Kith and Kin -- Chapter 12
Disclaimer: Not mine.
A/N: Call the Vatican, it's a miracle! I'm updating. I would promise to not be so long again, but as you know from the last time, I'm a horrible liar. This chapter is partially dedicated to chocolatequeen whose lovely review seemed to spark my muse into finally finishing this chapter.
House stared at the lumpy oatmeal as he wondered how exactly he had ended up in this situation. If someone had told him last week that he would be with Cuddy at her father's sickbed offering what could be considered moral support, he would have laughed in their faces and then sent them off for a psych evaluation, and yet here he was.
He rubbed his face anxiously. The last time he had comforted anyone like this was when Stacy's mom had died. He remembered her clinging to him as she cried and feeling absolutely useless in the face of her misery. He had laughed when she thanked him for being there for her, but she had insisted that he had really helped her. His mind flashed back to holding Cuddy that morning and how nice she'd felt in his arms and how much nicer it had been to kiss her. He sighed. This had all the markings of becoming complicated. A huge portion of his brain was screaming to get out of Dodge. He was in dangerous territory with her, but then he would remember how grateful she looked to have him there, and he couldn't quite make himself leave.
House finally lumped all the oatmeal together and got up to throw it out. He pushed all of the unwanted feelings away and decided that he was bored. Surely there was something around here to distract him.
Cuddy had made it back up to her father's room in time to give him a kiss before he went into surgery. Because of her 'status' they had been given a small private room to wait in, away from the hustle and bustle of the hospital. Jack and Patrick were half-heartedly playing their PSPs as Cheryl crocheted and listened to the television. When Cuddy had asked what she was making, Cheryl had blushed and admitted that she just needed something to do with her hands and wasn't making anything in particular. Cuddy, herself, was trying to make do with a very old Newsweek, but was rapidly losing what little interest she had in the magazine when she had picked it up. She wished she had work to do. She could probably get someone to fax her the latest Department Requisitions. They needed to be reviewed, and it would help occupy her mind.
Before she could get up to call anyone, the noise of yelling accompanied by the thump of a cane and an uneven gait filled the hallway outside of the room. House. She should have known that it was physically impossible for him to behave himself for more than an hour at a time. Cuddy sighed in frustration as she geared herself up for the upcoming battle even as she tried to ignore the part of her that welcomed the distraction.
"He's an idiot! You know I'm right!" House said with a scowl as Dr. Jacobson, the Dean of Franklin Hospital, angrily lead him to their little waiting room.
"Dr. Cuddy," he said. "I ask that you either you keep Dr. House with you at all times, or I will have him escorted off the premises."
"What happened?" she asked, trying to fight the urge to smack House for inability to play well with others.
"I was right," House insisted once again.
"That may be so, Dr. House, but you had no right to insult Dr. Bricknell the way you did."
"He's a moron who would probably diagnose Dengue fever as case of the sniffles."
"Dr. Cuddy –,"
"Don't worry. He'll stay here and behave," she said, interrupting him mid-tirade. She didn't want to hear it. It wouldn't be anything she hadn't heard before. Hell – it probably wouldn't be anything she hadn't said before.
The older man turned and glared at House before leaving.
"I guess I can kiss that job offer goodbye," he said with a smirk.
"Do I want to know what that was about?" she asked.
"Probably not," he replied. Cuddy just glared at him. "Hey! I saved a guy's life. Isn't that what we doctors are supposed to do?" Her glare intensified and he relented. "Some idiot was about to discharge a patient who was obviously not well -- Idiot Boy was probably on his way to screw some nurse in the on call room. I stepped in before the patient completely collapsed and saved the day. Dr. Schweitzer there should be thanking me instead of forcing me into time-out."
"I'm sure that probably has something to do with the words coming out of your mouth as you were saving the patient's life."
"So I called the moron a moron. Big deal."
"I'm sure it is to him. Deans of Medicine get cranky when their doctors get publicly humiliated like that. It tends to lead to lawsuits."
"The guy deserves to be sued! He shouldn't be allowed to practice medicine." House paused and gave her an appraising look. "You know I'm right, Cuddy."
Cuddy closed her eyes as she resisted the urge to scream. He was right, damn it, but she understood Jacobson's dilemma. Incompetence was something that should be handled quickly and quietly. Donors tended to get stingy with their money if a hospital's reputation was tarnished. She finally opened her eyes to find House staring at her intently. "Sit," was all she said.
"Woof," House replied before heading to a couch, pulling out a puzzle book from his pocket and sitting down. Cuddy sighed and followed suit. House pulled out another puzzle book and threw it at her. She looked at him questioningly.
"So you don't break down and have Wilson fax over some work for you to do. If you try and do anything in the state you're in, you're liable to end up approving ten new beds in the ER, and you're going to need that money for other things like replacing broken MRI machines."
Cuddy snorted, "House, the next MRI machine you break is coming directly out of your paycheck."
"I notice you didn't deny wanting to have Wilson fax over some work for you to do. Don't tell me you already asked him?"
"No," she replied indignantly.
"You were going to, though." It wasn't a question so Cuddy didn't answer. She was suddenly aware of Jack, Patrick and Cheryl watching them with various degrees of interest. She'd forgotten they hadn't been alone. The way House could command her attention at times almost frightened her. Cuddy turned her attention to the puzzle book. It was a Sudoku book. She'd seen people playing it around the hospital, and she knew the rules, but she'd never taken the time to try it herself. She pulled out her purse and began to rummage around for a pen.
"Got another one in there?" House asked as she pulled one out. She looked around some more and handed him one, and they worked on their puzzles in silence.
Cuddy was unsure of how much time had passed when she heard a loud grumble. She looked up to Patrick, who was embarrassedly covering his stomach, his pink cheeks a nice contrast to his blue hair.
"I guess Punk Boy is hungry," House said.
"Patrick, it's way past lunch. Why don't you guys go to the cafeteria to get something," Cheryl said.
"Mom, when was the last time you ate something?" Patrick asked.
"I'm not hungry."
"Well then, neither am I," he answered, although another gurgling noise said something else.
"Mom, face it. We're not getting anything unless you come too," Jack said, supporting his brother. Cheryl looked over at Cuddy.
"It's fine. I'll stay here. You take the guys and get some lunch."
"Can I bring you anything?" she asked.
"A salad and water would be great," she said.
"Some chips and a Coke. And I think I saw some apple pie when I was down there earlier that looked edible. Oh and a dry reuben with absolutely no pickles."
Cuddy sighed as she reached to get some money for Cheryl, who shook her head. "I've got it, don't worry." Cuddy was about to protest, but Cheryl wouldn't let her. "The boys told me that you ordered Chinese last night so it's no problem. Come on, guys. We'll be right back." Cheryl and the boys left, and Cuddy tried to turn back to her puzzle, but she could feel House turn his studious gaze on her.
"What?" she finally snapped when she couldn't take it anymore.
"Enjoying the Sudoku?"
"Yes," she said, trying, but not totally succeeding, to keep the annoyance out of her voice. She knew he was up to something. "Thank you for getting it for me."
"Don't thank me too much. I used your credit card to pay for it."
"What?" she asked, reaching for her purse before noticing House's best, 'I got you' face. "Grow up."
His grin widened before pointing back to the book. "It was either that or 'Playboy Illustrated Trivia Book' from the Adult Bookstore across the street, but then I remembered how seriously you take this big sister thing and thought you wouldn't want to be responsible for corrupting them so I went with the sudoku instead."
Cuddy rolled her eyes, pretending to be put out. "Damn it. You mean I could be answering questions about who was Playmate of the Year in 1984?"
"That would be Barbara Edwards."
Cuddy chuckled before looking down at the book and stroking the page. "Thanks," she said softly. She didn't just mean for the book – she meant for him staying and helping take her mind off of what was going on. She didn't say all of that, knowing that he would hate to have it verbalized, but she hoped that he understood how she felt.
House shuffled uncomfortably. "Yeah, well … anything's better than Clinic Duty."
She chuckled, knowing that normally he really would rather do Clinic Duty than willingly spend time with a patient's family. "I don't know, House," she said with humor in her voice. "I think I have the power to ruin your big old curmudgeonly image forever."
He looked a little stricken for a moment – probably at the thought of what certain people would do with the information of his being nice – before recovering nicely with a sneer. "Like anyone would ever believe you," he stated certainly. "I've got a lifetime of ass-like behavior on my side."
She merely raised an eyebrow and gave him a knowing look. "I'll bring Patrick and Jack down as witnesses. They seem to actually like you for some reason."
"Wow -- using your brothers to further your nefarious plans," he said appreciatively. "You are so evil. Which I have to admit is a big turn on."
Cuddy smiled and she saw his gaze fall to her lips for a second. She was instantly thrown back to the early morning kiss. Her heart rate increased even as she berated herself for letting him affect her like this – especially in a hospital waiting room as her father had life threatening surgery. She closed her eyes and took a steadying breath.
"House," she whispered, not sure what she wanted. Her father's words about complicated sometimes being worth it echoed through her head. Of course, he didn't know House and his kind of complicated.
"Your brothers think I like you," he said in a low voice.
Her breath hitched and she opened her eyes and looked at him. "Really?" she asked not as smoothly as she would have liked. He scooted in closer to her.
"Yeah. Of course, I told them it was all about your ass." She laughed a little as she watched him lean in even closer. "I would follow that ass just about anywhere – Mount Everest, Timbuktu, Newark …" his voice trailed off as his lips brushed against hers. She shivered.
"You'd think I could use that power to get you in the Clinic," she said as she softly returned the kiss and raised her hand to run her fingers through his hair.
He pulled back with serious expression. "I said just about anywhere. Unless you're willing to play 'Doctor' in one of the exam rooms. I think I could get behind that plan." He leaned down and kissed her again. She smiled and allowed him to deepen the kiss, losing herself in the feelings he was creating. She finally pulled back and tucked her head underneath his chin as she tried to regain her equilibrium. Her eyes fell to Cheryl's yarn bag, and she stiffened as it hit her exactly what she was doing and where she was doing it. What was wrong with her? She was making out in a hospital waiting room where anybody could walk in while her father was having surgery.
"Hey," House said and she pulled back to meet his gaze. "This isn't your hospital. You don't have any image that needs to be upheld."
She looked away. "Yeah, because no one here knows who either one of us are," she pointed out sarcastically.
"Cuddy, I hate to break it to you, but everyone in the medical community already thinks we're boinking like bunnies. Supposedly, it's either how you make me 'behave' or that I am so good in bed that you can't bring yourself to fire me."
"Like you've ever behaved for me."
"Sex god it is, then," he said with a grin. He leaned closer and leered at her, "You know, I might behave with a little of the right incentive."
She put her head in her hands, not sure if she wanted to groan or laugh. Why had he kissed her? She fought the urge to ask him that and the other million questions that were buzzing around in her head, afraid that if she did ask them, then he would remember that he really didn't like her 95 percent of the time and decide to go home, and she didn't want him to leave. Not yet.
"Cuddy, it's really hard to banter if you don't keep up your end of the conversation," House said, interrupting her thoughts. She looked up. "I inferred that I might willingly do Clinic Duty in exchange for sexual favors, and you're supposed to pretend to get all offended, even though your wardrobe screams that you're obviously open to negotiations, an then you're supposed to spout something about me keeping my job, blah, blah, blah and not ending up as a homeless person, blah, blah, blah."
Any response she would have made was stopped by the return of Patrick, Jack and Cheryl. Cuddy jumped back from House, aware of exactly how close they were sitting to each other. Cheryl didn't seem to notice, but she caught Jack and Patrick exchanging matching eye rolls. Guilt immediately churned up in her stomach. She was quite possibly the worst daughter/sister in the entire world. Who, outside of House's stupid soap operas, made out in a hospital during a family member's life threatening surgery?
She felt a kick to her leg and turned to House who was giving her an exasperated look. She gave him one right back. He may not care what anyone else thought, but she did. He shook his head with a grimace.
"Where's my food?" he asked the others, turning away from her.
"Hold your horses," Patrick griped as he starting pulling food out of the bag.
"I'm going to go wash my hands," Cuddy said, wanting to get out of the room for a little bit to pull herself together.
She quickly exited and headed for the restroom. She was almost afraid to look at her reflection in the mirror, but it wasn't as bad as she feared. Her hair looked a little mussed, and her cheeks were still flushed -- although that was probably from embarrassment -- but there was nothing that screamed that she'd been making out a bit in the hospital. She washed her hands and walked back into the hallway where she ran into Patrick who was smirking at her knowingly.
"You know, I always thought that Grey's Anatomy exaggerated the amount of hooking up that goes on in hospitals, but now I'm not so sure."
Cuddy could feel her face turn red once more – she never blushed this much – as she sputtered and tried to organize the million thoughts that came blazing through her mind.
"Oh God," she finally got out. "Do you think your mom knows?"
"No. She's too worried about Dad to notice anything else."
Cuddy repressed a groan. She didn't think it was possible for her to feel any guiltier than she already did, but apparently she was wrong.
"I don't want you to think that I'm not worried about Dad," she began. "I am. I don't know what's wrong with me," she said as she plopped down on a couch in a small lounge area.
"I'm not mad," Patrick assured her, sitting down next to her. "I actually think it's kind of nice, in an old people getting together kind of way."
"What!" she yelled, not sure whether to be horrified or offended.
"He's obviously got the hots for you, and you seem to like each other well enough."
"He doesn't like me," Cuddy said without thinking and immediately wished she could pull the words back into her mouth.
Patrick looked at her with utter disbelief. "Are you nuts? A guy just doesn't hang out in a hospital waiting room with a girl he doesn't like. He can't keep his eyes off of you. He's keeping tabs of how much you're eating and that you aren't completely stressed. And he totally yelled at Dad faced his wrath for you, which takes some guts. You're only that nice to people you don't like if you're Mother Teresa, and House ain't no Mother Teresa."
"No, but House enjoys yelling at people. He likes pissing them off," she wearily explained to him. Could this day get any more surreal? She'd kissed House twice and was now discussing her love life with her teenage brother as her father was having a massive tumor removed. "And as for the other stuff ..." she paused, wondering why she was sharing like this, but she couldn't quite make herself stop. "Look, I will admit that there is a certain attraction between House and myself, but this is not how we usually behave around one another, and when we get back to our normal environment …" she stopped as she felt tears prick the back of her eyes, but forced herself to go on. "When we get back to Princeton then everything will go back to normal, and he'll more than likely act like this little aberration never happened." She took a deep breath and forced a smile to her face. "Which is probably for the best. House is House. There's no middle ground with him, and I am his boss which means that we're always in conflict." She gave him a wry expression. "You've seen how acts here, and believe it or not, this is him on his best behavior. He can't stand me most of the time."
Patrick raised his eyebrows in surprised amusement. "He likes you, Lisa. When Jack told me that you were coming up, I wasn't sure if I wanted you here. I don't know you. You've always been almost a taboo subject with Dad. So I asked House about you because he seemed like someone who wouldn't lie to be nice. He told me that you were smart and funny and weren't entirely horrible to be around, which is probably a compliment, coming from him."
Cuddy felt a tear break free and she impatiently wiped it away. She couldn't believe that House had said those things about her, but at the same time, she didn't want Patrick's words to give her hope that they could ever be ... more. She knew that House liked her on some level, but it had never been enough.
"It's complicated," she finally told Patrick who seemed to be waiting for some sort of response. She could tell that he really didn't understand. She couldn't blame him. She didn't really understand either. Taking a deep breath, she tried to regain some control over her emotions and looked down the hallway. "We should probably get back before they send out a search party." She turned back to look at him with a genuine smile. "Besides, I'm sure hearing me ramble on about things you probably don't care about isn't what you were hoping for when you planned this little ambush."
Patrick shrugged and got up. "I was hoping to turn you bright pink so I was pretty successful. The rest of the stuff ... well I guess there are worst things I could be doing."
Cuddy smiled and hooked her arm around his. "Patrick … I know it's kind of weird, but thanks. I think I needed to get some of that stuff off my chest."
"No problem. It's nice to think about something other than the surgery for five minutes," he said sadly.
"Yeah," Cuddy agreed as she followed Patrick back to the waiting room.
tbc -- hopefully soon, but no promises.
You know the drill ... :-)