A/N: Short chapter, but it will give you a little insight into what House is thinking right now. Next chapter, things are going to start moving forward a bit. Thanks again for the feedback, story alerts, etc. It's really giving this first-time writer needed encouragement.
House all but collapsed on the couch in Wilson's office. It had been a whirlwind 24 hours and he was already beyond exhausted, even after coffee, a fresh shower and the chance to go home for a short bit. And now…. What the hell was he supposed to do now? He couldn't get the telling image of Cuddy and Rachel out of his mind. Resting his head in his hands, he gently rubbed at his temples, a sudden headache pounding behind his eyes.
"What do you mean Cuddy's going to want to have a baby?" Wilson questioned. The oncologist stood up himself and walked over to House, who oddly enough looked almost as upset as he had yesterday when Wilson found him observing Cuddy's surgery.
"I mean exactly what I said," House murmured, not opening his eyes.
Wilson was definitely having trouble following this conversation. Then again, he often had trouble when he came to immediately understanding chats with his best friend. "Did she tell you that?" he probed.
"Didn't have to."
"So you don't really know if Cuddy actually wants this. You're just hypothesizing."
House open his eyes, cocked his head to the side and gave Wilson one of his classic Housian looks. "Can it, Wilson. I know Cuddy better than Cuddy knows Cuddy. Trust me, she's gonna want a bun in that oven sooner or later, and considering neither one of us is a spring chicken anymore I'm going to guess sooner."
Wilson sat down in the chair beside House. "Okkkkaay," he began, the pieces slowly coming together. "Assuming you're right, which you may not be, let's say Cuddy wants to get pregnant again." There was a pause, which caused House to glance over at him - exactly what Wilson had wanted. House's eyes often spoke so much more than his words. "Assuming she wants a baby, what would you do?"
That was the question that had been looming in House's mind since… well, yesterday when he saw the condemning ultrasound that diagnosed the ectopic pregnancy. What would he have done had the fetus been viable? Had Cuddy been pregnant and carried to term, how would he have reacted? Would he have stuck around? Just the thought almost drove him to Vicodin the day before, so his answer was there, he just wasn't quite ready to dissect it.
Finally House sighed. "I don't want a kid," he admitted. Wilson knew that. He knew that. Hell, everyone knew House's stance on children. "I'm not… I'm not a father, nor do I want to be one."
Wilson nodded and decided to continue his inquisition. He and House rarely had honest conversations like this, but House obviously wanted a serious talk or he wouldn't have come to him. And Wilson certainly wasn't going to decline this sudden invitation, especially after witnessing House almost relapse hours earlier. It was a good sign he was turning to Wilson and not the pill bottle right now. "But what about Rachel? You like her."
"There's a difference between like and tolerate. I tolerate the kid. I don't like her."
"Oh, c'mon. I've seen you with Rachel. Mind you, you did train her to act like a Golden Retriever, but you two have an odd connection. Admit it, House, you actually enjoy spending time with Cuddy's daughter."
It was then that House looked over at Wilson – and the fear in his eyes was palpable. He could never admit any of this to Cuddy. Hell, he could barely admit it to himself. His feelings scared him, especially since his relationship with Cuddy seemed so reliant on fatherhood all of a sudden.
"I don't," House confirmed.
And there it was. House was being brutally and painfully honest. It was a big reason this whole "baby" thing had freaked him out so much. Sure, House had become more comfortable around Rachel over the past months. They even bonded over perverted cartoons, much to Cuddy's chagrin. But House meant what he told Wilson: he could tolerate Rachel now, but he didn't like her. And the possibility of loving her and being a father figure seemed completely foreign and unattainable for him.
"I really don't, Wilson. The kid isn't as dumb as I originally thought she was, but she's still a nuisance. I put up with her because she and Cuddy are a package deal. I get it. I accept it. Doesn't mean I like it or I want to add to that package."
Wilson just stared and listened. This wasn't just House being House; he was serious. "So…" he finally said, breaking the silence. "What are you going to tell Cuddy?"
House glanced at his friend, then leaned back against the sofa and focused on the intricate pattern featured on the ceiling. He was a brilliant diagnostician. He had the answer to just about any question posed. So much so that it was infuriating at times to his friends and colleagues. He could be a son of a bitch, but it was commonly known that Gregory House could solve just about any puzzle he faced.
But that wasn't the case right now. As far as House was concerned, this was a question that had no answer.
At least not a good one for anyone involved.
Some time later, House finally returned to Cuddy's room. She was awake and both Rachel and Julia were missing. "Hey…" he said as he entered. She looked upset. "You okay?"
"Elsberry came by for my post-op exam while you were gone."
Cuddy frowned as she thought about the visit her surgeon had just made not 10 minutes ago. "You'll be pleased to know we agreed on me staying another night. But he's releasing me first thing tomorrow morning."
House started to reply, but Cuddy cut him off, a conclusion immediately coming to mind that she couldn't believe she hadn't thought of before. "Wait just a minute. You made sure Elsberry wouldn't release me, didn't you? You pulled one of your… your tricks."
House rolled his eyes. "As much as I'd like to take credit for this one, no can do. Though thank you for reminding me about those pictures I have of him and that redheaded, big-boobed nurse in ICU. I'd almost forgot about those beauties, and that will certainly come in handy next time I need an OR."
"House," Cuddy replied sharply, obviously not in the mood for his antics.
He sighed. "I haven't even talked to Elsberry today, Cuddy. In case you forgot, I've been at my apartment." That wasn't exactly the truth, but House certainly wasn't going to tell Cuddy about his retreat to Wilson's office right now. Or ever.
He picked up her chart and glanced over the notes the surgeon had made. "How was your visit with Rachel?"
"How'd you know Rachel was here?" Cuddy curiously questioned.
House looked up from the chart and nodded at the stuffed bunny she was clutching. "You prefer toys with batteries, so I'm guessing that belongs to mini-you." He immediately recognized it as Rachel's annoying pink, germ-infested toy she refused to part with, but that wasn't worth stating.
Cuddy held the bunny tighter. She was still shocked that Rachel had given it to her. And the gesture still made her broken heart swell. "It's to make me feel better," she explained and watched as House placed her chart back at the end of her bed and sat down in the chair her sister had recently vacated. "I told Julia everything."
House nodded, then ventured away from the subject of "everything." Instead, he gestured to her chart. "He's right to keep you another night. Your vitals are back to baseline, but it's best to monitor for post-op infection here just a little while longer. You'll be home complaining about taking it easy and being forced to watch my soaps tomorrow."
She reached over and held her hand out. He glanced at it, then into her eyes before grasping hold of her petite fingers. God, he didn't want to lose her. He couldn't. But could he sacrifice his reality for her dreams?
"Tomorrow," Cuddy conceded. "I just can't wait to get home, put this behind us…. and for things to go back to normal."
House held her gaze for moment. Normal. He wasn't as certain as she seemed to be that was going to possible now. But he simply offered her a smile, squeezed her fingers and gruffly volunteered the reassurance he knew she was seeking.