Pairings: Wilson/Chase, Foreman/OFC, hints of House/Cuddy
Challenge/Prompt: fanfic100 082. If
Summary: The mushy slightly gushy payoff you’ve all been waiting for.
Author’s Notes: FINALLY, this is done. *breathes out* It has been unbelievably fun to write, and I may even do a sequel if I feel so inclined (i.e I’ve got a long, hot, mildly empty summer yawning), but I’m so glad this is done. :D Dedicated to drag_queen90
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Thank you thank you thank you to Enkelien for beta-ing for me again :D And thank you to everyone who’s read this, and for your comments and support and patience. Look! Shiny! I’m done! With a minimum of angst because I had to have a bloody happy ending somewhere ;) Anyway, with no further ado; go ahead. Read. Enjoy. And it’s not necessary, but feedback is always love.
So maybe I shouldn’t have called- was it too soon to tell? Oh what the hell, it doesn’t really matter, how do you redefine something that never really had a name? Has your opinion changed?
Three weeks later
“It’s ok, I know what this conversation is about,” Stacy says.
“You do?” asks Robert, who isn’t exactly sure himself.
“Yes.” Stacy smiles at him, indicating he should take a seat. Robert thankfully sinks into the chair in front of her desk, tucking his fringe behind his ear. “It’s ok, Robert.”
“It is?” Robert feels completely nonplussed. He’s fairly sure the conversation wasn’t supposed to go like this when he was planning it in his head in the shower late last night.
“The whole thing is sorted out,” Stacy adds, using that annoyingly cryptic thing she’s got going on for her. “I handed in your two weeks’ notice not too long after Greg’s court case finished. Tomorrow, you can go wherever you like.”
Robert blinks, completely non-plussed, but smiling slightly because he never realised before how well Stacy knew him.
“Thank you,” he whispers. “I’m sorry, it’s not your fault I want to-”
“I know, Robert. And Katrina and I would both like you to understand that if you don’t keep in touch, there will be pain.” Stacy gives him a smile, and Robert is filled with the urge to hug her. He resists though, and Stacy tells him to get back to work, he’s not gone yet.
Greg spins himself around in his chair in his office, listening to David Bowie as loudly as the CD will go, just to make the glass walls shake a little. His office, and the accompanying conference room, is very empty. Cuddy is doing her best to undo the damage Vogler did when he converted it into a ward, but she’s very new to the Dean of Medicine thing. He’s rather amused by it, actually, and isn’t being particularly helpful to her, but that’s his nature all over.
“House.” Think of the devil, and she turns up. Lisa Cuddy, in a suit that rather *screams* the “I’m still feminine” part of the business thing. “We have to talk.”
“You want a divorce already?” he asks, feigning surprise, reaching over to turn off the stereo.
“Ha ha,” Cuddy mutters, sitting on the chair on the other side of his desk. “Right. You need a team. On the other hand, you can’t do any interviews, because all you do is piss people off. I’ve been present at enough of them.”
“So, what, you’re going to pick the candidates?” Greg enquires. Cuddy ignores him and carries on talking.
“I’ve spoken to Cameron, and if we rearrange her hours a little, she would be happy to come back,” Cuddy tells him. “Can you work with Dr Gilmar?”
“Sure,” Greg shrugs, surprised by his calm when he thinks about Petra. Something has obviously sorted itself out there. Good.
“Great, so you have two team members,” Cuddy murmurs. “You have two days to find another one.”
“Without an interview?”
“Use your imagination.”
James takes his first Vicodin in over a month, standing in front of his bathroom mirror. It’s about ten o’clock in the morning, and his leg aches underneath his pyjama pants, hints of his dark fringe in his eyes. He looks at himself, and he looks at the white pill in his hand, and promises, *promises* himself he won’t slide back. And then he swallows the pill. While he waits for it to kick in, he shaves carefully, appreciating how much better he feels, how much he’s pulled his life back together.
Lisa has more faith in him than James thinks he deserves. She’s actually rehired him with the most flexible hours known to man, on the simple condition that he never lets himself slip again. And then, gradually, he feels the pill take the edge off. The pain hasn’t vanished, and it isn’t much better, but the edge is gone and suddenly everything feels so much more bearable. And he’s fine. Honestly.
Bored out of his skull, and not really liking the silence of his office (that echoes even under the really, really loud music), Greg heads down to the ICU, where a certain auburn-haired doctor is calmly checking the stats of about seven different patients and looking uncharacteristically miserable.
“Dr Gilmar,” he says, doing the pretend ‘competent doctor’ thing he does when he feels like it, winking apologetically her patient. “I need a consult.”
“No you don’t,” she mutters, but follows him out anyway.
“You look like someone disembowelled your puppy,” he tells her bluntly, the moment they get out of the door. Gilmar winces.
“Nice mental image you’ve got going on there.” She smirks, but the smirk doesn’t reach her eyes.
“You’re turning into the heroine of one of those awful romance novels,” Greg informs her. “You know, the ones where they mope for forty repetitive pages.”
“I didn’t take you as the type to read romance novels,” Petra says, with something a little more like a smile.
“Stacy used to leave them lying around, and they were fun to torment Jimmy with,” Greg admits. “Anyway, nice try at shifting the conversation, but I’m not buying it. You are miserable. You shouldn’t be. Vogler is dead, you can come and work for me-” Gilmar snorts. Greg pretends not to hear. “So really, you shouldn’t be looking like- oh, hell, we’ve already had an analogy.”
Gilmar’s lips start to form an offensive phrase, but she bites it back.
“What do you *want*, House?” she asks tightly.
“Oh go on, you can tell me to fuck off if you want,” Greg murmurs in an undertone. “It’s actually kinda sexy.”
“I’ll take it as read that you don’t want anything,” Gilmar sighs. “God, the sooner Wilson gets back to work and distracts you, the better.”
“You’re *pining*,” Greg smirks.
“I am not!”
“You’re *definitely* pining,” Greg smirks.
“Oh, leave me alone,” Gilmar mutters, pushing a lock of hair back over her shoulder and striding away without looking back. It’s at that point that Greg finally decides on something he’s been mulling over for days.
Lisa Cuddy, Dean of Medicine. It’s on her door. Neat little silver letters on the glass. Her old office, with its lovely balcony, just along from House’s, is going to be given to James, when he gets back to work tomorrow. Lisa has to hope that someone can help to control the uncontrollable (like trying to hold back the sea- you just end up drowned), because House seems determined to direct every inch of his anarchy in her direction. He hasn’t set foot in the clinic since she took over and he got his job back a week and a half ago. He’s had *one* case. Much as she cares about him, Lisa knows that he’s going to drive her up the wall very, very soon. The sooner Wilson gets back to work, the better.
On her desk is a memo and a telephone number Stacy gave her a week ago. A recommendation. Both women know that House racks up lawsuits like nobody’s business, and the more legal aid she can get, the better. But she also knows what she’ll be subjecting everyone to if she takes up Stacy’s advice. The arguments, the emotions, the constant insults… Lisa runs her hands through her dark hair, notes that she has an appointment in about five minutes, and she’s still so new to this whole thing that it makes her feel sick, and carefully slides the telephone number further to the left side of her desk. She’ll have to consider the repercussions before offering Robert Chase a job.
Greg gnaws his lips together, sighs, and picks up the phone.
“Hi Greg. What do you want?”
“Did you get Foreman off?”
“I hope you mean in a legal sense.”
“Did you in the other sense?”
“No! And yes, I did sort out the legal case. We twisted the truth a bit. Vogler’s the one in trouble. Foreman just has a black mark against his name. A big black mark though.”
“You got a telephone number for him?”
“What are you doing Greg?”
“Let’s just accept the fact you’ll never understand the deep, deep churnings of my mind and you hand over the number.”
Robert meets Petra for lunch, again. He’s rapidly coming to realise she’s probably his closest friend in this country, possibly anywhere.
“Stacy handed in my resignation for me,” he says as they sit at the counter of a sushi bar.
“So you’re definitely going back to Oz?” Petra asks him, raising an eyebrow.
“Haven’t bought the plane ticket, if that’s what you mean,” Robert replies, picking at his lunch thoughtfully. “I haven’t decided yet, to be honest.”
“For my two cents, I say don’t go,” Petra tells him, eating like she’s been starved for a week.
“Thanks,” Robert smiles, sipping at his glass of sparkling water. “So. How is everything at work?”
“You want to know?” Petra looks amused.
“Come on, I saved all your sorry asses-”
“What happened to all your modesty?” Petra asks, sounding deliberately scandalised. They both burst out laughing. “Well, House is back at work, making everyone’s lives hell, Lisa’s getting to grips with running a hospital, I’m going back to work for diagnostics as far as I can tell.”
“And you *want* to?” Robert asks incredulously.
“Never a dull moment,” Petra shrugs. “Come on, admit that you wake up some mornings mentally preparing vague comebacks for whatever House chooses to throw at you, before you remember that you’re not his lawyer any more.”
“I will never, never admit that,” Robert says carefully. Petra smirks.
“And Wilson comes back to work tomorrow,” she says, looking slightly awkward.
“Good,” Robert says with genuine feeling. At the look on her face he adds, “What? Just because he wouldn’t sleep with me doesn’t mean that I want him to suffer.”
“House?” Foreman sounds tired and incredulous.
“The one and only, baby.”
“Are you calling up to gloat?”
“Nah. Well, not much.” Greg settles back in his chair. He’s not going to enjoy this conversation, but needs must.
“I’m calling to offer you a job.”
“You’re *what*?” Greg would actually laugh at the horror in Foreman’s voice if it weren’t for the fact he needs to keep going before he chickens out.
“I’m short a fellow, since I’m not exactly going to re-hire Mr Rockstar,” he sighs, “And you do neurology, which is mildly helpful, so I’m offering you a job.”
“You want *me* to come and work for *you*.” Foreman sounds stunned.
“Ain’t karma a bitch.”
“Give me one good reason why I would want to.”
“That thing you and your uncle did has made you *really* unpopular, as I’m sure you’ve gathered. Right now I’m the only person in the medical community willing to offer you a job,” Greg informs him bluntly. He can practically hear Foreman wincing. But it’s perfectly true. Foreman’s still wavering though. Greg sighs, and pulls out his trump card. “Gilmar misses you.”
“*Why* are you a lawyer?” asks Petra as they’re walking back towards the hospital.
“Seemed like a good idea at the time,” Robert mutters evasively. “And I haven’t brought up Foreman and your constant moping over his being gone over the entire course of this lunch, so let’s not bring up questions we both know will make me uncomfortable.”
“Manipulative bastard,” Petra mutters, wriggling her toes in her painful high heels because she’s got a long afternoon of dying people ahead of her and her feet are killing her already. Robert just laughs.
“There we go,” House announces, walking into Lisa’s office and dropping into the chair on the other side of her desk. “I’ve got a third fellow. You may prostrate yourself before me and kiss my feet now.”
“No way,” Lisa murmurs, impressed in spite of herself.
“Yes way,” House responds, chucking a printout of a CV onto her desk. Lisa picks it up.
“I *did*.” House smirks broadly and Lisa looks from him to Eric Foreman’s CV and back again.
“If you hired him to torture him, you can ring him back and tell him you’re not giving him the job. You can’t just hire people to push their buttons House.”
“Yeah, I can.” House leans further back in the chair, smiling in a self-satisfied way. “But he’s a perfectly competent doctor, and you were so very *insistent* on the whole ‘no job interview’ thing, and I don’t have a long list of possible people to hire, oddly enough.”
“You are so-”
“Sexy? Excellent at taking charge? Due for a raise?”
“Smug,” Lisa laughs. “It’s really frustrating.”
“Well, I guess you’re the boss of me now,” House shrugs. “So what are you gonna do about it?” There’s a challenge in his eyes that she doesn’t like.
“One day, House, you are going to realise that you don’t have to spend your life pushing people past their breaking points,” she snaps, all amusement gone. House looks at her for a moment and appears to be mildly hurt.
“And one day, Cuddy, you just might manage to buy a blouse that actually *fits*,” he tells her coldly, and then walks out, leaving her rather stunned behind him.
James sprawls in his chair and listens to Cuddy pour out her frustration down the phoneline at him.
“I hate him, I hate him,” she complains.
“No, you don’t, and he doesn’t hate you, you just need to realign your boundaries because now you’re his boss and he’s going to make life hell for you for a while,” he explains, ever the voice of reason.
“Thank you,” she murmurs. “I need you back here to play mediator.”
“I hear everyone’s coming back tomorrow,” James says thoughtfully.
“Well, we could only be bothered to make one ‘welcome back’ cake,” Lisa replies, laughing. And then she sobers up. “Stacy thinks I should offer Robert Chase a job. She says he’s a good lawyer and he’s resigned from the company where she works and is thinking about going back to Australia.”
“How does this relate to me, exactly?” James asks uncomfortably, although he suspects he knows.
“Can you work with him?” Lisa asks, and then laughs at herself. “God, all I’ve been doing today is ask people that question. It turns out that rehiring all the people Vogler fired is harder than it sounds.”
“I don’t know,” James answers honestly. “You should ask him.”
It’s a Thursday morning, and Petra spends a while combing her hair into a neat bun, and studying her blister-strewn feet before sliding on a pair of black shoes with low heels, because her feet can’t handle it any more. Today, she’s going back into House’s office for the first time in a couple of months, and she wonders whether her skin is still thick enough for her to be able to withstand whatever he throws at her. She also has no idea where she stands. But she’s not panicking. She will not panic. She. Is. Not. Going. To. Panic. Oh hell.
Allison is in the conference room when Petra gets there, and gives her a tight hug, smiling delightedly. House is of course not actually there, and neither is Roger, although she wasn’t expecting him to be. Roger was perfectly competent but he didn’t fit in with their diagnostics crowd, and he drove House crazy. That’s the thing about House- whatever he says on the outside, he needs you to actually care about the job, about the patient, about finding the answer. Roger never did.
“Do you know if House has fired another fellow?” she asks Allison. Allison just shrugs, shaking her head.
“Why would I know? He never tells us anything,” she points out.
“My God,” Petra laughs, “I’m home.”
“If you move in here, I can’t help feeling Cuddy won’t be particularly happy,” House informs her, walking in. Petra turns around and feels the bottom of her stomach drop out. “This,” House says as though he can’t see all the blood draining out of her face, “Is Eric Foreman. I’m sure you’ve all met. He’s going to be joining our department, and you’re not to talk about that whole dictatorship thing he had going on, it might upset him. Besides,” he adds in an undertone, “I’ve got the monopoly on unkind remarks.”
Petra wants to scream you complete and utter bastard, House, or maybe what the hell do you think you’re *doing*?, but her lips feel numb and there really is nothing she can say.
“Nervous?” Cuddy asks. She’s wearing a pale blue shirt with a matching skirt and James finds himself fixating on the centimetre of lace edging around the bottom of the garment rather than on her.
“Overwhelmed, maybe,” he admits. Smiles slightly. “You said something about there being a cake…”
“We thought we’d get you to make it,” Cuddy replies, as they walk towards the elevators, “You’re a much better cook than everyone else.”
“That is, unfortunately, true,” he says with a smile, watching Cuddy hit the button for the fourth floor and leaning too hard on his cane because he feels momentarily dizzy.
“I’m going to get you to help out a couple of our surgeons first later this week,” she explains, meeting his gaze for a second and then looking away, “Just to get your head back into the whole thing, and then we’ll negotiate your hours and so on.”
“Have I told you how much I appreciate this?” he asks softly.
“You don’t need to,” Cuddy replies, watching him swallow as they reach the fourth floor, where his new office- and House- is. “You can do this, James.”
She holds out one neatly manicured hand and he smiles before taking it and following her out of the elevator. The screaming is painfully audible even from down the hall.
“I feel at home already,” he murmurs.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Gilmar asks loudly, apparently forgetting that glass isn’t soundproof.
“Whatever I tell you, you’ll just assume that I’m lying,” Greg explains patiently. “So there isn’t much point in me explaining any motives I had.”
“You had motives?!” Gilmar seems too incredulous for her own good.
“He’s a good doctor.”
“He’s not the *only* good doctor in the world! There are lots of good doctors in the world! Lots and lots of them!”
“Maybe you should ask yourself just *why* you’re getting so worked up over this.” Greg really hates having to be reasonable. However, since Gilmar dragged him out of the conference room and started yelling, he doesn’t have much choice.
“You know perfectly well why I’m so worked up over this!”
“Sorry, I didn’t ask you to tell me, I asked *you* to think about why you’re so pissed.”
“I know why I’m pissed! How would you like it if I forced you to work with people you’ve slept with?”
“Well, feel free to ring Stacy, although I’m fairly certain she’ll tell you to piss off, and I’ve got Jimmy’s first wife on speed dial- don’t tell him that- and I’m sure Cuddy will-”
“You’ve never slept with me except in your disturbing fantasies, House,” Cuddy tells him, walking down the corridor towards him and Gilmar.
“Ah. Well, it was an easy enough mistake to make,” he shrugs, although his attention is fixed on the man behind Cuddy, dressed in a labcoat for the first time in God knows how long and smiling.
“Alienating people so early in the day House?” Wilson asks, brushing his fringe out of his eyes.
“Being a frustrating genius is a full-time job,” Greg replies. “I take it very seriously.”
“It would be nice if you took your *paid* job seriously,” Cuddy tells him. “You’re due in the clinic in half an hour.”
“I have a note. I’m sick,” Greg says virtuously. Then pauses. “Well, I’ll have the note in a minute when I’ve finished writing it.”
Cuddy makes a soft, annoyed sound in the back of her throat that sounds vaguely strangled as it comes through her gritted teeth.
“I’ll be in my office,” she announces, and stalks off, giving them all an excellent view of her ass in that skirt.
“He hired Foreman!” Gilmar explodes at Wilson, clearly still furious. Wilson gives him a *look*, which says about fifty thousand words, quite a few of them expletives, but outwardly just shrugs.
“Can you work with him?” he asks. Ah, that’s Jimmy; voice of reason as always.
“I… don’t know,” Gilmar murmurs.
“You know what?” Greg is getting sick of this and while his department being amusingly awkward around each other should be fairly interesting and fun, he can’t deal with this every day. He’ll have to come up with other reasons for them to be at war. “Come on.”
He grabs Gilmar’s arm and tugs her into the office with him, interrupting Cameron and Foreman’s conversation (what can they have possibly found to talk about? He’ll have to find out later), and makes head jerking motions at Foreman to join them.
“You,” he nods at Foreman, “And you,” he nods at Gilmar, “Are going into my office. You are going to talk, in relative privacy. You have twenty minutes. Try using words like ‘love’, combine it with some useful pronouns like ‘I’ and ‘you’, and see where it gets you, all right?” They stare at him like he’s crazy, and Greg sighs. “That wasn’t a request. Go.”
“You have to let go of my arm first,” Gilmar snaps, extracting herself from his grip and obediently (although reluctantly) walking into his office. Foreman swallows and follows. Greg shuts the door behind them and brushes his hands off.
“I am really too supremely awesome to live,” he informs a stunned Cameron and a bemused Wilson.
“I’m sure we can rectify that at some point,” Wilson murmurs softly, but his gaze is on Gilmar and Foreman, and there’s a wistful look in his eyes that makes Greg’s stomach twist.
Katrina is supposed to be helping Robert to pack all his stuff into boxes, but he’s come to the conclusion there’s nothing he wants to take with him, so they’re just sitting on the floor under his desk, sipping coffee.
“I’m going to miss you,” she says thoughtfully.
“Yeah, I’m going to miss you too,” Robert replies, and he isn’t lying at all. He’s gotten attached to Stacy and Katrina and the small practise they’ve been working in these last couple of years. “I will keep in touch, you know.”
“You’d better, or I’ll set you alight,” Katrina laughs. Robert turns to look at her, vaguely terrified, and she smirks. “I’m kidding! Probably.”
The phone on his desk starts ringing and Robert reaches up to answer it.
“Would you like a job?”
“Call me Lisa.”
“Lisa… are you-”
“Would you like a job as a legal advisor at Princeton/Plainsboro Teaching Hospital?” Lisa asks him patiently. Robert bites his lower lip.
“Can I… get back to you on that one?”
“Of course. Just give me twenty-four hours’ notice to get some silver lettering on your office door.”
“Thank you,” he murmurs, and she hangs up. Katrina is looking at him curiously. Robert smiles at her, because he doesn’t have a sister, but if he had one, he’d want her to be like Katrina, burning fetish and all.
“I am unclean,” Greg mumbles.
“I thought Cuddy had taught you how your shower worked,” Wilson smirks, picking at his lunch.
“You know that’s not what I’m talking about,” Greg replies. “I mean… look. I am obviously a bad, bad person who needs to be put down.”
“I’m not arguing that point at all, but what happened to ‘I am supremely awesome’?” Wilson enquires.
“Come on. Take a look at my handiwork,” Greg whines. “I will scrub and scrub my skin with sand and I will never be clean again.”
“You weren’t clean to begin with,” Wilson sighs. “And I, for one, think it’s adorable. So does Cameron.”
“That’s because she’s the queen of the mushy people,” Greg points out, averting his gaze from Gilmar and Foreman, who have obviously sorted *something* out, and are sitting too close together, fingers constantly intertwining while they discuss something, laughing together.
“And what, I’m crown prince?”
“You’re not one of the mushy people. You just like to pretend you are. All those divorces beat the mush out of you.”
“They certainly beat something out of me,” Wilson smirks, although the way his eyes crinkle at the edge implies that he’s not feeling particularly happy. “It might just be all my self-esteem and money, but what do I know?” And *ouch*, he sounds bitter and miserable. Greg thought they’d fixed that.
“What?” Wilson’s head snaps up and he looks straight at Greg.
“Nothing.” Wilson would never admit it to him, Greg would never ask, and something tells him that he’s going to have to interfere for the second time today. Jesus; this matchmaking lark is exhausting.
Robert grits his teeth and walks out of his office building for the last time, screwing his fingers into fists in his pockets. His head is bowed and he focuses on his shoes more than anything else. He feels helpless and tired and the walk home will hopefully give him some purpose.
“Hey, Nancy Boy!” It’s House shouting, of course it is, and Robert grits his teeth and keeps walking. Then he hears House running after him, catching him up. “Not a Placebo fan, I take it?”
“Really not,” Robert replies, mentally sighing because now he’s got to work out what it is that House *wants*, and that bit is notoriously tricky.
“Bummer,” House says, walking alongside him. “That song could have been written for you.”
House is practically spitting the words and Robert figures that it isn’t his distinct lack of Placebo-related knowledge that’s making House so angry. So he keeps walking, decides to let House tell him himself if he’s really pissed.
And Robert knows that he should run, can’t do it. So when House’s hand slams into his shoulder, pushing him against the wall of a nearby building, he lets him do it, lets the breath pour out of his chest, fringe falling in his eyes.
“I’m having trust issues,” House says carefully, quietly, and Robert frowns slightly at this change. “See, I don’t trust that Wilson still has the emotional reserves to keep himself from being hurt. And I don’t trust you not to hurt him.” There’s a pause. “And I don’t trust myself to be enough to save him from himself.”
Robert is almost stunned at the vulnerable look on House’s face that wipes itself off a second later.
“Why are you telling me this?” he asks, feeling trapped and breathless.
“Oh come on Chase!” House looks furious. “Why do you think?”
There is a pause.
“James made it perfectly clear that-”
“He’s scared, you idiot,” House tells him, looking at him like he’s a moron. Robert reflects that he probably is. “Everyone he’s ever cared about has left him.”
“Like you, you mean?” Robert is slightly angry, slightly scared, so he lashes out.
“This isn’t about me,” House says carefully, annunciating every word. “This is about you.”
“Oh boy, that makes a change,” Robert mumbles, trying to push House away. The other man doesn’t budge. “Let me go.”
“James needs you.”
“Yeah, he’s made that *really* clear.”
“Robert,” House says, and Robert obediently stops fighting. “Every single marriage he’s had has ended in disaster. I don’t just mean a little explosion, I mean an atomic *mushroom cloud* of emotions and hatred and messy affairs and God knows what else. I tried not to get involved-”
“Why doesn’t that surprise me.”
“How many times am I going to tell you this conversation is not about me? If you want to have it out sometime, fine. I wouldn’t be talking to you if it wasn’t really, really important.” It’s the first time House has looked this genuine and it makes Robert come out in goosebumps all over, like he’s seeing a side of House that hardly anyone does.
“Listen. To. Me,” House says, those blue, blue eyes boring into him, and Robert is both terrified and fascinated. “I’m only saying this once and I won’t say it again. It’s been a long time since he opened up to someone, and you’d better be absolutely sure you want this because if he opens up again and gets hurt, I don’t think there’s going to be a next time. Ok?”
Robert is momentarily shocked into silence.
“B-But,” he stammers eventually, “You don’t even *like* me.”
“I know,” House replies, and it sounds like his teeth are gritted. “But what I’m saying is that Wilson needs you. And if you’re sure you want him and you’re sure you can cope with him, then go and break him down.”
“Seriously?” Robert asks, since this seems to be a complete change of emotion for House.
“I don’t want you to hurt him.” House says instead, and it’s not so much a request as an order.
“You really think I can hurt him more than he’s hurt already?” Robert asks, interested in spite of himself.
“I think that you’re perfectly willing to give it a shot.” House sighs, shakes his head.
“Go and do whatever it takes to talk him around. Right now. And bear in mind that I’m a doctor, and I can murder you in fifteen different ways that will make it look like an accident.”
“You’re starting to remind me of Allison,” Robert murmurs, smirking slightly. “All this *caring* can’t be healthy.” House just glares at him.
“Let’s just be absolutely clear on the point that I *really* don’t like you,” he says, and Robert laughs because that’s become completely irrelevant now.
“So, let me get this straight,” Eric says thoughtfully. “House has about two cases a month, right?”
“Right,” Petra replies, sitting with her legs curled up to her chest.
“So what do you do with all the time left over?”
Petra considers this question for a minute.
“Are you any good at crosswords?”
“You’re kidding me,” he smirks.
“Oh God.” Eric drops his head into his hands. “What have I let myself in for?”
“Best thing to do is to just enjoy the ride, not the destination,” Petra tells him, wise advice she received from the fellow she replaced eighteen months ago. She doesn’t add that she likes the destination she’s finally reached with Eric much more than she liked the painful journey that got her here, because she suspects he already knows.
James is just stretching out on the sofa at the end of what’s been a fairly tiring and faintly soul-destroying day when he hears a hammering at his door. He sighs and obediently goes to answer it.
“I can’t do this anymore,” Robert says as James pulls the door open. “I can’t, and I don’t want to.”
“Can’t keep pretending that I’m fine with being kept at arms’ length. I’m not. I want you James, and you know that. And you keep telling me that I’m not your type and that you don’t want that from me and that you’re happy being alone, and I’m not fucking buying it any more.” He takes a breath. “I want you. I want your scars and I want your pain and I want your insecurities and your cane and I want your problems with painkillers, and I want the fact that you’ve had four divorces and I want the fact your best friend is a maniac and I want the fact you’re a surgeon and I’ll never see you and I want the agony you’ll put me through for just saying this. I know what I’m getting into and it’s ok. I understand completely.”
James shakes his head.
“You never give up, do you?”
“I’m not giving up on you. I know that people have and I won’t. I won’t get bored tomorrow. Monogamy matters to me.”
There’s silence for a moment, pure silence.
“I can’t do this to you.”
“Oh fucking shut up.”
Robert pulls James into a bruising kiss, tangling his fingers in his brown hair, refusing to let him pull away until James gives in, cane falling to the floor, trusting Robert to keep him upright, kissing him back with the passion Robert knew he had to have somewhere. He gently lets go.
“But-” James begins.
Robert kisses him again, and keeps kissing him every time James tries to protest, until both their mouths are swollen and breathing normally becomes impossible.
“Now, you can keep protesting and I can keep kissing you to shut you up, until one of us wins. And I promise, I’m the one who’ll win because I’m more determined. Or, you can let go of some of those misgivings, kiss me properly, keep me up all night-”
“You’ve been tormenting me for weeks.” Robert meets his gaze steadily, “You owe me. Anyway, I’ll take you out for breakfast tomorrow and we can discuss what will happen if I take a job Cuddy offered me. Bearing in mind you don’t actually have a choice in the matter, how does that sound?”
James bites his lip for a moment, willing himself to trust Robert (because if he doesn’t trust him, then who *can* he trust?), and then breaks into a broad, genuine smile he hasn’t given in years.
“Doesn’t sound too bad, given the circumstances.”
Robert mirrors his smile, tucking his hair behind his ear and shakes his head.
“You’d better be bloody worth the effort,” he says, pressing a chaste kiss to James’ mouth and then moving away while he takes his jacket off.
“Oh, you’re going to pay for that,” James whispers, pulling him back and kissing him properly. One of Robert’s hands sneaks onto his hip.
“Promises, promises,” he murmurs, hand sliding up and under James’ t-shirt, fingers cold from the outside air and bringing him out in goosebumps. James sucks in a breath and then pulls back a little, fingers finding the buttons of Robert’s shirt (came straight from work, permeated with the scent of coffee and ink and Stacy’s cigarettes and Katrina’s perfume, and it surprises James that he *doesn’t mind*) and gently undoing them, one by one, Robert’s hand still making its way slowly up his back. And then the shirt falls to the floor and Robert’s lips are against his neck, impossibly soft and pressing tiny kisses up and down his throat, licking and nipping and reducing James to mush. It’s been a long time (too long? Probably) since he’s done this with anyone, and he aches all over from the contact and longing.
“You know,” he murmurs, “You would have really liked me fifteen years ago.”
“I like you now,” Robert replies into his skin. James sighs softly and delivers his last warning, because if he doesn’t now he’ll feel guilty.
“I’m not the person that I used to be,” he mumbles.
“How can I miss what I’ve never had?” Robert’s lips make their way back up his neck again. “Now stop protesting and just take me to bed, James,” he whispers, sucking James’ earlobe for a moment, hands running impatiently over his back, and James doesn’t even think about saying no.
“House is a maniac, I swear.”
“Get used to it. If you’re going to be working here then you’ll have to get your head around the fact that House does crazy things, and you just have to keep up with them and not drop the ball.”
“Why do I get the feeling that you don’t want me here?”
“It’s not that.”
“Look, Petra… I’m sorry for the way everything worked out, ok? It wasn’t supposed to get that crazy.”
“And I suppose I wasn’t supposed to happen at all? I’m sorry I complicated matters so much.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“Really? Because, you know, it really seems like that. You blackmailed me, and when you didn’t need to blackmail me any more-”
“I’m sorry, all right? I’m really sorry. I should’ve called you, I should’ve-”
“And what would you have said? You’re not my boss any more, you can’t-”
“Petra. Seriously. I… I care about you. And the circumstances were so messed-up, I never should have made a move on you and hidden behind work to make it look like I didn’t have any feelings towards you, and what I did, it was unforgivable, but…”
“Wait a minute. Are you telling me that…”
“I think I might be.”
“I… I do too.”
“Guys, that is the most unromantic and awkward conversation I’ve ever heard. You’re not teenagers any more, for God’s sake.”
It is fairly late at night and they’re still at the hospital, sorting out House’s paperwork because it needs to get done by someone, when Eric asks Petra to marry him. It’s late and he doesn’t have a ring or anything else; it’s just tossed into the conversation like an atomic bomb. Petra tells him no fucking way in a tone of voice that suggests if he waits a couple of months, she *might* just say yes.
Cuddy is almost passed out on Greg’s couch again, because he invited her round for a drink and he’s not going to kick her out. It’s been a long and slightly strange day, and he can only presume that Gilmar and Foreman are somewhere in the city being strange and mushy, and Chase and Wilson are- oh God, he’s too tired for mental images like that. Really, he’s apparently made quite a lot of people happy with his bored meddling, and there’s nothing like that to make him feel like complete shit.
“Oh, stop beating yourself up,” Cuddy mumbles, shifting more comfortably on the couch, dark hair falling over her face as she yawns. “It’s not attractive.”
“I thought women went for the brooding types.”
“You’re not brooding, you’re just…” She yawns again. Greg looks at her for a long moment.
“Lisa, you are presumably mildly aware that I have a job at Princeton/Plainsboro.”
“That means that I am *employed*.”
“Yes, I had noticed that, funnily enough.”
“That means that I don’t need you looking after me any more.”
“You know, because of the whole ‘being head of diagnostics’ thing. That means that I have *stimulus* in the form of a *job*.”
“That means that you can buy a more comfortable couch.”
Greg opens his mouth to protest, and then shuts it again.
“Sure,” he murmurs.
He smirks at Cuddy’s *almost* sleeping form on the couch, and then gets out of his chair to go and make himself some more coffee, because some things never change, and maybe that’s ok.
(Edit: If you like this, there's a sequel in the form of April Fools"
There we go. Done. Heh heh. I am considering a sequel; it would parallel “Hunting” and have an AIDS scare, an old relationship rekindling at an inappropriate time, and a wedding preparation. But only if I have time. Keep your eyes peeled though; I might have a couple of ficlets for this AU coming up, because I like what I’ve done with the place.
Although if anyone wants to write this lot for me, feel free to take ‘em. *yawns*
Ooh, and johanirae drew this for me which kinda goes with it :D Go squee at her!