Cuddy stayed in hospital for the following two days, and House spent a good deal of his time there. Over the duration of those two days, the reality that he was a father had sunk in marginally. Talking it through with his psychiatrist had helped - again, only marginally. When he'd gotten to her office and explained that Cuddy had given birth, Megan had congratulated him with a big smile. But seeing his less than thrilled expression, she'd quickly sobered and got straight to the point: "How do you feel about it?" she'd asked.
"If that question was any broader, it would be big enough to host a monster truck jam on," he'd retorted.
Megan had simply sat back, crossed her legs and rested her hands on her lap. "Alright, we'll break it down into more manageable bites. What's her name?"
And so House began talking about Emma, about how much she weighed at birth, about the actual birth itself, guided by Megan's questions. At last, she steered him in the direction of fatherhood. "What did you feel the first time you held her?" she asked.
"A baby, oddly enough," he replied. Megan just stared at him, waiting patiently for him to answer the question properly. He sighed and looked away, picking at the upholstery of the chair's arm with his finger and thumb. What had he felt? He'd felt a whole range of things, none of his which had seemed real. In fact, he wasn't even sure he'd felt something other than numbness at the whole surreal situation. "I don't know," he answered. "I guess scared."
He shrugged. "I'm responsible for a human life now. What's not to be scared about that?"
"But you've built a career on being responsible for people's lives. Does that typically scare you?"
"I get a thrill out of it. I'm good at doing it."
"But you're not good at being a father?" Megan raised her brows sceptically at him. "How do you know that? You haven't even tried it yet." House opened his mouth to answer but found himself stumped. Megan beat him to saying anything, anyway, with another question: "What makes this particular life so scary, Greg?"
"Because," he replied shortly. He was already tired and grumpy enough from having little sleep and having these thoughts swirling around in his mind. He didn't want to dwell on it any further. But then he sighed again. "Because. Because... because patients don't mean anything to me beyond a puzzle to solve, or an idiot to hand a prescription to. Patients come, patients go, it's part of my job."
"So, what you're saying is, you find this particular life scary because she means something to you."
House looked away again. He wanted to say that was a loaded question. Except Megan was right. "I guess," he admitted quietly.
Megan watched him for a beat. "Would it help to point out that you mean something to her? Even if she's not aware of it right now, she's aware of your voice. She'll become aware of your scent, your face, everything about you. You'll become one of the only two people she'll look up to with utmost trust - again, even if she's not aware of it."
He knew she was trying to be reassuring but talk of 'utmost trust' made more nervous than anything. He wasn't a person to be trusted at the best of times and he knew it. How could he be someone worth trusting when it came to being a parent? Honestly, he felt - just like he did with Cuddy - like he wasn't being taken seriously, that both Megan and Cuddy were vesting too much optimism in him. Or that they were telling him he was being stupid. Maybe he was being stupid but to him, his concerns were legitimate.
"You don't look convinced," Megan noted dryly after a pause.
"That's because you're a terrible liar."
Megan cocked her head to the side with her most convincing 'you know I don't bullshit you' look. House couldn't help cracking a small half-smile at that. He didn't like that she knew him as well as she already did... but he also appreciated, too, that she did. He appreciated, too, that he couldn't pull any wool over her eyes, as much as he'd tried to originally. The rest of the session went fairly quickly, Megan probing more thoughts out of him about Emma, and about Cuddy. Towards the end, he was yawning and rubbing his eyes, tired from the night before and tired from talking about all of this.
"I think we'll end it there for today," Megan said, glancing at the clock on the opposite wall. She scooted forward, then rested her hands on her lap. "I have some homework for you to take home this week," she said. House groaned to himself, which she ignored. "This week, I want you to not think about the future. The future can wait - you've got years for it to happen. Right now, what matters is Emma, Cuddy and you, all of you being a family. I want you to write a list this week, of all the things you notice about Emma. Don't write the list all at once. Write things down as you notice them. It could be anything - her eyes, the things she notices, how she responds to you when you hold her. Anything at all."
"I'm paying you a hundred and eighty dollars a week to talk to you and you want me to write lists?"
Megan smiled, knowing he'd find something to complain about. "Maybe spending the week closely observing and noting things down will help you get to know Emma more. That's what's important right now."
"Am I going to get marked on this?"
"I want you to bring the list with you next week and we'll talk about what you've written down." She stood from her seat. "Speaking of writing down, I need to write you a new scrip for amitriptyline..."
That session with Megan had been on Tuesday. It was now Friday and Cuddy was due to be discharged that very morning. He'd had a restless sleep the night before and woke up unreasonably early, too early to go to the hospital and too early to do anything besides attempt to fall back to sleep. After a futile half-hour of trying to do just that, he gave up and rose from bed, jumping straight in the shower before doing anything else. The morning was bright and sunny and a weather update on the TV while he ate some toast informed him that it was going to be a hotter than usual May day. Once he'd stepped outside after brushing his teeth, he could already feel the heat warming the air up and it was barely ten o'clock. Helmet fastened on his head, bike jacket on, he mounted his bike and pulled out onto the road to drive to the hospital.
Ten minutes later, he was parked up in his spot and headed for the entrance once he'd pulled his helmet off. When he reached Cuddy's room, the first thing that greeted him was the strong smell of flowers, her bedside cabinet crammed with flowers in vases, some with 'It's A Girl!' balloons sticking out of them, and a small collection of toys piled on the floor by her bag. He was greeted with the sound of Emma wailing in her bassinet, too - a hysterical, angry cry and when House edged around the flowers to take a look at her, Emma's face was bright red, mouth twisted open and her fists clenched tightly. He dropped the helmet on the bed and picked her up and the moment he had her settled up against his shoulder, she was rooting around hungrily for a nipple. Her cries, which had faltered for the moment in search of a boob, turned back up to full volume when she couldn't find anything to latch onto.
"Alright, alright. It's not the end of the world," he said to her, jerking his head away as one particular cry hit his eardrum at a deafening pitch. Cuddy wasn't in the room; he turned on the spot, looking the doorway and then at the bathroom door, which was open ajar. "Cuddy?" he called.
- Friday, May 18 - morning