Holy sweet jesus this story is actually alive. I'm sorry, guys; I was dealing with family crap and then school happened and the whole time my House muse was in critical condition...ugh...I feel like a low-life for making you wait this long. But my muse is in recovery at the moment and seems to be cooperating so you get this. :P
I'll admit right now that I've been having timeline issues with this story; I didn't keep track of it as well as I should have been so as much as I've been trying my hardest to avoid continuity issues, they might be a thing, though they should be minimal. I have the timeline for the remainder of the story (all seventeen chapters, not including this one) written down and double-checked, nice and smoothed over, so from this point on, we should be good. For reference, this chapter takes place in mid-April.
And that's all I have to say about that? Now let's get on with it.
Disclaimer: I don't own House or any of its characters. The title of this story comes from the novel of the same name by E.B. White.
Every Little Thing Is Gonna Be Alright
"I suppose congratulations are in order."
House scratched at his chin, glancing up at Marilyn for just half a moment before his gaze turned to the potted plant in the corner. He drummed out an erratic beat on the arms of his chair.
"I suppose," he said, haughtily imitating her speech pattern. She laced her fingers together on front of her on her desk.
"Something bothering you?"
"My stocks are down, my blood pressure's up and marijuana is still illegal. So yeah, generally." Marilyn let out a ghost of a laugh.
"I was thinking something more along the lines of...marriage?"
"Are you really bringing this up again?"
"Well it's a big step in your life and in your relationship."
"Some might think it's rather intimidating."
"Alright, I'll be blunt then. Greg, how are you feeling about your engagement?"
"She did say yes, remember? And she hasn't cut it short yet. Which honestly leads me to question her sanity to a certain degree." His therapist squinted her eyes thoughtfully.
"You don't think she should want this?"
"You've been my therapist for almost three months now. Do you know anything about me?"
"Exactly. Three months now, Greg. Assuming all goes according to plan, I won't be your therapist for much longer. Of course, it's still up to me to decide if you're ready to stop these sessions, but the fact remains the same: you're going to have to learn how to get on without me."
"I think I'll be fine," House said breezily. Marilyn smiled.
"You need to talk to people, Greg. To me, to your soon-to-be-wife...So talk to me now. Tell me how you're feeling. Or we can start at an easier level if you like. What are you thinking about in terms of the ceremony?" House didn't bother to be subtle about the roll of his eyes.
"I'm starting to wonder how many times I'll have to tell people to quit asking that." Marilyn quirked one eyebrow. "We haven't started planning anything yet."
"Well then I understand why the question might be somewhat irksome. But are you sure that's the only reason you're avoiding it?"
"I'm not avoiding it. The question is just irrelevant."
"It's actually quite telling, Greg. When someone asks you these questions...how does it make you feel? Anxious? Excited? Worried?"
"Annoyed," House emphasized. "It doesn't stem from some deep-seated fear of commitment. I just don't know yet."
"You don't know...that's interesting..."
"How the hell is it interesting?"
"Watch your language, Greg," Marilyn chastised. "It's interesting to hear you say that. Normally, you seem quite reluctant to say you don't know. You see? I can tell you a thing or two about yourself, Greg." She smiled knowingly, something that House found she seemed to do with astoundingly annoying frequency.
"Well if you know so much about me, then why don't you tell me the significance?" he said.
"I don't know," Marilyn drawled comfortably. "I notice. And besides, that would defeat the point."
House watched her intently, tossing his cane from one hand to the other and back again as he waited for her to speak again, but she didn't. She stared right back at him, hands clasped in front of her, biding her time until he was ready to answer her questions and tell her whatever it was she wanted to know – or whatever she claimed to know already. He sighed magnificently and rubbed his eyes.
"I don't know...what I feel," he ground out, looking anywhere but her. The window suddenly became very fascinating. "I don't care about the ceremony. We can just go sign a damn piece of paper for all I care. We don't have to make a big deal out of it, but of course Cuddy's fire-breathing dragon-lady of a mother wants to insist on going the traditional route or she'll spontaneously combust and take both of us with her. But why should a damn ceremony matter?"
"So it's her mother that's worrying you?" Marilyn prompted. "She must be quite the specimen of a woman."
"That's one way to describe her," House grunted. "But in the end, she doesn't even matter. She can yell and scream all she wants, but she can't make us do anything. Not really."
"So if she's not what's bothering you, then what is?"
"I don't know!" House snapped, slamming his fist down on the arm of the chair. "I don't know! I don't know anything! I don't know how this is going to turn out, what's going to happen a year from now, or five years or ten...I don't know-"
"And that scares you."
He stared, silent and pumped full of adrenaline. His heart slowed from a full gallop to an easy trot and he let out a breath.
"I..." He couldn't say he didn't know again. The words tasted bitter and sharp in his mouth, cutting his tongue every time he repeated them. He couldn't bring himself to say them even one more time. He was sick of them, sick of not knowing, sick of the uncertainty and the mystery of the constantly looming future.
"I'm not a relationship counselor," Marilyn said gently as she leaned forward, toward him. "But I do know something about you, Greg. I can tell, for one, that you're a man of action, that you're never satisfied unless you're mind is working on something. Consider this: if you sit on your hands and put this off, your brain will be constantly overrun with 'what-ifs' and the like. However..."
"If I do something productive I can channel that into something actually helpful," House finished. "Yeah, yeah, I get it. Pretty sure that's something you're trained to say in grad school."
"They teach it for a reason, you know."
"You're saying I should get into wedding planning?"
"Only your own. Though you never know, you might find it enjoyable." House scoffed.
"Doubt this will end in a career change."
"But you know how it will end, granted all goes according to plan?"
Marilyn smiled. "With you getting married."
Cuddy came home to someone flipping her lights on and off. She squinted through her windshield as she slowed to a stop in the driveway, mumbling an almost consciously unnoticed "What the hell?" under her breath as she got out of the car. Off again, on again, off again, on again, with startlingly precise timing. Not a power flicker, then, and not a loose bulb. Her nerves chattered away with vague anxiety as she unlocked the door and went inside, even though she knew with almost absolute certainty already who it was.
He was sitting on her couch, arm outstretched with his finger on the light switch. On again, off again. "What are you doing?" she asked. He didn't look up at her, but he did stop messing with the lights, though his hand hovered by the switch still.
"Was wondering when you were going to get home," he said, flicking the light on one last time and leaving it that way, his arm falling with a dull thump into the side of the couch. "Thought you were gonna spend the night at the hospital, and that wasn't going to be much fun for either of us."
As he spoke, he stood up and shuffled over to her, cane left resting against the sofal. He didn't say much as he placed his hands on her arms, running them up and down, curving over her shoulder. He didn't quite make eye contact right then, staring at her neck instead. "You know, out of all the fights we've had, this is probably the stupidest." Now he looked at her, one eyebrow cocked. "And that's saying something."
"What are you talking about?"
"All this stupid wedding stuff," he said, removing his hands from her. "Letting your mother get us all worked up over something that shouldn't matter in the long run. It's like we haven't even been a couple the past few weeks. You've been avoiding me."
"Hey, I've been avoiding you too. Not trying to accuse you of anything. Arlene has a way of getting in your head, and once she's in there, she tends to flip over all the tables and tear up the wallpaper." He sighed heavily, his shoulders rounding. Suddenly he looked so tired. "But anyway...maybe she...And I can't believe I'm about to say this. Maybe she has a point."
"What?" Cuddy breathed.
"Don't make me say it again," House pleaded.
"No, believe me, if I ever heard you repeat that, my head might just explode from disbelief, but...what are you talking about?" He took her hands in his, a gesture so tender that it surprised her even now, even as the metal of the engagement ring on her finger pressed against his palm.
"I mean, the result is the same no matter how we do it. And it's a few hours of my time at most. I mean, if it's something you'd regret passing up if we didn't do it, I guess I'd rather endure a traditional ceremony than endure you bringing it up as argument fodder somewhere down the road."
"So that's the only reason you want to do it?" she asked, sounding hurt even though she was trying so valiantly to keep that undertone out of her voice. "Because you're worried I'll bring it up to use against you later?"
"I think it's a valid reason," House quipped. Cuddy sighed and turned away. She barely had time to take more than a step before he grabbed her wrist. "Hey...I'm trying, alright? I'm trying to...I don't know, do the right thing."
It took her a moment to respond: "I know you are..." She summoned as much strength as she could find to force herself to turn and face him again, pressing her free hand to her forehead. "It's just...your timing is impeccable."
"It usually is," House said, suggestively raising an eyebrow at her. "Doubt we're thinking of the same thing though."
"I thought about it a lot," Cuddy finally said. "I thought about...what it would feel like to have a traditional ceremony, and when I thought about it, it just felt...wrong."
"Think you were born into the wrong religion?" House asked. "Because I here the Church of Scientology is still taking members."
"That's not what I meant. I mean, if it were anyone else, I would have wanted a traditional ceremony, but that's not you. That's not us. And you're right...it doesn't matter." She shrugged. "I mean, either way, we still end up married, right?"
"Pretty sure. So what are you getting at?"
"Kinda funny isn't it?" she said with a small smile. "That we both have such a change of heart and it leaves us right where we started. Seems pretty fitting when it comes to the two of us..."
"I'm still not following." She smacked him good-naturedly on the arm.
"I'm saying I don't want a traditional ceremony, you ass," she said.
"Your mother sure does."
"Yeah, but you're right. You're not marrying my mother." He grimaced. "I know..." Her expression softened, and it was her turn to take his hand, which she did gently. "I just want to marry you, House. And if somewhere down the line, I look back and wish I could have had some extravagant ceremony...Well, maybe I can just look at you lying next to me and remember that in the end, it didn't really matter." Before he could speak, she pressed forward onto her tip-toes and kissed him, clasping her hand around the back of his neck.
House pulled away, lingering inches from her still. "So we're in bed in this scenario of yours," he said. "Seems appropriate."
"Shut up," she said, unable to hide her smile.
"So you don't want to go the traditional route, or you're willing not to, anyway," House said. "What then?"
"I hear the Justice of the Peace is nice this time of year."
"That all you want?" House asked, brow furrowing in surprise. "Concrete walls and marble floors?"
"I'll wear a dress, you wear a tux. We'll invite some friends and family and enjoy the reception afterward with half the planning and hair-pulling."
"So that's it. That's the plan."
"If you're alright with it."
"Sounds like a good plan to me. Though the tux is debatable..."
"The tux is most certainly not debatable. You'll wear it and that's final." House grinned playfully.
"I get all tingly when you take control like that, Cuddy," he said. After a pause, he added, "Not sure how your mother will feel about it, though. The wedding, not the tux. Though she'll probably find something wrong with that too."
"Oh, she'll be beside herself, but that'll pass. Besides, I'm having a hard time caring."
"Wouldn't you know it, so am I."
"Do you think you'll still feel that way when one of us has to tell her?"
"Probably," he shrugged. "Considering I was planning on leaving that to you."
"I try." Cuddy paused, swaying thoughtfully.
"What made you change your mind?"she asked. "Really."
"I told you-"
"No, I know it's something more than you wanting to avoid an argument down the road. You don't just change your mind out of the blue." Gently, she placed her hand on his shoulder, beseeching him to look at her, which he eventually did. "I just want to know..."
"Had a good talk with my therapist," he said. "They're good for that kind of thing. Plus, I'd rather just avoid a long argument about it and get it done already."
"That's one way to look at it, I guess," Cuddy said out of the corner of her mouth. "Get it over and done with."
"Well I'm going to need somewhere to live, right? And us being married would help us to avoid a scandal."
"Pretty sure we're a bit late when it comes to avoiding scandals," Cuddy reminded him before something occurred to her. "What do you mean you need somewhere to live?"
"I move out of my apartment at the end of the month," he said with a shrug. "I was going to surprise you with a couple of suitcases and a U-haul truck, but I figured that might be a little much." She stared at him in disbelief.
"Now I know you've lost it," she said.
"You want to kick me out?" he asked.
"No, but...House...I don't want you to feel...pressured or overwhelmed or-"
"Well last time I checked we're still engaged," he pointed out. "Makes sense that we would have to move in together at some point. Would certainly make it easier to tell people where to send the gifts. And unless you want to come live in my apartment, I figured this would be the best choice for all involved." He paused a moment, eying her warily. "You're not going to cry, are you?"
"Shut up," Cuddy said, smiling through the tears that were indeed gathering in her eyes.
"Didn't think you'd get so emotional over this."
"I'm not," she said. "I just...I'm happy. Aren't I allowed to be happy about this?"
"Sure you're allowed, but if you're going to start bawling all over the place I think I'll just leave until the flood of hormones has ebbed."
"No, it's fine...I'm fine. It's just so out of nowhere..."
"Had to happen eventually."
"I know, but...you saying this so suddenly, and now of all times..."
"What do you mean?" She paused, biting the inside of her cheek, and House's chest tightened in worry. His voice was more urgent as he added, "What does me saying it now have to do with anything?"
"Nothing," Cuddy relented, her breath rushing out of her under the word. "I mean...just when you're finishing up with your therapy, when my mother is...well, being my mother-"
"I swear to God if she shows up on my doorstep again, I don't want you to hold me responsible for what I might do. Who knows how long it will take to convince her to leave well enough alone this time..."
"I will hold you responsible," Cuddy said. "Especially considering that it's your future mother in law we're talking about here."
"Don't remind me."
"And I think you mean our doorstep," she added. House chuckled.
"Our doorstep. Have it your way."
He was standing just inside her office doorway, a thoughtful quirk in his eyebrow and a poorly-hidden smirk tugging at his lips as he let the door slide closed behind him. He said nothing more, prompting the obligatory question from her:
He took a confident step in her direction, cane scuffing against the carpet. "I said you're ovulating."
"I heard you, but...what?"
"I have a bet going with some of the gyno chicks to see which one of us is better at reading your cycle. I mean, I know I told you I'd stop tracking your periods, but come on...honestly, how long did you think that was going to last?" He chuckled. "And besides, I've gotten rusty lately, and if we're going to be living together, I need to know when to keep the freezer stocked with Rocky Road and when to sleep in the yard."
Cuddy let out a heavy sigh, allowing her arms to fall onto her keyboard and ignoring the lengthy chain of E's that the motion caused to pop up on her screen. "I'm not ovulating," she said.
"You sure?" House asked, striding toward her again. "Because I kind of have money riding on this, you know-"
"House," she snapped, slamming her hands down on the desk. "Trust me when I say...I'm not...ovulating. I'm really...really not."
Something in her eyes made him pause. He couldn't identify it, couldn't work out why his heart was suddenly starting to race as he asked, barely audible: "How do you know?"
"Because I..." She trailed off, her will power failing her.
It only made him repeat: "How do you know?"
She stood up slowly, rounding her desk as if she were trying to approach a skittish animal without scaring it, and her words were almost drowned out, it seemed, by the blood pounding in his ears: "When you came over last night, I thought..." She glanced down at the carpet. "But I wasn't sure...I took a test this morning...took another...and then another for good measure...and..."
Her hands wandered absently to her abdomen.
For a moment, Cuddy just watched him cautiously. House stared at the bookshelf.
His heart leaped into his throat, leaving his stomach to bottom out and making him feel like he either wanted to run out of the room or throw up or both. But he did neither; he stood there, frozen, his mind trapped in a spiral of incoherent, half-formed thoughts.
"You're sure?" he asked, voice quavering as he finally glanced at her. She wrapped her arms around herself anxiously.
"About as sure as four tests can make a person," she said.
"Wow, that's...thorough..." He moved his gaze to the floor.
It seemed like an eternity passed before she finally asked, "Are you...okay?"
Surprising both himself and her, he nodded.
"Yeah..." This time, when he looked up at her, his gaze was so intense that his eyes seemed to pierce right through her. She shifted uncomfortably.
"I actually told you this time," she said, a humorless laugh issuing from her throat; it was tinged with pain and bitternessamidst the desire to lift the tension that hung in the air between them. "I mean I...I couldn't believe it, but...I guess there's something in my that just doesn't want to call it quits. I mean I thought we were being safe, but after...what happened...after everything, I guess I let my guard down a bit and..." Her throat and chest ached with the tears she was holding back.
She barely had time to get another syllable out before House pressed her against the wall, grabbing her arms and gripping tightly as he kissed her hard on the mouth, tongue pressing past her lips in a desperate frenzy that left her too stunned and breathless to respond. Slowly, his touch dissolved into one that was more gentle and warm, hands running down over her wrists and her fingers to rest on her hips. In spite of everything, and in spite of herself, when he pulled away, she was smiling, and she laughed.
"House, careful," she said semi-playfully. "I'm...I'm awash with hormones right now and they're making me...really...horny..." She bit her lip as House smirked.
"Yeah, it's just the hormones doing that," he said.
"House..." she said warningly.
"Alright, alright..." He rested his forehead on her shoulder, thoughtfully mumbling: "You're really pregnant..."
Her voice shook: "Yup. And you're...alright..."
"Surprisingly...I think so."
It was a long time before Cuddy spoke again, repeating his name once more, softer this time: "House?"
"Do you think..." She glanced downward; now it was her turn for her to avoid his gaze. "Do you think I'll be able...to..."
"Don't worry," he said with a surprising measure of confidence. "You will. My sperm are tough little buggers. I mean, let's be honest, if they can survive the harsh, unforgiving conditions of your vagina, I think that says something."
It was hard to force the words out, but she made herself say them none the less: "You know, if this...if this makes you want to...I don't know, put off the ceremony or something, I'd understand..."
"You kidding?" he scoffed. "You think I'd leave you at the altar for this? Give me a little credit, Cuddy. Besides, can you imagine the look on Arlene's face? She might just rupture something."
"And...did you want..." He looked at her questioningly when her voice petered out. "I mean it's your decision as much as it's mine. We could...talk about this. If you don't think we should...keep-"
"No." His tone was so forceful and insistent that it made her jump, and he softened it along with his gaze as he repeated, "No...never...no..."
She smiled, running her fingers through his hair, and suddenly, he began to kneel downwards. Her voice hitched as she choked out: "House, what are you-"
She fell silent when he pressed a tender kiss to her abdomen, barely able to hear him as he spoke: "You'll be fine."
But he didn't seem to be speaking to her.