A/N-This is the sequel to Too Lost to be Found. If you haven't read it, this story probably won't make much sense because a hell of a lot happened in that story that changed things. House and Cuddy spent tons of time hashing out their old hurts…and now they're here.
I was hesitant to pick this up again because it's tough to write a story with kids in it. Everyone has opinions about child rearing, etc. Please…this is just a fictional story…not a manual for raising children. The focus of the story is still on House and Cuddy, not on the kids.
This is five years after Too Lost ended. I'll try to fill in the gaps as the story progresses, and I actually intend on inserting some flashbacks when appropriate to give insight into what's been going on over the years since the last fic ended.
I'll shoot for 3-4 updates per week. As usual, there will be adult content in some chapters, I'll put a disclaimer before each of those chapters. Thank you in advance to everyone who is returning to this story. OK…hope you guys like this one! Here's Monday's edition, a little early. (I'll try to get the next out by Tuesday.)
DISCLAIMER-Applies to the enter story. I don't own the characters of House, MD. I do own Kate, Jack, Ava, Celia, and all of the original characters that wander through their lives.
House and Cuddy's Diagnostic Center of the Lesser Antilles in Barbados had grown significantly over the years. Med students and residents from all over the world came to study with them, and there were a number of doctors on staff. These med students had the opportunity to learn about diagnostics, but also staffed the clinic that was opened for the locals. House didn't work a single day in the clinic. Cuddy credited her insistence on permanently removing him from clinic duty as one of the major reasons why they were still happily married.
Celia was House's very devoted personal assistant. The old local man she began dating when she moved to Barbados died only a year after their arrival. Celia was crushed, having endured the deaths of both men that she had loved. She was seldom seen in the two weeks after his passing, but showed up one Monday morning, prim and proper and ready to work. She called herself House's personal facilitator. Of course she also made sure that paperwork was done. With the perfect balance of enabling and tough love, House's paperwork had never been so timely and organized. She became the new town gossip after the loss of her beau, and she often had fellow gossipers visiting at her desk.
Kate was quite smitten with the children she considered her niece and nephew, and the horrors of Ava's early childhood haunted Kate. She opened a facility for child victims of violence, and for the people who were caring for those children, so they could help the victims heal after the atrocities they had survived. When she approached House and Cuddy with the idea of opening her center, they agreed, and Kate hired on staff of her own.
House was sorting through emails on his computer. Chase sent frequent updates and case files, so that House had the first pick of cases as they came in for consideration. He looked up at the clock a few times, unable to concentrate, while he waited for Ava and Jack to burst into the office, signaling the end of the day. The days he was in the office, the kids, still affectionately known as the 'Duo of Evil' by their father, would always stop at the center to see if one or both of their parents were able to come home for the day. They weren't supposed to arrive for at least fifteen more minutes to save him from the tedium of work.
House stood from his chair, grabbed his cane, and limped to Kate's office in the hopes that she was still there for the day. When he flung open the door to her office, Kate was seated at her desk, looking at her computer, with a stereotypically beautiful med student leaning over her shoulder. After he took a few steps into the office, House said, "Are you able to walk on your own or do you need Kate's back to hold up your enormous fake breasts?"
The med student, Rebecca Parker stood, hand on her hip, and said, "I don't see how that's your business."
"It is my business if you're here…in this office…I figured you'd want to take your breasts with you, but fine. Leave them on her back…I still need the rest of you to go."
Parker left the room, slowly, casually walking past House and out the door.
"Does she seriously think she's that hot?" House asked as he sat in the chair directly in front of Kate's desk.
"She is that hot. So…yea, I'm guessing she's thinking that," Kate said without looking up from her monitor.
"Needy and desperate…is not hot. Besides, Mel would probably not be overjoyed if she saw Ms. Tits-in-face hanging all over you."
"I thought you said her breasts were on my back."
"Mel would know that you could just turn around and Parker's tits would be where they clearly wanted to be."
Kate sat back in her chair, finally relinquishing her stare on the monitor. "Which would require me to turn around. A decision made on my part...Mel knows I'm not into turning around." Kate smirked, and flipped around the monitor so House could see the image, "We were looking at a brain scan."
"Because your computer is the only place to view scans here…I forgot that was all we could afford," House said as he looked to his side at two large display monitors.
"She's a student. You know I don't cross that line."
"I know," House conceded. "However, Parker, the queen of needy insecurity, doesn't care about your lines."
"Why do you dislike her so much?"
"Because I don't trust her. And she is not nearly as hot as she thinks she is," House answered quietly.
"I don't trust her either," she smiled at House. "You should be happy, I think you irritate the hell out of her."
"My charming personality doesn't suit her?"
"It's not even that," Kate shrugged. "She strutted around in front of you for the first two weeks she was here, trying to get your attention. You couldn't give her so much as decent look over. I think she's been feeling extra insecure ever since."
They could hear the muffled shout of Celia happily greeting someone on the other side of the door in the waiting area, "Oh, no, don't run past me like I'm not here! You get your two little white butts over here and hug your grandmamma."
Before House could reply to Kate, a knock came from low on the door. Kate smiled and went to the door, peeking out, looking around at her own eye level and refusing to look down at the smiling boy a few feet shorter, waiting on the other side. "Hello?" Kate said as she opened the door wider and looked around erratically in every direction except down, and Jack slipped past her legs and ran to his father. It was the last day of school for the year.
Jack was five, and very much the combination of his parents. He had thick chestnut hair and wide grey eyes, but was tall and lean, for his age. He was bright, and already eagerly athletic. Jack's expression looked exactly like his mother's when he was deep in thought, and exactly like his father's when he smiled, a fact that few people knew because so few people had ever seen House really smile. House blamed Jack's overtly social behavior on Cuddy.
Jack adored his older sister to such a degree that, when she began school, House said Jack tried to follow her like an 'Ava-seeking-missile,' nearly impossible to deter. When he wasn't allowed to go to school, Jack tried to learn everything he needed to be enrolled with her. From the time he was very small, he always seemed impacted by the moods of those around him. When his father's leg was more painful than usual, when Ava felt uncomfortable in someone's presence, when Cuddy was stressed from work, Jack felt their discomfort. Jack was a living lie detector and mood ring combined in one energetic child.
Jack smiled up at House with a wide grin and held out a paper. "You failed all of your classes, didn't you?" House accused sarcastically as he looked at his son's final report card for the year. Five year-olds at his school received updates on skills and growth, and not actual grades.
"Yup," Jack said, still grinning.
House looked over the series of positive remarks on the report card and held up a hand to high five the child. Jack reached his hand back, wound up, and slapped his father's significantly larger hand with as much force as he could mount. Jack did well in school thus far, although he was clearly more interested in exploring outside and socializing than he was at learning at his desk.
"Where's Ava?" House asked Jack.
"Did she walk here with you?"
Jack nodded, "Ah course."
House stood, knowing where he'd find Ava, while Jack stayed with Kate. When House entered his office, the eight year-old was sitting on the sofa. Ava's pile of blond curls was stacked on her head, always half mussed no matter what Cuddy tried to do to tame them each morning. Ava adored her brother with as much totality as he adored her. She was fiercely protective of him, and also enjoyed tormenting him, as all truly good big sisters should. In quiet moments, Ava's gentleness and love for her brother were evident. Ava looked at her father briefly, her pale blue eyes settling on him for one moment before she looked down. He sat down next her, one hand still propped on his cane and said, "Hey."
"Hey," Ava answered back softly.
Ava handed him her report card. House kept shaking his head in disbelief as he looked over the grades. She had straight A's. Earlier in the year, and every year prior, her grades hovered in mediocrity. "What happened?" he asked.
"You guys said I could pick the next field trip if I got better grades. So, I got better grades."
"You could do better," House responded, staring at the paper, until she smacked his arm.
"Da-aad," she said, dragging out the word and smirking widely at him as she took the evidence of her academic success from his hands.
"You know, now that you've proven that you can do this well, you've raised the bar. I would have shot for B's…kept expectations lower."
The smirk dropped off of Ava's face and he jabbed her arm softly with his elbow, "I'm kidding, I'm really impressed. Not surprised…but impressed. You did a really good job."
She smiled at him again, but he could tell she was already thinking about the expectations she created with her success.
House wasn't concerned about Ava's grades, she always passed and he regularly insisted that no college in the world was going to be concerned with whether or not she had good grades in primary school.
The frustrating part for Cuddy was that Ava was brilliant. She often astounded even her own parents with her ability to learn and apply concepts with incredible ease and make discoveries on her own. She read everything she could get her hands on with remarkable speed and retention. Plus, Ava noticed everything. From the minutest details, she catalogued the things that went on around her. Between House's nearly all-seeing presence, Jack's developed sense of empathy, and Ava's keen observation, few things occurred unnoticed. Cuddy regularly joked that there were no secrets in their home, but the joke wasn't nearly as funny as it was accurate.
Cuddy entered House's office a few minutes later, with Jack holding her hand. She taught one class, Endocrinology in Diagnostics, Wednesday afternoons, and they usually met up in House's office once she was done. She dropped, tired, onto the sofa next to House. "Hey guys," she said to both of the kids, who handed her their report cards. Before looking at the papers, she turned to House, and with a delicate smile and an affectionate voice said simply, "Hey."
"Hey," he answered back, mirroring her smile as he looked at her for just a few seconds. After their years together, even their greetings were still subtly filled with both admiration and flirtation.
"Ew," Ava complained, "You guys are so gross."
"Ew," Jack mimicked, probably more because his sister did than for any other reason.
Cuddy waved one hand up to cease their protest. "How would you like me to greet your father?" Cuddy playfully punched House's shoulder and said in a deeper, doltish voice, "Hiya!"
Jack giggled and Ava rolled her eyes, "That's still gross."
"Ya know…that's my favorite of your pickup lines," House said, smirking at Cuddy while she looked back with amusement.
Redirecting her attention to her children, Cuddy shrugged, "Trust me, it would be worse for you guys if we hated each other."
That day, Cuddy's class actually worked with patients in their clinic and diagnostics center, so she wasn't wearing a tight skirt, cleavage baring top and sky high heels. On days like those, she usually wore scrubs and sneakers with her hair tied back, her dress professional and utilitarian. Unintentionally sexy was House's favorite look on her. "Who were you playing doctor with?" House teased.
Cuddy half-chuckled and kissed his scruffy cheek. Her focus turned back to the boy in front of her when Jack tapped on the report cards in her hand. She smiled at her son and then looked down at the papers. "Jack, wow!" Cuddy said, pulling the boy into her lap for a hug after she reviewed the assessment. "You did great, buddy!"
He smiled proudly before he got down and headed to the corner to play. House's office was filled with toys that he claimed were for the kids. They enjoyed them also. Cuddy looked at Ava and took a deep breath. Ava's report card was one of very few things mother and daughter argued about. Cuddy struggled to find the balance between trying to encourage Ava to do her best, while trying to avoid putting too much pressure on her, but she knew the girl certainly wasn't working to her potential. Cuddy wanted to avoid the argument that occurred when Ava received her last report card, so she had been preparing to receive the results.
Cuddy looked at the paper and shook her head, "What happened?" she asked, repeating the same phrase that House used when he saw the results of Ava's work.
Ava shrugged. House caught Cuddy's gaze, "She wants to pick the next field trip. We told her she could if she did better."
"Definitely," Cuddy nodded, hugging Ava.
Ava leaned into Cuddy's shoulder for a hug. Cuddy dreaded the day when Ava would start to decide she was too cool or too old for her mother's affection. In spite of her abused past, Ava was very affectionate with her family, including her doting aunts Kate and Mel, but was sufficiently wary of strangers. Years earlier, when Cuddy asked House what they should do about Ava's suspicion of outsiders, he answered simply, "We shouldn't do anything, she should be wary of outsiders."
"Where do you want to go?" Cuddy asked Ava, who smiled back.
"Can we go back…to Philadelphia? See grandma and everyone?"
House and Cuddy both tried to hide their grimaces. They took the kids on two trips each year. One for the winter break, and one for the longer summer break, as they had agreed to shortly after Jack was born. They tried to keep the promises that they made early on: avoiding lies, balancing work with play, and trying to educate their children through experiences. Although the children attended school, there was no shortage of bizarre science experiments in the kitchen or digging along the shoreline to look for wildlife in the surf.
Cuddy and House devotedly avoided going "home." Neither cared much for returning to the US. There were friends and family still there, but they often paid for travel expenses for their family to come to Barbados, rather than returning, just to avoid going there. Their pictures of Rachel on the walls, and celebrations of her milestones helped Cuddy and House to feel like they were honoring her memory without visiting the cemetery, although whenever they were back, they stopped. The visits to New Jersey or Pennsylvania were usually short, perfunctory stops at the places they had to go, usually leaving the kids overnight with Kate or Celia as they'd try to fly out one day for an event, and return to Barbados the next day. Since they arrived in their new home, their decades of unhappiness and bad luck seemed to slip increasingly away from their minds, and they associated so much pain and heartache with their former residences.
Cuddy coaxed Ava, "You can go almost anywhere."
"I know!" Ava said happily, "and I want to go there. We have our own place, what's the point in having it if we don't use it."
Their home in Philadelphia, the large apartment in a refurbished old factory, was, in fact, still theirs. Much like House's apartment in earlier years, they had someone come in to clean and maintain, but very seldom visited it themselves. If something came up with Cuddy's family, they had a place to stay. House actually rented out his old apartment to one of Chase's fellows, with the stipulation that he could stop by if he ever wanted to, although his attachment to the place waned once he had his piano removed and he felt a sense of permanence in his new life.
"You seriously, want to go there?" House asked.
"If you guys don't want to…" Ava said with disappointment.
"No, it was an agreement," Cuddy said, nodding with certainty. "We told you that you could pick. If that's what you want, then that's what we'll do."
Ava grinned and practically trotted over to join her brother.
House and Cuddy exchanged pained glances, "We have two weeks to get ready for this," Cuddy said quietly to him.
They were walking out of the clinic a few minutes later, taking the short journey back home, with the kids and Kate in tow. Jack and Ava loved Wednesday nights. Their parents faithfully kept their Wednesday nights to themselves, except for one night when Ava and Jack were both very sick and truly miserable, and another time when there was a case they simply couldn't leave. There were a few nights when date night was shorter, or earlier, or later, but it was one of the promises they tried to keep to each other. They were still devoted to carrying on their passionate affair over the years, sneaking hidden moments and arranging secret trysts, still 'cheating on each other, with each other,' whenever they could.
One night, when they had a terrible fight, reminiscent of their old fights, Kate showed up to babysit. House thought Cuddy was going to storm out of there, Cuddy thought House was going to do the same. She stood in front of him, and said, softly, "Are you coming?"
That was one of the moments in both of their minds that demonstrated that they were larger than their disagreements, and that they wanted to endure no matter what they faced. They went for their date that night, and the argument that had been so filled with venom and rage was resolved without either of them permanently damaging each other. They still fought, they were both stubborn and opinionated people. The difference, of course, from the past was their willingness to find resolution. Most date nights, they acted as if they were the only human beings on the planet.
Their neighbors usually smirked and giggled at them when they'd walk down the path, or ride their moped on Wednesday nights to some remote location. They were known for their admiration for each other, as well as their avoidance of outsiders, and really did nothing to deny that to anyone. Many people who showed up their clinic would ask for their secrets to a happy marriage. Ironically, when asked, either of them would roll their eyes or scoff, because, although they had years of successful marriage, they never saw themselves as models for a loving relationship.
When they got home, the kids were already ignoring them in favor of cooking with Kate. Jack loved Kate's silliness, Ava loved the hour she had alone with Kate after her brother went to bed, which she envisioned as girl time between buddies.
After five years of marriage, Cuddy still showered, dressed and primped on Wednesday nights as if she was going on a first date. House still selected a location or activity for them. He often teased her about her primping, with assurances that he was still a 'sure thing.' He appreciated that she still felt he was important enough to impress. She appreciated that he still cared enough to make a plan for them.
House sat on the small porch at the front of their home, waiting for Cuddy. As usual, the weather was warm but not hot, and there was a consistent ocean breeze drifting up the hillside where they lived. His feet were up on the railing and he was relaxing, playing a game on his phone and occasionally rattling the ice in his glass. Cuddy stepped out onto the porch, "Are you finally ready?" she jabbed.
He finished his drink and looked her over, checking out her form in the new casual blue dress that she was wearing, and her neatly curled and styled hair, but appreciating her warm and affectionate smile most of all. He answered, "Give me a few more minutes, I still have to wax."
She smiled at him as she stood in front of him, leaning on the railing, arms loosely crossed. "I always say, 'smooth as House's ass on a Wednesday night,'" she joked.
"Excuse me, folks…" they heard from the gravel path in front of their home.
House's smile faded, he grabbed his cane and stood. "Who in the hell's that?" he whispered as he looked beyond Cuddy, nodding toward an old man who was slowly making his way toward them.
There were occasionally locals who would find them at home in times of emergency, but the man who was approaching them had a taxi waiting on the paved street at the bottom of the hill, and he certainly didn't look like a local. House leaned on the railing next to Cuddy, trying to figure out the identity of this stranger. "Looking for Greg House," the old man said, his voice scratchy and garbled with age.
Cuddy tensed next to House, turning around to see for herself who was speaking. History had taught them to be wary of strangers, much like Ava, and part of Cuddy often worried that some crazy person with a gun would show up and shoot him. History had also taught them that such things were possible. Cuddy walked to the opening of the porch, arms still folded, as the old man nodded a hello. "I'm looking for Gregory House. Does he live here?" he asked.
"Who are you?" she asked.
"Frank Callahan, I need his expertise."