Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters, and I don't intend any disrespect or insult to the people and/or corporations who do.
Warning: Do not concentrate and inhale vapors. As with any fanfic, if you are pregnant or nursing a baby, or may become pregnant, consult a physician.
A million thanks to imsanehonest and ligia elena for the beta-reading!
What was House thinking? Foreman set down his coffee cup, without slamming it, and wished again that it was something stronger. But reasonable people don't turn to hard liquor at eleven o'clock in the damn morning.
What the hell was House thinking? Foreman hated how much of his time was spent, every damn day, wondering that very thing. This really wasn't what he'd signed on for. Oh, he'd known House was difficult. Everybody on the Eastern Seaboard knew that -- maybe everybody in the damn country. But he'd thought he could deal with difficult; he'd been dealing with difficult ever since high school at least. Everybody judged him; nobody ever let him live down his stupid juvenile crap. There was a way in which it was good that House was at least up front about it, and there was another way that he wanted to beat House to death with a chair.
Foreman raised the coffee cup and made himself take another measured sip. He set it carefully down on the damn counter again without making a damn sound. He wondered if that job offer in California might still be good, even though he wouldn't be learning anything and it really wasn't what he wanted to do. Working on the other side of the continent from House was a damn appealing thought.
He took another sip of coffee, and wondered what was playing at the multiplex.
"Dr. Cuddy," he greeted her politely, still distracted by his own brooding. Sometimes he was just so damn tired of dealing with all this crap.
"Hot tea, Carlos," Cuddy asked the counterman. She sat down in a flutter of jacket ruffles. Unlike House, Foreman respected his own career possibilities too much to comment on her unprofessional attire.
Hadn't the whole stupid thing with Vogler been enough of a tornado of self-defeating stupidity? What on God's green Earth could have possibly possessed House to play those games again?
"So, how are you?" Cuddy asked him.
What he should have done was look at her sideways, set the damn cup down quietly, smile and say, "Fine." Then he should have turned attentively towards her and begun one of the three reasonable, professional-sounding conversations he had outlined in his head for use with senior hospital staff.
Instead he slammed the cup down hard enough that coffee slopped onto the counter and let out a huff of angry, angry air. Staring straight ahead, he choked out, "How do you think?"
Cuddy didn't look outraged, or even cold. His stupidity seemed to soften her right up, actually. She let her posture go a little, and blew a curl up off her forehead.
Her tea came while Foreman was still wondering whether he'd just committed irrevocable political suicide. She picked it up. He picked up his coffee. The silence should have been a lot more uncomfortable than it was.
"Ten million. That's a lot of money," Cuddy finally said.
Eric swallowed as much resentment as he could with a long drink of coffee, to keep it out of his voice. "It is," he agreed.
Cuddy leaned a little closer to him, and lowered her voice. "They say Luthor's father had him committed to Belle Reve when he was young, but the records have all been wiped."
Foreman knew that Cuddy was trying to make him feel better, and he appreciated it. "They say he's a murderer, too," he added quietly. He saw her smiling out of the corner of his eye, happy that he was playing along in this little game of 'Isn't It Awful' that she'd started. Cuddy was okay.
"They say Criminal Mastermind. What's the line -- twenty-three arrests and no convictions?"
The thing of it was that he really did feel better now. Luthor was crazy and dangerous and rich, and House wasn't stupid enough or reckless enough to cross him. That made sense, didn't it? Sure it did. His shoulders relaxed, and he was able to chuckle convincingly. He turned to Cuddy and smiled.
She looked kind of smug and proud of herself, but she hid her smirk behind her teacup.
"And at least I get four weeks' vacation out of it," Foreman said philosophically.
She put her eyebrows up and dropped her jaw, exaggerating an expression of surprise. "Four weeks?"
"Mmm hmm. House said."
"Oh, well. If House said."
They sat companionably at the counter for a while, with their hot beverages. Then Cuddy spoke again. "You know, I'm on vacation, too."
"Starting today, actually. I was only in this morning to get a few things out of the way. My flight goes at three."
Huh. Actual conversation, with Dr. Cuddy. Nice. Weird, but nice. "Where are you off to?"
"Vegas." She said it with a gleeful sort of satisfaction in her voice.
He looked at her with puzzlement written plainly on his face.
She looked back at him with nothing but mischief on hers. "Wanna come along?"
The last time he'd made such a quick, dumb decision, he'd ended up doing nine months in Juvie. "Sure. Why the hell not?"
Chase miserably stripped off his gown and gloves. That was the problem with NICU. Sure, the patients didn't lie, and House almost always kept clear of what he inevitably referred to as the Dying Babies Section, but on the other hand they did die, lots of them, and there was so seldom anything he could do to stop it.
He slouched around the corner to avoid the weeping parents at the nurses' station. He'd held it together long enough to be professional while telling them the bad news. He'd been sympathetic and sincere, and let himself display just the right amount of pain to make sure they wouldn't try to comfort themselves at his expense, with a lawyer. Now he planned to make his way down to the chapel and fall apart a little.
Say what you like about God, the big guy never punished him for crying.
She ambushed him at the stairs. Lex Luthor's bodyguard, Mercy (he didn't know her last name), stepped out of nowhere and put an authoritative hand on his shoulder. Chase froze, eyes wide.
"What's wrong?" he gasped, and was a little proud that it didn't come out "Don't hurt me."
"Your shift was finished an hour ago. Come along."
Chase let Mercy take him up to the suspiciously quiet VIP floor. He didn't bother asking any questions. It was probably better not to know in advance anyway. At least this way he could feel peaceful until they got there.
Mercy opened a door and ushered him through. She stayed outside in the hallway and closed the door after him.
Luthor was there, waiting. The purple cashmere-wrapped bundle in his lap had to be Conner.
"Dr. Chase," Luthor greeted him, smiling.
"Call me Lex." The smile was warm and genuine, and it reached his eyes. He seemed to be a lot more well-rested than he'd been a month ago, which Chase didn't think was supposed to be the case with new parents.
"You're probably wondering why I called you here," Lex said, still smiling.
Chase struggled to not let himself be charmed. "Uh, yeah," he countered. "As your hired gun pointed out to me, my shift is over. I was planning to go home." That was a total lie, of course.
"I know, and I apologize," Luthor said warmly. "I'll make it worth your while." He rose from his chair and brought the baby over to Chase. "Clark's been devouring parenting books at a prodigious rate. He thinks Conner should have a well-baby check, and he didn't care for the doctor I originally suggested. Toby's wonderfully discreet, but he really does make a better emergency field medic than he does a pediatrician."
Chase barely listened to Luthor's jovial words. He took the baby over to the bed and started to examine him. Conner was still much smaller than a normal human newborn, but he'd definitely gained weight since birth -- about 800 grams, Chase would guess. There wasn't a baby scale available in this room, but since there wasn't any chart to keep either, Chase supposed his estimate would do.
"He's well-hydrated, active. He's increased quite a bit in weight. The clavicle fracture seems to have healed well."
Luthor stood at Chase's shoulder and extended a finger to his son. The baby kicked his feet and waved his arms, and grabbed Lex's finger when it came close enough.
"He's well coordinated," Chase commented. "I'd say he's fine. May I go down to the Clinic and fetch a scale and the standard vaccines, or...?"
"Needles won't pierce his skin. Already." Luthor's fond smile was rather frightening.
Chase shocked himself by saying, "I'm surprised Clark lets you experiment with him."
"Clark didn't know about it until afterwards." Luthor smirked at the baby. "It's not like I'm unaccustomed to his lectures. I doubt that vaccines would be helpful, in any case. Clark was never vaccinated, and I've been immune to disease ever since I lost my hair."
Chase looked at Luthor in astonishment. That didn't seem like the sort of thing he just casually told people. The impish smile confirmed his supposition. "You won't tell anyone I'm a mutant, Dr. Chase. If you did, no one would believe you. But you won't. It would be mean, and useless, and there's no profit in it for you, and Superman would get upset."
Chase sat down, a little weak from how perfectly Luthor had analyzed his thought processes. Luthor smiled sideways at him and let out a tiny amused huff of a laugh. Conner kicked and cooed. The hellish day and night and day before that he'd had in NICU caught up with him, and he laid his head down on the bed and looked at Conner. He'd been smaller when he was born than the baby Chase had lost today, but he was perfectly healthy in every way.
"He's perfect," Chase said. "He's perfectly fine."
"Yes. So is Clark. Thank you for all your help."
Chase sighed. "You're welcome."
There was silence for a moment. Chase straightened back up. "Was there anything else?" he asked automatically.
"Yes, there is, actually." Luthor kept playing with his child, gathering his thoughts apparently. "I know about you; I researched you and your background before bringing Clark to this hospital a month ago. I know about your father."
Chase locked his eyes on the baby and didn't raise them.
"He was a talented doctor, but a bad father and a bad man." Luthor's tone brooked no argument. "You've worked under House longer than anyone ever has, and it's because he's a somewhat less horrendous version of your dad. Am I wrong?"
Chase kept his eyes down.
"It doesn't matter if I'm right or wrong in this instance. I have an offer to make you -- everyone can benefit from having an escape hatch." Luthor chuckled as Conner put his finger in his mouth. "You know, it's the coolest thing," Lex digressed, "Clark can hear him crying from the other side of the world, and he drops everything and zooms home right away, every time. I get the sleeping baby and the happy playing baby, and Clark gets the hungry baby and the dirty baby. That horribly, horribly annoying omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence thing that Superman does -- really, it's to suit him for child-rearing. If only I'd realized that earlier, we could have avoided so much trouble over the years. Where was I? Ah, yes. You can have a job at Metropolis General any time you want it. Any department you like, at an increase of twenty percent over what Princeton Plainsboro, or whomever you're working for at the time, is paying you."
Chase blinked at him, disbelieving.
"You're a good doctor. Unflappable, which is an extremely valuable trait in Metropolis. We could really use you." Luthor's tone was frighteningly earnest. His blue-gray gaze was so intense and sincere that Chase almost panicked, thinking there must be a hidden trap, and yet yearning to believe what the criminal mastermind was telling him.
Chase cleared his throat. "I'll, uh, I'll think about it."
"But we shouldn't count on you? Well, thank you for considering it, and keep in mind that this is an offer without a time limit. Just mention my name, whenever." Turning suddenly businesslike, Luthor bundled his child into a cunningly disguised carrier that looked a lot like a computer case. "Ah. And there's been a quarter million dollars deposited into your checking account. I'm still considering what to give you for Christmas -- if I don't think of anything good, it'll probably be another quarter million. You're welcome. Mercy!"
Luthor, his child, and his henchwoman left. Chase sat there dumfounded.
Cameron sighed as she labored over the illegible garbage she was trying to turn into the Diagnostics Department's completed paperwork. The guys weren't even trying any more. Why should they, when they knew she'd stay late and do it all?
She didn't spare a glance for the gorgeous sunset outside the tall glass windows. Her shift had been over for hours, but these forms were due tomorrow. Actually, they'd been due by close of business today, but no one who knew that (House) had told her about them until their latest patient had been discharged, at two o'clock. "Take you a couple hours, tops. You can knock off as soon as they're in." That had been five hours ago. She figured she was about halfway done.
The scarlet light from the window was cut by a large shadow. Cameron looked up, and her jaw dropped. "Superman!" she gasped.
Superman slid open the glass door from House and Wilson's balcony. "May I come in?" he asked politely.
"Of course! Um. How are you feeling?" Cameron rose from the chair.
"Super, thanks," Clark grinned. "Please don't get up."
She sat back down. Clark came in, with a swirl of cape that looked a lot cooler in person than it did in theory, and took a seat at the conference table. "Working late?" he asked.
Allison looked at the sea of crap she still had to wade through and sighed. "Yeah."
"None of the others are helping out?"
She shrugged. "Paperwork's not really their thing."
"You're a doctor, too. How is it your thing more than theirs?"
"Well, somebody has to do it!"
They sat there just looking at each other. Cameron wanted to be mad at him, or mad at Chase and Foreman (although that last was a little unfair, seeing as he'd been gone for a month), or maybe even (most sensibly) mad at House. It was impossible to hold onto anger with that much gorgeousness staring her in the face, though. Superman was inhumanly pretty!
Of course, this wasn't getting her work done.
"Was there something you needed, Mr. Kent?"
"Um. No, not really. Well, I wanted to give you a heads-up that Lex is sending you a present, some money into your bank account, so you don't freak when it just magically appears. I've pretty much given up on trying to convince him that that's not the way to do things. You like money, right?"
Oh, good God -- that was the most perfect puppy expression she'd ever seen. Better than Wilson's. Cameron couldn't keep from giggling, and Clark smiled widely. "I like money," she admitted, smiling back.
That smile of his really should be a controlled substance, Cameron thought. She couldn't help but notice, though, that it had far less of a pull on her than it had when he was in the throes of childbirth, and needing her help. Now he was just a handsome alien do-gooder in spandex. And he was talking again, earnestly and at great length.
"I was, uh, you know just because somebody has to do that paperwork, doesn't mean that it's you? It's House's responsibility, right? Or he could hire somebody, like a clerk or something. 'Cause, the thing is, when you do all the work all the time, and never play or like, have fun? It's, you could, well, I mean, maybe it's different for a girl, but really I don't think so! And --" Clark's head whipped round like he'd heard something, and he abruptly stopped babbling.
"Horrible car crash?" Allison guessed.
"Baby crying. I gotta go. Um, look, just leave this stuff 'til tomorrow. If it's late, Dr. House will just have to deal with it, and you should totally take off. I mean it. And, uh..." From out of nowhere, Superman produced a card. "Here, call this guy. He's fun, and he's nice, and, okay, not the most serious guy in the world, in, like any way whatsoever, and I really really have to go. Thanks!"
Superman vanished. Cameron looked at the card. Above the standard phone number and name, there was "For a Good Time" scribbled in red ink. Wait, no, that was part of the printed design! How funny. "Wally West," she read, and went to the phone.
Walking back into PPTH was like waking up from a dream. This was the real world, right here, with Chase washing out the coffee pot and Cameron sorting through the mail. He'd made it in before House, even though he'd gotten an awful slow start that morning. Heh heh heh.
"Hey, how was the vacation?" Cameron asked, smiling.
Eric smiled to himself, remembering, and shook his head a tiny bit to get his brain back to where he could answer. "Great. It was great."
"Well, good," she said. "Oh, your mail is over there on the shelf."
Foreman walked over and started leafing through envelopes. Chase brought him a cup of coffee. "Good to have you back!" he said heartily. Eric gave him a Look just in time to keep him from slapping him on the back. Chase backed away trying to look like he hadn't been meaning to do anything, and Eric went back to his papers.
Along with all the normal mail, there was a square, purple envelope, addressed 'Dr. and Mrs. Eric Foreman' in a handwriting he didn't recognize. There was no return address. Curious and shocked (nobody had known about that!), he nevertheless opened it, and shook out an obviously expensive sheet of lavender notepaper, folded around a check. "Congratulations and Best Wishes on the occasion of your marriage," the note read. The check was made out to Eric and Lisa Foreman, for $500,000, and signed "Lex Luthor".
What the hell?
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