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It was a death sentence,


the death of her dream.


Lisa Cuddy paced. Paced and wound a rubber band between her outstretched fingers. She kept the rubber band precisely for this purpose.


"What does this mean in terms of my fertility? Game over?"

Cuddy had consulted her gynecologist when her body went haywire shortly after the adoption fell through. She'd thought that her sleeplessness and night sweats were due to stress, but then her periods went wonky -- absent one month, flooding the next, and she started to suffer from nausea... in the morning. What a prankster God was to visit her with morning sickness! Lisa Cuddy, she of the built-in baby repellent! Very funny, God, ha-ha! Her gyne sent her for a hormone workup and set an appointment to deliver the verdict.


Cuddy asked her question hoping for a way around the verdict. She continued, "I still have regular periods..." She squirmed. "More or less."

"Lisa, you know what it means." Dr. Anna Goss had been Cuddy's gynecologist for as long as she'd been in Princeton, had known Cuddy since medical school. She'd suffered every set-back in Cuddy's quest to become a mother as though it were her own, despite the fact that she had two children as proof of her fertility. "Every day that passes lowers your chances of conceiving and raises your chances of a defective fetus if you do conceive." Anna cocked her head, setting her chandelier earrings dancing. "I thought you'd given up trying."

"This makes it pretty moot, doesn't it?" Cuddy bit her lip to keep from bursting into tears.

"I know how much you want a baby," Anna said gently. "There are other ways... You can try adopting again--"

"No!" Cuddy said. She shook her head vigorously. "No... I must've been crazy to think that any woman would give up her child..."

"Many women do, Lisa."

"I don't blame Becca," Cuddy said. "I really don't..." Unbidden, the memory of the soft, scant weight of Joy in her arms came back to her. She'd been so close.

The consultation had gone downhill from there, ending with her leaving just ahead of Anna's next patient clutching a fistful of damp tissues and the beginnings of a headache from crying so hard.

Cuddy couldn't remember anything about that appointment but the verdict as she wore a path, in the carpet behind her desk, rolling her rubber band.

Perimenopause, Lisa. No baby for you!

Her thoughts turned with the rubber band, turned and churned, over and over, until the rubber finally gave out and snapped, spanking her hand. "Screw this," she muttered, and tossed it into the trash. She grabbed her purse and her coat, told her assistant she was gone for the day and headed out the door.

Cuddy stood in front of the hospital, a small island with windblown hair in a sea of people coming and going, sick and well, and wondered what she thought she was doing. There was too much work for her to even think about playing hooky just because she had personal problems. If one of her employees came to her crying the blues, she would tell them to suck it up and keep going. No, you wouldn't. You would sympathize, tell them to take the rest of the day off, do something to take their mind off their troubles. And I should be just as kind to myself, Cuddy thought. I should do what I want to do.

Right this minute she wanted a drink. What did it matter if she tried to drown her sorrows and got falling-down drunk? She wasn't pregnant, and she never would be. That dream was done. What was the point in taking such exquisite care of a body that wouldn't do the one thing she wanted it to do?

Cuddy shouldered her purse and headed down the street.

House finished with his last Clinic patient, signed out and cripped in the direction of Cuddy's office to indulge in one of his favorite past-times: Harass the Boss. He was aware that he sought her out as much as he avoided her these days, actually tending more toward the former since that evening after... His thoughts went skittering away from "after." "After" had been game-changing. He knew it and he knew she knew it, but everybody had been playing it close to the vest.

Cuddy seemed preoccupied; House figured she was still mourning the loss of Joy (and a more definitive sign of Cuddy's unreasonable optimism did not exist than the name she had given the baby who'd been taken from her so soon after being given). He'd heard with a pang of jealousy rumors of more than one screaming match she'd had with this doctor or that. Before this, he'd been the only one who could drive Cuddy crazy enough to raise her voice.

He paused at the glass outer doors. She was not at her desk. He pushed into the anteroom. "Where's Cuddy?" he asked her assistant. He watched with satisfaction as the young woman's eyes widened in fear; he loved scaring underlings. "Um, ah, she said she's gone for the day," the girl stammered, then flinched away from the x-ray of his gaze.

House briefly considered harassing the girl in Cuddy's stead, but decided against it. Cuddy was AWOL, and that meant something was amiss.

"Did she get a phone call? Did she say where she was going?" he asked.

"She didn't say."

House waited for a few seconds then prompted, "And the phone call?"

The girl sat up straight and attempted to look him in the eye. "I don't think I can divulge that, Doctor House," she quavered bravely.

House frowned ferociously, just for effect, then ducked out of the doorway and hobbled off.

He found Cuddy in the first place he looked.

"Well, fancy meeting you here," House said, leaning into the space between Cuddy and the next bar stool. The bar was quiet this time of the day, the TV droned some talk show that nobody was paying attention to. The old-fashioned glass in front of her had Cuddy's undivided attention. She spared House a glance, unsurprised to see him, before she returned to her meditation on ethanol and ice.

After a long moment, Cuddy looked at her watch. "You're supposed to be working," she remarked.

"Well, my boss wasn't around, so I thought I'd skip out early." He hitched himself onto the vacant stool. She gave him a dirty look, finished her drink and signaled for another.

"I'll have what she's having," he told the bartender.

"House, if I wanted to drink with you I would have invited you," Cuddy objected listlessly.

"See how much trouble I've saved you..." The bartender returned with two glasses and set them down. House quickly knocked his back as Cuddy watched. "What I want to know is, why are you getting shitfaced at three p.m. on a Wednesday?"

"I can have a drink if I want to," Cuddy returned and knocked back her own.

"Sure you can." House set his glass down and pushed it back and forth between his hands. He was silent for a long time. "What's wrong, Cuddy?" His voice was compassionate. She looked at him suspiciously.

"None of your business," she mumbled, returning her stare to her empty glass.

"Let me guess," House began.

"Can I stop you?" Cuddy said.

"You had a gynecologist appointment..."

Cuddy stared at him. "I locked you out of my calendar..."

"Cameron got me back in. I need to know where you are at all times," House told her.

"I'm gonna have a long talk with Cameron," Cuddy grumbled.

"Back to the subject," he continued, "only bad news would send you to a bar this time of day. Either your one-night stand didn't kindle or there's carcinoma in situ--"

"Fuck you!" Cuddy spat. She grabbed her glass and quit the bar for a table at the far end of the tavern. House toyed with his own glass for a few seconds, then got up, hobbled to her table and sat down.

"It wasn't good news," he said, pitching his voice so only she could hear.

"What part of 'none of your business' don't you understand?" she hissed. "Butt the hell out!"

Cuddy flushed suddenly, a shade of red that made House's eyes widen in surprise. The color receded as quickly as it appeared, to be replaced by large beads of sweat across her face, neck and the skin above her neckline. She took a hasty sip of the melted ice in her glass and tried to pretend nothing had happened, despite the droplets sliding off her face and onto the table.

House watched this performance impassively. "Hot flash," he said conversationally. Cuddy threw him a murderous glare and patted her face with the damp bar napkin. "Alcohol just makes them worse..."

"So you're the expert on this, too?" she returned. The light suddenly dawned on him.

"Bender plus hot flash equals bad news for Cuddy from the gynecologist."

"House, just drop it, would you," Cuddy pleaded wearily. "Please?"

House settled back, watching her while she looked at the table. "Is there anything I can do?"

"Not unless you happen to have a brand spanking new pair of ovaries on you," she said. The pain in her eyes tugged at him.

"Are you in full-on menopause?" he asked.

Cuddy shook her head. "Not quite," she said shortly. "Still bleeding."

"Then it's still possible..."

"No, House, it is not possible. I couldn't have a baby before my body decided it was too old to reproduce," Cuddy said. "What makes you think it'll happen now, with this diagnosis?"

"Ever hear of change-of-life babies? More middle-aged women have abortions than teenagers."

"Yeah, well, God hates me. The closest I'm ever going get to being a mother is in my dreams..." Her voice caught and she put her face in her hands, not caring what anyone, even House, thought. "I actually dream about it sometimes," she said, her voice muffled by her hands. "About being pregnant and giving birth..." Cuddy spread her hands on the table, stared at them as if they held a clue to her future. "I dreamed about Joy once..." She shook her head sadly. "I was so happy in that dream... and then I woke up..."

"Cuddy, the maudlin is killing me," House complained. "If you keep this up I'm gonna get drunk." He planted his cane and got to his feet. "Come on."

Cuddy looked at him from under her eyebrows. "Come on where?"

"My place," he said. "I got a little sumpin' sumpin' that'll make you feel much better... for a while, anyway."

"Oh, really?" She stared at him archly.

House paused. "Not that." He rolled his eyes theatrically. "God, you have a dirty mind!"

"What then?" She still looked skeptical.

"You'll find out when we get there." He jerked his head toward the exit and she scooted off the bench and onto her feet.

"Let me pay the tab," she told him, rummaging through her purse.

"Well, I sure wasn't gonna pay it," House said, looking indignant.

Cuddy shook her head and paid the bartender.

Later found them sprawled on House's couch, shoes off, House's head in Cuddy's lap, passing a joint back and forth and mostly saying nothing.

"Feel better?" House asked.

"Better than what?" Cuddy murmured nasally. She'd just taken a hit and was hanging onto the smoke.

"Guess that answers my question," House drawled, pulling the smoldering cigarette from her fingers. He put it to his lips and made a great deal of noise as he sucked the smoke deep into his lungs, then expelled it slowly to mingle with the smoke Cuddy exhaled. She looked down at him.

"Your eyes are red."

House squinted up at her. "So are yours."

"Yeah, but... you look... demonic!" She giggled.

He grunted and twisted his head until his face was against the curve of her belly, then he burrowed.

She shrank back. "Cut it out," she said. He burrowed further and she squirmed. "Cut it out!" she repeated, a little more forcefully and he came up for air.

"I can smell you've had a rough day," he said, grinning. "Ow!" he cried as she slapped the top of his head. The sound of skin making sharp contact with skin brought Cuddy up short. She tilted her head to examine the top of his head, then started to laugh.

"I could have you arrested for assault," House complained.

Cuddy snorted that threat away. "You get away with a lot, being so tall..." She pushed the combed-over hair away, revealing the extent of his hair loss.

"Hey!" he protested, smoothing the hair back over the top of his head. "Careful! That's the solar panel for the love machine!"

Cuddy made a scoffing noise and shifted. "Sit up," she told him. "Your head is heavy."

"Nooo, I like it here." He burrowed but quickly resurfaced before she could assault him again. "You smell good."

"You just said I smelled bad."

"I meant I could tell you've been under a lot of stress."

"I'm always under a lot of stress."

"But you don't always smell so... strong. I like it."

"Strong?" Cuddy started to giggle again.

"Fuck it," House said, "I'm high." He sat up and Cuddy got to unsteady feet. "Whoa..." she murmured as the room swayed. Her sea-legs returned and she padded into the kitchen. "You got any food in here?"

"Somebody's got the munchies." House sucked the remaining life out of the roach, squashed it between thumb and forefinger and dropped it into the ash tray. Cuddy returned with a package of ham, most of a loaf of bread, a butter knife and a jar of mustard. She deposited the lot on the coffee table and set about assembling a sandwich. House eyed the ham. "You know that's trayf."

"What do you know about trayf, ya goy?" Cuddy said, never taking her attention from the construction of her sandwich. House licked his chops. "You gonna make me one of those?"

"Nope." Cuddy laid on the top slice of bread and took a gargantuan bite. "If evvy maa fuh izelf."

"What?" House said. "Speak English!"

Cuddy chewed and swallowed. "Make your own," she said. "Oooh! Forgot the beer." She put the sandwich down and hurried toward the kitchen again. "Touch my sandwich and you die!" she called over her shoulder, stopping House's hand just as he reached for it. He changed direction and began putting his own sandwich together. Cuddy returned with an open bottle of beer and sat back down.

"Where's mine?" House said.

"This was the only one," Cuddy mumbled, looking guilty around another bite of sandwich.

"Then, that is mine."

Cuddy smiled. "I'll share it with you," she said sweetly. House silently held out his hand. Cuddy sighed and handed him the bottle. He took a swig and handed it back to her without comment. Touched and surprised, she took another pull.

They ran out of ham before they ran out of bread, and ran out of beer before either. Cuddy leaned back and stretched her legs beneath the coffee table, stifled a burp, then yawned. "Okay... I've had a few drinks, smoked some weed, had a beer, I'm still high, and now I'm sleepy..." She looked at House and grinned. "Good times."

"You're welcome," House said, popping a Vicodin. Cuddy let out a gusty sigh and said, "I should call a cab."

"You could spend the night," House suggested to the ceiling. He cut his eyes at Cuddy, who was staring straight ahead, not saying anything. After five heartbeats, House followed up his offer with, "You can sleep on the couch."

Cuddy turned her head and stared at him. "Some host," she scoffed. "You're supposed to offer your guest the bed."

House looked incredulous. "Hello? Bad leg, need bed?" he retorted. "Now, if my guest wanted to share the bed..."

"Ah, the truth will out!" Cuddy said triumphantly. "That's why you invited me here."

"Don't flatter yourself," House grumped. "I invited you over here to share my weed because you looked like you were about to stick your head in the oven," he said. "I wanted to spare myself and the rest of your lackeys the hard work of breaking in another Dean of Medicine." He paused and then said, "You're the one who suggested spending the night."

"I did not!" she said indignantly.

"You brought it up..."

"I'm calling a cab," Cuddy muttered, searching around for her purse.

"Don't," House said. "You can have the bed."

"So long as I share it with you?" Cuddy said, her expression cynical.

"No strings," House said. Cuddy stared at him. He tried to look sincere.

"Okay," she capitulated, "but only because I'm a danger to myself and others right now."

"I can't sleep in my suit," Cuddy told him as he followed her into his bedroom. "Would you loan me a t-shirt or something?"

House scowled. "Would you like a mint on your pillow and turn-down service, too?"

"Just give me the damned shirt," Cuddy said. She felt another hot flash coming and she desperately wanted to get out of her blouse. She started to unbutton, then stopped when she noticed House, frozen and staring. She pulled her blouse back together and stared at him until his eyes finally rose to meet hers.

"Shirt... right," he muttered and went digging in a dresser drawer. He pulled out a pajama top that was crisp with newness. "Here. I never wear these so you can sweat in it all you want."

"Thank you," Cuddy said with exaggerated politeness, clutching the top to her chest. She went into the bathroom and closed the door.

"You should've called a cab," he muttered, getting out of his jeans and into pajama bottoms. He cripped back into the living room, sat on the couch and turned on the TV. After a few minutes he heard the bathroom door open.

"Do you have a spare toothbrush?" Cuddy called.

"What's wrong with the one in the holder?" House called back.

There was a short pause. "That's disgusting!"

"Look in the medicine cabinet," House said. "... And stay out of my 'ludes."

Cuddy made a rude noise and closed the bathroom door. When she finished, he was deep into the movie he was watching and barely acknowledged her good-night.

She got into bed and curled up beneath the blanket. The pillow smelled vaguely of shampoo and laundry detergent and House. Cuddy burrowed her face into it, much as he'd burrowed his face into her belly and, similarly comforted, she fell asleep.

He tried to be quiet about it, but he managed to wake her up anyway when he climbed into bed.

"Does your leg hurt?" she murmured. Her semi-consciousness lent a sweetness to her voice. "Do you want me to go?"

"No," he murmured, sliding under the covers. "Go back to sleep."

"Mmmm..." Cuddy said. "You're not planning to molest me, are you?"

Maybe not so semi-conscious after all. House said, "I prefer my women awake when I molest them."

"So, I'm safer asleep?"


She sighed and went silent.

Pain woke him before the alarm went off the next morning. For one fuzzy moment he couldn't figure out who the lush female in his bed was. Silky dark curls were everywhere, and there was a noise like a buzz-saw; genteel and ladylike, but still a buzz-saw. She looked like Cuddy. Same color hair, and damned if he didn't recognize that ass. Due to her penchant for thongs and the fact that the pajama top had ridden up around her waist, there was quite a bit of ass to recognize, barely covered by the blanket. House gently tugged until it slipped off the curve of her hip... lovely. He admired the view and forgot all about the pain.

Cuddy woke with a start, rolled over, then sat up and looked around, disoriented. Her gaze lit first on House's smug expression, then on the tented blanket. Her eyes widened and she turned away.

"Jesus, House!" She hissed as she pulled the top sheet up to her neck.

"Physiology, my dear Cuddy," he murmured. "I bet you can't guess what I'm thinking."

"Bet I can," she said. She couldn't keep her eyes from straying toward the intriguing evidence of his arousal. The sight was arousing her. Seeing an erection always had that effect on her, like Pavlov's dogs, even when the circumstances didn't warrant it. This circumstance wasn't one of them.

"Aren't you the least bit curious..." He trailed off and she looked up.

"Been there," she said dryly, meeting his eyes. "Did you."

"I remember," he said.

House's voice was deeper, sexier than she'd ever heard it, even that one time when they "did that." And she could not keep her eyes off that Mount Kilimanjaro his stiff cock was making of the covers. He noticed her looking. His dimples put in an appearance. His eyes were hot, like twin gas flames. Cuddy toasted in them.

"Okay..." she consented breathlessly, as he clasped her ankle and pulled her across the mattress toward him. The pajama top slid higher, exposing her breasts, and Cuddy couldn't fight the impulse to pull it back down. But House leaned over and pushed the top back up and bent his head to her, slowly taking her nipple into his mouth. He suckled, pulling soft moans from her that increased in volume with every tug of his lips, of his tongue circling, of his hand cupping, first one breast then the other. This accomplished multi-tasker even managed to get her thong off while he mauled her breasts, as well as free himself from his pajama pants.

The bedclothes slid to the floor. Cuddy's back arched in pleasure as his questing mouth left her breasts and traveled down the center of her torso. He stabbed her navel with his tongue and a sensation of electricity zinged through her pussy, making her gasp. House left off his tasting to position her perpendicular to his body as he lay on his side, her legs draped over his hip. She spread her thighs and he insinuated his leg between hers. Every muscle in her body went taut and she could hear his rough breathing, counterpoint to hers as he penetrated her, thrust once, again, and finished with a loud groan.

Cuddy froze in dismay as his penis shriveled inside her, losing substance until what had been a presence as large as her pleasure faded to something she couldn't feel. She squeezed her eyes shut, fighting tears of frustration.

House rolled over onto his back, breaking their connection. He wouldn't look at her, and that told her everything she needed to know. Cuddy angled herself away from him, rolled out of bed and fled into the bathroom. She sat down to pee and put her face in her hands, eyes dry. Selfish bastard. If that was charging for the weed, she had some change coming... No, screw that, she wanted a damned refund!

When she finished, she washed and pulled her clothes on. She left his pajama top on the bathroom floor, located her damp panties and stuffed them into her purse.

Cuddy left the apartment without looking back. For all she knew, House was still lying there as she'd left him. For all she knew his heart had stopped and he was dead and putrefying as life went on all around him.

House didn't believe in God, but he thought he might be willing to give the Deity a shot if He would just keep him from running into Cuddy today.

So, who was the first person he laid eyes on when he cripped through the hospital doors ninety minutes late? Of course it was. But that was okay. Times like this was only one of the reasons why he didn't believe.

Cuddy stood outside the clinic doors, talking to a nurse. Her eyes flicked over him and away: noted and dismissed. House nodded. If she saw the nod, she didn't return it. He supposed he was lucky she didn't lob a hand grenade at him. The elevator doors opened just as he reached them. Small favor. He staggered past the outflow of passengers and breathed a sigh of relief when the doors slid closed and the elevator surged upward.

How did he explain what happened this morning? Dear Cuddy, I popped like a fifteen year old getting his first piece of ass because even the morning after a binge with your hair in your eyes, pillow creases on your face, and what was left of yesterday's eye makeup giving you a striking resemblance to a rabid raccoon, you are still the hottest creature ever upon whom the evolutionary process bestowed a pair of breasts. House grimaced at the sound of it. She wouldn't consider that a compliment. She wouldn't even think it was funny. The elevator arrived at his floor and he lurched out and down the hall, into his office.

The war-room was empty. All of his fellows were off somewhere, either doing their job or shirking it. Right now it didn't matter to House which one it was. He sat down at his desk and powered up the computer out of habit. He needed some alone time to wrap his head around this morning's fiasco and what, if anything, he might do to redeem himself.

He climbed into bed with her because he didn't want to sleep on the couch. It was as simple as that. And while she hadn't rolled out the red carpet, she hadn't kicked him out, either. In fact, she'd known why he'd changed his mind about the bed. She even volunteered to leave. He'd been touched by her gesture, even if she'd only been semi-conscious when she made it. In coma veritas. But she'd been there in the morning... correction: she'd been there snoring in the morning, which had amused him. And after the amusement, when she woke up? Pure lust blindsided him, it was as simple as that, too. They'd had sex once, one time, before and he'd never quite gotten over it. Cuddy knew that and, except for that one time in the hospital corridor, let him keep his pride.

She'd probably let what happened this morning happen because she still had a residual high from the weed. Or maybe she wanted to explore the ramifications of The Kiss (that incident always had initial caps when he thought of it). Or maybe it was a mercy fuck. Or maybe...

"Fuck it," House said out loud. He got up and limped into the war room. He poured himself a cup of coffee. He wasn't going to spend the day mooning over Cuddy... But the sudden memory of his cock sliding into her washed over him, closing his eyes and setting off a physical alarm that made him glad he was alone.

Thirteen burst into the room carrying a patient file. He turned away a second too late. "Whoa!" she said, skidding to a halt. She grinned. "Thinking nasty thoughts?" she said, raising dark eyebrows as she studied him.

"I'm up here," House said gruffly, pointing to his face. He put the coffee cup down. "Tell me that file belongs to a patient with twelve undiagnosed symptoms." Because I need to get my mind off nailing Cuddy...

"Would you settle for three?" Thirteen asked. "And, um, should I come back later when you're... calmer?" She snickered and put her hand over her mouth.

"Just give me the damned file," he grumbled.

Cuddy sat in the cafeteria, munching a Cobb salad and wishing she didn't have so much to do. After last night (and this morning) she wanted nothing more than a vacation, from the hospital and from the people (House) in it. Again the memory of this morning came at her, threatening to engulf her in sensation. She batted it back. She was getting good at that; she'd been doing it since she'd left House's apartment.

She figured she'd already had her House sighting when he passed her in the hall this morning (late). She hadn't let her eyes linger on him, but her heart had fluttered like a bird inside her chest and she guessed the nurse saw the pulse in her neck because she'd asked what was wrong. Cuddy said a goose walked on her grave and the nurse laughed. She'd never heard the expression before. Youngster, Cuddy thought sourly.

No, she couldn't possibly be lucky enough to see his scruffy, scowling face but once in the course of a day, now could she?

House materialized in front of her like a genie. Cuddy sighed.

"This seat taken?"

"Yes," Cuddy said.

"Great!" House sat down. "Listen," he said. "I want to apologize for this morning, you were in my bed and just so incredibly hot I couldn't help myself..."

"Can we not talk about this... ever?" Cuddy requested. "Especially here."

House pulled a face. "All the shit you give me about not opening up and when I do, you shoot me down." He fell silent.

When the silence began to get to her, she asked, "Was there something you wanted?"

"I want you," he said softly, staring into her eyes.


Cuddy blinked. It was House, leaning on his cane, tray in one hand. For real, this time. Think of the devil and he shall appear. He nodded at the empty seat and she shrugged. He put the tray down and sat carefully, balancing himself with his cane. He started in on his lunch without a word.

"Was there something you wanted?" Cuddy asked.

House looked at her. "No."

"Oh," she said. Cuddy didn't know what was worse, him saying nothing or him refusing to shut up, like in her fantasy.

"Listen," Cuddy began, "about this morning..."

"Forget it," House said quickly.

"Deja vu," Cuddy murmured.

"Things got messier this time," House admitted. "I apologize for my lack of control... and condom."

"I'm in perimenopause," she reminded him. "I doubt there will be a problem. As for the former--"

"Do me a favor," House interrupted. "Don't go spreading this around. My reputation could suffer."

Cuddy glared at him. "Your reputation needs to suffer... and so do you."

"It wasn't even supposed to happen," he protested.

"I didn't notice anything happening," Cuddy said sourly. "What are you, sixteen?"

"If I apologize, will you get off my case?"

"Like you're gonna apologize," she scoffed, but then he surprised her by saying,

"I'm sorry."

She stared at him. He stared back, into her eyes and the two of them sat for a long moment, each trying to read the other's mind, or perhaps the other's heart. Then House said, low and insinuating, "I want to make it up to you."

Cuddy knew what that meant. Keeping her voice low, she said, "Do you really think I'd sleep with you again after that performance... or rather, lack of same?"

House thumped his chest. "Ouw! You wound me, Cuddy!"

"You're not the only one who's wounded," she retorted.

"You left in such a hurry. I last a lot longer the second go." He waggled his eyebrows.

Cuddy had a strong recollection of his condition after the first "go." He hadn't looked like he could draw breath unaided, let alone get it up again and make her glad to be alive. "I didn't miss anything," she retorted.

"Again, with the barbs. Seriously, Cuddy, I have a reputation to maintain. How can I make it up to you?"

"Seven extra clinic hours," Cuddy said promptly.

House's face fell. "It always comes down to clinic duty with you, doesn't it?"

Cuddy got to her feet. The chair made a scraping noise as she pushed it back. "What else would it come down to, House?" Their eyes met again. This time there was no searching. Their guards were up and their masks back in place.

"Whatever a drink and a drag and a shoulder are worth?" He looked a question at her.

"You took that out in trade," she said, dryly. "Seven extra hours."

"No problem," House resumed his lunch.

Cuddy frowned. She leaned a hip against the table; House glanced at the hip, then up at her. "That was too easy," she said. "What are you up to?"

"Nothing," he said, holding up two empty palms. There was mustard smeared on one of them. "Like you said, I owe you."

"Yes, you do," Cuddy said. She pushed away from the table (but not before House could eyeball her butt again), and walked away.

She knew he was watching her because he didn't know how not to.

Right on schedule after several months of it being all over the place, Cuddy got her period. Her sadness at yet more proof of her infertility was mitigated by the fact that at least House hadn't knocked her up, so she therefore wouldn't have to deal with him vis-a-vis parenthood. Then again, even having sex (such as it was) hadn't worked for her. Yes, God did indeed hate her.

Emotional baggage aside, the event was mostly a non-event except for the nausea, which continued, especially in the morning. Cuddy decided it sucked to be a woman no matter which way you sliced it. A couple of weeks passed and she started to outgrow her bras. House noticed (big surprise), and quizzed her about hormone replacement therapy. She didn't dignify any of it with a response, but she examined herself when she got home. Her breasts had gotten fuller, the nipples larger, the aureoles darker. And she remembered her brief first pregnancy...

The nausea continued to bother her and when her next period failed to make an appearance, she decided it was time to see Anna Goss again.