A/N: Let's not discuss how much I re wrote this. Because of this fact though, I'm hovering over this chapter like an anxious mother, so feedback is appreciated.
Some days, small steps were easier than others. They had continued to dance around each other for a week now – a week of him being his usual self, bursting into her office at inappropriate times, running tests he shouldn't while treating his new fellows so badly that one of them had been crying in her office two days ago before quitting. Chase was sad to see her go – taking any money he had placed on the bet with her. Wilson had been smug, claiming that it was only a matter of time until he was rolling in his new found cash.
She'd yelled at House for a good half hour after that incident, but he had sat and listened like a student with a crush on his teacher and she'd finally had to leave before she cracked under the pressure of his rapt gaze and laughed. His three remaining fellows had watched the confrontation unfold, and she really didn't need them thinking worse than they probably already did.
At the same time, his usual antics had taken on a hidden layer – maybe it had been there all along, she wasn't sure – but when they fought now, there was a certain look in his eye , a slight smile on her face even when she was trying her best to stay pissed at him. She had brought it up to him the previous day but he had simply shrugged and grinned before muttering out the word "Foreplay" and ducking out of her office before she could kill him, or throw something handy at his retreating back.
At the back of her mind, her thoughts did a kind of constant loop – a contorted pirouette that couldn't spin out. The last ten years ran through her thoughts like a constant stream of noise. She had wanted to figure herself out before she broke down. All she had been able to conclude was that she wasn't done figuring him out – and she didn't think she ever wanted to be. When she came to this thought – her breathing always stalled and she had to re focus on something else, because she knew what it meant – but she felt no great sense of preparedness from it, it didn't calm her nerves to finally come to a conclusion – it just helped her sleep better.
She was once again contemplating these thought as she pushed a pasta salad around on her plate. She wasn't even aware of being observed until they sat down. "Why I do think our Dean looks sorely in need of a distraction, Wilson." House dropped his tray in front of her and she wrinkled her nose at the sight of his food. "Here's a hint – it's already dead – as much as pasta can be anyway – so stop stabbing it like that." He settled down with a remarkable grace that seemed at odds with his jerky movements. Wilson sighed behind him, placing his own lunch tray gently down and sitting without speaking, as if he felt a need to over compensate for House's noise.
"Oh, sorry – I was thinking about you." She spoke sweetly and stabbed her fork through a piece of pasta particularly viciously as he watched in amusement.
"I always told you I brought out the passion in her." He leaned over to Wilson, whispering loudly as Wilson rolled his eyes.
"Everything all right Cuddy?" Wilson's tone was concerned and she felt a strange guilt as he asked. She nodded quickly and he looked at her for another moment before bending his head down to his own lunch. She met House's eyes over his head and glared at him. He shrugged before picking up his sandwich and taking a large bite.
"Of course every thing's all right Wilson. Look at her – have you ever seen her tops so low cut? It's always a good sign, if you ask me." He spoke around his food and she watched in a fascinated disgust, wondering why in the hell she was thinking of getting more involved with him.
"Which no one did, actually." Wilson spoke in a tired voice, only to be cut off by another tray landing at their table as Chase sat down heavily. House glanced at him in shock before swallowing and leaning across the table.
"And who told you it was okay to sit with the grown ups now, Sheila? Think because you've got your own job now that suddenly we're all friends?" Chase ignored him, turning to her and nodding before speaking.
"Did you get the-" She nodded – he had chosen to give her the money he owed on the bet and she had secretly found it amusing he thought she was more trustworthy than Wilson.
"Ha! Just proves how much of an idiot you still are if you think out of the two Cuddy here is more trustworthy with money. Just because people pay her for her services-" She kicked House under the table and glared at him sharply.
"How do you even know about the bet?" Chase asked, mildly surprised. House just smiled in return.
"I know all." He responded, taking another bite of his lunch. She watched the three men eat, and decided that eating with three men could be the best diet plan ever, since it was certainly putting her off her appetite. "So – how's Cameron? Still crying for me while you two-" Another kick, harder and slightly higher this time caused him to break off. He looked across at her offended. "Jeez, would you stop that?!"
"Depends – are you going to stop being an ass anytime soon?" She responded calmly, taking a sip of water as Wilson and Chase watched them silently.
"No. I know I've joked about you being violent turning me on, but I didn't mean it." He was, as usual speaking loud enough that the entire cafeteria could hear him. She just smiled, meeting his gaze head on.
"Yes you did." She stated simply before rising, holding her tray in front of her with a smile. He smiled for a half second back at her before adopting an affronted look, causing her to smile wider. "If you'll excuse me." She looked at Wilson and Chase as she spoke, pointedly not including House in her display of manners. They nodded, and Wilson gave her a half wave before she turned, striding away from the table and wondering what in the hell they would be discussing now.
She was on her way to check in with Brenda at the clinic when she was pulled inside an exam room. She didn't even feel startled, which should have disconcerted her slightly, but she knew when she turned around she would see him there, grinning down at her as he stood entirely too close for comfort. His hand was leaning against the door behind her and she fought to keep a calm smile on her face.
"Nice display at lunch Dr. Cuddy." His voice was soft, which did surprise her. She felt like she should lean closer to hear him, which was ridiculous since she was mere inches away from him. They hadn't been this close since that kiss on her porch and she wanted to close her eyes for a moment as the feeling swept over her again.
"What display?" If her voice was slightly breathier than she'd intended, he didn't comment. He also didn't move away from her. His mouth twitched, pulling up into a half smile as his eyes watched her silently. "You didn't call." She pointed out after a moment and he frowned at her for a moment.
"I figured after that last awkward disaster you'd need time." He shrugged as he spoke and she leaned against the door, feeling like she needed the support right now. She still hated to think of their last dinner – the argument and the tension – and it had all been caused by her. Her semi breakdown before he got there, her rampant uncontrollable fears that seemed to bleed into every conversation she had with him lately. Fears that had dissipated over the last few days.
"Time's up." She spoke without thinking and looked up at him, wishing they were back on her porch – or at his, anywhere but an exam room in her hospital. He chuckled in disbelief and she waited for him to realize she was serious.
"I thought you needed-"
"I did. I had it."
"But you said that-"
"Sometimes I'm an idiot House. Sometimes I get scared. Sometimes.." She trailed off and he leaned closer. Slightly hunched so that he could see her face still, instead of the top of her head. She felt her breath freeze in her lungs, as she was acutely aware of his body millimeters from hers. She wanted to grin – they fit, they always had. An unexplainable bubble of happiness rose in her and she had to fight it back down, because it seemed wrong and ridiculous for the feeling to be singing through her blood. It had been so long she almost felt guilty about it's mere presence. She felt gravity pulling her closer to him, and her mind shut down for a moment – forgetting where they were, and who they were.
He pulled back suddenly, his arm disappearing from behind her as he placed more distance between them. "Good. I won't make that mistake again." He picked up a file that had been laying on the exam table and walked past her through the door. "Now stop pulling me aside for quickies, Dr. Cuddy! Some of us are trying to work!" She stood in the doorway shaking her head – the patients didn't know them from a hole in the wall, and the clinic staff were well versed in his antics – so much so that other than Brenda shoving a new file at him – he was ignored. She walked back to her office slowly – trying to hide the smile that threatened to burst through.
She decided that she wasn't used to feeling this happy for a reason. It made her do stupid things, give into crazy impulses, like deciding half way through driving home that she would come here instead. He didn't look surprised when he opened his door to her though, and she hated that he wasn't. "Cuddy-"
"No." She had thought and re-thought and then sat down and thought some more about their situation – and they had talked about it more times than she cared to count. She was sick of talking. She just wanted to feel and know that she had made the right choice. So when she reached forward and pulled him toward her, her hands didn't hesitate and he didn't resist.
Her mouth met his almost violently, filled with repressed tension and a certain level of relief. Finally. She felt his hands on her waist and his stubble under her fingertips as she traced his jawline. Her mouth opened under his and she didn't even care that they were standing in his hall – in clear view of the front door of his building. All she could do was feel the heat of his hands, and the wet of his mouth. The discomfort as she stretched up to reach him, and the relief when he pulled her closer to him, through the door – hissing when her hip hit the door frame, but not ever stopping what she was doing or even considering it. Her back hit the wall with a dull thud, and the door stood opened beside them. His hands were moving up her back, burying themselves in her hair and she moaned into his mouth.
He was pushing her coat aside, down and off her shoulders to land with a muffled thump on the floor. Her hand reached out blindly, pushing the door closed, it's slamming oddly satisfying as her mouth finally released his and her hands transferred their attention to pulling off his wrinkled dress shirt and tossing it aside. His hands had crept under her blouse, skating along the waist of her skirt as his mouth traveled along her collarbone and down her sternum. His hands pushed up along her ribs, his long fingers tracing patterns there. She thought she might stop breathing, she wasn't entirely sure she still needed to anyway.
It was different than the first time – she had been fumbling then, her focus finely glazed by a film of alcohol. She hadn't had a drink in days this time – and everything seemed so much more intense. The feel of his skin against hers, the scent of tobacco and leather as she buried her face by his head. She was on fire, and coming undone underneath his skilled hands. She watched him, heavy lidded as his hands moved across her shirt, removing buttons deftly. His wrists were beautiful – a strong combination of bone and muscle.
Her own hands seemed smaller as she slid them under his shirt, dragging it along with their slow ascent. When her eyes met his and she saw a mirror of her own thoughts, she felt her emotions overwhelming her, and she kissed him to forget. He had dropped his cane and they stumbled slightly as they danced and wove unsteadily down the hall. His hands were on her, and she was leading him to the ultimate destination. Her knees hit the bed first and she only just managed to turn enough so that he landed first and she lay slightly on top of him, to his left.
He swallowed heavily as she lifted herself up to look down at him seriously for a moment. The room was almost dark and she smiled suddenly. His skin was cool against hers, and their breathing was uneven. His smile matched hers, before he pulled her down against him, rolling over with her until they were side by side, his hand reaching down past her hemline and skirting up over her thigh lightly. She shivered in the dark and moaned. "Not fair." Her own arms were pinned beneath his and she could feel his chuckle against the skin at the base of her throat.
"We don't fight fair."