I. HOUSE

He has his fantasies of course.

Every man had them, sensual videos in glorious Technicolor, pieced together at the back of his thoughts from a mishmash of images and sensations, some imagined, some real. For House the source was constant. The glimpse of cleavage; the curve of her ass as she leaned over her desk; pretty lips puckered in annoyance—all of these snippets lingered on the brain, and he would think back on them at odd, quiet moments in his day.

House had always preferred brunettes; blondes were lovely eye candy, to be sure, and a redhead now and then could catch his attention certainly, but time and time again he returned to the warm and darkly sweet allure of brunettes. Something in the glint of light on dark hair, or the defined arch of a well-groomed brown eyebrow did good things to him deep inside.

The archetype set in pre-puberty lingered, he knew—the blueprint for a lifetime of lusting, mapped out and familiar, overlaid on each woman he was truly attracted to, a template into which only a select few fit.

Stacy was the first to fit the mold; slender, cool and sophisticated. She had the cream complexion and wit, the fearlessness to stand up to his circling interest. He'd felt the pull of attraction from the first moment, and even now—after all the time and tears, the tug returned in briefer memories on early mornings when the pain kept him awake. Stacy had set his standard, certainly.

Cameron wasn't a true brunette, House instinctively knew. She had the delicate, graceful moves at times, but her personality lacked the full-bodied sensuality of a woman born to the browns. Even when she experimented with coloring, it didn't sit quite right, and House thought of her as a girl, playing with her mother's makeup, overdoing herself in an attempt at camouflage. Cameron might grow into brunettehood, but it would take a few years, and House wasn't sure if she'd ever acquire the natural boldness it took to be both lascivious and confident.

And then there was Cuddy. Cuddy was the real thing, he knew—sensually arrogant, mysterious at times, and more than capable of wrapping any man around her well-manicured pinkie. This was the Earth Goddess of old, who would not only have eaten the apple in Eden, but then would have tossed the core at poor Adam and laughed.

Hair of rich darkness, wild enough to need taming and full enough to constantly remind a man of her femininity. There was no forgetting Cuddy was a woman; if her breasts and lazy sway of her hips didn't register, then her hot blue eyes and dark hair did. Sometimes House wanted to bury his fingers in it just to pull her to him in the most primitive of ways. Cave man knee jerk response to that taunting mane of hers.

Not a brunette. THE brunette; a frustrating tantalizing, fascinating witch of a woman under those power suits and pearls. House suspected she could conduct a business meeting wearing nothing BUT those damned pearls and never lose her dignity. It was delightful to imagine her glaring around the table in her magnificent nudity, still perfectly capable of making everyone jump—

--Or rise.

But more often she was better cast in other scenarios in his mind. House wasn't big on sharing, particularly when it came to the fleshly pleasures he felt rightly belonged to him alone. Unless it was another woman, of course. That was clearly acceptable, since any female in her right mind would appreciate the privilege of making love to Cuddy too, and long as he was part of the mix, all was very right with the world.

But more often than not, tackling Cuddy alone was a more intense fantasy, and House thrilled in the realization that she lends herself to so many lascivious circumstances. In his dark mind theatre, she could play a grieving widow in her hot little black suit, or the rain-drenched hitchhiker along the dark road, the wicked interrogator bent on breaking down his will . . .

She had strength to her, House knew. Cuddy could be as vulnerable as any woman, but she channeled it, used it to keep her shoulders high. In all the years he had known her, House had seen her actually cry a total of three times. He had caught her with red eyes and sniffles, but her steely voice and no-nonsense attitude kept him at bay until she collected herself again. Cuddy had a core of titanium, slender, but there, even when it seemed like she was giving in.

Which was why all the best fantasies of her were precisely the ones where she yielded to him.

Oh yes the sweet 'Submitting TO the Baroness' fantasy was still plenty hot as House knew, Godddddd yes. He was fairly sure that Wanda Von Kreesus was Cuddy's direct ancestor, along with Bettie Page and Kitten Natividad, so at times it was only natural to picture the Dean of Medicine as a petite, but oh-so-in-charge Dominatrix.

Good times, he smiled to himself, good times.

But in truth the most forbidden of thrills, the most blackly exciting scenarios centered on peeling away that control of hers; of breaking down her disciplines.

Finding the tigress within, House thought with a little growl of his own deep in his throat, taming the potentially untameable.

Yes that challenge, House understood instinctively, was the primary undercurrent that put a little more power into his stride whenever he approached Cuddy. Une raison d'apprécier la masculinité, as it were, carefully tucked away under the cloaking layers of his attitude and mock-contempt.

Somewhere even under all that, in a dark primordial place he's acknowledged only to himself in the deepest nights of endless pain is another slippery reasoning, one that House fights back, as he has for years.

I am damaged. Therefore I will always have to fight harder, be meaner, cut deeper in everything.

Always.

Especially in this hard, hot dance with Her.

II. CUDDY

She had her fantasies of course.

Sometimes she wondered if other women had them—at least to the depth and degree that she did. Certainly it wasn't the sort of thing Cuddy could truly ask anyone. She had friends, and girlfriends, but nobody close enough to get into that sort of intimate discussion.

But she definitely had fantasies, fueled by the surge of hormones, the heat of the day, and the slow, arrogant way House made his way into her line of vision, like a great white gliding through familiar territory. The set of his wide shoulders, the lean thrust of his hips, the taunting twist of his lips set in a familiar sneer; all of these worked their way into her brain and unsettled her equilibrium. It was a sexy body despite what he might think of it himself, and Cuddy had savored every opportunity she'd had to touch it.

Cuddy had always preferred her men confident; even-tempered was restful, and now and then a man of mellowness would and could be very soothing, but on the whole, it was those who were faintly confrontational and carrying a taint of arrogance who set her pulse jumping. Men who stood toe-to toe with her always made her stomach flutter in delightful ways.

She supposed—when she bothered to analyze it—that it was because any man willing to do battle verbally with her already took her for the challenge she knew she could be. When a man stepped up to that reality, it meant he had to have considered the possibility that he might lose. That she, Cuddy, the female, might win.

Not equality, she knew, but a power struggle of magnificent nuances covering everything from the rational argument to the surge of hormones.

Wilson wasn't that man. He argued, yes, and he definitely carried his own prep school, clean-limbed beauty, his classically handsome features well established in her day-to-day world. Wilson had his charms, but confrontation was never a serious factor with him, and Cuddy sensed that while he might lust for her, he'd never do battle to prove it. He was too well experienced in the politics of budget and lust to push against her, and they both knew it.

Foreman had more bite, Cuddy knew. He had the arrogance of course, but far too much of it was about him rather then about any sort of them. He'd fight, he might even be attracted to her on a physical level, but in the end, his superior attitude was merely a factor of his own youth and insecurities rather than a true rise of masculine confidence.

And that left House. Delicious, demanding, definitely debatable House. He swept into places and made himself known, felt, experienced as Cuddy recalled with a flush. He was descended from Pharaohs, from Emperors and Kings and Generals. House carried his supreme self-worth as easily as he did his balls; lazily, and with no need to acknowledge anything beyond a smirk.

She wanted to break him. Those were good fantasies; the ones where she had him under her, lost in lust and trembling; focused on the hot pleasure of slick skin and sensation. Cuddy had seen him vulnerable only a few times in all the years they'd known each other, and each memory still brought a throb between her thighs. House in his moments of exposure was a raw and beautiful thing, a temptation that hit her on too many Freudian levels to analyze properly.

Sweet fantasies, she knew.

But at other times, in darker, less civilized moments she closed her eyes and turned the coin on that image. Yes, she'd done battle with him and won, but those times when she hadn't . . . when HE had won. Oh. House in his moment of triumph, nostrils flared, blue eyes blazing, the office echoing with his last growl of victory—

Knowing, feeling the power of his self-belief, and letting him sweep it over her. Standing by and bit by bit, feeling House make his moves. His touches, his breath mingling with hers, his fingers moving to undress her; touch her with no hesitation or fear.

Letting him take her in his own way and time, holding back and savoring House's savage promise of pleasure as he searches her eyes, looking for her submission—

Those were the knee tremblers.

(TBC)