Fandom: House MD
Characters: House, Cuddy, Wilson
Challenge/Prompt: 100_prompts, 022. Tactile
Summary: A possibility of events after the season finale. Obviously there are spoilers for it. Whatever the title was.
Author’s Notes: I currently have 4 other fics in progress based after the season finale, in a surprisingly wide range of pairings. This one got finished first, because I’m meant to submit one fic a month for this challenge and I’m two months behind for reasons I’m unsure of. Anyway. Awkward conversations and a few thoughts. It’s a little bit fragmenty but I do mean for it to be like this.
Cuddy doesn’t look up when he walks in. Her head is bent over a folder of some kind, a strand of dark hair falling from her barrette and curling against her cheek.
“Cameron just quit,” House announces. Cuddy makes no sign that she’s heard him, turns the page. A moment, and she tucks the stray lock of hair behind her ear. House waits.
“Ignoring me is incredibly childish,” he informs her. “And Cameron – you remember, the woman who has been lurching obsessively between staff members since she arrived – has just handed in her resignation.”
“Good for her,” Cuddy murmurs, and then finally raises her head. “Is that it?”
“I’m sure there should be more shouting going on,” he says conversationally. “Indignant trembling, some kind of glaring, threats of me spending the next million years in the clinic, that sort of thing.”
“There’s nothing to say,” Cuddy replies, shrugging. “I really can’t think of a more fitting way for you to round off this past year.”
She doesn’t even sound angry. Just tired, and her desklamp throws the shadows under her eyes into sharp relief.
“I think you should go home,” she tells him calmly, and turns her attention back to the papers on her desk.
House resists the ridiculous urge to defend himself, because he knows that that’s what she wants, and he’s never given Cuddy an inch for fear of the mile she could take in return.
It’s quieter in the office without the whiny brats self-destructing over coffee next door, and House gets through a whole morning without anyone coming and asking him why they don’t have a case. Wilson is keeping his distance these days, for reasons too complicated to make any kind of sense, and they’ve been wary of drinking around each other anyway since the whole dosing-each-other-up-with-amphetamines-a
Two days after Cameron walks out, Cuddy brings champagne into the office, kicks off her shoes and places the bottle and two red mugs on House’s desk.
“What are we celebrating?” House asks mildly.
“We’re not celebrating,” Cuddy replies. She’s got a run in her pantyhose and her hair is dark around her shoulders. She’s wearing a sky blue jacket and it’s way too pale.
“Really? Because if you’re delighted that the kids are finally gone, you don’t have to hide it.”
“It’s been a year,” Cuddy tells him, suddenly incapable of looking him in the face. House is about to ask and then he remembers, his hand reaches up and unconsciously brushes over the scar on his neck. Sometimes he wonders if it really happened, the shooting, the space afterwards.
Cuddy almost smiles; alcohol splashes into a mug.
“You could have fired me by now,” he offers, when the edge has been taken off, and Cuddy is sitting in the armchair near the door. Wilson used to sit there, but Wilson doesn’t like him at the moment. Maybe he’ll come crawling back. There’s a dangerously high chance he won’t.
“I’m not you,” Cuddy replies, fingers tapping on the glossy red of her mug. “I don’t feel the need to fire my employees just because it’s a month with a ‘J’ in it, or because I don’t like the colour of their tie.”
“Might liven things up a bit if you did,” House suggests. She half-smiles. Whatever else is or isn’t between them, she likes him. Not a lot, and not all the time, but she does like him.
“I’ve got an attention span longer than three minutes,” Cuddy explains. “I really don’t have to play Russian Roulette with my staff to keep myself entertained.”
There’s a pause.
“Why aren’t you angry?” House asks her finally.
“Because I learn from experience.” Cuddy gets to her feet. “I’m really not in the habit of banging my head against brick walls. More champagne?”
There was a time when Wilson would have been the one bringing House things to commemorate a year since the shooting. But these last few months have broken a few things that probably should have broken a long time ago, truth be told, and if they’re even still friends now, things won’t be the same. They can’t be. There’s too much anger and too much resentment. House pushed too far and too fast and he doesn’t care nearly as much as he should do.
“Did you ever work out how you feel about me?” he asks Cuddy, just drunk enough for the question to slip out. Cuddy shrugs.
“Touché.” Another bottle of champagne has appeared from somewhere, and House is sure that they both have some kind of work to be getting on with. Same old same old.
Foreman wouldn’t have remembered the date and Chase would have pretended not to remember, but might have made him a cup of coffee anyway, and handed it over with one of those looks that he gave from time to time that implied he was far more astute than anyone gave him credit for (and he got fired regardless). God knows what Cameron would have done. She always was the volatile one.
“Why did you fire Chase?” Cuddy has her head tipped to one side, lipstick smudged ever so slightly.
“Does it make a difference what I say?” House asks her.
“No.” She shrugs. “I’m just curious.”
House thinks about making up a domino effect, about how he wanted a clean slate and he knew firing Chase would force both Foreman and Cameron out. He considers telling Cuddy about how irritating Chase could be, how grating the accent and the sucking up were (but that’s a lie, really, isn’t it). He could always list Chase’s copious faults; no one can deny that Robert was a deeply flawed man.
“Thought I’d find someone with a more entertaining nationality,” he murmurs, “I’d run out of kangaroo jokes.”
He shrugs. “It was a month with a ‘J’ in it and I didn’t like his tie?”
Cuddy almost smiles.
“You’d really better hope he doesn’t decide to sue,” she points out. “You’ll have nothing to say at the disciplinary hearing.”
“Chase won’t sue. He loves me.”
“Chase loved his job,” Cuddy reminds him. “And you took that away. No one loves you, House.”
House thinks about saying: you did, once. But he really has no proof either way and instead he leans back in his chair, closes his eyes for a moment.
Cameron would have hugged him. God knows what she’d have said, but she would have hugged him. She’d have remembered the date too.
Next day, Wilson locks both doors to his office and sits down to do some paperwork. House rattles the handle for a while, contemplates using a credit card to break in, and then leaves him be. This might be getting serious, and still House has no motivation to fix it.
“Leave me alone,” Cuddy says when he wanders into her office, not interested enough to try and track down some new fellows (no one’s going to help him with the interviews, not until Wilson gets over his sulking fit anyway), and too bored to sit around and watch consultation files build up, unread. “I refuse to be your Wilson. I know that Wilson doesn’t like being your Wilson at the moment, but I have no intention of being forced into the breach. Go and inflict yourself on some different people.”
“You shouldn’t start things you can’t finish,” House advises her, but he does leave her in peace.
“If you hadn’t pushed your entire team out of the door and treated Wilson more like a lab experiment than a person, then you wouldn’t be sitting around here bored out of your skull,” Cuddy tells him three days later.
“I might be,” House replies defensively. “Why doesn’t my office have a comfy couch like this one?”
He’s drunk too much coffee and it seems like Cuddy is trying to test him. She hasn’t forced him to take on a case since his fellows left, and he hasn’t set foot in the clinic since long before that. If she thinks that he’s going to crack of his own accord, then she is sadly wrong and doesn’t know him nearly as well as she thinks she does. Of course, it is depressingly possible that Cuddy has given up on the diagnostics department entirely.
When she pulls open the door, Cuddy’s expression implies that she really wants to move house just so that he’ll have more difficulty tracking her down.
“What?” she demands.
“Did you sleep with Wilson?”
Cuddy wraps her dressing gown a little tighter around her.
“It’s two in the morning,” she says.
“Is it?” House really doesn’t sleep any more. At least, not like a normal person. “But did you?”
“It’s two in the morning,” Cuddy repeats blearily. “This is a fireable offence, you know.”
House studies her face.
“You did,” he informs her. “Was it after the theatre or after the art gallery?”
Cuddy shuts the door on him.
“So, is he as good as they say he is?” House falls into step with her, and though Cuddy has two perfectly reasonable legs, she is wearing utterly ridiculous heels, and running for her life in an attempt to get away from him will almost certainly result in a broken ankle. House would almost feel sorry for her, if he could be bothered.
“According to the hospital gossip, you’d be in a better position to answer that than I am.” Her tone is neutral. If she’s tired from his late-night stalking, she doesn’t let it show.
“I’m not nearly needy enough for him,” House explains, matter-of-fact, dismissive.
“I’m busy,” Cuddy tells him, with very little hope in her expression.
“That bad, huh? I always knew they were exaggerating on the size of his-”
“It was fine, ok?” Cuddy turns on him, snapping the words out. House gives her a tiny smile, just big enough to let her know she’s fallen perfectly into his trap. She sighs. “It happened. It’s not going to happen again.”
House considers this.
“Well, you say that now, but in six months you’ll probably be married to him.”
Cuddy doesn’t smile, but her expression softens a little.
“Give me some credit.”
“This has got to stop,” Cuddy tells him two days later. “I understand that I’m the only person in the world willing to be in the same room as you at the moment, but that doesn’t give you the right to do this. It’s unprofessional, and, quite frankly, it’s unfair.”
House shrugs. She doesn’t really know what she wants but neither does he, and they’re not cut out to be friends. Or even whatever the hell he and Wilson were (are?). He’s not sure what his relationship with Cuddy is or was but it’s not meant to be based around this much interaction and really, he does need to find new people to torment.
“I’ll start avoiding you tomorrow,” he promises, leaning over and stealing her coffee.
Wilson doesn’t apologise or say that he missed him, because he probably didn’t, but he does unlock the door to his office and bring House a mercifully uncontaminated cup of coffee in the morning. It’s almost like a truce except that House suspects there’s something more going on here.
“What did Cuddy give you to start paying attention to me again?” he enquires when he’s eating Wilson’s lunch for him.
Wilson considers this. He’s been getting better at lying to House over the last couple of years, but not that much better.
“Enough,” he replies simply, taking back his potato chips.
“You need to hire some fellows, and you need to take on a case,” Cuddy explains, dressed in dark red, an unyielding expression on her face. Determination written into the tight line of her mouth. It’s a good look on her, and House informs her of this. She doesn’t crack a smile.
“I’m your boss, first and foremost,” she tells him. “You might not respect me but I’m not yours to screw around with.”
House wants to say yes you are but she really has done a good job of standing up to him and refusing to give in recently. It really is admirable, how hard she tries.
“Attempting to distract me with Wilson isn’t going to work, you know,” he points out. Cuddy merely smirks.
“It’s over, House,” she says. “You’re going to hire some new people and before they all quit on you, you’re going to cure someone. You’re going to stop this.”
House doesn’t even need to ask what this is; it’s indefinable, but they both know anyway. That thought makes him feel faintly uncomfortable, though he’s not sure why.
“You’re going to be in the clinic in half an hour,” Cuddy adds.
“Well,” House replies, “What’s important is that you believe that.”
She laughs; it’s the first time he’s seen her laugh in almost too long. And she walks out, the sound of her heels lingering in the air.
House suspects that, despite his best efforts to the contrary, things have gone back to normal. Whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean, anyway.