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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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."

Each time Cuddy lightened her grip, it almost drove House insane with frustration. The kind of frustration where he was wanting constant momentum and any break in it was an interruption to his pleasure. Yet, each time she resumed holding him firmly, it was like relief and he squeezed his pelvic muscles to thrust gratefully into her hand.

He was getting less coordinated with the kisses, too, too distracted by his greediness for release. He managed to meet some of Cuddy's teasing kisses but was otherwise letting her take charge, his eyes closed and his lips parted. Pleasure was rapidly mounting like small waves within him, small but intense throbs of excitement pulsing through brief latent phases. He tightened his grip in her hair, clinging to her as she increased the rhythm. If she broke the momentum now, if she stopped or changed pace, he was going to be squirming with frustration.

He quietly panted against her mouth as her tongue teased along his. He pulled his hand from her hair and gripped her shoulder, his fingers digging in as the waves of pleasure grew steadily more intense. "Don't stop," he murmured in reply to her telling him to come.

He was so close now, right on the very brink between needing more and climax. He released her shoulder for a moment to fumble at his shirt, tugging it up to expose his stomach so semen wouldn't get on it. Then he returned to gripping her shoulder. His body stiffened everywhere and he gave a few frantic thrusts into her hand before his breathing suddenly changed to deep and helpless. Every muscle in his body felt like it was convulsing as the first spurts of semen shot out onto his stomach. His face twisted into an open mouthed expression of overwhelmed pleasure and he grunted and gasped, unconsciously pulling Cuddy closer to him.

His body and his grip on Cuddy eased within a matter of a few seconds, the most intense moment of his orgasm giving way pleasurable throbs that he wished lasted a lot longer than they did. Soon, he fully relaxed again, still holding onto Cuddy but now limp all over save for his penis still hard in her hand. He drew in a couple of deep, relieved breaths and lolled his head away from Cuddy while afterglow immediately washed over him. He dropped his hand from Cuddy's shoulder to his chest, quickly curling his fingers into his shirt and tugging it up a little more to keep it away from the mess on his belly.

Edited at 2010-01-09 10:14 pm (UTC)

There was really no reason to draw it out further. Well, no reason but the pleasure of making him beg, that was. Some days that would be reason enough but not that time. He just wanted release and she simply wanted to get back to cuddling. It seemed smarter to do as he asked and continue.

She pumped him strongly, watching his face for signs that it wasn't enough or that it was too much. The lube allowed her to work her hand at a rapid pace without the threat of rubbing the skin right off his penis. She was pretty sure he wouldn't have appreciated that, although by that time she figured he didn't care about anything but getting off.

When his body tensed, she eased her grip just a touch and slowed the pace of her hand to match the pulsing of his penis as he ejaculated. She watched the expression on his face go from an almost agonized look to one of pleasure and then go slack. Normally she didn't get to watch him, not like this. Usually she was just as involved in the lovemaking and she was either seeking her own release or her brain was hazed with post-coital pleasure. Although she wasn't 'in the mood' she did enjoy getting to watch the way he reacted.

She gave his penis a few more gentle strokes but stopped before he could get too sensitive. After a moment, she released him and lifted her hand to look at it. Lube and semen had made a sticky mess. She considered simply wiping her hand on his shirt even after he'd gone to pains to keep it clean. After a moment, though, she gave a sigh and dragged herself off the bed instead.

In the bathroom, she quickly washed her hand, then she wet a washcloth with warm water. She carried the cloth back to the bed and gently cleaned him up, wiping the semen that had splattered on his stomach and getting the worst of the lube off his penis. She carried the cloth back and tossed it the sink, leaving it to deal with later.

Back on the bed, she scooted over until she was snuggled up at his side. She draped her arm over his chest and settled down so her forehead was just resting against the side of his jaw. She figured he'd be happily relaxing in afterglow for a while, and that was always the best time to cuddle with him. Hell, he might even be a nice, quiet pillow for her now.

House quickly lifted his head from the pillow to look down at the mess on his stomach and cleaning it away before it all turned runny would have been a good idea. But instead of bothering to ask Cuddy for tissues, he simply dropped his head back to the pillow, uttering an almost inaudible groan of satisfaction while he stretched his legs out.

He rolled his head towards Cuddy to watch her scoot off the bed. Really, could he love that woman any more than he already did? It was just a handjob, something second best to a blow job or sex. But Cuddy could have easily refused to indulge him. Or she could have resented him for wanting attention after the fight they'd come close to having, or she could have complained that she was simply too tired.

He lazily let his eyes fall closed, basking in the afterglow still rippling through him. Orgasms truly were the best kind of sedative. All the tension in his body had dissipated for now. He stayed still, eyes closed even when Cuddy returned to wipe him clean. Only when she was cleaning his penis did he open an eye to peer at her, then watched her climb off the bed for the bathroom again.

House tugged his shirt down over his stomach, pulled his pants up over his hips and raised his arms above his head to stretch. When Cuddy was again by his side, he slipped an arm under and around her shoulders as she cuddled up to him. Too content to bother moving or even speaking, he kept his eyes closed and allowed himself to drift off into a light doze.

Orgasm did seem to have improved House's performance as a pillow. He was quiet and relaxed and it was easy for Cuddy to relax with her head resting on his shoulder.

She closed her eyes, lulled by the sound of his slow, even breathing. As always she had a million things rattling around her brain. Most of those things were small--the routine stuff of day to day life. She also thought about how she and House were doing, though. She was fully aware they'd come close to another full-blown argument, and over something not all that important. It made her aware that they still had a long way to go.

She was grateful he was getting treatment. Without the therapy and the meds, she was afraid to think of where they'd be. She was pretty sure they wouldn't be together, not as a family. She believed he'd still be trying to do the right thing, that he'd be trying to be a father to Emma, but she wasn't sure he would've been able to handle it psychologically.

Even with treatment, his moods were erratic, changing without warning. She wasn't much better either. Fatigue and hormones did not make for a rational woman. Still, they were together as a family. They were slowly finding their way, not always successfully but they were working at it.

After a few moments, she surrendered to sleep. And what seemed like only a few moments after that, she was awoken by Emma's demands to be fed coming through the baby monitor. She sighed, reluctant to move when she was snuggled up with House, but a short nap was better than nothing. She pushed herself up and leaned over to kiss him on the forehead.

"Wake up, lazy," she murmured. She gave his shoulder a little shake for good measure, then scooted off the bed. "See if you scrounge up something for supper while I feed Emma, okay?"

She rubbed her eyes as she walked to Emma's room, clucking her tongue as she entered the room. "Yes, yes, we hear you," she said quietly as she scooped Emma up from the crib. "Did you really think we'd forget you?" Emma simply sucked at her fingers, wide-eyed and eager to get down to business. Cuddy let out an amused snort as she carried her to the rocking chair and settled down to nurse her.

"Hmmn," House grunted at being shaken awake. His eyes opened sleepily for all of a second before drooping shut again. He so wasn't ready to get up. He'd be ready to get up in... probably another eight hours or more. He heard Cuddy say something about supper, too groggy to piece together her words. Something about scrounging and supper and Emma.

Without really being aware of it, he rolled over onto his side and sank straight back into a doze the moment he was comfortable. His breathing immediately evened out, punctuated with a slight snore at the end of each inhale.

Images of Emma and other fragmented, distorted scenes of the day flashed through his mind in dream sequences. His body jerked with small twitches every now and then until he suddenly jolted awake at the sound of a sharp, wailing noise. It took him a moment to realise it was Emma being fussy, perhaps having her diaper changed or being burped - Cuddy said she was feeding her, right? He couldn't quite remember - and he just knew Cuddy had asked him to do something but he couldn't recall what that was.

He'd rolled onto his back and looked over at the baby monitor, trying to jog his memory. Something about... slippers? Something about...? His head was too fuzzy with sleep. He grunted, rolling onto his other side. "Fuck it," he muttered to himself, cuddling up to the pillow. Whatever it was, it couldn't have been that important.

He easily slipped back into a doze again, mouth slack and once more snoring at the end of each inhale. His shirt had twisted up around his stomach, the plackets of his jeans were wide open from the handjob Cuddy had given him, and his limp penis was peeking out from the fly of his boxers.

By the time she finished nursing, Emma had filled both her stomach and her diaper. Cuddy made a quiet tsking noise as she got her breasts back under cover and carried Emma to the changing table.

"That's a tad disgusting, you know?" she said as she unfastened the soiled diaper and efficiently wiped Emma's bottom. Emma screwed her face up into something resembling a frown. She didn't like having a wet or dirty diaper but she wasn't crazy about having her butt bared and wiped either. She didn't have time to work up much of a protest, though, because Cuddy had her securely wrapped in a clean diaper in no time.

"I mean, I realize everyone poops but they don't usually do it while they're eating." Cuddy picked Emma up and held her at eye level in front of her own face. Emma, of course, could not have cared less about the etiquette of poop. She acted purely on biological need and now that she'd taken care of all of her biggest needs--sleep, food, and poop--she was happy.

Cuddy set her in the crib for a few moments so she could go take care of some of her own needs. After she finished up in the bathroom, she returned to the nursery and gathered Emma up.

She had noticed the house being suspiciously quiet which meant House was being suspiciously quiet. Suspicious, that was, because he was supposed to be making supper and he normally wasn't quiet about that. She wasn't terribly surprised when she carried Emma to the bedroom and saw House sound asleep...and half dressed.

"Men," Cuddy muttered. Emma gurgled and Cuddy took that as agreement. She leaned over and shook House's shoulder. "Rise and shine."

House had been having a nice sleep. When he was groggy, nothing felt better than succumbing to sleep. That was only if he was left to sleep peacefully. Being rudely awoken wasn't at all conducive to relaxing and at the first shake to his shoulder he jerked awake and snapped his sleepy-looking, slightly red eyes up at Cuddy with bewilderment bordering on immediate irritability from the surprise he received from being shaken.

It took him a couple of seconds to come to his senses enough to work out what was going on. Emma was in Cuddy's arm, happy and probably fed. He remembered being woken before but still couldn't recall what Cuddy had said to him. He groaned in mild protest and rolled onto his back, scrubbing his hands over his face. At the same time, he noticed his shirt felt tight and twisted around his middle. Pulling his hands from his face, he lifted his head from the pillow and looked down, spying not only the way his shirt was rucked up and tangled around his mid-section, but also his penis hanging slack out of his pants.

"Oops," he said, lifting his hips up. He quickly tucked himself in and tugged his jeans up. Once his fly was zipped, he rearranged his shirt while scooting back until he was sitting up against the headboard. Again he scrubbed his face with his hands and tried to blink away the heavy hanging grogginess, but then lifted his hands towards Emma and motioned for Cuddy to hand her over.

"Come here, kiddo," he said to Emma and once she was in his hands, he plopped her on his lap, facing him. He peered down at her with a sleepy, almost cranky-looking expression, though he wasn't cranky at all, just groggy as hell. Emma stared back up at him with that perpetually curious expression of hers.

"You look way happier to be awake than I feel," he grumbled at her.

Cuddy took the precaution of stepping back one step after she shook House. She could never be sure how he'd react but he usually didn't like being woken. It was like dragging a hibernating bear from his den--he could be really, really cranky.

She watched him as his brain slowly sorted out where he was and what he was doing, gently swaying Emma in her arms. One little hand had clutched onto Cuddy's shirt but Emma's eyes were roaming aimlessly.... Well, it seemed aimless to Cuddy but for all she knew, Emma was deliberately taking in as much information about her surroundings as she could. Fortunately, she was incapable of seeing House tuck himself away and zip up his jeans. Emma would never have remembered seeing it, of course, but still, Cuddy thought she was a bit young to start understanding with gender differences. There'd be plenty of time to get confused by that later.

"Pretty much everyone looks happier to be awake than you do," Cuddy said after handing Emma to him. He didn't look unhappy to her, just groggy. Emma definitely looked happier and more alert than he did, though. Cuddy herself was...she wasn't too bad. She always felt tired but the short nap had actually juiced up her batteries a smidge. She knew she probably looked worn down but she felt reasonably good. Good enough to be aware of how hungry she was and to do something about it.

"Since someone decided to extend his siesta instead of slaving over a hot stove...." She wasn't angry at him for falling back asleep. Heaven knew there'd been plenty of times she'd wanted to do the same thing. It would've been nice to have a freshly made meal waiting for her but at that moment, all she really cared about was getting something in her stomach and she wasn't going to fuss over who made it.

"Keep an eye on her and I'll go defrost something for supper."

Oh, so that was what Cuddy had told him when she'd first woken him - she'd wanted him to make supper. He pursed his lips in a manner as though to say, "oops". But seeing Cuddy didn't seem annoyed beyond mildly chiding him, he decided to let it drop the way she was and just gave a slightly sheepish shrug.

"Your fault for telling me while I was half-asleep," he replied, though he looked over at her while bouncing Emma lightly on his lap, to silently say that he'd look after the baby. He considered interrupting and telling Cuddy he'd deal with supper. Being she didn't seem too unhappy about making supper herself, however, he let her go. Perhaps she wanted a break from Emma, which was fine with him.

He turned back to the baby when Cuddy had left the room. He enjoyed having Emma with him and he allowed himself a small smile as she gurgled with bored look on her face. He pulled her up to a 'standing' position, her feet resting on his legs, and the shift in position seemed to have piqued her interest. She now looked a little perplexed by the unusual stimulation of being held like this.

"Sorry to have disturbed you," he said to her. "You just seemed a little bored of sitting there with nothing to do." He watched the way her little legs kicked and squirmed, drawing up towards her body protectively every now and again. He brought Emma closer to him until he was almost nose to nose, something else which startled her and made her eyes go wide with intrigue or confusion.

He held her like that for a moment, staring into her eyes, then leaned that bit closer and ripped the tip of his nose against hers. When he pulled her back, he sat her on his lap again. For a little while, he simply studied her, occasionally rubbing his thumb across her temple and the side of her head and sometimes giving her chest a rub while supporting her with his other hand.

Soon, though, she began to get a little restless. He spread his legs and settled her on the mattress between them to let her kick and stretch to her heart's content. "Getting bored?" he asked. He pressed his fingers into her palms, which she grasped tightly onto, and he slowly pulled her into a sitting position before letting her lie back down. Then he extracted his fingers from her grasp and took hold of both her feet.

He leaned over to look at her. "How about a nursery rhyme?" he asked her. "Mom taught you any of those yet? Yeah, didn't think so." He playfully tugged at her feet. "I can teach you some. Let me see..." He thought for a moment, then looked back down to Emma and with an animated voice and face, he said, "Mary had a little lamb, her father shot it dead. Now it goes to school with her between two chunks of bread."

"Yeah, 'oops'," Cuddy said dryly when House mouthed the word. At another time she might've been irritated with him for falling asleep on the job but he'd actually been pretty dependable lately. He'd been taking care of one of Emma's nighttime feedings among other things. So she was willing to cut him a little slack this time. She wouldn't make any promises about the next time, though.

She ignored him when he tried to pin the blame on her, even though it was true she should know better than to talk to him when he wasn't fully awake. The truth didn't matter, though--he would've tried to shift the blame to her no matter what the circumstances. So she did what she usually did and ignored his attempts.

She left him to tend to Emma and headed into the kitchen. For a moment she simply stood in the middle of the room and thought. She was hungry but she simply didn't have the motivation to do any real cooking. She looked through some of the dishes she'd cooked and frozen before Emma's birth and settled on a casserole with brown rice, mushrooms and sausage.

While the casserole heated up in the microwave, she got out the plates and silverware and glasses. In less than fifteen minutes she had drinks poured and plates of hot casserole set on the coffee table in the living room. Some day she'd like to eat in the dining room again--since that was sort of its purpose--but for now it was much easier to keep an eye on Emma in the living room. There she could lie on the floor and kick or watch her toys while Cuddy and House ate.

She headed back into the bedroom to tell House dinner was ready, walking in just as he finished his version of a nursery rhyme. "Don't you think it's a bit soon to twisting her psyche with that kind of thing?" Cuddy gave him a look of mild warning but Emma, of course, was fascinated by House's voice. That's all she cared about, and likely even when she did get old enough to understand the words, she'd still be fascinated. Kids did tend to like the gross and morbid. She couldn't imagine House's child being any different.

"Supper's ready," she said. She leaned down and blew a soft raspberry on Emma's stomach. "Not for you, though. You've already had yours."

House looked over at the door as Cuddy entered. "Not twisting. Encouraging." He turned back to Emma and leaned in closer to her with a mischievous little smirk on his lips, as though sharing a conspiring secret with her. "You're Daddy's little girl, aren't you? Means you're gonna be just like Daddy."

Hopefully not exactly like him. The last thing he wanted was for his daughter to end up with the kind of life he'd ended up with - troubled, miserable, lonely. He didn't even want to be like himself, let alone Emma ending up like him. He wanted her to be her own person, whatever that was going to end up being. But he also couldn't help hoping she'd end up with a somewhat twisted sense of humour, like his. And Cuddy's - she wasn't without her own offbeat humour herself.

He sat back, resting his head against the headboard just before Cuddy informed him of supper and leaned over to blow a raspberry on Emma's belly. Emma reacted with a reflexive squirm, her arms jerking outwards. At the same time, she let out a whoop.

"Mo-om," House interpreted for her. He threw Cuddy a mock annoyed look, too. "That's so embarrassing." He glanced down at Emma, adding, "I know. Mothers are like the humiliators from hell." He almost added that his mother could be incredibly embarrassing - but the moment the thought entered his head, so did the reminder that his mom didn't know about Emma.

He faltered for a second, then quickly swept the thought and any feeling of guilt it had dredged up aside, and he was swift to scoop Emma up. "Come on, then." He started scooting to the edge of the bed, propping the baby up against his shoulder and he held her there with one hand secure on her back. He used his other free hand to help himself get off the mattress.

"You heard Mom," he continued. "Supper time. You may not be hungry, but I'm famished."

"Yes," Cuddy said dryly. "That's exactly what mothers are for--humiliating their children."

She knew from personal experience that was exactly what it could feel like to a child. She knew there'd been plenty of times when she'd wanted to absolutely disappear rather than continue to be embarrassed by something her mother or father did or said. She'd always sworn she'd never do that to her own children but now that she was a mom, she could foresee that she might just humiliate her own kid as she'd been humiliated by her parents. Not on purpose, and that's what she understood now. Parents were only acting in what they believed was the best interest of their children. Kids simply had a slightly different perspective.

She followed House into the living room and then reached for Emma. She settled the baby in her bouncy seat and made sure she had some toys to attract her attention. Emma waved her arms, perfectly happy for the moment to play by herself. She'd even forgotten the 'humiliation' of having a raspberry blown on her stomach.

Cuddy placed a quick kiss on Emma's forehead, then retreated to the couch. She picked up her plate and dug in. She was every bit as famished as House had claimed he was. It had been almost a year since she'd eaten 'normally' and she wondered how difficult it would be to adjust back to her usual diet once she'd finished breast feeding.

"I've really got to get back into some kind of exercise routine," she said quietly, speaking more to herself than to House.

As House neared the living room, the scent of food hit his nose and his stomach responded with a gurgling growl. He was glad to hand Emma over to Cuddy, eager to tuck into his meal. And that was what he did the moment his ass was planted on the couch. The first few mouthfuls he shovelled in but by the time Cuddy had taken her seat to start eating, he put his plate back onto the coffee table to get up and go fetch a drink from the kitchen.

He glanced over at Cuddy's quiet remark, thought about it for a moment while eyeing her and gave a slight nod. She wasn't fat by any means and she wouldn't be a great deal out of shape, either - he knew she'd exercised throughout her pregnancy. But getting into an exercise routine would be good for her. "Sounds like a good idea to me," he replied.

He stood and headed out to the kitchen. He grabbed a glass, filled it with water from the tap and drained the glass there on the spot, thirsty. Then he refilled it and he grabbed another glass and filled that one up, too. He returned to the living room, putting the second glass down in front of Cuddy.

"Exercise'll do you good," he continued as he resumed his seat. "It'll help with decluttering your head, and get those serotonin and dopamine neurotransmitters pumping back into action."

Cuddy turned a suspicious look on him when he agreed she should start exercising. She knew she needed to but she wasn't sure what he meant by agreeing. Exercise always made her feel good. It made her feel energized and more able to deal with the daily stresses of life. It just made her feel 'right' somehow and she never felt as good when she didn't exercise. She always felt sluggish and she hated that feeling.

However, there was also the fact her body needed a boost. She'd exercised throughout her pregnancy and watched her weight gain but there was no getting around the fact her muscles had lost some tone and she was carrying some extra weight. If that was the reason he wanted her to exercise, well, he was right but she'd be insulted.

Emma let out a strange sound as he left the room, distracting Cuddy for the moment. She glanced over and saw that Emma had managed, purely by accident, to grab onto one of her toys. She seemed baffled. She didn't know what to do with the toy or even how to do anything with it. She jerked her arm and the toy jingled, provoking another surprised sound from her.

"Silly girl," Cuddy murmured, smiling. She glanced up as House returned and reached for the glass. She took a drink, then tilted her head at him as she sat the glass back down.

"So you think my head is cluttered?" She shrugged it off. She would be mentally sharper if she got some regular exercise back in her life. She'd tried to work in some yoga but she often found herself getting interrupted or simply feeling too tired to do a real workout. She needed to buckle down and set some goals for herself.

"I need to set a time every day to do it," she admitted. "There's no reason I can't fit in a workout, even if it's only twenty minutes."

"You know your head is cluttered," he countered, sipping his water. He put the glass on the coffee table and drew his plate to his lap. He sat back and speared his fork into a piece of vegetable.

He didn't need to add any more to his claim because he knew he was right - her head was cluttered, she was sometimes foggy with details, she was basically no different to any other new mom. But he knew her, too, and he knew that she got frustrated with not feeling like she had it all 'together'. In fact, it had already overwhelmed and completely gotten the better of her - the meltdown she'd had the other day was proof of that.

"You can make time for anything you want to make time for," he agreed. He ate a bite of food, then looked over at Cuddy. "It's not like you have to really go anywhere. The kid definitely isn't. Do yoga when she's asleep, or when she's playing on the floor, or get one of those jogging stroller things and run with her."

After eating another mouthful, he said, "Or just give her to me. You can actually rely on me to do the dad thing, you know. You don't have to be around her twenty-four-seven."

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