DISCLAIMER: SO not Shore. I don't own anything related to Fox or the TV show House. I'm only borrowing some characters. The characters belong to David Shore and company.
A/N: New story! This was s'posed to be a oneshot. But I doubted that it wouldn't exceed 18k words, like Turning Tables. This kept nagging at me until I wrote something. Decided on pushing through with it. To those waiting for an Absence update, rest assured that I'm working on it...
This story will only be a few chapters. Unbeta'd, my mistakes. Lol, be kind... it's 3:45 AM now. Tried to make House as IC as I possibly could with regards to his interactions with Rachel.
Hope you like it! Enjoy!
House was peacefully playing his piano in his quiet sanctuary when his door was barraged with knocks. He stopped playing and rubbed his face with a hand. He would rather ignore the person, whoever the hell it was, standing on his doorstep, but seeing as it was already late, and he'd rather answer the door and be done with whatever the person on the other side of it wanted.
House downed the rest of the bourbon in his glass before gingerly standing up and walking towards the door, not bothering to peek through the peephole.
The moment he saw Cuddy standing on his doorstep with a wailing Rachel in her arms, he groaned.
"She won't stop crying. She keeps asking for you," Cuddy immediately apologized, exhaustion rendering her voice huskier than normal. She looked from the sniveling toddler wrapped in her arms to House who stood more or less two feet from her, face void of emotion.
"You're here because…"
"She keeps asking. For you," Cuddy emphasized, not entirely against begging at that point.
House felt guilty for what he was about to do, but he knew it had to be done, for Rachel's sake. The kid was already attached to him. It wouldn't help comforting her now if he won't be able to do it later, or the next time. She'll get over and forget him, given time.
"You're the boss. Teach her that she can't always get what she wants," House lectured indifferently, shrugging in nonchalance.
"She won't listen," Cuddy sighed, her eyes pleading and her ears bleeding from Rachel's cries. "Nothing I do would placate her. She wants you."
"Well," he started voice as emotionless as his face. He had to keep the indifference façade up until he wasn't facing her anymore. "That's not my problem anymore, is it?" he rhetorically inquired and slowly started to close the door on her.
Rachel must have finally recognized his voice and noticed his presence because, like a bullet, she instantly turned in Cuddy's arms and stopped crying altogether save for a few whimpers here and there.
"Hows!" she instantly cried, reaching for him. Her body anxiously tried to wriggle out of her mother's grasp.
"Rachel, no," Cuddy whispered softly, securing her grip on her daughter.
Cuddy managed to stop him from closing the door on them with her arm, her eyes begging him not to do it.
"House, please…" she pleaded, looking into his eyes. House sighed but made no move to close the door further. Neither did he move to take Rachel or step closer.
"Hows!" Rachel repeatedly shrieked in rapid succession, both in delight and frustration that the man wasn't taking her from Mommy.
"I know that… we're currently not on the best terms, but please…" Cuddy trailed off, her eyes watering as Rachel abruptly stopped and just stared at House in dejection.
House shook his head before running a hand down his face. How did he handle this situation?
"You shouldn't have taken her here. It's the reason you broke up with me. I'm not dependable or stable enough. You and Rachel would be better off without me. Having me around isn't in your, and especially not in Rachel's, best interest." House suddenly mumbled with unmistakable melancholy. "I won't be able to step up to the plate enough if either one of you needed me."
"You shouldn't have brought her here," House repeated after a second, shaking his head, too tired himself to keep much of his walls up.
Cuddy bit her lower lip, at a loss for words or what to do. She was so tired. All she wanted was to just collapse and get some semblance of rest. Having Rachel in her arms wasn't making things any easier either.
"I'm sorry," was all she could murmur. I'm sorry I broke your heart; I'm sorry I gave up; I'm sorry I was so caught up with what I thought I needed to change in you when long ago, I've learned to love you just as you are. I'm sorry I let go. He could take that apology in any which way he wanted. She was too exhausted to even put up her guard.
House stared at her for a while before mumbling, "Too late for that, don't you think?" Yes, push her away. Don't let her change your mind. It'll be you who would end up hurt and abandoned. That's how everything in your life ended anyway.
A part of him wanted to try, though. Even for the last time. No matter how futile he thought his efforts would be, reaching out and trying to get back with her seemed a temping thing to do. They were both aware that he needed her in his life.
Cuddy's eyes never waned from his. Her heart broke as she saw the emotions that tried their best not to reveal themselves in his eyes. Her heart broke as she witnessed the damage caused by her ending things between them. As she met the blue oceans that were his eyes, she realized that he was probably right. By bringing Rachel to his place, she just made moving on all the more difficult for the three of them.
"You're right," she shook her head, breaking their optical connection. She adjusted a fussy Rachel on her hip with a slight wince. "I'm sorry," she whispered, meeting his eyes again for a split second before turning to exit the building.
House watched as Rachel's eyes started to water again, rejection and dejection pooling into those innocent and young eyes. He couldn't do this to her even if it was what had to be done. He knew how dejection and rejection felt, as a kid. He never wanted anyone to experience that, especially not Rachel. She'd done nothing wrong. She didn't deserve being involved in the tragedy that has become of his and her mother's relationship.
Cuddy was about to reach the door to his building when she suddenly felt House's clammy hand grip her elbow gently. She stopped walking and stood rooted to her spot for a few seconds. The feel of his hand against her skin for the first time in weeks made her want to tear up. She's missed him terribly, but she couldn't allow herself to show just how much.
"Gimme," he whispered awkwardly, letting go of her elbow just as quick as he held onto it.
Cuddy looked from the spot where he held her before quickly meeting his eyes as she turned to face him again. She didn't say a thing as once again, Rachel writhed in her arms, reaching for House. Her daughter probably had the feeling that House was finally going to take her.
House took the little girl, holding her to his chest securely before leaving Cuddy standing in the hall as he carried Rachel to his bedroom without a word. The kid needed her sleep.
Cuddy watched as Rachel immediately settled into House's embrace, clinging onto him like a baby monkey, sniffing dramatically as she buried her face in the crook of the man's neck.
"Hows…" Rachel sighed contentedly, her voice muffled against House's neck.
Cuddy's heart beat faster as she watched with misting eyes as Rachel's fist curled into his shirt while her other one went around House's neck. She stared at the two most important people in her life as they moved from her. She allowed herself a wistful smile as she watched Rachel brush her cheek against House's stubble and her fingers toyed with the short hairs on his nape.
She used to be the one who did that, she mused, while he kissed her or showed her without words how comfortable he was when they were together and away from hospital premises. She had no right to feel jealous, though. She ended their relationship. He didn't even have a say in the decision because she didn't give him a choice. It was solely her decision. He was but forced to accept it.
He had begged her not to end things, to not give up, but she did. She left him.
It tore her heart to pieces, seeing the two people she loved most so deeply affected by one decision she made. A decision she thought would be best for her and her daughter.
Well, apparently, Rachel begged to differ. Her daughter had stopped at nothing to get what she wanted, which was to see House again. Rachel had refused to be tucked in or be put to bed, throwing tantrums. She rarely ever did that, and it shook Cuddy.
Cuddy was pulled from her thoughts when she heard a faint giggle come from House's bedroom and she couldn't fight the urge to see him making her daughter smile despite not having to do so. It told her of many things about him. It spoke volumes of how much he and her daughter have actually bonded.
One thing she never thought she'd get House to do without forcing him.
She ran a hand through her hair, sighing deeply. Quietly, she walked into House's sanctuary and closed the door behind her, locking it securely in the process.
Her back and side were hurting slightly from carrying Rachel but she ignored the pain—there were other things more painful than anything else at that moment. She thought that, in a way, they were self-inflicted.
She slipped off her slippers and walked barefoot across the hall, quietly making her way to the side of the door, out of sight, peeking at the duo. She watched as House made Rachel giggle, just by being his usual self, but for some reason, a tad kind this time. She watched and listened quietly as Rachel requested (demanded, a few seconds later, she thought in amusement) House to tell her a story. Cuddy could only imagine House's smirk from where she stood. She couldn't believe how much power Rachel had over House.
A while later, Cuddy's face fell and she suddenly felt like she was eavesdropping on something she shouldn't be eavesdropping into. She also felt like she was only subjecting herself to hurt by watching her daughter and the man whose fragile heart she just crushed interact with each other.
She knew House knew he didn't have to show Rachel any courtesy or kindness, but there he was, seated on his bed, facing her daughter and interacting with her as if they were still together. She was a rare spectator to these interactions because House didn't really pay Rachel much attention in front of her unless Rachel demanded to be attended to by him.
She moved away from the doorframe and walked a few steps from the door before sliding down to the floor and sitting as comfortably as she could. She leaned her back against the wall. She listened to the two catch up; she just couldn't stop herself from having to hear their interaction. A smile tugged at her lips while a dagger pierced her heart as she savored their voices. Two kids: one toddler and a man who acted like one, catching up.
She knew in her heart that she missed House terribly, but as she attentively listened to his voice as he told Rachel a story, she couldn't believe just how much she had missed him so.
A tear slipped from her eye minutes later when she heard Rachel say three words she never thought would pass her lips. Another tear as House replied. Those three words exchanged, followed by two words which stung her heart all the more.
"Hi," Rachel greeted him with a shy smile when their eyes met, blue on blue, as House settled her on what used to be Cuddy's side of his bed.
"Hi, kid," he replied with a frown which slowly morphed into a smirk as he watched her bury her shy grin under the duvet he'd pulled up for her.
Rachel's lips pursed a little before she corrected him with a lively, defiant voice, saying, "Rachel!"
House rolled his eyes, smirk widening. He's probably been a bad influence on her. He liked the thought of that.
His face fell upon remembering that she couldn't be his co-conspirator. Well, not anymore. He and Cuddy were no longer together. Seeing Rachel from time to time would only serve to hurt them both.
Besides, knowing Cuddy, this would only be a one-time thing. She wouldn't allow Rachel to tantrum her way into getting what she wanted, especially if what she wanted would do nothing but to make things difficult for everyone involved. Cuddy would definitely put her foot down if push came to shove.
He sighed, rubbing the back of his neck with a hand before dragging it to his face.
"Hows?" Rachel called out, crawling from under the covers and sitting up in bed, facing him with bright and innocent blue eyes.
"What, Rachel?" he couldn't even bring himself to act that much of an ass—which most of the time Rachel found funny and amusing; other times, she'd just pull out a pout, and win; the little manipulator.
"Story?" she requested, that pout he had come to know so well taking hold of her face. House narrowed his eyes at her. Rachel was not the least bit intimidated. She narrowed her eyes right back, challenging him to deny her request.
"Story!" Rachel demanded of him, her arms akimbo.
House would have argued, but he decided to rest his case. It would probably the last time anyway. He'd like to think and remember that he'd at least treated her better before he "left" her. He didn't even know why he cared what she thought of him. Like she would actually be able to remember him a year or two from now?
He didn't understand it himself, but for some reason, he didn't want the last memory she would have of him (washed away as it may well be doomed to be) was him acting like the uncomforting son-of-a-bitch her mother thought he was.
Honestly, it stung.
"Peas?" she added, a shy smile slowly removing her pout.
House sighed—he's been doing that a lot, lately. When did this kid have so much power over him? And when the hell did she learn how to practice it?
"Okay," he acquiesced.
Rachel giggled loudly, scrambling right back under the covers, pulling the duvet up and under her chin.
House, despite himself, found her anticipation quite adorable. He rolled his eyes at himself. When did he start to say (or think) 'adorable' and not mean it sarcastically? He was definitely losing his touch.
"Story!" Rachel begged, kicking her feet against his mattress in the earnest excitement only a child could exhibit.
"So impatient," House couldn't help but comment, smirking. "Okay, okay!" he said in a resigned whisper.
Rachel smiled up at him, her nose jutting up into the air, proud of her ability to make him succumb into her wishes.
Like mother, like daughter, House thought. Oy vey.
House gazed at her for a while before he finally decided on a story.
Three Little Pigs…
Well, he definitely wouldn't have chosen to tell her those sappy Disney stories. And he wouldn't dare tell her Sherlock Holmes-y like stories—too young for stuff like that. Besides, the three little pigs would require less effort in telling.
"How many pigs are there, again?" House suddenly asked, lips pursing and face scrunching up in mock confusion.
"Three!" Rachel supplied proudly since she knew the story, grinning up at him.
"Right," he smirked.
"So the two—"
"Three!" Rachel corrected, aware of the incorrect number of pigs House was going to say.
Rachel smirked smugly as House started again, saying the correct number this time.
A smug smile took hold of her mouth and she rested her arms, folded, behind her head. A carbon copy view of the way she had looked up at him when he'd been searching her dirty diaper for a 'misplaced' dime.
House looked down at her, meeting her gaze for a while.
He couldn't help himself…
A/N: So... should I continue? Please leave a review and lemme know what you think! :)
Thanks for reading!