All In

(nothing to do with that Season 2 episode)

Author: Barbara Barnett (sasmom)

Spoilers: For Half-Wit

Rating: All ages

Summary: Written for a prompt for the Cuddy Fest: Cuddy reacts to finding out about House's faked brain cancer.

"He doesn't have brain cancer." The scowl and overall expression of anger belied Wilson's words. Wilson had entered Cuddy's office two steps behind her as she tossed her spring coat over the coat hook, briefbag still in her grip.

"Isn't that generally good news, as in 'he doesn't have brain cancer, so he will live…yes…making life more complicated but he's our friend, therefore…'" Cuddy sat, waiting. Clearly there was more to this.

"He faked the cancer."

"He faked cancer." Flat affect, repeating Wilson's words as if trying to understand something in a foreign language. Wilson's slight nod affirmed the ridiculous assertion as Cuddy stared at him, stunned. She sat, mulling the possibilities, trying to understand why House would not only fake having terminal cancer, but go to the extremes he had to make the ruse work. At all. She came up empty.

"What did he say?"

"I haven't spoken to him. All three of his team accosted me an hour ago, separately and with varying degrees of anger, dismay and general pissed-offed-ness. Cameron said he did it to, in her words, 'get high'."

"That's ridiculous. Look, House has done a lot of extreme and self-destructive things. You and I both know that. But faking cancer to get into a study? In Boston, no less? Just the amount of planning for something like that…Even House wouldn't do that 'to get high.' Besides, have you ever known House in recent years do anything simply to get stoned?" Wilson shrugged. She was right, of course. Even taking LSD the year before, he'd done to rid himself of a terrible, albeit self-induced migraine. And he'd immediately followed it up with anti-depressants to halt the more recreational effects of the drug.

"Apparently, he didn't deny it. And there was the Oxy…" Cuddy blinked, her eyes clouded suddenly with melancholy. She waved her hand dismissively at Wilson. They had been wrong; she had been wrong--to deny House the medication he needed; forcing him into full withdrawal from a narcotic. It was a terrible mistake they had made. House was wrong to have stolen that Oxy. But he had been desperate and sick and in terrible, intractable pain. Cuddy shuddered at image of House that next morning after Wilson had called, disgusted and angry about it. She had gone to his apartment; found him barely conscious, empty pill bottle on the floor next to him, empty whiskey bottle on the table. She still wasn't certain that it had been an accidental overdose, as House had insisted to her with vacant and haunted eyes. Not with that much whiskey and a full bottle of pills.

"Nothing would make believe he did all that to 'get high'." Wilson gazed at her incredulously.

"Cuddy, this is House we're talking about: maker of elaborate schemes. Spinner of elaborate tales…" Now it was Wilson's turn to throw his arms up. He blew out a breath, the wind ripped from his sails. "I don't know," he continued. "Maybe he's depressed. Knowing House, it's the last thing he would admit. It was a trial for treating depression, so… Who knows with him?"

Cuddy nodded in agreement. House was hurting and had been for months. But House was as private about those hurts as anyone she had ever known. Guarded was too simple a term to apply to him. She stood, smoothing her Hound's-tooth suit. She grabbed her lab coat from the rack and left Wilson standing alone in the middle of her office.

She took the stairs up to the third floor, giving herself time to consider what she was going to say to House, and how she was going to say it. The wrong words would send him scurrying defensively into a corner, barricades firmly in place for the perceived siege.

Cuddy entered, finding House deeply immersed in a journal article. He hadn't even heard her enter; or least he hadn't stirred. "You're not in Boston." Her tone was arch; her words a disingenuous statement, not a question.

"And pink is definitely not your color. Your turn." House eyed Cuddy's mauve silk blouse, which in actuality, he reflected, looked beyond simply stunning on her against the black and white of the checked suit. Everybody lies; Cuddy glared at him; he could detect the hot simmer beneath the cold stare. "Oh," he continued, letting out a resigned breath. "This is not a 'state the obvious' contest."

"No." The simmer picked up and headed toward full boil. She crossed her arms in front of her, approaching his desk. "It's not." His turn.

"Oh." He gave her nothing, choosing, instead to return to his reading. She remained standing, arms crossed in front of House's desk. Waiting. She was good at waiting. An expert at waiting out Dr. Gregory House. He looked up, sighing. "You're still here." Inevitable, he knew. She was not one to give up easily. She sat. "What do you want me to say?" He asked finally, resigned and in no mood to bicker.

"The truth." Simple; direct. Her voice had softened perceptibly; however the indignation remained intact. "Did you do it to achieve some sort of new and exotic high? Some trip to nirvana that simple Vicodin can't provide anymore? That…"

"Cameron." Of course it had been Cameron. "She ran to mommy; couldn't stand to see her idol with feet of clay, humiliating himself for a new and higher high. Burst her bubble. Just fucking perfect." Well bickering was preferable to saying the truth: that he was desperate. That the pain had won and he had to find a way out—and if he died or had a shorter lifespan in the process, so be it.

"Did you do it to get high?" She wanted him to say it; wanted him to lie to her about it; tell her that he had done it, had planned on doing it, to simply find a more potent high. House simply stared in response, answering indignation with indignation; anger with anger.

"Yeah. Fine. Good a reason as any." The edge in his voice was tinged with resignation. He looked back at the article, doing his best to ignore her glare. Cuddy stood wordlessly, never taking her eyes from him.

"House…" He stood suddenly, dropping the journal on his desk and doing his best to ignore her. He moved to the window. To Cuddy, his gait was more pained than usual: slower, more careful. Spring rain was hard for him: more pain, less traction. And the rain was coming down hard, pelting the glass. But House liked the grayness of the day; it fit his mood as he peered out into the storm. He heard her move, the barely audible sound, reverberating through the silence of the office in harmony to the rain.

"Don't let the door…" He listened for the sound of the office door, hoping she had taken the hint and was about to leave him to sulk in peace. A gentle touch on his back startled him, nearly causing House to lose his balance. Cuddy was certainly the expert at that: keeping him off balance.

She came along side him, half watching out the window, half regarding his profile, his eyes. The rain reflected in the glass and back onto House's face making it appear streaked with tears. But his eyes could only reflect what his heart could not say, and to see them, even from this oblique angle broke her heart. She saw the strain and toll these months had taken on him in his very private Hell. One that he refused to, or could not, share. House sighed, turning back from the window to sit back in his chair, his elbows propped on the desk. He buried his face in his hands, willing Cuddy away, to just leave him be. He didn't need this, or want it.

Cuddy touched his back again, and this time he did not flinch. "House," she began. She thought, in that brief moment, about what to say to him. What could even begin to make it better? He was in trouble, she knew, and felt, in that moment, powerless to help him. She began to offer words that evaporated on her lips: hollow and trite; platitudes that he would, at best, brush off, and at worst strike back against. Instead, she ran her hand down his shoulder, grabbing his hand and asking, gently, wordlessly to let her in. House gripped her hand tightly, letting her intertwine her fingers with his before letting go; dismissing her with a nod. It wasn't even a start, but maybe he knew, somehow, that she was there for him.