DOCTOR, MAKE IT BETTER INSTANTLY

you're the only one who can

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Evening, Tuesday 3 July
ethereal
hbic_cuddy wrote in cuddys_house
Cuddy quickly brushed a little blush on her cheeks and studied her reflection in the mirror critically. She…didn’t look half bad if she did say so herself. Of course, she didn’t know what House would say but she was doing the best she could with what she had to work with. She thought he'd like the result. Truth was, after the weeks of shapeless clothing and a beauty routine that consisted of nothing more than a daily shower, she thought he might not recognize her.

House had gone to his apartment to get some decent clothes to wear and she was using the time to get herself together. It was their first real date night in a long time and she wanted to surprise him. She wanted to look like the Cuddy he’d fallen in love with. Spending a little time on her hair and make-up had already made a big difference. And having finally gotten back into a regular routine of yoga had done wonders for her body. Yeah, she still had a few pounds to lose and her stomach and hips were still fuller than they’d been but she no longer felt so damn flabby.

In fact.... She stepped into the bedroom and pulled on the dress she’d picked out--a deep blue sheath with a neckline that was fairly modest in the front but dipped low in the back. She wouldn’t have been able to wear some of her most form fitting dresses but this one was just right. She was ridiculously proud of the fact it fit. Hell, it didn’t just fit, it looked damn good.

She fastened a necklace around her neck as she hurried down the hall to Emma’s room. She had borrowed the neighbor’s nanny for the evening and Marina was already getting acquainted with the baby. She was down on the floor, playing with Emma when Cuddy came through the nursery door.

“Wow, you look great, Dr. Cuddy.”

“Thanks,” Cuddy said, blushing as she crouched down and lifted Emma into her arms. She couldn’t believe how much Emma had changed--was changing almost every day. She was more and more aware and engaged by her surroundings and at the moment she was bright eyed and happy. “You’re not going to puke on me, are you?” Cuddy asked her, kissing the top of her head. Emma gurgled as her gaze fixed on the silver and sapphire earrings dangling from Cuddy’s ears. Cuddy’s smiled wavered a bit. Damn. This was going to be hard, leaving Emma with someone who wasn’t her mother or father. She let out a sigh and kissed Emma’s forehead. “You’re going to be a good girl, aren’t you? Going to let Mommy and Daddy have a evening for themselves?”

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House looked at himself in the mirror by the front door as he straightened his tie. With a sigh, he gripped the edges of his jacket and gave it a light tug, straightening that as well while scrutinising his appearance. He wasn't sure if maybe the tie was too much and as he reached up to fiddle yet again with the knot at the base of his neck, he wondered if he should forgo the tie altogether.

He was otherwise ready to go. He'd dressed in smart-casual dark grey slacks, a light blue shirt and a dark grey jacket to match. As much as he wasn't one for dressing up, he was really looking forward to the date. He'd even buffed his shoes for the occasion. He glanced down at his shoes, then back up at his tie and chewed on his lower lip uncertainly. Was he overdoing it...?

He shook his head to himself in dismissal of those thoughts and decided, no, he was fine. Tonight mattered, therefore it mattered to him to look decent for Cuddy. He knew she'd appreciate him making the effort. Still, as he stepped away from the mirror to collect his cane and his wallet, the thought that he was overdoing it niggled at him. He stuffed his wallet into his trouser pocket and gathered his cane, then reached for the doorknob to leave.

A stab of self-doubt hit him and he stepped back in front of the mirror. He rolled his eyes at himself but he decided the tie could go. It was a warm, sultry evening outside anyway; the last thing he wanted to be was uncomfortable and tugging at his tie all evening because it was too hot. He yanked the knot down, unbuttoned the top button on his collar and stripped the tie off. That was better, he thought, tossing the tie over to the couch. He fixed his collar, deciding to leave it open. Casual but still smart. House glanced at his watch and realising he had no time to keep fussing, he turned off the light and left his apartment before he could second-guess himself again.

Fifteen minutes later, he pulled up outside Cuddy's house. He headed up the path to the front door and keyed the lock to let himself in. He heard voices coming from within the house; he followed the sound to Emma's room and poked his head around the door to see Cuddy cradling Emma in her arms while the babysitter sat on the floor. The details of who was cradling who and who was sitting where went amiss on House, though. What had captivated his attention was Cuddy. He'd almost forgotten what Cuddy looked like out of sweatpants and baggy t-shirts and her hair messily bunched up in a ponytail. He was a bit taken aback by the way she looked, in the best possible way. Though, now he was wishing he hadn't decided against the tie.

"Even if she doesn't, that's what the babysitter's here for," he piped up. He gave a nod of acknowledgement to the babysitter, then returned his attention to Cuddy. "Ready to go?" Emma's gaze left Cuddy's earrings long enough to look in his direction at the sound of his voice, to which he added, "Hey, kiddo."

Cuddy turned at the sound of House's voice. Her smiled widened when she saw him. She knew he wasn't much for dressing up. He was much more comfortable in jeans and t-shirts. He only pulled out the good clothes for her benefit. It was worth it--he looked good. She didn't even care that he'd left out a tie. He looked fine without it and she knew he'd only be tugging at it all night long if he'd worn one.

"You look nice," she told him. Emma's head bumped against Cuddy's shoulder as she leaned her head in House's direction, her blue eyes wide. Cuddy laughed softly. Emma was curious about everything but there was something about House's voice that always attracted her attention.

"I just have to grab my purse and I'll be ready to go." She kissed Emma's cheek and handed her to House almost reluctantly. Part of her was thrilled to be going out for a real date but it was damn hard to hand Emma over to anyone knowing she wouldn't be there to tuck her in for the night. She forced herself to do though, and do it with a smile. "Why don't you two say goodnight while I go grab my purse?"

Cuddy telling him he looked nice in front of the babysitter had him feeling a little self-conscious and he glanced at the babysitter before giving Cuddy an awkward quirk of a smile. Thankfully, the attention was immediately turned back to Emma and he more than gladly took her. If he wasn't mistaken, however, Cuddy didn't seem too willing to hand Emma over. He'd expected that, given that she'd mentioned in the past the difficulty she felt at parting herself from the baby. He didn't want that happening tonight, though.

"Go and grab your purse," he agreed. Turning to Emma, who was now peering curiously at his collar with a spit bubble forming on her lips, he lifted her up so she was eye to eye with him. Her eyes widened but then her face lit up and her mouth twisted into a gummy, lopsided infant version of a smile. For a moment, House completely forgot the babysitter was there, and he grinned fondly at Emma.

"No wild parties while we're gone," he told her. "No booze and definitely no boys. Think you can stick to those rules?" Emma gave what could be perceived as a nod - a hard wobbly bob of her head that caused her forehead to bounce painfully off his jaw. House grunted an, "ow!" in surprise, jerking his head away.

He worked his jaw, then lifted Emma up higher and he said in a playfully reprimanding tone, "No headbutting, either. Got it?" Emma let out a squeal, that same delighted smile on her face, which made House instantly forgive her. "You rascal," he muttered fondly.

He remembered he wasn't alone in the room when he saw out of the corner of his eyes the babysitter standing up from the floor. Lowering Emma to look like he was going to kiss her on the cheek, he murmured by her ear, "You have permission to headbutt the babysitter if she doesn't let you play the Playstation. Don't tell Mom I told you that, though."

In the bedroom, Cuddy took a moment to check herself in the mirror again. She tugged at a few stray curls, trying to get them to behave. Then she adjusted her necklace. And then.... She really didn't have time to procrastinate. She'd made reservations at the same Italian restaurant where they'd gone for their first 'real' date. It was a popular place and if they were late, they just might lose their table.

She knew Emma would be just fine without them. She knew she and House needed an adults' night out. She knew her anxiety was irrational but irrational as it was, she still felt it. It was hard to leave Emma, especially when she was as alert and happy as she was at the moment. Who could resist that? She had to, though. She had to learn to let go a little.

With a sigh, she grabbed her clutch from the corner of the dresser and flicked off the bedroom light as she left the room. She walked quietly up behind House. She couldn't hear what he was telling Emma but she knew it had to be something Emma didn't need to hear.

"What have I told you about corrupting the baby?" she asked House. She cupped her hand around the back of Emma's head and kissed her cheek. She wanted to give her one more snuggle but she was afraid if she did, they'd never get out of the house. It would faster if House handed Emma off to the nanny.

"We'd better go," she told him. "Our reservations are for 7:30."

"I'm not," House quickly replied. He switched Emma across to his other arm after Cuddy kissed the baby's cheek before turning Emma around in his hands to pass her over to the babysitter.

"Have a great night," the babysitter said, lifting Emma up against her shoulder to give her back a pat. The babysitter smiled. "Don't worry about us. We'll be fine."

"Oh, that's reassuring," House replied with a hint of sarcasm. He wasn't worried, though. He knew the last thing Cuddy would have done was hired a babysitter who had any shred of incompetence. Really, he was just glad as hell, even excited, to be able to hand Emma over to someone else for a change so he and Cuddy could have some time together.

He turned to Cuddy. "All right," he continued. "Let's get outta here." He was sure, knowing Cuddy, that she would have run over and over again Emma's routine with the babysitter, would have made sure everything was in place, double-checked everything was in place, triple-checked everything was in place... He was eager to get going and not waste another minute. He extended a hand in the direction of the hall. "After you."

Following her out down the hall, he opened the door for her and stepped outside after Cuddy. When he shut the door, a feeling of instant relief washed over him, like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. The whole night was going to be theirs. At long last.

He looked at Cuddy with a smile and held his hand out for her to take. "You look great."

Despite her intentions, Cuddy most likely would've taken Emma for one more hug and kiss if House hadn't acted as a physical barrier between her and her daughter. She took a deep breath and headed down the hall, silently but sternly telling herself to relax. Don't worry. Enjoy the evening.

Just the hint of a grimace flickered over her face as he closed the front door behind them. She kept it hidden from House. She knew it would bother him if he thought she wasn't happy to be getting out with him. And the thing was--she was excited about the two of them having an evening to themselves. She really was. She loved Emma with her whole heart but she did miss being a couple. She simply needed a little time to adjust from being Mommy to being the girlfriend.

"Thanks," she said, grasping his hand. She stepped back and did a little half spin, still holding his hand. "I was a little surprised it fit but...it's not too bad." She fell into step with him then as they headed for the car. "And equally surprising--Emma managed not to puke all over it."

'Not too bad' was a huge understatement. He really did think she looked great. Fantastic. The dress and her makeup and hair accentuated all the things he found sexy about her. He was checking out every one of those things in the brief moment she twirled around and he squeezed her hand as they descended the steps to the garden path.

"Ah. Still has yet to learn the art of sabotage," he said of Emma not puking on Cuddy's dress. "Good thing she didn't choose tonight to learn." He reached into his pocket to fish out his keys as they approached the car. He unlocked the passenger side door and opened it for Cuddy, then closed it once she'd climbed in and went around to the driver side.

"Give it time, though. Sabotage will probably be her first word," he said when he climbed in, shutting the door after him. He keyed the ignition but instead of turning the engine over straight away, he looked over at Cuddy. House leaned over to finally get his kiss that he hadn't had a chance to get inside. At the same time, he reached his hand over and placed it on Cuddy's knee, squeezing it gently while their lips met.

"Well, I'm sure you'll teach her all about it if she doesn't figure it out herself first," Cuddy said as she buckled her seatbelt. "Just remember--she won't necessarily limit her sabotage attempts to me. You just might end up a victim, too."

She got herself settled and waited for House to start the car. When he didn't, she looked over with a faintly puzzled expression. Her lips curved into a smile as he leaned toward her. She lifted her hand to cup his cheek and guide his mouth to hers. It was a soft, lingering kiss and even when it ended, she simply leaned her forehead against his instead of pulling away.

"We really shouldn't get started or we'll never make it out of the driveway," she said, grinning. She could just see it now--the nanny would catch them making out like a couple of high school kids. She patted his cheek. "Besides, I'm hungry."

House squeezed her knee again when her hand met his cheek. A warmth flooded in his belly and pooled in his groin; it would have been all too easy to turn more towards her and kiss her with more depth and hunger had she not pulled away from the kiss to rest her forehead to his. Boy, it really had been too long since they'd had time to just be with each other. They had the whole evening ahead of them, he had to remind himself.

"Hmmm," he quietly hummed, reluctant to pull away from her. He pecked a final kiss on her lips, then leaned back in his seat to start the car. "Won't argue with a hungry woman. Not this time, at least." He flashed her a smirk as he turned the engine over and pulled out of the driveway.

The traffic was light driving into downtown Princeton and they arrived at the restaurant in good time. After House parked up in the restaurant parking lot, he locked the car and reached for Cuddy's hand. He paused to quickly kiss Cuddy's lips, a small but pleased smile on his face to be with her, and he walked with her across the lot to the restaurant.

As they approached the entrance, House was struck with the memory of the last time they were here. Things had been so new then. New and scary and wonderful and... somehow things had managed to get a whole lot scarier from that point on. "This place seems familiar," he said in a mock serious tone as he ushered Cuddy into the front entrance.

"Wise choice."

She was slightly surprised he hadn't chosen to argue with her, since that was his default response, but she wasn't going to argue with his not arguing. Sometimes he actually did make a good choice and it was best to encourage him whenever he did.

She spent the ride to the restaurant trying not to think about Emma. She kept her hands folded together so she wouldn't pull her cell phone out of her purse and call the sitter. That would be pathetic. The sitter was completely competent and Emma would be fine. She knew that and yet the compulsion to call was strong.

She was glad when they arrived because it kept her from doing something pathetic. And because she was genuinely hungry. "Can you believe it's almost been a year since the first time we came here?" she asked him as they entered the restaurant. She could hardly believe it herself. It had been a tumultuous year to say the least. Parts of it had been absolutely horrible, and yet she'd survived it. Against all odds, they had survived it.

She took his hand as they waited to be shown to their table. "A year ago, I know neither of us would've thought we'd end up where we are."

"You mean being shown to our table? You're right, I wouldn't have guessed that would happen a year ago."

He squeezed her hand with an obnoxious smirk. He knew exactly what she meant, though. Given their ups and downs over the past year - sometimes extreme ups and downs - it was a miracle they were still together. Well, it had much less to do with fabled miracles and much more to do with the fact that he and Cuddy were two of the most stubborn people this side of the American coast.

He released her hand when they were directed to their table and he pulled her chair out for her. The waiter offered to bring them the wine list and House nodded as he took his seat. Relief hit him again that he and Cuddy were finally out on their own together.

Along with that relief came a mild sense that something was missing. Having spent so much time around Emma, it was almost weird to be without her. He wondered if Emma was all right with the sitter, but dismissed the thought in the next instant. Of course she was all right. Unless the sitter called to say something was wrong, and no such thing would happen, he wasn't going to worry about Emma tonight. It was his and Cuddy's night.

He quirked his lips in a small smile, then reached his hand across the table for Cuddy's. He threaded his fingers with hers and rubbed his thumb up and down hers a few times while studying her. "Hear that?" he said after a short pause. "That's the sweet sound of temporary freedom."

She merely rolled her eyes at the way he deflected her comment. She knew he knew exactly what she meant. She also knew he knew just how difficult the last year had been and how lucky they were to have come through it still together.

She settled into her seat and set her purse aside...but not without another twinge of wanting to pull out her phone and call the sitter. Just to check in--not because she thought there was anything wrong. As before, she forced herself to leave it alone although her hands fidgeted with the silverware until House took one of her hands.

"You make it sound like we're prisoners at home," she chided him mildly. Admittedly she'd had some bad days, days when she had felt a little like a prisoner. She was so tied to Emma's schedule, especially with the breastfeeding, that she'd sometimes wondered if she'd ever get free for a moment for herself. Still, she hated to make it sound like it was Emma's fault.

"This is nice, though." Despite her concerns about Emma--unfounded as they most certainly were--she was glad they were out, just the two of them. House looked nice, the restaurant promised a good meal, and she truly enjoyed being on a real date again. She chuckled, though. "It's been so long since I've interacted with only adults, though. I'm almost afraid I've forgotten how."

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