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Little Children

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Little Children,
or Lisa Cuddy and her subconscious and conscious relations to children and to House

by Emily's List

Chapter one: What feels like a million years ago

Lisa stretches out as best she can in her extra-long dorm room bed, next to her extra-long new friend. They're naked, sweat and substances drying on their skin, and his skinny, bony frame is pressing her into the cinder block wall. She was drunk and she's starting to get the spins. Fuck.

"Greg, please don't smother me to death."

He shifts closer, stroking her thigh. "Lisa, I'll do whatever I damn well please."

She loses the fight with her smile - it wins - and she takes his hand into hers. He's not particularly good-looking, in a conventional sense. He's sort of goofy and gangly, and odd, and her friends gave her a weird look when she left with him. But, on the other side of the scale, he has devastating blue eyes, he's incredibly intelligent, and his sense of humor is twisted and dark. And, she now knows, he is adept at cunnilingus. In fact, she's sort of sore.

His hand grazes her breast, and her breath hitches at the contact until he tweaks her nipple between his fingers. "So. You're pretty loud."

She bats his hand away. "I think you were the one screaming in my ear."

"I - maybe. What can I say, I had fun," he says, his voice dripping with ill-adopted ease and cool.

Lisa rolls her eyes. He may be older but he's an absolute manchild. She doesn't have time for this shit, she needs to get through med school without the kind of distractions that clouded her undergrad education.

Right. Off to a great start.

His hand strays again to her breast, this time gently and slowly.

"So, what do I have to do to see more of these?"

She rolls to face him and strokes his cheek and the stubble that's forming there. She kisses him until she gets nauseous and hightails it to the bathroom.

Later in the dark morning light, she wakes as he's trying his best to sneak out. She rolls onto her stomach and watches his naked, lanky form dress in the half-light. "Hey," she mumbles, squinting, head propped on her hand. He turns back to her, startled, pulling on his t-shirt.

"Hey," he says, trying but failing to be casual. "I, uh -"

"Whatever," she says, shutting her eyes and sinking her face into the mattress. "Hungover."

"I'll call you." He shoves his feet into his Chucks and pulls his sweater on. "What's your..."

She grabs for a notebook and the nearest writing implement. "Don't call me until at least 1pm or I will detach your testicles." She tears the sheet off the spiral and hands it off; he scowls at the bright pink highlighter lines.

"You got it. Drink some fluids." Banked on her back with her eyes closed, she can feel him hovering near her, probably unsure whether to kiss her good bye or say something. She opens her eyes and pulls him down for a kiss. When she releases him his pupils are dilated.

"See you later, House."

He departs, slamming the door on purpose, and she winces.

He doesn't call.

She doesn't see him for years, and when she does, she's struck by how unfairly well he's aged.

Chapter two: In the slightly more recent past

She sets her glass down on the bar at Mediterra, albeit a little unsteadily. It makes a noise, close to a chime, and she tries unsuccessfully to regain composure - but she's drunk, so it's unlikely. When she catches the bartender's eye, she smiles at her. "I'll have another," she requests, lifting her empty glass.

Stacy elbows her. "Quit flirting with the bartender."

"I am - not." Lisa's smile spreads over her face. She laughs. "I'm not! I'm not, you know, playing for the other team. Not even trying."

Stacy traces the rim of her wine glass with her fingertip. "She does have great breasts." Lisa's head whips to look at Stacy. "What? You can flirt but I can't notice a great rack?"

Lisa shakes her head. "A great rack. You are - drunk."

"So are you. The level of drunk is surprising, in fact, for both of us."

She gets her new glass of merlot and takes a long sip. "Well, we're celebrating, Stacy. I thought I might be pregnant and I'm not." She takes another drink. "I'm glad you're here and not your cranky other half."

Stacy clinks her glass with Lisa's. "Amen. He has a rugby game. Because he's a British teenager. Listen, not pregnant is a great state. Who-"

"It doesn't matter. It really doesn't." It really doesn't. Clark has great cheekbones, a sweet disposition, and a thriving law practice, but she knows he resents her success and doesn't really respect her all the way, the way that she deserves. She's too young to settle for cheekbones and it's no way to start a family anyway.

"Would you have aborted?" Stacy asks, as blunt and simply as people who ask and answer lots of questions for a living tend to do. Lisa shrugs. She's aware that it's a majorly decisive issue, but she's a doctor, and to her it's a medical procedure like any other. She has the unusual position of having had a D&C in college and later performing one.

"I don't know. I - it depends. It would have depended, had circumstances been different. What about you?" Another sip, practically a gulp.

Stacy crosses and uncrosses her legs, and brushes at her hair in a way Lisa envies - how does she swing that, that air of breeziness? "I don't want kids. I suppose I should say, if kids factored into my life it wouldn't be so bad, but it's not something I ever wanted or imagined. Most little girls play at mommying. I wanted to do this."

"Get tanked with me?" Lisa can't help but interject. She smiles widely and takes a sidelong glance at herself in the mirror running behind the bar.

"Right on the nose," Stacy replies. "Besides, can you imagine Greg with a baby? A teenager? It has disaster written all over it."

Stacy studies the wine list for her next conquest, and Lisa takes a mental vacation to imagine House as a father. Maybe Stacy isn't giving him enough credit. Maybe he could be an actual human being to his own flesh and blood. She imagines a framed photo on a desk: House and a tiny tot at the piano, shot from behind, their heads bent together in shared concentration as they plunk out a piece of music.

She finishes her drink, pouring it down her throat, and takes a deep breath. "He'd be horrible. No doubt."

Chapter three: 2006

"Two things," he says, striding in, his limp only slightly affecting his buoyancy. "I need you to sign off on a treatment for argyria, and I'm here to give you your egg ripening juice shot in the ass."

Cuddy sends mental daggers into his skull. "Madame Secretary, I apologize, we're going to have to finish this conversation later today. I'll have our assistants - thank you so much." She hangs up softly. "What the hell is wrong with you? I was in the middle of a call with the state secretary of health and senior services."

"No need to thank me," he replies cheerfully, hovering over her desk. He drops the folder down and she looks up, shocked to see documentation for treatment approval. "Courtesy of the underpaid ass-kissers upstairs."

She opens it up and scans, signing the form with a flourish. "I'm surprised that argyria doesn't cause you to make Willy Wonka-related juicing jokes." She hands back the folder, thrusting it into his waiting hand, and stands.

"Cameron and Chase already rode that lame train. 'You're turning violet, Violet,' for future reference, is of very little help during a differential. Now turn around so I can stick you."

She rolls her eyes and secures the blinds closed. She turns to face the desk and unzips her skirt, for minimum exposure, and hands the syringe over. "Just to keep track: Willy Wonka jokes are passé but needle-phallus humor is all the rage?" He swabs the patch of skin below her waist and swiftly injects the menotropin, slapping a band-aid over his work when he finishes and then slapping lower after her skirt is back up.

"Phallus humor is always the rage. How do you think Comedy Central stays afloat?"

She raises the blinds and worries, for a moment, what hospital staff must think of these brief - very brief - interludes. Maybe they think she's a lonely masochist. Maybe they'll think that House is quick on the draw. All things even, that's something she can live with.

As she looks out into the clinic, she spies two mothers fretting over a newborn in a stroller. Their worry is palpable from across the room and beyond - and her heart, left lung, stomach, and maybe her kneecaps ache until she feels like she can't breathe. It's been like this a lot lately - these overwhelming, suffocating feelings - and she tries to push them down and away.

House pushes past her. "I can hear your uterus crying. Tell it to shut up and get patient."

Chapter four: Soon

Rachel is four today and chooses to alert her mom to this fact by jumping on the bed at 6 AM on a Saturday. "It's my birthday!" She says elated, exuberant, excited. As Lisa disarms her, choosing the tackle-and-tickle method, she thinks that the only person she can blame is herself; she's been hyping this event for weeks.

They shuffle (Lisa) and run (Rachel) to the kitchen, where Mommy essentially freebases her coffee to wake up. Rachel's day of jubilee begins with a usually banned sugary cereal substance and a similarly banned insipid television show that causes feminists to heave a collective sigh. Caffeinated and settled cozily into the couch, Lisa grabs for her phone.

"What," is what stabs through her phone, a sharp syllable pierced with expired drunkenness.
"Good morning to you too, sweetheart," she says trying for all the world to sound good natured in a moment when she felt the opposite. She hears rustling on the other end, whispering, the sound of movement. "House? Where are you?"

The sound of urinating fills her receiver. "Wilson's bathroom."

Lisa careens to the side, putting her body more firmly between Rachel and the conversation. "You didn't call," she mutters into the phone.

"So?"

She cannot believe she’s with a man who still uses ‘so’ as a retort. Anger is mixing with her blood and starting to rise to the surface, but she attempts, at least, a cool tone. "So - I don't ask for you to live here and be home at six, or ask you to be around for Rachel's birthday, but I ask that you call and tell me that you’re alive."

"I was busy," he shoots back petulantly.

"I'm sorry you were so busy. When you're not so busy, why don't you give me a call," she whispers sharply before hanging up and throwing her phone on the floor. Rachel stares up at her from her spot on the carpet. With a background in faking that everything is fine, Lisa stretches a smile across her face. "Sweetheart, let's go to the park before your party? How does that sound?"

Rachel beams.

He comes over in time for bedtime, barely issuing a hello her way. Rachel, in bed but still on a raging sugar high, smiles as he limps into the room. Their relationship has always intrigued Lisa. He treats Rachel like a relative who he is required to like, and maybe even genuinely likes, but with whom he has very little in common. For Rachel's part, she always seems neutral and a little surprised to see him - which itself is surprising, given that he's been around many mornings after since she was a toddler.

"I know I missed your birthday," he says, pulling the armchair closer to the bed and settling in, "but I think I made it just under the wire."

"What does 'under the wire' mean?"

"It means something done late, but idiomatically where does it come from? That I'm not sure."

"Idiotmatically?"

He nods, comically serious. "Yup." He tosses two bubblegum pink packages on the bed. "For you. Happy birthday." She rips at them eagerly and is delighted to find a book about construction equipment in one and new toe shoes in the other; they have Wilson's name written all over them. In fact she'd bet even money that there's a physical tag in House's pocket that says 'To Rachel, Love James.'

"Thank you Greg," she says, automaton, her nose already buried in the book. As usual, he leaves her room with an unsettling finality, never pausing to look back.

Once they're out, and around the corner, he moves in to kiss her and she notices two things: his breath contains traces of scotch, and he reeks of Wilson's cologne. Not the first time and surely not the last. Amidst these facts she lets him kiss her but as he slips his tongue into her mouth, one palm cupping her ass, she starts to feel anxious. She starts to feel undone and jealous and angry and - "I can't believe you were gone all day. It was me against a squadron of four year olds."

He pulls away, confused and indignant. "I never promised to help with such a debacle. I did you a favor by keeping my distance at Wilson's place."

She's choking on her frustration and the feeling that she is slowly losing him, so she does what she’s good at. She builds a wall. "I need you to leave."

Brow furrowed, he asks, "This is a game, right? You're messing with me? This is some kind of foreplay that ends with me suspended from the ceiling with a whip in your hand? It's fine, I'd just like some advance warning."

"If I can't have even the most cursory of assistance with Rachel, this can't work at all, House. I need someone I can count on, just a little, and apparently you can't even do that. Get out. Just - go, okay? Right now."

He looks halfway between pissed and hurt, but she's too hopped up with anger and her own hurt to care. "Fine by me," he mutters, grabbing for his helmet on his way out.

After she's gathered her wits and recovered from her temper tantrum, she goes to bed with a glass of wine and the Rabbit. And she sleeps just fine.

Chapter five: Sometime in the future

She is so nervous - and she's sure it shows on her face, in her posture, and in her glandular secretion. She whispers to Wilson, "Am I sweating through my suit?" but he looks too grossed out to answer and chooses, perhaps wisely, to ignore her. Her gaze comes up and out into the temple, and then next to her to her daughter. "Honey," she whispers, "you're going to do so well. You know your portion inside and out, and I'm so proud of you. Honey. Look at Mommy."

Rachel's head snaps up. "What?" she asks, irritation threaded through the long ‘a’ that stretches her response out. Lisa sighs. Sometimes she forgets she has a 13 year old - and she's usually brought crashing back to reality.

"Relax, okay? You're going to do so well today-"

"If I may," Wilson interjects, leaning across Lisa. "Stop talking to her. You're psyching her out."

Lisa tucks her chin towards Wilson. "If I may," she whispers harshly, "don't tell me how to parent."

He shrugs. "I was once in her position, so were you. Does she really need to be nagged?"

She frowns. "What I don't need is this nonsense right here." She watches her daughter's face lift ever so slightly, amused to see grouchy Greg House in the front row, continually fixing his errant yarmulke. To Wilson she says, "Tell him to put a smile on his face."

"Oh, I can't tell him that. Years of trying to get him to do anything have culminated in my complete acquiescence." Liar. He's the only one that can prod House into action or inaction, depending on the desired result.

Lisa sighs. "I thought he had written this off as a robotic rite of passage devoid of true meaning. Something like that. That bastard is so eloquent when he wants to be." She can't believe she said bastard in temple. Fuck.

She thought ‘fuck’ in temple. Fuck again.

Wilson shakes his head. "That's what he told me too. Then, this morning, I may have promised a very specific favor in exchange for his silent presence here." He blushes deeply and she tags this moment for follow-up, to mock him when not sitting on the bimah moments before Rachel’s big moment.

And then it's time.

Today's readings are about Jacob, Rachel and Leah. Rachel's father Laban told Jacob if he worked for him, he would one day be able to marry her. When it was time, the wedding was consummated instead with Rachel's sister Leah. Because Leah was older, it was customary to get her out of the house first. Jacob worked another seven years and at its end, he took Rachel as his second wife. He loved Rachel more than Leah, and in seeing that Leah was unloved G-d gave her children.

Rachel was barren. Her handmaid Bilhah was to act as a surrogate, and through her Jacob and Rachel had children. Leah's fertility, at this point, had diminished. Jealous, she drafted her handmaid Zilpah into service; this union was fruitful and created two children. More babies were born.

All of this makes for delightful dinner conversation with your pre-teen as you prepare for one of the first religious milestones of her life.

Rachel sings her portion perfectly. She loses her place once, between the words ushmarticha and bechol, but Rabbi Cohen helps her find her way again. Wilson holds her hand as they stand behind Rachel because tears are streaming down her cheeks, and she feels like she'll never be this pleased or happy again. When Rachel finishes, Lisa hugs the crap out of her daughter.

Later there's an expensive party filled with gawky teenagers, but for the moment Lisa gazes on a woman who just crossed the threshold from girlhood. She stares up at her mother, and squeezes her hand, and they take their seats to celebrate the start of whatever will come next.

/end.