Depression doesn't let you write much.
House was slightly surprised when he found himself awake before Cuddy. Even on a good day, when he hadn't been drugged into oblivion the night before, the woman would be up and moving at least an hour before House even cracked his eyes. But for once, before the sun had even risen, House got the pleasure of watching his fiancé sleep.
Cuddy was always working, it seemed, even at home. She tried to keep her administrator job separate from her home life – that was for Rachel. But that didn't mean she didn't attempt to micromanage the ever-living daylights out of the house. It was just in her nature to be stressed and tense.
Right now, though, she looked peaceful. Her lips were parted slightly, her right arm under her pillow and her left curled into the sheet. Her hair – which House always liked as wild and unruly as possible – was splayed out in every direction. House smiled gently and sighed. This, he could get used to.
A thump at the door pulled him out of his musings. "Daddy?" a small voice asked. House snorted; Rachel had climbed out of her bed again. Cuddy didn't so much as stir, so House slowly rolled over and sat up, steadying himself with one arm on the bed.
Rachel opened the door and pushed it open, scurrying in and climbing on the bed next to House. Her brown eyes studied his intelligently, and House was once again struck by how smart she was. "You okay?"
House wrinkled his eyes, grabbing his watch from the night stand and glancing at it as he strapped it around his wrist. Ah. No wonder he was awake before Cuddy. It was only 2 AM.
"Why aren't you in bed, Rachel?" he answered, avoiding her question entirely.
Rachel looked down shyly, shrugging. "Bad dream. You were there."
House tightened up a bit. "I was? What happened, kiddo?"
"You falled. Mama was sad. You falled and Uncle Wison said you were sleepin but I don't think you were," she answered, dissolving into tears at the last bit. House bit his lip and drew her into a hug. He closed his eyes as he rocked her.
"Rach, I'm here. I'm okay," he reassured her, feeling his nightshirt grow wet with tears and snot. "It was just a dream."
"B-but you f-falled," she insisted. "You d-did. I he-heard you."
House bit his cheek. Apparently Rachel hadn't been as far away as he thought when he'd taken the tumble in the bathroom. "Rachel…" he began, his throat tight. "Kiddo, I gotta tell you something."
Rachel looked up, her eyes red-rimmed and puffy. "Listen. You know that I have a bad leg," he began, pausing until Rachel nodded. "Well…"
He swallowed. This was harder than it should have been. This was his daughter – or would be soon, anyway. If he couldn't admit weakness to a child to reassure her, what kind of person was he? But it was still hard. That age old voice was still taunting him in the back of his head. Mocking him. Belittling him.
He took a deep breath. "That leg isn't like a scrape that you get on your knee when you fall. This ouchie doesn't go away, kiddo. It hurts sometimes. And sometimes, it doesn't like me very much. You know that big, scary dog we saw once on TV?" he asked, referring to the time he'd been flicking through channels and had accidentally lingered too long on Cujo, not knowing Rachel was watching. Rachel nodded, her eyes wide. "Well, sometimes my leg is like that. It snaps and bites at me. And sometimes it makes me fall down."
Rachel sniffled at that, and House quickly went on with his explanation. "But I get back up, and everything is okay. I know how to fall by now kiddo. It's okay. Your mom helps me all the time."
Rachel wiped the snot from her nose, sniffing. "Like when I scraped my knee and mommy kissed it and put a bandaid on it."
"Exactly. Except mom gives me medicine to help it stop hurting. Uncle Wilson too."
Rachel gave him a small grin. "You called Uncle Wison Mother," she said, delight brightening her face. "Uncle Wison is a mother!"
House barked out a laugh at that. "Yeah, he can be motherly at times." He turned around to glance at Cuddy. He'd felt the bed move a moment before, and she was gazing at him with a tired smile on her face, still lying down. "You feel better now Rachel?"
Rachel nodded. "Good. Now go back to bed."
Rachel grinned and slid off the bed, dragging her blanket with her. "Goodnight Daddy."
"Not a baby!" she insisted as she walked back to her bed.
House lay back down, smiling. Cuddy reached over and brushed a bit of hair off of his forehead.
"How long were you awake?" he asked.
"Long enough. I'm proud of you," she murmured, kissing his cheek. "You handled that great."
House felt a brief glow at her praise, but it was quickly doused by uncertainty. "It was hard. To… say that."
Cuddy knew exactly what he was referring too. "Kids need to know that their parents aren't gods, Greg. You didn't change her perception of you by saying that."
House sighed, frustrated. "I know that. But…"
But, he worried. He didn't want to expose Rachel to the kind of pain he experienced. His father had taken out all of his issues on House as a kid. House didn't want to follow that example – he wanted Rachel to hold onto her innocence as long as possible. Her childhood shouldn't be tarnished by the likes of him.
"I don't want her to know. About the pain. I can't hide it from her, though," he sighed finally, feeling a weight settle on him. "She's going to see no matter what I do."
Cuddy gripped his hand. "You're right," she said seriously. "But what's important is how you react to her questions."
"I don't know how to deal with those questions," House replied, his face scrunched in worry.
Cuddy huffed out a laugh. "Really? Because you did great just then."
House didn't say anything, so Cuddy ramped up her approach. She kissed him again. "You reassured her. You didn't lie, you didn't patronize her. You just told her the truth. And that makes you strong. Not everybody can admit what makes them hurt, House."
There was a long pause, in which House held his breath. "Especially not him," he finally breathed. "Not ever."
Cuddy swallowed. "He was a coward."
"He was… terrifying."
"The most frightening people are the ones that have the most to hide."
House gave her a wry look, and the tension was broken. "What are you, a fortune cookie?"
Cuddy grinned. "A man who does not listen to his wife," she said in a mock-Chinese accent, "Is a fool indeed."
"Technically, you aren't my wife yet," House replied, smiling wider. The weight was lifting.
"Not yet," she agreed. "I'm married to my work, you know. The divorce papers might be a while."
"Can't we just be polyamorous?"
"You're very funny, Greg," she said dryly. "Can't stop laughing."
House laughed. "Relax. You're the only woman for me, Cuddles.
"What a relief."
They giggled together, softly so as not to wake Rachel. "I'm so ready to move in to that house," Cuddy said quietly after a moment.
House grinned at the play on words, and Cuddy smacked him on the arm. They broke into laughter again.
House pulled her closer to his chest, sighing and smelling her hair. "Love you."
"I love you too, Greg."
The clock ticked over to 3 o'clock. "I want to go back to work soon."
Cuddy froze. "House…"
"Not tomorrow, Cuddy. But soon. I can't just sit around here, it'll drive me insane."
"Please give it a few weeks, House. You can't push yourself that hard yet. I know you're up to it mentally, but you need time to recover."
House huffed out an annoyed breath. "Yeah yeah, I know. Can't really forget."
Cuddy swallowed. "Listen. I need you here anyway so that you can direct the movers."
House looked at her quickly. "You're wanting to move ahead so soon?"
Cuddy shrugged. "Why not? Honestly, this is the perfect time to do it. You're home, so you can make sure the movers are doing what they're supposed to. Wilson already has half days for the next few weeks, so he can help too."
House laughed. "Oh, he'll love that. House-sitting and moving house. He'll faint. It'll be like Christmas – er, Hanukkah – for him."
"How do you figure?"
"Are you kidding? He'll get to act like a mom and an interior designer. He's fruiter than a still life."
Cuddy smacked him. "Be nice."
"You know better."
Cuddy smiled. "I do. I do."
House sighed. "Speaking of 'I do'…"
Cuddy closed her eyes. How had they decided in tandem to talk about all their problems at 3 am?
"I want to wait on the wedding. Till I can walk, not roll."
Cuddy bit her lip. She had to be careful about this. "House. You know I don't care about that, right?"
Her fiancée didn't reply.
She placed a hand on his cheek and moved it to where he was facing her. "Seriously, Greg. I don't."
"I… I know," he replied. His voice was a tad unsteady. "I just… Jesus, I sound like a sap."
Cuddy was silent. She knew if she waited, he'd open up. She was rewarded a moment later. "Look. I don't want to look back on that day, don't want to share that memory with Rachel, and have to see myself in a wheelchair. I know you don't care. But I do. I care."
Cuddy gave him a half smile. "Greg. We've waited this long, okay? If you want to wait longer, it's okay. I understand."
And she did understand. House wanted to make a happy memory, and she would support him. Even if it meant waiting to marry him.
He relaxed, letting out a breath. "Thanks. I thought I was going to have to fight you on that one."
Cuddy considered his words for a moment. "You would have, if you hadn't told me why you wanted to wait. When you open up, Greg, it pays off most of the time."
"I'm learning that," he replied quietly. "Don't expect me to go Disney on you, though. I'm not breaking into song about my feelings anytime soon."
Cuddy laughed even as her eyes closed. She was so, so tired. Evidently House was too, because he dropped into snoring moments later.
The clock hit 3:30 as they both fell asleep.
I do intend to finish this story. But updates will not be regular. I apologize to everyone I've frustrated and left hanging, I know how shitty an unfinished story feels. But I have to put myself first.