ticcyyy: (Default)
ticcyyy ([personal profile] ticcyyy) wrote2009-03-28 10:01 am

Lead You Into The Night - chapter four

Title: Lead You Into The Night
Pairing: House/Cuddy, House/Wilson friendship
Rating: PG-13
Words: 35,000
Author's Notes & Credits: A big, HUGE thank you to my wonderful betas, [livejournal.com profile] ducks_in_a_row and [livejournal.com profile] topaz_eyes! Without the both of you, this story would not have come together anywhere near as smoothly as it has. The title of the fic is derived from the song Lead Me Into The Night by The Cardigans. It was a song I listened to a lot while hammering this story out; it, in some ways, set the tone of the story. The chapter titles are also derived from the song's lyrics. The banner was made by me.

Chapter One | Chapter Two | Chapter Three | Chapter Four | Chapter Five | Chapter Six




CHAPTER FOUR:
Sailing For Another To Guide Us To Land




House sat in his car and drummed his fingers on the steering wheel as he looked up at Cuddy's house. After his talk with Wilson, the rest of the day had been slow; all he'd been able to think about was what they'd discussed. After clocking out at 5pm, he didn't allow himself to think about it as he got in his car and crawled through the rush hour traffic to Cuddy's place.

He slipped himself a couple of Vicodin and climbed out of the car. He headed up the path and knocked on the front door, rubbing his aching leg. When Cuddy opened the door, he was greeted with the shrill sound of the baby crying and the sight of Cuddy jiggling her up and down with barely suppressed impatience.

"I see you're having fun."

"What do you want?" she snapped.

"Is this a bad time?"

"It's always a bad time."

"Want me to leave?"

Cuddy fixed him with an assessing look before she stepped back and pulled the door open wider for him. He entered and shrugged out of his coat, watching Cuddy the whole time.

"She's been crying for over two hours," Cuddy explained. "She's been fed. She's been changed. There shouldn't be anything wrong with her and yet..." Cuddy let out a frustrated grunt. "Eva, shush. Mommy is trying her hardest, just stop crying."

He hung his coat up. "Pre-verbal kids don't tend to respond to barked orders."

Cuddy reeled around and glared at him. "I'm not barking orders at her."

"Telling her to shut up. Sounds like an order to me."

The baby let out another ear-piercing shriek and Cuddy jerked her head away. "Eva!" she bellowed. The loudness of her voice startled the baby, who started crying even harder.

House took note of the way the baby was behaving. "Look at your kid," he said. "What's she doing?"

"She's screaming. What does it look like she's doing?"

"No, Cuddy. Look at her. Look at the way she's arching her back and trying to draw her legs up. She's in pain. She has colic."

Cuddy peered down at the baby. She lifted a hand and pressed it to her face, shielding her eyes.

"For God's sake, Cuddy. Pull yourself together. Your kid's got colic. It's not the end of the world."

"I'm her mother. I'm supposed to be able to recognise things like that."

"You're also a doctor," he agreed. "Colic's pretty hard to miss."

Cuddy opened her mouth, an anguished look on her face, and House braced himself to hear her shout something at him. Instead, she pulled the baby from her shoulder and held her out to him. "Get this thing away from me."

House raised his brows. "Your kid's a 'thing' now?"

"Get it away from me before I throw her."

He was stunned at Cuddy's words. He swung straight into action, however; he tossed his cane aside and stepped in, taking the baby from Cuddy's hands. She turned and headed straight down the hall; House heard the bathroom door slam shut.

"Great," he muttered. He looked down at the distressed baby and then around the hall. His eyes landed on various things -- the stroller, the baby harness on the dining table, the brightly coloured rocker. None of those things were going to help. He lifted the baby up to his shoulder and limped into the living room. He sat on the couch just as her whole body contorted in another spasm of pain.

"All right," he said impatiently. "That's enough." He forced her into a sitting position on his good thigh until he had her sitting with her spine erect. Her arms continued to flail, her hands balled into tight fists, and her screaming persisted.

"Shh," he shushed, starting to feel a little panicky. "Shh. That's enough. Shh."

He spotted a pacifier on the other end of the couch. He scooted across to it, grabbed it and worked the nipple into her mouth. He held it there until she latched onto it and began to suck furiously. A few moments later, she let out a burp, along with a stream of white vomit that splashed over his forearm and onto his jeans. Her cries immediately toned down to an irritable whimper.

"Damn it," he cursed under his breath. He realised someone was by the doorway and he turned his head sharply towards it to see Cuddy standing there. She had a devastated look on her face.

"Your kid vomited on me," he said.

"I'll... get you a cloth diaper," she replied absently.

He looked back down to the baby. Her whines had quietened even further and her eyes were drooping shut. She hiccuped and another small string of vomit escaped her mouth, the pacifier tumbling down onto the couch. House wiped her chin and mouth with the bib fastened around her neck and grabbed the pacifier again. She gobbled on it greedily but sank straight back towards sleep.

"Here," Cuddy said, holding a cloth diaper. He took it and dabbed at his jeans. "I've been trying to quieten her for hours and you have her settled in less than twenty minutes," she said in a small voice.

"So?" he replied.

"So? I'm her mother."

"Hate to break it to you, but you're also human."

She crossed her arms over her chest. "You're good with her."

"No. I'm just more objective than you are."

"You handle her better than I do."

"Cuddy, cut the crap."

She dropped her arms to her side with a defeated sigh. She then held them out. "I'll put her to bed." House lifted the baby up into Cuddy's hands and resumed wiping the vomit away. Some had spilled onto the couch, too, which he cleaned off as best as he could. Once he was done, he tossed the cloth diaper on the coffee table.

Cuddy came back into the room a few minutes later and sank down beside him on the couch. He took in the sight of her: her tired, red eyes, her sallow skin, the slump of her shoulders. "Go to bed," he said.

"Can't," she replied wearily. "She's due for a feed in an hour."

"Got any milk expressed?"

"In the fridge."

"I'll take care of it. Go to bed."

Cuddy looked at him in surprise. "What? Why?"

He shrugged awkwardly. "Because you're barely functioning. And a barely functioning mother makes a pretty ineffective one."

"No," she said. "I mean, why are you offering to do that?"

"I just told you."

She stared at him. "You don't have to."

"I know I don't."

It felt like a lifetime had passed by the time Cuddy slowly stood up. She wrung her hands together. "You'll need to heat the milk to room temperature. Best way to do it is boil the kettle and warm the bottle in a jug of hot water when it's time for her feed. Change her diaper before you feed her."

He nodded, wondering if he'd officially lost his mind. "Go to bed."

"And then she has a play time for an hour, or until she feels tired."

"Go to bed, Cuddy."

She turned to leave but faced back to him. "You sure you'll be okay?"

"I'll live. And if I don't, I'll blame you. Go to bed."

He watched her leave the room. Once he heard her bedroom door close, he listened to the silence in the house. It was so quiet, it was almost deafening. A dog barked somewhere in the neighbourhood and a car rolled by outside. He became aware of a soft tapping sound and realised the noise was rain hitting the windows.

He gave himself a mental shake as he grabbed up the remote and switched the TV on.


*


It was close to 7pm when the baby announced she was awake. House left the TV running to go into the nursery, transferring the baby to the changing table. He didn't realise until he had her diaper undone and was confronted with a runny bowel movement, that he had no clue whatsoever how to deal with a baby. How was it possible that something so small and defenceless could be equally intimidating?

He wrestled with the pull tabs once he slid a clean diaper underneath her. It took several tries to get the diaper fitted around her squirming body and even then it was too loose. Changing a diaper was a simple task and yet House couldn't recall a time when he'd felt as clumsy as he did right now. The baby's persistent crying made the job all the more disconcerting; she cried even louder when he carried her out to the living room and set her down on the play mat.

"Hold your horses," he told her. "It's coming. I don't have the stuff on tap like your mom does."

He left her to cry while he went to the kitchen. Again, the instructions Cuddy had given him were simple enough -- heat a bottle in a jug of boiling water. Yet he couldn't help feeling completely at a loss for what he was doing. It didn't help that he wasn't familiar with Cuddy's kitchen. He considered waking her up to make her deal with the baby. But in the end, he got it together and warmed a bottle of milk.

"I can tell already," he said as he picked up the baby and set her on his lap, "that you're going to be a bossy, headache-inducing nightmare just like your mom." He had no idea how to comfortably hold a squirming, screaming baby and feed it at the same time, so he stuck the bottle in her mouth in hope that it would quieten her.

It worked; she immediately began sucking with her eyes closed. He began to tire at holding her at such an awkward angle and eased her into the crook of his arm.

He tried not to think about what he was doing. He tried hardest of all to ignore that having the kid in his arms wasn't half as bad as he imagined it to be. He caught himself staring down at the baby in curiosity at one point. He snapped his attention back to the television.

She drained the bottle within fifteen minutes. After he burped her, he set her down on the play mat and resumed his seat on the couch. She stayed on the floor for about an hour, gazing up at the bright coloured toys hanging over her. House got up once to move the baby onto her front when she started getting restless; he watched in fascination at the way she jerkily looked around the room, eyes wide and her head bobbing against the strain of still developing neck muscles. She really wasn't a difficult baby, he thought to himself. She was no more demanding than any other six-week old infant. Any logical person observing the baby would be incredulous as to why Cuddy was struggling so much with her.

The baby eventually started to get cranky. House gathered her up and took her to the nursery. He wrestled with another diaper change and put the baby in the crib. She whined for all of a few minutes before falling to sleep. He went back to the living room with a sense of relief that he'd survived the babysitting ordeal and stretched out on the couch with his shoes kicked off. He found something on TV to watch but ended up dozing off at some point. He startled awake when he felt something nudging his shoulder.

"Hey," Cuddy greeted softly.

He peered up at her with an eye screwed shut, grogginess heavy in his head. The baby was impatiently rooting for a nipple. "What time is it?"

"It's late."

"How late?"

"Past midnight." Cuddy nudged him again to move and he sat up enough to let her take a seat beside him. She lifted her sweater and worked the baby to her breast. "Was Eva okay for you?"

House yawned and scrubbed his face. "Oh, she was a terror. Bossy. Manipulative. Just like you. Like mother, like daughter."

Cuddy gave a wry snort.

"Sleep well?"

"Best sleep I've had in as long as I can remember." She glanced at him. "Thanks for staying."

"You can pay me back with obscene sexual favours."

"Good luck with that. I hardly feel sexy, let alone interested in sex."

A retort was on the tip of his tongue but he bit it back. Mentioning sex around Cuddy wasn't the same as it used to be before helping her to get pregnant. He watched the baby feeding, then turned his attention to Cuddy. She was staring off into space at nothing in particular. "You okay?" he asked.

She shook her head and he waited for her to explain. When it became obvious she wasn't going to, he looked away and considered getting up and leaving now she didn't need him for the time being.

"I never thought motherhood would be so hard," Cuddy said in a quiet voice just as he was about to stand up. "I thought motherhood was going to be everything I've ever wanted."

House hesitated and settled back against the couch.

"Everything was going to be perfect," she continued. "I was finally going to have something in my life that so many other people get so easily. Something that mattered to me besides my job. And instead..." She looked down to the baby. "I'm supposed to love this baby. She's supposed to be my world. This isn't what was supposed to happen."

"Not everything happens the way we want it to, Cuddy."

"But some things are supposed to come naturally." She looked across at him. "I thought maternal instincts were natural. I feel like I'm missing something vital, like I'm not programmed right, or..."

"You take care of her. You feed her, you bathe her, you always make sure she has clean clothes."

"That's because I have to. Not because I want to. I'm supposed to want to do all of those things."

"The fact that you do it at all means you're capable."

"You don't get it, House. I feel trapped. I feel like a prisoner. I don't want to stay in the house with her but I'm terrified that if I go out, I'll fall apart in public. I feel like I have nowhere to go."

He studied her face. "You're wrong. I get it."

"No, you don't."

"Yes, I do."

"No, you don't, House. You don't even want to have anything to do with this baby. How could you possibly get it?"

"Because I watch you with that kid. I don't have to want to be involved in order to understand what's going on."

"Understand what's going on? What's that supposed to mean? What could you possibly understand that I don't?"

"You're depressed."

She frowned in confusion. "What? No, I'm not."

"Postpartum depression, Cuddy."

She was silent for a moment. "I do not have PPD. I'm just tired. I'm run down, I'm feeling a bit lonely, I--"

"Right. It looks like a duck, it walks like a duck, it even quacks like a duck. But it's not a duck."

"I don't have postpartum depression, House."

"Yet you admit to hating your baby."

Cuddy visibly flinched. She opened her mouth but then turned her head away.

"If you can think of a better explanation, I'm all ears."

"I'm not depressed," she snapped.

"No. You're just miserable 24/7. Crying constantly, convinced you're a failure--"

"Thanks to you."

"You're not bonding with your kid."

"I don't want to bond with her."

A heavy silence fell over the room. Cuddy looked away again, her face pale with the shock of her own words.

"Is that what you want for your kid?" he asked quietly.

"House--"

"Is it?"

Cuddy sniffed and lifted a hand to wipe her cheeks. "I don't know what I want anymore."

"Doubt you want to live with the guilt of knowing you emotionally neglected her."

She let out a soft sob.

"Is that what you want?"

"No." Cuddy looked back to him, her cheeks wet with tears and a clear drizzle of mucus smeared around her nostrils. "No, of course not. But I don't know what to do. I don't..."

House stiffened as she leaned in and buried her face against his shoulder. The baby had finished her feed; now alert and quiet and completely oblivious to her mother's tears. She cooed contentedly, the sound a stark contrast to Cuddy's despair.

Uncertain what else to do, much less say, he let Cuddy lean against him until she was all cried out.


*


The sound of pounding on the front door jolted House awake. For a few seconds, he felt disoriented and panicky. He'd been having a vivid dream about the baby, though the details of it immediately began to bleed into a jumbled mesh of indistinguishable images, leaving him with just the remnants of emotional unease. He scrubbed his face with his hands and looked at the clock. 2.14am. What had woken him?

Someone pounding on the door again answered his question. Who on earth would be demanding to be let in at this time of night? He swung out of bed after he downed a couple of Vicodin and limped down the hall. Whoever was knocking was persistent. "All right, I'm coming," he called irritably.

Still half asleep, he didn't register the sound of a baby crying until he yanked the door open to see Cuddy standing with the baby in her arms. The baby was squirming, arching her back as though she was in pain, and Cuddy herself looked like she was on the brink of a meltdown.

House stared at both of them in bewilderment. "Wh--?"

"I didn't know where else to go."

He looked at her dishevelled hair and her pale face, her pyjamas and a grey sweater pulled on over the top. His mind suddenly caught up with what was happening. It was one thing to go to Cuddy's place; it was another thing entirely to have everything invading his apartment, the only sanctuary he had left. "You can't come in here."

"Please. House, please."

"Why didn't you call me?"

"I was going to, but I needed to get the hell out of the house. I couldn't think of anywhere else to go. Eva, shut up." Cuddy gave the baby a jerky shake, which was enough for House. He yanked Cuddy into his apartment, slamming the door shut behind her.

"Why didn't you call me?" he demanded again.

"I thought I could handle her."

"That's your excuse for hightailing it to my apartment in the middle of the night?" The baby's cries weren't letting up and he couldn't shake from his mind the image of Cuddy on the verge of shaking her. He held his hands out. "Give the kid to me."

"I so badly wanted to prove to myself that I could handle her on my own, but the brat just wouldn't shut up--"

"Cuddy, I don't want to hear it. Just give her to me."

Cuddy bundled the baby in his arms, then stood back with her arms wrapped around her middle. He lifted the baby to his shoulder.

"You bring anything? Diapers? Anything?"

"No. I just put her in the car and came over here. I didn't think--"

"You're damn right you didn't." He felt frantic enough with a screaming baby in tow while a distressed Cuddy looked on, but knowing he had nothing for the baby only made him feel even more uptight. As much as he felt like shouting at Cuddy, however, the baby's needs were more important.

Cuddy covered her face with her hands. "That brat's screaming is like torture."

"She's not a brat. She's in pain."

Cuddy didn't seem to be listening to him. "God, Eva, shut up."

"Go to my room," he ordered.

"House, this isn't the time to be making--"

"Make like Nike and just do it. You're not going to be any help standing around and complaining about how much you can't stand your own kid's cries."

"I'm not complaining. I'm--"

"Just go."

House gave her a hard look until she relented and headed down the hall. He glanced around the living room helplessly. What the hell was he going to do? His eyes landed on the metronome on the mantelpiece. He grabbed the metronome and set it on the coffee table, then sat down on the couch with the baby still up against his shoulder. He fiddled with the weight on the pendulum, adjusting it to 72 beats per minute, the average heart rate of an adult human. The metronome clicked to life once he flicked the pendulum and he shifted the baby down to his lap, forcing her to sit upright.

"Okay, come on," he murmured to the baby, jiggling his good thigh up and down in rhythm with the ticking sound. The baby wailed and batted her fists, drawing her legs up every time she cramped up in pain. But eventually, she began to relax a little, enough so that she was able to pass gas.

"Gross," House told her, pulling a face as the baby let out more wind. "Where are your manners? What's that worn out mother of yours been teaching you? That it's okay to fart on people?"

The baby's cries decreased to a mild whine as her pain eased and House raised his brows when she looked up at him.

"Feeling better? You look like you're feeling better. Better out than in, right?"

The baby hiccuped. A small torrent of white vomit then gushed out of her mouth.

"Nice. That's the gratitude I get for helping you, is it? A technicoloured yawn?" He wiped the vomit away from her chin with her bib. He then smiled slightly as he watched the baby yawn for real. "You're a terror, you know that?"

"Is she asleep?"

House looked over his shoulder. "No. She farted on me a lot, though."

Cuddy managed a small, humourless smile. "What's that ticking sound?"

"Metronome. Babies are like puppies -- they respond and relax to sounds that remind them of their mother's heartbeat."

"I never would've thought of that." She paused. "I wish I knew how to settle her the way you do."

"It's not your fault, Cuddy."

She crossed her arms over her chest and House was struck by how fragile she looked. "I don't want to go home."

"Well, you can't stay here."

"I don't think I can stand being alone in the house with her tonight."

"What did I just say, Cuddy?"

The baby whined and House looked down at her. She was close to falling asleep, though the way her brow furrowed indicated that she was still in some discomfort. It was possible she'd wake up again in the night with more gas pain and Cuddy likely wouldn't be in any state to deal with it. He really didn't want either of them to stay in his apartment, however. This was his place, and his only. He looked back over his shoulder at Cuddy.

"You didn't even bring anything," he pointed out. "Staying here makes no sense."

"I could go home and get her bag."

House sighed. He felt wrong making Cuddy leave, if only for the baby's sake. He shook his head. "Look. There's a 7-11 down on the corner. Get what you need from there."

She looked surprised. "I can stay?"

"Only for tonight." He felt a need to stress that point. "Only for tonight."

Cuddy nodded, relief flooding across her face.

"You get the couch. My bed is off-limits."

"What about Eva?"

He thought about that for a moment, looking down at the baby again. She'd nodded off, her head lolled to the side. He leaned forward to stop the metronome. "She can sleep on the floor on a blanket. I've got one in my closet."

He nodded to the closet door behind her. While she fetched a blanket, House pushed the coffee table out of the way with his good leg. Cuddy rounded the couch with a blanket in her hands and she lay it out on the floor. The baby barely stirred as House placed her down onto the blanket.

"You owe me," he said as he stood up. "Big time."

"I don't even know how I'd be able to pay you back."

"Why'd you come here, anyway?"

"I told you. I couldn't think of anywhere else to go."

"Going to Wilson would've been the safer option."

"I trust you."

House frowned. "Well, that's stupid of you."

"Probably," she agreed quietly.

He watched Cuddy for a few moments while she looked right back at him. He swallowed as his stomach knotted up with a familiar emotion, the same one that had made him back off from Cuddy all those months ago. He pushed past her to head towards his room.

"House."

He stopped by the hallway.

"Thank you."

"I wish you'd stop saying that."

"Well, what else do you want me to say?"

"Nothing. You're way more tolerable when you keep your mouth shut."

He ignored the hurt look on Cuddy's face and continued down the hall to his bedroom.


*


Three weeks passed. House continued going by Cuddy's place almost every afternoon after work. It was becoming routine for him now, to the point where he was sharing dinner with her most nights, as well as sharing the workload of looking after Eva. In fact, he no longer even needed to be let in; the spare key Cuddy kept hidden among the potted plants had joined the rest of his keys on his keyring.

"Bought Chinese," he announced as he let himself in. He held up a bag of food once he hung his coat up and entered the living room.

Cuddy looked up from the armchair. "I was going to make dinner."

"Well, now you don't have to." The baby was on her stomach on the play mat, happily kicking her feet and making excited noises at the thrill of discovering her own voice, while the TV played at a low volume in the background.

"Eva's due for a feed in a minute," Cuddy said as he handed her a container of food.

"She's happy. Eat, then feed her."

"I'm not hungry."

"Don't give me that crap. Eat." He waved the container at her until Cuddy took it with an irritable sigh. He sat down on the couch and began to dig into his food. "Take it you had a bad day, then."

"My day was fine."

"Said with all the enthusiasm of a flat tire."

"Since when have you ever cared what my day is like?"

"Since I noticed your face is resembling that pinched cat's ass look."

She shrugged. "Wasn't a bad day. Just... tiring. All I wanted to do was sleep."

The baby let out a delighted shriek at nothing in particular. House nodded to her. "Eva seems happy."

Cuddy looked at him in surprise.

"What?"

"I think that's the first time I've ever heard you call her by her name."

It was his turn to shrug. "Slip of the tongue." To cover himself up, he added, ""I could call her brat if you'd prefer."

Cuddy gave him a look that was as guilty as it was sharp.

House shovelled some food into his mouth to avoid any further conversation for now. Luckily, Cuddy didn't seem to be in a talkative mood. They ate in silence while Eva kicked around; House watched her in between half-heartedly paying attention to the television. She was over two months old now and becoming gradually aware of the world around her. House couldn't help being fascinated by the process -- how she got so much pleasure out of discovering such simple things like rolling onto her side, or the different noises she could make with her voice. The first time she genuinely smiled at him had affected him in a way he didn't really expect.

Halfway through their meal, Eva began to get restless. Cuddy let out a resigned sigh and stood up. Instead of going to the baby like House expected her to, however, she headed to the kitchen. He listened out for what she was doing while still watching Eva, hearing cupboards opening and closing, the kettle switching on and other movements he couldn't quite decipher. In the end, curiosity won out and he got up to investigate.

He stopped in the kitchen doorway and frowned. "Is that baby formula?"

She looked askance at him. "Yes."

"Why?"

She tipped a scoop of formula into a bottle. "I've decided I've had enough of breastfeeding. It's too tiring. It takes too much out of me."

"Since when?"

"Since day one."

"You seem to be doing fine with it now."

"I'm not doing fine. I'm not doing fine with anything, House. Especially not breastfeeding." She picked up the kettle and poured a measured amount of boiling water into the bottle.

"So, you're just going to give up?"

"Something I should've done a long time ago."

"Because you're tired? That's a stupid reason to give up."

She looked at him sharply. "You're not the one breastfeeding."

"You've made it this far. Why give up now?"

"Because I'm tired, House. I'm tired and I'm frustrated and I'm not producing enough milk--"

"Oh, that's crap. You're producing plenty."

"No, I'm not."

"Yes, you are. She's content when she's been fed. That means she's getting more than enough."

Cuddy shook her head as she screwed the nipple onto the bottle.

"You can't just give up," he fired at her.

"Oh, what do you care?"

"Because you're giving up for the wrong reason."

"I need a correct reason for giving up breastfeeding?" Cuddy let out a bitter laugh as she picked the bottle up and shook it to mix up the formula.

"You need a valid reason. Being tired and worn out isn't valid."

"That's easy for you to say. Not your kid, remember?" she replied in a crisp tone.

"No, but she's your kid. You have to bond with her."

"I'm bonding with her just fine."

"No, you're not, Cuddy. You barely touch her. You barely smile at her. You said yourself you hate her."

Cuddy ignored him. She put the bottle on the counter to close the can of formula and in a burst of frustration, House strode into the kitchen. He made a swipe for the bottle, just missing it as Cuddy snatched it away.

"Give that to me," he demanded.

"No. Get out of my way, House."

"Give it to me." He reached out and snatched her wrist.

She gasped in surpise and then twisted her hand in his grasp. He tightened his grip and grabbed the bottle with his other hand. Cuddy kept jerking her arm away; her grip on it was too tight for him to get a proper hold. He gritted his teeth and grunted, his shoes scuffing on the floor while he wrestled with Cuddy.

"Let go," she demanded between clenched teeth.

He ignored her. Being bigger and stronger, he managed to pry the bottle from her. He held it high in the air out of Cuddy's reach.

She made an angry grab for it and missed. "Give it back!"

"No. You go out there and breastfeed your kid."

"I don't have to do anything you say."

"If you want to bond with her, you'll listen to me."

In the living room, the baby started crying. House lifted his other hand and unscrewed the nipple while still holding the bottle in the air.

"Don't you dare," she hissed.

He dodged her a few times as he tried to lower the bottle in the sink--and as she made another lunge for it, the bottle got knocked out of his hand. It landed with a dull thunk to the sink. Formula slugged out and pooled around the drain.

"HOUSE!" Cuddy shrieked.

Cuddy tried grabbing the bottle again but House held her back with his elbow while he upturned it to empty the rest of the contents. He startled as a hand violently smacked his arm, then again, and again, Cuddy hitting him on the same spot angrily. He flinched away at each strike until the bottle was empty. He dropped it back to the sink with a loud clatter and he turned to Cuddy, seizing her wrists in his hands. "Stop it!"

"I hate you," she shot back.

"Yeah, well that's too bad. You need to pull yourself together. Stop it." She tried yanking away and he gripped her harder until her arms were locked. "Stop it."

Silence abruptly fell over the kitchen, giving way to Eva's cries. He drew in a deep breath, realising he was breathing heavily and that his heart was thudding hard in his chest. He released Cuddy slowly, cautious she was going to launch into another attack.

"Go feed your baby."

She let out a sharp, hitched breath.

"Go."

Cuddy shrank back at the volume of his voice, then moved quickly out of the kitchen. He watched her until she was out of sight and a moment later heard the baby's cries falter. Then silence. He let out a shaky breath and looked down. Formula was still pooled around the drain; he turned the water on and his eyes landed on the formula can. He grabbed it up, pried the lid off and dumped the entire contents into the sink. The powdered milk turned into instant liquid as it was washed away. He shut the water off once it was all gone, threw the tin in the trash and braced his hands against the counter.

House was a lot of things but physically violent towards women wasn't one of them. He'd been dangerously close to lashing out at Cuddy in frustration moments before. He'd never once in his life ever felt that way towards her before. Once he calmed down, he headed back to the living room; he was greeted with a dark look from Cuddy as she breastfed the baby.

"You'll thank me," he said.

"I already have, a thousand times, and you knock it back every time. Why should I be thankful to you now?"

"Look. If you don't want to bond with your kid, that's your decision. But as long as I'm around, I'm not going to enable you to do that."

"You wouldn't know the first thing about bonding, House. You, of all people, who avoids relationships and you're telling me about bonding?"

"I helped you have that kid. I'm not going to let you throw that away."

"You don't even care about this kid, House. So what does it matter?"

"It matters because that kid's safety matters. Why else do you think I've stuck around and put up with all your bullshit?"

"Postpartum depression isn't bullshit, House."

"Oh, so now you're admitting you have depression?"

"Yes," Cuddy snapped. "I'm admitting I have depression. I'm depressed. Is that what you want to hear?"

House fell silent. At first, he was stunned at what Cuddy had said. But in the next instance, all anger drained away from him, overtaken by an inexplicable sense of relief, like a weight had been lifted off. He let out a slow breath and hung his head. "Yes," he said, suddenly so tired his legs felt weak. "That's what I wanted to hear. For your sake, not mine."

Cuddy looked away. He limped across to the coffee table, pushing a few toys and a cloth diaper out of the way, and he sat down on the edge with a weary sigh. She was gazing off towards the window. He licked his lips and tried to work out how to put into words what he wanted to say. He didn't know how to ask Cuddy if she trusted him. He didn't know how to tell her that everything would be okay.

He dropped his eyes to the floor with another sigh.



CHAPTER FIVE & SIX