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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"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?"

"You ought to be used to that by now," she pointed out when he complained about all the 'demands.' She knew she really could be demanding. Most of her demands were work related and she rarely felt bad about that. If she didn't make demands, House would spend all his time at the hospital playing video games and chasing down the latest hospital gossip.

At home, though.... Well, she was so used to doing things her way without argument from anyone, she sometimes forgot she needed to allow House to have a say in how things were done. Even if his way was wrong, which she often thought it was. Still, objectively she knew there often wasn't one 'right' way to do things and she needed to be more flexible. It just wasn't easy to change the habits she'd built up over the years.

She got comfortable on the bed, stretching out and letting her muscles relax. She rolled her eyes when he started 'complaining' about keeping her company. "Yeah, that would be horrible, wouldn't it?" She rolled to her side and snuggled up to him. She rested her head on his shoulder and let her hand fall onto his chest.

"Tell you what--when keeping me company gets too tedious, you can go do...whatever it is you do when you're bored," she said. She rubbed her hand lightly on his chest, feeling the rumpled cotton of his shirt and the warmth of his body underneath it. "Until then, shut up," she added, her tone light. "Pillows aren't supposed to talk and right now you're my big, scruffy pillow."

He didn't mind keeping Cuddy company for a while if it meant her snuggling up to him. He never minded that, unless he was in an irritable mood. House did like it when Cuddy was affectionate to him, regardless how much he claimed to the contrary. Sometimes, affection was all he had to go by that Cuddy still loved him, despite their fights and their sometimes ugly disagreements.

"Hmmm," he mused with the corner of his mouth cocked up, pretending to sound displeased at the plan of having to hang around with Cuddy curled up to his side. "Just because they're not supposed to talk, doesn't mean this big scruffy pillow is going to conform."

Moving a hand from under his hand, he lowered it to her arm while her hand caressed his chest, and he lightly stroked his fingertips up her forearm to her elbow and back down again. He tilted his head down to look at her face, offering a mild upturn of his lips to her, then puckered them to silently tell her he wanted a kiss.

He shared two short pecks with her, running his hand up to her upper arm, and he urged her to meet his lips again to kiss her more deeply. The third kiss was longer and tenderer, their mouths lightly sucking against each other. Kissing was definitely a way to shut him up and sadly for him, he'd hadn't had many kissing opportunities with her at all since before the baby was born. Half the time he'd been too busy with Emma or busying himself to divert thoughts he didn't want to think about things like kissing. But when they ended up sharing one, it reminded him how much he was already missing that they couldn't just do this whenever they wanted to.

While their lips continued to gently suck and taste, he ran his hand over her shoulder and down her back and gave her hip a light rub. He opened his mouth a little more, inviting Cuddy to kiss even deeper, and at the same time he slipped his fingers under her shirt, pushing the material up a little as he started caressing her bare skin.

That was all it took to suddenly turn him on a little. He pushed his hand up further, feeling the small bumps of her spine and her rib cage, her skin warm and supple, and his kisses turned more searching and eager. Spreading his fingers wide so his hand was broad and outstretched, he rubbed up and down her back and he was just about to encourage her to shift that bit closer, maybe even climb on top of him, when he suddenly broke the kiss off.

His groin was already filling with heat and heaviness but he turned his head away to draw in a deep breath, to make his body unwind. Cuddy was in no state to have sex, not for a long while yet, not for another month or possibly more. Frustrating as that was, it was fact and he'd just have to deal with it until Cuddy and her body was ready. It was especially frustrating in that their moments together to kiss and cuddle were few and far between.

"Guess that's not the kind of company you meant," he said as a mild apology for suddenly coming on as strong as he had, lifting a hand to rub his fingers into his eyes.

Cuddy let out a soft snort. She'd never expect House to conform to being a pillow, or anything else. Sometimes she hoped he'd conform, just a little, because it would make life easier for everyone, but she didn't expect it. House had been born to break the rules.

She lifted her head when he silently asked for a kiss. She gave him two quick kisses on the mouth, then another playful one on the tip of his nose. She settled back, though, and kissed him more deeply when he wanted to continue.

The truth was, she hadn't even thought about sex since Emma's birth. It wasn't that she didn't enjoy being intimate with him because obviously she did. It was that the idea hadn't even occurred to her. Her mind and body simply weren't in a place where sex was even on the radar.

As the kisses deepened, she lifted her hand to caress his cheek. When they had these small moments to be alone together, it reminded her how much she appreciated his loving side. Yet, despite her genuine enjoyment of the kissing and even the feel of his hand against her skin, it didn't bring about the arousal it normally would. She was sure that would come back but for now, her body was stuck in post-baby mode. Sexy lover mode didn't seem possible.

She was just about to warn him not to get too worked up when he pulled away. "No, sorry," she said when he commented she probably hadn't lured him to bed with sex in mind. Hell, even if she wanted to, she couldn't have sex until she got the all-clear at her postpartum check up. Although, that only applied to intercourse. There were other things they could do, if she ever worked up the desire.

"Although," she said, slipping her hand down the waistband of his pants, her fingers resting lightly at the button. Just because she was living celibate didn't mean he had to. "I suppose I could give you a hand with that."

No, of course sex wasn't the kind of company Cuddy had had in mind. It hadn't even been on his mind either, not consciously, until they'd started kissing the way they had been a few moments ago. Spreading his fingers out from his eyes, he rubbed his hand down his face with a firm press of his hand, then draped his arm over his head, the back of his wrist resting on his forehead.

He closed his eyes to concentrate on not concentrating on sex, though opened one eye and peered down towards where Cuddy's hand had descended. So much for not concentrating on sex; a small spark of hopefulness struck up in him. He tried not to appear immediately too interested, merely raising his brows slightly at her.

He was never opposed to sex and opportunities presenting themselves, though he preferred it when his partner was interested, too. Cuddy was anything but interested and he knew that, he expected that. "You don't have to," he replied.

Though, even as he said that, he reached his hand down to meet hers and lightly touched the back of it. Tucking his fingers under her palm, he slid his fingers in between hers so their hands were twined and he gave her a thin-lipped smile. Quickly, he brought her hand up and kissed the back of it, then the inside of her wrist. Then he lowered their joined hands back down to his waistband.

"Though, if you want to..." he added airily, trying to downplay his eagerness in her offer.

"I know I don't have to."

If House had expected or--heaven forbid--demanded that she offer him some sort of sexual release, she would've smacked him. Hard. She didn't put up with that kind of nonsense from anyone, not even someone she loved. Sex had to be completely consensual or she didn't want anything to do with it.

She did love him, though, and he wasn't pressuring her to do something she didn't want to do. She didn't want sex so she wasn't going to have sex. She didn't mind giving him a little help if it would make him feel better, though. She'd rather do that than make him go jerk off in private or, worse, go home and watch porn. There was nothing wrong with the occasional little self-help session but she preferred they keep sex and intimacy as something they shared together as much as possible.

"If I want to, huh?" she said, chuckling low in her throat. She popped the button on his jeans. She had one eyebrow arched in amusement as she watched his reaction as she slowly opened his fly.

"You're such a guy," she murmured in response to his eager and hopeful expression. She leaned down to kiss him, a soft lingering kiss, as she brought his penis out through the open fly. Then she shifted her position to get more comfortable, leaning on her elbow at his side. He was just starting to get hard so she kept her touch firm but gentle as she wrapped her hand around him and began to give his penis slow, steady strokes.

"Well..." House tried to come up with a reason why she might not want to. Then he realised two seconds later that he didn't want her to come up with a reason not to. "Yeah," he reasoned. Yeah, only if she wanted to, because he would never demand or force her. But he definitely wasn't going to discourage her, either.

His interest piqued further when she popped his jeans button undone. He swallowed and shifted to get comfortable, though was still trying not to make it too obvious that he was now growing eagerer by the second. His stomach flexed slightly at the light touch of her hand brushing against it as she unzipped his fly and he bit his bottom lip with a still attempted neutral expression.

Seemed he wasn't doing a very good job of trying to remain indifferent towards this sudden and very interesting turn of events. He wanted to scowl at Cuddy at her smug remark and amused expression. "What else would you expect me to be?" he replied in a pretend sarcastic tone.

Lifting his head a little from the pillow, he met her kiss, closing his eyes as she tugged him out and began caressing him. He even tried to keep his kisses restrained in effort to not give Cuddy the satisfaction of jeering at him. But he was quickly growing harder in her hand and it wasn't more than two minutes later before he broke the kiss to get more comfortable.

"Hold that thought," he told her as he lifted his ass from the bed and shimmied his jeans and boxers down to the middle of his thighs. There. Nothing was in the way now. Truly unable to hide his eagerness now, he gave a luxurious stretch as he lay back down, his mouth upturned into a small, though affectionate and bright eyed smile that he sometimes got when he was getting lucky.

Reaching for Cuddy, he drew her back to him and kissed her tenderly, then let out a happy sigh, dropping his head back to the pillow as her hand started slowly working its magic on his erection. "Think I'm beginning to warm to the whole keeping you company thing."

Edited at 2010-01-06 02:15 am (UTC)

"A guy," she replied when he asked what she expected him to be. Although she got annoyed with him and his typically male reaction to sex or breasts or women in general--especially other women--it was also reassuring to know that for all his genius and his eccentricities, he was very much a typical man. His feelings were just like everyone else's, at least in the that respect. It made it easier for her to understand at least this part of him.

"There's a surprise," she said dryly when he admitted he was enjoying this. When he shoved his pants down she couldn't help thinking, what a horn dog. Still, she was enjoying it, too. Although she had no particular interest in sex at the moment, she liked being the one who gave him pleasure. It was a feeling of power and she always enjoyed that.

She kept her fist wrapped around his penis, pumping him slowly and steadily. At the same time, she watched his face, noticing the small muscle twitches, the fluttering of his eyelids that indicated just how much he was warming to the idea. Once he became fully erect, she grasped him more firmly, increasing the pressure of her hand around him. After a moment, though, she released him with a softly voiced, "Just a sec."

She rolled to her side and reached for the drawer in the bedside table. It only took her a couple of seconds to find a small bottle of lubricant. She squirted a small amount in her palm and then rolled back to his side. She ran her palm up and down and around the length of his penis, spreading a thin layer of lube.

"Better, yes?" she asked, looking at him. She could grip him more firmly and pump more vigorously now without having to worry about taking the friction to a painful level. Her fist glided smoothly along his length and she began to add little twists at the head to increase the stimulation.

House propped his hands back under his head as Cuddy stroked him with a slow firmness that for the moment felt incredibly relaxing. He closed his eyes to focus on it, his breathing steady and easy. It was when she dialled the stimulation up a few notches that he really started to feel less relaxed and more aroused.

He bit his bottom lip in between taking in slightly quicker breaths, and his toes and feet restlessly flexed as a reaction of needing an outlet for the slow burning excitement building in him. Cuddy suddenly stopping yanked him out of his reverie, though he patiently waited while she'd rolled away to rummage through the drawers. With her back to him, he stretched a hand out to rub her back, a gentle and loving caress that was also a hint that he was eager to get on with the show.

When she returned to him, he tensed at first, at the coldness of the lubricant on his skin. It didn't take long at all for that to change to a wonderfully arousing sensation, though, as Cuddy rubbed and squeezed and resumed stroking him.

"Much better," he murmured lazily. Oh yeah, this was definitely much better, the way her hand glided in firm, faster strokes. He tried to relax so he could enjoy it for as long as he could but it wasn't long at all before he was squirming slightly with quicker breaths and small movements of his hips.

He turned his head towards her and opened his eyes. Tucking his arm around her, he rubbed her back and the back of her neck, small and encouraging massaging rubs, then lifted his other arm across to her to pull Cuddy into a kiss.

He sucked on her lips and slid a hand into her hair, holding her as close to him as he could. He wished he could pull her onto him, hold her tightly while he entered her because in some ways, as good as this felt it didn't feel like enough. He'd missed this kind of intimacy with Cuddy a lot.

"Faster," he murmured into her mouth before pressing another sucking kiss to her lips. He gasped quietly against them, his whole body now a little more rigid and restless.

It was just as well handjobs didn't require her full attention because House kept distracting her wanting kisses. She leaned on her free arm, pressed against his side so she could lower her head to capture his mouth. Or maybe he was capturing hers. This was one time when it didn't matter who was 'winning.'

She kept her hand moving steadily along his length although she varied the pace and pressure in an effort to find the right combination to increase his pleasure. Sometimes she lightened her grip until her hand was barely skimming the surface of his penis and rubbing her thumb in circles over the head. At the same time, she used her mouth to play with his, sucking at his lips and flicking her tongue over his lower lip when he gasped.

When he asked for more, she tightened her grip on him. She pumped him firmly, slowly increasing the pace that her fist was sliding up and down his length. She also slid her tongue sensuously along his, mimicking the stroke of her hand on his penis.

"Come for me," she murmured, pulling back just far enough to watch his face. "Show me how good it feels."

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