Author's Notes: This fic was written for the Livejournal community, help_lisa. The person who won this auction was dr_anitacoffee, who wanted a fic about the IVF storyline. She wanted something realistic and not too angsty or happy. This piece contains some references to masturbation. Please turn back now if you are uncomfortable with that.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Shifting In Time
By Duckie Nicks
She envisioned motherhood waiting for her.
A last resort if everything else failed.
When asked when she planned on having children, she understood the judgment in her true feelings. What others desperately craved, she saw as waiting in the wings, a road she could always go down on – but only if the aspects of her life she deemed important didn't work out. What she said aloud was, "I don't think I want children."
The comment never helped her case. Meeting the remark were looks of knowing pity, the kind of emotion that prefaced a "You'll see," as though they knew better than Cuddy herself did what desires truly lurked within her. She thought they couldn't have been more wrong. Some people weren't made to be parents. She was certain she fit into that category.
When their parents had brought the new baby home, Julia had been everything but what Cuddy had imagined she'd be like. Dolls were supposed to replicate young children for little girls on which to practice their eventual, assumed motherhood. Cuddy had never taken much of a liking to the toy, but from her brief encounters with them, she'd pictured babies as being constructed of milky white porcelain with delicate swipes of paint for a silent mouth and unquestioning, unwavering eyes. Babies smelled of the cardboard they came wrapped in, wore rough cotton of white and pink, and fit neatly into the toy box at the edge of your bed. The tiny bundle in her mother's arm had been an imposter, a poor attempt to capture what Cuddy had known to be a child, and she hadn't liked it.
Even then, everyone around her had assumed they knew Cuddy better than she herself did. "She's your sister. You'll grow to love her," her father – their father – had said gently.
Her mother had been gruffer, tired from diaper changes and crying, a good percentage of the latter belonging to Cuddy herself in a bid to erase the mistake that always seemed to need something. "Well, I'm sorry you don't like your sister, but you can't return a baby, so you'll just have to get used to it," Arlene had told her in a tone that had been as lyrical as it had been militant and cold. Her mother was good at doing that, just as she was tremendously skilled at punctuating her words with silent threats about what would happen if the conversation continued. Cuddy had known it would be easier to accept to the baby than to fight to get rid of her.
You couldn't get rid of a child anymore than you could wish yourself to want one if you didn't. The latter was a finer point her mother and her female friends seemed to miss. Cuddy knew motherhood would always be there, but she had no intention of reaching toward it. She was happy with her life as it was.
She had a good job, a position that few men and women her age could even qualify for having, and she liked what she did. Every day she could see the proof of her talent, the lives saved. Sometimes there were men to pass her time. Rarely did they lead to anything lasting, but she had fun in the interim. They were attractive and interested in her, and the sex usually left her satisfied and without a need for more. Of course, there was always House as well, in the weeks or months between casual or serious affairs, to remind her that she was beautiful, to push her, challenge her, keep her distracted. One night between them was all that attraction had ever amounted to, but her gaze had never once reverted to the life she'd left behind in college. Whatever they'd done, it was nothing compared to the way they interacted with one another now. She preferred the intellectual stimulation to the sexual chemistry they had... or once had. Again, she was happy. She wanted for nothing.
Then the need hit her.
Or rather it crept in over time. Slowly professional victories ceased to mean as much. Her pace quietly slowed when she passed the pediatric ward. Men gave her as much as they always had, and it didn't seem to be enough. That wasn't to say she didn't enjoy herself. She made a point to do so. Afterwards however, the cooling side of the bed left her empty and feeling alone. Her eyes slowly shifted away from what was in front of her. The well-worn path no longer seemed as appealing, and she found herself needing something... more.
"You'll change your mind."
"You'll grow to love her."
That was what she had been told, and gradually the prophecy became true. The desire for a child rose within her slowly. She couldn't remember the exact date she thought the idea fully formed in her mind. It was simply the product of a process, the evolution of needing to change something in her life. What would make her happy had been the question, and the answer had churned in her over months into this one unalterable truth: she wanted a baby. She needed to have one.
She had no one in mind for a sire. Unprotected sex with a stranger these days was out of the question. Unprotected sex with someone she knew seemed even more idiotic. Given her mother's history of miscarriage, in-vitro fertilization with a sperm donor seemed like the best way to go about it.
Her doctor tried to convince her to start with intrauterine insemination, but as always Cuddy was not interested in taking her time. The more procedures required, the more obvious it would become, most especially to her, that motherhood was neither waiting for her nor something she should have intentionally left by the side of the road. She wanted to get pregnant as quickly as possible, be done with the matter before anyone suspected what was going on. She had not inherited her mother's beautiful aristocratic looks; she had gotten the same ability to cut through the fanfare and get straight to the point.
Unlike her mother though, Cuddy seemed to have the ovaries that were perfect for pregnancy. After a month of birth control, she got her period and had the subsequent ultrasound done, which revealed that everything looked normal. There were no cysts, nothing to stop the procedure from going forward.
So things proceeded, a prescription of menotropins filled for her to take twice daily until her follicles were at the appropriate size. Cuddy preferred to look at it as scientifically as possible. She purchased red clover with the same clinical attitude as she might write a scrip for a patient. The less she personalized it, the less personal it would be, the less traumatic defeat would be in the end.
In truth, she didn't anticipate failure. She was healthy and skilled at everything she did. Motherhood had waited for her, she thought to herself, not the other way around. If there was any inclination to dissuade herself from arrogance, it was the result of superstition and the need to do her job without letting on that things were about to change. It was not because she thought she might fail to make a suitable mother. She just didn't want to jinx the matter.
Curse seemed to come to her nevertheless. The second House found out, she just assumed the rest of the hospital would know by the beginning of the next day. To her surprise, elation, suspicion, he kept her secret instead, and she wasn't sure if that was for the best. Even as she took advantage of his knowledge (not that that would be the first time), she brought him into the fold to keep an eye on him. The more this was his secret, she knew, the less likely it was that he would rat her out. House liked nothing more than to believe that he was special.
When it came to medicine, however, she couldn't deny that he was. As her follicles grew, so did her trust in him. Bringing him closer ensured his silence. His hand delivering the menotropins to her body reassured her of that and of success in general; no matter how awful he could be, he was a medical genius. No one could ensure the right medical results like he could. Even when the procedure was as easy as this, she placed herself in his hands, put her faith in him to nurture her body in the way that would make her perfect for a child. If she had worded it that way out loud, he no doubt would have assumed a deeper attraction on her part.
That wasn't the case.
Using him was, at its most honest, the medical equivalent of decorating the nursery. She was trying to make her body inhabitable for a fetus. He could help her with that, and given his knowledge, he could help her find the perfect sperm to suit her genes.
Unfortunately, House surprised her. He did not bring a cold eye to the proceedings. While she looked at health concerns, he implored her to pick someone she liked, a donor that she would actually want to spend time with. Somehow, horribly enough, they had reversed roles, and she didn't enjoy being reminded of what was actually at stake. Her gaze was intentionally myopic out of fear. As the days went by, she could feel herself becoming more invested in the outcome. No matter how much she couched it in clinical terms, the daily injections were constant reminders of what would happen. Soon enough, they would, hopefully, use hCG to trigger the last stage of maturation in her oocytes, and then there would be the egg retrieval.
Then they would actually make her a child, and she would see just how suited for motherhood she had been all along.
She tried to view these steps as givens. If she never gave a voice to the possibility of a cancellation, it wouldn't happen. Nevertheless, anticipation made her edgy, quicker to snap at House.
He, of course, didn't care, probably didn't even notice much of a difference. Their dynamic lent itself to harsh words. He didn't bat an eye when she complained he was taking too long, that he was late and most certainly enjoying this too much. She was not so secretly falling apart before him, but he paid no attention to it. Only afterwards did she consider that he had noticed, that he had said nothing out of respect for what she was going through.
No, she would tell herself. It was never about respect. It was about what was easiest for him, and what was simplest was to say nothing, do nothing. If he gave extra, he would be willingly involving himself, and that was unacceptable to him.
Truthfully, that was probably for the best. She was about to risk changing her life or feel the pain of not being able to. There was nothing he could tell her that would erase the fear she felt. Knowing that, he offered her no comfort. He didn't take the bait either. His plan seemed to be to just stick to the medicine.
At the time though, she didn't know that. She was simply left to resent him, most especially when he noticed the change in the medicine. Over the course of the day, she went from handing him menotropins to hCG to give her, and he knew what that meant.
"Congratulations," he said dryly. "Enjoying those D-cup follicles?" She was quietly hunched over her desk, trying to hold her underwear out of the way. When she didn't respond, he told her, "You know if that position is too hard for you, you can always take off the panties for –"
"I'm just saying –"
"And I'm telling you not to waste your time saying it, because it's never going to happen."
"Well fine. Don't let me see your vagina… you know, again." He jabbed the needle in. Slowly depleting it, he tried to smooth over the moment between them. "When are they retrieving your eggs?"
"Saturday morning. Ten o'clock."
"You pick out your sperm?"
He pulled the syringe out, gaze on her as she stood up. "Who'd you go with?"
"Does it matter?"
"No," he said calmly, recapping the syringe. "Do you have anyone taking you to the clinic?"
She smoothed her skirt down over her underwear and wriggled as she tried to get comfortable once more. Small indignities like this were the price she paid throughout the process, and she didn't (and never would) enjoy seeing House watching her as she tried to get back into the mind space she needed to do her job.
In hopes of distracting, she admitted, "No. I'm going to drive myself."
He didn't seem impressed by that news. "You think it's wise to drive after you've been sedated?"
"I'll be there for a few hours afterwards. By the time they let me leave, I'll be fine." The argument, not even convincing to her, couldn't have had the intended effect on him.
Indeed, he seemed to become less impressed the more she spoke. "I'll take you."
"No. I don't want that."
She didn't. This wasn't something he was supposed to know about at all. This was hers, her uterus, her fertility, her choices, her baby. He wasn't even supposed to know, she thought once more with a whine she could practically hear. Motivated by curiosity, he had selfishly barreled through every boundary set by human decency. He had invaded her privacy, run medical tests on her against her knowledge. Without her consent, he had helped himself wholeheartedly to the truth, and now she had no choice but to make him a co-conspirator in her machinations. Admittedly she had gotten used to his presence, but she would never invite him further into this part of her life. She didn't want him there.
"You'll change your mind." The bitter words she seemed to always hear in her head were spoken aloud once more. "Going alone seems like a great idea now, but you're going to be tired. You're not going to want to drive home."
She sighed, folded her arms across her chest. As she leaned against her desk, she asked tiredly, already knowing the answer, "Do I even have a choice in the matter?"
"No. I'm picking you up and taking you."
"Why exactly would you want to do that?" That was the part she couldn't understand. Even if she let go of her own reservations (and his persistence indicated that she would have to do as much), she couldn't wrap her head around his logic. He had no interest in seeing her pregnant. He had no interested in seeing her happy. But here he was insinuating himself in her life without anyone requiring him to do so.
His answer was a shrug, an evasive, "Well, to be honest, I've always had a thing for transvaginal ultrasounds. Really turns me on. And the idea of your ovaries being poked with long needles is too pleasurable for me to pass that –"
"If – if – I let you take me, you're sitting in the waiting room."
"You sure you want that? I don't know. I'm not a woman, so I really don't know. But if I were, I don't think I'd want to be unconscious with –"
"Stop." She held a hand in the air. She couldn't even say for sure where he was headed with that sentence, but she knew she wouldn't like what he had to say. His craziness was more unbearable now, given the circumstances, and she had little tolerance for it.
Between the size of the endeavor she was undertaking and the hormones pumping through her body, she was used to feeling like insanity could overpower her life at any moment. In her head, a change to motherhood was supposed to be an effortless reach, a swift turn for her to take, instead of the incremental, momentous adjustments that had constructed this entire affair thus far. Her mind had been limited in its vision, but she had slowly become accustomed to the fact that her world was constantly under threat of disappointment and endless longing now.
At the moment, House's comments were too much, even for her.
"Just... go back to work," she ordered tiredly.
"I'll take you?"
"If you can behave..."
"I'll be good."
She was sure she would regret capitulation. So far, her attempts at getting pregnant had amounted to little more than the hunch that some wishes were best left ignored. Giving into desires, most especially her own, wasn't always the right thing to do. She didn't think allowing House power over one more aspect of this was particularly wise. She couldn't even begin to understand why she agreed other than... he was probably right. She probably couldn't drive herself home safely afterwards. And what was the point of trying to get pregnant if she wasn't even responsible enough to take care of herself?
A driver was necessary, and her isolation ensured that it had to be him. No one else knew this was happening, only House. Wanting to avoid the variations of "I told you so," she had trusted no one with the secret she kept inside. She didn't want to say anything until she knew the haughty words from others would be tempered with the sweet child in her womb and then in her arms. If nothing ever came of these procedures, she didn't want the pity, the knowing judgment that she shouldn't have waited so long.
If she failed... she couldn't bear to see the confirmation of her failure in the eyes of others.
But House had figured it out, and he certainly wouldn't care if she remained barren for the rest of her life. He would probably prefer it, which she hoped would be all the motivation her body needed. She was nothing if not good at proving him wrong; why wouldn't she want to do the same now?
Yet for all the animosity in the thought, she was anything but that when he took her to the fertility clinic that Saturday morning. She sat painfully still, waiting to be called back. He just looked about the building in curiosity. After a few minutes, he voiced the question in his mind.
"Where's the area they let guys jerk off in?"
The waiting room was relatively empty, thankfully, the only other couple waiting with them quietly filling out paperwork. At the sound of the question, they looked up in surprise, and Cuddy had to resist the urge to kick him. She settled for glaring at him instead.
"House," she said in a whisper, which just made him louder.
His eyes wide with mock innocence, he asked, "What?"
"You're not here for that."
He shrugged. "So? I'd like to know what materials they expect men to wank –"
"Stop," she hissed. Silently she said it a few more times, hoping, praying that he would behave.
Somehow it worked. He fell quiet once more, looked away, and then muttered, "Sorry." He started to repeat the apology to the couple in the waiting room when the nurse came to collect Cuddy.
As she stood up to follow the young brunette, Cuddy couldn't help but feel dread flow through her with a shiver. The room was kept at a comfortable temperature, but she seemed devoid of any warmth inside as she stepped down the hallway. She knew what was about to happen, of course; she had read the literature, had advised a few friends over the years. Intellectually she was certain both of what was to occur in the exam room and in the waiting room with House. He would no doubt cause chaos without anyone to keep him under control. Emotionally though she recognized she had no way of telling how this would turn out. Retrieving the eggs, washing the semen, fertilizing the eggs, implanting them – those were the steps, but they could not accurately describe the results for her. Whether she would finally be someone's mother was yet to be seen. And the fear of the unknown had her asking the nurse to get House as soon as Cuddy was handed the paper gown to change into.
He would be of no reassurance. She wasn't so fearful that she thought he would be comforting to her. But his stupidity, his gruffness, and yes, even his apparent interest in learning what kind of pornography they had in the building would keep her distracted in these last few moments before the plunge.
He didn't disappoint.
When he entered the room, she was busy changing, naked backside to him. She didn't turn around when she heard him, just hastily tried to tie the strings behind her back.
"Wow," he said. She could hear the amazement in his voice. "I didn't realize the porn was going to be so lifelike." He stepped behind her, took the strings out of her hands, and tied the gown for her. "I think I'm ready for that cup now."
She rolled her eyes and turned to face him. "Grow up."
He blinked dramatically. "I'm sorry. Were you saying something? I was too busy staring at your ass to listen to you."
"Never mind." She sat down on the bed.
"Nervous?" She shook her head, but he did his best to act like a human being. "You'll do fine."
"You sound sure."
"Well, you don't have my superior baby juice to –"
"Baby juice?" She scoffed at his terminology.
"Would you prefer –"
"I don't even want to know how you're going to finish that sentence."
He looked dismayed. "No? I've got some good euphemisms you might like."
"I don't want to puke."
"Fine. I won't say anymore, although I don't appreciate this censorship of yourself. My point is: even though you are using what I can only assume is sperm from an inadequate donor, your hips are perfect for childbirth. And I can't think of a single human being that wouldn't want to get inside of you."
The back and forth was pleasantly distracting her. She was about to throw his logic back in his face – if every person wanted her, wouldn't he want her as well? – when her nurse returned to start the IV that would deliver the sedative.
They were about to begin.
House did his best to keep Cuddy's attention on him by silently making faces and judgments as the nurse tried to find a vein. It didn't work though. If anything his attempts to make light of the situation highlighted how serious the matter really was.
Cuddy tried to stay calm, but she felt her reality deeply. There was no way she could put it that would make her feel better. It wasn't just medicine anymore, and motherhood was no longer something simply on standby. As she waited for the procedure to begin, she could see that the lie she had told others had evolved into a lie she told herself. Maybe it had always been a lie, the product of someone too naive and immature to understand how hard wired human beings were to reproduce. Perhaps there'd been a time when she really hadn't cared about having children, when it truly had been a back up plan. Whatever the case, it certainly wasn't true now, and there was no way to convince herself otherwise. As they began feeding her the sedative, she felt in her bones just how much she wanted to be a mother, how she longed for someone to call her "Mommy."
Tiredly, in a moment of confusion, she looked over to House. There was no way he could know what she was thinking, but she expected him to be mocking her. She anticipated her final moments before delirium overtook her to be of him looking at her as though he couldn't believe how clichéd she'd become. But that wasn't the expression on his face.
To her surprise, he looked concerned, human.
She opened her mouth to say something to him. He might have told her something in those last minutes before she was mentally gone. If he did speak though, she had no idea what he said. In a drug-induced haze, she was no longer aware of anything at all.
When she woke up, she could tell time had passed. Given how confused she was, it was hard to say how she knew that to be true. Perhaps she had heard him say so or someone else say it. She couldn't remember.
"You did fine," House told her reassuringly, although it took her a moment to understand what she had supposedly done okay at. "They were able to retrieve quite a few –"
"They're not s'posed to tell you that." She was groggy, but she knew that much.
He tapped his cane on the ground. "Well, technically they didn't."
"Then how –"
"I might have read your chart on the door outside when they weren't looking."
She was too tired to care. "Oh."
"Go back to sleep, Cuddy." She couldn't help but listen to him then, forty minutes after that, and on the car ride home. The benefits of twilight sedation included the ability to return to normal much faster than general anesthesia. That was true enough in her case usually, but the benefits didn't seem to be all that evident this time. The second House pulled onto her street, she was eager to get out of the car and go to bed.
With efficiency he helped her do just that, not even pausing when she asked, "How'd I get dressed?"
"I helped you," he said gruffly, jerking the sheets down for her.
She was awake enough to ask, "Are you telling me what to do?"
"Yes. Now lie down."
Cuddy pointed her index finger at him as though she had a point to a make. Her mind thought she should tell him that the only reason she would even consider doing what he wanted was because she had already planned on doing everything he said. She'd independently come to the same conclusions; she wasn't following his orders, thank you very much. But words seemed beyond her capabilities as he helped her into the bed. And when her head hit the pillow, the thought dissolved in her mind almost as quickly as consciousness slipped from her control.
If she was completely out of it in real life, she found herself far more active in her dreams. Whatever she looked like to anyone watching her, mentally she was unable to settle.
She dreamed of House. They were back at the clinic, pulling her down the hallway as he searched for the sperm collection room. He was eager to find it, hand on her wrist as he tugged her along for the ride. "It's here somewhere," he said with determination.
She tried to stop him. "Don't. This is stupid. I already have what I need."
"You're gonna let an obese ginger sperminate you? Really?" He looked at her with disgust. "Well, I knew you didn't have standards but..."
"Oh, go to hell."
He wasn't listening by that point, however. His gaze was on the door behind her. "Aha! Here it is." Without any concern for her, he pushed her out of the way.
"You're not supposed to go in there," she tried to warn him.
But he'd already entered the room, her words ended by the sound of the door slamming shut in her face.
And yet, though she had been left outside, she was suddenly in the room with him. She was standing in the corner, more of an observer than an actual presence in the tiny space with white walls. A couple was having sex on a TV hanging from the ceiling. Magazines lined a table, and in one of House's hands was the specimen cup he was supposed to ejaculate into.
Cuddy was sure she was dreaming then. She wasn't supposed to be in this room any more than he was, and she certainly didn't want to see him touching himself. Her eyes shifted to the door, but she couldn't move to reach the handle. No matter how hard she tried, her feet wouldn't shuffle closer to an exit. Her gaze somehow fixed to him once more, she was forced to watch as he tried in vain to masturbate.
It wasn't working.
He changed channels on the TV several times. The volume was on mute, so he tried to turn it up, hoping that the sound would help turn him on. His thoughts hers, she could hear his disappointment when he realized that the television had been muted permanently. She could sense the desperation he felt as he flipped through the magazines in search of something that would make him hard. Nothing seemed good enough, which made her laugh at his impotence.
And then she was back outside of the room in the hallway. Her hand on the doorknob, Cuddy was slipping into the room in secret. This, she thought, made no sense, as the last thing she wanted was to be in a room that had the sole purpose of getting men off. Her body wouldn't stop moving however. In spite of whatever reservations she had, she was pushing into the room once more.
House looked over at her at first in surprise, then in embarrassment that he tried to cover. "I can't do it," he confessed before she could even ask what was wrong.
"I think I can help," she said flirtatiously. Her mind railed at the sight of her hand reaching over to him. Mentally she recoiled at the idea of jerking him off. But she was transfixed as her fingers slipped around his soft cock.
Slowly she started to bring him to hardness.
Then she looked up, and it was no longer House she was touching. It was the redhead he had brought her in to meet, the man he had said she would never even consider dating.
Cuddy jumped back in surprise. "What?" she asked, knowing that this stranger couldn't possibly explain what was going on.
The shock overwhelming, the scene shifted again, and she was in a hospital bed giving birth. Her body cramped painfully as the life inside her tried to rip its way through her. Wilson sat on the couch with her mother, awaiting the birth. They were knitting a pair of booties for the baby, although how Cuddy knew that, she wasn't sure.
The pain was getting worse, but all she could think of was that she didn't know who the father of her baby would be. She had no clue at all, and if her mother knew that, Cuddy would never hear the end of it.
Questions and judgment, however, seemed inevitable. With one forceful push, she felt the baby slip out of her. A doctor from nowhere picked the tiny infant off the floor and held it up for everyone to see. In his hands was a mewling, perfectly white kitten.
"I don't understand," Cuddy whimpered, wiping sweat off her forehead. "I wanted a baby. That's – that's not –"
"That's just wonderful, Lisa," her mother interrupted with palpable disgust. "Now I'm going to have to knit two more booties. Do you know how hard it is to knit booties?"
"No." Cuddy shook her head. She didn't, and she didn't care. All she could think was how she would never hear the end of all the pussy jokes House would want to tell her.
With that, she woke up with a start.
Her bedroom was silent, save for the sound of her rasping for air. Instantly she understood what the quiet meant.
She was alone.
At some point, House had left her. Why her instinct was to believe he would stay she couldn't possibly explain. He was the kind to oversee a procedure. He was not the type to hold her hand afterwards and fret over her. In any case, she'd made it clear that she didn't want him around. No matter how much he was seemingly willing to help, this was not his journey to take.
There was no part of him in a laboratory right now, no corner of his mind occupied by the embryos being created. Mild interest on his part could not compete with the need driving her. If this round of treatment didn't work, maybe he would offer to help with shots during another cycle. His heart would never be in it though, and as a result, he didn't have the same need to see this succeed. Eventually, if (and she told herself that this couldn't possibly be the case for her) she was met with several failures, he would stop insinuating himself in the process. The newness of the experience awoke his curiosity, but disinterest would evolve into a lack of interest over time if her body didn't do what everyone had told her it was aching to do. He didn't care to begin with, but as time wore on, he would want her to stop caring as well, she thought.
That was not something she could do. Well, she didn't know that. Maybe her ambivalence all these years had been proof that she wasn't truly interested in being a mother. Perhaps hearing the words – "You'll change your mind" – had made her see a desire that wasn't there.
But alone in her quiet home, beads of sweat unwinding down the side of her face, she knew that was a lie. Something had changed within her. Work should have been as satisfying as it had always been, and if it wasn't, there was a reason. If she had woken up one day with dreams of sticky hands, large brown eyes and dark curls, and the sounds of laughter, if she kept having those dreams, the reason was obvious. There was no poison at work, no one whispering madness into her ear; she was acting of her own accord, self-determination putting her in that doctor's office and getting her this far.
Now she just had to hope that would pay off.
The next few days were awful, a preview of what was to come. Her embryos were being created, nurtured until they were well enough to be implanted. And for someone as controlling as Cuddy, it was a struggle to trust that task to another person. Obviously she couldn't have done the job herself. She was a good doctor but not at that. Short of conceiving through sex, she had to rely on another physician to help her. But it was impossible to act as though nothing was happening. She buried her focus on work, as did House, who seemed to want nothing to do with the wait.
It failed to be enough. Her thoughts meandered to this child she was trying to have, the baby she needed. It was pointless to wonder what would happen, but she couldn't help it. What would it be like to be pregnant? What would it feel like if she weren't pregnant? Would she be ready to try again right away? Money wasn't an issue, but mentally, could she go through the process again? If she failed, if this were the one thing she couldn't get right in life, what did that mean?
Cuddy didn't want to consider the what ifs. She liked to deal with facts, not theories that were at this point impossible to prove. Really, all she was doing was driving herself crazy with questions she might not ever need to ask. Knowing that, she resolved to ignore reality. She would know what to ask herself soon enough.
Her intentional neglect left her surprised when House turned up on her front door the morning she was to have the embryos transferred. They hadn't talked about it; she'd made a point not to say anything about this next phase. But he somehow knew.
She was about to leave for the appointment when he knocked. As was the case the last time, she wasn't interested in having him tag along.
"You don't have to do this," she said, hints of agitation infused in the words.
He pretended not to notice. "That's why it's called an offer."
"Then consider it rejected. I'll be fine."
"I'm sure you will be." He was trying to be uncharacteristically diplomatic. "But you're also going to be there for a few hours, and you're not going to have anything to do."
She rolled her eyes before reaching into the briefcase she had dangling off her arm. Briefly, she slipped a few manila folders out for him to see. "I have charts with me."
He waved her form of entertainment off. "Charts? You're going to be so bored."
"Like I said, I'll be fine."
Cuddy pushed past him so she could lock up the front door. Mentally she hoped he would leave, but she wasn't surprised that he remained where he was on her porch. His gaze trained on her, it was too much to hope for that he would accept no and leave. She didn't have the patience for it.
"What do you want from me?"
His answer was simple. "I want to come."
He shrugged. "Because. I'm the closest thing you have right now to a baby daddy –"
"Actually, the closest thing I have to a 'baby daddy,' and I am truly thrilled that you're calling it that, is the man whose sperm I'm using." She started to head toward her car, but he just followed her. "Stop following me."
He didn't listen. "That might technically be true, but he doesn't know you're about to attempt to have his child, so –"
"And so what?" she asked, opening her car door. With frustration infused into the act, she dumped her briefcase onto the seat in front of her. "It's an implantation. I can do that alone. I don't need anyone to hold my hand, and if I did, I don't understand why you're volunteering for that job."
He was visibly uncomfortable at that point. His cane knocked against the gravel in oddly timed beats. Briefly he looked away then back at her. "Because you've included me up until this point."
"Because you meddled in my life and found out what was happening."
He tried to write his behavior off. "I was curious."
"Well, that's great, House. Now you know what's going on, and you can walk away, because there's nothing left for you to figure out," she said with a harsh honesty that made him blink in surprise. "The rest of this is the 'boring' part with all the emotions."
There was something about his demeanor that suggested he didn't like the way she reduced his motives to nothing more than unfeeling curiosity. He didn't seem hurt, not exactly anyway, but there was just something about those large eyes of his that conveyed some sort of sadness she didn't understand, didn't want to understand.
For a second, she thought she saw... She didn't know. There was something, a brief flash of... lust or maybe irritation. House was a man who, while not devoid of emotions, typically kept them safe from prying eyes. For someone who seemed to have no interest in respecting others' boundaries, he had no trouble depending on everyone else extending the courtesy he could not. Over the years, she had tried to see beyond the gruff demeanor. Sometimes, she thought she saw something, only to realize later on that what she'd seen had been nothing but her own need to see more reflected in him. Rarely did she feel that he'd let her in.
Right now it was impossible to say which kind of moment this was.
Mentally she settled on lust. The way she denounced his motivations was revealing for him his own humanity. She thought, hoped.
His gaze shifted downward to her mouth for a second or maybe he just couldn't handle the chill in her eyes. Was he going to kiss her? Or did she just want him to? Did she want him to?
The path was chosen for her.
Without warning, he stepped closer. She watched him in equal parts fear and curiosity as he lowered his head. She knew what that meant, what would happen, and suddenly she felt nervous for reasons that had nothing to do with the baby she was trying to create.
His lips brushed against hers with a tentativeness she didn't know he possessed. As if he couldn't understand why he was doing this, his mouth quivered against hers. The mix of need and fear was something she explosively sympathized with, eliciting an interest in him that scared her. Beholden to the emotion, she started to kiss him back.
But then just as the moment occurred, it was over. There was no time to speculate why. He'd simply decided for them both how this would go.
"You're right," he said sarcastically, stepping away.
She knew better than to believe him. "Really."
"Yup. I have no reason to care, right?"
They weren't fighting… not exactly. He was angling her for something, which was not unusual for him.
"House," she said with a quiet exhale. "I… didn't mean that. But I don't have time for… this right now. I have to go."
He was calm. Perhaps he was beginning to regret his decision to kiss her. "Fine." Shrugging, he told her, "Call me if you need me."
She smiled, amazed how sweet he could be sometimes. All the years she had known him, and he remained just as enigmatic as the day she'd met him.
"I will. Thank you."
That ended the conversation. Without a word, he walked toward his bike and quickly drove away. As usual, she was left to deal with the aftermath of his confusing behavior.
Perhaps he had intended that all along. He'd spent the last few days giving her her space, which frankly she didn't mind. Whatever her dream meant, it had involved him, touching him... or at least trying to touch him. She hadn't thought that indicated any sort of attraction on her part, any real desire to be with him. The dream had lacked logic to begin with, which was reason enough to pretend it had never happened. Trying to understand what any of it meant would be, she felt, a waste of her time. But if she'd allowed herself to rely on House to get her through this impossible wait, she would have to consider her behavior, subconscious and otherwise. So no, she didn't care that he had ignored her this week. If he were willing to avoid her for that long though, it seemed deliberate that he would show up here now. His kiss seemed calculating in that light. Maybe he was hoping it would offer her some sort of distraction while a doctor filled her womb with the child she was desperate to have.
If that were his plan, it was a dumb one. Nothing could or in the end did take her mind off what was happening. How could it? This was the culmination of several weeks of work and the beginning of nine more days of torture, of not knowing. There'd been dozens of injections, ultrasounds, hours of waiting and hoping – working towards something that she was beginning to understand in her marrow might not yield any positive results.
If he'd been hoping to distract, he had needed to do far more than that.
In the hours she spent at the doctor's, rarely did House cross her mind. Her focus was at first on the discomfort of the procedure and then firmly planted on the life she was hoping to create. There was no way of knowing whether or not this round of in vitro would work, not now anyway. The implantation went well, no complications, but that was decidedly different than actually being pregnant.
As planned, she passed the time looking at charts. House wasn't wrong to think that she needed something to occupy her mind while she remained lying down afterwards. The paperwork she brought with her, however, did the best anything could do... which was to say that it didn't work at all. She didn't think that his presence would have fared better.
The mystery of his behavior lingered in the back of her mind, but she didn't have time to dissect his motivations. Since their singular tryst, they had as a potential couple only displayed a knack for bad timing. They had not demonstrated any indication that they could or would last should they ever broach the possibility of a relationship. For that reason alone, she had never gone back for more.
Until today anyway. There was no point in entertaining a dalliance that would probably make things awkward for them both after it ended.
That didn't change now, wouldn't, she tried to tell herself. If anything, if she read his motivation right, his timing had worsened over the years. The last thing she wanted right now was to start a relationship with him.
She was too busy trying to have a baby. She didn't have time for anything else, to nurture a bond with anything other than the potential child growing within her.
And when the pregnancy test came back negative nine days later, that didn't change things. When, after five more agonizing days of waiting, her doctor instructed her to stop taking the progesterone that would aid her pregnancy, when Cuddy was forced to admit defeat, she didn't think of House as a consolation prize. She refused to think of him at all, because if she did, she knew she would go to him. She would stand on his doorstep not because of a desire for him, but because she needed someone, anyone, to comfort her.
As it turned out, motherhood had not waited for her all along. If she wanted this, she would have to go through the process again. She would have to fight for it.
But that was why she stayed away from House. She wasn't about to give in.
Never one to give up, Cuddy refused to cry when her period came. Defeat would not happen this early on. As much as she didn't want to be one of those women who clung to whatever fertility they could find, she was even less interested in accepting her limitations.
Jaw set, she would have to try again.
She would try again.
As tempting as it was to rely on House, to seek comfort in his arm and his kiss, she knew this wasn't the right time.
She wanted a family.
She did not need a lover.
Still, although no one said it, when she made her decision, she couldn't help but hear those awful words in her head. Like a song – You'll see.
You'll change your mind.
She was up to the challenge.
And if she did reconsider a relationship with him, maybe, she thought, that wouldn't be so bad after all.