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HOUSE M.D. FIC: A Valiant Woman (3/6)

For notes, please see Chapter 1.

Chapter 3: Her Children Rise Up and Praise Her
“It’s a decision that changes everything.”

At the dogmatic age of ten, Lisa had declared that she would never get married or have children because husbands and babies just messed everything up. The next couple of decades did little to change that opinion, particularly as one classmate after another dropped out of school to deal with unexpected pregnancies. But in her early thirties, as her married friends settled down and started families, she had begun to waver between wanting kids and not. Then the proverbial biological clock blew her brains inside out like an estrogen IED, and suddenly every chubby-cheeked cherub she encountered made her nipples ache with longing.

Now that she finally had one of her own, she was starting to think that she’d had it right the first time. Suddenly she found herself assuming complete responsibility for this alien being for whom crying appeared to be the sole mode of communication.

She had gotten everything she wanted. She should be thrilled. In fact, once the initial excitement and novelty wore off, she was so strung out and demoralized that she often felt nothing at all.

Even with a housecleaner and a nanny to help, her once-pristine house constantly looked like the entire contents of the Natural Baby catalog had exploded all over it. Lack of sleep, the sporadic, often seemingly inconsolable screaming; the stress of remaining in a perpetual state of alert, had her so keyed up and muzzy-minded that she was surprised that she hadn’t been caught wearing mismatched shoes or putting the baby in the oven and the brisket in the bassinette.

House was no help at all, not that she had expected him to be. The only time he set foot in her home was when he needed her approval for yet another dangerous or marginally legal procedure, and she refused to haul Rachel along just to rein him in face to face. She couldn’t help noticing that his personal hygiene levels had sunk to new lows. Not that she was exactly excelling in that department these days herself.

In contrast, Wilson couldn’t seem to stay away. She should have known that allowing him to glimpse her guilt and desperation had been a mistake. Every time he visited her and Rachel at home, she found herself wondering whether this would be the day when he took her in his arms and offered to move in. It was just lucky that her hormone levels were so depressed from exhaustion that she felt no temptation whatsoever to open up the opportunity for him.

Most difficult for the woman who’d always graduated at or near the top of her class was the constant niggling conviction of failure. She had been so sure that she could do this, that a combination of caring, money, and carefully honed time management skills would allow an almost seamless integration of her personal and professional life. Instead, she found herself stuffing dirty diapers into expensive attaché cases and damned near dozing off during the weekly meetings with her department heads to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

Perhaps if she had remained close enough friends with any professional couples with children to get realistic glimpses into their daily lives, she would have known better.

Although she couldn’t help feeling like the fact that she’d spent the past few weeks juggling one unmanageable child at home and a much larger and more ornery one at work might have had a lot to do with it, too.

When Kutner called to tell her that House was removing a patient‘s skull so he could monitor nerve conduction in her exposed brain, Rachel was already wailing, her face flushed and scrunched up like a cranky old drunk’s. Lisa could barely hear her colleagues, although she caught Cameron’s voice saying something snide about not needing her as much as the baby did. Not for the first time, Lisa wondered why human infants had evolved the ability to make a noise that didn’t just attract attention but actually worked on the nerves of the nearest adults to the point where they would do anything to make it stop, up to (and occasionally including) throwing them against the wall.

She finally had to give up on the conversation with her colleagues and focus completely on Rachel, feeling as if the raw surface of her own brain was being pierced by her screams. “I need you to be quiet! I don’t know what you want! I will give you anything that you want, I just don’t know what it is! Tell me, please, just help me, please!” Rachel stopped at last, looking up at her with a gassy grin. “Really? That worked!” She laughed through her tears, finally feeling the connection that she had known they needed.

Later that evening Lisa took Rachel to visit House in his office and crow over her victory. “I talked to her. We connected!”

Color House unimpressed, but Lisa was too relieved to let it bother her. “You want to hold her?” she offered. She knew from parents’ anecdotes as well as her own observations in the clinic that despite his display of reluctance, House was excellent with small children. As expected, Rachel regarded him solemnly and didn’t cry. But she did spit up on him.

House complained that if he threw up on her, she’d be pissed. Lisa generously refrained from mentioning that he had in fact thrown up on her before, and far from holding it against him, she had given him CPR and spent the night at his bedside. She knew that the grumbles held no real rancor, only the petty jealousy of an only child suddenly forced to cede attention to a younger sibling.

Cameron came to her at the end of the day to say that she was quitting. She explained that she would always say yes to House, and anyone else would always say no. He needed Lisa to look after him – and no one else would do.

***

She was losing her mind, actually approaching bat-shit insane. It was the only possible explanation for why she had tried to put Cameron in charge of House-sitting, hoping that the younger woman’s intimate knowledge of his habits combined with her newfound manipulative streak could carry the day, and now found herself pulling pranks on him that had James Fucking Wilson telling her that she had to dial it down.

Inexplicably, House hadn’t retaliated for the out-of-service elevators, the tripwire, the theft of his cane. He’d appeared in her office with an olive branch, and she’d responded by cutting off his heat and power during a New Jersey winter. She would not be ignored. He wouldn’t just suffer, he would be seen to suffer, by her, by everyone. For the first time, she understood the saying “misery loves company” all too well. Great, that was another thing the two of them had in common.

When Wilson left her in the clinic, she went back to her office, drew the blinds, and wept. She was deeply ashamed, barely recognizing this sadistic stranger inhabiting her skin. Wilson was right; what House did was who he was. And the same went for her.

She was waiting when House returned to his office at the end of the day, his cane in her hand. “I found this. In the, uh, coat closet. Where I hid it.”

He accepted “little, little Greg” and sat down next to her, close enough that their shoulders brushed together. But when she tried to apologize, he turned right back into a grade-A ass and accused her of riding the crimson wave as well as of being only slightly crappier at her job with a kid than without. And yet… somehow she knew that this was an act. That they were, at least for now, all right.

As the elevator doors closed, she felt a huge smile of relief spread over her face.

The following day, she started therapy and anti-depressants and hired a relief pitcher, a community college student who lived at the end of her block. When Wilson told you to stop being a martyr, it was definitely time to admit that you needed help.

 

Read Chapter 4: Sturdy Are Her Arms

 

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