DOCTOR, MAKE IT BETTER INSTANTLY

you're the only one who can

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Friday 1st of June, 2007 - late afternoon
i am: hanging out in the kitchen
whatstheddx wrote in cuddys_house
"No offence," Wilson said, reaching for another fry from his plate, "but it's probably a combination of not just Cuddy being tired but I wouldn't be surprised if she's also seeing a little too much of you. Cabin House fever. You know how your charming presence rubs off on people."

Seated on the other side of the formica table in the cafe he and Wilson had decided to dine at for the night - one of their 'boys nights out' - House eyed Wilson while clutching his burger between his hands. Sauce dripped onto his plate, along with a couple of stray strands of shredded lettuce. He was unimpressed by Wilson's assessment, having confided in him over dinner what was going on between Cuddy and himself, but he also knew Wilson probably had a point. In fact, the thought that he and Cuddy were seeing too much of each other had already crossed his mind. Fatigue would only exacerbate that, too. It had been a few days since their somewhat horrendous day at home where Cuddy had lost the plot and he'd lost the plot even further.

He glanced down at the burger, then hunched over to take a large bite. "So, what are you suggesting?" he asked, his left cheek bulging out as he chewed. "I back off for a while? Pay only arranged visits to see Emma?"

Wilson was dabbing and dragging a small bunch of fries through a blob of ketchup he'd squirted on the edge of his plate. He shook his head. "Why do you always jump to the most extreme and ridiculous conclusion?"

"'Cabin House fever' doesn't exactly paint a quaint picture."

Wilson wiped his mouth with his napkin. "I was making a point."

"That point being?"

"That Cuddy needs a break. From you, from Emma. And she tired. Meaning, you should do something for her."

House thought about that for a moment. With nothing coming to mind, he asked, "Like what?"

Wilson gave a show of hands. "She's your girlfriend. You come up with something." He gave a quiet, exasperated sigh when House leaned in with a direct and prompting look on his face. "I don't know. Hire a babysitter. Take Cuddy out somewhere, somewhere she enjoys."

"As if Cuddy would leave Emma alone with a babysitter," House retorted.

Wilson couldn't deny House was wrong there. He shrugged. "You look after Emma, then. Let Cuddy go out for a day."

"She probably wouldn't want to do that, either. The kid is always permanently attached to some part of Cuddy's anatomy."

"Fine. Arrange something for Cuddy, so she has to go out. But make it something good, something special. Something she'd get something out of. Maybe as a token of appreciation for her on your part, as well."

"Like...?"

"Like... something relaxing for her. A day spa, perhaps. A massage. A place where they do the whole pampering thing. You'd be giving her the best of both worlds then - relaxation and time away from you."

House turned his gaze away thoughtfully. That actually wasn't a bad idea, and one he hadn't even considered until right now. Cuddy had complained quite a few times of feeling bloated, fat, aching, a whole bunch of adjectives that he didn't agree with but there was no arguing a woman into common sense when she was convinced she looked as bad as she claimed she did. Setting his burger down, he reached across the table to snatch a few of Wilson's fries. "Every once in a while, you solve all my problems."

"Glad I could be of help. You have your own fries, by the way," Wilson replied impatiently.

House just shrugged and, feeling more relaxed now he had an idea in mind, smirked triumphantly as he popped the fries in his mouth.


* * *

It was heading for late afternoon when House pulled into Cuddy's driveway. He'd headed out earlier in the day to grab some groceries while Emma was down for a sleep, also to grab a few things from his apartment. He'd also done a bit of research into the local day spas around Princeton and came up trumps with a place that he was certain Cuddy would like.

The only thing that had had him hesitating was the number of packages and what the hell Cuddy would like most. Eventually, he'd settled on a gift certificate after the woman behind the desk had talked him through the different things the spa had to offer. It was an "essentials" package, which came with a facial, a Swedish massage, lunch, manicure and pedicure, and hair treatment - a full day at the spa and fully paid for once he handed over his credit card.

The gift certificate was tucked away in his jeans pocket while he carted the groceries into the kitchen and brought in a backpack of stuff from his apartment. Emma was awake; after giving her belly a rub and tickling her chin while she lay on the floor, happy and kicking, he went back to the kitchen to help Cuddy put the groceries away. "She sleep long?" he asked, gesturing for Cuddy to pass over a few items so he could put them away in the pantry.

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"Well..." House screwed his face into a look as though trying to work out if this something he had for her was good or bad. It was definitely a good something. Or he thought it was a good something. Therefore, Cuddy was surely going to think the same. Or so he hoped.

"Let's just say it's a bad something, that way you're expecting a bad something, because that's always the safest option with me. That way, that bad something will be an even better - or badder - surprise."

Sounded logical enough to him. He eyed her while she had her eyes closed and he considered for the briefest moment slapping her outstretched hand just to startle her, seeing she'd chosen to trust him. But then of course, she'd exact revenge somehow.

He dug his hand into his jeans pocket and pulled the gift certificate out. It was enclosed in a cream coloured envelope, which had crinkled slightly from being stuffed in his pocket. He unfolded it and bent it back into shape, peering down at the calligraphy writing across the front that read A little something for you. He hadn't written it - it was a pre-printed envelope the woman who'd served him had tucked the gift certificate into. He would have preferred something a little more, well, typical of him. Mind the anthrax, or something along those lines.

Tapping it a couple of times on his palm in thought, he then stretched it out and laid it on Cuddy's hand. "Hope you've got tomorrow free," he said. "Because I've arranged a little something that's going to take up your whole Saturday."

"Nothing with you is ever safe," Cuddy said dryly, forcing herself to keep her hand out and her eyes closed. She didn't really mean it...except just a little. House was not a 'safe' person. Sometimes that was a good thing, very good. And sometimes it wasn't so good. The problem was she could never anticipate which way his surprises were going to go.

Her eyes shot open as he laid the envelope in her hand but she was reacting to the fact this surprise was going to take a whole day, not the barely noticeable pressure of the envelope across her palm. Her shoulders tensed as she gripped the envelope. Did he mean she was going to have to be away from Emma for a whole day?

"Did you sign me up for a stripper's convention?" she asked. She slipped her finger under the flap and popped the envelope open. She pulled out the gift certificate and stared at it for a moment, trying to take it in. A spa day sounded amazing and heaven knew she could use a little pampering. But right on the heels of those thoughts came the feeling she shouldn't do it. That she didn't deserve it. She had a new baby to care for and she didn't think she should be skipping off and indulging herself.

"It's...exactly what I need," she said. She looked up at House, her expression uncertain. "But a whole day?"

"That did cross my mind," House joked in a dry tone about signing Cuddy up for a stripper's convention. "But I kind of want my balls to stay intact."

He watched her open the envelope, already with a slight ominous knot to his stomach. If the way Cuddy looked was anything to go by, she didn't seem too thrilled about the gift. Well, she seemed on edge more than anything, perhaps because she thought there really was some kind of prank inside the envelope.

For a split second, his stomach loosened with relief at Cuddy's reaction to the present, that it was exactly what she needed. But he really should have seen the next comment coming. He'd known she wouldn't have been the slightest bit thrilled to have babysitter, simply because she'd get uptight and not want to leave Emma in the care of a stranger. He should have known an entire day at a spa wasn't going to sound like a dream day for her.

He quietly sighed. "Yeah. A whole day." In the background, Emma was still playing, making noises and occasionally the toy gym rattled whenever her hand smacked against one of the toys. "Meaning," he continued, "you go to the spa thing, and I have Emma for the day."

He raised his brows hopefully at her. "I mean, it's not like you'd be leaving her with someone you don't know." He paused, a thought occurring to him. "Unless you don't trust me."

"Yeah, but...a whole day?"

A day at the spa would normally be her idea of heaven on earth. Facial, manicure, massage...dear god a massage would be damn near orgasmic. She'd feel like a new woman after a full day's treatment. A new woman who was relaxed and happy and actually looked like a competent, professional, put-together woman. She'd almost forgotten what that looked like let alone felt like. She'd like to remember feeling that way, she really would.

And yet.... And yet she felt guilty at the idea of leaving Emma for the day just because she was struggling to deal with motherhood. Her loss of control Sunday morning was still all too fresh in her mind. Even though she'd been doing better emotionally over the last couple of days, she still felt she needed to get a better grip on being a mother and that wasn't going to happen if she ran off to the spa every time she got down, even if it was House's idea and not hers.

"No," she said, abruptly pulled from her thoughts when House questioned her trust. "No, I know you can take care of her. You proved that." She looked down at the certificate in her hand. She wanted to be pampered. She definitely wanted it but....

"It's not about you," she continued with a subtle shake of her head. "You're fine with her. It's me. It's...I haven't exactly got this Mommy thing down. I haven't earned a day off."

Perhaps with the way he'd had his own meltdown, Cuddy had a right not to trust him. Then again, if that was the case then it had to go both ways. And he trusted Cuddy with Emma. In fact, that wasn't something that even crossed his mind. He begrudged the thought that maybe she didn't trust him because it wasn't like he'd been completely incompetent with Emma, as much as he remained doubtful that he was actually doing the job of being dad the way he was supposed to.

He waited for her reason, a slight frown on his face, and when she explained he looked away with an impatient roll of his eyes. "You haven't earned a day off?" he echoed incredulously. "What, you have to work so many hours as a mom before you're entitled to your annual leave?"

Honestly. He supposed he ought to have been more understanding, because he knew just how difficult Cuddy made things for herself when it came to things she deserved. If she perceived something as a failure, she had to work her ass off until she got it right, and if she didn't get right, she was a failure. And so on and so forth. Not a lot unlike him but this was different.

"If you object to a whole day, then how are you going to plead when I have Emma on my own for a whole night? You going to talk crap about not 'earning' it?" He reached for her hand and pushed it closer to her, making her accept the gift. "I say you've earned it. And if you not going to agree with me, then I'll just drive you there myself tomorrow morning and dump you outside the place."

"It's not just whether I've earned it."

That was a big part of it, though. She had no objection to pampering herself, to buying the expensive clothes and jewelry she liked, to eating at a good restaurant or going to a spa, but she had to feel like she'd done something to deserve it. Maybe that was silly but it was the way she'd been raised--you had to work for the good things in life or they didn't mean anything.

Beyond the issue of having earned a day at the spa, there was also the issue of being away from Emma. House's comment about taking Emma to his place for a night only reminded her how stressful that was going to be. She knew he wouldn't do anything wrong...well, he would do things wrong by her standards but Emma would survive. Cuddy would survive, too. It was simply the thought of not having her baby close at hand. She wasn't sure she was ready to deal with her separation anxiety.

"No, that won't be necessary," she said. She had no doubt he would drag her to the spa but that wouldn't be helpful. She either had to go voluntarily or not at all, because she wouldn't enjoy herself if she was forced to go. She might not enjoy herself even if she wasn't dragged but the odds were a little better.

She looked down as House pushed her hand close to her body, and then she looked up at him. "And what am I going to do about these?" she asked, waving her other hand at her breasts. She got uncomfortably engorged just waiting between Emma's feedings. She couldn't imagine the pain of going all day. "I'll have to take the breast pump with me or they'll explode."

What would be necessary, he wanted to argue. To him it was like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. True Cuddy didn't struggle often with Emma but this week had been difficult for her and when he tried to do something that he thought she'd appreciate, she knocked it back.

He clenched his teeth, the beginnings of annoyance starting to creep in. He didn't want to have to actually persuade her to have a day to herself - that was completely backwards. Didn't women usually jump eagerly at facials and massages and pampering? More than that, he honestly thought when he'd purchased the gift certificate that Cuddy would be touched and truly grateful for his thoughtfulness. And instead...

"So take the breast pump," he countered, exasperated. In truth, he hadn't actually thought too much about that aspect, which was his fault. He supposed that he just assumed Cuddy would find some way to deal with it on her own. He pressed his lips together, the corner of his mouth cocked up in thought.

Just then, he heard Emma letting out another sound, a somewhat unhappy one this time. Maybe it was best to let Cuddy think over the gift he'd given her, he decided. "I'll go see what's up," he said before Cuddy could have a chance to go to Emma's rescue.

Grabbing his cane where he'd left it hanging off the side of the fridge where he'd hooked it while putting groceries away, he headed out to the living room. "Hey, hey, what's this?" he asked in a mock stern voice to Emma whining again. Her gums were bared while she pulled an unhappy face, hands bunched into fists by the sides of her face.

He stooped down to pick her up, watching her squirm in his hands until he'd laid her against his shoulder. Almost immediately, she calmed down, seeming to just want to be cuddled. "You rascal," he chided her good naturedly, looking down at her nestled against him. "All that yowling just to get attention."

She grumbled into his shirt, head bobbing against his shoulder before she turned her head, her mouth coming into contact with her fist. Straight away, she started sucking, now apparently happy. House bounced her lightly, one hand rubbing her back. "You know, if I did that, your mom would stuff a sock in my mouth."

"I'll either have to take the pump or Emma," she said. She wasn't sure which would be more distracting but it didn't really matter. She obviously couldn't take Emma with her. God, but what a pain in the ass a breast pump was going to be. She was going to have to interrupt her day and find a private place to go pump at least once during the day. Either that or sit there hooked up like a dairy cow while she got a pedicure.... No, that wasn't going to happen.

She heard the exasperation in House's voice before he ran off to check on Emma. He must've thought Emma would be the more pleasant option at the moment, and she couldn't blame him. He'd done something he thought was thoughtful--and it actually was thoughtful--and she was only looking at the downside. It wasn't his fault he couldn't fully understand the tangle of emotions and thoughts she was having right now. Half the time she didn't understand them.

So now, because she didn't have this Mommy thing figured out, she'd hurt his feelings. He needed to learn to let some of her hormonally charged thoughts roll off him but she also needed to learn to just keep her misgivings to herself instead of trying to talk them out with him. He always took it as a personal rejection and she should know better by now.

She followed him to the living room, gently stroking the back of Emma's head as she approached them. "He's right, you know," she told Emma. "Mommy doesn't put up with this whiny nonsense."

She looked up at House with a rueful expression. "I'm sorry. You did something nice and I should've just said thank you instead of worrying about all the details. So thank you."

Emma squirmed slightly at the soft stroke to the back of her head but otherwise remained contentedly sucking on her knuckles. House glanced at Cuddy, at her apology. He wasn't sure a thank you mattered anymore. A thank you wasn't even what he'd been after. What he'd wanted was for Cuddy to be glad and happy that he'd thought of her, that he'd not only given her a chance to have a day completely to herself but to completely indulge in luxury, too.

While he now knew he should have expected Cuddy to make some kind of remark about not 'deserving' it, he hadn't expected Cuddy to seem so, well, indifferent. He'd thought she would kill to have a day to herself. Admittedly, he hadn't taken the breast feeding situation into account as much as he should have.

But if Cuddy really wanted to go to the spa to have a day to herself, she would've found a way to deal with the breastfeeding thing. He was sure of it. Which meant she didn't even want to go to the spa. Maybe he was taking it too personally but the whole spa thing was partly him trying to make up for the stress he'd put her through the other day.

He just shrugged and turned back to Emma. "Doesn't matter. Saying thank you isn't going to get rid of the details, is it?" He stepped away, bouncing Emma as he neared the couch and he sat down. He pulled her away from his shoulder and sat Emma on his lap. He jiggled his good leg a little, bumping her up and down and he watched her staring back at him with various odd expressions.

"Maybe you should think about quitting the whole breastfeeding thing altogether and just stick with formula so arranging things isn't such a pain in the ass."

"It does matter. I should've just said thank you and shut up." It obviously mattered to him. Clearly he wasn't happy that she hadn't started dancing for joy when he'd given her the gift certificate. She couldn't help that--she just wasn't in a 'dancing for joy' place--but she knew she needed to give him positive feedback when he made an effort to please her, even if he didn't get it just right. Otherwise, he'd just stop trying.

As for the details.... Well, she should be able to cope with the details. Half her job at the hospital was dealing with details. Running a hospital was very different to being a new mother but the basic organizational skills required couldn't be all that different. She ought be able to manage better.

She started to gather up the freshly laundered and folded towels from the couch as House took a seat. She turned to stare at him, stunned, when he told her to stop breastfeeding.

"You can't be serious," she said, grabbing at the towel on top of the stack as it began to fall off. He knew as well as she did breastfeeding was the best way for a baby to get its nutrition. Formula was adequate--plenty of babies did just fine with it--but it would always be the second best option for a healthy mother. And Cuddy was healthy. A little frazzled, yes, but healthy. There was no good reason for her to quit breastfeeding. Her own inconvenience certainly wasn't a good reason. Unless...House thought she simply wasn't capable of handling everything.

"I know I haven't figured everything out but it's only been a couple of weeks," she said, grabbing the rest of the towels and washclothes from the couch and shoving them haphazardly in her arms. Her face was flushed--a little bit of anger but mostly a feeling of humiliation at the suggestion she couldn't handle being a mother.

"Just give me a little more time. I'll get the hang of it."

House was serious... though, mostly out of frustration than because he actually thought her giving up breastfeeding was a good idea. Emma screwed her face up into a yawn, then returned to staring up at him and moving her eyes around, looking at the world around her. No, of course he wasn't serious about Cuddy giving up breastfeeding, he thought while he watched Emma. In fact, now he felt a bit guilty for saying that in the first place because it wasn't Emma's fault he could never do things right.

He clicked his tongue at what Cuddy said next and looked up at her. He could see from the somewhat pinched look on her face that she wasn't happy, perhaps stung by him telling her to give up breastfeeding. If her response was anything to go by, she was taking it as a slight towards her entire ability to be a mother.

"Did I say anything about you not having it all figured out?" he replied pointedly. "I never said that." Emma interrupted with another yawn and a brief whiny grizzle, an indication she was tired and ready to sleep. He scooted to the edge of the couch and stood, lifting Emma back to his shoulder and holding her there securely with one hand while he fetched his cane. "Be back in a minute," he told Cuddy, and Emma chimed in with another irritable grizzle.

Once in the nursery, he quickly checked Emma's diaper, practically a pro at it now, and changed it for a dry, clean one. Being moved around and exposing her bare ass to the air made Emma even more irritable; she squirmed and started crying, which House ignored. His way of dealing with Emma when it came to bedtime was swift and with as little fuss as possible, not wanting to deal with having to soothe her when she needed to learn to do that herself. He put her straight into the crib and swaddled her tightly, making her crank up her crying several notches in volume, and he slipped out of the room. He closed the door behind him, muffling Emma's unhappy, tired wails and headed back to the living room.

Cuddy must have gone to put the folded towels away, though, because she wasn't in the living room when he returned. House went on a search for her, coming to a slow stop by the doorway when he found her. "Look, I'm still figuring this whole parenthood thing myself," he said in a less confrontational tone than earlier. "You know that. Feel like I'm still figuring out this whole relationship thing, too, especially now there's three of us in it."

In the nursery, Emma was still wailing, though the cries were starting to lose their edge against fatigue. House sighed and gave a one-shouldered shrug. "You need time out as much as I do, as much as any parent does. Admitting that doesn't make you a bad mom. I want you to have some time out. Relax. Recharge your batteries. Maybe figuring everything out will be easier if you do. I mean, you'd tell any other mother who was tired and stretched thin to do that, so why wouldn't that also apply to you?"

He might not have used those specific words but as far as she was concerned, his words implied he thought she didn't know what she was doing. Or maybe that she simply wasn't doing it well. Either way, she felt like he felt she was incompetent, which only dragged up all the other times he'd told she was incompetent. The times he'd told her she wasn't a 'real' doctor, the times he'd told she was a failure with men, the time he'd told she was only good for test tube babies. All those old hurts lingered right under the surface and it didn't take much to bring them right back.

When House took Emma to the nursery, Cuddy marched down the hall to the linen closet, her arms full of towels. She shoved them in the closet, her jaw set stubbornly. She refused to give into all the negative feelings that had been dredged up. She couldn't stop the feelings but she damn well was going to control how she reacted. She wasn't going to completely lose control of herself like she had the other morning.

She shoved the closet door closed once she'd unloaded all the towels, then she walked on into her bedroom. She could hear Emma crying and that only got on her nerves. She could tell they were half-hearted cries, the kind that would fade pretty quickly without help but it still grated on her. She wrapped her arms around her chest and paced the room, trying to not hear the crying.

She stopped and looked at House when he came to the doorway. She listened to him and.... Yes, she needed a little time to herself but she wished he'd ask her what she needed or wanted instead of just telling her. Going out to meet a friend for coffee or going to the spa for just a massage--that would help. Being pushed out the door for an entire day was causing her more distress than taking care of Emma did because she didn't have any more control over that than she did of anything else in her life right now.

"I'm not saying I don't need some time to myself. I'm not ashamed to admit that sometimes I need a little peace and quiet. But...."

And she couldn't tell House any of what she was feeling because he wouldn't hear what she needed, he'd only hear a rejection and she simply could not cope with that fight. She needed to talk to someone who understood but she didn't know anyone who would understand. She didn't know anyone else with a new baby and a genius boyfriend with serious psychological issues.

She closed her eyes and cringed when Emma let out a faint wail. It was killing her to not go and hold her baby and comfort her. "If I ask you to give me a hug, will you do that?" she asked. "Just hold me?"

"But you said..." She'd said earlier that she didn't feel she'd earned having time to herself. Or that was how he'd interpreted it. How else could he have interpreted it? Then again, he and Cuddy never seemed to speak the same language. Her meaning of something was often an entirely different meaning to him. God, she confused him sometimes.

The only thing that stopped him from pursuing his argument was the distress manner in which she was composed. The defensive way she hugged herself and the strained look on her face - that was all he needed to know that she was uptight and upset and pursuing any kind of argument with her right now was only going to end in some kind of catastrophe. Definitely not the result he expected of bringing her home that gift certificate.

Emma's cries were quickly becoming feebler and feebler, turning into weary grizzles more than anything. Within another few minutes she'd be fast asleep. When Cuddy asked him to hold her, he really wanted to ask what the hell he'd done wrong. What had been so wrong about wanting to care for her and make sure she was looking after herself? And trying to make her feel special in the process? Those were the sorts of things women liked; how did he manage to somehow get it wrong every time?

Slowly, he stepped into the room and approached Cuddy, stretching an arm out to her shoulders. He pulled her in to him, embracing her in a tight one-armed hug. A moment later, he looked to the side to toss his cane over to the bed, then wrapped that arm around her middle. For several moments, he did nothing except hold her close like she'd asked.

"I was just trying to make you feel special," he murmured, a little remorseful, though he wasn't entirely sure why remorse was necessary when he didn't even really know how he'd upset her. Sure, maybe he hadn't thought of the breastfeeding issue more thoroughly but how was that something to get so uptight over?

"I know you are. I appreciate that. I know it doesn't seem like it but I do."

God, and now she had to feel guilty for not appreciating his gesture enough. The thing was, she did appreciate the thought behind the gesture, it just wasn't the right gesture. Or maybe it was the right gesture but the wrong time. Whatever the reason, it wasn't making her happy or relaxed.

All she would've asked for was a couple hours to herself, a couple hours when no one was making demands of her, not Emma, not House, not anyone. Instead, he'd--unwittingly--placed one more demand on her. She really had no choice but to force herself to go to the spa for an entire day and pretend to be happy about it, which was only going to undermine the result he'd been aiming for--she was going to end up more stressed than before.

Her only other choice was to refuse the gift and that would only make him unhappy which would reinforce what an ungrateful, selfish bitch she was being. She was especially sensitive to that because she knew she was supposed to supporting him as he tried to recover from his psychological problems. She didn't have the luxury of being selfish.

She had her arms wrapped tightly around him, her cheek pressed against the wrinkled fabric of his shirt. She needed this--being held and comforted--more than she needed a day at a spa. She'd go, though. She'd be stressed out no matter what she did but if she went, at least she wouldn't be contributing to his stress.

"It's okay," she said quietly, pulling back slightly. Her face was pale but composed. It wasn't the first time she'd had to make the best of a situation. It was only one day. She'd manage.

Whether she claimed to appreciate it or not, Cuddy didn't sound even remotely glad or happy. She sounded... weary. House really wanted to ask her what on earth he'd done wrong. Here he was, thinking he was being considerate and caring and supportive, and it turned out he'd done none of those things.

While he held Cuddy to him, absently rubbing a hand on her back, he stared across the room at nothing in particular with a feeling of defeat. If the gift and the gesture of wanting Cuddy to have time to herself wasn't going to work or wasn't the right thing to do or whatever the hell his actions had turned out to be to her, then he wasn't sure how to do anything right. The slightest thing could set Cuddy on edge, be that him doing something a certain way with Emma or even something as minute as putting her to bed.

"No, it's not," he replied as Cuddy pulled back. He looked down at her tired, strained face. If she wasn't going to enjoy going to the spa for the whole day, if it genuinely stressed her out rather than made her happy, then there wasn't any point in her going. He wasn't trying to contribute to her stress and unhappiness and yet, somehow he had.

He gave a subdued shake of his head. "You don't have to go if you don't want to. Not if it's only going to make you more stressed." He hesitated, then asked, "What wouldn't make you more stressed?"

"It is. It'll be fine," Cuddy insisted. She felt horrible for messing up his happiness. She knew he'd been excited to give her the day at the spa. She knew he really meant to make her happy. It wasn't really his fault she couldn't accept the gift with the same enthusiasm he'd had in giving it to her.

"I don't know," she said when he asked what wouldn't make her stressed. There probably weren't a lot of options these days but.... "Just having a couple hours to myself even if all I do is go to the coffee shop and spend an hour drinking an over-priced latte. Or window shopping. Or...anything where no one's telling me what to do or expecting anything from me."

And something where she didn't have to bring a backpack of supplies just to get through the day. Taking a whole day meant dragging the breast pump with her, interrupting whatever she was doing and finding a place to use it...which meant she'd probably end up in a toilet with a machine attached to her breasts and thumping away for everyone to hear. Then she'd have to find a refrigerator to store the expressed milk in.

Even if she got to pump every time she needed to, she'd still leak--because she always did--so she'd have to keep her bra on at all times and keep a supply of nursing pads handy. She couldn't forget a supply of sanitary napkins, either, because she still had that mess going on. House might think it was no big deal to go out for a day but she suspected he'd change his tune if he'd had to drag that crap with him on his day out with Wilson.

Ultimately, it was simply more work than it was worth to go out for the day. And that didn't even take into account the fact she really wasn't ready to be away from Emma that long. Taking care of Emma was a big part of what was wearing her down but she didn't want to be away from her or shirk her responsibilities. She wanted to take care of Emma; she simply wanted a small respite so she'd be in a better mood while she did it.

She leaned in against House again, her arms resting loosely around his waist. "Will you be angry if I call the spa and try to rearrange things a bit?" she asked. "Maybe I could just get a massage tomorrow or a pedicure or something and reschedule the rest for another day."

It wasn't going to be fine. Even if Cuddy woke up tomorrow and pretended to be excited about the day to herself, he'd know full well that it was an act and that she wouldn't enjoy the day. Great.

So much Wilson's 'advice'. His suggestion of House surprising Cuddy with a day at the spa would have worked had Emma not been something he had to consider. It went to show that Wilson had about as much of a clue about looking after a new mom as House did. And it also went to show that as much as House thought he'd adjusted to Emma being part of life now, he really hadn't.

As Cuddy moved back in to resume holding him, House tightened his arms around her again and sighed. He shook his head. It didn't really matter now what Cuddy did with the arrangement he'd made. Of course, he wanted her to go. But he wanted her to want to go and he could truly see now that forcing her to go wouldn't do anything good for either of them.

"Whatever makes you happy," he replied. "You don't even have to go at all if you don't want to. If you'd prefer to go out for a coffee, window shop, sleep... Or reschedule the entire spa thing to another time. Whatever you want to do. It's up to you."

"I do want to go. It's a good idea," she said. "It's just...too much to do all at once. I need to take things in smaller bites right now."

She truly had nothing against getting a massage. Or a manicure or a facial or any other pampering the spa had to offer. She liked being pampered. She could use a little pampering, House was right about that. She simply couldn't cope with the demands it put on her, however small those demands might seem to anyone else. She needed a break from demands--that was the whole point of going to a spa.

House didn't do small bites, though. It was all or nothing with him and he didn't understand that she was more comfortable following a middle path. Extremes of any kind made her uncomfortable. She admired his ability to go all out but it wasn't her way.

She pulled her head back and looked up at him. She lifted her hand to his cheek and tilted his head down so she could meet his eyes.

"I'm sorry. I know you wanted to make me feel better, and the fact you wanted to make to make me feel better does make me feel better," she told him. "It's just the details of the plan that need a little tweaking."

He supposed he understood her needing to take things in smaller bites. Truthfully, he hadn't thought about it that way. He hadn't thought about how such a thing as a whole day out could be too much for her, in terms of breastfeeding. Or other ways. He hadn't once thought of a day at the spa as a demand on her, not in the slightest. He'd seen it as a nice surprise for her, something for her indulge in and escape the daily grind for a while. His heart had been in the right place, though. He thought so, anyway.

He looked down at her when she urged him to with her hands on his cheek. He gave a slight shrug. Cuddy could insist all she wanted that his intentions had been good ones but the fact was he'd still managed to let her down. Being caring and loving came so easily to some people. Not that he was incapable of love and care - he loved and cared about Cuddy hugely. But some people just knew how to do the right thing, how to say the right thing, have the right timing, the right answer to their partner's stresses.

He... didn't. He'd had the same problem with Stacy plenty of times - being insensitive when she needed him to be considerate, being considerate but in a way that didn't always come across as he intended it to, being what he thought was loving or caring, only to end up faced with a distressed or distraught partner. Juggling that between a partner and a baby took all of that to an entirely new level, as he was just as new to parenthood as Cuddy was.

"Maybe..." he said hesitantly after a moment's thought. An idea suddenly struck him. "Maybe you could have the day to yourself at the spa. The whole day, with the whole beauty blitz. The spa's not that far from here - fifteen minutes by car, tops. I could bring Emma to you for her feeds. I know that's not technically giving you the whole day to yourself but... at least that way you wouldn't have to worry about storing milk and you'd get to see her..."

He trailed off. The more he listened to himself, the more he realised Cuddy probably wouldn't go with a plan like that. Too much fussing around. But it was a compromise, and that was something she'd told him she wanted him to make more effort towards.

He shrugged again, though. "Just an idea," he added, a little flatly this time, knowing Cuddy probably wouldn't want to go ahead with it.

"That would just make a lot of work for you," she said when he suggested he bring Emma to the spa. It would, too. Just getting Emma in and out of her carseat could be a challenge, and then toting along the diaper bag--just in case--not to mention if House didn't time it right, he'd have to listen to a hungry, screaming baby.... She understood he was trying to find some way to give her a day off but it didn't seem worth it just to bring her to Cuddy to nurse. Especially since it would only cut a little bit of bother out of Cuddy's day.

His suggestion did bring up some other ideas, though. "What if I take half a day--spend the morning at the spa--and you bring Emma to me around lunchtime and I could nurse her then?" If she nursed just before leaving, she could probably manage without pumping until lunch. She'd be uncomfortable and feeling like her breasts were going to burst but she could manage. Emma would probably need a bottle around mid-morning but Cuddy knew he could handle that without any trouble. The timing might not work out perfectly but it was doable.

"And then, when I'm done nursing, maybe we could go out to lunch...?" she suggested. She'd let her hand slip down from his cheek to his chest and she gave him a small pat over his heart. "We haven't gone out for a meal for...a long time. We could just go to the deli and grab a couple sandwiches. If the weather's good, we could even go to the park and have a little picnic."

She looked up at him with hopeful expression. "It might be nice for all of us to get out of the house for a while."

He hmm'ed in reluctant agreement that taking Emma to the spa for feeds was a lot of work. He and Cuddy hadn't really taken Emma out much and he'd definitely never taken her out on his own. Surely he'd be fine, though. He'd learned a lot about taking care of her in the last two weeks. All he'd have to do was put her in the car and take a couple of diapers. How hard could it be?

Still, trying to time the whole thing was going to be tricky, so he conceded to himself that Cuddy was right. He was trying to think up some other brilliant plan, determined to make tomorrow work somehow, when Cuddy then suggested bring Emma in at lunch time. While she talked, he pursed his lips in thought.

He really wanted her to enjoy the whole day at the spa. If he had it his way, he'd make her enjoy an entire day at the spa. Making her definitely was out of the question, though, and he could see now that no matter what he tried to arrange, Cuddy simply wasn't going to enjoy a full day at the spa regardless of how thoughtful his idea was or how much he fussed around to make it work. He didn't like compromise but he also couldn't find much to contest against the idea of having lunch together, all three of them, and going to the park. And she was right - maybe getting out of the house would be good for all of them.

"Okay," he agreed after a moment's hesitation. He nodded and reaffirmed, "Okay. We'll do that." He paused again, thinking once more. "If you like, I could grab the sandwiches from the deli before picking you up. Less fussing around if Emma needs to be fed straight away, less fussing around if we do end up going to the park."

He raised his brows, silently prompting Cuddy to tell him if that was a good idea. Then he went on to add, "I'll call the spa tomorrow morning and tell them about the change in plans. Harass them if they refuse to be lenient for whatever reason."

Cuddy relaxed a bit when House agreed to her suggestion. He could be so incredibly stubborn when he got an idea in his head. She'd fully expected him to keep pushing for a full spa day even though he now knew it really wasn't the best idea for her. His willingness to compromise--however reluctant it was--took some pressure off of her.

"That's...probably a good idea," she agreed when he volunteered to swing by the deli first. She could make sure the diaper bag was packed and all he'd have to do was get Emma and the bag in the car. Of course, things never turned out as simple as they should when a baby was involved--or when House was involved--but she thought he'd be able to manage a stop at the deli. She'd love to be a fly on the wall, though, and watch him cope with a baby as he did his errands.

She smiled and shook her head when he threatened to harass the spa employees. "If they know what's good for them, they won't argue with you." Even people who had no prior knowledge of House learned very quickly it was better to let him have what he wanted. Those who insisted on arguing, well, they got all the stubborn, pissy genius they could handle. Of course, she didn't just let him have what he wanted but that was completely different. She argued with him for his own good, and she firmly believed that.

"Thank you," she said, looping her arms up around his shoulders and lifting up slightly on the balls of her feet to kiss him. "For the spa treatment and for compromising on half the spa treatment."

"Kinda hoping they don't know what's good for them. I love a good argument."

Sensing Cuddy relaxing made him relax a little. He returned her smile with a brief but devious smirk, leaning down slightly to her when she drew him back into another embrace. Meeting her lips, he circled his arms around her waist. "You're welcome," he replied. "Though, the compromising part was only because between my balls and your knee, I choose my balls."

Not that Cuddy had been heading in the direction of anger towards him but her moods could be damn unpredictable. And he'd done his share of putting her through the wringer this week. The whole point of the spa was to make her relax and getting her wound up and uptight and even angry wasn't one of the aims of giving her a gift certificate to be pampered for a day.

He pressed his lips to hers again for a few seconds, then tightened his arms and pulled her closer to him for a tighter embrace. With his chin on her shoulder, he stared across the room with a quiet sigh and then closed his eyes to focus on just her. He turned his head towards her more, letting the way he enveloped her as close to him as he could say the apology for him for making her tense.

Nuzzling the side of her neck and her cheek soon led his mouth to meet hers, the kiss starting soft and quiet. "I'm pretty positive," he murmured in between another kiss, "that tomorrow, you'll wonder why you even made a fuss and won't want to leave, doesn't matter how much your boobs are reaching critical mass."

"I've noticed," Cuddy said dryly when House admitted he liked a good argument. It was one of the first things she'd learned about him all those years ago at Michigan. The problem was he didn't just like a good argument, he liked any kind of argument. He argued just to argue and it could get damn tiresome in a relationship.

It wouldn't be so bad if she weren't so stubborn. She didn't like being shouted down. It only made her more defensive and more determined to stand her ground. With House, that was like throwing gasoline on a fire. They were a combustible pair...which didn't have to be a bad thing but they did have to learn to manage it.

She relaxed in his arms, content to engage in some easy kisses. Emma had fallen silent, presumably asleep, and that was one less thing scraping at her nerves. She could focus on House and simply enjoy a quiet moment with him.

"Hmmm...maybe," she murmured. She knew she'd enjoy the actual spa treatment--that wasn't the question. It was all the other little attendant details that made her tense. Maybe she was foolish to let all the other stuff get to her but it's the way she was wired. Paying attention to the all details was also what made her good at her job. That didn't stress her out as much because she was used to it, she knew what to expect. She thought that as she got more comfortable with new motherhood and everything settled into a routine, she'd be less stressed about it, too.

She gave him another soft, lingering kiss, then pulled back and slid her hand down to his. "Come on," she said, nodding at the bed. "I'm going to rest a little while Emma's napping. You can keep me company."

He hoped she enjoyed it as much as that. He wasn't too happy he had to compromise, much less happier that Cuddy hadn't received the gift with the gratefulness and appreciation he thought she would. In a way, it felt like... well, failure. I should have been easy to pick what Cuddy wanted and yet he hadn't, he'd gone with Wilson's extravagant idea of an entire day at a spa. Next time, though... There'd always be next time.

When Cuddy pulled away and grasped his hand, he rubbed his thumb over the back of her fingers and let her tug him closer to the bed. "All these demands," he whined in a pretend weary voice at her telling him to keep her company.

He didn't really object to the idea of keeping her company. He'd had a fairly busy day and it was heading into evening. Soon he'd be hungry but for now, relaxing with Cuddy on the bed sounded like an okay idea to him. While she got into bed, he crawled over the top of her and collapsed onto his side of the mattress, on top of the bed covers. Rolling onto his back, he stretched his legs out and propped his hands under his head, tilting his head back and turning it side to side to stretch his neck.

He relaxed with a sigh, then frowned. "Wait. Am I keeping you company the whole time?"

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