Disclaimer: I do not own or claim to own House, M.D. or its characters.
A/N: This story contains a few vague spoilers to the entire Cuddy wanting a baby story line, and the episode "Insensitive."
He limped happily up her front walk, humming an almost merry tune to himself. Hobbling up the few steps and over to the flower pot by the front door, he tipped the pot over to grab the spare key. He promptly stopped humming and released a frustrated growl when he saw that she had moved her spare. Nice, he thought and made a mental note to mention it to her later. She knew him well enough to know he would try to use the key again and switched spots. It was moments like these, when her Masters degree in House-ology annoyed him to no end. When her knowledge got in the way and slowed his progression to achieving his goal, or interrupted his regularly scheduled viewing, or nap times. A quick perusal of the front porch and a minute or two of Cuddy-Think and House had located his all access pass to Casa Cuddy.
Once he had the door unlocked, he stepped back outside and replaced her key, just in case. Back inside, he toed off his Nikes and left them lying haphazardly on the floor in Cuddy's foyer, ambling into the living room. As an afterthought, House went into the kitchen to check her fridge for refreshments. He found a couple of bottles of beer, gave an approving nod to no one, and snatched both bottles before moving onto the freezer. House grabbed a pint of ice cream he almost missed, as it was hidden in the very back behind a mountain of more sensible frozen foods. Looking from the bottles of beer to the cardboard container House placed the ice cream back in the freezer, promising to come back for it later.
Ambling happily back through the foyer, he stopped and loosened all light bulbs in the foyer, for an added element of surprise. Now all that was left was to wait, and judging purely by her date's appearances, the wait would be a short one.
More than an hour and a half later, House heard two car doors slam shut, followed by footsteps on the walk, and then a key fumbling in the lock. The door opened to Cuddy's laughter and House rolled his eyes. "Care to come inside for coffee?" She offered in a tone a little too sultry for House's liking.
"Sure," came a smooth reply that House was certain was meant to peel the panties off every woman in a ten mile radius.
"Hmm, the bulb must have burnt out," Cuddy mused pleasantly just before she fell to the floor.
The front door slammed shut. "Oh God, Lisa! Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. I just tripped over," she paused feeling around for the offending object. "A sneaker."
Show time, House thought, as he made himself a little more at home. The lights came on in the living room and he smirked. Enough of his clothes where strewn about the house to make it look like he really lived there. A sock was thrown over the back of the chair, his jeans on the couch, his sports coat and button down shirt tossed aside on the floor, and his other sock dangled off the far corner of the coffee table. He was, of course, bare foot and wearing sweat pants and a t-shirt while lounging on the sofa. A medical journal open on his chest.
"Oh my . . .," Cuddy gasped as she looked around the room.
House popped up and reached for his cane, hauling himself off the sofa. "There you are, you little minx," he greeted, walking around the sofa to stand closer to Cuddy, but not so close that the daggers her glare was shooting would hit their mark.
"House, what are you doing here?"
"Surprised to see me? I thought you would be." He turned his attention to her date, as if noticing him for the first time. "And who do we have here?"
Cuddy's date smoothed his tie nervously as his eyes darted from his date to the man standing in the doorway of her livingroom, who so obviously seemed to belong there. "Doug Simmons," he replied, extending a hand, unsure really what the protocol was for a situation like this. He was about to continue with 'and you are' before House grunted and started speaking again.
"Lose your ring again, Lisa?" House made air quotes around the word 'lose'. "Luckily, I found it. In the oddest place though. Your jewelry box," he shrugged, "guess it doesn't make sense to look there." Suddenly House turned his attention to who he hoped would be the next in a line of ex's. "If she weren't so good in bed, I'd have cut her loose years ago. She's a real hell cat though," he said conspiratorially before giving a low, appreciative whistle.
Once again, Doug's eyes darted from Cuddy to House and back again. "Uh, Lisa d . . ."
"Of course she knows me, we've been together since college." For emphasis, House began tapping his finger on his cane, which resulted in a soft tapping, like metal on wood. Doug's eyes shot to House's hands, then grew wide. "No kids yet. Doesn't stop us from trying though."
Doug began to flush and he turned to leave. "I . . . uh . . . I better be going." Not wanting to be rude, he stopped at the door and looked over his shoulder. "Tonight was . . . interesting?"
Cuddy knew it would do no good to call after Doug as he sprinted out the door. Instead, she settled her glare on House. Her look said everything she was too angry to. ("I'm pissed and you're living your final minutes unless you have a damn good explanation.") All that she needed to say was, "why," not a question but a demand. And an odd cross between a growl and a hiss.
House shrugged, "he didn't look like your type."
"And you came to this conclusion . . . just now? That doesn't explain why you're here."
Waving a hand in front of his face, House grunted to the negative. "Nah, when you two were at the restaurant."
Her jaw dropped, "how did you . . . you followed me?!?"
"Not exactly, no. I got there after you did though. It's amazing what people will do for fifty bucks. Especially busboys trying to work their way through college." He walked back around the couch and grabbed his cell phone, waving it in front of her before flipping it open and snapping a picture. "I am so glad I let the friendly neighborhood cell phone sales rep talk me into purchasing this baby. It's a little more than I wanted to spend but oh so worth the money." He aimed lower, snapped another picture and stared appreciatively, "nice," he drawled and muttered something about finding his new wallpaper.
Cuddy crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him, "you paid someone to take a picture of me on a date?"
House shrugged, "I was warned against showing up at restaurants during your dates. Remember?"
"Out," she snapped, not quite as harshly as she meant to.
"Doug? Seriously? I just don't see you with a Doug, Cuddy."
Her eyes narrowed at him and her hands dropped to her hips. "And just who do you see me with, House?"
"Not a Doug. I can't quite hear you screaming out "Doug" in the throws of passion. And thank God that I was here, the way Romeo answered your offer for coffee, I'm surprised your panties didn't melt off on the porch. I could practically see him leering down your dress at the funbags, which is just totally unnecessary."
"I'll remember that next time I catch you leering down my top. You have finally sunk to a new low, House."
"At least I got here before your bra went MIA this time." House shot back cooly.
Cuddy's hands fell from her hips and realization dawned. "You're jealous," she accused. "You want to pretend this is for my best interest or that you're just trying to make my life hell. Doug seems to be a decent guy, not that its any of your business. And if you really wanted to make me miserable, you would let me continue on with these dates and if they turn out badly, so be it."
House limped forward, "I don't do jealous."
"Or honesty," she muttered under her breath, causing House to ask, rather harshly, for clarification. "Everybody lies," she shot back.
"You can do better, Cuddy. Where did you meet this one? bent over and picked up one of House's sneakers, took a few steps and picked up the other before marching up to him and shoving them into his chest. "Get. Out!"
He had pushed one too many buttons and unless he wanted to be the next thing she picked up and tossed somewhere, he would need to do some serious back pedaling. "Okay, so Casanova might have been your Mr. Right, but I saw you in that restaurant, or in the pictures from the restaurant, and you were not that interested in him. Then, all of a sudden, you come home and invite him in for coffee?"
Cuddy narrowed her gaze and folded her arms across her chest. She felt like she was going to explode if he said one more word. "Its my life, House. You don't get to make those decisions for me."
"But I . . .," he stopped short of telling her that he cared about the outcome. That he cared because those guys weren't him. "That guy is not clean . . . genetically speaking. He's a diabetic, a history of heart disease, and a sufferer of male pattern baldness. Do you really want to do that to your kid?" He walked back over and plopped down in her chair to put on his shoes
Her eyes followed him through her living room and she stared at him for a long moment. Letting him wonder just how she had taken his 'friendly advice'. "Not every decision I make is fueled by my desire to become a mother, House."
"Just make sure whoever you bring home is worthy of the hip-to-hip hula. And for the record," House began as he made his way to her front door, "maybe the guy you're looking for has been under your skin all along. Food for thought. G'night." He slammed the door shut behind him and limped his way across the porch and toward the curb.
Inside, Lisa Cuddy stood in her foyer, eyes darting between the closed front door and the clothes House had left strewn all over her living room. His use of the phrase "under your skin" made her wonder if he had finally driven her to the brink of hallucination. She walked to the front door and peered out the peep hole to see House walking to her driveway. When she didn't hear his motorcycle start up, she grabbed his sports coat and hurried toward her driveway. "Don't you just hate when you make a dramatic exit only to have it ruined when you get caught trying to hot-wire your boss's car?"
House grunted in response, before turning around to snark something a little more expected. "I was going to come back in and get my cell phone out of my jacket but I would have just had to top that last exit. I figured grand theft auto would be easier." He tried hard, in his own way, and she hated that she couldn't stay angry with him for more than a short period of time. Okay, maybe tried hard was the wrong phrasing, but he could be worse, she imagined, than he actually was. At least that excuse was more pleasant than allowing her guilt to be blamed. "But since you saved me the trip and the humiliation, I'll take my phone now."
He stuck out his hand and Cuddy reached into the pockets, coming up empty. "You must have left your phone inside along with your laundry."
He stamped his cane on the ground, "thought you wanted me out."
"What's a few more minutes? You can call a cab and I'll make some tea." She wanted to ask him about his 'under your skin' comment and hoped if he lingered a few more minutes he would voluntarily explain himself. Cuddy realized her chances of winning the lottery on the same day that Hell froze over would be greater, but it never hurt to hope.
"You offered Dan coffee," he pouted, taking one step closer.
Cuddy rolled her eyes and briefly wondered how House's mind worked, to think he was in the position to be picky when he was walking the pathway to the dog house. "Fine, I'll make coffee."
"I take my coffee with breakfast," House offered as they walked toward the front door.
"Don't push it, House," Cuddy shot back over her shoulder.
They stopped on the porch and House blocked her entry into her home with his cane. "You could just give me a ride home," he suggested.
She wanted to make a few suggestions of her own, especially one about his staying, but that was out of the question. "You broke into my house and ruined my date," she argued half heartedly.
"All the more reason you should just drive me. It'll get me out of your hair quicker. And you might still have a chance with Damien."
"His name was Doug, and that ship has sailed, House. If I ever get a date again, it will be a small miracle. And why didn't you ride your motorcycle?" Cuddy reached out and wrapped her slender fingers around his cane, and pushed it out of her way, walking into the foyer and grabbing her car keys. She didn't care why he didn't drive himself, she just wanted the conversation away from Doug and her lack of a love life.
House limped inside and shut the door. "A cab was less hassle. If I had driven myself I would have had to chop down trees and shrubbery and cover my bike."
Cuddy rolled her eyes at his ever present flare for the dramatic. "Let's go, its been a long night and I have an early meeting tomorrow."
"We could trade. My jacket for your car." This comment she didn't even regard with an eye roll as she motioned him out the door.
They were just over half way to his apartment building when they were caught by the longest red light in history. "I knew you should have invited me to stay for breakfast," House mused. "We'll starve to death waiting for the green here."
Cuddy shot him a look out of the corner of her eye then focused her gaze on his left hand. "Where did you get that?"
House held up his hand and pretended to study it thoughtfully, "this old thing? Just something I found lying around at Wilson's."
"You stole Wilson's wedding band?" Though she wasn't exactly sure why she was shocked.
"Its not like he's using it for anything," House defended. "Besides, I borrowed it. I'll get it back to its rightful owner."
The light turned green and Cuddy pressed the accelerator. She was well aware she only had a few more minutes to figure out House's motive behind his 'under the skin' statement. When they were two blocks from his apartment, Cuddy decided it was a now or never moment. "You know, House, if you keep interrupting my dates, one might get the impression you actually care about me. Maybe even trying to keep me for yourself."
"I told you," he began gruffly, "I don't do jealous. I'm not big on caring either. I just don't want you taking up my free time with all the whining about how Romeo turned out to be Satan in sheep's clothing."
She muttered something that sounded suspiciously like 'why do I even bother'. Instead, she stopped her car and turned to House and smiled. "Then why bother? If you aren't jealous and you don't care."
House paused and gave this some consideration. "Because I don't want to see a mini-you with any of the genetic flaws that you keep attracting."
Cuddy wanted to tell him that she had put the entire baby creation process on the back burner, but that would have required more explanation than she cared to get into. It would lead to her wanting to tell him she was waiting until his life brought him to the same point and they could make the journey into parenthood together. That would lead to a fight and give him enough ammo for a full year and then some when it came to mocking her and making day to day life a living hell. "That's almost nice of you. Goodnight, House."
He started to shut the door and stopped, leaning down to reveal a smirk on his lips. "Since I'm such a nice guy, I'm willing to make up for the whole ruining your date thing." He waited until she gave a look that wanted him to go on. "I'll let you come up to my place and seduce me. But only because I ruined your date and I know that is one of the little fantasies that keep you going through the day."
Cuddy rolled her eyes and reached for the gearshift. "Goodnight, House." He shut the door after a "suit-yourself-shrug" and she put the car in gear. She was on her way home no less frustrated and no closer to an answer to his "right under your skin" comment from earlier. She supposed he would offer her an explanation at some point, if it were important enough or if he had meant anything by it to begin with.