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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... 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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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."

"I know that. It's not that I'm afraid to leave her with you. It's just...."

Cuddy shrugged as she forked another bite of casserole to her mouth. In truth, part of it was sheer laziness. She was tired and when she wasn't caring for Emma, she taking care of chores around the house, and when she wasn't doing chores, she didn't feel like doing anything. Many days she just wanted to sit or even sleep whenever she had fifteen minutes to herself.

Part of it, too, was that she was out of her normal routine and she hadn't created a new normal. She was still adapting, working around Emma's schedule and she hadn't made a slot in her day for exercise. She knew she should. She knew she'd feel better if she did. She'd actually have more energy if she got her body back in action. It was just taking the first step and making herself do it. Once she did that, she knew the rest would fall in line.

"Monday morning," she said. "I'll start on Monday." Even if it was only fifteen minutes of yoga, it would help. And she could easily fit that in after getting up with Emma and nursing her. She'd be happy for a while and Cuddy could do some exercise before eating her own breakfast. It was simple. She just had to do it.

"Which means I get one more weekend to be fat and lazy."

"Fat," House echoed with a snort. He forked more casserole into his mouth and looked at Cuddy. "Sure you want to wait until Monday? I mean, you might explode into a behemoth before then."

He was joking, of course, and if she couldn't tell he was joking, then he wasn't even going to bother trying to reassure her that it was a joke. She was far from fat, regardless how much she claimed to the contrary at times. And of course, he liked the way she looked - he'd always liked the way she looked.

But the depth of their relationship now meant his opinion of her went much deeper than skin deep and frankly, he wouldn't have cared a great deal even if she did gain some weight or sagged in places she never used to sag. He highly doubt she'd believe him if he told her that, though, and he doubted even more that Cuddy would even allow herself to reach such a place.

Emma made a gurgling noise, which caught House's attention. He looked at her and, chewing his food, leaned over in her direction and said, "What do you think? Is Mom a behemoth?" Her eyes moved in the direction of his voice, then she looked away again, a little dazzled by the bright toy she'd managed to grasp earlier and was now lying by her head where it had fallen out of her hand.

"Fine, don't answer me, then," he replied to her. Shovelling in the last couple of mouthfuls of food, he put the plate on the coffee table with a belch, took a sip of water and then scooted across the couch closer to Cuddy. Despite that she was still eating, he lifted his arm around her shoulders and tugged her close while planting a kiss to her cheek. He was getting in her way a little and he knew it, and that was kind of the point.

"You're fine," he told her, deciding to reassure her anyway.

Cuddy threw him a disapproving look when he started calling her a behemoth but that's all she did. She knew he'd just keep poking at her as long as he thought she'd react, so she didn't. She concentrated on eating her dinner before Emma decided she wanted more attention. One thing she'd gotten fairly good at was grabbing her meals or naps while Emma was happy...because if she didn't, she didn't get to eat or sleep.

"Hey," she muttered, poking her elbow in his side when he scooted over and tried to snuggle while she was still eating. She rolled her eyes and swallowed a bite of casserole, turning her head to look at him.

"Oh, yeah--I'm fabulous," she said dryly. She was good-natured about it, though. Maybe House did think she looked fine, and that was great. She truly was glad he seemed happy to take her as she was. She needed to feel she was at her best however. Who knew--maybe after spending a morning at the spa and getting back into her exercise routine, she'd start feeling like she was getting somewhere close to fabulous.

She managed to finish her supper despite his interference. She leaned forward to put her plate on the coffee table, glancing over when Emma let out a soft whoop. She couldn't tell what had provoked Emma's reaction but the baby seemed content whatever she was doing or thinking.

She settled back on the couch, leaning against House. For a moment she was content, too, to simply sit and watch Emma while feeling him at her side. Shortly, though, she turned her head and looked up at him. "You know, I'm going to have to give my parents the all clear to visit. Either that or I'm going to have to make arrangements to take Emma to see them."

Really, House was lucky her parents hadn't just come ahead without permission. They were both getting really frustrated at not being able to see their new granddaughter. Truth was, if House wanted to make her parents hate him, keeping Emma away from them was a good way to make that happen.

"Honestly, I don't care which way we do it, but it has to be done."

While Cuddy finished eating her food, House kept his arm around her shoulders but sat back so he wasn't restricting her so much. At the same time, he watched Emma squirming and looking around idly, still content to be where she was.

Like plenty of times before during the last couple of weeks, it hit him again like a hard thump to the chest: he was a father. Emma was his little girl. Just like every other time that realisation had struck him, he wasn't sure whether the squeeze of warmth in the pit of his gut was deep affection for her or plain discomfort at what reality had become for him. He stretched his foot out and lightly tapped the edge of the rocker, causing it to rock slightly. The brief movement had Emma throwing her arms out in surprise but then she returned to being nothing but content.

Cuddy sitting forward to put her plate on the coffee table broke him out of his reverie. When she sat back, he tightened his arm around her shoulder and stroked his fingers up and down her arm as she settled to his side. The quietness was short-lived, however.

At her words, House looked at her, studied her face and then looked away again with a sigh as he lifted his arm away from her shoulders. He dropped his hand to his lap. Way to bring the mood crashing down to bedrock level. And it wasn't even the mention of her parents so much as it was the reminder of his.

"I've never once stopped your parents from visiting," he told her. The last thing he wanted to get into a discussion about was her parents - or worse, his. Just for the mere reminder of his own parents immediately made him want to be difficult, to deflect it back on Cuddy. He reached for his cane to stand up. "Technically, you've been the one stopping them from seeing Emma. Using me as a reason, but still. I never told them they couldn't see her."

"No, you just complained and deflected and threatened to run away every time the topic comes up."

Technically, he might be right. After all, he'd never directly told her parents they couldn't visit. He'd left that to Cuddy. What he had done was make it obvious he wasn't comfortable with having her family around and he didn't intend to make any effort to change that fact. He'd certainly made a mess of her mother's visit.

Cuddy could almost handle that if it weren't for the fact he'd basically told her he probably wouldn't be around if her family was. That meant she was in the position of having to decide between letting her daughter spend time with her grandparents or her father. It was a crappy position for her because neither was the right answer. She was coming to accept it wasn't going to change so she was going to have to make the decision to bring her parents for a visit because both they and Emma deserved to have time together.

"Well, then I'm going to tell them to come," she said, looking up at him. "We can talk about how you want to handle it, or you can talk to Megan about it, but it's going to happen."

He knew it was inevitable Cuddy's parents would eventually visit, or Cuddy would at the very least take Emma to visit them. Just because he knew it was inevitable, however, didn't mean he had to like it. He didn't like it. He especially didn't like that having to deal with the inevitability of her parents made dealing with his parents that much more inevitable.

He rubbed the back of his neck, then threw his arm out to announce his defeat and to pretend he wasn't bothered by that. "Fine. It's going to happen." Dropping his hand back to his side with a clap, he added, "Did I ever say that it wouldn't, that your parents couldn't come to visit?"

House didn't want to discuss how he was going to handle it because he'd already made up in his mind how he was going to handle it. He was going to stay away, for Cuddy's sake, for Emma's sake and for his own sake. He'd decided months ago he was going to keep out of Cuddy family affairs because while Cuddy and Emma were his family, Cuddy's family was Cuddy's business and he'd already ruined any chance of getting along with her family, anyway. If he could get away with not dealing with her family, then he'd make every effort to make sure he got away with it as much as possible.

"Great!" he continued in mock enthusiasm as he headed around the coffee table. "I can't wait. We can throw a big party for Mom and Dad while they're here. Lots of booze, hire a few strippers, play intimate get-to-know you party games..."

"Dad's not really into strippers," Cuddy said, keeping her tone perfectly even. "Bowling. He likes bowling. And chess. Mostly, though, he likes to be left alone to watch tv or read."

She would never understand the intensity of his resistance. Yes, family could be a huge pain in the ass. They could be embarrassing and intrusive and demanding. But it was family, and even though she knew he had issue with his parents, she couldn't really understand why he hated all families.

She'd hoped that becoming a father and the feelings he was having because of Emma would make him rethink his position. She'd hoped beginning his own family would help him understand how her parents felt about her and about Emma. She really hoped, although she didn't expect, that he'd stop and think about how his parents might feel about him and about the granddaughter he was hiding from them.

It was early, yet, so she was probably expecting too much, too soon. In time, maybe he would soften, just a little. Maybe in time he'd recognize the importance of Emma's relationship with her grandparents--all her grandparents. Until then, though, Cuddy was going to have to continue juggling everyone's demands.

Emma started to fuss, pulling faces and kicking her legs. Whether she was picking up on House's tension or simply getting bored was impossible to know. Cuddy scooted forward and picked her up. She held her in front of her face, her hands under Emma's arms and her fingers extended to support the back of Emma's head.

"It's okay," she said quietly, watching the expressions cross her delicate little features. "You'll enjoy Grandma and Grandpa. They're suckers for their grandkids." She dropped her voice to a whisper. "Don't tell them I told you, but you'll be able to make them do anything you want."

Bowling, chess, being left alone... House worked his jaw. What Cuddy had described of her dad about explained some of his own hobbies, which he couldn't find fault with, not really. Maybe her dad was one of the lesser annoying members of her family, he decided. He wasn't about to let that on to her, though.

"Sounds like a real bore," he retorted as he headed for the door. Not wanting to discuss her family - or family in general - he moved into the hall and towards the kitchen. Not that he had any agenda to attend to out there. Once he got into the kitchen, he wasn't sure what to do with himself. Spying the few dishes in the sink that had yet to be washed, he stepped over to those and began rinsing them before stacking them in the dishwasher. He wrung some water through a sponge and gave the counter tops a wipe down, then grabbed the broom and gave the floor a hasty sweep.

Doing the chores did little to take his mind away from his parents, however. With the dirt swept into a pile at his feet, he grasped the broom handle with both hands and propped his chin on the end of it with a sigh. Oh, how he wished the issue would simply evaporate into thin air. Not thinking about it kind of made that happen... until his thoughts were returned right back to the subject all over again. Deep down, he knew it was never going to go away no matter how much time he spent avoiding it.

He didn't want to admit that, though, and he dismissed it from his mind as quickly as it had entered it, and he resumed sweeping. Once he put the broom away, he swept the small pile of dirt onto a dustpan with a brush, tipped it into the bin and washed his hands once he'd stowed the dustpan back in the cupboard.

He turned to the laundry next, just for something to do. He flipped the light on and saw a laundry basket of clothes that had yet to be folded and put away. Well, folding laundry was better than thinking about his parents and discussing family. He grabbed the basket and limped out to the dining room with it. Putting the basket on the table, he grabbed one of Emma's onesies and folded it, then another and did the same.

"Hello," he said to himself in mild surprise at spotting sudden movement in the basket. He picked up one of Emma's little vests and held it up in front of him. A spider quickly scurried across the material, startled by having its habitat disturbed.

He headed out of the dining room, across the hall to the living room. "We have a visitor," he said to Cuddy from the doorway. He held the vest up for her to see the spider crawling across it. "He made himself a home in Emma's clothes, in the laundry basket."

Cuddy simply rolled her eyes as House walked out. It was clear nothing she said was going to change his mind about family. Any family. If spending time with the Cuddys didn't go horribly wrong on its own, he'd find a way to make it go wrong. She wasn't going to waste her precious time and energy trying to get him to change his attitude. She'd do what she could to minimize the amount of fighting but House and her parents were simply going to have to learn to deal with each other.

She could hear him puttering around in the kitchen. Since the sounds weren't accompanied by crashing, banging or explosions, she decided to let him be. Instead, she turned her focus to Emma. The baby was happy now that Cuddy had picked her up, her big eyes roaming around as Cuddy talked to her. Cuddy moved her around in an attempt to give Emma new things to look at, new things to attract her interest.

"Don't worry," Cuddy said, her voice low enough House wouldn't be able to overhear even if he returned to the living room. "Mommy's going to make sure you meet Grandma and Grandpa House no matter what Daddy says. I don't know how I'm going to do it, but I will." Emma stared at her face, then suddenly threw her hands up. "I know," Cuddy murmured. "It's not going to be easy but Daddy's not the only sneaky adult around here."

She'd just lifted Emma to rest against her shoulder when House walked in, displaying his discovery. She pulled a face. "Well, don't walk around with it--kill it. And make sure there aren't any others lurking in the basket." Cuddy got to her feet, carrying Emma away from House and the spider. "And when I say kill it, I mean kill it--not keep it as a pet."

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