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Evening, Tuesday 3 July
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?”

Saturday 2nd June, mid-afternoon
i have: all the family i need // [c&e]
"Come on, kiddo," House said, scooping an unhappy Emma up from the change table. She was due for a feed and she wasn't holding back on letting him know about that. "Alright, I hear you," he told her, lifting her squirming body to his shoulder while she wailed and sucked furiously on her hand.

It wasn't the first time he'd been alone with Emma but it was the first time he'd been alone in the house with her while she was awake. Usually Cuddy came to the rescue when he couldn't settle Emma but today Cuddy was down at the day spa. She was a fifteen minute drive away from being the cavalry. Not that House wasn't coping on his own but getting himself organised was proving a lot harder than he anticipated. First of all, he'd fallen asleep while Emma was napping. Her cries had woken him, something he wasn't too pleased about. Secondly, he had yet to arrange everything for Emma and himself to take a trip in the car and he was far from ready.

"All right," he said, Emma's irritability beginning to rub off on him. He carried her out into the hall, to the kitchen. "I hear ay, loud and clear." Reaching the fridge, he blew out an exasperated breath at realising he had to heat the bottle up yet.

"Damn it," he muttered. He snatched the bottle out and thumped it down on the counter while bouncing an increasingly angry Emma against his shoulder. He switched the kettle on and gave Emma's back a few firm, impatient rubs. Of course, a watched kettle never boiled, as the old adage went, and it seemed like a lifetime before it finally did. Another ten minutes later and the bottle was warm enough for Emma to drink, though she was so worked up that when he sat down to feed her he had to spend a further several minutes trying to calm her.

"There," he grumbled once he managed to shove the teat into her mouth. Her cries subsided immediately, followed by fast and furious sucking. "That'll shut you up." He heaved a sigh and let his head drop back against the couch. Why he'd decided to go ahead with Wilson's suggestion of getting Cuddy a day spa certificate was beyond him. He wanted nothing more than to hand the baby over to her and wipe his hands of any parental duties for a while. No such luck, of course. He sat Emma up and peered at the bottle in mild bewilderment at how fast she'd downed half of it already.

His expression grew mock stunned at the loud burp she let out, loud enough to startle her. "Wow," House said. "I'm actually impressed. I can only manage burps like that after a beer or two." He settled Emma back in his arms and fed her the rest of the bottle. By the time she'd drained it all, she was much happier and content. He sat her up again and wiped her mouth while she belched again.

"Come on, no time for sitting around," he said to her after a few minutes. He stood and cradled her up against his shoulder again, leaving the spit rag and the empty bottle on the coffee table. "We got some errands to run."

House let Emma play on the floor for a little while as he tried to organise himself to leave the house. Luckily for him, Cuddy was exceptionally organised and he didn't need to do a whole lot of packing. He carted the bag and baby sling out to his car, threw on a t-shirt and pair of jeans after paying a quick trip to the bathroom and then gathered Emma up from the floor. "Wanna go on a roadtrip?" he asked her, shutting the door behind him. She squinted at the bright sunshine, bouncing her face against his shoulder. "I'll take that to mean yes," he continued when she gurgled.

He got her secured in the car seat and pulled the car out onto the road. Emma was quiet during the whole trip and House checked on her every now and again in the rearview mirror while he drove, radio on and the window wound down. When he pulled the car into the parking lot near the spa, he lay Emma in the backseat and wrestled the baby sling on her. The task took a lot longer than he expected. The damn thing was complicated, with a bunch of straps that went everywhere, not to mention the part where he was fighting to get the sling on properly over his shoulders. But eventually, sweat breaking out on his forehead from the heat, Emma was resting curled up by his chest in the sling and he limped up onto the curb, replacing his sunglasses to his face as he headed in the direction of the deli.

Nothing attracted more attention than a baby, he thought to himself once he was in the deli, waiting his turn. An elderly woman was smiling at Emma and occasionally eyeing him, to which he gave a single, brief, awkward and meaningless half-smile to. The woman behind the counter gave him the same look. Several other women waiting to be served did the same thing, he noticed, once he'd placed his order for two sandwiches and a salad. He was glad to get out of there once he'd paid and had a bag of food and drinks with him. As much as he never minded attention from other women, it was entirely different when his daughter was hanging off his chest.

He head back out onto the street once he'd made his purchases and headed in the direction of the day spa. On the way, he stopped by Cold Stone and bought himself an ice cream, which he ate the rest of the way to the spa. A bell over the day spa door rang when he pushed it open, and at the same time Emma let out a quiet cooing sound, perfectly happy where she was cushioned up to his chest for now. He gave another lick of his ice cream, peering into the spa in search of Cuddy while a woman behind the front desk eyed him and Emma with much the same expression the women at the deli had.

Friday 1st of June, 2007 - late afternoon
i am: hanging out in the kitchen
"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... 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.

Sunday morning, May 27
At two weeks old, Emma had already changed. Cuddy knew some people would disagree with her but she was sure of it. They were small changes, admittedly, too subtle for anyone who wasn't paying attention to notice. She saw them, though. Emma had gained weight, for one thing. Again, it was a small amount of weight but when you only weighed seven pounds to begin with, even a small weight gain was noticeable. She'd lost a little of her hair, especially on the back of her head where it rubbed against the sheets in her crib. She was also, in Cuddy's mind, beginning to be more interactive with her environment. No, she couldn't play with her toys or move her own limbs with any coordination but she seemed more aware of the world around her.

The only thing that hadn't changed was Emma's insistence on nursing every three hours around the clock. It was as if she had an internal timer and when it went off, there was no pleasing her until she got what she wanted. Cuddy knew three hours wasn't unusual for a breastfed baby. Neither was it unusual that Emma hadn't sorted out the whole day/night thing. Emma was actually quite normal for a newborn. And Cuddy was beginning to think Emma was going to be the death of her.

It was early in the morning. How early, Cuddy didn't know. She didn't know much anymore. She could barely sort out the day/night thing herself. She definitely had lost track of what day it was...or month. She was so utterly exhausted, she couldn't think straight. Because of Emma's nursing schedule, Cuddy never got more than a couple hours of sleep at a time but she'd thought she was managing. She was tired, yes, but she was functioning. And then this morning, she suddenly felt like she was unraveling.

She sat in the rocking chair nursing Emma, tears streaming down her face. Emma was completely oblivious to her mother's distress...which was good. Cuddy didn't want her, or anyone else, to see how poorly she was coping with the strain. Millions of women throughout time had managed to take care of their babies. She should be able to do the same. Instead, all she could think about was how her back hurt from sitting in this chair nursing what seemed like 24/7 and how she felt like she just couldn't manage another five minutes without completely losing her grip.

A couple of tears fell on Emma's arm and Cuddy quickly wiped them away with the cloth diaper she used as a spit-up rag. Then she rubbed her hand over her face, telling herself to get a fucking grip, Lisa.... It didn't do any good. She knew she shouldn't be crying--she had nothing to cry about--but she couldn't make it stop. And the fact she couldn't make the tears stop only made her feel even worse.

Friday, May 18 - morning
i am: in a hoodie
Cuddy stayed in hospital for the following two days, and House spent a good deal of his time there. Over the duration of those two days, the reality that he was a father had sunk in marginally. Talking it through with his psychiatrist had helped - again, only marginally. When he'd gotten to her office and explained that Cuddy had given birth, Megan had congratulated him with a big smile. But seeing his less than thrilled expression, she'd quickly sobered and got straight to the point: "How do you feel about it?" she'd asked.

"If that question was any broader, it would be big enough to host a monster truck jam on," he'd retorted.

Megan had simply sat back, crossed her legs and rested her hands on her lap. "Alright, we'll break it down into more manageable bites. What's her name?"

cut for lengthCollapse )

(no subject)
i am: in cuddy's place

Happy birthday...

Morning, May 15
Cuddy really didn't sleep after House left, not even after she turned off the light and stretched out in the bed. She dozed a little but always roused after a few minutes to look at the bassinet. Emma slept, at least, and watching her daughter sleeping so innocently was completely engrossing for Cuddy.

Eventually Emma woke and this time she was truly hungry. Cuddy shuffled over and changed the baby's diaper before carrying her back to the bed. A nurse stopped in to see how Cuddy was getting along and she stayed for a few minutes to give some pointers on breast feeding and to make sure Cuddy was comfortable with the process. Cuddy still felt a bit awkward with getting Emma to latch on properly but once Emma was happily sucking away, Cuddy felt even more proud and protective. She loved the idea that even though Emma was no longer being completely sustained by Cuddy's body, she still depended on her mother for nourishment.

Emma fussed occasionally because colostrum was more difficult to suck than Cuddy's milk would be. The baby had to work a little harder but she managed to fill her little belly and she dropped back off to sleep, worn out. After returning her to her bassinet, Cuddy discovered she was ready to sleep herself. She settled on the bed and drifted off into a light but still restful sleep.

The next thing Cuddy knew, she was being gently shaken awake. She looked around with bleary eyes and saw one of the hospital phlebotomists standing by her bed, hands gloved and syringe at the ready.

"Sorry, Dr. Cuddy," the young man said. "But I've got to draw blood for your labs."

"Right, of course," Cuddy said groggily. She rubbed her eyes and sat up, her eyes immediately going to the bassinet.

"She's fine, just fussing a little in her sleep," the phlebotomist said as he put a tourniquet around Cuddy's arm and felt for a vein. "She's a cutie."

"Thanks." Cuddy waited until he was finished, then slipped out of the bed to look at Emma. The baby was starting to make some more definite noises, her eyes blinking open and closed as she began to fully wake up. Cuddy rubbed her belly soothingly, then decided to make a quick run into the bathroom before Emma woke up and realized she was hungry.

Of course, the best laid plans always went wrong. Cuddy had barely sat her ass on the toilet when Emma let out a demanding wail. Cuddy tried to hurry but by the time she could get back to the baby, Emma was red in the face and howling.

"You definitely have your daddy's lungs," Cuddy muttered. She decided to skip the diaper change until after Emma had fed and carried the wailing baby to her bed. She got herself settled into a comfortable sitting position as quickly as she could but she had to sway Emma in her arms for a little bit to get her to settle down enough to latch on. Cuddy was beginning to think it was going to be impossible when Emma seemed to realize she'd be happier if she sucked on the nipple Cuddy was shoving in her face rather than screaming at it.

"Boy," Cuddy said in the sudden silence. "You really know how to make some noise."

i am: cynically agreeing with you
Just in case anyone is interested, there is a flail post over here about the most recent ~development~ on the game. Come on over and join in!

afternoon, Monday, 14 May
Cuddy signed off on another report and neatly stacked it with the other paperwork on the corner of her desk. She was pleased with herself; she'd been extremely productive all day. She'd sorted through her email and cleared out all the outstanding notifications. She'd either finished or delegated every single file in her office. She'd even dusted the file cabinets. She wasn't quite sure why she'd dusted the cabinets but whatever--they were clean.

"Why are you here?"

She looked up. Wilson was standing just inside her office door, hands planted on his hips. She considered his question, then shook her head. "Because it's my office?"

He let an exasperated sigh and ambled toward her. "I thought you were going to take it easy. I though you were going to cut back on your hours." He threw a hand out at her. "You look like you're ready to pop. Give yourself a break."

"I'm sitting at a desk," she said with a shrug. "It's not exactly hard work."

"Go home."

Cuddy stared at Wilson as he actually came around the desk and started to shut down her computer. She slapped at his hand but he simply shrugged her aside. She started to reach for her phone but he turned and leaned over, resting his hands on the arms of her chair.

"Go home, Cuddy." He pushed her chair back a few inches, just enough so she couldn't reach anything on the desk. "You should be resting. Or keeping an eye on House. He's out there, you know--totally unsupervised."

"Fine," she said in a grudging tone. She wasn't actually opposed to going home. She had been working few hours for the last few weeks and, surprisingly, she didn't feel guilty about it. Her reluctance to leave was only because she felt like she was getting so much done today and she knew she was running out of time to get those things done. Wilson had a point, though. House was on his own when he should be with her. Since he'd come home, they'd been trying to make the most of their remaining days as a childless couple.

"How's he doing?" Wilson straightened up but he didn't move too far. He kept an eye on her as she reached for her cell phone.

"He went a little crazy the first day," she said, remembering House's crazy shopping spree with a grin. "But not too crazy." She reached out and gave Wilson's hand a reassuring squeeze. "He's in a relatively good mood. He's taking his meds. He's.... Honestly, he's the best I've seen him in months."

"Good," Wilson said quietly. He lifted their joined hands to his mouth and kissed the back of her hand, grinning at her. "Now go."

"Yeah, yeah." Cuddy waved him off as he walked toward the door. She flipped her phone open and dialed House's cell phone. It was only shortly after four and he wouldn't necessarily be sitting around waiting for her. She wanted to know where to meet up with him because realistically, once she stopped at either his place or hers, she'd be in for the night.

She leaned back in her chair as she waited for him to answer, her eyes searching out any other jobs waiting to be done. She'd just noticed Wilson standing on the other side of the door, watching her with a stern expression, when she heard House's voice.

"Hey," she said into the phone, a smile softening her face. "Where are you?"

Thursday 10th May, mid-afternoon
i am: cynically agreeing with you
"You ready to go?" Wilson asked.

House pushed the locks shut on his suitcase and looked over at his friend standing in the doorway, hands bunched in his pockets. A week ago, House hadn't thought he'd ever hear those four words, not for a long while. A week ago, he'd had visions of being stuck in Mayfield hospital for weeks, even months, locked away from his life and from Cuddy while missing all the first milestones their kid would take. Megan had been true to her word - when he'd returned to the hospital after his weekend leave, his doctor had informed him on Tuesday that he could look towards going home. And today was the day. He'd been waiting for this day for the last month - the day he was able to pack up his belongings and say goodbye and a happy go to hell to Mayfield hospital for good.

Now it was here, though, he had mixed feelings. Eagerness to leave, definitely. He was eager to get back to his life, to Cuddy, to familiar surroundings and to feeling like he had more control over his life again. But he was also nervous. Megan was discharging him on the faith that he'd be able to cope on his own, that he'd continue to make progress towards better mental - and physical - health. He wanted to have faith that he could achieve those things without anybody else's help but the past month had done a lot to knock his confidence about. He wasn't just returning home to resume where life had left off. He was returning home to a whole new set of changes and challenges with an entirely new life awaiting him with expectant birth of this baby.

He looked back down to his suitcase. "You bet," he replied, careful not to give away anything to Wilson about what he was really thinking. With his coat tucked under one arm and his suitcase clasped in his other, he gave the empty, sterile room he'd come to be so familiar with one last glace over before he turned to Wilson and started for the door. "Let's get the hell outta here."

All the discharge papers had been signed already, so there was very little officiality to take care of. A couple of the nurses stopped House in the corridor to wish him well and to behave himself, advice he dismissed with an impatient nod for Wilson to lead the way out the door. After collecting his belongings from the nurses station, things had been confiscated upon initial entry to the hospital, he stepped out into the sunny afternoon with his eyes squinting against the sun's glare and made a beeline for Wilson's car.

The long car trip home was like old times between Wilson and himself - House making comments and touching things that didn't belong to him in the car, all which Wilson gave exasperated sighs to and cynical remarks. Wilson made conversation about Cuddy and the baby, while House made cutting remarks about the orcs in the hospital that he was now free of and told Wilson at one point to stop by a donut store and made Wilson buy him a box. He dropped crumbs and multicoloured sprinkles from the donut in the car as he ate, much to Wilson's chagrin, and at last his friend pulled into the curb outside House's apartment.

"Now, do you need anything?" Wilson asked once they were inside and all House's bags were stowed in the living room.

"You cleaned," House realised in an accusing tone, noticing the more orderly state of his apartment - books that had no room on his shelves stacked in neater piles, the wooden floors free of dust and other little details around the place that House noticed. He knew his home like the back of his hand and he knew when something was touched or disturbed.

"It was Cuddy's idea," Wilson said, hands held up in defence. "She wanted to make the place decent for you. Don't blame me."

"You didn't stop her, so of course I'm going to blame you," House shot back.

"She was just trying to do a nice thing for you. We both were. But fine, you're free to mess up your apartment however you want." Wilson then looked at his watch.

House turned to him. "You off?"

"Well, I figured you'd want to be on your own."

That was both true and false. House did want to be on his own. He hadn't been on his own for over a month and he was more than ready to have his own privacy for a change. However, he also wasn't sure what to do with himself now that he did have his own privacy. Now he was going to have to return to normal life - making his own meals, getting his own ass out of bed, remembering to take his medication, having to function like an ordinary person. It was such a basic thing, something he'd been doing for years on his own, but never had his own independence left him feeling so lost. But he didn't want Wilson knowing any of that.

He shrugged. "Fine by me."

Wilson didn't look too convinced but he knew better than to push. He nodded. "Maybe give Cuddy a call at work. Tell her you're home. Put her out of her misery - she's been so anxiously waiting for you to come home all week, I'm amazed her membranes haven't ruptured. If you need me, just give me a call. Don't abuse that privilege, by the way, even though I know you will." With that, he gave House a two fingered wave and stepped back to the door.House returned the wave and watched his friend leave. When the door closed, House was left all alone and he was acutely aware of silence. No people, no nurses, no doctors, nothing. Just him in his apartment, left to his own devices to pick up the rest of the pieces.

Grabbing his suitcase, he took it down the hall to his bedroom and dumped all his clean clothes into the drawers. Once he'd stashed the empty suitcase in the closet, he grabbed the phone and punched in Cuddy's work number as he wandered over to the window. He put the phone to his ear and listened to it ring, and greeted in an obnoxiously cheerful tone when it was answered, "Hi, honey, I'm home."