ticcyyy: (Default)
ticcyyy ([personal profile] ticcyyy) wrote2009-03-28 09:59 am

Lead You Into The Night - chapter three

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

Went Too Far And Came Too Close

The sun was setting as House exited the hospital and headed across the parking lot. The bright, sunny day had done little to curb the bitter February frost and House immediately cranked the heat up to high the moment he started his car. The only plans he had were to grab a pizza and some beer on the way home.

He pulled out onto the road, merging into the swelling rush hour traffic that crawled down Prospect Avenue. He turned on the radio; WGBO FM's Afternoon Jazz segment and the mellow tones of saxophones and rhythm guitars kept him company on his way down Main Street, until he turned into a shop-lined road several blocks away from his apartment. He stopped by the pizzeria on the corner and ordered himself a large supreme, then ducked into the adjacent liquor store to grab some beer. Fifteen minutes later, he was back in his car to continue home.

After his conversation with Wilson earlier in the day, he'd determinedly pushed Cuddy and the baby from his thoughts. But now that he was alone and with little to do while stuck in traffic, his mind wandered back to the night before. Cuddy huddled in the bathroom crying, the baby screaming in her crib, the panic he'd felt when he'd been unable to find Cuddy -- all of them replayed like a camera reel in his head.

Reaching a stop light, House stared ahead of him with his hands braced on the steering wheel. That same uneasy feeling he'd been having ever since Cuddy had gone into labour crept, subtle and quiet, into the pit of his gut. At the next set of lights, he swung around to head back in the direction he'd just come.

A little over twenty minutes later, he pulled up outside Cuddy's house. He killed the engine and peered through the fogged window at her place. He was being stupid; he had no reason to be concerned because last night had simply been Cuddy having a meltdown brought on by hormones and tiredness. Despite himself, however, he climbed out of the car, leaving his pizza and beer on the back seat.

When he reached the front door, he hesitated before knocking. Aside from the quiet hum of the television, he couldn't hear any sign of the baby crying. Within less than a minute of waiting, he heard footsteps approaching the door. The lock rattled and the doorknob turned.


"I was the last time I checked," he replied. He assessed Cuddy quickly. Her hair was tied back in an unkempt knot and she was dressed in sweatpants and a sweater that came over her wrists. She looked tired and flat.

"What are you doing here?" she asked.

"I was just in the neighbourhood."

She gave him a disbelieving look. "You're never 'just in the neighbourhood'."

"Well, I am now. Gonna let me in?"

He shifted uncomfortably under her incredulous gaze. She slowly stepped back and held the door open for him. "Do you want a drink? Or...?"

He shook his head as she closed the door behind him. "Not staying long." He paused, cocking a listening ear in the direction of the nursery. "Where's the kid?"

"She's asleep." Cuddy crossed her arms around her middle. "Look, House, about last night. I'm... I'm sorry about what happened. I was just being--"

"Pathetic? I know. You're a new mom. Being pathetic is bound to happen."

She ran her hand over her face. She turned to the living room and House followed her until he was standing in the doorway while she took a seat on the couch. The breast pump was still on the coffee table, as well as the cloth diaper strewn across the armchair. More clutter had built up since the previous night, too: screwed up tissues, baby wipes, an opened package of diapers, a few glasses, a coffee mug, a few dirty plates. Everywhere he looked was disorderly or untidy.

"Nice interior decorating."

"This place is a mess, I know, I'll get to it eventually. Just..." She got back to her feet and started gathering things together.

"That wasn't a cue to start cleaning."

"It'll only take a minute. Might as well do it while Eva's asleep."

"Sit down."

"You sure you don't want a drink?"

"Sit down. Do you think I give a crap about how messy your place is?"

"I care."

"Why? You have a kid. Mess happens."

"Yes, but... It shouldn't be so difficult to stay on top of simple cleaning. It's not like I have family or anything."

House frowned. "What, your kid's not your family?"

"No. I mean, yes. Yes, of course she is. But she's just a baby. And this is all my mess and you'd think I'd be able to get it together enough to wash a few damn plates or put the damn diapers away." She let out a heavy sigh as she placed the things she'd started to clean up back on the coffee table and sank down on the couch again. "I'm not a messy person. I don't know what's wrong with me lately."

"It's called... Now, wait. I know this one." House pressed his finger to his chin in mock thought. "It's something to do with newborns and never having one before... Oh!" He snapped his fingers. "New mom. I think that's what they call them, anyway."

Cuddy picked up a small stuffed toy from the corner of the table and fiddled with it absently. "But Eva's not a newborn anymore. Not really. She's almost three weeks old. I should be used to this by now."

"If you honestly think it's as easy as that, then I might just have to point and laugh at how much you're kidding yourself."

She turned her head up to him sharply. "What would you know, House? The only living being you've ever looked after is a rat."

"Human baby and a rat. Can't really compare the two. Well, except that one's a pest and the other is a rodent."

"Eva is not a pest."

"Small enough to be a rodent, though. A very big rodent. Give it a few months and the kid'll be eating everything off the floor like one."

"She's not a rodent, either," Cuddy replied testily.

"Maybe you're the rodent, then." He gestured to the mess. "Seeing as you're living like one."

Cuddy rubbed her face and got back to her feet. She moved to stand in front of him. "House, I'm really not in the mood. Why are you here?"

He'd hoped Cuddy wasn't going to ask that question. Of course he wasn't going to tell her the truth. "Part-time pest, remember?"

"Well, I'm about two seconds away from phoning the exterminator guy."

"Oh, come on."

She threw her arms out. "Are you here to poke into my business? To mock me? To point out how much of a mess my place is and how untogether I am? Because if that's why you're here, I don't want to hear it. I don't need confirmation from you that I'm a... that I'm..."

"What? A bad mother?"

Cuddy inhaled sharply.

"Well, that's what you're expecting me to say, isn't it?"

Her expression turned stony. "Seeing you've said it to me before, I don't know what would be stopping you from saying it again. Except now you have proof."

"What? Because your place is messy?"

"Yes, because it's messy," she snapped. "Because I'm a mess. Because you saw me lose control of my emotions in the hospital. You saw me crying my eyes out in the bathroom last night. Why the hell else would you be here? To tell me everything's going to be okay? You don't care about anyone's feelings. You love poking at people's weaknesses, most of all mine."

He frowned in bewilderment. "I didn't come here to poke anything. Except I seem to have poked some kind of sore spot."

"You're always poking my sore spots. You get a sadistic pleasure out of seeing just how far you can push."

The baby interrupted with a loud hitch of breath in the nursery. It then started crying in earnest, but Cuddy made no move to go and tend to it.

"Your kid's crying."

"I know she's crying."

"Are you going to do anything about it?"

"Of course I am. I'm not a neglectful mother."

"You sure about that?"

The look Cuddy gave him made House realise he'd gone one step too far. "Get out," she said in an icy voice.

"Oh, come on, don't be like that."

She pointed at the door. "Get out."

He flinched. He backed up against the door frame as Cuddy shoved past him and heard her angry footsteps retreating down the hall. The baby's cries faltered but escalated into crying again a moment later.

House stayed pressed up against the door frame, pinned there by guilt. He eyed the front door. He knew he should leave but the baby's crying still wasn't letting up. Between an irritating concern for the baby and an equally irritating sense of remorse for what he'd said, he felt compelled to at least make sure everything was okay.

Pushing away from the door frame, he hesitantly made his way towards the nursery. He stopped just inside the doorway to see Cuddy seated on the rocking chair with the baby.

"Come on," she muttered as she tried to guide the baby to her breast. "Come on. Shut up. Please, just shut up."

The baby wailed hysterically as it tried to latch and failed. "Oh, for god's sake, Eva, stop it," Cuddy commanded and House held his breath as he watched her yank the baby away and shove it roughly across to her other breast.

"You'll hurt your kid if you keep doing that."

Cuddy's head snapped up. "I thought I told you to get out."

"Not when you're treating the baby like a football."

"I'm not. I'm just--"

"Frustrated, I know. Why do you think your kid is still screaming? It's not because there's anything wrong with it. It's because of you."

"I'm not going to sit here and listen to you tell me that I'm a bad mother."

"Well, you just said your kid's not a pest and now you're treating it like it is. Try saying to me that you're not a bad mother when your child's got brain damage from being shaken almost to death."

"I'm not going to shake my child!"

"But you clearly want to. Which means you--"

"Of course I want to!" Cuddy shouted. "This kid is driving me fucking insane."

The silence that followed was impenetrable, even despite the baby's continual cries. Horrified realisation swept over Cuddy's face. She looked down at the baby. "Oh, God. I'm sorry," she gasped. "Oh God, I'm sorry, Eva. Mommy's so sorry."

House gripped the door frame and steeled himself against a sudden inexplicable urge to snatch the baby away. "The kid doesn't care how sorry you are. The only way you're going to shut it up is if you feed it. So, pull yourself together."

Cuddy nodded numbly and after a few more attempts at getting the baby to latch, the screaming was replaced with the hungry sounds of the baby sucking. House sagged against the doorway in relief while Cuddy stroked the baby's head tenderly, her face screwed up with anguish.

"I hope you're satisfied," she said after a pause, looking up at him darkly.

"Me? What did I do? You're the one with the problem, not me."

She pressed her lips into a thin line. House watched her face slowly morph from fierce anger directed at him, to helpless tears as she looked back down to the baby.

He stepped back into the hall to collect himself. He needed to get out of here. He made his way to the door and let himself out into the cold evening. When he reached his car, he climbed in and slammed the door shut. It smelled strongly of pizza, reminding him of the quiet evening he had planned. So much for that; if he went home now, he knew he wouldn't be able to relax.

Just as he was about to turn the engine over, he stopped and looked up at Cuddy's house. He couldn't ignore the niggling feeling that Cuddy couldn't be left alone with the baby, at least not tonight. After a few moments of debating with himself, he got back out of the car. He grabbed the pizza and the beer from the back seat and made his way back to the house.

Letting himself inside, he dumped the pizza on the coffee table. He shrugged out of his coat and tossed it on the couch. He wasn't particularly hungry anymore but food was a distraction. He went out to the kitchen and searched until he came across the cupboard where Cuddy kept the plates. He pulled two out and took them to the living room.

He was hefting a slice of pizza onto his plate when Cuddy appeared in the doorway, the baby propped up against her shoulder while she patted its back. Cuddy looked cried out and exhausted. "What are you doing?"

"You finished feeding?" he replied.

"Yes, but--"

He pointed to the pizza. "Eat. There's enough for both of us."

Cuddy darted her eyes between him and the pizza. "I'm not hungry."

"Don't care." He nudged the box towards her. "Eat."


"Just shut up and eat."

Cuddy hesitated. She moved across the room and dragged a brightly coloured play mat out from the corner. It was decorated with images of cartoon jungle animals, with a pink ridge that arched over the top with rattles and plastic toys dangling down from it. She put the baby on the mat and took a seat on the armchair.

"I'm not hungry," she repeated.

"I don't care."

"Pizza isn't good for breast milk."

"Fine. Go make yourself something."

Cuddy shook her head. "I'm too tired."

"So, eat some pizza. It's not going to kill you. It's definitely not going to kill your kid. You can't breastfeed and not eat."

She seemed to be debating with herself whether to give in or not. As House reached for a second slice, realising he was starving now that he was eating, Cuddy took up a plate and squared a slice onto it. "Thanks," she said quietly as she took a small bite.

They ate in silence while the baby kicked on the mat. House was happy not to talk. He wasn't in the mood to at all now. He decided to see what was on television to fill up the tense silence. Cuddy was still picking at her first slice when he finished his third one. He cracked a beer open just as Cuddy set her plate down on the coffee table.

"I'm thinking of going back to work," she announced while he dug up the remote control from between the couch cushions.

He stopped what he was doing and looked at her.

"I figure maybe I'll be able to manage better if I have something to keep myself occupied," she continued. "I won't be such a mess if I have some structure back in my life."

"Your kid is barely a month old, Cuddy," he replied incredulously.

"I know. But I could put her in the hospital day care. Or hire a nanny."

"What, and have someone else raise your kid for you?"

She frowned. "No."

"Because that's essentially what you'd be doing."

"Lots of mothers go back to work after having a child," she retorted. "There's nothing wrong with that."

"Nothing wrong with it, no," House agreed. "If you're doing it for the right reasons. Which you wouldn't be."

"Why wouldn't I be?"

He took a slow pull on his beer. "Do you really think going back to work is going to miraculously solve your bonding issues?"

"I'm good at what I do at work."

"But not at home."

Cuddy fixed him with a hard look. "I think going back to work would be good for me."

"For you, maybe. But what about your kid?"

"I'm competent at my job. It would boost my self-confidence. And boosting my confidence would be beneficial to the baby. It would be good for both of us."

He studied her face. "Why'd I bother helping you get pregnant with that thing if you're only going to stick it on the backburner of your career?"

"She's not a 'thing'," Cuddy snapped.

"She might as well be if your career comes first."

"Of course it doesn't come first."

"By going back to work in favour of being a mother -- that means that, technically, it does."

Cuddy crossed her arms defensively. "What would you know?"

"I know enough to know that you're being an idiot."

"Only you would think a woman wanting to have children and a career is an idiot."

"No," he replied after downing another gulp of his beer. "That's not what I think. I think you are being an idiot. See the difference?"

"Because I want to continue with my career while raising my child?"

"No. Because you want to continue with your career to get away from your child."

"I do not."

"You still have over two months of maternity leave. Going back to work before the leave is up is premature. Boosting your confidence? Doing something you're competent at? The only way you're going to boost your confidence and competence as a mother is if you're actually being a mother. You should be around to wipe your baby's ass, not wiping bureaucratic ones."


"I get that you feel guilty about wanting to shake your baby to death," he continued, ignoring whatever Cuddy was about to say, "but the fact is, you're that kid's mother and you can't just go running to the sanctuary of your job because you feel like you can't cope."

"That's not..." Cuddy gave him a confounded look before turning away. He watched her eyes flicker towards the baby still kicking happily on the floor before she pressed her hand to her face. "You're a real bastard sometimes," she said quietly.

"Maybe so, but I know I'm right."

She didn't reply. House watched her gazing at the baby, clearly lost in thought, and as much as he wanted to keep arguing with her, he decided to let her mull over what they'd just talked about. He located the remote and switched on the TV.

Only when the baby started getting agitated did Cuddy get up from her seat. "I'm going to give Eva a bath," she said once she scooped the baby up. He kept a listening ear out all the while that Cuddy was gone, ready to intervene if need be. Almost an hour passed by the time Cuddy returned to the room, minus the baby.

"She's asleep," she announced tiredly.

"That was pretty easy," House replied, keeping his eyes trained on the TV.

"She's not always difficult."

"Maybe you should keep that in mind every time you get a stupid idea about returning to work."

He glanced towards her when Cuddy didn't respond. She was staring down at her hands as she perched beside him on the armrest of the couch. "Do you think I'm a bad mother?"

Her question caught him by surprise. He then sighed. He didn't want to rehash this subject, not tonight. "I think you're tired and run down."

"I feel more than tired and run down," she replied softly.

"That's normal. You're a new mom."

"Is it normal to feel like you're drowning?"

House was suddenly aware that he was venturing into territory that was way out of his league. Wilson was much better at counselling people on their feelings than he was. "Only if you're doing it in a hot bikini."

"House, I'm serious."

He fell silent. "I think if you have to question if it's normal, then you already know that it isn't."

She nodded slightly and wiped her nose with the back of her hand as she sniffed. "I feel like I'm drowning. Like... I can't breathe. I'm supposed to be happy. This is supposed to be the most joyous time in my life. But... I hate her. Even just the sight of her..." She let out a soft sob and covered her face with her hands. "I'm such a horrible mother. I don't deserve to even be a mother."

House stared at her. "Don't be stupid," he replied awkwardly.

He didn't know where to look while Cuddy became overwhelmed with tears. He considered getting up and leaving the room so Cuddy could cry on her own. He thought about leaving altogether, too. He fidgeted with the beer still in his hand and took a sip he didn't really taste before putting the bottle down. Cuddy seemed inconsolable and in the end he didn't know what else to do except just sit there and listen to her cry.


House opened Wilson's office door and poked his head in. "Got a minute?"

Wilson looked up from his work. "Sure. What's up?"

House shut the door behind him. Too restless to take a seat, he passed the chair opposite Wilson's desk and went straight for the glass door that looked out over balcony. The day was dark and bleak; the glass was dotted in a postmodern pattern of raindrops zigzagging down the window. "What's the differential for a woman who says she hates her baby?"

Wilson paused. "Have you landed a case in the last few hours that I don't know about, or are we talking about Cuddy?"


"How hypothetical are we talking?"

"You know, this will go a lot quicker if you just answer my question."

"No. It'll go a lot quicker if you get to the point."

House glanced over his shoulder. "Are you usually this annoying, or are you trying extra hard today?"

"Although deflection is a well-worn coat of yours, it doesn't actually suit you."

"Fine." House turned around with a sigh. "Cuddy."

Wilson frowned. "She says she hates Eva?"

"Direct quote: 'can't stand the sight of her'. End quote."

"You're not... making this up?" Wilson asked suspiciously. "This isn't some kind of twisted projection of resentment towards the fact that you have a daughter and you're refusing to deal with it?"

"Now, why would I do that?"

"Because projection is the well-worn top hat that goes with your deflection coat."

"I dress better than that," House argued.

"Not really. That's been your dress style for as long as I've known you. Anyway." Wilson waved his hand. He frowned in puzzlement. "Why are you coming to me for help on a differential for Cuddy's attitude towards her baby? Thought this wasn't something you cared about."

"I don't wear a caring tie, unlike you. It would clash with the rest of my outfit."

"Then what's all this about?"

House looked down and stamped his cane on the floor. "It's about the kid's safety."

"You don't think she's safe?"

"Saying you hate your baby and getting angry enough to want to shake it are good reasons to think a kid might not be safe."

"That doesn't necessarily mean anything. All parents get frustrated with their kids--"

"Do all parents spend their whole time crying? Or being tired? Or barely able to function?"

"Cuddy's a new mother. Life is tough for new mothers."

"Are we talking tough cookie kind of tough or tough tough kind of tough? 'Cause this is leaning towards the latter kind."

Wilson peered at him in silence for a moment. "Why does this matter to you so much? A few weeks ago, you were adamant that Cuddy would get over it."

"That was a few weeks ago."

"So, what's changed?"

"The fact that Cuddy hasn't."

"That still doesn't explain why you're so involved."

"Intervention doesn't equal involvement."

"Voluntary intervention equals involvement, House. You never voluntarily intervene for anybody unless it's for some nefarious purpose."

"I'm beginning to think you should put your caring tie where your mouth is."

"Just answer the question."

"Not until you answer mine."

He held Wilson's gaze for a long moment until Wilson relented and looked down. "Well, what do you think the issue is?"

"That's not an answer."

"The fact that you're here means you don't need an answer. You're just looking for confirmation, either for or against whatever it is you're thinking." Wilson paused. "What are you thinking?"

"I'm thinking postpartum depression."


House nodded.

"Well, from what you're saying, it fits," Wilson replied thoughtfully. "The crying you're talking about. The tiredness."

"The feelings of resentment. Worthlessness," House chimed in. "Hating her baby..."

"When did she say that?"

"A few nights ago."

Wilson tapped his pen against his desk blotter. "What do you think we should do?"

"Actually, that's why I'm here. I was thinking more along the lines of you doing something about it."

Wilson blinked. "Why me?"

"You deal with depressed people all the time."

"You've been dealing with Cuddy."


"And Eva's your kid."

"Not my kid," House replied sharply. "My genes, yes. My kid, no."

"Which neatly brings me back to my question." Wilson sat forward again. "Why are you intervening if you don't care?"

"See these pants?" House gestured to his jeans. "They're my apathy pants."

"Well, you obviously got dressed in the dark because they're clashing with the reason you're in my office."

"No, you're just colourblind and have no fashion sense." He faced back to the glass door. He let out another sigh and frowned. "So, what now?"

"Well, it's like I've been saying all along: she needs support. Someone to be there for her. She might even need medication for a little while."

"No way in hell Cuddy would admit she needs medication."

"A trait she and you share," Wilson agreed dryly. "Stubbornness. Anyway. I've answered your question. Your turn to answer mine."

He looked over his shoulder at Wilson, who was peering at him with interest. A memory of standing in the doorway while Cuddy shouted at the baby entered his mind. He vividly recalled the inexplicable feeling of protectiveness for the baby that had overcome him when he realised that Cuddy could harm her.

"Seeing Cuddy almost shake that kid..." he began.

He looked at the office door. A second later he began striding across to it. He'd gotten the advice he'd come here for. He didn't owe Wilson any explanations.

"House...?" he heard Wilson say in bewilderment.

He stepped out into the hall, slamming the door behind him.