Title: "Royal Flush"
Word Count: 1068
Rating: T
Summary: Red. It's red he remembers from that moment on: the red of her dress, the scarlet fire of last-minute flowers. Red, like that lipstick she wears that drives him insane, like the printed tabs on the folders she'd handed him what seemed like a lifetime ago.
Author's Notes: Ohmygosh. Well, if I was worried about the longer story I'd posted earlier, this one -- which has been in my head in VERY clear images since about this time yesterday morning -- feels like a shower in a spring rain to me, after that one. I wanted something amusing and yet still a little intense, something to reflect... well, reflect the feelings that were there, and this single overriding compulsion I have to see the events depicted herein happen. laughs. However, even I'm not that naïve: I know a fantasy when I see one... or write one, as the case may be. I'm not in denial, I'm not in denial... What surprised me about this one is the angsty undertone running through it. I was actually a little glad: I think it makes it just a leeeeetle bit more poignant.

cincoflex, here's lookin' at you. Thanks for the support. And everything else.


The quietly thrumming engines of the 747 are a soporific drone that he feels more than hears, and he takes a moment to marvel again at the perfect little self-contained world of the airplane: a little over half-full, this red-eye flight halfway across the country, and all around him people staring glassy-eyed at upside-down books or drifting obliviously in their little private headphoned existences.

When he looks down at Lisa Cuddy in the seat beside him, though, she's asleep: her dark hair a spill of careless waves across her shoulders, lips parted; and as House watches he can see a thin scrim of fog color the window from her breath.

This is insane, this escape from Princeton-Plainsboro as if it and the relentless if eccentrically oxymoronic normalcy of their professional lives were a prison, it's completely and utterly insane, and the two of them had brushed hands and elbows over their foil-wrapped beef and chicken. He'd pulled his knees in with a grunt to let her through to the restroom when her stomach had rose up in rebellion again; she'd slapped his arm twice so far since takeoff and he'd brushed back her hair while she slept.

Nervously giddy and free, and absolutely unlike anything either of them ever had been or ever will be again.

Snapshots; moments.

She doesn't wear white. Nothing spoken or noted except in snickering passage, but instead she wears red, a deep crimson shade just this side of sinful and half a step shy of pure glory. Off her shoulders, the dress, the pale perfection of her skin and he's in dark jacket and slacks, the dress shirt to match Cuddy's red and even so far as the pocket square.

Even his tennis shoes are highlighted in red. That's class for you, right there.

Red. It's red he remembers from that moment on: the red of her dress, the scarlet fire of last-minute flowers. Red, like that lipstick she wears that drives him insane, like the printed tabs on the folders she'd handed him what seemed like a lifetime ago -- anonymous donors, anonymous sperm, and he'd dragged his heels and threw monkey wrenches until the night he'd found himself in her arms, unspoken words in his office and something different in their touch until Lisa Cuddy finally realized just exactly why Gregory House hated those faceless donors so much.

They weren't him.

Never would be.

Who you are matters.

Red, the cheesy draped cloths and the hangings that only half-heartedly cover the front doors, only half-heartedly cover giggling young couples in love. Some of them not so but impulsive enough with age, and when Cuddy had come to him just after midnight on a sleet-lashed Saturday night she'd held up the box and he'd known.

Red, the plastic seal on the home-pregnancy kit.

Red, the flush in her cheeks that night, the flush of her skin beneath his mouth.

And red, like the Princeton-Plainsboro letterhead that all of the pink slips were printed on. Like the ones you got, say, for sleeping with a subordinate and having his baby.

Terrified and shaky and trembling, she is, exultant and both of them wryly amused by this absolute departure from reality... and when she turns to him he curls his lip and wonders just how he'd ever managed to resist this force of nature for so long.

And it's red once the stocky little minister has shut up, after they've slunk out the back to then strut through the front, red beneath her perfect slender hands as they turn three cards and green chips rattle beneath his wrist. Red like the ace of diamonds, the ace of hearts, and she's nudged him and grabbed his elbow and steered him to the poker tables before he even knows what hit him. Together they're the worst nightmare that this particular table's ever seen; but after four hands she's already left him in the dust. She's good, and she knows it, and once when she rakes it in on a flush he lays his hand on top of hers and grins.

Red, the curtains in the room upstairs, and her dress a small sea of crimson with his slacks a darker puddle, enfolded in his arms and her back arched beneath his touch, and although this may be only the first time they've felt safe with bare skin hot against bare skin, the fever of their touches speaks volumes that it might as well have been this way for years. Red, her swollen lip between his teeth, the pressure between his thighs and dripping, gasping, from the tone of her unsteady breath.

Ace of hearts, ace of diamonds.

And against his ear, then, "Greg..."

"...House?"

He blinked, nearly startling up out of the chair in which he was sprawled, but it took a few moments for his overdriven brain to catch up and she'd managed to scowl fiercely at him, raise her arms and let them fall to her sides -- Slap! -- in pure and utter frustration, repeating his name much more loudly("House!") before he was able to focus.

"Mmmff?"

Cuddy shook her head then, closing her eyes as if she had the mother of all migraines. "You weren't listening to a thing I said, were you?" An impatient huff of breath, and when he gave her a tight innocent little smile and shook his own head(Nope), she did raise a palm to her forehead. "Fine. I said, if you have a problem with doing--"

He rose from the chair, then, red-tabbed folder in hand and reaching for his cane with the other, a twinge in his thigh and her office full of golden light: silent, perfect, professional. Her expectant look.

And he shook his head again, safe enough to trust his voice while his back was turned, "Nope. No problem. What I'm here for, after all. Weeding the wheat from the morons."

A dismissive snort.

Almost away clean, then, until he had his hand on the doorknob and she stopped him again: "What were you thinking about? You were a million miles away."

House turned, then, for a single moment. Smiled at her charmingly.

"Poker," he said, and closed the door behind him.