one, amazing night with," she smiled. "Not the one who followed you and made you pay for her abortion."
"You weren't 'just a girl'" He squeezed her hand.
"You weren't just a guy," she replied. "Anyway, the room was too small for my friend to be there and he said that it would only take hour, at the most. I was... terrified. He gave me some local and started. I could hear him fumbling and feel him... shoving things. It wasn't until I heard him swearing that I realised something was wrong. He ran, my friend called an ambulance, and they took me to the hospital."
"I almost died," she continued. "Blood loss. They'd couldn't save the baby - they knew it was botched termination so I doubt they even tried - and I spent a week in the ICU. Since I was over eighteen they didn't call my parents. I told my sister I was in a bike accident - once I'd been released. She told my parents that... and they never knew."
"The doctors said that they weren't sure if there was permanent damage or not. While hospital abortions rarely have complications, back alley ones can cause all kinds of problems. I thought I was fine - my periods were normal, there was no pain - until I tried IVF. The physical I had revealed issues, with a mass of scar tissue, too big to remove. They said me getting pregnant and carrying to full term wasn't impossible, but it was unlikely."
She looked at him, though he was turned away. "I know you had no idea. But, sometimes, I wish... that you'd been there with me. I wish I'd seen how that scenario would've worked out."
"I'm sorry," he murmured.
"Don't be. Not your fault," she reassured, running her hand up to his shoulder.
"You lost your chance to have a child, because I'd made you feel like you couldn't come to me, even for help with your abortion," he said sadly.
She shrugged. "It's over. Done. House... We're together, and I have a child. I have Rachel, and she is... perfect. Wonderful. Everything I wanted in a child. I have my happy ending. Just... around this time of year... I wonder. And no, I don't wish things were different. My life would have worked out so differently had I'd become a mom at eighteen. I wouldn't have every great thing I have now. I'm happy with my choice," she looked deep into his eyes. "Don't blame yourself."
House nodded stiffly, but didn't speak.
Cuddy kissed his cheek. "I'm going to bed," she told him softly. "Come when you're ready."
He didn't react. Cuddy got up and left, turning back just before she exited the room. "Just think," she smiled, "they'd be twenty five this year."