Disclaimer: Shore and Co.'s...

A/N: A big thank you to Penelope S Cartwright for putting up with the word count... and me! LOL. Check out her one shot, "Deep Breath", which is SO worth the read! (:

4 months in the making! :D

It was a great journey, writing this. I hope you guys like/love it!

Do leave a review to let me know what you think and if you'd like a third chapter!

Enjoy! Oh. SMUT WARNING, a couple of paragraphs below, "By the middle of the 5th week..." ;D



He was unaware that he'd fallen asleep on the couch until he felt fingers weaving through his unkempt hair. Their eyes met when his opened and Cuddy smiled. She was kneeling on the floor, her body pressed against the soft upholstery of the sofa.

She continued running her fingers through his hair. Her eyes never wavered from his. They were holding a conversation without words.

They didn't speak, both content in taking in the soothing sensation and calm they mutually felt just by looking at one another in comfortable silence.

Just with the quiet certainty of her gaze on him, House was once again reassured that everything was not lost and that, for the first time in years, he could finally dare to look his future in the eyes with less fear.

The next morning, 6 AM

The sound of her alarm clock's shrill tone rang through her ears and roused Cuddy from her sleep. She turned in bed and wiped at her eyes, trying to shove the vestiges of sleep from them. A groggy, lopsided smile made its way to her face at six in the morning when the sight and warmth of a body she'd missed having next to her at night and waking up to in the morning caught her attention.

She carefully hopped off the bed and set about getting ready for work. She was already creating a to-do-list as she walked to her bathroom to brush her teeth and wash her face.

Aside from her and Rachel's daily morning routine, she had to schedule a meeting and follow-up for House so they could check with his physician and Rehabilitation for an IPOP.

After having done her yoga and getting herself and Rachel squeaky clean, she set about getting her daughter dressed before handing her off to Marina so she could get dressed herself.

When she returned to her bedroom, House was still asleep.

She got dressed for work and left a note for him, telling him to be at the hospital by ten, eleven at the latest.

She hoped as hell that he would actually wake up early to be there on time.

As she gathered her things and shoved them into her briefcase, she thought about anything she might have forgotten.

He wouldn't have a hard time with her shower—he could take the crutches in with him if he wanted. He could get a chair if standing proved to be too challenging for him especially while he applied soap. Maybe sitting would be better. He wouldn't be having an actual shower, as he had to keep the amputation site dry.

After pressing a feather-light kiss to House's forehead, she slipped out of the bedroom and walked into the dining room where Marina was preparing Rachel's breakfast.

"After breakfast, could you please pull a chair into my shower stall for House?" Cuddy asked, smiling sweetly at her daughter who was puffing out her cheeks as she smiled back.

"Sure, Dr. Cuddy," Marina replied.

"Thank you," Cuddy said before pressing a kiss to her daughter's head.

"Say good morning to House for me, okay?" she told Rachel. "Love you."

"Kay! Love you, too, Momma," Rachel chirped, waving goodbye to her mother who smiled and waved one last time before walking back to the hallway and exiting the house.

House woke up to the sound of his name being whispered repeatedly almost directly into his ear.

"Hows," Rachel whispered again before pulling away to check if he'd heard her.

"What?" he grumbled thickly, stump complaining before he could even roll onto his side.

"You 'kay?" she asked him.

"Yes," he answered. "Go 'way. Need sleep," he murmured as he buried his face onto the pillow to hide his grimace.

"No sleep, you hurt," she stated seriously, sounding like her mother. "Drink med'cin," she ordered, patting his arm.

He couldn't believe the kid standing beside the bed was actually ordering him to take his meds. She was supposed to be the therapeutic golden retriever not the harpy's protégé.

"Later," he bargained just to placate her.

"Now!" she shouted a tad too pitchy.


"Be better now!" she said, as if she could order him around.

"Rachel, let Dr. House rest," Marina called out to the little spitfire as she popped her head into the room to check on her charge.

"He drink med'cin! Mama said!" Rachel whined, arms across her chest.

Cuddy had called a mere fifteen minutes ago, asking about House. To make her daughter feel like a big girl, Cuddy had told her to check on House and make sure he took his medicine like a good boy. Of course, Rachel was immediately on it.

"It's okay, Marina. I'll keep her out of trouble," House mumbled as he slowly started to sit up, his arms supporting his weight.

"Where's my medicine?" House asked, shooting two birds with one stone by humoring her as well as correcting her toddler speech at the same time. He knew the kid wouldn't have the slightest inkling as to what drugs he was prescribed let alone where to find them. He was curious as to what she would hand to him that could be passed on as "medicine."

Rachel grinned, pulling out a red sucker from her pajama bottom's pocket.

"Here 'ya go!" She said excitedly, handing the lollipop to him.

"Reds are best!" She added, recalling him telling her that.

"Yup," House agreed, voice softening as he took the sucker from her. "And you say "take your medicine", not drink." He couldn't help but correct her.

"Take your medicine," Rachel repeated.

They probably would have been such a sight to see had they been in public. A caption even popped up in his mind instantly: Little girl healed old, misanthropic, bastard amputee's pain by handing him a red sucker.

"Thanks for the sucker," House told her, making her smile in a "My work here is done!" way.

He put a hand on his stump, rubbing it gently.

This seemed to deflate Rachel's mood.

"Still ouchy?" she asked him sadly.

"No," House lied hating how a small action did a one-eighty on her mood. "I feel better with this medicine," he said, feigning a jolly voice as he unwrapped the sucker and stuck it into his mouth with a smirk. Rachel giggled before surprising House by hugging him. Her hug was quick and she left him alone, happy at having 'helped' him.

House shook his head.

The kid was growing to be a lot like Cuddy day by day.

He looked around the room once, the slightest of smiles touching his lips as he thought of how much of a lucky bastard he was to be back in this house where he was accepted for who and what he was.

House reached for his crutches, groaning as he pulled himself up and off the bed to start his day.

PPTH, Lunchtime, 12:15 PM

He felt like a lamb in wolves' territory the moment he stepped into the clinic. He had gotten in through the ER entrance. The main entrance would be too much for him. He hated being pitied.

Since one long limb was missing parallel to his left leg though, he still hadn't gone unnoticed by the ER staff. Looks of pity and concern, among others, were thrown in his direction as he made his way to Cuddy's office.

"I told you to be here by 10 or 11," Cuddy told him in an annoyed tone the moment he stepped into her office.


"Bad stump day," he mumbled apologetically. It truly was. He had woken up to a stinging pain in what was left of his thigh.

Forehead creasing, Cuddy stood up and walked towards him.

"How bad?" she asked, stroking his biceps.

"A three," House said, meeting her eyes. The urge to shrug off her gesture crossed his mind—he hated being coddled. But, as always, there was something in her touch that calmed him, soothed him even.

"I can reschedule our meeting to two, I guess. We'll grab lunch and then you could wait here until we're due up in Rehabilitation."

House nodded, "Okay."

Cuddy pressed a comforting kiss on his lips, smiling when she pulled away and saw his eyes still closed. When those beautiful eyes opened to her, her smile widened.

House's annoyance mellowed from the softness of her lips and the sight of her smile.

"What do you want to eat?" Cuddy asked him, walking towards her desk to fetch her wallet. She turned in time to see him answer her with a shrug.

"Did you have lunch at home?" she asked as she approached him.

"Marina made me lunch," House nodded.

"Oh. Then you stay here if you want," Cuddy said. "I'll grab a salad or something then get you a Reuben. That okay?"

"Sure," House said, cheering up a little at the prospect of not having to leave the confines of Cuddy's office. At one time he would have accompanied her, but he chose to stay rather than face the pitying looks people would undoubtedly throw his way.

"I'll be right back," Cuddy said, walking past him.

"And House?" Cuddy turned to look at him, a smirk on her luscious lips and a challenging glint in her eyes.

House's eyebrows shot up as he waited for her to continue.

"Don't touch my laptop," she said before leaving the room to get lunch.

House rolled his eyes. But she was right to assume he would definitely go for her laptop. Being House, he sat in her ergonomic chair and woke her sleeping Mac. Unfortunately, for him, she had changed her password and he didn't want to be bothered guessing what the new one was. If he wasn't worried about his appointment at two, he would have tried guessing what her new password was.

He leaned back against the backrest with a huff, pulling out his PSP from the pocket of his jeans.

A few minutes later Cuddy returned with a container of salad and her wallet in one hand and a wrapped sandwich in the other. She smiled, seeing him playing his game as she settled the food she'd bought down on top of her desk. They ate in silence a while later.

"There's nothing to worry about, House," she told him softly as she picked at her salad.

House looked at her unblinkingly, eyes softening because she'd read what he'd been thinking.

Cuddy smiled a bit, reaching forward to clasp his hand in hers.

"It's going to be okay," she assured him, giving his hand a squeeze before letting it go so they could both eat.

"Yeah," House breathed.

Cuddy told him to relax when they stepped into the elevator when the time came for them to go up to Stern's office. He had wanted to snap, "Never saw an amputee before?" at the people sparing a glance his way, but didn't. He trembled slightly with compressed anger instead.

He relaxed a little when he felt her stroke his back tenderly, reminding himself that she was beside him through this.

They entered Stern's office near Rehabilitation and followed the nurse who led them to another room.

"How are you?" Stern asked as he entered the room. He fought the temptation to smile smugly upon seeing his boss sitting next to his patient.

"Good," House replied, resisting the urge to reply sarcastically. He knew that would have earned him a glare from Cuddy.

"Pains? Discomfort?" Stern asked, going over House's chart.

"Pains a bit from time to time. Discomfort, most of the time," House answered.

"Experiencing Phantom Sensation?" the older doctor inquired, finally looking at his patient.

House looked at Cuddy for a while before nodding reluctantly. "Since day one," he added quietly.

"It will pass," Stern assured him.

For most of their checkup, Stern had assessed the status of the amputation site's healing. He also checked the sutures, observing whether it could be taken out soon.

"When can he be measured and fitted for an IPOP?" Cuddy questioned, looking from House to Stern.

Adjusting his glasses, the doctor said, "Well, I can talk to one of our prosthetists in Rehabilitation and once I have, I'll have him or her schedule an appointment to evaluate House. It all depends on how fast the wound heals."

The rest of their appointment went smoothly with Stern giving House a prescription and some tips to manage the pain and discomfort.

Two days later, Rehabilitation, 10 AM

House was cranky. And a bit anxious—which was, truly, a weird thing to see.

Within 24 hours, Stern had contacted them and said he had spoken to Dr. Helen Rivers, the head prosthetist at Princeton Plainsboro, and that he had scheduled an appointment for them for the coming Friday at 10 in the morning.

Yesterday, Thursday, Stern had the sutures taken out and his stump had then been wrapped with soft dressing and then casted for stump shrinking and residual limb shaping.

House was cranky because Cuddy had practically kicked him out of bed and into the shower so they could arrive at the hospital in time for his appointment. He was anxious about it because Rivers was a monster.

Well, she wasn't really, but she was a tough bitch. She looked far from one, but she was notorious for it.

And House was someone who hated therapy. Hell, he even hated the word alone.

He knew he needed help, but it didn't mean he had to like it.

"She's not going to make you do something you can't take," Cuddy assured him as they waited for the infamous therapist and prosthetist. She was seated on one of the chairs while House was seated on the bed.

"Well, she wouldn't know—"

"That's why we're here," Cuddy cut him off. "You guys are going to get to know each other," she mockingly stated with a sweet, devious smile.

"Maybe we could have a threesome someday," House remarked, just to get back at her.

"Hopefully not," the blonde-haired doctor interrupted their verbal sparring, entering the room with a few Manila folders tucked under her arm, "Mainly because, well, neither of you are my type."

House shut up then, and Cuddy watched with slight amusement at how much he looked like a child who found out he was going to get a shot.

"My, you're awfully quiet, Dr. House," Rivers commented as she smiled at Cuddy in greeting before looking towards her patient. "You sure you're alright?" House nodded stiffly.

"Dr. Stern told me about your inquiries on IPOPs," Rivers started, pulling on a stool and sitting down facing them. "Pre-prosthetic, we have to shape the residual limb first and shrink the stump, which," she gestured towards House's amputation site, "Dr. Stern had already started. We need to increase your range of motion and muscle strength, get you into cardiovascular training, and progressive functional mobility training without a prosthetic. We also need to restore your locus of control—this one's very important."

"As for the IPOP," she continued, "It would have been better if he'd been fitted for the IPOP earlier. Maybe in one or two weeks' time, we can take measurements so we could fit you with one. The IPOP would also help advance the maturation of your residual limb, reduce phantom pain, and wound healing. But don't worry; during therapy you'll be using a preparatory prosthesis for gait training."

House remained quiet and unmoving while Cuddy nodded, both of them taking in the doctor's words.

"So," Rivers said, "Can you tell me about what your goals are, your expectations?"

This made House squint his eyes suddenly, wondering where that question came from.

"I didn't know you're also my shrink," he replied, smirking. He received a scolding hiss of "House!" from Cuddy.

Rivers shrugged, "I could be that, too, but you're going to have to pay extra." She let out a small smile that, admittedly, scared House as she said, "What I'm asking is part of standard procedure, House. I need to know if you'd like to run, too, or not. I need to know if you'll be biking, or you'll only be lounging at the nurses' or doctors' lounge, planning on living the rest of your days as a sloth when you're not occupied being the star diagnostician."

House glared.

"I need to know things you plan on doing so we could find the best prosthetic for you. We need to know which socket would be best for you, which leg, what materials would be most comfortable and, at the same time, appropriate for the things you intend to do once you've finished with prosthetic training. I also need to know these things so we could prepare you accordingly. Therapy is going to be so hard your head's going to spin," she said in all seriousness, though she ended her speech in a joking tone. "And your therapy doesn't stop with the IPOPs. Once we get you a real prosthetic, we have to train you to utilize and make the most of it. That is why I have to know your plans. You're going to have to learn to walk again, and your team is going to help you through it, so we have to know."

House nodded in understanding.

"You are literally going to have to take it one step at a time," Rivers added professionally with a hint of delicateness.

A moment of silence later House exhaled heavily before telling her, "Things I plan on doing…" he shrugged, "Run for miles every morning, golf, tennis, mostly… active, sporty things." He would have added pinning Cuddy up against walls and counters, but he doubted his ladylove would have appreciated him voicing out that desire.

Cuddy's heart ached at the longing in House's eyes and the trepidation in his voice.

"You will be able to do those things. In time, House. The prognosis is very good so far," Rivers smiled softly. "We just have to make certain that no other complications arise. And you have to toughen up for this. It won't be easy."

House nodded once more and Cuddy gazed at him.

"There will be times you're going to want to quit— times when you think you've had enough. There will be times you think we, your rehabilitation team, is going hard on you. You have to remember that we are on your side; we're here to help you. You need to focus on your goals— what you want to achieve after this 'therapy hell'— to not be blindsided by the pain and vulnerability you will no doubt feel during sessions." Rivers finished with a serious tone, only looking at her patient.

House swallowed the lump that had seemed to form in his throat during Rivers' speech, glancing from the woman to Cuddy. Cuddy gave him a warm, comforting smile and a nod as if to say he could do it.

Fifteen minutes later, House and Cuddy left Rehabilitation and made their way to Diagnostics. Rivers told House they had best start his therapy sessions in two days—House had complained, of course, but with one glare from Cuddy, he acquiesced with an obedient nod towards his doctor.

Cuddy was too pleased with how the appointment went that she hadn't noticed House press the button to his floor.

"She wasn't so bad, was she?" Cuddy asked as they exited the elevator, only then realizing what floor they were in.

"House, we're at your floor," she stated before House could reply to her playful jab.

"I know," House replied, looking at her before making his way to his office to retrieve something from his desk.


But he already saw his team working on a case, proved obvious by the symptoms on his whiteboard, and Foreman standing in front, marker in hand. He took a step back, slightly bumping into Cuddy.

"You told them to lie to me?" he asked her in a bland voice.

"You were preoccupied," Cuddy stated, not regretting her decision. "And it's not like I haven't done this before," she wanted to add, but didn't.

"I wanted to be distracted from this!" He stated in a hiss, pointing at the remains of his right leg.

"You needed to focus on getting better!" She pointedly said.

"Of course you and Wilson know what's best for me," he sarcastically shouted.

"Yes!" Cuddy bit back. "At a time you yourself don't know what's best for you."

House snorted, moving past her.

She was thankful there was nobody else in the hallway but them. Cuddy pulled them into Wilson's office, wanting to end the conversation.

"What?" he gritted, eyes as sharp as daggers as he watched her.

"I'm not sorry I did it," she started. "I wanted you to face this head-on. Not hide behind your cases." She told him softly. He shifted his gaze to the floor and she tilted his face to face hers once again.

"I will give you as many cases as you want once we've overcome at least two months of your therapy. Okay?" she reassured him gently yet firmly, running her fingers against his five o'clock shadow. "Just two months, House," she smiled radiantly. "Then you can wreak havoc around the hospital and drive me insane with your crazy procedures and antics."

House let out a small smirk.

"I'm sorry for lying," Cuddy finished, pressing her lips to his. His resolve to stay mad was melted away by the softness of her lips.

"You're so easy," she teased when they pulled apart. She wrapped her arms around his torso, resting her head on his chest.

"Everything's going to be alright, House," she tried to reassure him. "I know you hate therapy, but you have to go through it. You're going to need help learning how to move about with the prosthetic."

He rolled his eyes, but knew she was ultimately right.

She pulled away enough to look him in the eyes as she said with a smirk, "I know you're a genius, but don't be too stubborn, okay?"

"I'll try my best," he said, leaning down to give her a small peck and surprising her. It was the first time since they got back together that he initiated a kiss.

They smiled at one another, glad to have talked through their first misunderstanding since getting back together.

"Oh good, they're back together," Wilson suddenly announced in a faux-relieved tone. "Really, I don't mind," he said as he stepped into his office, both hands raised in defense as two blue-eyed doctors turned to look at him, "But please don't use my office."

"We got back together three days ago," Cuddy smiled. "You're slipping, Wilson," she teased.

The corners of House's mouth lifted a bit in amusement.

"I'll see you later?" Cuddy asked House, moving to leave him and Wilson alone when she received a nod.

"So… You and Cuddy?" Wilson asked, suppressing a grin.

House nodded, "Yup. Cuddy and I."


"Lots. Mostly altruistic," House replied.

"House, is that you?"

House smirked at him.

"I'm happy for you both," Wilson expressed, smiling at House. He was more than glad that Cuddy had finally made up her mind.

"Thanks, Wilson."

They chatted for a while, catching up.

Two days later
First therapy session

After he got dressed for the session, House was instructed to lie down on the bed positioned in the room. He waited for Rivers to enter the room while he made himself comfortable.

"I need you to roll onto your stomach," Rivers said the moment she walked in, greeting him after her command.

"You going to spank me?" House asked, feigning a jubilant tone.

"Only if you're naughty," Rivers replied dryly as she waited for him to do as she asked.

House smirked before turning and rolling onto his stomach. He tucked his arms under his chin and neck, head turned in her direction, waiting for her next instruction.

"Okay, so your first exercise will be Glut Sets. That," she pointed to him, "is your first position. Second position, I need you to squeeze your buttocks together."

"Good," she told him when he did as he was told.

"That exercise position is for one set consisting of ten repetitions. I need you to hold the second position of the exercise for ten seconds every repetition."

"If I didn't know better, I'd say you made this up so you could ogle my ass," House wisecracked, carrying on with the repetitions and holding each one for ten seconds.

"Yes. You caught me," Rivers replied, scribbling away at the chart in her hands and not even chancing a glance at him.

"Dr. House, don't hold your breath," a woman suddenly spoke, making House turn and look at the source of the sound.

"You are…?" he asked, prepared to throw her out with his razor-sharp words if need be.

"Dr. Sandra Collins, I'm part of your rehab team," she said, unfazed by the man's petrifying glare.

"Great, I get all the women," House said in mock excitement.

"House, just do the damn exercise," Rivers told him, her voice not the slightest bit impatient.

That surprised House.

"You used to patients like me, huh?" he asked, his fun somewhat spoiled.

"Not at all," Rivers told him, looking at him with a small smile. "But my job does require me to be patient," she stated before looking back down towards her chart. Unbeknownst to him, she glanced at him once in a while, so she could check what he was doing and note down whatever needed to be noted. She also knew that he was only talking to avoid the silence that could pave the way to making himself feel self-conscious and vulnerable.

"Done," House stated, rolling onto his back and looking up at the ceiling.

"Itching to get up and leave?" Collins asked with a smile.

"Every passing second," House confided with a smirk.

"Good." Rivers stated aloud, a smirk forming on her lips.

"Good?" House asked, detaching his gaze from the ceiling to look at Rivers. His brows furrowed in question.

Rivers shrugged, "You're still here."

Suddenly surprised himself, House blankly stared back up towards the ceiling.

"Yeah," he breathed.

"Okay!" Rivers suddenly announced, moving towards him. She stood three feet away from him as she told him, "Next exercise: first position, you lying on your back, check. Second position," she nodded towards Collins who was holding a pillow, "keep that pillow in between your thighs."

Collins slid the pillow in between House's thighs before taking a step back. She was certain if the pillow needed adjustment, the diagnostician would prefer to adjust it himself.

"This is ridiculous," House complained, securing the pillow a little more.

"You're smart, you can figure out why you have to go through it," Rivers said before turning serious and instructing him again. "Third position, you squeeze the pillow with your thighs. No breath-holding, one set of ten repetitions. Hold for ten seconds every repetition."

"It's going to be a long day, isn't it?" House asked rhetorically, wanting to just get the hell out of the room so he could do something more worthy of his time. He didn't though, his want to get better and walking soon overpowering his desire to just screw therapy.

"I feel like a horny teenager dry humping a stuffed toy," House groused in annoyance during his seventh repetition.

"Ten dollars to anyone who admits to having been paid by my detractors to give me hell," House announced as he panted. More than forty minutes had already passed and he was still stuck in the same bed. He was lying on his uninvolved leg, knee bent slightly for support, as he lifted his residual limb up and towards the ceiling. He felt like an idiot. It was his second set's tenth repetition, going on eleventh. According to Rivers, after he finishes the second set which consisted of twenty repetitions, he had one set left before they move onto the next therapeutic exercise position.

"Nobody?" he asks as he let his leg down for the 5-second rest in between repetitions.

As he was about to lift his residual limb upward again, Rivers held his hips down, then reminded him, "I'll give you ten dollars if you keep your hips straight."

"Bossy," he smirked, keeping his hip straight anyway as she let go and he lifted his limb upward again, "You always manhandle your patients like this?"

"Only those who want it rough," Rivers replied without missing a beat, her face stoic in her delivery.

House grinned before shutting up and continuing his exercise.

"I'm beginning to think you're not such a monster after all," he commented after finishing his second set, resting a minute before he started the last set.

"Oh, we've only just begun, House," Rivers told him with a sinister grin that never failed to make him fear for his life.

"You have yet to release the Kraken," she added, tapping his leg when his one-minute rest was over.

"You're no fun," he pouted mockingly as he started with his last set for the position. Twenty repetitions left, he reminded himself, and blocked off other thoughts that were pulling him back.

Rivers rolled her eyes at him as she sat on the edge of a desk positioned near House.

A perfectly plucked eyebrow rose when he started counting in French.

When he finished whatever the position was called, he laid on his back, wondering how it was possible that that had been difficult for him when, if he thought about it, it was a fairly easy position and exercise to do. It was the number of sets and repetitions, he concluded as an afterthought.

The first therapy session had felt like hell for him, but it also felt, strangely, comforting. He was getting the feeling that his rehabilitation team was conspiring against him for his past offenses to every employee in the hospital. Of course, Rivers had told him he had to suck it up if he wanted to be able to walk properly in a prosthetic. She had also told him that, for a man his size, what his team was asking him to do wasn't much at all.

The other therapy sessions that followed weren't any better. He'd snap at his therapists and sulk for the rest of the day. He would come home exhausted and ready to just dive face first atop Cuddy's bed.

Wilson and Cuddy were worried he would drop out of therapy before the end of the week. The determination they saw in House though… it was another thing. He had never been as committed as he was now with therapy. It made Wilson and Cuddy believe somewhat that House really was determined to get better.

On the start of the second week, House's rehabilitation team took measurements so they could fit him with an IPOP.

After taking measurements they moved on to the therapy session proper, much to House's chagrin.

He was still, however, cooperative, surprising everyone.

"Unus, duo, tres, quattuor, quinque—"

As House continued counting, Suarez, one of the two male members of House's rehabilitation team, looked at Collins and quietly, curiously, asked, "Is he counting in Latin?"

"I think so," the woman said then shrugged. "Yesterday he counted in Arabic and English alternately."

"He's bored," Suarez concluded.

"You think?" Collins asked sarcastically and amusedly, eyes on their patient. He was really interesting, she thought, curious as to how such an unpredictable and complicated man could exist.

"Novem, decem—done! What's next?" House panted minutes later, finishing his final set of ten repetitions. He'd been performing a slightly altered form of flexing and sit-ups. Anderson, one of the men in his rehab team, had stabilized his residual limb while he'd simultaneously flexed and rotated his trunk toward his amputated limb. It was tiring as hell because it required abdominal activity as well as hip flexion, adduction and internal rotation.

"Remind me why I had to go through that?" House said, still catching his breath.

"Is he being sarcastic?" Anderson asked, head turning to look at Rivers and the others (Collins and Suarez) in the room.

Rivers rolled her eyes. Although it was slightly amusing—there never was a dull moment with this patient of theirs.

"Sometimes, the abductor and external rotator of transfemoral amputees experience tightness. The exercise you just did, it prevents that tightness and helps your balance," Anderson explained after receiving a go signal from Rivers for him to go on ahead and answer House's inquiry.

"Right." House sighed, nodding once.

"How long until this sesh is over?" he asked lightly, looking up at them.

"A few more exercises and then you may go," Rivers answered.

"Thank God," House said, leaning his head back against the mattress and looking up at the ceiling.

"Thought you were an atheist?" Rivers quipped.

House only rolled his eyes in reply, ignoring her quip.

"When does gait and ambulation training start?" he asked, eyes still fixated where it had been.

"Tomorrow, if you feel like you're ready," Rivers said, meeting his eyes when he turned his head to catch her gaze.

"I should have started soon, right?" he asked quietly, lowering his eyes.

"Yes. But it's better this way. We've had time to prepare you more for it. You've made up for the days you've missed it," she assured him, "And you're doing excellent, House."

That recognition caught his attention and he looked at her once more.

"Thanks," he said, nodding curtly at her.

"Thank yourself, House," she smiled when his head snapped up at her. "I wouldn't be here, we," she gestured towards the team, "wouldn't be here— and you wouldn't have progressed—if you hadn't decided to get help."

Feeling exposed, House could only nod once more, falling silent.

By the fourth day of the same week, House was already using the IPOP. He was still unsteady, still learning how to maneuver himself, still training up and down stairs with assistance from either Anderson or Suarez.

Wilson and Cuddy knew he wasn't having an easy time. When House still had his right leg, they had always underestimated the magnitude of his pain. After the amputation though, they knew better than to repeat the same mistakes they'd done before. They realized that even though they were doctors, they would never come to understand just how hard it was for House to get his life back on track. He'd tried doing so, so many times and eventually failed. They wanted this time to be different. Wilson and Cuddy wanted more than anything for him to be successful this time around and for it to stay that way.

So neither pushed, nor judged. Both just supported.

They never forgot to ask him about his progress and ask him if he was okay—of course it bothered House most of the time. But at the same time, House was relieved that they really cared. That they weren't going to castigate him just because he missed one day, that they weren't forcing him to get better faster. They were allowing him to take it easy. They even encouraged him to take it one step at a time.

His brows furrowed at that latter thought.

He had to get back at them for that.

One step at a time.

He snorted... Then grinned lopsidedly and shook his head.

Good one, Wilson and Cuddy.

On the sixth day of the second week, Cuddy decided to pay House a visit. He had been up in Rehab for almost an hour already when she came down with the impulsive decision.

She smiled at the nurses who greeted her before slipping into one of the rooms where the therapy sessions were held. The rooms were big. The one she was in was divided into two. One third of the room was separated from the actual therapy room by a tinted glass panel with one door.

Her smile faded though her admiration for House and his determination heightened as she watched him persevere throughout the session. One of the therapists, Dr. Sandra Collins, noticed her through the open door and approached her with a small smile on her face. She closed the door separating the divided room.

"Dr. Cuddy. He's doing well," Collins told her immediately, not bothering on small talk, "He's having a bit of a problem with his ambulation today, though. I'm guessing it's because he's just tired. It gets tough when he's frustrated."

Cuddy let out a small smile, understanding completely what she meant by 'tough'.

"I'm surprised he's still here," Cuddy said, smiling as she watched him through the glass, his back facing her. He wasn't using the IPOP during the session as Rivers wanted him to learn proper ambulation with the crutches. As with the cane he'd used before, he used the crutches incorrectly.

When she'd gotten inside the room, he was being supported by Rivers, whose left hand was on his right shoulder and her right hand was on the gait belt strapped around his torso.

Five minutes into her conversation with Collins, Rivers encouraged House to do it on his own. Carefully, she let go of his shoulder and the gait belt.

"He's very motivated to get better," Collins told Cuddy with a smile. "Most of the residents who have been here for years are surprised," she said with a grin.

"I'll bet," Cuddy chuckled. Of course the old residents would know how many times she and Wilson have tried to send him up for therapy sessions for his leg.

Their conversation was cut short by a thud and the clashing of metal on metal. Both women whipped their gazes towards House who had fallen to the floor.

Cuddy was quick to make her way to him, pushing the door open so she could slip into the room.

Rivers, along with two other therapists, were already helping him up when he spotted her.

His eyes suddenly clouded, a storm forming and threatening to lay waste on whatever got in its path.

She could see the sudden anger swirling through those irises.

"What are you doing here?" he suddenly spat. He didn't want her to see him during therapy. They'd never talked about it, but he'd never told her either. He must have given her quite a show, falling on his ass like that.

"Dr. Cuddy just dropped by to—" Collins was quick to inform their patient, but she was cut off by his outburst.

"Get the hell out!" he suddenly exclaimed boisterously, grabbing one of the crutches harshly from Rivers' grip before taking the other one and positioning it under his arm.

Cuddy was too taken aback to move.

"If you won't get out, I will," he told Cuddy before propelling himself to leave and moving to an empty room.

"Dr. Cuddy, I'm sorry," Collins told her, flinching as Cuddy dodged her hand that was about to try to comfort her.

"It's okay," Cuddy told the younger doctor, her voice clipped as she started to make her way back to her office. She chose to use the stairs, knowing she needed to ease her temper that was flaring inside of her.

Later that evening, after hours of avoiding her, ashamed of what he'd put her through, House finally decided to approach her and apologize.

He entered her office after actually knocking on her door before entering.

He stopped a few feet from her desk and looked at her, watching her as she ignored his presence.

"I'm sorry. About earlier, I shouldn't have done that." House apologized, dropping his head.

A manila folder slammed forcefully on top of her desk made him jerk a bit.

Gaze picked up from the floor, he met her eyes, which were ablaze with anger and disappointment.

"Let's talk about that, why don't we?" Cuddy said scathingly, not being able to contain her anger. She'd been keeping it all in the entire day. She had expected him to come apologize sooner, but the longer she waited and the longer it took him to approach her, the angrier she became.

She was fine with him not wanting her present during his therapy sessions, but he didn't have to embarrass her in front of her own employees. Remembering how he had shouted at her to "get the hell out!" of the room only made her more furious.

"Why would you do that to me?" she exclaimed angrily. "I would have gone out if you'd had asked properly. Hell, I would have understood that you didn't want me there with one look! But no, you just had to embarrass me by yelling like a raging lunatic!"

House remained quiet, not wanting to enrage her further by opening his mouth.

Cuddy sighed loudly and pressed her fingers against her temples.

"I know it's hard for you to let us see what you're going through, House. You don't have to hide it from us. I know the sessions are hard. I know you get frustrated. But what gave you the right to yell at me in front of people who respect me? What gave you the right to yell at me like that at all?" Cuddy asked him, the hurt and disappointment in her voice so thick and palpable it could have been cut with a knife.

"Cuddy… I'm sorry," House pressed, sincerely. He looked straight into her eyes. He hated having hurt her like that.

As if she didn't believe him, Cuddy mumbled, "Sure you are," before sitting back down in her chair.

It made House feel guiltier. "I really am sorry, Cuddy," he said, his voice low.

"Just go, House," Cuddy told him, still not willing to let go of what happened, "I can't do this right now."

House was about to call her name once more, but she had already started working on the file she had slammed on her desk earlier. She was still angry and upset over his outburst and he couldn't blame her. He'd been a jerk.

House's shoulders slumped and he turned to leave her office.

Cuddy's head lifted from the paper she'd been reading and watched as he left her office, shoulders slumped. She could have forgiven him then and there, but he had to know he couldn't just pin his frustrations on her, or anyone for that matter, when she'd only wanted to be supportive.

When Cuddy came home that night, House wasn't there.

At first she was okay with it, glad even, but then the guilt started to creep in and she hated the feeling. She was still mad, but she didn't want him to feel unwelcome in the home she was willing to share with him just because she was.

Speed dialing handy, she pressed one button long and hard before waiting for it to ring and him to answer.

"House." He answered gruffly.

"Come over now. Take a cab. I ordered pizza."

She wanted him over, sounding against her will. She ordered pizza.

He was so confused.

Stating the first thing he deducted, House said, "You're still mad."

"I am," Cuddy confirmed. With a sigh, she changed tactics and said, "Just come over. Rachel wants to watch that filthy cartoon with you later."

"Okay." House submitted, thinking with slight amusement at how much of a manipulator she was for using the kid.

Besides… she had ordered pizza.

When House made it to Cuddy's, he made sure to bring a peace offering. He was sure as hell that the obscenely expensive bouquet of flowers wouldn't work entirely, but he believed it was a start. Or at least it would make her go easy on him a bit.

He had to do more than repeatedly tell her he was sorry. He had to show that he really was. His own words had resounded in his ears. "Words don't matter. Actions do."

He was about to make his way up the steps leading to the porch when he heard the roar of the bike the pizza deliverymen use. He turned and waited for the man to reach him, dipping his hand into his back pocket to pull out his wallet. He was told to practice his ambulation with the crutches that day, so he wasn't wearing the IPOP (also, it wasn't comfortable wearing it for long periods of time). Balancing himself awkwardly on the crutches, bouquet of flowers tucked under his arm, he pulled out a bill, handing it to the delivery guy and telling him to keep the change.

Not wanting to hurt the generous man by stating the obvious, he wordlessly walked past him and waited at the doorstep. He knew with the bouquet already giving him a hard time walking with the crutches, the man wouldn't be able to carry the pizza as well.

House reached the porch after sighing inwardly. He hated the pity, but he was thankful that the man chose not to speak, comment, or even look at him with pity. Both men waited for the door to open, so one could leave and the other could enter.

After a few seconds of waiting, Cuddy finally opened the door to them. She was about to hand the delivery guy her payment when the man told her it was already paid for.

The man handed her the pizza and left with a "thanks for the tip" directed at House.

Before Cuddy could utter a word House handed her the bouquet, his eyes akin to that of a puppy's.

"You paid for the pizza and now you give me flowers? Wow, you're desperate," Cuddy said with the faintest amount of amusement in her tone as she took the bouquet from him.

She let out a small smile and said, "Thank you."

An almost bashful grin appeared on House's lips before it faded away when she abruptly pouted. He loved that pout, but knew when to either take it seriously or lightly.

"You're not off the hook yet," she told him before she swung the door open wider to let him in. She turned on her heel and left him standing there.

"Rachel, honey, House is here!" Cuddy called out as she headed to the kitchen. She hoped her daughter would keep him busy long enough to give her more time alone.

Rachel immediately ran out of her room practically scampering. She flung herself against House's leg, hugging him.

House grunted, making Rachel look up at him.

"Sorry, Hows," she apologized, loosening her grip on him.

"It's okay, kid," House told her, patting her head.

Rachel smiled up at him before reaching up to hold on to the lapel of his dress shirt. She knew he needed both his hands. She led him to the living room. After she let go of her grip on him, she crawled up and onto the couch and situated herself comfortably on it. She then patted the space next to her.

House watched her as she watched him, waiting for him to lower himself onto the couch.

A bit self-consciously he slowly sat himself down on the couch, placing both crutches on his left side.

Rachel was quick to sidle up against him, uncaring but not unmindful of the contact she'd made with his right thigh.

He flinched when she unconsciously settled a hand directly on top of it as if it was his knee, unused to having someone touch it even if unmindfully.

He bit his lip then grit his teeth as she tapped him there gently.

"Hows," she called, her voice impatient, thus letting him know she'd been calling his attention for a while already.

"Hmm?" he asked, glancing at her.

"Turn on the TV," she told him, handing over the remote.

It was practically traditional that he turned it on whenever they watched together. She only usurped the remote when she was bored or uninterested in a channel he'd chosen.

"It's still too early for Brownbeard," he thought out loud, Rachel nodding in contemplation.

House grinned slightly when Rachel suggested Monster Trucks excitedly.

The pride of having trained his little padawan well washed over him.

"Good suggestion!" he claimed and switched the channel.

A short while later Cuddy walked into the living room and placed the pizza box on the coffee table in front of the duo. She left just as quickly to retrieve the cans of cola (no beer around Rachel) and juice for her little girl.

"Watch with us, Mama?" Rachel invited her when she returned and settled the drinks on the coffee table.

Cuddy smiled at her, "Maybe later, sweetie."

Rachel shrugged. She accepted the paper plate her mother handed, thanked her and started eating her first slice.

Cuddy was about to leave again when House leaned forward and pulled her down on the couch so quick she barely had time to react.

House was glad he had moved his crutches under the coffee table because he wouldn't have been able to do that.

Rachel who was next to House giggled at the surprised look in her mother's face that changed into a very angry look directed at the large man beside her.

House ignored the look Cuddy gave and instead wrapped an arm around her waist to prevent her from getting up and leaving him alone with Rachel for what he was sure to be a long time.

Cuddy wanted to demand him to let her go, but she didn't want to get mad at him when Rachel was more or less a foot away from her. She reluctantly reclined against his arm, eyes on the TV in front of them, body tense. She didn't want to see the smug look of triumph on his face. She was tempted to look at the cheeky grin her daughter was sporting, but she didn't dare do so. It would break her façade of acting immensely annoyed.

A moment later, House's hand slid from her waist up to her head, cupping the side of it so she could lean her head against his shoulder. He felt her fight him, but she eventually succumbed to his warmth.

The stiffness in her form vanished when he craned his head to plant a tender kiss on her forehead.

Cuddy had always hated how he could do that to her—take away her anger just by being gentle and warm towards her.

"I'm really sorry for what happened," he whispered after a while, dipping his head down to meet her softening gaze.

"You embarrassed me in front of my employees. You hurt me. All I wanted was to see how therapy was doing—how you were doing. I only wanted to be there for you," she told him, speaking only of the truth.

"I know…" House told her, lowering his head. "I didn't want you seeing me like that."

"Like what?" she asked him softly, suddenly looking and smiling at her daughter who had stopped watching the monster trucks on TV and had started listening in on her and House's conversation.

House caught her gaze, his head turning to look at Rachel. He nodded towards the television, wordlessly telling her to pay no mind to the talking adults.

"We'll talk about this more later," Cuddy told him in a reassuring voice, shifting beside him so she could wrap an arm around his stomach. House nodded in agreement and relief.

Together they watched Monster Trucks while snacking on multiple slices of pizza.

House was surprised that Rachel hadn't dozed off during their TV time. He was half expecting her to crash during the Tom & Jerry reruns they watched after the monster truck rally.

Cuddy retired to the bedroom early, telling him she had some files she wanted to go over.

"Brownbeard time!" Rachel squealed excitedly, looking up at House with sparkling eyes.

House bobbed his eyebrows up and down, making her giggle.

"Rachel," House gently shook her more than thirty minutes later after Brownbeard ended. She'd fallen asleep beside him, her tiny legs draped along his lap. He would have woken Cuddy up, but he thought maybe she'd fallen asleep already, files strewn on the bed, since she hadn't checked up on them for quite some time.

Rachel only stirred and rubbed her face against the upholstery of the couch.

"Rachel, come on, wake up," House shook her a little harder.

"Carry," she mumbled sleepily in request, eyes remaining closed.

Her one word made him feel that tightening in his chest; the sense of inadequacy filled him once more. Carry her—it was such a simple thing to do! He hated his disability for rendering him useless in the carrying department. He could barely carry himself for long periods of time, but to carry her to bed?

"I can't," he told her, gently pulling her up into a sitting position. She quickly slumped against him, yawning. "Come on, off to the bathroom. You don't want your teeth to rot, do you?" Rachel shook her head sleepily, slowly hopping off the couch.

House reached for his crutches and cautiously pulled himself up into a standing position as well. A second later Rachel moved ahead of him when he gestured for her to start walking. He had planned on just helping her brush her teeth and wash both her hands and face, but he doubted that Cuddy would be happy about him choosing not to do so out of tiredness and laziness. Besides, he was still in her naughty list—he wasn't off the hook for his earlier demerits, yet.

He sighed when they reached the bathroom. He ran the tap, checking the warmth at the same time. While waiting for the tub to fill halfway, he sat on the toilet and started helping Rachel undress.

Rachel giggled quietly when her shirt sort of got stuck, her head blanketed by her top. House helped ease it up and off of her completely. Her bottoms were discarded next. She only wore diapers at night now.

House twisted the tap shut, dipping his hand into the water once more to double check the temperature.

When he was sure it was just right, he helped his girlfriend's daughter into the tub and handed her her toy duck. He sat down uneasily on the edge of the tub. Instead of rolling up his sleeves he just removed his dress shirt (why hadn't he done that earlier?) and threw it in the laundry hamper near the sink, leaving him in his tee.

He took her soft bath sponge and started washing and scrubbing her gently, balancing himself a tough act as he leaned forward to be able to wash her better.

He exhaled through his nose, telling himself that he could do the very easy task of getting the little girl ready for bed. He didn't need to have two functional legs to accomplish it, he assured himself.

"House wash too?" Rachel asked him when he pulled her closer to him and made her turn so she was facing him. She was sporting that devilish grin that never failed to make him question whether she was actually Cuddy's biological daughter.

"No." He answered her plainly, acting serious so she wouldn't think he was in a mood to play games.

She smirked, shrugging. "Okay."

House squinted his eyes at her in suspicion, blinking when, as he turned his head to grab the kiddie body wash once more, he felt warm water run down from his face to his body.

He glared at her and said, "Very funny," which only made her grin wider.

House sighed.

He finished washing her then wrapped her in a blanket after having drained the water. He dried her hair with another towel before handing her her toothbrush and telling her to brush her teeth. He kept an eye on her as she did though.

When they finished up in the bathroom he led her to her bedroom and let her pick which pajamas she wanted to wear. He let out the smallest of smirks when she chose to wear the monster truck printed pajamas he had gotten her for her birthday.

Diaper and bottoms on, he helped her with the top once more.

She hugged him when they were done, the warm bath just what she needed to get her sleepier than she already was.

"Thanks, Hows," she whispered, her head pressed against his chest, arms barely covering half the diameter of his torso.

House patted her back, his feelings of inadequacy lightly diminishing with her sincere and innocent gratitude. It was only then he realized that he had never really gotten her ready for bed before. It was the first time he hadn't railroaded her bedtime ritual by just washing face and hands then brushing teeth.

Just like her mother, Rachel, too, made him better.

"Anytime, kid," he whispered.

They pulled away and she smiled warmly at him.

"Bed time, ye landlubber," he then said in his pirate voice, gesturing to the mattress of her crib.

"Aye, aye, Captain!" Rachel replied, lying down.

"Goodnight, Hows," she was first to say.

"Goodnight, Rachel," House greeted in return as he turned on her night light, bending forward unstably to reach it, before making his way to the door.

"Lob you, you bloody scallywag," he heard Rachel whisper sleepily.

Despite himself, House smiled.

But the smile on his face didn't last long as the fear of screwing up this happiness he was slowly starting to regain once more crept into his system. His face contorted into uncertainty, his smile fading.

Shaking himself internally, he breathed deeply and tried to clear his thoughts.

He let out a huge sigh when he successfully pushed back his fears.

He once more practiced his ambulation on his way to the master bedroom, thinking he could sneak one last practice to cap the night.

As he predicted, Cuddy was already asleep when he walked into the bedroom. She was on her side, facing away from his side of the bed.

He got ready for bed, washing his face and brushing his teeth before changing into his plaid pajama bottoms and a plain grey shirt.

He walked back into the bedroom and sat down on his side of the bed, leaning the crutches securely against the nightstand.

He lay down on his back and stared up at the ceiling, before he whispered, "I know you're not sleeping, Cuddles."

He heard her exhale through her nose, an odd chuckle from her. She didn't turn to face him though, so he dared invading her space. He snuck his left arm under her neck while his right arm wrapped around her middle. He buried his nose in her wild curls, inhaling her intoxicating scent.

They lay like that for a while until he pressed his lips against her neck and whispered, "I hope you can find it in that cold, cold heart of yours to forgive me for yelling at you."

He'd said it playfully, knowing she must have forgiven him already, but just not willing to let go of the issue just yet.

Sighing and leaning into his arms she relinquished her grip on the issue and wholeheartedly said, "I already have."

"I should have been informed!" he said in mock outrage, internally relieved to have a confirmation.

He didn't have to see it to know she rolled her eyes at his theatrics.

After a quiet, intimate moment of them just lying comfortably in one another's embrace, Cuddy reminded him of what they had failed to talk about earlier because Rachel could hear and see them.

"You told me earlier that you didn't want me to see you 'like that'. What did you mean?" she asked, turning in his arms to see his eyes. The lamps on the nightstands on either side of them were still on, so they could see one another's eyes perfectly.

Running his thumb along her hip he told her, "Weak. Vulnerable. Pathetic. You name it. I didn't—"

"Since day one of your sessions I never thought of you that way. You shouldn't think of yourself like that." She told him affectionately, running a hand along his jaw, thumb caressing his stubbly cheek.

House was about to continue talking when she covered his lips with her index and middle fingers.

"What's weak, vulnerable, or pathetic even, about wanting to make yourself better?" she asked rhetorically, smiling at him faintly.

Her thumb caressing his jaw once more she told him, "If anything, you should be proud. Because you're pushing yourself to be happy again—to be better."

Her smile widened when she said, "I couldn't be more proud of you."

Her words meant so much to him, if she only knew.

"Thank you," House told her honestly, pressing his lips to hers softly.


"You've apologized more times than I could count today. Save some for later," she joked.

"I love you," House whispered, nuzzling her hair.

Cuddy sought his mouth once more, smiling as she kissed him.

"I love you too," she replied, thankful they've made up and that he had actually apologized and meant it.

The next day, when Cuddy finished making snacks (for when Rachel woke up from her nap), she headed back to the bedroom so she could finally help House shower.

"Hey, you ready to get washed up?" Cuddy asked House as she stood near the bed.

House shook his head.

"Give me a number," Cuddy told him, sitting on the edge of the bed and pressing her palm to his stomach before sliding it up to his chest.

House sighed. "It's not that bad," he told her.

"Can you at least handle a trip to the bathroom?" she asked before playfully adding, "Because if you can manage that, I can give you a really magical shower."

"Tempting," House replied plainly, but with a playful spark in his eyes. "But aren't you supposed to be spending time with the rugrat?"

"I just put her down for her nap," Cuddy smiled, "I'm all yours for, I don't know, more or less an hour or two."

"This shower proposition..." House started, making her arch a brow at his tone. "Is nudity mandatory?"

Cuddy fought off the chuckle threatening to tear past her lips as she faux seriously replied, "Of course."

House smiled that smile she loved. That little smile of his that let her know he was happy.

"Then what are we still doing here, woman? Crutches, stat!" House told her, pushing himself up and towards the edge of the bed. He took a deep breath when he felt the pain make itself known once more.

"You okay?" Cuddy asked him as she handed him the crutches.

House sharply nodded.

"Come on, you stink," she teased. She helped him get upright and assisted him towards the bathroom.

Cuddy helped him sit on the chair that has become a permanent fixture on her shower stall.

"I feel like a kid," House muttered as Cuddy lathered his hair with shampoo. Cuddy rolled her eyes at his whining while she massaged his scalp with her fingers.

Dramatically exhaling Cuddy stopped massaging his scalp, withdrawing her hands from him, "Fine. Do it on your own then."

"No," House suddenly said, looking at her with those blue eyes of his. "I want you," he stated with a childish flair.

Cuddy smirked, "Admit it, you like me washing you. Surely it fulfills some fantasy you've got of me giving you a sponge bath."

"Definitely." House confirmed on a sigh, loving how her hands felt on his scalp.

"I thought nudity was compulsory?" House pouted as Cuddy scrubbed his broad shoulders with the sponge lathered with his soap.

Cuddy smirked as she continued to soap him down. She leaned forward to whisper in his ear.

"Next time, I promise," she whispered, biting the shell of his ear playfully before she pulled away.

"Promises, promises," House snorted. The only magical thing about the shower was her hands on his scalp.

Cuddy shook her head, smirking, before she continued to run the sponge along his body.

On the night of the first day of week number three, House came down with a fever.

They were having dinner with Rachel when he had abruptly excused himself before Cuddy even had time to process his words.

House immediately headed to bed, not feeling well at all.

Cuddy glanced at his plate when he left and noticed he'd barely eaten half of his meal. She frowned, but chose to give him time to himself.

"Hows d'in't finish his food," Rachel pointed out, eyes on House's plate.

"Maybe House isn't feeling well, sweetie," Cuddy told her daughter. "Come on, big girl, eat up," she encouraged, pulling Rachel's attention from the doorway and back to her plate.

"Is he going to be okay?" Rachel asked, not so assured.

Cuddy nodded and let out a small smile as she reassured Rachel. "He's going to be fine, honey. He just needs rest," she told her daughter.

Her words seemed to assuage Rachel's concerned because the little girl started eating again.

Cuddy went to House only after having tucked Rachel in for the night.

He was on his back, fingers laced together over his midsection. From the rise and fall of his chest, she knew he wasn't asleep. His eyes were just closed.

She stepped into the room and sat on the edge of the bed.

"House," she called to him. He didn't stir.

Noticing the sweat on his unmoving form she reached out to him.

"You're burning up," Cuddy stated in concern, a palm pressed against House's forehead. House moved his head to the side, turning in the bed so his back was against her.

He didn't answer, didn't even sarcastically thank her for stating the obvious.

In the last few days, he'd been struggling to quicken his progress, but it only strained him and caused him fatigue, which led him to the bed he was currently lying in.

House wanted to get better—he desperately wanted to start walking without crutches again. It was a rare occurrence, Gregory House wanting and striving to be better by actually helping himself.

Aside from not feeling well, he'd also excused himself because he couldn't stand the feeling that had taken over him as he watched Rachel and Cuddy over dinner. He felt out of place, like someone else was more deserving of the chair on which he sat.

Whenever he saw Cuddy interact with healthy (by that he meant able bipeds) men… It made him resent himself.

A few weeks ago he'd told himself that he wouldn't let her go again. But he could not help but think he was only dragging her down with him.

He didn't deserve her.

She didn't deserve a miserable amputee as a boyfriend, especially not him. So… callous, so… damaged.

He shook slightly from the anger embracing his form.

Cuddy deserved so much better.

No matter how many reassurances she freely gave him he still felt inadequate from time to time. She had told him many times that he should just accept that she chose him. He couldn't help but question why.

He resented himself for not having the courage to push her away and let her go.

He was selfish.

House heard her sigh. He shut his eyes.

"You're doing it again," she accused, her voice tired yet stern.

He chose not to answer.

"Do you want me to leave?" Cuddy asked him, her hand aching to run along his spine to soothe his doubts and brush them away. She, too, had doubts. They would always have doubts, but she knew they shouldn't let it come in the way of their relationship. Doubts were normal, but she wished he didn't doubt her love and loyalty so much.

She loved him—why wouldn't she stand by him through everything?

Neither no nor yes passed his lips.

She knew he was fighting with himself again. Undoubtedly he was thinking of whether to push her away or allow her to help and comfort him.

"House, you're pushing me away," she stated sadly.

It was that statement of fact that finally made him reply.

"I have to," he said quietly, vulnerably. He almost said it against his will.

She crawled into bed, spooning behind him.

Her heart stung at the thoughts he was forcing himself to believe. That he wasn't good enough- that he never would be. Thoughts that pushed him to believe she deserved better. They'd gone over these thoughts so many times already and she more than once told him they weren't true. She wanted to slap him for his lack of faith.

Her head rested against his, a hand pressed on his upper back, feeling his heart thudding loudly.

"Cuddy, you don't—"

She quieted him with a soft hush.

"Sh…" she said, placing a soft kiss on his nape.

"I'll never be better," he mumbled awkwardly after a short while.

She smiled at the absurdity in his words. Negating them, she said, "You already are, you idiot."

He huffed, clearly disagreeing.

"You are." She reassured him, placing an absent peck behind the shell of his ear.

He was quiet once again.

"I know it's hard, I've seen you work so hard to get better, but you're going to have to persevere, okay? Just a little more and you'll get there. Rachel, Wilson and I will be here every step," she comforted him, hugging him from behind and placing a palm on his heart.

Even if he felt unworthy of having her in his life, he laced the fingers of one hand with the ones that had taken up residence on the center of his chest.

"Every step," he thought with a silent chuckle.

The tense cloud that had hovered above them vanished, leaving an air of intimacy and love blanketing them.

"I love you," Cuddy told him, whispering in his ear honestly.

Her words soothed him, eased the ache in his heart.

He turned in her embrace to face her. House invited her into his arms and she willingly sidled closer.

"I love you," he replied, running his fingers against her shoulder, making her smile for him.

"I'll always choose you," she whispered with a soft, radiant smile. He smirked then, relaxing, remembering the time he had told her that.

He wanted to say that she shouldn't, wanted to remind her why, but for once in his life, House didn't question why he got so lucky to have her when she could have had anyone else.

"But I do," she suddenly answered as if she'd read his mind. She was smirking as well.

"So shut up and go to sleep," she added, nuzzling his neck and making herself comfortable in the security of his embrace.

House smiled.

When they woke up the next day, House still had the fever. At first Cuddy feared that it was due to an infection.

It lasted throughout the afternoon making House unable to attend his therapy session at two in the afternoon.

When the fever broke within a couple of hours, they came to the conclusion that House was just tired from the therapy, which they had started to improve. It was getting more challenging, but House wanted to be able to walk again. So despite the urge to give up, House pushed forth, using his stubbornness for something positive for once.

Every second of his therapy the urge to quit plagued him and his thoughts, nagging him. His past demons visited him and told him that believing the therapy would help him was pathetic. He was fighting two battles simultaneously: the battle to get better and the battle with his own demons.

He was winning though. The drive to get better for himself and those he cared for overpowered the fears and demons of his past and how, if he didn't fight them, they could still affect his future.

The fourth week was a long one for House and Cuddy, but neither complained. The days of the week were mostly bad stump days. Cuddy helped him around when he chose to use crutches instead of the IPOP, feeling as if he wouldn't be able to bear the pain and pressure. When he could barely lift himself up or support himself on crutches, he was resigned to use a wheelchair.

The phantom limb sensation came rarely by then, something House was very grateful for. Feeling his leg still attached to him as he went through rigorous therapy had always aggravated him. Phantom limb pain visited him once in a blue moon—another thing he was thankful for.

Overcoming his pessimism, he started to believe and accept that he was still lucky not to be having so much trouble other than the horror and difficulties of therapy. A part of him would, probably, always despise what had happened to him, but he was finished allowing it to drag him down when it could actually pull him from his hellhole of misery.

He never told Wilson, Cuddy, his team, or even Rachel how much they'd helped him, he probably never would. They, mostly Wilson and Cuddy, were a considerable part of his recovery and rehabilitation. They kept him going. Rachel's only purpose, of course, was the metaphorical therapeutic puppy. She was his source of entertainment. Entertainment she gladly gave him, being his co-buccaneer, of course. Oh hell, fine—she helped him forget about his disability such that, she treated him like he was no amputee. No pity, no staring, no nothing uncomfortable. She was just there, playing with him, watching TV with him, among other things.

To Rachel, he was still… House and to her that was enough and all that mattered.

By the middle of the 5th week, House's stump had achieved maturation and his wound had completely healed.

When the second to the last day of the 5th week came, they were all surprised by the announcement that Rivers had made: House could start prosthetic training very, very soon.

After going over different catalogs-of-sorts which contained information about the different sockets and knees customized for above the knee amputees, House had thought it best to choose Hanger's ComfortFlex socket system. Since a great deal of his goals consisted of numerous sporting activities, House was pressed to find a suitable socket to meet those goals. Rivers had also helped cement that decision by telling him that most athletes chose it because it really was better for active use.

As for his knee, House chose Össur's Rheo Knee which was a microprocessor-controlled swing and stance knee system that utilizes artificial intelligence. House and Cuddy thought it fit him best since he walked usually and his pace varied greatly. With the Rheo, he didn't have to be afraid of falling at all since the knee itself was capable of independent thought and would learn how he walks. It would also recognize and respond immediately to changes in whatever speed he takes, whatever load he carries and whatever terrain he was on.

Rivers noted that one good thing about the Rheo was that, as soon as Hanger finishes fabricating the socket and Rheo the knee, with prosthetic training, the knee could start learning how House walked.

Once House finalized his decision with regards to the socket and knee, Rivers got in touch with the Hanger and Össur representatives the hospital was affiliated with.

Rivers had given him a few days to just kick back and relax after that appointment. He was to return on the fourth day of the incoming week for measurements.

House finished taking measurements for the socket and the actual prosthetic on the middle of the sixth week. Hanger's prosthetist, after having been briefed on House's case by both Collins and Rivers, explained to House that once the first test socket was fabricated, they would, from there, continue fitting, measurement and trials until the socket felt a hundred and one percent comfortable to him. He was told not to tolerate the slightest discomfort in the fitting and to tell them at once so they can fix the problem. After their brief conversation, the prosthetist didn't waste time in taking measurements for the socket to be customized for him. Össur's prosthetist was quick as well, but quicker than Hanger's for he didn't have much to assess. He had arrived at the hospital for the measurements at around three in the afternoon. He was able to leave with Cuddy at five.

The night after the preliminary measurements took place, House, Cuddy and Wilson celebrated with a night out, bilge rat in tow…

At McDonald's.

After numerous exhausting weeks of residual limb shaping and stump shrinking, House's efforts had finally been rewarded. After weeks of increasing his range of movement, pain management, improving muscle strength and cardiovascular training, and sessions of progressive functional mobility training without prosthesis, restoration of his locus of control, gait trainings, the hard work had finally paid off.

Thinking about the number of sets, repetitions, and even the rest and hold between each set and every repetition he had to finish, House could not help but think how they were worth every drop of sweat.

Later that night they had wine at Cuddy's house while Rachel slept the happy night away, having crashed from her sugar high.

It was a few minutes past twelve when Wilson took his leave, congratulating House once more.

When House and Cuddy finished cleaning up the dining table and washing the dishes, House excused himself and made his way to the bathroom so he could get ready for bed.

Cuddy tidied up the living room when she'd finished wiping the kitchen counter with a cloth. When she finished with everything, she sat down on the couch and reached for her briefcase, which was tucked in between the side table and the couch.

Working on a few files that night after a little celebration seemed a bit wrong, but she really did have to finish going over them so she could either sign and approve, or sign and reject the proposal.

Ten minutes later House called her name, making her look up at him. She let out a small guilty smile.

"You coming to bed anytime soon?" he asked, hair looking adorably mussed from his warm shower. His gray shirt matted with droplets of water the cotton had already absorbed.

"You go on ahead," she told him, smiling once more after having casted a glance at his bare foot. His big toe wiggled a bit and she grinned up to meet his eyes once more. She loved seeing him comfortable in her home (she almost thought: in their home). They both liked going barefoot whenever they were in either his apartment or her house.

"I've got a few more files left to sift through," she added, shooing a hand at him playfully.

He let out a playful snarl and a snort before making his way back to the bedroom.

"Don't hog the bed!" she called out, remembering that he liked pulling at her pigtails by sprawling out in the bed and falling asleep that way so she doesn't have much space to lay down when she got back to the bedroom. He always did that when she chose to work on paperwork instead of joining him in bed so they could fall asleep together. Before they broke up, she had stopped that annoying habit of his to take revenge for choosing work over him by working on the bed.

He popped back into the living room with that naughty, playful smirk of his.

"I wasn't even thinking of it until you gave me the idea!" he announced with a lopsided grin before turning and resuming his trek back to the bedroom.

Cuddy shook her head with a smirk. What was she ever going to do with the man?

An hour and a half later, she decided to call it a night. Besides, she only had two files left: two budget proposals. She was sure to have them done by tomorrow morning at work—later, she amended, after seeing what time it was.

After gathering the files strewn on the coffee table, she arranged them properly and stuffed them back into her briefcase, her Mac following after. She switched off the lamp beside her on the side table before making her way to the bedroom and into the adjoined bathroom so she could get ready for bed.

As she prepared for bed, she could not help but think how glad she was that the coming weeks will be easier for him compared to the past few that had gone by. The only things left to be accomplished were to fabricate the socket and the knee. A few weeks of meticulous adjustments for the socket and soon House would be able to start prosthetic training. After that, he wouldn't have to go in daily anymore and would only have to visit Rehabilitation once in a while. She knew he was excited and anxious at the same time—she could sense it in his posture, his sudden loss in thought and the slight crinkle in his brow. He unknowingly showed his excitement with the small upward tug at one corner of his mouth before his face fell again. He needn't be worried, she thought to herself. She would be with him every single step of the way.

She stood by the bathroom's doorframe when she was done getting ready for bed, leaning against it as her eyes fixed on the man sprawled on the bed. She shook her head, a fond smile touching her lips. She wasn't surprised to find him sprawled and spread-eagled on the comforter. At least he was lying on his back and not on his stomach—she'd always had a hard time turning him over just so she could get enough space to sleep comfortably.

She watched his chest rise and fall steadily, letting her know he was asleep.

Her eyes trailed from the scruff on his cheek to the pucker of his lips. She inhaled the slightest bit, desire stirring within her for the first time in months. They have been too focused on getting him better—getting him fit enough to be able to manage moving about in a prosthesis that sex haven't been on their minds. Well, she wasn't sure it hadn't crossed House's mind, but if it had, his mood probably dissipated upon the reminder of his disability. She shook her head, clearing her mind of thoughts like that. She could remind him that she wanted him and loved him even without his leg.

She moved to close the door to the bedroom, unconsciously locking it at the same time. She approached the bed as stealthily as she could. She joined House in bed, sidling up against him (she would have fallen if she tried to lay down on her back), propped on an arm as she memorized every detail of his regal face. He looked so peaceful, asleep. Her eyes caressed his face, drowning in the imperfect perfection that was the man she loved with an intensity that shook her to her core. A hand lifted to join her eyes, fingers caressing his jaw, his lips. His lashes fluttered the slightest bit and she smiled, knowing he was about to wake up. When he did, eyes fluttering open, her lips landed gently over his.

House shut his eyes just as quickly, kissing her back.

His left hand rose to frame her face, caressing her cheek with his thumb. Their lips brushed over one another's, relishing the tenderness.

Soon enough tenderness made way for passion when she moaned into his mouth and allowed his hesitantly probing tongue entry.

He exhaled through his nose as she playfully bit his lower lip, need tugging at them both. His hand slithered slowly from her face to her neck, his fingers running through her hair then along her scalp before they moved farther down to frame the expanse of her back. He pulled her on top of him, the warmth emanating from her making his want and need for her grow exponentially.

Their lips parted for a short while, breathing through their noses no longer enough. He ran his hand down her clothed back until it reached the hem of her camisole. She wordlessly pushed herself up from the warmth of his chest and removed her camisole. She then helped him get rid of the last hindrance keeping their upper halves from touching, skin on skin. She lowered herself back down into his waiting arms, her lips descending upon his once more so she could fuse their mouths together again.

They reveled in their exchanges, heat simmering within them as their desire to pleasure one another burned hotter. Their lips tangled and tangoed in a tender frenzy that threatened to steal their breaths. His hands traversed the graceful arch of her spine and smooth expanse of her back.

A short while into their tryst, they were finally free of clothing, skin ablaze with flames licking one another's skin and stoking their fire to a greater flame.

She moaned as her lower stomach brushed against his hardness, the fingers on her right hand grazing his scalp with a slow and delicious scrape that sent tantalizing shivers down his spine.

She pushed herself up on her knees slightly and her hand slid down to reach for the hardness pressing against her so deliciously it made her ache for him all the more. She teased him, pretending to miss his crotch, and glided her hand along his stump.

His abrupt and afflicted gasp broke the spell and she wondered about what she'd done wrong for a while. When her mind registered where her hand was settled, she understood.

House's breathing was slightly labored, partly from his arousal and her unexpected touch.

He was about to gently push her down to lie beside him, but she was quick to lace her fingers with his and pin his arms above his head. Her lips were on his in a heartbeat.

She nuzzled one side of his neck with her nose and her lips, alternating between kissing him and nuzzling him to get his mind off of where her hand had just been.

"Don't," she whispered after a while, her lips peppering kisses behind his ear.

"Don't withdraw from me," she rasped, finally stopping her movements and opting to just touch her forehead to his gently.

"I'm tired," he excused, placing the gentlest of kisses upon her lips.

"You're not," she said. "I don't care about your leg. I'll love you with or without it. I'll want you with or without it. It doesn't matter," she said, pulling back to look him in the eyes.

"It matters to me," he murmured, his eyes looking so vulnerable she felt he would shatter upon the lightest caress.

"Would you not want me if I was missing a limb?" she asked him, eyes never straying from his.

House sighed before telling her, "You know I would."

"So why should it be any different with you?" she implored.

"You won't understand."

"Then make me!" she pressed delicately.

"I can't please you," he said almost inaudibly after a long silence, "Not like I used to."

"You can," she whispered with a small smile, her fingers running along his scruffy jaw, "You do." He could be such an idiot sometimes.

Her lips shut him up once more, her tongue tangling with his unenthusiastic one. She broke the kiss a moment later and sighed lustfully against his ear.

"Just watching you turns me on," she said, licking the shell of his ear and making him shiver.

She shivered at the delicious scrape of his callous fingers against her bare back. "Your touch makes me feel so alive," she murmured against his neck where she nibbled at his pulse point.

Her mouth enveloped his chin once as she made her way back to his lips.

Her confidence overflowing she took his free hand and slid it to her chest, making them gasp simultaneously. "You see what you do to me?" she asked as he caressed her breast, her nipple hardening almost instantly. His hand moved to her other breast and caressed her nipple to a hardened peak as well.

"Look at me," Cuddy whispered. She waited for him to open his beautiful blue eyes for her. Once he did, she guided his hand to the most intimate part of her where the generous and warm proof of her unceasing need and desire for him resided.

His fingers parted her folds and she moaned, letting go of his hand to support herself with both arms. Her hips jerked forward as he slipped a finger inside her, the fleshy sound of his finger easing in and out arousing them both to a greater height. Her eyes were still on him and she dipped her head to kiss him, her tongue tangling with his while her hips rocked in tune with his finger.

"Do you feel that?" she asked him, feeling her own warm wetness drown his finger. Her eyes fluttered close as he slid another finger inside of her. She moaned, "Yes," as he maintained a rhythm. "I'm wet for you," she whispered, almost whimpering, against his ear. "Just for you." Her voice hitched as she started to writhe from his fingers rubbing with a torturously delicious pace and pressure against the delicate groves of her g-spot. She writhed wilder as he teased her clit with two fingers from his other hand, mesmerized by the vision of her.

House watched her as she lost control of herself, writhing on top of him as he strung her like a fine guitar deserved. Her words had soothed him, eased his inadequate feelings, and aroused his senses once more. She never failed to assure him that he was more than enough for her. He always questioned it because he never could understand why it was him she loved. Why it was him who evoked these passionate desires and sounds from her. How he could make her want him even when more than half of his leg was missing.

He watched as her body was swept by a wave of orgasm that threatened to drown her in a sea of pleasure. He held her on top of him, hands running along her quivering thighs as he allowed her time to descend from her high. When she lowered herself to him, her body still wracked with spasms, he wrapped his arms around her and ran a hand down her back while the other cupped her nape. He kissed the crown of her head as she breathed heavily against his neck.

For a moment they just lay there, breathless from the emotions they have just exerted.

Cuddy was the one to break the spell that had enchanted them in comfortable silence as she gently kissed up his neck once more, recovering from her climax.

"See how you make me feel?" she asked him huskily, her tongue grazing his ear so lightly he shivered.

"Hmm," House hummed, his lips kissing every bit of exposed skin he could. She was perfect to him.

Finally feeling more confident than he did earlier, House mumbled roguishly into her ear. "I can make you feel a lot better than you do now," he said, grinning against her neck.

"Can't wait," she replied, smiling as she pulled back to look at him while she gently tried to roll them over.

"No," he suddenly stated, keeping her from pulling him on top of her. He held her by the arms delicately, looking into her eyes. "I can't." He looked so disappointed in himself that her heart stung.

"Of course you can," she encouraged him, carefully rolling them over.

"I could crush you," he mumbled, "It'd be better if you're on top."

"I want you on top of me," she rasped, silencing his protest with her lips.

With trembling arms he supported himself above her, shaken by her faith in him. Shaken by her trust.

"So demanding," he whispered teasingly, eyeing her as she smiled seductively at him. He was still unsure that him being on top was a good idea. As he gazed at her he tested his balance, assessing whether he was just being an insecure wuss once more.

Her hands caressed his arms and slid up to his shoulders, gasping when she felt his hardness prodding her inner thigh.

"Come on," she urged hungrily, fingers digging into his heated skin.

House exhaled through his nose. He could maintain the position by supporting himself on both arms and his left leg.

"You okay?" Cuddy asked him, her voice as soft as silk.

House nodded against her neck. He still couldn't believe she willingly chose him- chose this. Things would have been a lot easier for her had she not chosen to be with him. Had she not loved him.

But she did, and that love she harbored for him finally, somehow, at that moment, managed to make him see that he should not be guilty, but thankful for it. He wasn't pulling her down with him- wasn't keeping her from being happy.

She already was.

It was he who was teeming with insecurities and fear, pushing her away even when she had ultimately chosen to stay.

He lifted his head to enfold her luscious lips with his own, internally thanking her for putting up with stupidity. He felt her smile against his lips and he swallowed the moan that escaped her mouth.

Her arms wrapped around his neck, her need to finally have him inside her heightening once more.

She snaked a hand between them and reached for him. She stroked him before guiding him to her entrance, her heart pounding with need and anticipation. Their eyes met as he thrust into her gently, making her gasp from that first push. His hardness parted her labia, pushing him into her beckoning heat.

She whimpered, the sound tearing past her sealed lips, as he gently rolled his hips into her, the pain suddenly making itself known. She was so tight even despite her earlier orgasm.

He kissed her forehead, inhaling the addictive smell of her sweat mixing with the scent of her shampoo. He pulled back a little and didn't move further, allowing her to adjust to his girth.

She clung to him so tight he knew he'd have marks in the morning. He couldn't care less though; she could cling onto him as tightly as she needed.

They were quiet for a little while, their breathing the only sounds they could hear.

She was wrapped around him like a glove he had to exert a lot of effort not to just start thrusting into and out of her. He was throbbing and so was she; they were both pulsing against each other with desire and need waiting to be unleashed and quenched.

Their breaths were being stolen from them the longer they remained still.

What seemed like eternity but was only a minute or two, Cuddy pressed her cheek against his. "Go on," she whispered almost inaudibly, "Just... go slow."

Slowly, gently, House pulled back before sliding in again, focusing on loosening her for more, inch by inch. He sought her lips, distracting her from the pain.

It took a while, but she eventually loosened enough for him to pull out and push in without her whimpering in pain and discomfort.

She moaned as her insides gripped him desperately, feeling her body tremble with every thrust that sent him deeper into her.

Her mouth fell ajar, inhaling and expelling heavy, labored breaths as he continuously ground his hips against hers.

"Cuddy," he sighed into her cheek, his husky breath tickling her skin. In reply, she could only moan from the sensations slowly overcoming her.

Spurred on by the delicious warmth enclosing him and the sounds leaving her lips, House quickened his pace and smoothed his rhythm. From the change in speed and the deepened sensation, her nails dug into the skin of his back while she whimpered in pleasure. She had begun spurring him on with her hips, meeting his rolling pelvis over and over again, causing her to start writhing and trembling as she stepped into the plateau that would bring her to orgasm.

Breathing in and out loudly as she ascended into a cloud towards climax, she moaned for him to move faster, practically crooning seductively into his mouth for more. Desperately she clung onto him, holding back and waiting for him.

"Don't hold it," he told her breathlessly as he screwed his hips into hers, his erection sinking into her fiery depths farther than she could have imagined. "Come," he rasped into her ear and nipping it, thrusting forward and pulling out to plunge into her again. Cuddy shook her head, gasping as she tightened around him. He lowered his head, back bending into an arch, and latched onto her nipple, suckling at her breast while he did his best to quicken the pace more. His arm bended at the elbow and his weight pushed down wonderfully onto her. Her right foot ran down his leg to rest upon the sole of his feet, her sole feathering over the rough skin. A moment later she pulled her legs farther apart, causing him to slide deeper and bottom out inside her, and making her cry out in both pleasure and pain.

"House!" she cried out in a whisper, her spread legs hanging apart while her hips still met his now desperate thrusts.

He apologized by pulling out and starting an entirely different pace, which momentarily dragged her from the edge. His thrusts became quick and shallow, his angle causing his penis to rub at her clit and the sensitive ridges of her g-spot. The change in movement proved to begin her undoing as she harshly let out puffy mouthfuls of air whilst her lower stomach involuntarily arched up and down in time with her panting, pleasure overcoming her.

One of her arms squeezed in between their stomachs so she could touch herself, ready to let go without him. His husky voice urged her to come apart for him, to let go and show him just how much she wanted him. Lost in the addictive tone of his voice, she did as she was told. Her palm pressing down on her mound, she sought her swollen pearl and rubbed herself in a way that left her writhing from the sensations. His penis sliding in and out of her, her fingers stirring her clit, she was reduced to panting harshly.

Inhibition left them as he brought them to orgasm in two heavenly deep plunges that set their bodies aflame. She writhed and shuddered against him as he spilled himself into her, filling her generously in thick slow spurts, his penis throbbing intensely against her rapidly pulsing walls.

He lavished her neck with wet kisses, licking the sweat that had formed there. She continued to writhe beneath him, pushing her pelvis up into his sinuously rolling ones, prolonging their orgasm and slowly lowering them back down to earth.

It was five minutes later before they moved. He lay down beside her while she curled into his body. She stuck her neck against his shoulder so she could settle her head against his neck. She could feel the trickle of their combined fluids against her walls and onto the inside of her thighs, and she loved it, had missed the immensely pleasurable sensation.

She ran her hands down from his chest to his lower stomach, eliciting a shiver from him.

She sighed against his skin, feeling the remnants of her orgasm still making her shudder and tingle.

They lay quietly in bed, the musk of sweat and sex floating in the air around them.

He was quiet, she noticed.

She looked up to see him looking down at their hands, studying their fingers that were laced together loosely. His thumb ran along the web between her thumb and index finger, caressing up and down the slope.

Exhaling lightly from the sudden drowsiness that usurped her relaxed and satisfied body, she asked him quietly, "What's wrong?"

He shook his head before taking his eyes away from their hands to meet her slightly concerned gaze.

The light she thought his eyes had lost has returned. She could not help but beam from the realization. She thought his beacons would forever lose their shine.

"I'm happy," he acknowledged freely, his gratitude and content sparkling in his cerulean gaze.

Having said what he felt, he smiled softly, sincerely, making her smile in return.