Author's Note: So, just for the record, this is not a Mary Sue. Yeah, I know that everyone says that, but really, it's not! I've always been of the opinion that House is only half-kidding when he refers to his encounters with call girls, so I decided to write my take on his relationship with one. As far as I can tell, it seems to be a surprisingly uncommon theme, but then I could be wrong. It's definitely happened before! Anyway, this story has sex in it. You have been forewarned, although it's probably worth pointing out that the sex is not the main focus of the story. I've tried really hard to keep the characters as cannon as possible, but I'm sure there are a couple of points where House isn't as House-like as he could have been. Finally, I've left the story open in a couple of places to leave room for a sort-of series of one-shots if people seem keen, or if I just get the writing bug again.

Disclaimer: Meg's mine. House and his psychoses are not!

He had called her from work; his work, not hers. She had picked up the phone on the third ring, placing the Lucky Charms box on the counter and snatching the phone off of the hook.

"This is Margaret," she had said, harried.

There was a pause on the other line. She let out an annoyed sigh. "Hello?"

A man on the other end cleared his throat. "Meg?"

Meg tucked the phone under her chin and reached for the Lucky Charms box again. "As advertised," she responded.

He snorted. "Subtle."

Meg opened the cereal box and peered inside. "Does this conversation have a point?"

"It's Greg."

She put the cereal box back down on the counter. "What's up?" Casual. She should have known it was him; she didn't give her number out very often.

There was another pause on the other end of the line. She waited patiently: no matter how many times he had called her, he still seemed to have difficulty with the conversation, as if he thought that she was below him. Asking for sex, paying for it was below him.

"You free tonight?" he asked finally. It came out in a bit of a rush, a sign of nerves that seemed consistently out of place for him.

She leaned against the kitchen counter and looked up at the plaster ceiling. It was cracking in places. "Depends. Are you going to spend the entire time explaining the differences between Metroid Fusion and Metroid Zero Mission?" The comment was well-timed, well-delivered, evidence of the long-standing nature of their professional relationship. She knew what would put him at ease.

"I feel like I might have exhausted that topic. Wouldn't want to repeat myself and develop a reputation for unoriginality."

"God forbid."

"So, is that a 'yes' then?" he said, interjecting a note of lechery into his tone.

Meg sighed again; tonight was supposed to be her night off. "Sure. What time?"

"I'll meet you at my place around seven."

"Okay," she had said, twisting the phone cord absently around her fingers. "I'll let myself in."

"Fine." He had hung up abruptly.

She arrived on time at seven to an empty apartment. Hardly surprising, he was always late and she was always on time.

And, of course, she had her own key.

His condo was typically messy. Newspapers and medical journals were piled everywhere, and if she wasn't mistaken, that was last night's dinner left on the coffee table. There were three beer bottles piled on the piano, and empty tic-tac containers. She let out a sigh and took off her coat and scarf, hanging them neatly in the closet by the door. Her green coat was the only thing in the closet – he never used it.

She turned back and faced the room, wondering if doing the dishes was in her contract. Blowing a lock of red-brown hair out of her face, she rolled up her sleeves and set to work picking up after him. Ever since he had started seeing her like this – at home, without planned appointment – she had taken to straitening up after him. If he hadn't been paying her, it would have been shockingly domestic.

Within five minutes, she had dropped the beer bottles scattered throughout the living room in the recycling and refolded the newspapers and medical journals and placed them in neat piles on the coffee table. She scrapped what remained of last-night's dinner into the trash, and rinsed the plate off in the sink, neatly setting it in the drying rack on the kitchen counter. The other dirty dishes she left languishing, figuring that she was not his nursemaid and he could do the truly dirty work by himself.

Finally, she moistened a paper towel and walked back into the living room to wipe the sticky circles left by spilled beer off of the grand piano. She was scrubbing away at one of them relentlessly when she heard his front door open.

Not bothering to look up, she continued scrubbing at the beer stain. "Only fifteen minutes late today; you're working on a record."

She heard the click of the door as he closed it behind him. "Now Maggie," he admonished softly, "you aren't going to charge me for that are you?"

Meg turned around and looked at him. He looked good. But then, he always looked good. His thinning hair was disheveled and slightly damp from the light snowfall outside, there was only one day's worth of growth on his face (as opposed to the usual two), and he was wearing the red button down shirt and dark brown blazer. He was leaning back against the door, watching her with those bright, perceptive eyes, which were currently in shadow because he refused to change the light bulb over the door.

She straightened up and put one hand on her hip. "Do you get off on the Mr. Mysterio thing?"

He didn't move. "You tell me. That's what you're paid to do, isn't it? Get me off?" His voice was still soft, somewhat dangerous, and she could tell that he hadn't had a good day. He only ever called her on bad days, and she was used to his particular brand of pointed sarcasm.

And ignored it. She turned her back on him and walked back into the kitchen. She threw the now-dirty paper towel into the trash under the sink and turned back towards the dirty dishes. She turned on the water and waited for it to heat up.

His step-thumping gait echoed across the floor of his condo and he stopped to lean against the kitchen door frame, watching her work. "Jeans today? No short little "do me" dress and "fuck me" pumps?"

Meg ran her hand under the water. Still tepid. She turned and faced him. "If you wanted to make a request, you should have given at least two hours notice."

"Well damn, I'll have to keep that in mind for next time. Can I put in an advance order on a Cookie monster costume and black stilettos?"

"Depends. Will you be providing the cookies?"

He looked at her and leveled his blue eyes in a way she found decidedly unsettling. She turned back to the sink and dumped the dish soap into the mass of dirty dishes. She could feel his blue eyes on the back of her head, and she heard two step-thumps as he came over to stand beside her. "Let your hair down," he said softly in her ear, his voice shifting back to the dark, semi-sinister tone it had held when he first walked in.

She looked up at him. He towered over her by half a foot, and in her worn, flat maryjanes, she couldn't make up the difference. "My hands are wet," she said.

"Dry them."

"No." It was a challenge. He always waited to touch her; waited until the last minute, until he couldn't bear it anymore.

They stared at each other, his blue eyes narrowing against her bright green ones. The water continued to run in the sink.

Very slowly, he reached a slender, calloused hand around the side of her face and closed it around the barrette holding back her hair. He unclipped it carefully, trying not to yank. Her hair, shoulder length and thick, swung down around to frame her face.

The left side of his mouth lifted slightly and he brought his hand back around, the motion causing her hair to swing. "Leave the dishes," he said simply, withdrawing his hand and dropping the barrette carelessly on the counter. He did not touch her further. He turned quickly and step-thumped back into the living room.

She was always a little awed when he did things like that. The first time he had called the agency nearly three-years ago now, he had requested someone with light hair, nothing more specific than that. When Meg had showed up on his doorstep in her green dress and green high heels, he had not said anything. Simply let her in and fucked her up against the wall by the door. She was gone in twenty minutes, never having made it out of the dress. It had been uncomfortable, but not unusually so, and Meg had been happy for the money and certain that he would never call again.

And yet, he had called again a month or so later and requested her specifically. This time, he point-blank said on the phone that he didn't want her decked out for him in her jewelry, two-hundred dollar dress, and three-hundred dollar shoes. And Meg had shown up again, that time in maryjanes, a black skirt, and green collared shirt. He had let her in, given her a glass of scotch (which she didn't drink), and she had ridden him on the couch, her skirt bunched up around her waist and panties still clinging to one ankle. He was slower this time, less harried, less eager to have her gone. This was the first time she saw the cane. That first encounter had been so brief that she hadn't noticed a serious handicap; now she could understand part of his psychosis.

And he called again. And again. And again. The third time, she had seen his scar; the fourth time, he had kissed her; the fifth time they'd done it more than once; the sixth time she enjoyed it; the seventh time he told her what he did for a living; the eighth time he'd taken her to his bedroom and they'd had a whole conversation about music; the ninth time he alluded to his ex and she had done his dishes; the tenth time he handed her a key and she gave him her home number….

Meg turned back to the sink and shut off the water. They had gradually developed an easier relationship, although there were certain aspects about the business-half that continued to bother him. He still hesitated in calling her, and she usually had to make the first move. She was positive that he only forgot she was a hooker and he was a john during the sex itself. All the moments leading up to it left him feeling shamed.

She walked back into the living room. He was sitting at the piano, staring absently at the white and black keys. He wasn't playing, wasn't moving; he had thrown his cane onto the couch. She walked over and put it into the umbrella stand by the front door. "What's the point of having an umbrella stand if you don't use it?"

"It lends the room a gentrified air," he replied, looking up from the piano and meeting her gaze.

"Not if you don't actually use it," she repeated sarcastically. She stretched her arms over her head and cracked her back. His gaze did not change or waver, but after three years, she had learned to read his signs. He shifted slightly on the piano bench and watched her sweater ride up over her stomach. Letting her arms fall back down, she cocked her head slightly to one side. "Why do you always insist on my hair being down?"

He turned back to the piano and put his fingers on the keys. A-minor rang out softly in the large, echoing room. "Why do you always show up with it tied back?"

Meg crossed the room and stood behind him. She squeezed his hunched shoulders gently and leaned her head down next to his ear. "Convenience," she replied softly and kissed his neck where his collar gaped.

He played another chord. "Why not just cut it all off then?"

She moved up to his jaw. "It's my one beauty," she replied simply.

He played another chord. And another. Meg recognized the opening bars to Strawberry Fields Forever. She stopped her ministrations and watched his fingers move artfully across the keys. He had beautiful hands: long, fine-boned and strong. They were the hands on a musician or of a surgeon, neither of which he officially was. Meg never could figure out why he turned to and paid her for sex, because she was always of the opinion that he was perfectly capable of picking up women who would be happy to do everything she did and do it for free.

After a moment, he stopped playing and drew his hands away from the keyboard. Meg stood up straight again and sat down in the armchair next to the bench. He looked at her and slid himself around to face her directly.

Neither said anything for a few minutes. "Why do you call me?" she blurted out first, against her better judgment.

The shock of the question registered on his face for a brief moment. Then his old sarcastic mask reasserted itself. "You're my charity case. Spread the money around to the working girl. It was either this or volunteer for an adult literacy program."

"Somehow I feel like the adult literacy program would be the more spiritually rewarding of the two."

"Yeah, but this way I get my rocks off."

She rolled her eyes and kicked off her shoes. "You never touch me. Have you noticed that?"

He snorted. "Well, let's be honest, I don't really know where you've been."

She met his gaze and stood up again, lifting her sweater up over her head and tossing it at him. He looked a little peevish. "Oh, I'm sorry," said Meg, annoyed, "did you want to do that?"

His mask fell back into place. "No no, you go ahead. Actually, wait: I could start searching for my old Gilbert & Sullivan books and we could start an impromptu cabaret act."

She rolled her eyes. "No one does cabaret to Gilbert & Sullivan."

He pushed himself up and limped towards the couch. "Well, you would know, wouldn't you?" He sat down heavily.

"About Gilbert & Sullivan or cabaret? I don't know, you're the bachelor with the somewhat disconcertingly close relationship with the boyish Dr. Wilson. Maybe if I start going through your sock drawer I'll find Liza Minelli postcards."

"Frankly, I've always been more of a Joan Crawford fan."

"Like the Blue Oyster Cult song?"

He reached into his blazer pocket for his Vicodin bottle. "Or whatshername from Mommy Dearest."

"Blythe Danner?"

"Whatever," he replied and dry-swallowed two pills. "I just liked her tits."

"That was vulgar."

"Well, look at what you do for a living."

"I hated that movie."

He cocked his head slightly to one side. "Oh, so that's the cause of your psych-symptoms: mommy issues?"

"I am going to ignore that question."

His eyes narrowed slightly and seemed to bore holes into her. Meg glared back. "Hit a little close to home?"

She broke eye-contact first, unwilling to pursue the subject, and positive that she'd lose a battle of wits with him anyway. Consequently, she was quite surprised when after a minute he said, "I'm sorry; that was uncalled for."

Meg's head snapped back up, and she looked at him in surprise; his expression was one of genuine remorse. "Excuse me?" she asked, too stunned to say anything else.

He shifted uncomfortably against the couch. "Don't make me repeat it."

She smiled then – genuinely, for she knew an apology was a rare gift from him – and walked over to kneel in front of him. "Apology accepted," she said with a false flourish. He looked slightly bemused. She leaned in very closely to him and let her hair tent around her face. "Don't be so judgmental," she whispered against his mouth.

"You're being surprisingly forceful tonight," he said, pulling back a little, a small smile playing around the edges of his mouth. "Your last customer get you all hot-and-bothered and then spring a leak before you could get that final push over the top?"

She rocked back onto her heels. "You're my only customer today."

The side of his face twitched. "Maybe the horniness is residual."

She opened her mouth to reply, but he leaned forward and kissed her before she could. It was surprisingly chaste. He pulled back after a second. "Why do you do this?"

She was thrown off first by the kiss, and then by the question. "What?"

"Turn tricks."

She leaned back on her heels again. "Well, I'm secretly putting myself through med school."

"No," he replied matter-of-factly, "strippers put themselves through med school. Hookers are hookers."

"My boobs aren't big enough to strip. Not enough bounce."

He looked down at her breasts, still covered by her black cotton bra. "They look fine to me," he said lecherously and made a grab at the left. "Feel fine, too."

She grinned despite herself and smacked his hand away. "Ouch. They're breasts, not doorknobs. Honestly, Greg, I think that's the least erotic feel-up I've ever had."

He put his hand back, gentler this time, letting his thumb snake across her nipple, already hard because of the cold. "Now," he said, leaning towards her again, "I know that's a lie. The first time I fucked you was against a wall." He pointed at said wall with his free hand. "That wall, in fact. That's got to be less erotic." He waved dismissively towards the bookshelf in the corner. "Plus, I'm pretty sure that picture of my Great Aunt Mildred might have been looking on." He gave a mock shudder and skated his thumb across her nipple again.

She leaned in and kissed him again, letting her hands drift to the front of his shirt, while his other hand moved back and tangled in her hair. She pushed her tongue against his lips and he opened his mouth to hers; she moaned slightly despite herself, as his hands shifted position again and moved around her back to unclasp her bra. There was a faint snap, and the tension released. She shifted slightly against his mouth, shimmying and letting the flimsy material fall off of her shoulders. He made this process slightly more difficult by shoving it up towards her chin in his haste to touch her again.

He pulled back from her. "You know," he said conversationally, although he painted a slightly ridiculous picture with his hair mused, shirt unbuttoned, and lips red from kissing, "if you really wanted to put yourself through med school, I could help you study key areas covered on the MCAT anatomy section."

"Oh, how generous of you," she said sarcastically. "And whose body would we be demonstrating on again?"

He pushed himself up off of the brown leather couch and sat up straight, pulling off his red button down shirt as he did so. "Well, yours is firmer, certainly, better looking. Plus, it would be a little pathetic if I started demonstrating on myself, wouldn't it?"

She joined him on the couch, dropping her bra on the floor as she did so. "You could always invite Dr. Wilson over for an impromptu session," she said cheerfully. "I'm sure he'd offer up himself up for such a worthy cause."

He reached for her again, shoving her back against the arm of the couch. "He's a regular expert at this sort of thing. Would you give me a discount?" He bent down and kissed her neck, day-old stubble adding a new element of erotic friction. She felt herself loosening, enjoying it.

This had happened before, and it did not bode particularly well. She was not supposed to enjoy this; it was work, not play. And yet, with him, she had begun to find work enjoyable. He was really quite good at what he did, and had been, for some time now, making sure that she got something out of it, too. She wondered if making her come gave him some sense of validation for the act, excused the fact that she was a prostitute and he was a cripple paying for her. She almost never felt comfortable taking his money; actually, if he didn't hand her the cash, she wasn't sure she could ever work up the nerve to ask for it. Hardly good practice for a call girl.

His hands brought her back to the present as they worked their way firmly down her side, and slid into the crevice beneath the waist of her jeans. She was no longer cold; he was lying pointedly on top of her, and yet she didn't feel crushed. Only aroused as he made his way down her breasts, biting when it suited him, until he encountered the thick folds of her waistband. He slid the hand cupping her hip around to the front, hitting a sensitive spot with his thumb as he did so. Meg sucked in air through her teeth.

He looked up at her and smiled slightly.

She reached up and smoothed his hair back from his forehead. He smiled faintly at her again and moved his hands to the clasp of her jeans. She lifted her hips to give him easier access, keeping her eyes on his. He pulled her jeans down her hips, and off of her legs, never breaking eye contact.

She wondered, not for the first time, what kind of relationship this really was. Meg had never had a real relationship: sex in high school, a quick succession of boyfriends in college, and hooking when she left college, unsure of what she wanted to do with her life and needing to pay off her loans. If she was to be honest with herself, this continuous business relationship was probably the closest thing to an actual relationship that she had ever had. Which never sat well with her. At the age of twenty-six, she had never had a real boyfriend, never been in love, had none of the usual girl-experiences that punctuated the late teens and early twenties of every woman's life. Lack of life experience made it difficult for her to define the peculiar relationship she had with Greg, but she was fully aware that it was not one she should be having.

He leaned back over her and kissed her again, this time more gently, letting his hand move between them on the couch and down to where her panties were sticking damply to her. He touched her there and she gasped slightly against his mouth. Shifting his attention, he moved down to her neck again, keeping his fingers pressed firmly against her. She knew she was arching into him, and she didn't care. He felt good, and he was good at what he was doing. Her breathing was quickening as he kissed his way back down her stomach, never stopping what his fingers were doing to her.

She could feel the tension building inside the pit of her stomach as he stopped for a minute in all of his ministrations to pull her underwear completely off her body. If she was not mistaken, that was a whimper of frustration that escaped her defenses as she felt the absence of his weight and body warmth.

He bent over again and lifted her up more firmly against the arm of the couch. Meg was light - a mere five-five and hundred and twenty five pounds – but she recognized the upper body strength he needed to pull that one off, particularly given their awkward position on the couch. She wondered if his leg hurt doing this; if it did, he gave no indication. Plus, he had popped two Vicodin before starting, so no doubt he was sufficiently stoned. Which would explain his lack of reservation about touching her.

"Lift up for me," he said softly, his tone mellowed. Meg felt a pang of guilt, because it was the tone a normal man would use with a normal woman in this situation and, while their professional relationship was repeated a million times over throughout the world, it could hardly be considered "normal."

She did as he asked, trying to watch him in the same off-hand analytical way he sometimes watched her. If she looked closely, she could see the effects of the drugs in his eyes; slightly hooded, slightly foggier. He lifted her leg up over his shoulder and bent down, kissing her there. Her analysis was cut a bit short, however, as she inadvertently arched her back off of the couch, tangling her fingers in his hair again.

The tightness in her stomach magnified and she felt herself building towards a climax. His beard was scratchy against her thighs, and she knew that she was close to making it. She moaned and arched again, trying to give him easier access.

And, of course, he stopped.

The tension had been building, and it took Meg a minute to realize that it was starting to dissipate again. She opened her eyes only to find his blue ones looking pointedly at her. "You're an ass."

He pushed himself off of the couch and limped to the armchair. He sat down heavily. "Sticks and stones may break my bones," he replied in a condescending tone.

Meg drew her legs up and shifted to face him. She was cold again without his body heat, and Greg was not the type to keep a convenient afghan on the back of the couch. Incidentally, it would have been nice if he did, as she was now feeling over-exposed. "Oh, and words may never hurt you, but I'm sure a well-aimed kick to the nads will," she threatened.

His head was cocked slightly as he watched her. She stared back. The silence was deafening; at least, it seemed that way to her, anyway. Still, she knew that he was waiting for her to break it, and she was unwilling to give him that satisfaction. He had once given her a thorough breakdown of all of her tell-tale nervous twitches. This sort of blatant observation would have been flattering had she not been fully aware that he did it to everyone.

From across the room, she could see the corner of his mouth twitch. She narrowed her eyes. "What are you laughing at?"

"Why are you nervous?" he asked her, his tone slightly mocking. "You must find yourself in this position fairly often given your profession."

"I'm not nervous," retorted Meg, sitting up quickly. "I'm annoyed." She feigned thoughtfulness. "Or, more accurately, frustrated."

"You're nervous," he repeated emphatically, stressing the last word. "You're gnawing on your bottom lip again. You only do that when you're nervous."

Meg caught herself and stopped chewing on her lip.

He smiled slightly with self-satisfaction. "Although I could understand why you'd be frustrated."

Her green eyes narrowed. "This amuses you, doesn't it?" She looked around her and picked up his discarded red shirt.

"Oh, infinitely," he answered with what could only be described as a smirk.

Meg slid his shirt over her bare shoulders and buttoned it. She was small and fine-boned, so it hung loosely off of her. She pulled her legs up underneath the shirt and hugged them to her chest.

"You're going to pop the buttons off," he complained.

She tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. "Well, if you kept your house a normal temperature, I wouldn't need the damned thing," she answered and curled more tightly into herself in an effort to warm up. The shirt smelled like him: laundry soap, his soap, shampoo, and a faint musky smell that was uniquely his.

"If you'd put on some weight, you'd retain more heat," he answered her.

She rested her chin on her knees and looked at him. "I'm well-within range for my height," she answered him matter-of-factly. "Besides, you've never complained before."

"You've lost some recently," he replied.

Meg uncurled herself and stood up, letting the red shirt fall around her. The material hung half-way down her thighs. She walked towards him slowly, fully aware that she looked good in his oxford shirt: not only did its looseness accentuate her still-youthful figure, but the red brought out the pink undertones of her complexion and made her red-brown hair look even redder in the soft-light. She stopped in front of him and reached out to a hand to touch his face; he leaned into it slightly. "Am I no longer curvy enough for you?"

His left hand came up slowly along the curve of one hip to rest lightly on her waist. "I'm not complaining," he answered her. "Yet. But if you lose much more, I'm going to have to insist on examining you."

She leaned forward and brushed his lips lightly with hers. "You could examine me now, you know."

"You'd like that wouldn't you, you brazen hussy."

She kissed him lightly again. "Yes, doctor," she answered him coquettishly. "I don't feel well."

"Yeah," he answered sarcastically, "there's nothing like role-playing work to turn me on."

She laughed and dropped the act. "Don't worry, I don't role-play unless specifically asked to, and only then reluctantly.

He leaned forward and kissed her again. It was a serious kiss. His right hand drifted to the side of her face and tangled in her hair again. Her mouth parted as he pushed forward forcefully. They stayed in that position for a few minutes, his thumb stroking her face, her hand moving down his chest, partially to help her keep her balance, partially to just to increase the physical contact between them.

She pulled away first, and rested her forehead against his; they were both breathing heavily. She found his hand with hers. "Come on," she said, pulling him up.

His crippled leg hindered the fluidity of the movement, but he got to his feet with a minimum of swearing. She started pulling him towards the bedroom, but he stopped her and pulled her back towards him for another kiss. His arms wrapped around her back, pulling her towards him, and she wrapped an arm around the back of his neck. Habit had taught her how to avoid knocking his thigh. This was familiar territory for both of them, and the position was one that they had gradually developed to compensate for height differences and his physical handicap.

Again, she pulled away first. "Come on," she repeated and began pulling him towards the hallway that led to his bedroom.

"Alright," he answered, "but you're about to trip over the coffee table, so you might want to turn around watch where you're going."

Meg turned around. Sure enough there was his black-lacquered coffee table, inconveniently placed in the pathway to the bedroom. "Christ, you really need to rearrange the room."

"Just because the table is interfering with the swiftness of your booty-call," he answered pompously, "is no reason to insult my home-decorating."

She smiled slightly, "Greg, your home-decorating blows. I've never met someone in more need of a feng shui how-to book."

He rolled his eyes. "You are the most critical, anal-retentive – oww!"

Meg had poked him rather hard in the shoulder. "Be nice."

"Not in my nature," he answered, rubbing at his shoulder. "As I was saying, the most critical, anal-retentive, unprofessional, wanton…" he trailed off. Meg raised an eyebrow at him. "You made me lose the punchline," he accused.

Meg shook her head and pulled him around the coffee table. "It probably wasn't going to be very good anyway."

He pulled her towards him again. "I really am insulted that you don't appreciate my sense of humor. It is the perfect combination of stinging sarcasm, piercing wit, and lechery." He kissed her again, pushing her backwards down the hallway. She stumbled with the effort of walking backwards, but she was reluctant to break the contact. She moaned against his mouth as he ran his thumb along the curve of her spine.

They stumbled against a doorframe as he misestimated the degree of turn necessary to move cleanly into the bedroom.

"Mother fucker," he hissed as the suddenness of the collision jarred his leg. Meg leaned in to kiss him again, and he responded quickly enough to reassure her that the pain was nothing serious. He redirected her, and they moved cleanly into the room. His hands moved towards the buttons of the red shirt she was wearing, and hers shifted down towards the buttons of his jeans. She pushed them hurriedly down his hips as he buried his face in her neck, rubbing his rough cheek against her shoulder. Meg shivered and wrapped her hands around the back of his neck. She could feel herself wanting him, and she knew that it was for more than just sex. She closed her eyes, trying to push the thought out of her mind and concentrate on the physical.

With a grunt, he pushed her down onto the bed. This was the part that Meg usually let him direct, so as to cause minimum damage to his body, but it took major self-control for her not to pull him down with her. She shifted on his blankets to make herself more comfortable as he stepped out of his jeans and gingerly sat down on the bed. Immediately, he was kissing her again as he slowly stretched out his long frame beside hers. His slender, artistic hands found their way into his still partially-buttoned shirt and gently rubbed one of her breasts. She sighed contentedly against his mouth and started tugging on the white t-shirt he was still wearing. He shifted back and she sat up so she could pull it over his head. He leaned back over her and kissed her neck again. Meg's breathing quickened and grew ragged as he worked his way down, unbuttoning the few remaining buttons still in his way. God, she wanted him. She closed her eyes tightly; this was not a good thing.

He shoved the material off her shoulders and blew lightly onto her stomach. She hissed and ran her fingers through his hair. He felt so good.

"Stop teasing," she said crossly, trying to reintroduce the bantering tone they had had earlier.

"I'm not teasing," he said with that self-satisfied smirk. "You're just overly-eager."

"I am no such thing," she replied pulling him back and kissing him fiercely on the mouth. He let out a little hiss as she reached down and rubbed his erection through the cotton material of his boxers. Not breaking contact, Meg shifted their positions, pushing him back against his pillows so that she was leaning over him, the ends of hair brushing across his bare chest.

She pulled back and pushed a lock of hair behind her ear. "Ready?" The question was quick, and she really wasn't looking for an answer; she needed to finish this quickly before she accidentally said something stupid that they'd both regret.

His blue eyes were hazy with arousal as he leaned up to kiss her again. He groaned against her mouth. Meg, recognizing from long-professional experience the meaning of that noise, reached over him and opened the top drawer of the bedside table. She rummaged through for the pack of condoms she knew was there. Her hand found one, and she pulled it out.

She rocked back on her heels and reached for his boxers. Her hand hesitated: she couldn't do this. Not as things stood now. She pulled back and looked at him again. He was watching her with those unnervingly perceptive blue eyes. "What?" he asked, sensing the change in her demeanor.

"Greg – " she began.

"Maggie," he imitated.

She gnawed on her lip nervously. This had the potential to blow up into an ugly situation. She took a deep breath; there was really no way to dance around the subject, so she chose to say it as bluntly as possible. "I don't want you to pay me."

His eyes narrowed, a dangerous sign. "This is a professional relationship. You provide, and I pay you for your services."

She touched his shoulder gently. He didn't look like he was pleased by her touch, but he didn't shrug it off, either. "I think we both know that this is far from professional."

"It is to me." He sat up quickly and swung his legs over the side of the bed.

Meg's hand dropped to her side. "Well," she replied, "that may be, but it isn't to me, and I don't feel right taking your money." She sat up and looked at the broad expanse of his back, deathly white in the pale light that came from the uncurtained bedroom window.

There was a long, uncomfortable pause. Meg could hear his breathing, and she had to clamp her hands between her thighs to keep herself from touching him again.

His response, when it came, was not what she expected. "I don't want your pity fuck," he said coldly.

Meg looked at the back of his head, shocked. She wasn't sure quite what she had been expecting, but it hadn't been that. "That's not what this is." She wanted him to turn and look at her, but his face stayed resolutely pointed towards the wall. She felt herself gnawing on her lip again. "I don't want your money because I'd fuck you without it. I don't need the money as an incentive. I do it because I want to."

He didn't say anything. She sat there quietly, waiting for him. Given his reaction, she couldn't decide whether or not she was happy that she had brought this up now. She saw his shoulders rise as he took in a deep breath, and watched them fall again as he let it out slowly.

The red numerals of his alarm clock moved upwards once, twice, three times, and Greg stayed quiet. Meg shifted again. There were only a few inches between her knees and him, but it felt like a mile. She licked her lips. "Do you want me to leave?" She waited for his response. The numerals on the clock changed again, and he still didn't answer.

Reluctantly, she moved to the foot of the bed and stood up. She hoped that he would grab her, tell her to wait, but she made it to the door of the bedroom without a response from him. She paused in the doorway and turned back to him. He was staring at the carpet. "Look," she said, "I'm sorry. It just didn't feel right anymore."

He glanced up at her. A shadow bisected his face, so she couldn't read the expression in his eyes. "I need this to be a professional relationship," he said simply.

Meg sighed and leaned her head against wood of the doorframe. "I'm telling you, Greg, it can't be. Not for me."

"Why not?" The question was said as a challenge, and Meg was surprised at his childishness.

"Because a person can't control their emotions," she replied. "I'm not going to accept your money and pretend for your sake that that's all this is. Because it's not. And I don't for one minute believe that that's all it is for you either."

"You're wrong."

Meg shrugged. "Maybe, but I don't really think so. We've known each other for a long time, both biblically and in a much more intimate sense. You don't fuck a person this constantly for this long and not learn something about them psychologically or otherwise. Even if the pretense is that it is just about sex."

He looked back down at the floor. "I think that you should leave."

Meg felt a tightness in her chest that was unfamiliar and completely unwelcome. It took her a minute to identify. She let her shoulders sag, as an overwhelming sense of loss washed over her. "Right." Her voice was strained. She turned to back towards the living room.

"Don't forget to leave the key on the coffee table," he said as she rounded the corner. She looked at him one last time. He hadn't moved, but his voice was rougher than usual.

She practically ran down the hall, afraid that if she looked at him any longer, she'd start to cry. The tears were hard to fight back as she got dressed, throwing on panties, jeans, sweater, and shoes in quick succession. Her bra, she didn't bother with, just shoved it into the pocket of her coat. She was in such a hurry to take his key off of the key ring, that she chipped a nail in the process. The tears almost overcame her defenses then, but she swore softly instead.

With a shuddering sigh, she placed the key gently onto the January issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Then, trying to gather her composure, she straightened her shoulders and walked outside. The cold was sharp, and she took another deep, shuddering breath, trying to clear her senses. The moon was bright against the snow on the sidewalk, and the sharpness helped her gain control of her emotions again.

She walked carefully to her car, careful not to get snow into her shoes, and drove away without looking back. It wasn't until she got home and had finally let the tears come that she remembered her barrette on his kitchen counter.