Wilson looks down at his feet, his hands on his hips, and says "The stairway to the roof is unlocked."

Black and white blurs of conceit spin in front of her face for a moment. Cuddy pauses in the process of scanning the document, her hand stilling on the red-tipped pen. She forces her attention from the paper and looks him over. He's rumpled- as rumpled as Wilson gets anyway. His shirt is not so nicely tucked anymore and his tie is an inch too far to the right. His cheeks are too red, like he's been standing outside for a while, or he's coming down with something. A rumpled Wilson, though, is something of concern if she pays attention long enough. Nine times out of ten it's about House and eight of those times, avoidance is a good enough solution to the problem. The only worry is in the anticipation. She never really imagined what hiring House would force her to do, but she's grown accustomed and she knows when she's really needed and when she can blow it off.

"And?" Cuddy looks back down to the bound paper in front of her, its self-righteous phrases, its strict format. Everything is forced and she wishes that it was easier. It never is.

It's supposed to be locked. It's dangerous up there."

Why should he care? She asks him and he shrugs, says: "I thought you should know."

He leaves, closing the door behind him. She looks at the flashing red light on the phone, the voicemail she'd listened to as she was trying to focus on the proposal she's editing for Obstetrics. She hadn't wanted to answer the phone and was glad she didn't. Stacy's message had been brief and to the point. Her resignation was in her inbox. Maybe they could get a coffee a little later. She was going back. Soon. There was nothing in the tone of her voice that indicated anything was wrong. The fact that House wasn't mentioned at all was the interesting part.

Cuddy puts her pen down and closes the packet in front of her. It's nearing 8PM anyway and it's been a long day. She's tired and she needs to get to the gym before heading home. She slips the packet into her briefcase, puts on her coat, and heads for the door. She reaches the reception desk and as she glances towards Rebecca to wave goodbye, she sees only a cracked fence of curiosity looming before her. Cursing Wilson, House, and herself, she can't help but go to it instead of to her waiting car. By the time she has turned and hit the button for the elevator, its not only curiosity, but concern that drives her towards the roof.

Her feet already ache from wearing her heels all day, but she climbs the concrete stairs anyway, feeling the cold rush of winter air blowing into the cracks. She hopes Wilson really was talking about orderlies because she doesn't know what to do if it's House up here, moping for one reason or another, facing down his demons or whatever he calls them. She doesn't know how to handle House the human when she's got no leverage.

The wind helps her to push the door open. It is, indeed, unlocked, but there are no orderlies and the only cigarettes are weeks, if not months, old. No one has been up here in a while. Her eyes slowly adjust to the dim orange lighting and she withdraws her keys from her pocket, preparing to lock up.

"You haven't called the negotiation squad yet, have you?"

The keys drop out of her hands onto the ground. Her right hand flies up to her chest to cover the pounding in her chest. Adrenaline surges and then settles into her veins, unpurged. "Jesus, House..." she gasps, carefully squatting down to get her keys. When she stands back up, he's watching her and she gives him a disappointed stare in return.

"I haven't prepared my list of demands. But at least now, I have a hostage."

She keeps her stare for a moment, and pockets her keys while she assesses the situation. He's on the ledge, his feet straight out in front of him, back resting against the brick. There's a few moments, split seconds that she imagines him falling off of it, flailing wildly as he plunders to his death. She should be laughing at the image because it's amusing and it would be relief to some extent, but her heart is still racing and she doesn't know how to keep him from jumping. She takes a step closer and that's when she realizes that the ledge only drops ten feet down to the next floor. There is minimal risk and she feels the knot of tension leaving her shoulders. The pounding in her chest slows.

"If you were going to jump, you would've done it already." She walks closer to him and puts her briefcase against the wall. With her arms crossed, protecting her from brisk air, she faces him directly. "What are you doing up here?"

"What are you doing up here?"

"Security was doing an alarm test. The door was unlocked." It's a lie and not a good one.

He sighs and his head bumps against the brick wall. A wary grin soothes the lines around his lips. He's so sure of himself. "If that was true, they'd be up here instead of you. Wilson sent you."

There's a moment here when she doesn't know what to say, how to say it. She should say she's sorry about it, about his loss, but he won't take that well. He's done it to himself really. She could tell him to look on the bright side of things, but all there's left for him is a tiny glimmer really, a distant beacon hidden in the fog of past indiscretions and present pain. He's nearing fifty and though she herself feels some of these same things, this same loss of a life, she thinks she may still have time while his is wearing too thin. Her arms come uncrossed and a hand goes to her eyes, rubbing the tiredness out of them. She leans against the wall and sighs.



He pulls his suit coat closer to his body, shielding himself. He must be cold. It's nearing the freezing point. There may be snow tonight.

"You of all people should realize that... it was a bad idea, House. You've both changed. She's married and you can't..."

He shakes his head, turns away from her and glances out into the city. Eastern seaboard lights illuminate the cloud-enshrouded sky. There are no stars save for the lights of office buildings and remnants of Christmas decorations left on far too long. She stops and looks out into the lights with him. "I'm sorry."

"Well, it is your fault."

This is him. Deflect and blame. There is no pain that is his own. There's probably nothing she can say or do to get him past this, but she's willing to face him at least, to make him get to work and to get him off of this roof so she can lock up and go home.

"What did she say to you?"

"Nothing." His voice uplifts. It's stoic, yet grim, logical. She isn't sure whether it's a lie or not. She has no way to tell.

"She's leaving."


"And you wanted her to stay."

"No point in that really. I'm way too busy to have to put up with..." His voice fades away and for a moment, she thinks it falters.

"If you break down right now, I'm pushing you off this roof." She says it half joking, but he barely responds. His hands shift in his lap. He looks down for a moment and then up at her again. He once again becomes solid and unwavering. Maybe it was an illusion. The wind. "She's got what she needs. I have what I need. Lucky for you..." The tone shifts to suggestive and this time, she allays it with work.

"I just lost the best legal advice this hospital has had in five years, House."

"What do you want, Cuddy?" His tone, tired, makes her think she should end this sooner rather than later.

"I want you off the roof for starters."

"That's it? No stop being miserable, House. No you have to take risks, House. No wisdom from the realm of the Venutians?"

She'd like to. Wisdom, though, that comes from experience- from failure and success. She's had neither really- not what he needs. A series of passing relationships, a passing life, caught in the ebbs and flows, the constant press of more knowledge, of more pressure, more responsibility. She is responsible, but not for this. Not for his misery. Not really. At least she can blame that on the woman who has left him. Again. She is responsible for locking this door, disallowing him and everyone else from risking their lives up on this cold roof.

Cuddy feels her lips turn into a bit of a frown, and her eyes well for a moment. She's glad it's dark out here. In her silence, he moves. He swings his legs down, careful of his right one, and moves towards the stairway. "You coming?" His tone is carefully optimistic, a sudden departure or a cover-up.

She picks up her briefcase from where she's dropped it and turns towards him with a sigh of relief. "About time..."

He opens the door for her and she walks ahead of him. Just in case he slips.