A/N: Okay, so this isn't quite a one-shot. Probably a two or three-shot. They always seem shorter in my head than written out; I'm surprised at how much meat there was on the story frame when I started actually writing it down. This is nothing like Medical Homicide, though. Whole story is just one day, though a long one. This is as much as I had time to write down during server down time today; will update when I can. Thanks to all the readers who have enjoyed the "Pranks" world.
Cuddy fought her way up through clouds of sleep, her mind and body unusually and annoyingly slow to come on line. Surely it wasn't morning yet? She opened her eyes and looked at the clock. No, it was 2:30 a.m. Sounds emerged from the monitor, Abby apparently in need of a change. Their younger daughter rarely woke up at night for anything else. Cuddy sighed, motherly duty in direct opposition to a surprisingly strong desire just to go back to sleep. Resigned, she pushed her electric blanket aside to get out of bed.
Wait a minute, her mind protested, making a slightly delayed arrival at the point when she was already sitting up on the side of the bed. You don't sleep with an electric blanket.
Cuddy frowned to herself in thought in the dark bedroom. Why had she thought she had an electric blanket? She didn't think she had been dreaming about them. She twisted around and reached over to put a hand on House.
He was running a fever.
Cuddy sighed again and flipped the lamp on, studying him. In the nearly two weeks since the evidentiary hearing on Patrick Chandler, House had been slowly relaxing, settling back into usual routine, looking better physically as the stress ebbed away. To his relief, things at PPTH were nearly as usual, and most people worked with him as they always had. Cuddy had been worried that he would have a physical reaction to all of it, either during Chandler's campaign or in the sudden release afterward, but he had been doing well, bouncing back from the crisis faster than she had feared he would. He was clearly sick now, though, his hair matted and sweaty around the edges, his sleep somewhat restless, not with dreams but purely physically. She shook him by the shoulder.
"Greg?" It took a few more shakes to get a response. He finally rolled away from her, retreating with an eloquent grumble while still half asleep, and flinched as he rolled onto his bad leg. His eyes opened.
"What the . . . what's wrong?" he modified, seeing her expression.
"You're running a fever," she said. "How are you feeling?" She could already tell somewhat from his eyes, which were weak and didn't have his usual spark behind them.
He felt his own forehead, then hers for comparison, and sighed. "Probably just picked up a little bug somewhere. I told you Jensen wasn't feeling well Friday afternoon; I thought he might have been coming down with something." He grinned, still finding some satisfaction in diagnosing and calling the psychiatrist on that point after all the times that the roles had been reversed there.
"How are you feeling?" she repeated, pushing for details. Abby's murmurs got a little louder, and she stood up and slipped her robe on against the December chill.
He ran a self differential. "Achy, stomach bothering me a little. In other words, it's just a bug. Go on, Lisa. I don't need my diaper changed, unlike Abby, and you can actually do something for her right now."
She pulled the blanket up further around him, then headed dutifully across to the nursery, just in time to hear Rachel, awakened by Abby, snap at her sister. "Shut up!"
Cuddy moved across the room, able to see well enough in the night light. "Rachel, you shouldn't tell people that. It's not polite." She reached over into Abby's crib. "What's wrong, Abby? Time for a change?"
"Mama," Abby replied happily, settling down in her restless floppings now that Cuddy was in the room. Cuddy started changing her diaper.
"Shut up!" Rachel repeated.
"Who did you hear saying that, Rachel?" Cuddy asked.
Rachel laughed. "You!" she answered. "Told Dada. And Wilson. And . . ."
Cuddy flinched. "Well, in spite of what you may have heard me saying sometimes under stress, it's not polite. I apologize." She finished doing up the tabs on Abby's diaper.
"Morning," Rachel announced.
"No, it isn't," Cuddy corrected firmly. "It's the middle of the night. Not morning yet."
Rachel shook her head, digging in her heels stubbornly. "Morning. Dada do the Cr'mas tree."
The Christmas tree. Cuddy shook her head as she remembered. This was Sunday, a day off work, and House had promised his daughters that they could help him put up and decorate the Christmas tree today. He had been looking forward to it himself, sort of a reconditioning exercise, extending the practice of forming new associations that had stood him in such good stead at the hearing and working on exorcising the ghost of Christmas Past. Rachel's second birthday was toward the end of this week, and the project with her father, putting up the tree together with her non-helpful participation, had been planned as a sort of early gift for her. But that, of course, was before he had gotten sick. "Rachel, I don't think he'll be doing that today."
"NO!" Rachel objected immediately. Cuddy reached out to switch the monitor off, not wanting House to hear this and try stubbornly to do it anyway for his girls. She thought he had probably fallen back asleep quickly, but no point in taking the chance of waking him up again.
"Rachel, he's sick, okay? He's not feeling well. He just needs to rest today."
"No," Rachel insisted. "Want the Cr'mas tree!"
"He's sick today. We'll do it another day soon. Maybe tomorrow night. He just doesn't feel like it today."
"No!" Rachel repeated, starting to sniffle. "He SAID."
"Shut up!" Abby stated firmly, adding another phrase to her vocabulary.
Cuddy shook her head. "Abby, don't tell your sister to shut up. Boy, you two are live wires tonight. Come on, time to go back to sleep." Which is what she longed to do herself. "It isn't morning yet."
Rachel kicked the side of the crib. "Want the Cr'mas tree," she sobbed.
"Come here," Cuddy said, resigning herself to the fact that she wasn't going to return to bed within the next few minutes. She picked up Rachel, who nestled into her even while sobbing, then picked up Abby with the other hand and settled into the rocking chair. "It's okay, Rachel. We'll get the Christmas tree, just not today. He's sick. Be nice to him."
"No," Rachel whimpered.
"Shut up," Abby replied.
Cuddy rolled her eyes and gave up reasoning, simply rocking her daughters. They were unusually restless tonight; having this kind of production at a middle of the night awakening was rare. She wondered if they might be coming down with House's bug themselves, but neither had a fever. They were just cranky. She rocked soothingly, letting the motion gradually lull them back to sleep. She hoped they would avoid the bug, but they obviously had been exposed to House extensively already. Trying any measures now would be shutting the barn door after the horse had escaped. It's just a bug, she reminded herself. Even if they get it, it's just a virus. They'll have a lot more. Things have been going around anyway; Marina could have brought it in, or Wilson and Sandra, or anybody. You can't keep them from getting sick in life. It's going to happen sometimes.
But she would never forget the beginning with Abby. Even a routine bug worried her, even knowing that her daughter was doing extremely well and was much more healthy now.
Finally, what seemed an eternity later to her tired body, they were sound asleep again. Cuddy surreptitiously stood, tucked them back in, and then switched the monitor on again and returned to the bedroom herself, not turning off the lamp immediately even though she longed to climb under the covers and hibernate through the rest of December. House was asleep again. In fact, she doubted he had heard Rachel's outburst at all, even before the monitor was turned off. If he had, no matter what he felt like, he would have gotten stubborn at Cuddy's pre-empting of his scheduled day and thrown a comment like a dart across the hall into that conversation. His face was a little flushed now, and he was still restless. She retrieved the thermometer from their bathroom and inserted it between his lips, holding his head still as he tried without fully rousing to move away from her. When it beeped, she extracted it and surveyed the verdict. 102 even.
Probably a virus, as he had said. There were things going around. The clinic had been hopping at PPTH, and even though he no longer had clinic duty, he could easily have bumped into somebody in the hall or the cafeteria. Or from Jensen, as he guessed himself. A day off just doing nothing but resting should fix him up. She did fish out an extra Vicodin from his meds. The acetaminophen would help the fever, and the hydrocodone should help with the aches, although using hydrocodone for flu myalgias was a little like using a cannon to kill a fly. Still, he was already maxed out on the safe dose on NSAIDs, so they couldn't use more ibuprofen or a similar lesser gun. It wouldn't hurt him to add an extra Vicodin at the moment while he was sick; his intake was less and on a far better schedule than it used to be before they got together, and there was safe room for adjustment on exception days. She fetched a glass of water with the pill, then shook him awake again. "Here's an extra Vicodin, Greg. It will help with the fever."
He opened half-glazed eyes and looked at her. "Are the girls okay?" He swallowed the pill with a few gulps of water, flinching slightly as his throat stung.
"They're fine. Neither one of them has a fever; I checked."
"Guess I could have stayed away from them after seeing Jensen Friday. Just in case."
Cuddy laughed. "I would have liked to see you try to avoid your daughters completely over a weekend. That would almost be a war movie. The Revolt of Rachel - and don't forget Abby's shown us she can put her foot down when she wants to. It's okay, Greg. What's done is done, and even if they wind up getting it, they'll have a lot more viruses through life."
"I know." She took the glass back from him. "So what did Jensen have Friday?"
"Didn't have a fever at that point. After I pinned him down and got him to admit it, he just said in general, he hadn't been feeling well that day, progressive through the afternoon, even though he was fine when he came in that morning." House grinned. "So see, I do bring home something from therapy."
Cuddy returned the smile. "I had no doubt; you didn't have to come up with an example to prove it. So did you skip that phase and jump straight to fever, or is this something else?"
He looked away. "I might have been feeling a little off in general yesterday afternoon, especially last night."
"I thought so." In retrospect, anyway. "You ought to notice how you're feeling instead of just trying to ignore it and push on. You're a doctor, after all." She climbed back in bed beside him and switched off the lamp. "Go back to sleep, Greg. Just sleep it off. I'll deal with the girls."
His mumble in reply was already half asleep. She snuggled up next to him - it was like having an electric blanket - and quickly fell back over the edge herself.
Her next awakening came an hour and a half later. She felt the bed lurch and heard off-beat footsteps, and her slightly sluggish mind emerged from sleep just in time to register the involuntary grunt House made as he dropped to the floor of their bathroom in front of the toilet. She hauled herself out of bed and hurried in there, stroking his back sympathetically as he threw up everything that had been in his stomach. After she was sure he was done, she wet a washcloth and handed it to him.
"Thanks," he said, wiping off his face. "Yes, I think I've definitely got a bug. Such diagnostic skill went into that differential." He was trying to sound as usual, but hugging the toilet and shivering slightly sort of ruined his effect.
She touched his forehead. "I don't think your fever is quite as high. At least that acetaminophen had a chance to get to work instead of coming back up too soon." He nodded, looking utterly miserable. She was suddenly struck by how much men when they are sick look like little boys. Not that House had the usual past experience there, but it was high time to change that. She could only imagine what John's reaction to illness had been, and she wasn't about to ask. She got her husband a small cup of water, and he took a tentative sip, rinsing his mouth out, then carefully drank the rest of it. "Come on. Let's get back to bed. Unless you want to stay in here, that is."
He shook his head. "Don't think there's anything left down there." He set one hand on the edge of the sink and took her offered hand with the other, pulling himself up. His leg had extremely disliked that abrupt bed-to-bathroom dash, and he put more weight on her than he usually did. Cuddy hid her slight flinch as her own body protested. Once he was back in bed, she picked up the thermometer again. "101.5," she announced. "It was 102 earlier. Sure glad you had that acetaminophen then when it had time to get on board before stage two of the virus hit."
"Check on the girls," he suggested. She nodded, heading quickly toward the nursery, and he heard her comment back to him on the monitor. "They do feel a little warm now. Just a minute." She got out the pediatric tympanic thermometer and checked. "99.8 and 100 even."
He hauled himself upright and limped to the nursery, leaning heavily on his cane. Cuddy met him in the doorway. "I'll get the Infant Motrin. Hopefully we can get on top of it with them faster than with you." She wasn't sure how long House had been running a fever, as she had been sleeping unusually deeply herself, but she had a feeling it had been several hours.
House was giving Abby a quick exam when she returned with the bottle and the dropper. Abby opened her eyes right as Cuddy re-entered the nursery. "Dada!"
Rachel shifted restlessly, waking up herself. "Dada. Morning."
"Not yet," House said. "We're just having designated sick hour. It's an approved family activity."
Rachel ignored his words, as she often did, in favor of her own agenda. "Ch'mas tree!"
House winced. "I don't think so, Rachel. We'll have to do it another day." He would have pushed himself, but he was concerned about the girls now.
"NO!" Rachel insisted. She lashed out in feeble protest, annoyed when Cuddy simply caught her arm and held it out of the way of the approaching medicine dropper. "No! Yuck!"
"Shut up!" Abby stated.
House snickered. "I swear, Lisa, they didn't learn that from me. Cute, though."
Cuddy gritted her teeth. "I know they didn't learn it from you, and it is not cute." He was sagging against Abby's crib, and Abby reached through the bars to touch him. He looked down at her, his expression softening.
"I'm okay, Abby. Just picked up a bug. So we'll all be sick together; how's that sound?"
"No," Rachel insisted.
"Greg, go back to bed before you fall over. I'll rock them back to sleep."
"Ch'mas tree now!" Rachel demanded.
House shook his head. "No, Rachel. I don't think any of us will be up to it today. I think . . ." His expression changed, and in the next second, he departed at a fast limp, obviously heading for the bathroom to throw up again.
Cuddy picked up Rachel along with Abby and sat back down in the rocking chair. "Not today, Rachel. He's sick. You're sick. Another day will be better."
"No," Rachel protested. She was leaning against her mother, though, her defiance oozing out. Clearly, she was not feeling well in general, either. Abby, quieter but with concerned eyes, was looking at the door where her father had made his abrupt exit. "It's okay," Cuddy reassured her. "We're all okay. Just need to take a sick day, and then it will be gone." She shifted in the chair, the girls seeming heavier than usual. Her body must be protesting its lack of complete sleep so far tonight. The girls slowly calmed down against her, reluctantly falling back asleep. Cuddy heard the toilet flush, and a minute later, House appeared in the doorway of the nursery, looking pale. "Go back to bed, Greg," she hissed softly, inserting it as a brief pause in the rhythm of her hummed lullaby. He studied her and his almost-asleep daughters, then turned back around obediently.
Finally the girls were asleep again. Cuddy stood and flinched. She hoped she hadn't pulled something slightly helping House up from the floor earlier, but she definitely wasn't going to mention the possibility to him. She carefully put the girls in their beds again, checking their temperatures - the medicine was already working. Hopefully, with them several hours behind House in the virus course and getting treatment a lot sooner, their fevers would never go as high. Cuddy walked heavily back across to the bedroom, feeling her interrupted night. House was already asleep again with Belle on top of him in full purr, clearly finding him a delightful heated perch at the moment. Cuddy double checked the monitor, set her alarm clock, then climbed back under the covers for some more interrupted rest.
The doorbell woke her up the next time, and she looked at the clock. Three hours that time, though her body felt like it hadn't slept at all. The alarm had been switched off - had she done that in her sleep? She shook her head, annoyed at herself for the uncharacteristic lapse. Lisa Cuddy-House didn't even use the snooze button; she certainly didn't turn the whole clock off without waking up. She looked over in suspicion at House, but he was solidly out, still clearly sick, and hardly looked up to playing games at the moment. Besides, he would have had to climb across her to attack the clock, and between that and the alarm, she surely would have woken up. No, she must have switched it off herself.
She checked House - fever probably hovering around the same but at least no higher - and then stopped in the nursery for a look at the girls. It really was time to get up now, past time even, and the fact that they both were still asleep was its own statement. Their fevers were still present but reassuringly low grade; jumping on the bug immediately had helped. She would give them some more meds with breakfast. Had to make sure everybody stayed hydrated, too. She switched off the monitor to avoid disturbing House and tried to rally her thoughts for dealing with the day.
The doorbell was going off in frantic tintinnabulation now, accompanied by knocks. With a sigh, Cuddy forced her own aching body to carry her down the hall and open the door.
It was Wilson, looking extremely agitated. He surged through the door as soon as it was open. "I've got to talk to House. Right now. It's urgent."
Cuddy tried to straighten up in defiance and winced as she did so. Her whole body was aching after that chopped-up night. "Wilson, this is NOT a good day. We're having a sick day, and . . ."
"Mama!" Rachel's call was urgent enough that Cuddy lost track of berating Wilson and headed for the nursery as fast as she could.
"What's the matter? Oh . . ." She saw as soon as she entered the room. Rachel had just thrown up all over her bed, sleeper, and blankets. "Oh, baby. It's okay, Rachel. I'll get you cleaned up."
Wilson, having already quickly checked the main rooms of the house and found them Houseless, bolted down the hall and entered the master bedroom, then carefully closed the door behind him for privacy, having run his quarry to earth.