Fandom: House MD
Characters: House, Cuddy
Challenge/Prompt: 100_prompts, 007. Cut
Copyright: Title taken from The Sound Of Music.
Summary: The world’s most complicated car journey.
Author’s Notes: Set the morning after “Words And Deeds”. Because although there’s loads of other things to do, I wanted to punish House for what he’s done to Cuddy. I don’t know why the title exists, I just knew I had to use it. :)
House has decided, by morning, that although some re-decorating wouldn’t go amiss, prison really isn’t so bad. In fact, it’s just like rehab, but without the whole making-stuff-out-of-clay deal. House has made a whole range of diseased organs by now (and is planning to shove them all in a cardboard box for Wilson’s next birthday, but shush! it’s a surprise) and is not relishing the prospect of going back to the hideously pastel-painted wing, full of people who just want to be forgiven and are doing it in a stupidly drippy fashion. Besides, everyone knows his rehab thing is a sham.
Well, everyone but Cuddy. And he grudgingly supposes he owes her one – you know, since he’s now not going to spend the next ten years eating institutional food and avoiding getting disturbing prison tatts all over his ass – and so had better keep up the charade. Although he’s not sure who told the group therapist guy that it would be ok to call him “Greg”; House isn’t even on first-name terms with himself, he refuses to let a smarmy bleeding-heart type use it.
The sun is shining when he walks out, which is quite nice even if it is a ridiculous cliché, and she’s leant against her car with a little smirk on her mouth. No Wilson, although House can’t entirely blame him, but Cuddy is here. She’s dressed in pastels, which she shouldn’t, because they fade her right out. Cuddy should be nothing but block colour, all the way through (and he knows that most of her underwear fits that mould – he has rifled through her panties on at least two occasions).
“Come to make sure I go back to rehab like a good little sucker?” he asks, smirking his drastically unshaven I’ve-spent-the-night-in-jail smirk. It’s a good smirk and he bets it would make Cameron all melty and pliable. Cuddy just looks vastly unamused.
“I wouldn’t put anything past you, right now,” she says.
“Why don’t we go to Vegas?” he suggests. “Celebrate whatever it is you don’t want to celebrate, blow a whole load of Wilson’s money. We could be married by an Elvis impersonator. Let’s have a dirty weekend.”
Cuddy’s glare could shatter glass.
“It’s Wednesday,” she says. And then: “Get in the car.”
House notes that she’s got her jacket buttoned right up and a scarf tight around her neck, so that he can’t see the slightest glimpse of cleavage. He supposes that means she’s extremely pissed-off. It’s not surprising.
Cuddy smacks his hand away from the radio. The awkward silence is getting itself comfortable in the backseat, spreading itself out, and House can tell it’ll stay there for the rest of the journey back to Princeton/Plainsboro.
“If you didn’t want to drive me-” he begins.
“Tell me who else could have come to get you?” Cuddy responds, eyes on the road, she’s a boringly responsible driver. “Foreman doesn’t care about you, Chase is half-afraid you’ll attack him again – what, you thought I wouldn’t find out about that? – Cameron is attempting to prove she’s a strong, independent woman-”
House sniggers. Cuddy ignores him.
“- And Wilson wants breathing space.”
“He is such a girl,” House mutters.
“One half-assed apology doesn’t make up for you treating him like shit for the last few months,” Cuddy says steadily.
“Did a memo go out about the apology or something?” House asks.
“It’s an historical event,” Cuddy mutters dryly. “Everyone sort of assumed that you view Wilson as a kind of subservient punchbag. No one knew you saw him as an actual person.”
“Oh, snap,” House says, drenching his tone with sarcasm. “Cameron hugged me for it, you know.”
“Cameron’s an idiot.” Cuddy brakes at a stoplight.
“So I’ve always said,” House replies, faintly amused, because he’s never seen Cuddy this overtly pissed-off. Oh, he’s seen her snap and snarl and shout but he’s never seen it bubble like this, unspoken and white-hot. It’s impressive. He sits back and waits for her to crack.
“I suppose you don’t think I deserve an apology,” Cuddy says in an offhand tone, not looking at him.
“You’re not an emotional sap like Wilson,” House replies, “I knew you wouldn’t accept it. You’re not going to forgive me, whatever I do.”
It’s perfectly true – she wouldn’t – but House feels obscurely uncomfortable because the truth is that he didn’t even consider her. Wilson, yes – he hasn’t exactly acted like a friend or even a human being towards Jimmy recently – but Cuddy didn’t cross his mind once.
She laughs; the light turns amber.
House watches the world outside the window for a while. He knows, even now, that he won’t learn anything from the experience. Nothing’s changed. Sure, Foreman no longer looks at him with any sort of respect, and Chase keeps unconscious but wary distances (not that House can blame the guy, there is something very… punchable about him). Cameron despises him in a childish sort of way, but that’ll pass, and things are going to be weird with Wilson for at least another month and Cuddy… oh God, Cuddy. But fundamentally, everything’s still as it was. Equilibrium. And House never learns from things that don’t scar him.
“So you want clinic duty and unlimited consults and me to generally be your little slave boy?” he asks as the hospital comes into view.
“You’re going to do what I want for as long as I want you to do it,” Cuddy replies simply.
“Do you still want a sperm donor?” House enquires without even thinking. He’s not used to not being in control of every word he says, but in this case it’s a genuine accident. Freudian slip. Maybe he is losing it a little.
“What?” Cuddy looks completely non-plussed, it’s a fascinating look on her. “You might have forgotten telling me I’d make a godawful mother, but that doesn’t mean I have.”
Should’ve just given me the damn Vicodin, House thinks; detoxing makes him much crueller than normal, but even the rationalisation doesn’t stop the faint edge of guilt creeping in.
“You knew I didn’t mean that,” he mumbles, unable to say what he probably should, and Cuddy just gives him a tired look.
“House,” she says, and her voice is calm, matter-of-fact, not a trace of venom in her tone (which makes it worse), “I want a baby. I would do anything to have a child. But I don’t want you to be the father.”
“Ouch,” House remarks appreciatively. Cuddy doesn’t even smile. She parks and they sit in silence for a moment. It’s not awkward any more, it’s not even angry now. It’s just… silence.
“Feel better?” he asks after a moment. Cuddy unclips her safety belt.
“Come on,” she says. He obeys.
In the elevator, House turns to her.
“You do know I’m not actually detoxing and the rehab thing is just a big lie, don’t you?” He owes her that much.
Cuddy finally smiles.
“Give me some credit,” she tells him.
Rehab is just like prison except the bars are made of obligation and you don’t have to wear a jumpsuit. Even the colour schemes are unsettlingly similar, House muses.
“We’re not fine, right?” he asks, just as Cuddy is turning to go. She smiles, it’s a little sad, a little strained.
“No, we’re not,” she agrees.
House wonders if he could fix all this with an apology. Probably not. It’s too late. What you say versus what you do and none of it’s enough.
“Ok,” he says softly.
Cuddy’s heels click away, leaving him to group therapy and art classes and not nearly enough painkillers. House wonders if this is his penance.
Maybe not. Either way, it’s going to take a lot more to repair what he’s broken over the last few months. They’re not ok, and Cuddy doesn’t want to forgive him, but he knows that she will in the end. She always does.