Fandom: House MD
Challenge/Prompt: 100_prompts, 021. Open
Summary: “I’ve loved people.” “And now?” “And now I’m here.” House breaks into Cuddy’s home again.
Author’s Notes: Inspired by the dialogue in the summary that popped into my head, and I just needed to write this. Written as the ending that I’d like to 3x02 “Cane And Able”. Much more fun :D Kind of angsty and kind of mean. Yay.
He lies flat on his back beside her couch because it somehow aches less. It’s probably just the increasing pain in his shoulders and back easing the growing agony in his right thigh; he just tries to ignore it all because maybe if he can’t feel it then it won’t be true.
She’s got enough spare keys that it was the work of a moment to get in here, where everything is clean and quiet and impersonal. If he’s truly honest with himself – which he never is, but then it’s been a pretty strange day – House has no idea why he came here, except that he doesn’t like Wilson’s new post-divorce apartment and it’s not as though he’s got a lot of options when it comes to socialising.
The silence is broken by the sound of her key in the door, heels clicking on the floor and then abruptly stopping as she eases the shoes from her feet, but House can hear her padding closer, and can’t work out if he wants her here or if he was happier when there was nothing but silence.
Cuddy has to be shocked but she handles it well.
“Not going through my underwear drawers?” she asks dryly, as though she walks into her living room to find her unstable employees on the floor all the time. For all he knows, she does.
“Been there, done that,” he mumbles, choosing not to open his eyes.
“And there was me thinking you’d never get over your obsession with my panties,” she tells him, sounding almost amused.
“You make me sound so shallow,” he mourns.
Cuddy still doesn’t ask why he’s there, and House has to give her points for that.
“I’m going to go and take a shower,” Cuddy informs him. “I’d say ‘make yourself at home’, but you seem to be doing that already.”
House doesn’t reply and listens to her walk upstairs. For a few tired moments he imagines following her, getting into the shower with her. Lisa Cuddy is a beautiful woman and after he got his leg healed, well, House isn’t going to pretend that he didn’t consider seducing her. But he hasn’t, and he suspects that he won’t, not with the dull ache beginning to run through his body and the Vicodin bottle heavy in his pocket.
Maybe he sleeps. Maybe he doesn’t. Either way, Cuddy doesn’t sound surprised to find him still there. A small part of him had hoped that she’d come downstairs still in her towel, wet curls of dark hair stuck to her shoulders and smelling like conditioner, but he is disappointed. She’s wearing a robe that covers too much skin and her hair has been blow-dried.
“Aren’t you going to be outraged?” he enquires. “I have, after all, broken into your home.”
“It wouldn’t be the first time,” she replies, moving to sit on her sofa, feet next to his head. He examines her pale pink pedicure for a moment. “Fine. I’ll complain if it’ll make you happy.”
“You’ve taken the fun out of it now,” House complains. The ache in his thigh is increasing but he still doesn’t pop a pill because he promised Cuddy he was off them and even if the prescribing name is Dr Wilson she’s not entirely stupid and she’ll know. If his physical abilities are going to turn to shit again, then he won’t have anything but his job left, and he is only too aware that Cuddy’s tolerance of him is wearing ever more thin.
“You can’t stay here,” she says eventually, but tiredly, as though she doesn’t really believe the words.
“You owe me one,” he responds. “Lying to me about the paralysed guy I fixed. That really hurt my feelings.” He pulls a mock-wounded face.
“You don’t have any feelings to get hurt,” she responds, in one of those Dr Frankenstein forgot to give you a heart when he was sewing you together in his pitch black basement sort of tones.
“We both know that isn’t true,” he almost snaps. Cuddy blushes and for a moment she can’t meet his gaze.
“The pain’s coming back, isn’t it,” she says quietly, still not looking directly at him.
House bites the inside of his mouth and doesn’t reply.
“You don’t get to ignore me,” Cuddy tells him after a silence that actually hurts and stretches on for too long. “You broke into my home. You obviously want to talk.”
House doesn’t know what the hell he wants but decides that now is not the time to point this out.
“My cable’s broken,” he responds, “And Wilson won’t let me come over and watch the L Word marathon.”
Cuddy gives a frustrated sigh and walks into the kitchen. House stares at her ceiling for a while and marvels at how even and neat the paintwork is, and when she comes back she’s got a bottle of red wine, already uncorked. House wonders if this is a new record as to how fast he can drive someone to drink, but decides not to mention it.
“Not going to offer me any?” he asks lightly.
“This was expensive,” Cuddy responds, “And right now I’m not sure you’re worth it.”
“That time of the month again? Oh, no, wait, is this the start of the moodswings?”
“I am not pregnant.” Her voice is all stiff and awkward all of a sudden.
“Drinking’s bad for the foetus.”
“I am not pregnant.”
“You ought to take better care of your unborn child, especially after all the effort you went to to get it.”
“You know what your problem is, House?” she snaps, an ugly expression falling over her face, “You don’t love anyone at all, so you just take it out on everyone in the most vile way you can manage.”
“I’ve loved people,” House protests.
He tries to shrug, but it’s hard because his shoulders are going to sleep.
“And now I’m here.”
Cuddy looks at him for a long moment with narrowed eyes.
“That’s either unbelievably romantic or unbelievably damning.”
“And you wonder why Stacy left.”
There’s a brittle pause.
“No,” Cuddy says quietly, “I don’t.”
It couldn’t sting more if she slapped him.
“You can be a real bitch sometimes,” he says quietly, words ringing out in the silence.
“You came here,” she responds, sipping her wine now they’re back on more steady territory. “What do you want from me?”
House still doesn’t know but the ache in his thigh is becoming increasingly more pronounced. He clenches his fingers hard and suddenly wishes that he’d brought his cane because he doesn’t know if he can make it home without it.
“You stubborn bastard,” Cuddy mumbles.
House shuts his eyes again and decides that her home was much more peaceful and enjoyable when she wasn’t there and thinks about telling her this, but all he does is start trying to ease himself to his feet. It’s slow and difficult because he aches all over from where he was lying on the floor and Cuddy sighs and moves to help him.
When he’s finally standing, their hands are still entwined; she’s looking up at him with her eyes wide and the last vestiges of mascara clinging to the bottom eyelashes that she didn’t quite manage to get off in her shower. She doesn’t look like Cuddy right now and he’s somewhere in a little world of despair slightly different to his regular one so maybe right now they’re not quite who they used to be.
House squashes the incipient mushyness in that particular line of thought by leaning down and just kissing her. He catches her lower lip between his teeth and she gasps, and he wonders for a moment just what she’s wearing underneath that robe, if anything at all, and she tastes like wine and her fingers move to run through the back of his hair, although it’s too short to get a decent grip, and for a whole minute everything is good.
A lightning pain shoots through his right thigh and he staggers back, groans and whimpers sliding between his teeth. If he was in any doubt that the ketamine had worn off, he’s certain now. The pain is worse than before and while in some sick sense it’s like coming home, mostly, it’s enough to make him want to be dead.
Cuddy’s expression is a cross between horror and pity and I knew this was going to happen. House doesn’t mean his answering look to be quite so accusing, but he knows it is.
“Because this is all my fault,” she snaps, “Of course it is.”
“I’m not blaming you,” he snarls, but everybody lies, and they both know he is.
Cuddy shakes her head and for a moment she almost looks hurt, but not quite. She turns away.
“What, don’t I get a pity fuck?” he demands. He’s angry with himself, with his stupid leg, and he knows that he’s taking it out on her, and he doesn’t care.
“I’m not Cameron,” she spits back, and he listens to her footsteps on the stairs. He sinks into her couch, takes the damn Vicodin, hopes it kicks in because the pain is so fucking bad.
Third place again, the bronze medal, consolation prize. Happiness for a few breathless weeks and now he’s back to where he started. House grits his teeth and wishes everyone in the world dead for a second, just a second, because he prides himself on knowing everything and yet he has no idea why he’s here and he has no idea why Cuddy is letting him. They’re binary opposites but on the other hand they’re so alike it’s unbelievable. But he refuses to follow that thought through to the end of the process, and instead listens to pain crackling up and down his nerve endings, because it’s considerably easier.
After a while, Cuddy comes back downstairs. She has blankets, which she dumps unceremoniously on the couch.
“You can stay here tonight,” she tells him in a brittle voice, and House doesn’t say ‘thank you’ because he knows it’s not expected of him. He tries not to think about what tomorrow will be like.
“Ok,” he says.
Cuddy nods and in a moment he can read a dozen things into her expression and it almost scares him.
“Goodnight, House,” she murmurs, and turns out the light.