Disclaimer: I didn't give birth to these characters, I have merely adopted them.
He felt her weight underneath him, felt her touching his skin.
And with his eyes closed, he could still see her—her tangled hair, her parted lips, the bewitching curve of her hip.
"Cuddy," he groaned.
His eyes popped open.
"Nobody," he snapped. "I don't pay you for conversation."
The hooker looked at him, not without some pity.
"Darlin', we don't need to talk at all," she said. "I just wanted to make sure you knew who you were layin' with."
House sighed. Closed his eyes. Tried to conjure Cuddy again, but it was too late.
"We done here?" the hooker said in dismay. "Because you can call me Cuddy if it helps. Hell, you can call me George."
House grunted, kind of rolled off her.
"We're done," he said.
"You have to pay full price all the same," she warned.
House got his wallet, threw a few hundred dollar bills on the bed.
"You can show yourself out."
Now well into her seventh week of maternity leave, Cuddy had received lots of visitors: Her mother and sister, of course; Wilson, at least two times a week; several doctors and nurses from the hospital; even the members of House's team.
But not the father of her son.
When she had first made her arrangement with House, she had done so in good faith. She didn't want him to be part of Sam's life. He was horrible father material—surly, impatient, emotionally closed off. Who would want to introduce such darkness and cynicism to a small child?
But things had changed a little, she had to admit, the night they made love. It wasn't just that the sex was great. It was that she had seen a side of him she didn't know still existed—something downright tender.
Maybe House actually could be a good dad.
At the very least, she figured he'd want to lay eyes on his own son. Out of curiosity, if nothing else. She was insulted. On her behalf and on Sam's.
To make matters worse—and she couldn't believe she felt this way—she missed the bastard. At work they had found a kind of half-flirtatious, half-adversarial rhythm that she had come to relish. She missed the verbal sparring, the intellectual one-upmanship, the thrill of not knowing what outrageous thing he might do or say next.
And also, she really wanted to kiss him again. . .
She was having this thought—actually remembering the little shiver that went down her spine that night when they first kissed—when Sam woke up and began to cry—loudly.
Needy, she thought. Just like his father.
House flopped down with a thud on the couch in Wilson's office, put his feet up on the coffee table and waited.
"Yes?" Wilson said warily.
"Nothing. I'm just chillaxing."
"House, you don't come to my office to 'chillax.' You come because you want something from me. So spit it out."
"Wilson, you're so cynical. Can't one bro just hang out in the office of another bro without there being an agenda?"
"In your case, no. I have no food. I have no new woman in my life for you to obsess over. You can't be hiding out from Cuddy, because she still has a week left on her maternity leave. . .I'm officially stumped."
House yawned extravagantly, suggesting the very topic he was about to address already bored him: "Speaking of Cuddy, how is she? How's the kid?"
"You still haven't gone over there have you?" Wilson scolded. "What's your problem?"
"I've been busy. . . so what's the little rugrat like?"
"He's a baby, House. He eats, he poops, he sleeps."
"And Cuddy? Is she the soul of maternal serenity?"
"She's happy House. About everything except for fact that you haven't visited her yet. If you don't watch out, you're going to lose a friend."
"She's not my friend. She's my boss."
"Yeah, right . . Look, I know it's tough for you to see Cuddy mothering somebody other than yourself. But you need to grow up, be a man, buy a stuffed bunny rabbit, and get your ass over there."
"Did any of your dead cancer kids happen to leave behind any stuffed animals? Would save me a trip to the gift shop."
"Get out of my office, House."
"Faster, faster, faster!"
Little Sam was on his bicycle and he was attempting to pedal for the first time on his own.
The sun was so bright, House could barely see him—he squinted into the bleached-out street.
"Daddy, I'm scared!"
"No fear, Sam! No fear!"
"But Daddy, help me. . ."
"Faster Sam! Pedal faster! Be stronger!"
The little boy pedaled, his chubby legs pumping as quickly as possible.
House blinked into the sun. He couldn't really see what was happening. Suddenly, there was a crashing sound, then the sound of a child crying hysterically, then a viciously red pool of blood.
"Sam, I'm coming! I'm coming!"
But House couldn't run, couldn't move his legs at all, couldn't get to his son.
He woke up.
Wilson never came to Cuddy's house empty handed—and tonight was no exception. He was carrying a little plastic bat and nerf baseball.
"If he's going to play center field for the Yankees, he needs to start soon," he cracked.
Cuddy smiled, gave Wilson a warm kiss on the cheek. He had really been her rock lately.
She picked up Sam, who had been lying in his bassinet.
"You want to hold him?" she said.
"Sure," he said, scooping the baby up deftly—already an expert.
He looked down at Sam, who was practically asleep, his big blue eyes at half-mast, his long dark lashes fluttering slightly.
"He has his father's eyes," Wilson said.
Cuddy looked startled. "You mean his mother's eyes," she replied hastily.
"No, I mean his father's."
Cuddy stared at him, trying to see if he was bluffing.
"Wilson, you know I don't know who the father is."
"I think you do," Wilson said.
And with that, Sam made a gurgling sound and spit up on Wilson's shoulder.
"And he has his father's sense of timing," Wilson said, laughing.
Cuddy shook her head.
"House told you?"
"He didn't have to. . .It's all over his face every time he asks about Sam. And the fact that he hasn't come to visit you is a dead giveaway. Avoidance is House's middle name."
Cuddy sighed. She got a sponge from the kitchen and began wiping off Wilson's lapel.
"Well, if someone has to know, I'm glad it's you, but it can't leave this room. I'm not even planning on telling Sam."
"Of course not," Wilson said. "But Cuddy, did you really think this through? House has some rather strong features—and I don't just mean physically. Don't you think people will suspect when the little guy starts solving Pythagorean Theorems and having existential crises at the age of 8?"
"No! People aren't that perceptive. And besides, even if they did, let them talk. Nobody would dare ask me about it."
"And what about your friendship with him? It seems to have already taken its toll."
"I sort of figured House was such a cold customer, the presence of his child in my life wouldn't matter one way or the other," she said. "Turns out, I was wrong."
"So what are you going to do?"
Cuddy shook her head.
"I honestly don't know."
Wilson looked down at Sam for a second, picked up one of his perfect little toes.
He hesitated before asking: "And how did you two conceive this adorable creature? In a laboratory? Or did House get you drunk?"
Cuddy gave a knowing smile. "None of your business, Uncle Wilson," she said, and gave him an affectionate pat on the arm.
After Wilson left, she called House.
"Because, in your attempt to be incredibly inconspicuous, you were, in fact, being incredibly conspicuous."
"Yeah. . .shit."
"What did he say?"
"He thinks everyone's going to figure it out."
"No way!" House said. "He gives people way too much credit. Most people still think Harry is Prince Charles' son."
"That's what I said. . . .House?"
"Why haven't you come to visit?. ..If not to meet Sam, at least to see me?"
"I've been busy," he muttered unconvincingly.
"Did you at least get the picture I emailed you?"
"Yeah," he said.
"And what do you think?"
"That he looks like a baby."
About 10:30 that night, there was a loud banging on her front door.
You've got to be kidding me.
Cuddy got out of bed—this time she did put on a robe—and didn't even bother asking who it was. She let House in.
"I didn't mean tonight," she said, shaking her head.
"No time like the present!" he said brightly.
"Sam's asleep. . .and so was I, genius."
House looked at his watch, genuinely surprised that it was so late.
He gave a sheepish smile.
"You look good, Cuddy. Motherhood agrees with you."
"Shut up, House. I look a mess."
She self-consciously ran her hand through her hair, an attempt to smooth it. Gave it up as a lost cause.
"So. . .you want to see him?"
"Okay," he said, somewhat nervously.
She led House into the nursery. He peered into the crib.
"It's a baby alright," he said, but he wouldn't stop staring.
Cuddy put her hand on House's shoulder, peered in with him.
"We did good, House."
"Time will tell," he shrugged.
"You want to hold him?"
"He won't wake up," she promised. She reached into the crib, picked up Sam, who stirred a bit as she placed him in House's arms.
Unlike Wilson, House looked stiff and uncomfortable—as if he was afraid he might break the child in two.
"You need to smell his head," she said. "He has the most intoxicating smell."
"I'll pass," House said.
Sam woke for a second, gave a little gurgly cry, and fell back to sleep.
"He was happier before," House said.
"He's fine, House. Relax."
She looked at him.
"I'm going to make some tea. Do you want some?"
The tea was a bit of an excuse. She wanted House to have a minute alone with his son.
"Tea? Who do you think I am? Wilson?"
Cuddy laughed. "I'll see if I have any beer."
She left the nursery. Checked the fridge—a half open bottle of chardonnay, no beer. She boiled water for tea, poured House a glass of wine.
She made her way back to the nursery, peered in. House was still holding Sam. He was smelling his head.
Two things changed the following week: Cuddy went back to work and House started stopping by almost every night.
He never brought Sam a gift. Never cooed at him. Never said any of the things other people said: "He's such a big boy. . ." "He's so adorable . . ." "He has your eyes. . ."
But he kept showing up—and it was beginning to feel a little bit like they were a family.
Of course, Cuddy had her classic Houseian ambivalence about the whole thing. She knew too much togetherness was not in the game plan—and could be confusing for both her and House (and eventually even for Sam). But every time he showed up—always unannounced, of course, with a loud, obnoxious rap at the door—she felt this little, undeniable rush.
"He likes you," she said one night, as House sat on the couch with Sam in his arms.
He sneered at her: "He doesn't like anyone. He doesn't have any thoughts, any personal attachments. He's just a giant cesspool of need."
"Yes," Cuddy said. "Giant Cesspool of Need was one of the names I considered giving him. But I decided Sam was easier to spell."
"All I can say is, he tends to fall asleep in your arms—and he seems to stop crying when you hold him. There might be some biological bonding mechanism at work—surely you don't dismiss that."
"What? You're saying I smell like Daddy to him?"
"Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying."
"Gimme a break."
"Well, it just so happens that he's fallen asleep in your arms. Again. But I'm sure it's just a coincidence. . ."
She looked at her beautiful sleeping boy in the arms of his beautifully damaged father and felt a sense of longing she hadn't experienced in months.
She took Sam from House, put him in his crib and came back to the living room.
"I had my post-natal exam last week," she said sheepishly. "The doctor said I could have sex again."
House looked at her. Cocked an eyebrow.
"And you're telling me this because. . . "
"Because I'm in the mood. To have sex."
He just kept staring.
"With you. Do I really need to spell it out?"
She stood in front of him, leaned down, kissed him on the lips. He kissed back, cautiously, his hands resting on her waist.
She kissed him harder and he was clearly beginning to get into it—his tongue was in her mouth, his hands around her waist gripped tighter—when he abruptly stopped, stood up.
"I can't," he said.
"You're turning down casual sex?"
He got his coat, started walking toward the door.
"There's nothing casual about it," he muttered.
In House's dream, the three of them—House, Sam, and Cuddy—were sitting around the dinner table eating spaghetti.
"What did you learn today in pre-school?" Cuddy asked Sam.
"Forget that," House said, with a proud grin. "Watch this!"
He turned to his son.
"Sam, what are the four main parts of the heart?"
"Right ventricle," the little boy said. "Left ventricle. Right atrium, left atrium."
"And what does the gallbladder do?"
"It helps you digest fat!"
House beamed at Cuddy, who stared in amazement.
"And how many bones are there in the human hand?"
"27!" Sam said triumphantly.
"That's my boy!" House said, holding up his hand for a slap. But just as the little boy was about to slap back, there was the sound of a key in the door.
A man entered the room, dressed in a business suit, with a briefcase. He looked vaguely like Wilson.
"Daddy's home! Daddy's home!" Sam yelled and sprang up from the table to give his father a hug.
"House is being weird again," Cuddy sighed to Wilson.
"You're going to have to be a little more specific."
They were in the hospital cafeteria having lunch. Cuddy kept glancing nervously at the door to see if House was coming, although she knew the odds were slim. It was noon. He had probably just finished breakfast.
"He stopped visiting me and Sam."
"Did anything happen to prompt that change?"
"No," Cuddy said, poking at her couscous.
"Well, um, I guess I did kind of make a pass at him."
Wilson practically choked on his turkey sandwich. "You what?"
"Remember when you asked me how House and I made Sam? Well, we did it the old fashioned way."
Wilson's face turned a bit red.
"You're kidding," he said.
"Definitely not kidding," she said. "And you know how once you've gone there, you're probably going to go there again. Unless the sex was horrible. Which it, uh, wasn't.'
"Spare me the details."
She looked at him.
"So I was in the mood. . .so I asked."
"And you're telling me he turned you down?"
"That's exactly what I'm telling you."
"He takes a lot of vicodin, Cuddy. Maybe he just couldn't. . . perform."
Cuddy laughed. "I'm fairly certain that wasn't the problem."
"I don't know. I think he freaked out. I think the whole scene was just a little too domestic for him. Me, the baby, sex. I assured him that it was just casual and he said, 'There's nothing casual about it.'"
"Well, I guess you have your answer. He has feelings for you, Cuddy. It was all fine and good last year—just a little forbidden roll in the hay with a sexy coworker. Now he's been spending time with you and Sam. He's invested."
"So you're saying he likes me too much to have sex with me?"
"Something like that."
Cuddy shook her head. "Men."
At the end of the day, she mustered up the courage to go to House's office.
He was looking at something on his computer screen—porn, if she knew him—and he hastily closed his laptop when he saw her.
"Hi," she said.
"Hi," he said back.
"Look, House. . .I hope I didn't freak you out too much the other night."
"You didn't freak me out," he said.
"I obviously did. You haven't been over at my place in almost 2 weeks."
"I've been. . ."
"I know. . . you've been busy."
"Yeah," he said quietly.
"It was presumptuous of me to assume you wanted to be with me like that. I apologize."
"Don't be ridiculous," he said. "Of course I want to be with you like that. It's just that. . ."
He looked down at his desk.
"Oh nooo," she said angrily. "You don't get to not tell me what you're feeling. A year ago, I didn't have that choice. Fair is fair."
He rubbed his chin, looked at her..
"It's just that it was all beginning to feel a little too . . . real."
So Wilson was right.
"Us having sex doesn't mean I was going to ask you to move in with me or become Sam's father."
"I'm not saying it did. . ." his voice trailed off.
"Then what, House? Say it!"
He inhaled, looked like he was bracing himself for a physical blow.
"What if I do want to be part of Sam's life? What if I really do want to be his father?"
Cuddy felt a sudden need to sit. She slumped into the chair across from House's desk.
"Now who's freaked out?" he said.
"I'm not freaked out," she lied. "I'm just . . . processing. So you're saying you want to help raise him?"
"And tell everyone in the hospital that he's your son?"
"Wow. That's . . .unexpected."
"I've actually given it a lot of thought," he said.
"House, you've never so much as changed Sam's diaper. Are you sure you're ready to take on the responsibilities of fatherhood?"
"I'm 47, Cuddy. Not 18. I think I can handle it."
"Can I ask why the sudden change of heart?"
"He's my kid. That biological bonding stuff you were talking about. . .it goes both ways."
"But you don't even like children," she said.
"I don't like other peoples children. I like mine. Ours."
Cuddy tried to keep her head clear, but hearing him refer to Sam as "ours" was making it tough.
Part of her felt like House was saying the very words she had secretly longed to hear since the day she found out she was pregnant. Another part of her knew what a dangerous path she was being led down. He was still House. He was still an emotional wreck. And this was her son they were talking about.
"So what's next?" House asked, looking at her expectantly.
"Next . . . I go home and think about this, House. It's a lot to digest."
"Take your time," he said. "Well, not too much time . . .I don't want the kid thinking Wilson is his father."
Cuddy gave a small laugh, stood to leave.
"You can go back to your porn now," she said.
"It's not porn."
"What is it?"
He swung the screen around to show her what he'd been looking at.
It was the picture she had sent him of Sam.
Two nights later, she called him.
"Come over, let's talk."
He was there almost as quickly as the night she had made that fateful bootie call.
"I've made a decision," she said. "I want you to be in Sam's life. . .as his father."
He exhaled a bit.
He wasn't smiling. It was almost like he was trying to show her just how seriously he took his newfound responsibility.
"But you can't flake out on me House. Once you agree to this, there's no turning back."
"I know Cuddy," he said. "I had a lousy father. I know all about lousy fathers. I'm not going to be one."
"Okay," she said.
"C'mere," he said.
She shuffled toward him reluctantly. He put his arms around her, held her tightly. He pushed the hair off her face, kissed her forehead. His lips lingered for a bit, then he kissed her cheekbone, her eye lid.
"House," she said, almost a warning.
"Cuddy," he said, imitating her stern tone of voice. He kissed her neck, then his mouth found hers.
"What about things being too real?" she asked, not able to keep herself from kissing him back.
"I like real."
He kissed her mouth harder this time and his hands began reaching under her shirt, to the bare skin of her back and shoulders.
"Don't you think we should. . .?"
"You feel too good to stop," he said, somewhat furtively. His hands had now reached her breasts.
"So do you," she admitted.
So they were going to have sex, after all. . .but as what? Friends with benefits? Parents with benefits? An actual couple?
Screw it, she thought, as they made their way to the bedroom. Tomorrow she'd sort things out. Tonight, she just wanted House's hands all over her.
When they were through, he didn't get up and leave, as she thought he might, but fell asleep, his arm draped across her.
A few hours later, Sam started to cry.
Much to her amazement, House sat up in bed.
"I got this," he said. He stood, fumbled for his cane in the dark, limped into the nursery.
And that night, for the first time, Dr. Gregory House changed his son's diaper.