"Buffy, are you alright?" Lisa asked concerned. "Is something wrong with the food? Do you want something else?"
Buffy furrowed her brows as she continued to stare darkly at the still half-full plate in front of her. "No. I wanna
eat what's on my plate."
"Try putting in your mouth rather than staring at it," House suggested not so helpfully.
Growling, Buffy picked up a couple of corn kernels and threw them at the grinning House. "Baby moved and cuddled up to my stomach just after you arrived."
"Probably showing him his ass again," Faith commented dryly.
"What!?" Xander asked in confusion. Rolling her eyes, Faith explained how Baby always hid from House but didn't have any problems showing everything to Allison and Dr Morales only a few days ago.
"Smart kid," Dawn said between giggles.
Snorting, House pointed at Buffy. "It the kid were that smart, it wouldn't press on Buffy's stomach making her all grumpy."
Buffy threw some more corn kernels at him. Xander leaned back in his chair and patted his own full tummy. "I think he's just making sure there's enough space for dessert."
"And Twinkies," Willow said seriously.
"Hey!" Xander protested immediately. And Buffy's eyes suddenly lighting up didn't exactly help to ease his mind. "You aren't getting any Twinkies-cravings, are you?"
"Maybe?" Giggling at his shocked expression, Buffy shook her head. "But I'll do my best to resist 'cause I think you're right. Baby just moved slightly off my stomach when you mentioned dessert."
"See?" Xander said triumphantly, "That is one smart kid."
Meanwhile, House gave Lisa a calculating look. She had been awfully quiet throughout this latest bit of conversation and he had watched her closely throughout. Coming to a conclusion, he went as far as pondering for a couple of seconds if he should or shouldn't act. This in itself was a big step as usually he'd just have acted without thinking. However, one doesn't change suddenly so he leaned forward and picked up a slice of tender turkey breast. Then, instead of putting it onto his own plate, he aimed quickly and threw it onto Lisa's.
"Yes!" He raised his hands in triumph when the meat landed right where he had intended for it to land. On top of her leftover mashed potatoes.
He looked innocently at his exasperated boss. "Cuddles?"
Growling, she said, "This is meat."
House looked up in surprise. "No, really?" He even went as far as scratching his head and looking at his own plate. Putting some turkey into his mouth, he chewed thoughtfully. "Yes. It's meat. Nicely cooked, too."
"I do not
Enjoying the proverbial steam coming out of her ears, House shrugged his shoulders. "You should. Maybe then you'd stop staring at the turkey like you were ready to swallow the whole thing at once."
Narrowing her eyes, Lisa gave House a withering look. "I am not staring at the turkey. You've probably overdosed on Vicodin again and are delusional." She looked at her plate in disgust and picked up the turkey with her fork, ready to move it over to Dawn's plate who'd silently offered to take it.
"Doesn't it just smell delicious
?" House asked the very moment Cuddy lifted her fork and brought the offending piece of meat closer to her nose.
She couldn't help it - she inhaled deeply and almost whimpered at the scents attacking her nose. They were delicious indeed. Gritting her teeth, she deliberately forced her arm to move over to Dawn's plate. Then she looked up and smiled triumphantly at House.
House only smirked - and placed more turkey onto her plate.
Groaning in frustration, Lisa picked it up with her fingers and was about to throw it back at House when he spoke up again. "It's called a craving." That had her stopping short and looking at the turkey in her hand in utter disbelief.
"Turkey-cravings are much better than Twinkie-cravings anyway."
Intentional or not, Xander's comment had several heads snap up and stare at Lisa and House in surprise. "Cravings? Are you...?" Dawn put her own and Giles' thoughts into words.
"Pregnant." House said casually. "Yep. And the parasite wants meat." Looking pointedly at Lisa, he said, "Eat."
"You're pregnant?" Dawn squealed in delight and punched the air in joy. "When? How? Never mind - I get to be a big sister!"
Smirking, Buffy patted her mom's shoulder. "Told you he would choose an inappropriate moment to spill the beans."
Groaning, Lisa leaned back into her chair and closed her eyes. Yes, House couldn't have chosen a worse moment. She was getting to know the people her daughter grew up with. And then there was Giles. He'd barely been back into her life and she was pregnant again. She absently lifted her hand and bit into the food she was still holding. Her eyes snapped open the moment the turkey hit her taste buds. Naturally, she found herself at the receiving end of House's smirk. Huffing, she turned to Dawn and forced a smile on her face. "Yes, I'm pregnant."
"Sweet!" Dawn squealed again. "So, who's the daddy? Why isn't he here? Is he nice? Can I meet him?"
Giles reached over and put his hand over Dawn's mouth to shut her up. He gave Lisa and apologetic smile. "Sometimes this is the only way to shut her up. I should know. Anyway, congratulations."
Dawn, having managed to pull Giles' hand off her mouth, glared at him before turning back to her mom. "So, the dad?"
"Dawn," Buffy said quietly, though everyone could hear the warning.
Lisa smiled at her daughter. "It's alright. Besides, it's technically Giles' fault."
Giles did the only appropriate thing in answer to that statement - he choked on a dumpling. Xander helpfully slapped his back while Giles coughed up a storm. "Way to go, G-Man!"
House raised his eyebrows while all the women seemed have a laughing fit. He wouldn't admit to it - even to himself - but deep inside, he felt hurt by the suggestion someone else was the parasite's sperm donor.
"I had nothing to do with it!" Giles protested as soon as he stopped coughing long enough to breath and speak.
Now it was time for Lisa to pat his shoulder. "Remember when you called me and I asked at the end if you had some ... news?"
Giles frowned at first but nodded when he realised what she had meant.
"It left me ... shaken. And the waiting didn't really help either. At one point I just needed to get out - and ended up pregnant," Lisa admitted sheepishly. Seeing the worry in Dawn's eyes, she squeezed her daughter's hand reassuringly. "I know the dad. Our relationship is just ... complicated."
Chuckling, Faith winked at House. Turning to Lisa and Giles, she said nonchalantly, "So every time you two meet Lisa ends up pregnant?"
Giles stuttered again while Lisa, seeing the fun in the situation, nodded. "Yeah, I think he's my fertility goddess or something like that."
Spluttering was now accompanied by furious glasses cleaning.
House frowned and took a closer look at this Giles. He seemed genuinely flustered and by the earlier interactions within the group he'd say he was something like a father figure to all of them. Including Lisa Cuddy. "How did you meet?"
"Giles was my mentor for a while when I was a teenager," Lisa explained.
"He also was our high school librarian," Buffy said just as casually.
"Enough of that," Dawn said as she stopped chewing on her lower lip. "We've got more interesting things to discuss. Like who that complicated friend of mom is. Cause, honestly, the only person coming to my mind is sitting at this table too."
Lisa blushing furiously was all the confirmation Dawn needed to go back into squealing mode. "Oh my god! It's House! He's the daddy!"
Somehow knowing denying wouldn't really help him, House went with looking smug. Until he met Giles' eyes. He had suddenly stopped being the father figure but looked rather dangerous. Intrigued by the sudden change, House leaned forward and stared right back.
Faith leaned over to Buffy and whispered, "Gotta love the Ripper coming out."
"You better not hurt her," Giles eventually said in a dangerously low voice. "Either of them."
And, just like that, the tension around the table dissolved as if it had never been there.
Just as Xander had predicted, by the time the main course made way for dessert, Buffy's baby had moved again to allow her to eat more - which made for a much happier Buffy. Until Xander complemented Lisa on the pecan pie. Suddenly, tears started to pool in her eyes and she jumped up and rushed out of the room.
Conversations stopped mid-sentence and everyone stared after Buffy. Lisa and Giles got up almost immediately to rush after her. Putting a hand on Lisa's shoulder, Giles silently asked for permission to go after Buffy himself. Dawn quickly took her mom's hand in her own and nodded. Sighing, Lisa agreed and sat down again.
House, never really worried about other people's feelings, asked, "What's all that about?"
Lisa glared at him through narrowed eyes while Dawn said quietly, "I think it just hit her that Mark's not here."
"She'll get over it."
Of course, that didn't really go down well with everyone else at the table and he soon found himself at the receiving end of several angry glares. "What? She's stubborn, bossy even. She's got a great mom and friends who actually care. She's going to be fine."
While Xander and Willow still stared at him, giving him the impression they were planning his demise, did Lisa, Dawn and Faith share a thoughtful glance. Faith, hearing Willow starting to whisper what suspiciously sounded like an incantation, quickly put her hand on Willow's shoulder. "Red," she said the most serious she'd been all day, "Coming from House, this was a compliment."
"She's right," Dawn quickly added, seeing the signs of Willow starting a spell as well. Then she looked at House. "He actually cares."
"I do not!" House said quickly. Too quickly.
"Even though he'll never admit to it," Lisa added with a small smile.
Giles found Buffy at the very end of the backyard, standing with her back to the house.
He slowly approached her, making sure she would hear him doing so. She didn't move. Feeling her lose the fight against the tears as soon as he put a hand on her shoulder, he wordlessly pulled her into a hug, draping the blanket he'd brought from the living room around her as well.
Giles let Buffy cry herself dry, occasionally whispering words of comfort into her ear and stroking her back reassuringly. As nobody else was looking, he also shed a tear or two of his own for the loss of Mark but mainly for his hurting friend.
"Sorry," Buffy said once her tears had stopped. She tried to push herself away from Giles, but he just held her tighter. "There's nothing to be sorry about."
She sniffled and nodded into his shoulder. "I just miss him so much."
"I know." Giles pushed back slightly and looked into her eyes. "And for a while you forgot and were happy - and then the memory rushed back full force."
Tears started to run down her cheeks again and Buffy angrily wiped them away. "Stupid hormones."
Smiling, Giles kissed her forehead. "He'd be proud of you, you know?"
"You think?" Buffy asked quietly, almost pleadingly.
Giles hugged her tight again. "Oh yes, absolutely. You're building a new life for you and the baby. You've found family, friends ... and House."
Buffy giggled. "He's something else, isn't he?"
"He and Lisa?"
"Way complicated," Buffy said. "Trust me. But fun to watch." Inhaling deeply, Buffy let the smell that was so unmistakably Giles engulf her like a security blanket. "You're not mad?"
Giles was quiet for a long time. Then he kissed her forehead again. "I was disappointed at first. But now, now I think I understand."
"Care to enlighten me? Because I'm not so sure myself," Buffy said drolly.
Chuckling, Giles led Buffy back towards the house. "Like I said before, you're building a new life for you and the baby. Your priorities changed. In fact, it's been slowly happening for a long time now. Slaying isn't the most important thing anymore and you needed to physically step back from everything connecting you to it. It's ... it's like having to cut the proverbial umbilical cord in order to grow up without your parents' interference. Only it wasn't the umbilical cord connecting you to your parents but the one to us. Me, Xander, Willow and everything we represent."
"That's ... Thanks." Buffy hugged him tightly. "How come you sometimes can make more sense of my jumbled thoughts than I?"
"Practice, Buffy. A lot of practice," he said with a long-suffering sigh.
Giggling, Buffy stood up on her toes and kissed his cheek. "I love you. You know that too, right?"
Ignoring his own blush, he nodded. "I love you too. Even if it means a lot of grey hairs."
"Hey!" Buffy slapped his arm good-naturedly before snuggling deeper into the blanket around her shoulders. "Besides, grey hair is Dawn's speciality."
"It most certainly is." He opened the backdoor and stepped aside so Buffy could enter. "Do you know if it's a boy or girl?"
"Yep. And House doesn't. It's driving him crazy."
"You'll be fine, Buffy. You'll be fine," Giles said fondly before opening closing the door behind him.
"Brownies, anyone?" Dawn asked as she brought another plate from the kitchen.
House tilted his head and looked at the young woman. "Did you make them?"
Dawn shook her head and chuckled. "Nope."
"I'll have one," House said immediately and took the offered plate from Dawn.
"Me too," Xander added without delay. Once the brownies were devoured, Xander looked up. "Yummy."
"Thanks," Lisa said sweetly. "I've got the recipe from Dawn."
Xander stopped just as he was ready to get another one. Glaring at Dawn who was laughing hysterically, he opted for another piece of apple pie instead. House, however, just shrugged his shoulder and took another one. Tilting his head, he looked at his neighbour. "What, afraid of a bit of blue pee?"
Giving an impressive fish-imitation, Xander pointed at House. "You... you've corrupted our Dawn-ster!"
Dawn shrugged her shoulders unimpressed. "At least my food stopped from vanishing afterwards."
"Sounds like self-defence to me," House said nonchalantly.
"So the physiotherapy department was self-defence too?" Lisa asked with raised eyebrows.
"Huh?" House asked innocently. Lisa, seeing the confused looks, quickly told everyone about the majority of the department suddenly suffering from blue pee disease. Even Xander had to admit that this was a good one.
Moments later, Buffy and Giles returned. Lisa quickly got up to embrace her daughter and make sure she was alright. Once they were back at the table, Buffy hungrily tugged into the forgotten pie on her plate.
No matter how good the food, there was a point when everyone was too full to eat even one more crumb and the party moved to the living room to slouch in front of the telly and relax. Even House joined in, too fascinated by Buffy's friends to just go home without figuring them out.
By now he was pretty convinced Xander's eye-patch wasn't just for fun but that there was a medical reason behind it. More so, Xander was so well adapted, it couldn't be a new development either. Which lead to a whole bunch of other questions apart from the obvious 'What happened?'
of course. If he lost his eye, then why was he wearing an obvious eye-patch rather than an artificial eye? It would be much less obvious this way. Or would it? Was there some nasty scaring around the eye - which would be interesting in itself.
House tried to ignore Ante and go back to analysing the people around him but the kitten had other plans. "Mee-ow!"
He pushed himself off the back of the couch and leaned forward. Looking down, he saw Ante sitting in front of his good leg - the other one was resting on the couch table in front of him - and looking at him with big eyes. "Meow."
"I'm busy." House took a sip from his beer and leaned back again.
Moments later, he felt something hit his leg. "Mee-ow."
Rolling his eyes, he leaned forward again in time to see Ante run towards his leg and jump. She meowed in triumph when she got half-way up his leg and quickly extended her claws to hold onto House's jeans. Then, very carefully, she lifted one paw and experimentally moved it upward. When she realised she wasn't falling off, she repeated the movement with another paw and slowly crawled her way up House's leg. Too stunned to say anything, he could only watch the kitten's progress.
Chuckling, House shook his head. "Yeah, yeah. Great job. Now be quiet, I'm trying to think."
Ante tilted her head, then made her way up House's leg and snuggled into his lap, looking at him expectantly. Rolling his eyes, he started to scratch her head. The next moment he looked up and found himself staring straight at Lisa. Smiling, she nodded at the kitten. "Better watch out or I might think you're getting soft."
House did the only sensible thing. He stuck out his tongue at her.
Before long, it was time for everyone to depart. House, of course, argued that he had too much to drink and couldn't drive home. A cab wouldn't do either as he'd then be left without his motorcycle. Faith, knowing Buffy wanted to spend the night, simply stepped up behind him and stuck her hand into his jeans pocket. Moments later, she held up his keys. "I'll drive."
Shrugging, Faith grabbed his arm and pulled him towards the door. "Behave and I'll steal you some leftovers."
Giles, Willow and Xander departed as well, leaving mother and daughters to themselves.
"So," Dawn said as she flopped down on the couch again. "Baby House, huh?"
Groaning, Lisa sat down next to her. "I'm never gonna hear the end of it, am I?"
"Nope." Grinning, Dawn pulled her mom into a hug. "I think it's great."
"Me too." Buffy said as she flopped down on the other side. Leaning into her mom, she said, "Thanks for a great Thanksgiving."
Kissing Buffy's forehead, Lisa said, "It's a family thing, you know."
Smiling, Buffy nodded.
"Yep. We are family," Dawn said.
"Not necessarily blood related, but family." Buffy added. "And as strange as it sounds, House fits right in."
Lisa laughed out loud. "Yeah, and it scares me like crazy." Leaning forward, she handed Buffy and Dawn their glasses containing orange juice before taking her own. Lifting it, she said, "To family."
"To family," Buffy and Dawn replied in unison before downing the juice and snuggling back into their newfound mother.
--A/N: Well ... uhm ... you know ... this is the last chapter?
*hides in hidden hide-out*Okay, okay. There's gonna be an epilogue to wrap up some more things (feel free to remind me and my naughty muses of bits and pieces that need to be included).
And there's gonna be a sequel for all of us (yes, including me) who want to know how House would handle the supernatural...
Also, check out the fantastic fanart for this story by Methos here.