|Not Tonight, Dear
Author: blackmare PM
She wants to put off answering this one pesky question -- even if it's only for half an hour. Based on a SPOILER for Season 5. Cuddy and House, both trying to delay the inevitable.Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship/Romance - L. Cuddy & G. House - Words: 1,460 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 9 - Follows: 2 - Published: 09-14-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4538952
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Based on a SPOILER for Season 5. If you're avoiding those, read no further.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to David Shore, FOX, and many others who aren't me. I'm making no money on them and will put them back when I'm done.
"You rewarded years of sexual harassment by ... sleeping with him?"
"I thought you two weren't speaking to each other."
"We're ... that's not important. Cuddy. That can't be a good idea. Please don't tell me you felt sorry for him."
"This isn't your business, James, but no. I didn't, and I don't. Goodbye."
Clicking the handset off, she sets the phone on the kitchen counter and pours herself a nice, full glass of merlot. It shakes a little as she picks it up. God, she should have known; she did know, didn't she? Sooner or later, the laws of the universe would cause James Wilson and Greg House to fall back into each other's orbit, and when that happened, Wilson would know what she had done.
She just wasn't prepared for it to start so soon.
American Idol is on, and for now it seems all right, a distraction to go with the wine. The sofa is soft, welcoming; she curls her bare feet beneath her and watches someone else's train wreck, for a change.
"You have one of the least promising voices I have ever heard," declares Simon to a skinny girl whose Wind Beneath My Wings sounded like a kitten being strangled with baling twine. He tells the truth, Simon does, and Cuddy likes him for that. For a minute she imagines an experiment. They could lock him with House in a windowless room for a day just to find out what would happen.
They'd either leave together, laughing, and go to the nearest bar -- or else House would emerge alone, bloodied and feral, maybe gnawing on a shin bone. A cane is a dangerous weapon, and House's arms are strong, and she really needs not to be thinking about that right now.
Shame he's such a bastard.
She's halfway through the glass of wine when she picks up the phone and dials.
"House's House of Loooove," he croons, because just saying "hello" isn't good enough for him. "What's your pleasure?"
"I can't tell you that."
"I have to guess?"
"You do until you can stop telling Wilson everything."
Silence. Gotcha, you jerk.
"What did Wilson say?"
"Maybe I want to know what you told him."
"That he should've gone for it when he had the chance."
"He never had the chance. I don't see him that way."
"I didn't tell him at all. He asked how you were doing. I ... may have smiled. Wilson's an idiot, but he's not actually stupid."
"He called here tonight, demanding to know why I would do something so insane."
"Fair question. Why would you?"
"I hung up on him."
"That's not an answer."
"He didn't deserve one. It's none of his business."
"It is mine."
"Good night, Greg."
When she hangs up on House, she unplugs the phone and then silences the ringer on her cell. She can check every few minutes in case the hospital needs her, but she's not going to let House drive her insane. It's not that she's angry, not really. She needs to think and if he has his way, she'll have no time for that.
She looks at the clock: eight seventeen. At most, she has fifteen minutes before he knocks on her door, but it might be as few as ten. Good thing she's only had the one glass of wine.
The lights are on inside when he arrives, but Cuddy doesn't answer his knock.
I'm not mad, reads the note taped to the door. I'm just out. Ask me again tomorrow.
"Tomorrow never comes," House murmurs to himself, and shoves the crumpled note into his pocket. There is a well-defined Cuddy Comfort Zone, a handful of places she might have gone at this hour on a Monday night. This isn't Wilson of the Thousand Boundaries she's dealing with; she should know that by now.
She really doesn't care for the mall, but that's the thing: he knows she doesn't care for it, so if (If? Please, she scoffs at herself) he's looking for her, he's not likely to look here.
It'll close in half an hour, but she may not need much more time than that, and if she does, the Barnes & Noble will still be open.
She walks aimlessly past OshKosh B'Gosh, past the Disney Store, where the glittery rows of princess dolls stand in happy anticipation. There are bright red SALE placards in the window at Ann Taylor, but what Cuddy wants, she can't get there. If it weren't for her sudden need for motion, she'd simply sit on a bench and watch everyone else drift past.
A woman dressed very like herself emerges from Zales with a tiny gold bag in her grasp. Cuddy turns away, walks the other direction.
Strange, she thinks, how well she blends into the scenery here. Maybe that's why she doesn't like the place. She looks at her shoes, and they could be the shoes of any well-kept upper-middle-class wife, buying new toys for the already-overstuffed rooms of her kids. She's rejected that life, the one where the husband makes the money and they move when his career says they must. She'd have expensive consolation prizes -- an interior designer, a pool and a Lexus. Planning dinner parties for his colleagues while her own friendships died on the vine.
Lisa Cuddy is stronger than that; she runs a hospital, for God's sake, so why? Wilson might have had more tact, but his question is a good one. Why, why, why?
Wilson will settle for non-answers, rationalizations. House will not, and furthermore, he'll know it when she lies.
She makes a wide arc past the doors of Victoria's Secret, as if a nest of angry hornets lived within. She's too busy thinking about sex to think about sex.
House is going to want a simple truth, something as direct as he is, but as the mall's closing announcements are made ("We will be open at nine tomorrow morning for your shopping enjoyment"), she knows there isn't one. There are dozens of answers, dozens of reasons, all of them true and none good enough.
She passes from the brightly-lit cave to the darkness outside, and bets herself five dollars she'll get home to find him lounging on her doorstep.
"I win," she says. "I owe myself five bucks."
"Knew I'd be here?" He's spinning that cane in his fingers, doing tricks as if it's a dapper accessory and not a ball and chain.
"You'd have gone through the local cafes in fifteen minutes. Calling the hospital would have taken another two at most, and giving up wouldn't have been an option."
"I asked you a question," he says, staring right into her while he rises with startling grace from the cold concrete step.
"Because ..." she begins, and all at once the vast cloud of reasons and answers condenses into one drop of water. "Because I wanted to."
"You're an idiot," he says, softly, while he pulls a key she didn't give him from the pocket of his coat.
"You had a key and you didn't let yourself in?"
"I decided to play 'poor jilted cripple' rather than 'creepy stalker' tonight. You're complaining?"
"I'm surprised." She doesn't bother changing the locks anymore; it's more trouble than it's worth, and as far as she knows, he's only broken in once. What seems to matter to him is the knowledge that he can get in. He ushers her inside, closing the door behind them as if he were a gentleman rather than a thief.
"You'll either have to quit your job, fire me, or dump me," he says. "Before anyone other than Wilson figures it out."
"I know." She sighs, wishing that the complications, the thousand wrong answers, would lift away just for a little while longer. "Sure you don't want to dump me first?"
"Anything to save your luscious ass." He steps forward, and she finds herself surrounded. His hands are on her shoulders, in her hair, down her back. "But not tonight."