Cuddy was walking slowly down one of the hospital's many corridors as the clock struck nine. Although it was late and these were the personnel floors there was still a flurry of activity. She could see the doctors rushing between their patients, desperate to solve just one more case, save one more person.
She put it out of her mind as she entered the elevator. Instead, she thought of her own little life at home, the bundle of joy who'd be waiting to see her. There was also her big baby, but considering the dirty things he'd told her about earlier today, she didn't think their interaction this evening would be all that gentle - though just as wanted.
She remembered leaving a few of her files in Dr Frederick's office from their meeting today. In a snap decision, she stopped the elevator early and rushed out to get them so she'd be able to review them again this evening or tomorrow morning, before their next meeting at ten am the following day. Frederick was a neonatal surgeon and his office was based near the NICU and newborn nursery. She retrieved the files from his office quickly and was making her way back to the elevator when she saw Nurse Regina standing by the window, looking out over the newborn babies.
She stared for a moment, then left the files on a nearby desk and moved over. "Regina? Are you alright?"
The nurse turned, wiping a tear away from her eye. "Yes, Dr Cuddy. I'm fine."
"You're crying," Cuddy pointed out. She smiled sympathetically. "Long day?" She asked softly. She knew how it could be at PPTH sometimes - sometimes it just felt like the whole world was out to get you.
Regina sighed. "Yeah, something like that," she murmured, turning her attention back to the window of the nursery.
Cuddy moved to stand beside her. "When I was a med student, I used to come and watch the newborns when things got tough. Not here exactly, obviously, but it's almost the same. Whenever I'd lose a patient or just feel like nothing I was doing made a difference, I'd come and see the new life. It's innocence in a blanket. It just makes the whole world seem better."
Regina nodded. "You see that baby boy over there?" She pointed to baby swaddled in blue wrapping, near the back of the newborns. "Delivered him this evening. Beautiful, beautiful boy. Nine pounds, twenty inches. Perfect. Anyway, his mother's a drug addict - she popped him out and took off. Even had the audacity to ask if we'd give her anything for him, because she'd kept herself clean through this pregnancy."
Cuddy swallowed. "That's terrible," she said hoarsely.
Regina nodded. "He's so little - and he has no one. There's no one coming to hold him when he cries, or soothe him when he can't sleep. He'll get given off to some adoptive or foster parents soon, but who knows what'll happen there? He hasn't got anyone to take him home now," Regina continued, voice cracking.
Cuddy's own eyes were stinging. She was instantly triggered back to that dirty crack house, searching for Rachel on the floor. She thought of that tiny, abandoned baby from four years ago to the wonderful little girl at home. The girl who's smile was infectious and talked like a pirate as often as she could and refused to eat broccoli because she didn't want to kill the people living inside the branches - she was such a beautiful little girl.
She was turning into an amazing person, and Cuddy felt proud when she thought of how she would give Rachel as much as she humanly could in life. Rachel deserved the world, and that's just what Cuddy was going to get for her.
And here was this boy. This beautiful, sweet baby boy, sleeping like an angel in his tiny newborn cot. He had no idea of the start to his life. He had no idea yet that the woman who was supposed to love and cherish him had left him within a heartbeat and run out the door.
He would not necessarily get the same opportunities Rachel was going to get. Sure, his adoptive or foster parents could be wonderful. But they could be mean. Or they could have hosts of other kids, or be extremely poor and be unable to support him, or have a horrible relationship that bled through to their parenting of their son and hurt him too.
He could be hurt in so many ways.
Cuddy would be there to protect Rachel. She'd be there to catch her when she fell, every time. But she'd also be there terrifying the person who was trying to push her down. That is what a mother should be to their child, Cuddy thought. A protector. A mender of broken things.
"Call DYFS," Cuddy told Regina. "Now."
House was snoring on the couch as the clock struck two am. A nephrology journal was spread over his face and his legs were propped up on the coffee table. Whatever pointless TV show he'd been pretending to watch was long finished and the TV merely showed static.
The house was quiet. Despite Rachel's whining for her mother, Cuddy hadn't come home by nine thirty as she'd promised. House had wrestled the girl into her sleeping beauty nightgown and given her glass of chocolate milk, then swiftly sent her to bed, with no teeth or hair brushing and no bath. If Cuddy had wanted him to do all that she should have called and specified, he rationalised.
Cuddy let herself in awkwardly, balancing everything she was carrying carefully. She was as gentle and slow as possible and managed to let herself in without too much trouble. She dumped her briefcase on the table and sighed, feeling the heavy weight in her arms.
The sound of the door shutting woke House. The journal flying off his face and onto the floor, House whipped round. He wasn't planning to be mad with her for staying out half the night without telling him; after all, how many times had he done the same thing?
However, as soon as he saw her, his mouth dropped open. He stared. "What is that?" He asked bluntly, eyes wide and confused.
Cuddy pursed her lips. "He had no one," she said sadly, rocking the baby slowly. "I couldn't just leave him there."
"What did you do?" House asked, still as bemused and horrified as before.
"I fostered a baby boy," she admitted. She looked down at the boy, and then back to House. "Do you want to say hello?"