Author's Note: I enjoyed writing this one so much that I decided to see what could happen if we take a look at Cuddy's reactions to the same moments. Hope you like it!
Summary: She wondered if she had just become addicted to taunting House. If she had come to use men simply to annoy and grate on House's nerves. To see how long he would come running after her. How long he would wait for her.
It was another Friday night; another night of sitting on his couch, cuddled under his bed comforter as they watched her movie. It was tradition- every other week they watched the latest "chick flick"- as he called it- and the next week was his turn to pick whatever stupid humour or action movie he wanted. And they both sat and watched and only at the end would he mock hers and only at the end would she roll her eyes at his.
After so many years, she had almost forgotten how it had started. Or, at least, that's what she said to anyone who asked.
To be honest, it was one of the sweeter things he had ever done in their long friendship. With sweatpants rolled over her hips and a Michigan sweater on- it was his, but she had never intended on returning it after it had sat neglected on her desk chair for a month- he had knocked on her dorm room, holding a movie in one hand and steaming perfection in the other. They had stayed up until far too long into the morning, laughing at the movie, talking about classes and friends and family and anything else they could think of.
A week later she had gone to the movie store on a whim. He had mentioned that James Bond had been one of his heroes as a child. She had bribed him with the offer of pizza and she had been pleasantly surprised at the reaction she got. She would never forget the image of Gregory House beaming down at the video cassette tape she had set in front of him that night.
She knew that he was staring at her. He would never come out and say it, but he truly hated just about every movie she had picked out. He would look away at the boring parts or the romantic parts. Instead of the TV, his eyes would fall on her and she tried her hardest not to blush under the scrutiny of his gorgeous blue orbs.
She had actually caught him doing that a lot- just staring at her. Sometimes she wished that he would just kiss her already. She could tell that he wanted to.
But, most of the time, her rational side took over and she comforted herself with the knowledge that it was probably a good thing that he had such amazing control over his impulses.
She couldn't believe that he had lasted four years without kissing her. It wasn't a vain thought; he simply wasn't known for resisting what he wanted and she knew that he hadn't wanted a simple friendship when they first met.
Oh sure, he was good at the "oops, didn't see you there" trick, but she saw right through it. She had noticed him staring at her when she had been reading her book. Thursday night during her sophomore year was her one and only night every week that she could find two hours to escape to the library and just read. The corner chair was out of the way of most browsers and studiers and she could sit there for the entire time undisturbed. But not that day. That night, she had glanced up as she turned the page just in time to notice one of Michigan's more dashing pupils. She hadn't known his name then or reputation. She hadn't known his cruel side or his sweet side. She hadn't known that he was a man of many talents as well as an insatiable curiosity. In that simple glance, all she knew was that he was quite attractive.
He "bumped" into her while she tried to return her book and she let him, intrigued and wanting to know his name. She hadn't wanted a friend or a date or anything in particular from him that night, but as the days and weeks and then months and years dragged on, she found that she had come to depend on him. He was the best friend that she had ever had; he was the person she went to to vent, to argue, to be comforted by, to study with, to smile, to laugh, to trust.
Their relationship had been awkward at first. Throughout the last semester of her sophomore year, he had found her occasionally. He claimed that the "fates" or something were having fun but she knew that he was trying to find her on his own, but she never called him on it. He was cute, in a sometimes immature and a sometimes awkward kind of way. But that was simply him and she had learned to actually like that part of him. In fact, much of his personality was uniquely him. No single word could be applied to any aspect of his personality. He was gentle, but in a harsh sort of way. He was kind, but in a sarcastic manner. He was intelligent, but in a modest, almost bored way.
But there was a far less desirable side of him as well. He was smart and he learned quickly and he had always enjoyed learning and experiencing new things, but once he mastered something, or at the very least understood it, he was bored with it. And he acted no different about girlfriends. He liked to find girls with exotic personalities, or exotic hobbies, or exotic bodies, and- for a time- he drank in everything about them until he knew everything there was to know and then he was bored and he no longer had a place for her in his life. She couldn't count the number of supposed girl friends he had had in their friendship. She wondered what that said about his opinion of her- was she not exotic enough to date or not shallow enough to get boring.
There were certainly times when she wished that he had chosen to date her. To take his time to drink in everything about her and know everything that was uniquely and not uniquely her. She knew simply by the way he looked at her that he had considered it many times. And she knew that she had watched those calculating eyes, almost certain that he was going to kiss her at any moment. And yet he never had.
She brushed it off, knowing that neither really wanted to change their relationship. Anything there was purely a lust filled attraction- just as it was for every other woman he had ever dated. She knew, simply because she knew him but also because she was no stranger to all the rumours that seemed to follow him, that to fool around with him would be worth the ride. But she knew too that whatever they might have in that short time would never be worth the heartache that would come with loosing him as a friend when he finally grew too bored with her. Some days, sexual frustration was almost enough, but then she would think back on something like the last movie night or the time she had stolen his sweat shirt or on any other event from the past four years and she knew there was nothing that could tempt her to throw it all away.
A chill ran down her spin and she cuddled deeper into the comforter. The snow had been falling all day and she swore that his apartment had no insulation.
She was no stranger to the fact that the school year was too quickly drawing to a close. He would be leaving her there soon and all their traditions and habits that they had created over the years would be suddenly shaken apart. She doubted that she would stop attending lacrosse matches and she imagined that she would still visit Tony's Pizza every other Wednesday and she would most certainly still go every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday morning to get her muffin and coffee at Rosie's. She wondered what she would find to replace movie night and Sunday recovery morning from Saturday night parties or cram sessions- whichever they needed to engage in.
Her legs were starting to cramp. She stretched them, hardly noticing as her feet ran along the length of his long legs. The same annoying lock of hair fell into her eyes and, after a moment of trying to ignore it, she tucked it firmly behind her ear. She shifted the comforter again, pulling it away from him as she tried to pull it over her shoulders.
She looked at him when he shifted suddenly, but she had no explanation for the look on his face or for the way he suddenly pulled away when he straightened and took the warmth of his legs away from her frozen toes. She wanted to whimper in protest but there was nothing that she could do or say about it. All she could do was tuck the comforter around her shoulders and ball up, wishing that she wasn't so tempted to have him lie down beside her and warm her. But she would never ask him and she doubted that he would ever act.
The way he looked at her when he left brought her close to tears. She could see every unspoken thought, every unsaid emotion, every hidden fantasy. He leaned forward then, hoping to hide everything, as he kissed her cheek.
He left and for two years she stayed there while he worked away as an intern and then as a resident somewhere in California. When she graduated, she considered inviting him, but something held her back. She got a job in Minneapolis and something about the change in scenery only made her miss him more.
Back at Michigan, she had kept up most of the patterns they had created together. Same breakfast spots, same study habits, same party habits, same Sunday morning routine, but they all felt empty without him. She had even kept up Friday night movies- and she was almost embarrassed to admit that she even alternated watching movies she liked with movies that she knew he would want to watch. Sometimes, on those nights, she would call him up, only because she needed to hear his voice to feel comforted. All those things had evaporated when she left Michigan. It only made it harder to not have him around.
After two and a half years without seeing him, the begging of her mother had finally grated on her nerves and she had finally agreed- grumpily- that she would come home for the week. And so, when Wednesday morning came around, she found herself wondering through an airport in search of any way to kill her two hour layover.
That was when she saw him. He had a familiar stance that she would recognize anywhere. He said she couldn't tell him apart from any other man, but she could recognize that oozing of arrogance anywhere. A sly smirk grew as she walked up behind him.
He turned slowly and, for a moment, she was worried that he hadn't recognized her voice. But when she could see his face, he was smirking. She could barely resist the urge to reach up and kiss him and the fact that she had to stop herself from acting on such an impulse startled her.
And that was when she noticed that his eyes were roaming over her body and that appreciative leer was taking hold of his face. She wondered if he would notice how she had grown out her hair and how it had taken away from the curls some. She knew that playing with her hair had always been one of his favourite activities. She wondered if he would notice the make-up or the fact that her hectic schedule had kept her awake the past few days. But, more than ever, she knew that he would notice how she was wearing clothes that were far more low cut and much shorter than anything she had ever worn in his presence before. There wasn't really a reason for the change, she just liked it.
"Been a while, eh?"
She smiled at the teasing tone and suddenly he was leaning forward, just like he had before, and his lips were on her cheek again, and she found herself reaching up and wrapping her arms around his neck, reluctant to let go. It felt too good to be near him again for that.
"It must be the fates pulling at those strings again."
She wanted to laugh at the way he smirked even as horror filled his eyes at the mention of his old teasing pick-up line.
"So where are you headed?"
She couldn't help but give him an odd look as he searched his surroundings in an attempt to find an answer to her question. She just smiled softly, knowing that his mind had drifted back to their years at Michigan.
"Oh, um… Chicago."
"Yeah… I'm going to be working there at their Diagnostics Department."
She didn't know what possessed her to reach up and caress his arm. She missed him; she missed feeling near him. She saw the way he melted at her touch; she always saw the way he melted at her touch. She only wished that he had been able to find the words to tell her himself. But she brushed away the thought- it was ridiculous.
She smirked. "I'm heading back home. Seeing the folks, I guess."
He nodded. "You still working at, um…?"
"Still like it there?" She laughed only because there was nothing to say. Only because she didn't have the words to say that it was a wonderful place with wonderful people and wonderful doctors, but that didn't make up for two years without him.
"How long until your flight leaves?"
The way his smile left his eyes pulled at her heart. She knew from the way his eyes dropped that he was about to cut their reunion short.
"Um… like very soon."
She watched the way he looked over his shoulder at where she assumed his terminal was and she wondered what he was thinking. She wondered if that was a sign that he was actually anxious to leave their awkward meeting. She sighed and glanced down at her watch. She still had two hours until her flight left.
"Yeah, well I probably need to be heading to my gate too."
He nodded, but it was a sullen gesture, one that agreed with her only because he didn't know how to say otherwise. He opened his mouth to speak and she felt an overwhelming desire to tell him to miss his flight, but she knew better just as she knew that the words would never leave her lips. But then he spoke.
She shifted and he glanced away.
"I guess we'll talk later. Call me when you get there."
"Yeah. Yeah, you've got to call me when you get to Chicago and tell me how it is."
She smiled at him and he effortlessly grinned back at her and suddenly two and a half years vanished.
She could only watch as he began to turn away from her and walk out of her life again. She could only stand there as she remembered the way he looked so devastated when he left the last time and she remembered the way she had felt so empty without him there. But not this time; this time when she looked in his eyes, she didn't see that same devastation but there was something.
And then there was that smile. That same smile that had won him every woman he had ever laid claim to. And suddenly his arm had wrapped around her shoulders and his lips were kissing her hair. She just smiled sadly, not ready to see him walk way again.
"I most definitely will call once I find out if this place is better than the last."
"Have a nice flight."
And that was the last thing he would say to her face for years.
The refrigerator door thudded shut just as she heard, "Latte, please," over the phone.
"You gonna bring me a coffee too?" she said with a smirk as she unloaded her burden onto the kitchen counter.
"As much as I would love to- for brownie points, if nothing else," she heard him smirk into the phone and smiled at the tone, "I'm afraid coffee doesn't stay well over the phone." She laughed lightly as she licked her finger free of the tuna that had gotten onto it.
"So what's up with you recently?"
He sighed and she imagined that he had probably shrugged at her first before remembering to say, "What's up with me? Um… not much really. Got yell at again." She chuckled into the receiver as she laid a few slices of lettuce onto the bread.
"Let me guess," she shifted her weight against the counter, the sandwich momentarily forgotten, and said, "Your boss told you what the patient had, you disagreed with him, he didn't care and told you to treat patient for what he thought it was, and you went and treated the patient for what you thought it was anyway. The patient got better and your boss was pissed at you."
"You know me so well."
"You're just predictable in that manner." She dropped the tuna covered knife into the sink as she walked past and pulled open the refrigerator door. She vaguely heard him say "thanks" but doubted that it was directed towards her comment. But she did hear the way he rubbed his face and groaned and nearly dropped the phone from where his shoulder was cradling it. "Didn't sleep much last night?"
"I can hear your tiredness seeping through the phone."
"Yeah… saving lives can wear a person out."
"Tell me about it."
He laughed and she braced herself for his next comment. "Yeah, well in your case, it's not saving lives that's wearing you out."
He chuckled in her ear and she smiled as she smushed the two pieces of bread together. She frowned down at it and glanced at the sink where she had already deposited the knife. "So…" he sighed and she shrugged at her sandwich, picked it up and just took a bite from the corner. "What's new in your life these days?"
She swallowed and an involuntary, "um…" escaped her. She resisted sighing as she looked down at her sandwich. Suddenly, it didn't really sound all that good anymore. She needed to tell him; it was inevitable that he would find out one day. But she had no desire to. It wasn't because she was afraid of what he would say- she could deal with his sarcasm and his annoying self. She was afraid of hurting him… and she was afraid of the way he would try to hide it.
"Jason and I have been talking lately-"
"That's good to know." She rolled her eyes and took another small bite as she waited for him to be finished. "I'm glad to hear you speak occasionally in between screwing each other."
"We've been talking about moving in together." She spoke quickly, hoping to get it out before she chickened out.
He was silent. It was a sign. But, oh, how many signs he gave, but not one was ever verbal. She doubted he even noticed that he gave away so much with his looks and his pauses and his smirks and his laugh. All she wanted was for him to one day come out and acknowledge his feelings. Just once.
She held her breath as she waited the silence out. How long had it been? Seconds, minutes? It felt like it had been an hour since she had last heard his voice.
She would have dated him back in college, if he had just had the balls to ask her. And, as much as she hated herself for it, she would still date him if he would just say something, anything. She had told herself that telling him and listening for some sign was just to see if he was still interested. She only half hoped that he wasn't.
"Oh…" It was odd to think of that disappointed sigh as something that would spark a glimmer of hope in the pit of her stomach, but it had. But she couldn't smile at the insane feeling of victory because, in the end, it shouldn't mean anything to her. "Just trying to make it easier to get laid or…" She tried to smile instead of sigh at the obvious cover-up. There was no bite; she could tell that he was still reeling over her words.
"You are incorrigible."
"You wouldn't have me any other way." She sighed into the phone at that, but she smirked despite herself, because, of course, he was right. If he wasn't the incorrigible little bastard that he was, he wouldn't be Gregory House, ass extraordinaire. He wouldn't be the challenge that she enjoyed fighting against; he wouldn't be the fun, random young man that she remembered from college who made her forget about studying and taught her to have a life; he wouldn't have been the only person that she had come to trust to be spontaneous and weird with, no one else saw that side of her.
"Well, I should let you go."
"Yeah," he sighed and she heard how tired and unnerved he was. "And… I'm happy for the two of you. I hope it all works out." She cringed as he spoke. She hadn't expected that from him. She had almost hoped to hear something else, but she closed her eyes and shook her head. What else could he possibly have said?
"Thanks…" and her eyes stayed closed as she thanked him. It was a lie. She hated to lie to him. "Talk to you later."
She let her arm fall limp and the phone fall away from her ear. Slowly she walked to the wall and hung it up in its cradle.
She jumped when the doorbell buzzed, cracking through the silent house. She sighed; shaking her head she glanced at the clock. She hadn't been standing there for eternity like she had thought.
Jason was at the door. He had said that he would be stopping by later. For a moment, she had no desire to walk to the door and let him in. She wondered why he had never asked why he didn't have a key yet, but the thought left her mind shortly after.
He treated her like a queen. He was sweet and handsome and smart and chivalrous and everything from a man that she had always seen her future husband possessing, but there was just something that he lacked. Something that every boyfriend of hers had always lacked. He had her trust, her love, her interest, but she felt like there was something else that needed to be given and she wasn't sure what that was… It was something only House had ever seemed able to steal from her.
He was smirking behind a bouquet of daisies and she could only smile at him. He was too cute and too sexy and too perfect and she couldn't help but be looking out for the day that it was all going to collapse around her.
She wanted to cry. She wanted to yell. She wanted to throw things at the wall or at him or at someone or something. She wanted to slap him for some of the things had had said to her. She wanted to pull him to her and comfort him until the loneliness in his eyes abated.
There was so much running through her mind. So many things she waned to feel and was feeling. So many thoughts and emotions grappling for her attention that she found it much easier to just ignore them all.
It was so much easier to not see him because that meant he wasn't awake enough to ignite the anger she wanted so much to release. It meant that he wasn't in a mood to completely ignore her; to fuel the empty guilt that was twisting her gut and adding weight to her chest. It meant she had an excuse not to feel those things about him.
But she couldn't not see him. Most days she found herself wandering past his room on her way somewhere else. She waited until Stacy was eating or somewhere else. She waited until he was so pacified by the pain meds that he wouldn't know she had ever visited. And, even then, she stood at a distance, watching him from the safety of the doorway. She wanted- no, she needed to be closer to him. It took a lot for her to sit down one day at his side and finally let the impulse to smooth his hair back and stroke his cheek win out.
She didn't want to think about how long it had been since he had last shaved. Weeks, probably. He was well on his way toward a full-grown beard. But something about the wiry feel was comforting. It was course and fine all in one stroke; foreign and comforting in the same moment. It was a sensation of contradictions- just like him.
She knew why he had called her 'Dr. Cuddy' for the first time in their long history without a hint of playfulness behind his eyes. He was mad at her, and he had every right to be. He was in pain and her doctors didn't know why. He wanted- he begged for one thing- and she had blatantly ignored him. He had woken to her empty promises that he would be all right, but he saw through her, just like he always did, and she knew she had her answer to the silent question that had been plaguing her for days. She had done the right thing- she had chosen his life over his death. But had she done something that he could ever forgive her for?
He was mad and he was angry and she knew that most of that anger was focused at her and she knew that she would have to live with that. But she wondered how long she would have to wait before his gaze didn't contain that venom, before the sound of 'Dr. Cuddy' didn't threaten to break her heart, before they were simply 'Lisa' and 'Greg' again. She wondered if their stubborn personalities would ever allow for that day to come.
She wished that one day she would come to sit down beside him and he would look up at her and know just how much she missed their friendship, how much she missed him. She wished that he would be awake when she came there and let her sit beside him and comfort him. She wished that he would do anything to let her know that, one day, everything would be all right.
Or maybe she was fooling herself.
Slowly, wishing the moment would never have to end, she drew her hand back, letting the warmth of his haggard face leave her.
She was 'Dr. Cuddy' to him now and he would have to be 'Dr. House' and that was all that she had left.
She couldn't believe that she had considered it much less the fact that she was standing in his office, watching the muscles tighten and relax in his face as he tried to figure out what was going on in her insane mind. She could hear the words ringing in her ears; she could feel the words forming on her tongue; but she couldn't do it. Something stopped her. Somehow she ended up thanking him and turning tail and nearly run for the door. He stopped her, just as she knew he would, but she couldn't find the words again. She just agreed and rushed out.
She knew better than to think that she had escaped without him knowing what she had wanted. She knew that he had already figured that out- she knew that he had that figured out since the moment she had stumbled over an awkward thank-you.
Her pace didn't slow as she rushed towards the elevator. She was tempted to look back and see if he was ducking out of his office and preparing to call out to her. She was tempted to look and see if he was following her. She was tempted to turn around and go back to him. She was tempted to go to him and cry in his shoulder. She was tempted to go to him and kiss him until he understood completely how all these years knowing him had been sweet torture. How easy would it have been to succumb to temptation? Unbearable so.
She knew him. She knew that if his curiosity had been peeked about anything that had nothing to do with her, he would have been racing after it or sitting back and bidding his time until he could make his move. But she knew better. She knew that no matter how much he wanted to say yes, he probably never would. She knew that no matter how much he wanted to say no, he certainly never would.
"Find someone you trust… Someone you like."
His words echoed in her head and no amount of distraction had been able to rid her of his soft words. She sank into the wall of the elevator as it lowered her away from his office. If she closed her eyes, she knew that she would see him standing there, nearly out the door, just as his eyes- those lovely blue orbs that could pierce the thin layer of her façade and truly see her- would turn to her, with emotions so foreign to him that she could hardly name them at all. She had tried to look away, not wanting to see the way his shoulders dropped just slightly, the way he seemed to lean even more heavily on his bad leg, the way his face was soft and guarded all at the same time. She had hurt him, but she wasn't sure exactly how. She could tell that he wanted to be angry, or betrayed, or something but he couldn't. For whatever reason, he couldn't find it in himself.
She played first with the words in her mind, and then his actions. Everything House did served some kind of purpose, in at least his own head. At first, she had been appalled that he had uncovered her secret. Perhaps if it had been someone other than House, she would have seen the meddling as concern. But this was House, and any puzzle was a puzzle to be laid out and put together. It hadn't been about her. But she needed someone- she needed a confident, she needed someone to open her soul to. She had needed someone to help her with the injections. And, despite her better judgement, she felt as if she needed someone else to tell her which donor was better.
And, amazingly enough, House had been a value in doing just those things. He had made her think at least. She had considered Wilson first- he was probably the only man that she knew who would be willing to go through with such a thing. But it would be too complicated, too awkward to work out. An anonymous sperm donor made far more sense. It was no one she knew; it was no one to get tied up in a mess of custody and relationships; it was impersonal. And, somehow, after House's words, it seemed wrong.
She sighed as she walked out of the elevator, her tired feet leading her to her office. House would leave her alone to mull over her actions. He would let her decide whether or not they should both forget she had ever visited his office that night. He would let her chose whether or not to try again and actually ask him what they both knew she wanted. He would do it because he couldn't bear to be the one who said 'yes, let's do it', because that's how he had always been, the one unable to make a move. He would do it because he couldn't bear to be the one who said 'no, this is insane', because she knew that he probably wanted it too.
She leaned back against the door, her eyes falling closed. What had she just done? She couldn't believe the words that had just escaped her. She had been tempted, oh so tempted, to say that to him for years. Of course she knew the answer, she just wanted to see the way he would squirm away from answering.
"Do you like me, House?"
Oh, she knew that he did. She had known ever since that day in college when she had told him about Kyle, her first college boyfriend. She had seen the way he desperately tried to hide his scowl, the way he looked away from her as he talked, the way he had pretended to be interested in hearing about her dates. She had found out while dating Kyle just how fun House's jealousy could be.
Kyle, as one could imagine, didn't last more than three months. Adam had survived until five, but just barely. And Ryan had the advantage of summer, but he had disappeared sometime in October the following semester.
But it didn't end there. Over the phone, she had continued to hear his jealousy for the next couple of years. There had been a number of random dates, a couple who had even stuck around for a time.
And then came Jason. Oh, how mercilessly she had taunted House with him. It didn't mean that she didn't love her boyfriend any less, but, for whatever twisted reason, she had a need to know whether or not House was still torturing himself by liking her. And not even Stacy had stopped that interest. He just hid it better…
Until Jason had left. She was the only one who knew that he had been considering proposing to Stacy, but when she gave him the news a week or so later that Jason was gone, the ring had vanished just as quickly and she had never heard him utter another word about settling down. She had never figured out how that had made her feel, but she never let him know that she had thought anything of it.
She sighed as her gaze fell on the archway into the living room. Bobby was still in there. Another on a long string of random dates. She wondered if she had just become addicted to taunting House. If she had come to use men simply to annoy and grate on House's nerves. To see how long he would come running after her. How long he would wait for her.
She sighed as she pushed off the door. She wished that he would just make a move, because she knew that he wouldn't always allow himself to run to her. She was attracted to him, certainly, and she knew that she would probably not have the strength to turn him away if anything ever happened. But she knew she wasn't interested enough in doing something herself; and she knew he was too interested in her to ever completely forget about her.
She forced a smile to her face as she stepped up to the doorway, her mind playing some hopeless fantasy of House pounding on her door again and demanding her to run away somewhere with him. She shook her head and turned her eyes back to her date.