Title: Taking Care Of Business
Author: smitha-r
Rating: PG
Fandom(s): House M.D.
Pairing(s): vaguely House/Cuddy
Summary: House and Cuddy have plans to fly together for another conference. Only this time, things work out a little differently.
Notes: Written for cuddyfest, because I saw a prompt I couldn't resist - 45. Anything you can do with this. Crack, no? - Spoilers for the episode Airborne. Thanks to wasabigirl1 for the beta.


Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital was nearing it's twilight hours, that time when the hallways lay empty and lights were shut off to conserve energy, creating the illusion of inactivity. No footsteps, no conversations; only the periodic beeping of medical machinery revealed that the building was not completely asleep. And yet she was still there, finishing up her final rounds for the night before assuring herself that it was safe for her to finally go home.

After wishing one of the nurses goodnight, Cuddy stepped into her darkened office and prepared to shut her computer down for the day. It was only after turning around to sit at her desk did she yelp and notice that House was standing in the corner, occupied with three orange tennis balls that he was mindlessly juggling.

"You do realize that I'm not going to stop doing this if I keep getting such a dramatic reaction out of you, right?" House remarked casually, attention still on the miniature balls as they flew through the air.

Cuddy sighed, falling into the familiarity of her routine with House. "What's so important that you need to stand in the dark and terrorize me?"

"Nothing, really. Just wanted to check up on your state of mind, see if you're as paranoid and prone to hysterics as I remember."

Paranoid? Hysterics? "House, what are you talking about?"

He finally looked up at her from his game, catching the balls in his hands with a disappointed look on his face. "Don't tell me you've already forgotten your unseemly behaviour the last time we flew the skies together. If I remember correctly, you caused a psychological pandemic at 18,000 feet."

Oh, that. "Given the situation, my reaction was completely natural." Cuddy answered calmly, shutting her computer down and organizing the files scattered across her desk. She needed to sort a few things before she left.

"Oh yeah, it was textbook behaviour. Have I ever mentioned that textbooks are overrated?" House stuffed the tennis balls into his pocket and hobbled towards her. "So? Same as last time? Me bearing the burden of first class and you enjoying the glories of economy?"

"I'm not going with you." Cuddy said bluntly, not looking up from the files she was reading and sorting.

House frowned, processing this new piece of information. "You've been planning to go to this conference in Hong Kong for six months now."

"Well, plans change. Dr. Tsui will be accompanying you tomorrow instead of myself."

House huffed like a petulant child. "Dr. Tsui is a tedious bore with the social skills of a baboon. I can't possibly have a good time with a guy like him."

"Dr. Tsui is one of our most acclaimed cardiac surgeons. And Stephanie Tsui also speaks Mandarin, which will come in handy."

House shrugged, ignoring his mistake. "I can speak Mandarin too."

"I hardly think asking world-renowned geneticists where you can find cheap hookers is going to be very useful there."

"Oh, trust me, it'll be useful. You know what they say about geneticists: they're all party animals deep down inside." House paused to look at Cuddy with a curious expression, and she could feel the pressure of his gaze on her, the kind of gaze he used when he was trying to decode a person like a puzzle. "Does this have something to do with you taking a day off work last week to fly to Ohio?"

Cuddy looked up from the last file with surprise. "How did you know I went to Ohio?"

"I have ways of making our good friend Brenda talk. And by me, I mean Wilson." House scrutinized her. "But your change of plans does have something to do with visiting Ohio, doesn't it?"

Cuddy looked up at House with a look of resignation. It wasn't a big deal; she had just hoped to keep this one minor aspect of her life out of the spotlight. "If you must know, yes. I have some business connections in Ohio and the company had their annual general meeting last week. I might be a minority shareholder with the company, but I'm still a shareholder, and I felt obliged to go."

"But that doesn't explain why you can't go to Hong Kong." House noted astutely. "What kind of company have you invested in that you wouldn't be able to travel across international borders? You aren't trafficking blow or semi-automatic rifles, are you?"

Cuddy rolled her eyes, packing up her belongings and preparing to leave. "It's a company that specializes in producing turkey and chicken hatchlings and selling them to other commercial companies. International law states that you can't travel to Southeast Asia if you've been on a farm within the last thirty days. You of all people should know a thing about avian flu."

House's face suddenly transformed with a look of satisfaction. "Cuddy Farms."

Cuddy sputtered, hearing him speak the company's name. "How did you-?"

"I figured it out this afternoon." House replied flippantly, fishing one of the tennis balls back out of his pocket. "Went online into the booking account for the flight, so that I could change to first class again. And what do I notice? The lovely Dr. Tsui's name there instead of yours. So I did my Googling, made some inquiries, and voila! The handsome genius Greg House strikes again." House looked pleased with his deductive skills. "So? How are you connected to them, besides the obvious answer?"

Cuddy sighed, realizing House would not let her go until he had all the details to satisfy his curiosity. "My cousin owns the company. We're a very family-oriented organization."

"Any family that helps turn adorable little yellow baby birdies into a tub of delicious chicken fingers is fine by me." House said with a smirk, finally turning to leave. "Hong Kong won't be the same without you; whose rack am I going to stare at now?"

She was about to reply that Dr. Tsui wouldn't likely take his harassment in stride, but House was already gone, making one of his trademarked abrupt departures. Smiling slightly to herself as she watched him go, Cuddy leaned down and started her computer back up, heading directly to the airline booking website. She was going to make sure that House got the full economy experience this time around. After what she had gone through last time, it was only fair.