A/N: Awesome concert this afternoon. Someone was wondering about visit-Mom day. If I have a concert in the afternoon, she usually is just skipped for that week. Too many things going on during a concert day with call time a few hours before and final rehearsal. Visiting Mom afterwards in the evening is not the time to do it, as I've discovered through experience. Always aim for earlier before she gets tired. So I didn't go today. Whenever I have a concert in the evening, I can usually fit her in in the afternoon, even if shortened. She would have understood music as a reason for missing a week; she was intensely musical herself before her decline. I do normally do a Christmas concert at the nursing home for all of them each December, so she'll get an extra visit there plus me singing.
I was indeed thinking about Mom with the side plot about recordings of Thornton's father and of House making recordings for Cuddy. A few of you have put that one together, too. It's not a pure parallel, thankfully, as when I started scrambling through old cassettes a few years ago, I had ultimately two full CDs worth of Mom once converted, including about half a dozen duets for the two of us. Priceless. But the point is valid that it never occurred to me over past years that I ought to be compiling a record. It's pure good luck that I had that many individual recordings. Mom wasn't (and actually isn't, sigh) that old, and I thought we had plenty more time. She slipped long before she should have. But it turns out I do have a nice selection, and it exists in about a dozen different places, so no fire or computer crash can take it from me now. If you have any sort of musical gift or your relative does, please work actively to preserve it for posterity. You might not have as much more time all together as you think.
This chapter ends Legacy, with things not resolved neatly but at least the plot arcs of this story brought to some sort of conclusion. Superstition, a one-shot, will be posted Wednesday. The next story after that, a massive one in plot and emotion, isn't quite cooked yet, so you may have a bit of a gap. It's a Christmas/New Year's story, and the main plot involves Blythe on a couple of different levels. The title it wants to call itself is (take a deep breath) the Hopes and Fears of All the Years, and all of my suggesting to my muse that that's a bit long isn't working. Hopefully that one will resolve some things for readers once it is finished, while opening others. I did try to work mentally on it while driving home this evening, but my mind was full of Handel, and he wasn't in the mood to share dwellings.
Hope you have enjoyed Legacy. Thanks for reading and reviewing.
Need to talk to you when you have time today.
House's text to Jensen was brief, but the time stamp of 4:40 a.m. spoke for itself. Afterward, he and Cuddy had another cup of tea and wrapped up in each other on the couch.
"You haven't had enough sleep," he noted.
"I know. We can catch a nap this afternoon with the girls." She didn't suggest going back to bed now. He still needed her presence. She wasn't even sleepy at the moment, any more than he was. He had hit the limit on words to her for what had happened, but he was still holding her like a lifeline, and they simply breathed in each other and were together in the soothing silence. Belle purred softly.
It was a little later that he suddenly straightened up. She could feel the thought strike him. "What, Greg?"
"I never gave you the surprise. Meant to last night." He had been too worn out after that session. He got up, earning a glare from Belle as he disrupted her, and went over to pick up his backpack next to the desk. He had taken out his laptop right after he got home last night, but the new CD was still there. He fished it out and returned to the couch, offering it to her.
"A CD? That's the surprise?" She wasn't disappointed, just surprised herself. None of her guesses had involved a CD. Taking it from him, she read the label. Cuddy's Serenade and Lisa's Song. This was a professional CD, the label printed on the disk itself. "You recorded the pieces?"
He nodded and sat back down, joining her. "I got to thinking, if anything happens to me, you'd at least . . ." He immediately realized he could have picked a better opening. Cuddy looked up with sharp, sudden concern.
"Are you feeling all right?"
He sighed. "Damn it." Some days, he wondered if he would ever learn how to interact with a woman without emotional stumbles. They were such illogical creatures at times. "I'm fine, Lisa. I mean, I'm as fine as I ever am."
Her eyes were searching. "There's nothing you're keeping from me?"
"No. I promise. No hidden symptoms. I just got to thinking after that package Tuesday, with my grandfather's CD."
She relaxed, understanding now. "Oh, that's it."
"He was only 35, and they're lucky to have those three pieces at all. So much else lost. So I was thinking, if, and I'm speaking hypothetically here, so don't go all woman on me, but if something happened to me, an accident or whatever, I'd hate for you and the girls to be left with just memories. So I went to a studio yesterday afternoon and recorded them."
"Thank you, Greg." She still didn't like even thinking about an accident or illness - she wanted, no, demanded decades more with him after wasting so much time in the past. But she appreciated the thought now. "Could I hear them?"
"Sure." He got up and started for the stereo.
"I mean live. I appreciate the CD, Greg, really, but could you play them for me yourself right now?"
He changed course to the piano. "You're too far away," he protested, and she moved over, sitting beside him on the bench. He played both pieces, softer and more slowly than usual, but somehow, at the moment, it fit. Two measures from the end, his cell phone, retrieved from the bedroom earlier when he had texted Jensen, rang. He scowled, and Cuddy laughed. "That part isn't on the CD," he said. She got up to fetch the phone from the end table and handed it to him.
House looked at his watch as he answered. "You're up early."
"I always get up early," Jensen replied, an edge of concern beneath his usual steady voice. "My family is still asleep, though. Assuming from your text that you aren't, there's no time like the present."
"Might as well get it over with." House got up, started for the bedroom, then stopped, looking at Cuddy. "Lisa, would you . . . come in there with me?" He still wanted her within sight and better yet within touch. Jensen, though good, was long distance.
She joined him promptly, not making a point of it. "Sure, Greg." She matched his slower stride back to the bedroom, and they climbed into bed again, sitting up against the back, the covers pulled up over their legs, though Cuddy detoured first to get the heating pad and put it across his thigh.
Jensen hadn't said a word during that exchange and scene shift, waiting for House to pick the phone back up. Once they were both settled, House gripped Cuddy's hand tightly, cell phone in the other. He didn't hit speaker. He knew it wasn't fair of him to ask her to participate only halfway, but at least she didn't rub that point in. "I had the dream again last night." He went through all of it again, from Thornton's emailing the picture to the complete dream to the shattered dam that had held back two years worth of repressed memories to his near-meltdown afterward.
The psychiatrist listened quietly, absorbing all of it. "So what's the first thing you remember now?" he asked.
"Christmas. It must have been when I was a year and a half. That's foggy, but it's young fog, not like the other. But that's not the point."
Jensen had been trying to explore facts before getting to emotions, but if House wanted to jump their usual line, that was how it would be today. "All right, Dr. House, tell me. What is the point?"
"Weren't you listening? I believed him. I fell for all of it."
"You had no knowledge of anything different. Any child will take their own first experiences and assume this is the standard. He called it love. Why should you have questioned that?"
"I just tuned him out most of the time when he'd go into those monologues when we were alone. Wasn't even paying attention. I should have seen something was wrong there."
"Can Abby do calculus?"
"That's not the same thing."
"That's precisely the same thing. She's a genius, obviously, a child prodigy, but she can't even play like you can right now, and that's her gift. She definitely wouldn't recognize something she has never seen or heard about. I could hand her a page from a calculus textbook, and she'd be completely lost. I know we've kept saying that people should have known, but I was talking about the adults around you in constant contact, Dr. House. They had a higher level of responsibility. And honestly, even with them, there was far more evidence later. I agree that John was obviously twisted, but I can easily see how everybody, you especially, missed it at the beginning." House was silent. "But that's frightening, isn't it? If you were deceived, you can identify fully for the first time with others who were."
House sighed. "He still should have known."
"I agree. Later. So does he. And your mother definitely should have known later. But you, Dr. House, are the innocent one here. It wasn't your fault for missing things that no toddler could be expected to see. How are you feeling now physically?"
The abrupt change of subject startled House into answering without dodging. "Still a little shaky."
"Listen to me, Dr. House. We aren't going to resolve this today. Not even next week in session. But right now, I think more than talking through things over and over when you've already told Dr. Cuddy and now me, you need a break."
"A shrink is actually suggesting not shrinking?"
It was a weak joke, but he heard the smile in Jensen's answer. "We're already breaking enough conventions here, might as well toss that one, too. For this 'session,' I'm sitting in the kitchen in my pajamas having coffee and being glad the rest of my family, including Mozart, isn't . . ."
At that moment, an ear-splitting screech came over the phone. Cuddy actually heard it and jumped, looking concerned. "Is he all right?"
House and Jensen both were laughing. "Speak of the devil," House said.
"Cathy's door must not have been shut thoroughly." Jensen obviously grabbed the kitten and lifted him up to lecturing level. "Listen, you little imp, you don't do that, especially not early on Saturday morning. You'll wake up half the town." Mozart's throaty purr in response could actually be heard rumbling in House's ear.
The psychiatrist sighed. "As I was saying before we were so rudely interrupted, it may be 6:00 a.m., but there are only so many emotional miles in the gas tank for one day, and you've sped through all of them. You need your family, Dr. House. Spend time with Dr. Cuddy and the girls. Go to the park. Do something together. Whatever you do, spend it together. Don't give yourself time alone to brood on things today. We will talk about this a lot more in the coming weeks, but I don't think right now is the time. We wouldn't answer anything by pushing you harder than the day already has."
House leaned back against the headboard. He did feel exhausted suddenly. "Okay," he gave in.
Jensen was immediately suspicious. "Please, Dr. House. Listen to me."
"I said okay. Want a specific list? I promise that I'll spend today with my family and we'll do all sorts of family fun together instead of thinking about what happened when I was a toddler. Satisfied?"
"Yes. May I speak to Dr. Cuddy for a minute?"
House tightened up. "Why?"
"Put it on speaker if you want to."
House debated, then handed Cuddy the phone. "He wants to talk to you." Cuddy eyed him, then put it on speaker herself.
"Yes? We're both here now."
"Dr. Cuddy, I just wanted to tell you two things. First of all, well done this morning. Very well done."
Cuddy blinked back sudden tears as a little of the knot of tension in her released. "Thanks."
"Second, I'd suggest that you talk to your own therapist about this morning, but give yourself a day with the family first. You need the break as much as he does."
"Not a bad idea," House threw in. "Patterson, I mean."
"I was going to call her tonight. She said yesterday she'd be home tonight." Cuddy looked at her husband and at the clock past him. "She's probably home now, but I don't quite feel right putting her on your schedule yet."
"You don't need more right now, anyway. Neither one of you do. Have a family day together, okay? And forget this newly awakened past for today. Don't dwell on it. It's not going to be processed in a day no matter what we do. You might also take a nap later."
"Already in the schedule," House said.
"Thank you so much, Dr. Jensen, for everything," Cuddy told him, again grateful that of all the out-of-state psychiatrists out there, House had by pure luck landed with Jensen. "What's that grinding noise?"
"That's just Mozart."
"YE-OOOWWWWWWWWWWW!" The sound on speaker echoed through the room, and Belle stood up from the foot of the bed, arched, and hissed, then looked wildly around, trying to spot her competition.
"We'd better wrap it up before I accidentally cheat on the cat again," House said.
In the background from the other end, a voice was heard. "Michael?"
"We need to wrap it up anyway," Jensen said quickly. "Call me when you need to this week, but let's invoke the 5-minute rule for a few days on this new subject, okay? Like with your mother at first. Small bites are easier swallowed, Dr. House."
"Right. Talk to you later." House paused. "Thanks."
"You're welcome. Enjoy your day, both of you." Jensen hung up.
House and Cuddy looked at each other, then at Belle, still ruffled, and fell into laughter together, another thin layer of the tension peeling off and floating away.
House's eyes opened. It was mid afternoon, but Cuddy was still solidly out, enjoying their own after-lunch nap while the girls had one. They had spent a pure family morning as prescribed, and House felt progressively steadier. It seemed counterproductive not to obsess about the new data, but Jensen was right. He did feel better for the break, and he hadn't had dreams this afternoon, only rest with his hand securely in Cuddy's.
House got up softly, giving Belle's ears a scratch, and then left the bedroom, closing the door behind him silently. He felt better for the nap, but might as well let Cuddy get as much more sleep as she could. He no longer felt in danger of meltdown if he couldn't see her, although he definitely wanted her near. He spent a few minutes in the nursery, watching his daughters, making himself see them, not himself at their age. There was no illusion to their safety, no missed threat. He touched one, then the other girl softly, proudly, and both of them moved slightly into his hand, even in sleep.
Ultimately, he wandered to the living room. He didn't want to play the piano until Cuddy woke up, although a concert and then a movie sounded good for tonight. Instead, he wound up at the laptop, seeing if Thornton had heard back from his connection. This wasn't about last night's revelation, after all. Jensen had thoroughly approved House having accurate information on John's score.
The message was there from a few hours ago, simply forwarded on from Thornton without added comment. House was surprised to see in the email address that it was from a general.
Hi, T. Good to hear from you. It's been a while.
Odd question, but I'm sure you've got a reason for it. No, there is no record of John House ever killing anyone directly in hand-to-hand combat. He put in one tour in Nam, but he wasn't way out on the edge in the jungle. He worked at a central supply camp, quartermaster. There are two reports of days during his year where that camp came under fire. On both occasions, our fire was called in on the presumed enemy location, and they were chased back or eliminated by the responding planes. If he ever killed anyone long distance during the brief excitement there, it wasn't reported, and there is no way that an official count could have been known by himself or anyone else. The enemy was never even in sight.
I went a little further to explore his career overall. It's an interesting one in a few ways. He was officially reprimanded three times, each time for the same reason: Excessive display of temper. He was only ever a drill sergeant once, and he was pulled from that duty partway through boot camp, his recruits finishing out under someone else, as he was simply too hard on the men. He was an excellent quartermaster, seemed a little obsessive about counting and keeping track of things. He made a kind of slow rise through the ranks. I mean, in spite of his being an officer, given that he was in for nearly 40 years, I'd expect more personal awards than he had. Most were simply standard end of tour awards or once the whole unit being cited as a group. He never once in all those decades received any strong personal commendation in his record from a commander. Others called him efficient, tough, but never exceptional in a positive way. On the two occasions in Nam mentioned above, there were individuals in the camp noted in the record by superiors for personal bravery. He wasn't one of them. Overall, he was a steady career Marine, but not an exceptional one. If I had to pick a man alongside me on a tough mission, he wouldn't be that man.
Hope you're doing well, buddy. You can have my back anytime.
House read it three times. So the lying bastard had indeed lied about his service, too. House wondered about the three official reprimands. John, of course, had never mentioned those to the family at the time. House tossed that idea around until he remembered that he wasn't supposed to be obsessing about John.
Resisting temptation to go back and look at the picture of his second birthday, instead he pulled out the picture of his grandfather for another look. Just the sight of this man was calming somehow, sort of like being with Jensen. Even if he had scared Cuddy at first, House was glad he had captured professional recordings of those two pieces, just in case.
Seeing Cuddy's envelope in the drawer, he removed the other copy of Jensen's picture and laid them side by side, and he analyzed that for a long while as he sat there, one hand unconsciously rubbing his leg.
Pictures. Another one of his grandfather was on the way, one much younger. House wondered if the resemblance earlier would be as strong. It was only then, belatedly, that the point lost in the stress of the last day finally struck him. Thornton did have a scanner or at least had access to someone else's at late hours if he chose. However, he had mailed this picture, was mailing the others, and no doubt would keep mailing a whole slideshow, delivered one slow and delayed piece at a time by USPS. Only when he thought there might be a legitimate urgent need on House's part had he broken that pattern.
Thornton was playing his son, deliberately using the delay and anticipation of packages to try to keep him on the hook. House shook his head. "You son of a bitch," he snarled at the laptop, but for the first time, there was a faint, grudging note of respect in his tone.
He looked at the two pictures. His grandfather. Himself. Thornton conspiring with the Post Office against him. Two could play at that game, though. He called up a blank email form.
Watch the mail.
Smiling to himself, he sent it off, then took Cuddy's second shot and sealed it in a new manilla envelope, addressing it. She could get another printed up for her bathroom at work.
Cuddy's voice rang down the hall, an edge of anxiety beneath it. "Greg? Are you okay?"
"In here. I'm fine." He stood up and put the addressed envelope in his backpack. He'd be sure to mail that Monday.
Or at least by Tuesday.