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Tempered V



Making Three: Part One







The birth had become the stuff of legend, goaded on by House’s glares, scowls and silence; for a few weeks conversations stopped when he entered the cafeteria or lounge. He gloried in the ability to make nurses stare over their shoulders at him, and the custodial staff move out of his way.

Cuddy didn’t talk about it much either, and that helped add to the mystique. Once she and Lily had been checked in, checked up and checked out, she kept away from Princeton-Plainsboro, sequestering herself away at Blue Brook Dairy for the duration of her maternity leave. House himself stopped in only once every few days, mostly to prowl around and ignore his mail; Cameron chided him.

“You have to bring one. All dads have at least one.”

“Not me.”

“Some of us would like to SEE her,” Cameron persisted with a grin that twisted away under House’s direct stare.

“Why?”

“Why? Because she’s your daughter.”

“And you want to see if she’s got stubble, or excellent taste in music? She’s a small pink blob in a onesie most of the time, with no more personality than a can of chickpeas. When she’s not latched on to the two-tap milk bar, she’s sleeping or filling her diapers. Come to think of it, that’s not a bad gig, actually,” House looked thoughtful. “I’d do it, if it wasn’t for the hair bows and booties.”

“Hair bows? Does she have hair?” Cameron asked wistfully.

House shook his head. “As bald above as Chase is below—“

“House!” Cameron huffed, her cheeks going red.

House snorted. “In any case, no, I haven’t got a photo, and before you ask, I’m not passing out cigars, either. I’m not about to waste a perfectly good box of Cohibas among people who couldn’t, or wouldn’t appreciate them.”

“Fine. Maybe I’ll just stop in myself and see how Cuddy’s doing then,” Cameron commented firmly. “And bring some chocolate while I’m at it.”

House shot her a glare of grudging admiration. “Devious. But you’ve got to make it through the Austrian High Command first, so I think not, rookie. The Farber is determined that ninety percent of visitors Shall Not Pass, you know.”

“Austrian chocolates. And a skein of fluffy pink wool,” Cameron persisted. “Angora, soft as the baby rabbits it was combed from.”

House winced.

Before Cameron could press her advantage, the door to the Diagnostic office opened and a huge bouquet of flowers walked in. Or rather, was carried, blocking out the delivery man behind it. Suspicious, House rose from his desk and ambled around to look at the towering rise of roses, carnations, baby’s breath and tulips, all in various degrees of pink.

“So?” Cameron asked, signing for the flowers.

House plucked the card from somewhere among the blooms and opened it. “Congratulations on the successful delivery of your Lily-chan.”

“From Mr. Hinoshu,” Cameron guessed brightly. House shot her a withering look.

“No, it’s from Professor Oak.” Before Cameron could question him on who that was, he strode past the bouquet adding over his shoulder, “get rid of it. Don’t care how, just do it.”

House moved on down the hall, tucking the note into his pocket. There was more on the card; characters that although polite enough, carried another meaning to them. He made his way to Wilson’s office and entered, not bothering with the niceties of knocking.

Wilson looked up from his record-keeping and sighed. “Let me guess—Cuddy kicked you out.”

“Nope. I’m doing my bit for domestic harmony by staying the hell out of her way during prime time,” House replied, his attention focusing on the file on Wilson’s desk. “Who’s your patient?”

“Teenager with leukemia. Last round of chemo, seems to be working,” Wilson revealed, closing the folder up. “What are you doing here, really?”

House paused, and then looked around the office, which put Wilson on the immediate alert. He narrowed his gaze, his suspicion evident in his look. “House?”

“Hinoshu sent flowers,” House muttered in a low voice. “Along with a request that he be made godfather.”

Wilson’s considerable eyebrows went up. “Godfather? House, neither you nor Cuddy are particularly . . . religious.”

“Precisely. And I’m not going to cater to the whims of Bank of the East, even though that’s exactly what Cuddy is going to want to do to keep the goodwill and cash flowing.”

“So . . . he wants to be Lily’s . . . Godfather? Is Hinoshu even Christian?” Wilson wondered aloud. House shot him an irritated glare and moved towards the window, staring out of it morosely.

“No. But he wants some lasting connection to Cuddy, and he’s using this opportunity to make one. He’s phrased it in such a way that to turn him down would be insulting. Sneaky . . . . I have to respect that about the old boy.”

“So . . . “ Wilson asked delicately, “What are you going to do?” House didn’t answer right away, but eventually he turned from the window and managed a grim smile. Wilson blinked, feeling new trepidation at the sight of it. “House--”

“I think,” he murmured, “That a trip to Hawaii might be in order.”

He left, and Wilson looked after him, shaking his head as he twirled his pen in his long fingers. “Of course. That’s the solution right there. Whenever an outside threat looms, run to our fiftieth state. Why didn’t I think of that?”

*** *** ***

When he walked in, the house was quiet. The Christmas tree was lit up, and House could smell something vaguely stew-like in the air. He looked over at the recliner, and saw Cuddy curled up there, one full, perky breast exposed, humming a little. Her hair was back in a ponytail, and her attention was focused on the slightly squirmy bundle cradled along her arm. She glanced up at him as he approached.

He looked down at the pair of them. “Out of my chair.”

“Dad’s home,” Cuddy grumbled to the baby, and grudgingly began to clamber out of the recliner. House took Lily, bringing her up to his shoulder, absently cradling her head as he watched Cuddy rise and stretch.

“She done?”

“Yep. She’ll need a burping though,” Cuddy warned, her smile soft. “Want a rag?”

House took it grudgingly, having already experienced the warm gush of spit-up more than once in the past week. He carefully settled himself down into his recliner, managing to balance the baby as he did so. Cuddy did up her nursing bra and closed her blouse, then put her hands on her hips. “Mind if I go take a quick shower?”

“Where’s Marlena?”

“Taking the dog for a walk down to the creek and back,” Cuddy replied. She was very careful not to comment about the way House had Lily against his shoulder, his big hand lightly rubbing her back, even though the sight left her feeling inordinately tender towards them both. “Shower?”

House nodded. He waited until he heard the elevator rise up, and then carefully pulled Lily away from his shoulder, studying her. The baby blinked at him and he sighed. “So. Anything new with you?”

She didn’t answer, and chose to mouth one tiny fist, bubbles of milky drool building at the corners of her mouth. House smiled briefly, his dimples deep as he watched her for a moment, easing out his right leg along the extended recliner. He rested the baby against his stomach and let her curl her little fingers around his index finger. “Yeah, you’re working on a diaper load; I can tell. I’ll give you a buck to wait until Nana ‘Lena gets back.”

Lily yawned, and halfway through, belched loudly, making House grin once more. He wiped her mouth with the rag. “Nice one—your mom teach you that?”

Before she could fret much, House had brought Lily back up to his shoulder and begun to rub her back again through the bunny-covered onesie, humming a little. It wouldn’t take long—he and Cuddy had this down now: she’d do the feeding, and he’d do the burping in the evenings. Generally Lily cooperated by eating and belching and usually falling asleep on his shoulder while he took in a journal or a racing form.

It was just something to do, he told himself. For some reason Lily seemed to like him, and that was okay. Even when she cried she liked him—House could tell. It wasn’t personal, and he suspected if he had pants full of crap or a sore belly he would cry too.

Come to think of it, he’d been in both situations during the infarction and he’d certainly cried then, not that anybody knew it.

He shifted the warm weight of the baby closer to his neck, and looked to the table for something to read. When Mrs. Farber came into the living room fifteen minutes later, she found him still holding Lily, his concentration focused primarily on the latest issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. House looked up, scowling. “What?”

“You look—“ Marlena began, but he glared at her.

“--Don’t say it,” he hissed. “The C word is verboten in this context, nich wahr?”

Mrs. Farber drew herself up playfully. “—Tired, zat vos vhat I vas goink to say. Here, gif her to me.”

House tried to look at the baby nestled against the side of his throat without disturbing her; a comical twist of neck and eyes that made Mrs. Farber fight hard against a smile. “She’s fine where she is. What’s cooking?”

“Meat loaf oont potatoes. Gif me ze baby.”

“Back off, she’s fine,” House grumbled. “You can have her when she’s crying or bottom-heavy; that’s the deal. When do we eat?”

“Anytime,” Mrs. Farber sighed, and settled onto the sofa. The puppy wandered into the living room and circled around, then came over and laid down next her, resting the underside of his jaw on top of her sturdy, sensible shoes. She looked over at House and waited.

Marlena Farber was a general expert in several things: home economics, crochet, mid-capital investing, Sudoku. But the one topic she knew with pinpoint accuracy was Greg House. From the set of his shoulders to the flex of his fingers around the edge of the journal, she knew he was preoccupied this evening, and further, that whatever was on his mind was personal, not professional.

When House was working on something medical, his shoulders stayed relaxed, and he made a beeline for his music. He’d always been that way. When he was caught up in something more personal though, his agitation showed in several small tells.

To ask him would be useless; better to wait and let whatever was bothering him rise to the surface, so she did. Carefully Mrs. Farber picked up the tiny sweater she was crocheting and settled in, biding her time. For a while, all was quiet, with the distant sound of Cuddy’s shower filtering through the peace, but finally House shifted and set his journal down.

“Do you remember Futenma?”

Puzzled, Marlena nodded. She remembered the years on Okinawa clearly, although they weren’t the most pleasant. It had been difficult to keep Greg and his father from constantly clashing, and Blythe’s depression had gotten worse at that point, exacerbated by the isolation of life away from the States. The only true highlight of that tour had been the afternoon Greg had come home and with a firm look on his face, announced he wanted to be a doctor.

“Ja. Vot about it?”

“Naminouegu,” he murmured, looking thoughtful.

Mrs. Farber narrowed her eyes and looked over the top of her glasses at him. “Is ziss about Doctor Tanako?”

House shook his head. “No. I was thinking more about the shrine, but there are a few closer—one in Washington, and a few in Hawaii. Where would you rather go?”

She shrugged. “If I must choose between rrrain oont Macadamia nuts—Havaii off course. Mit sunscreen.”

“Wilson will give us gallon jugs,” House groused in realization, then lowered his voice when Lily stirred a little. “Hawaii then. End of March.”

Mrs. Farber said nothing, her mind running through all sorts of reasons that fell short of logic. Traveling with a newborn would be difficult, and for that much of a distance hard on everyone . . . on the other hand, March in New Jersey was cold, blustery and dreary; the appeal of sun and sand would grow the longer winter stretched on.

She paused and eyed him keenly. House ignored her. “Are you goint to gif me a rrreason?”

“No. And no telling the She-Beast either,” House muttered. “This needs to be handled delicately---“ as the words left his mouth, his nose wrinkled up and he shot a distressed glare at the diapered bottom along his clavicle. “—Annnnnd we have payload. Dear God, do the biochemical weapon teams know about this?”

“Bunny drrrroppings,” Mrs. Farber chided with a roll of her eyes. “Hardly even a smmmudge.”

“Not my department,” House declared firmly, and began to gently detach his daughter, who whimpered in a tiny fretful tone that made the puppy look up anxiously. Mrs. Farber rose and came over, deftly scooping Lily up and soothing her, shooting House a mock-glare as she did so.

“A big-shot grown man afrrrraid of a little doody--“ she chided, carrying Lily to the sofa and reaching for the changing bag.

House looked slightly sulky. “It’s not ‘a little’, and I’m not afraid of it. I’m repulsed by it.”

Mrs. Farber muttered under her breath in German; House reached for his cane and climbed out of the recliner. “I was too toilet-trained when you were hired—stop spreading lies, old woman.”

“Schtop being a . . . a . . . prrrrrissy pants, zen,” Mrs. Farber told him firmly, her hands working quickly to re-diaper tiny Lily. House shot her an incredulous look.

“That’s the best you can come up with? A prissy-pants? Gah!” Turning away, House stomped his way to the elevator. “Losing your edge, Marlena—“

She chuckled softly when he was out of sight, and picked up Lily, smiling at the little one indulgently. “Up ve go, liebling häschen mädchen—“

House reached the upper floor and stepped out, making his way into the master bedroom, half-amused and half-annoyed with Mrs. Farber. He stopped at the sight of Cuddy leaning against the doorway, looking pale and unsteady. “Lisa.”

“I’m fine . . . just stayed a little too long under the water . . . “ she told him in a low voice, flashing him a tired smile. “Nothing serious.”

“Go to bed,” he told her gently but firmly. “Stretch out. You need to rest.”

She arched an eyebrow at him suspiciously. “You’re not the evil twin I married—what happened to the REAL Greg House?“

He shot a quick look over his shoulder at the elevator and then glanced back at her. “Can I play with your bigger breasts?”

Cuddy laughed. “That’s more like it—for a minute I thought you were going all compassionate and caring on me there. No.”

“Not even a little?” House wheedled, staring at the damp cleavage peeking out above the towel wrapped around her frame.

Cuddy shook her head and moved past him to the dresser in the bedroom, pulling open the top drawer. “Sorry, they’ve become working girls.”

“Crap,” House muttered. “I consider that an unfair tease, you know. There’s a reason bust rhymes with lust.”

“Greg—“ Cuddy turned around and pulled a tee-shirt over herself; he recognized it as one of his, “--Get real. Sorry to do this to you, but we’re back to third base for you for a while here, okay? Hands on and lip service sure, but it’s going to be a while before we get back to rumpy pumpy.”

He rolled his eyes, but his smirk was still in place. “I know, I was there—before AND after, as you may recall. All I’m asking is—can I see the casabas just once, without a baby attached?”

Cuddy’s mouth twisted as she tried not to laugh; the soft little plead in House’s voice was nearly impossible to resist. She motioned to the bed. “Sit. Let’s get this over with.”

House shifted and sat on the edge of the mattress, setting his cane down and eyeing her expectantly. Cuddy came closer and grasped the edge of her tee-shirt, pulling it back up and over her head. “Fine. Here they are—“ she announced.

He cocked his head and stared, not blinking. Cuddy wasn’t sure what to do with her arms, and awkwardly twisted them up behind her head. House drew in a breath and leaned closer, his breath hot on her skin. “Whoa.”

“Stop it—“ She muttered, embarrassed and yet pleased, too. House slipped one hand behind her slender back and pulled her closer. “—House!”

“You . . . “ he breathed very softly, in a voice meant only for her ears, “ . . . are beautiful.”

“W-wh-what?” Cuddy stammered in confusion. House bent his head and lightly kissed each breast, then reached for the shirt and tossed it aside.

“You’re beautiful. But get your own shirts—I’m not going to have you stretching mine out.”

“You!” Cuddy growled, but House kept his hands behind her back and pulled her to him again, his nose going into the warm cleft of her bare cleavage.

“Oh yeah—“ came his muffled exclamation. “Not crazy about sharing, but if I get a grope in now and then, I’m good.”

Cuddy balled her fists, but slowly, gently she slid her arms around his shoulders to hug him. House turned his face to rest his cheek against one breast.

She and he stayed that way for a while.



                                                                                                                                                               Next Chapter




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