Author's Note: This was originally written for Wilson Fest. My prompt was what would happen if Cuddy always chose House over Wilson? How would he react to being second all the time? The option was to make this either a Wilson/House/Cuddy or Wilson/Cuddy fic, and I chose the former. Enjoy!
A very special thanks to my beta, Olly, who helped me through this. I know you don't really like threesomes, so thanks for continuing to proof my work – even when though it's not your cup of tea.
Disclaimer: I do not own House, so don't sue me, please.
By Duckie Nicks
He wakes up to the sounds of Wilson making himself pretty. And he knows this is the case because it's 7:30 and even Cuddy likes to sleep till 8 on weekends.
In his next relationship, House decides, he'll date two blondes who sleep till noon.
And he rolls over then to annoy the woman sleeping beside him. Her dark hair slightly curled and fanned on her pillow, her breath slow and even – most would let her sleep, but House will not. Because if Wilson, now clipping his nails, is going to keep him up, then House is going to make sure Cuddy's just as miserable.
"Dr. Cuddy!" he says loudly. And her blue eyes opening immediately, angrily, tell him that she too was awoken by Dr. I-Clip-My-Toenails-At-Inconvenient-Times.
She mumbles something to him – the only word distinguishable his name – before rolling over onto her side.
Once more left to his own devices, he thinks that that wasn't as much fun as it should have been. And bored, he blindly reaches for the Vicodin on the nightstand. Swallowing the pills down, House tries to go back to sleep to images of killing Wilson.
Yes, he thinks once more, the next threesome he dates will only consist of members who sleep past noon.
There is no thought anymore to dating just one person. Thanks to Stacy, maybe, House knows he can't do it alone. He needs a team for everything, even this. He doesn't share this with anyone, just secretly mulls over the truth. He's too messed up to do relationships alone.
He's mean and angry and all take, no give. And those facts alone probably mean that this arrangement will end. But he also figures that if anyone can handle his bullshit, it's these two people.
It's not really reassuring, but it's all he's got, and at that thought, he settles back down, trying to sleep some more.
But five minutes later, Cuddy utters his name in a voice that's the sonic equivalent to bedroom eyes – he has yet to find a suitable name for it. And as she rolls over and straddles him, he says mockingly, "My, someone's being demanding today."
"House." It's a warning, but they kiss, morning breath and all, nonetheless. House is so sure that this will end, but he tells himself once more that he really doesn't want this to end.
He clings to her extra tightly this morning, hoping that Cuddy and Wilson will never learn the truth. Hoping that he will never have to hear the door close for good.
Wilson is the glue that keeps them together, she knows. House alone is just…
It's not like she ever really expected anything different, of course. Part of her had always known that he was as miserable as he seemed. But years ago, Cuddy wanted Stacy to be wrong when she left, wanted to believe that House hadn't really been affected that much. And… she slept with him, then, took an added interest in his life to see how bad it really was.
Since then, over the years, when she has noticed Cameron's attraction to House, Cuddy tells herself that she had never been that naïve. Because she's pretty sure that she never believed she could fix House the way the other brunette did. But the older woman also knows that when she'd seen what lay beneath the surface, it had scared her. What little House had shown her… It was as though she had seen into the abyss, and the thing that stared back at her – her failure, his anger, whatever – frightened her.
Chased her away.
And while the sex had been great, House was wrong in thinking this was the only reason he'd gotten the job. After that night, she felt as though she'd gotten in way over her head and had backed out like a coward. Sometimes, Cuddy thought that giving him the job was, in part, an extravagant apology. For the leg, for not being to help. For all of it.
Their incredibly short-term thing hadn't worked then, and Cuddy knows they wouldn't work well alone now. She is still scared.
But with Wilson… there's someone to share the burden, someone to talk to, someone to balance out the darkness.
Many times, the dark-haired woman has asked herself why she can't just be happy with the oncologist. Why keep House around when so much of what he does is cause her trouble?
She feels like Goldilocks and who knows what, but she never chooses. It's so inconvenient and ridiculous, and sometimes she thinks that she shouldmake a choice. But Cuddy does not, stays exactly where she is, afraid of what her answer might be.
His marriage is over long before either one is ready to admit the failure. And Wilson hates it because breaking vows – promises – makes him feel like a liar.
Worse still, they fight over something they sort of actually agree on: House. She has said that he is an asshole, and Wilson is, at times, inclined to agree. He doesn't really try to deny that, anyway. As she argues that House only uses Wilson, the oncologist hedges, uses lame phrases like, "If you only knew him."
He understands that House really isn't all that better once you've spent time with him. And when he's being completely honest, Wilson agrees with his wife that the older man isn't worth the trouble.
But he won't abandon his friend. That's something James Wilson hates to do – refuse people who need him. No matter how much trouble they cause…
And late at night, after he's packed his bags and left for a hotel, Wilson thinks that leaving her shouldn't be this easy. But he can see that she, now confident, successful, and strong, no longer needs him. She will be sad for a while, but his wife will eventually get over the dissolution of their marriage. Whereas his friend wouldn't handle losing Wilson well at all, and that alone – he wants to believe this at least – is the reason he chose House over his wife.
Wilson is attracted to her in ways he can't quite comprehend. Cuddy is beautiful and caring and smart and more of an equal than anyone else he's ever wanted to date.
Which is why a relationship is out of the question.
Cuddy likes his company, but she doesn't need him. So what's the point, he wonders. They'll go on a few dates, kiss maybe, but at the end of the day… she doesn't need him so she won't keep him around.
It kills him – that he likes her, but they won't end up together. It drives him nuts that he is essentially inept at relationships, deducing everything down to what he can give the other person.
Wilson goes to therapy and makes a mental note to try harder than ever at this, but… he is inadequate – he knows – and until something in this equation changes, it's probably best to ignore Cuddy entirely.
Liquor makes you do dumb things, but two of the three are sober as hell. And House has only had his normal amount of scotch (to give the Vicodin an extra potency) so it hardly counts. But later on, he thinks, if he'd known this was gonna happen, he would have skipped the alcohol entirely.
And set up a camera to videotape it all.
Secretly, House hopes they have sex again sometime so he has another opportunity to record it; he figures with a little blackmail, he'd get out of clinic duty pretty quickly.
With some perspective afterwards, he thinks it makes sense that they should end up a threesome. The mechanics of it were nicely set up: Cuddy and Wilson could never be happy without someone needing them. So that, at least while they had his prescription, brought him into the equation. And they both needed someone else to talk to and whine to and watch Lifetime movies with. So that made sense.
But in the actual moment – as it is happening – House is sure that absolutely no one understands what is going on.
Her lips meet his first, a reminder of things past. And then she kisses Wilson, and House doesn't like it; he isn't one to share until her hand brushes against his crotch, somehow both lasciviously and reassuringly.
And he shrugs mentally then, giving into the mouths and hands. Cause if it sucks, he was drunk and high so he won't need to feel guilty. But he knows it's not going to suck almost immediately; two sets of hands are really much better than one, and it's easy for him because it makes no sense, but feels so right. And damn good.
Her hands begin to unbuckle his belt, and momentarily, the puzzle that is this is pushed aside.
What have I done? It is his first thought in the morning, and deprived of sleep, Wilson can't help but think that he's spiraling downward if he's having those kinds of thoughts this early. His head resting against Cuddy's back, his legs tangling with House's, it's not funny, the oncologist thinks.
But it kind of is, because he can't really think of it any other way. House had involved himself in every relationship Wilson had had up until this point… so maybe it was time something like this happened.
Still – this is big. Really, really big. Something he can't take back or excuse with simple words.
And with the near panic starting to claw at his insides, Wilson works to extricate himself from the limbs. It's not as easy when there are two people to avoid, he thinks.
Quickly showering, he breaks his routine this morning. He does not blow dry his hair or clip his nails obsessively. If he's going to take a walk of shame, then Wilson thinks that he probably shouldn't be perfectly manicured. It would make him both delusional and pathetic.
The dark-haired man easily finds his pants and shoes, but his shirt seems to have been lost. In his search for it, he notices that Cuddy has already left. Which makes him all the more determined to leave quickly; he isn't ready to speak to House yet. But five minutes later, still without a shirt, he throws in the towel so to speak. He'll just… drive home topless.
But as he closes the bedroom door behind him to leave, Wilson finds his shirt – loosely buttoned (and barely long enough) on Cuddy. Her hair slightly curled and messy, he watches, entranced, as she putters around the kitchen looking for coffee.
The oncologist is smart enough to know he could leave now; she wouldn't see him most likely, and they could go on for the rest of their lives pretending that this never happened. It would be the smart thing to do sure, but instead, Wilson finds himself sitting down at the kitchen table, and moments later, she hands him a hot mug of coffee.
It is almost a perfect picture of domesticity. But the fact that this isn't your average happy home forces them both, he thinks, into an uncomfortable silence. Finally, perhaps to avoid the tension, they begin the most banal of conversations.
They both tiptoe around the reality of the situation, talk about everything but the fact that they had a threesome with House last night. Eventually, though, they settle for discussing the man still sleeping in the bedroom. Because even now, with maybe a few more parameters, House is a safe topic to talk about.
And it's odd how normal things become for them then. They plot how they can make House do his clinic hours, how they might prevent him from self-destructing.
The latter is a lengthy conversation, and when Wilson stands up, it's not to leave, but to make them both breakfast instead.
Naturally though, the smell of food wakes up House. But even with the addition of a third person, it's not as weird as it probably should be, Wilson thinks. Instead of awkwardness or anger, they sit down for a nice breakfast. Or as nice as any meal can be with House present.
But still… it's almost as though nothing happened at all. They are comfortable with one another and friendly. And yet looking into both sets of blue eyes, Wilson's sure that they are all aware that something has happened.
Something big has changed.
She nearly sprains her ankle maneuvering through her crowded foyer. The area stuffed to the brim with boxes of Wilson's belongings, Cuddy twists and turns to avoid knocking over the cardboard confines.
There's just way too much stuff, she thinks, and maybe this was – is – a bad idea if it requires putting this much extra… crap in her house. He left the furniture in storage, but even without it, Wilson has so much stuff – and where she is going to put it? Not to mention, it hasn't escaped Cuddy's attention that someone is moving in with her.
The house is too big for one person, she knows. But at the same time, she's not sure it's spacious enough for the both of them, plus House.
The diagnostician isn't moving in thankfully, at least not yet, but she knows he will be around more than ever now. If she knows House at all, which Cuddy is pretty sure she does, then he'll stay over at the house more than usual. And, much like a child with his favorite toy, it will have less to do with an actual desire to be with her – and more to do with being afraid of missing out on something.
Sure enough, that night, both Cuddy and Wilson wake abruptly to the sounds of boxes tumbling and things breaking. Even through her sleepy haze, she thinks, well, that takes care of the clutter.
Stumbling down the stairs, she is not concerned for a burglar, and she doesn't think Wilson is either. Taking the last step, they can see House splayed out on the floor, assorted DVDs around him.
"House!" they both say, her voice unnaturally whiney and Wilson's exasperated.
The intruder rummages through the mess for his bottle of Vicodin and tosses a few into his mouth. "You booby-trapped your place?!"
"And a boob we caught," she snaps back, in no mood.
But House has moved onto other things. Still on the floor, he picks up one of the DVD boxes and holds it up. "He's the one who owns The Bodyguard: Deluxe Edition."
"It was a gift!" Wilson replies hurriedly.
The two "men" - Cuddy's not really sure at this point that either truly qualify – begin to squabble, and she turns to go back to bed. Closing the bedroom door behind her, she catches Wilson half-shouting, "You watch The L Word, House!"
The next morning in her office, House insists on moving in. And she rolls her eyes, reminding him that he had the same offer extended to him.
"No," he tries to correct her. "You said I could only move in if I abandoned Steve McQueen. Wilson could just move in."
She stands up from her desk, ready to leave the room and end the conversation. "That's because Wilson doesn't have a rat," she hisses. The man starts to follow her, Cuddy can tell. "House…" She stops walking, and he takes the opportunity to pretend to bump into her (she is sure of this).
His body brushing up against hers – this is dangerous, she thinks, to be doing this at work. "Get rid of the rat and move in," Cuddy says almost breathlessly.
"Fine," House says a little too quickly, and by the end of the week, his guitar collection has overtaken her guest bedroom.
But she is beginning to accept the clutter in her house, because it feels right; for the first time since she moved in, she thinks the place feels like home. And when she finds Steve McQueen living in her attic, Cuddy can only roll her eyes.
Not eager to give up her happiness, the brunette closes the attic door behind her, eager to pretend she'd never seen a thing.
He hides in her attic when he wants to avoid dealing with their shrill admonishments from work. House isn't usually one to avoid a fight, but lately, they've been giving him a headache that no drug can quell.
The hiding spot isn't ideal, because it means dealing with the steep stairs that make his leg hurt. Which is probably why they don't look in the attic for him. But House thinks it's worth it, if it means escaping, and solves this problem with a handful of pills.
And while he's up here, he takes the added pleasure of letting his stowaway rodent loose in Cuddy's house. One of these days, House realizes, the rat will probably run away and live his days in the walls. But right now, he isn't inclined to feel guilty about it.
His diagnosis wasn't wrong. It was right; it is right, and he won't apologize because the patient ended up paralyzed. She'll get better parking and always have a seat, he tells himself.
He was right, and puzzles sometimes don't resolve themselves with pretty answers. And House is in no mood to hear what Cuddy or Wilson have to say.
So he hides up there till the sun goes down. Stays up in the attic with his Vicodin and Steve McQueen and passes the time with air guitar and occasionally peeing in the vases Cuddy keeps up here because she never uses them.
Long after he's sure they've gone to sleep, House finally makes his way to bed. He'll think of a lie tomorrow about where he's been, he decides.
But he will not admit that he was avoiding them. Nor will he ever admit that maybe, just maybe, they were right.
The rest of the hospital has found out the truth; Wilson is sure of this. He has been around long enough to know when the rumor mill has found something juicy to talk about. And he certainly can't help but notice the way the nurses stop talking the moment he enters the room.
From the beginning, the oncologist has feared this. So he hesitated, but he was still willing, he knows. But now, Wilson is sure that this relationship has been a huge mistake. And he's not sure he wants it to end or even that he can end it. Just… it was stupid to think they could get away with it.
Wilson tries to ignore the rumors, the innuendo, but it's starting to wear on him. And he's not sure how much longer he can pretend that everything is fine.
They walk in on him using morphine.
He's laying on her couch casually with the needle dangling from his arm. The expression on his face isn't unlike the one she would wear while watching a boring movie. House is using morphine, but it very clearly isn't even the kind of high he wants anymore.
His eyes are glazed over, and from the used needles laying on her coffee table, they can tell this is how he's spent his day off – searching for that elusive high.
And it's the first time (in a while) that they've been confronted with his problem. She prayed it would go away, hoped that this would be something that never came up.
But obviously, House is still as messed up as ever, and Wilson, she can tell, is furious. They walk away, but Cuddy cannot ignore the horrible sounds of him vomiting hours later.
She helps him, but Wilson's silent brown eyes scream that she's enabling him.
And the situation in the house only gets worse when Wilson finds more forged prescriptions a few days later in House's belongings.
The diagnostician refuses rehab. There are no excuses made, no pleas for help or forgiveness – only an angry defense of his need. It's not really enough for her, but she won't leave; it's definitely not enough for Wilson who becomes livid.
And Cuddy understands why it does, because they are his scrips and his fake signature. It was his career that was almost ended by Tritter, and they're headed back on that path it seems. She sympathizes with him, but in the end… House, the one she is afraid will leave, is the one she fears upsetting more. So she keeps quiet and hedges.
She tells herself that she's not really choosing. And she hopes that if she tells herself this enough times, it will eventually be true.
But soon after (when Cuddy goes to write House a prescription for Vicodin), he tells her that he has some left. At first glance, she wants to believe that he's getting better, but… she knows the truth.
He only wants the morphine now.
House doesn't deny it, and Cuddy feels like the rug has been pulled out from under her.
She goes to Wilson, hoping that he will make it all better. Hoping that he'll be able to talk to House and get through to him, and end this. But it only makes matters worse. The house is filled now with anger; the two men fight over everything and anything. There are no quiet conversations, no loving gestures.
House takes to locking himself in her attic for hours at a time, and Wilson discovers his love for Julia Child and recipes that take a long time to make. She is the go-between, frustrated, but she does not choose.
It becomes a daily routine for her – to plead with both men to work it out. She always starts with Wilson, hoping that he will be the bigger person.
Cuddy creeps slowly into the kitchen each time and watches him methodically cut vegetables. Every now and then, she'll sneak a bite of carrot or celery and chew on it, even though she's not hungry. And then finally, she'll say, as benignly as possible, "You don't have to do this."
He pretends not to understand. "The cooking? I like doing things like this." His brown eyes do not look over at her, which she hates. Instead Wilson remains hunched over, focused on the task at hand.
"I meant –" She cuts herself off, stops talking. Her lips purse together once more. He's not going to cave or make this any easier for her, even though she wishes he would. It's so selfish, Cuddy thinks, and angrily, she bites back, "House has a problem. You –"
"And now he's made it mine," Wilson says furiously. It bothers her, the tone of his voice. She has heard him talk this harshly before but always to House. Directed at her, it bothers her. Makes her uncomfortable.
"He's an addict," the oncologist says exasperated. "And we all know that. But he doesn't think this is a problem." He stops cutting the food and turns to face her. His brown eyes are almost black in their intensity, and she wishes that she'd never brought up the subject.
"If House wanted help, if he asked for my help, you know I would give it to him. But that's not what he wants. All he wants is to do more drugs. He doesn't care who he hurts." Cuddy isn't sure, but she thinks that at that moment, his voice is filled with pain.
But Wilson does not ask for her comfort, something she would willingly give. He only returns to cutting vegetables, and the silence falls over them once more. Finally the man adds, "I care about House, but… I need to know that he feels the same way. I need him to… put someone else first for a change." He dumps the vegetables into a metal bowl on the counter top, before adding, "Neither of you can expect me to destroy my career for him again. I won't let my patients die for him."
He sighs and looks at her once more, and she frowns. "And I can't believe that you of all people are willing to sacrifice just as much – and demand the same of me – all to enable him."
The accusation hangs in the air, filling the space between them until Cuddy is sure that she will suffocate on his indictments of her. He goes back to work, now cutting a piece of chicken.
She does not want this to be the end of the conversation, but she doesn't know what to say. Or rather, she's not sure how to explain. Cuddy wants to tell him that she knows House has a problem, wants to justify her actions in this somehow. Because it's not as cut and dry as Wilson makes it, she reasons. House is an addict, but treating him this way doesn't make anything better.
Her heels click on the linoleum as she shuffles, waiting for him to say something else. They are only a few feet from one another, and she wishes that he would breach the gap and hold her. She needs that and wants to cling to him, apologize to him, confess her fears that House will leave if she pushes to hard.
She wants to rub her cheek against his shoulder and feel his warm breath caress her dark hair. Cuddy wants that comfort and, in the end, wants to give that to Wilson as well.
But instead she turns and leaves, as she always does when they have this conversation. Nothing has changed since the first time they had this fight, and it probably never will, but she won't choose between the two men.
And so inevitably she searches for House, always to find him in her attic. Shutting the door harshly behind her, she half yells, half hisses, "Fix this, House."
"ButMom!" Sitting on the wooden floor, he looks up at her, mockingly.
She folds her arms across her chest in an attempt to look more authoritative than she actually is in this relationship. "I'm serious. If you don't – stop staring at my breasts, House." The older man doesn't listen as usual, and she sighs, letting her arms drop to her sides.
"He'll get over it," House says confidently.
"No, he won't!" It's almost amusing how stupidhe can be sometimes, she thinks. But not really. "You need to fix this, and you need to do it now before –" But she pauses in mid-sentence, the pungent scent finally hitting her nose. "What's that smell?"
House shrugs his shoulders, looking like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. She thinks it's the rat's fault, but she follows the scent and finds that one of her vases is home to the offending liquid. And Cuddy knows then that this isn't Steve McQueen.
"You've been…" She stops talking, the anger threatening to overtake her. After a few seconds, she tries again. "Whyhave you been – what on earth could possess you to pee in my attic, House?!"
She's disgusted. "Got a bum leg. And the bathroom is sooo far away." The sarcasm and the annoyance lacing his voice are not lost on her. And it's a small sign to her at least that he misses Wilson. That House wants things to return to normal.
Carefully, Cuddy crouches down so she can look at the sitting man eye to eye. "All you have to do is apologize. And mean it." Her voice is as soft as she can make it while holding a vase filled with urine.
House says nothing in return, and unsatisfied, she cautiously hands him the ceramic vase. "And clean this up," she says firmly.
But he doesn't apologize. Instead, Wilson's anger only fuels House's. And Cuddy hates that their lives have taken this turn for the worse.
She's not sure what to do, tries to be everything for both of them. Because if she can walk this tightrope then she'll never have to choose. It's complicated and frustrating, but it's better to have both than only one. As long as she can remain the go-between, then there's hope for one of them to concede.
And Cuddy can almost believe that they will get through this until it affects their work, and Wilson won't do House's consults. They can't be near each other at all anymore. And House, not liking this change, retaliates by insulting and embarrassing – punishing – the oncologist anyway he can.
This time there is no Tritter, only House determined to ruin Wilson. And this time, the oncologist demands that Cuddy make a choice because he is ready to leave.
She doesn't want to choose, knows she shouldn't have to, but ultimately, the brunette does. Wilson, Cuddy thinks, can be happy with someone else. He's an attractive, smart, funny guy, she reasons. He'll bounce back in a way that House will never be able to.
So she chooses House.
And their fragile world breaks, never to be the same again.
He should have known it would come to this. Really, he should have. Cuddy would always choose House, and Wilson should have known. Because if the roles were reversed – and he had to choose between her and him – the oncologist would also probably choose House.
At least, that's what Wilson had done before with his marriages, he thinks with a sigh.
He really should have expected this. It's a thought he can't get past. He should have known it would happen, but he had hoped this would be different.
And sitting in his new hotel room, Wilson wishes it had been.
She goes to him with love and apology on her lips and tears in her eyes. She needs him; she's sorry, Cuddy says as her shaking hands brush away a stray strand of hair.
House is different, more prone to periods of sullenness and anger.
"He needs you," the brunette says, her voice husky. "I need you too," the words strained by unshed tears.
He is needed, Wilson thinks in an almost wonderment. And he cannot say no.
She kisses him hard, and he pulls her into the hotel room. It's small and dirty, and they are imperfect as always. But they make do.
Wilson only pulls away to say yes.
He moves back in, and things slowly creep back to normal. House apologizes in his own fashion – which is to say, "I'm sorry" is noticeably absent.
No one denies that House is now addicted to morphine. But Wilson understands that things are slightly different. Cuddy is eager to tell him how much she missed him, and the oncologist knows that she's not just pandering to him.
She's more attentive as well, it seems. Perhaps because she knows what life is like without him in it. And that makes him feel warmer inside, somehow.
House seems… slightly regretful, maybe a little nicer – though Wilson knows this may be the drugs talking. It's probably not the morphine talking when House tells him one night in a near whisper that he's decided to exploit his new team for their scrips.
It's a small reassurance, but things are better. And he knows now that they need him just as much as he probably needs them.
It's odd, Wilson supposes, that it takes three of them to have this kind of balance. But amidst all the chaos, there is a normalcy based on some sort of love.
And for the first time, Wilson is sure everything he could want and need is here in this home. He is content, he thinks, and on some level, he knows that his companions feel the same way.
Things have changed, but some things have not. Like Wilson making everyone breakfast less than a month after he returned. The small glimpses of normalcy leave him glowing, craving more of them.
And knowing that any of that is still possible fills him with a happiness. So much so that Wilson doesn't lose his temper when House insults him over the food taking too long.
And when Steve McQueen – or some distantly related rat – scurries across the stovetop, ruining the food and eliciting all kinds of sounds from Cuddy – Wilson can only smile.
He is home.