A/N: TA DA! Hee, this one will only be about nine parts - but each part is likely to be as massively long as this one - so that's alright right? I'm going to try to update every tuesday - so happy tuesday! As usual, many many many thanks to Alias424 - who [atiently puts up with my semi-sane ramblings about this huge fic. Review! A/N 2; And I had to delete and re-post this because FF is MADE OF FAIL and wouldn't let me change the language from Spanish to English. FAIL FF, FAIL!! So if you reviewed (i.e had me on author alert and thought ' maybe it's not in spanish' I am SO SORRY - I rlly appreciated the reviews, but I HAD to fix it. Stupid FF. Garh.
Life is defined by minutes and seconds that trickle past you at an almost undetectable rate. The canvas is defined by harsh strokes – indelible marks scored across it in fresh paint, or squeaked along in magic marker. The method doesn't matter, because the outcome is always the same. One more section of your soul scrawled across while you aren't paying attention.
She was paying attention now.
She was aware of her breathing – rapid and a quick in-out-in-out-in-in-in-out– in contrast to his own slower, laboured breaths – liquid gurgling with each mechanical whoosh of the machine. She was aware of the blood. Dark red, vivid against the white sheets he lay on – so dark that she couldn't stare at it too long, lest that be the mark he left on her. Permanent.
She wanted to look at his eyes – his face, his hands, and his hair – anything but the violent black ruby of the blood. She couldn't look away though. Couldn't tear her eyes off of him, or remember to blink – or even listen to the voice buzzing around her and the hand tugging on her arm.
"Dr. Cuddy!" She swatted at the hands pulling on her, pushing them away but not stepping any closer to the gurney he lay on. This wasn't real. This was not real.
She could only stare at him, waiting for him to move, waiting for the doctors to step away and for him to sit up. She stared so hard at the white sheets, stained with blood that she could feel the edge of her vision darken, blacken along the edges like charred paper as she tried to burn away the image in her mind.
"Cuddy!" A hand was grabbing her roughly now – jerking her around and away from the image as she gasped in air for the first time in what seemed like forever. "Shit, she's in shock –"
"I'm fine." Her voice seemed far from fine, wooden and hollow – echoing with darkness. But there must have been enough command in there – because the four people in front of her stopped talking.
"He'll be fine." Chase was the first to reassure her. softly – his hand on her arm for a moment. "The bullets went straight through – and missed his carotid artery, miraculously. They'll just need to take him into surgery. Since you're his physician on record..."
Cameron was sobbing – a strangled choking sound as her shoulders shook and her dark eyes were wide in her pale face. Her hands were pressed to her mouth as tears streamed down her face and she met Cuddy's eyes wildly.
"He just came in and shot him. Didn't say anything – just asked who House was and shot him. What kind of person would do that?!" Her voice was thick with tears as she spoke to Cuddy, who watched her with an eerie sense of detachment.
"They need to take him into surgery." Brenda's voice was brisk, jerking Cuddy's attention toward her. Her eyes slid over the bleeding wound of emotion that was Cameron, past the solemnly silent face of Foreman, finally landing on Brenda.
"He asked for you –" Cameron's hands were clutching her arms like talons as panic seeped through her voice. "He said to tell you –" Cuddy turned back to her – even though it hurt to look at the girl, a red-hot poker shoved through her chest. "Ketamine."
Ketamine. She felt the disappointment flow through her like darkly clotted blood – but she pressed her teeth against her lip and kept her face calm.
"Has anyone called Wilson?" She finally spoke, and her voice felt rusty, like an old metal gate neglected and corroded.
"I paged him," Brenda responded briskly and Cuddy nodded absently in response. She wavered in her spot – longing to turn around, but terrified to as well. Chase had said he would be fine. They always said that to loved ones. Chase didn't know she was a – he didn't know.
"Dr. Cuddy – we need to take Dr. House up to surgery now." The ER doctor was at her elbow with a form to sign. She took the binder, turning to him and glancing over his shoulder at House's too-still form.
"I'm giving the anaesthesia." It was a snap decision – a moment in time and out of time. "Get him up to the OR and prep him – I want no one in that room when I get there, do you understand me?" She was snapping out the orders and the doctor wavered before her. "Anyone who doesn't vacate the OR will be fired," she added as an afterthought – tagged onto the end of an order she fully expected to be obeyed anyway. He looked at her in shock before nodding. Taking the signed clipboard, he nodded to the nurses and they wheeled House's bed away swiftly.
She watched until they rounded the corner and were out of sight, and just like gasping for air, she felt her control slip back into place – correcting the skewed world around her. She turned back to see his fellows' shocked faces.
"Do you think it's a good idea –" Foreman was the only one to speak and she glared at him. She was angry – the emotion spewed through her body like vitriolic acid, and he was as good a target as any.
"Are you questioning my authority, Dr. Foreman?" She ground the words to dust as she uttered them, and he shook his head quickly. "I'll come out with updates."
"Can't we go watch –" Cameron was pleading – little girl hopeful as her blood-smeared hands reached out, and Cuddy stepped back, repulsed.
"No." She stepped around the group and moved quickly, almost a jog, as she rushed through doors and hallways. When she finally hit the pharmacy, she levelled a glare at the technician. "Take a break."
"It's not my –" he protested.
"Then you're fired."
"No! No! I'll – I'm taking a break." Cuddy would have never been one to describe anyone as scurrying – but the rate at which the tech moved would have come very close.
She didn't bother with the shelves, opting instead to open the locked door in the back and scanning through the supplies there. "Ketamine." She was whispering to herself when she saw it – small bottles labelled Ketalar – and snatched the vials down. It wasn't used in hospitals a lot – small doses as a local aesthetic – and she would need a lot. She shoved the bottles into her pockets with hands that shook, before she turned back and exited the room swiftly.
She closed and locked the pharmacy, before traveling out to the elevators. The bottles clinked musically as she moved into the operating room, and nodded once. The personnel gathered there left, and she moved over to his IV pole.
"God, House – " Her voice was a shaky whisper, and she pressed a shaking palm to his head as she tried not to look at his gaping wounds. "Please." She felt tears burning the back of her eyes as she leaned down by him, so close her trembling breaths stirred the fabric of his cap. "Don't die."
She stood just as quickly, pulling the vials out and placing them on the tray in front of her. She drew the first needle, her hands shaking violently. Another pair of hands reached past her, taking the vial and needle.
"I'll do that. You're more likely to stab yourself." Brenda's voice was dry, and Cuddy turned to her in shock.
"Leave," Cuddy protested, but Brenda just placed the filled needle next to her and started to fill another.
"No. And I know you won't fire me."
"Brenda – this is – illegal, and I could get my ass handed to me for this." Cuddy's voice was grateful, and Brenda's eyes met hers – fathomless and dark above her mask.
"I know. Which is why you're the one actually administering it. Come on – they won't stay out forever." Brenda moved on to the next needle and Cuddy nodded – before picking up the first needle and staring down at him for a moment. She had never wanted to be here again – watching them slice him open. She closed her eyes on the memories and took refuge in the obsidian behind her eyes, before opening them and sliding the needle into his IV tube.
"Please." It was barely a whisper – and more than a plea as she depressed the plunger and reached for another needle.
Guilt obviously isn't a comfortable emotion for Stacy. She fidgets and reeks of it as you prepare to put him under. It's easier for you – and it makes you wonder why. Does she love him more than you do? Or are you just so accustomed to it that it's like breathing. His eyes are lingering on you as you fill his IV line, and his hand reaches out for yours, touching it briefly. 'Thank you.'
You step back as Stacy draws his attention, eyes filled with tears, whispering that she loves him and she's sorry. His eyes meet yours over her shoulder and he is almost asleep, but whispers out an 'I love you' before closing his eyes. Your hands clutch the chart in front of you and you have to exit the room before you can hear her tears, or let her see yours.
He meant her. You have to tell yourself this as you walk numbly toward Wilson's office. He meant Stacy – because if he meant you, you won't be able to do this. Wilson opens his door silently and hugs you, because you are crying so hard you can't speak at first. He thinks the coma is real – that you actually gave in to House's suggestion to ride out the pain.
"Lisa..." His voice is soft and you feel like you should warn him – without involving him. You and Stacy will be stained with guilt when House wakes up – but he needs someone who wasn't involved. Wilson has to be that someone.
'Would you rather have someone love you and die, or hate you and live?' Your voice is a shaky whisper and he looks at you with sudden concern.
'Cuddy – what are you – '
'Alive is better, right? Even if he hates me.' You aren't going to pretend he may forgive you one day – you don't expect he ever will, not really. He'll still have Wilson – and Stacy, if she can survive it. She has to, because the alternative isn't acceptable.
'Cuddy – '
'You'll be there, right? You won't leave him? Other than me Wilson, you're – '
'Of course I will, but what are you doing, Lisa?'
You don't answer him, smiling through your tears and pressing a soft kiss to his cheek. 'Promise me you won't leave him. And promise me you'll never tell him about this conversation – '
'Lisa... what conversation?' But you are already pushing away with a sad smile, exiting the room with a consent form clutched in your hands and an OR already booked for two hours from now.
She should be more understanding, she knew. She should allow them inside – allow them to judge her, because by now, everyone knew what had happened in that OR. Knew why House was in a coma now. He was pale – but his breathing was steady and the sounds felt like whispers of comfort as she sat in the uncomfortable chair next to his bed and ignored her hospital for the first time in years.
Brenda had been coming in every half hour, checking his vitals and charting them even though it wasn't her floor and she should have been in clinic. The first time she came in, she warned Cuddy that the story had circulated. "Everything from you putting him in the coma for a week of quiet, to you attempting to kill him and I saved his life." Brenda snorted at this as she checked House's blood pressure and rolled her eyes.
"He'd hate that." Cuddy smiled sadly and Brenda nodded and grinned.
"I know." Her smile was twisted and she shrugged before leaving Cuddy alone again.
The next time she entered, she had a stack of files and Cuddy's laptop – mumbling about workaholics and telling her House's team was still hovering outside. Cuddy thanked her for the laptop and didn't pay attention to the rest, her eyes constantly tracking the rise and fall of his chest.
She didn't hold his hand – glass walls and her own fears prevented that. She didn't touch his face or pull his sheets up – she didn't even check his stitches, aside from a cursory glance when Brenda checked his dressing. She just watched him – and it felt familiar and comforting. Watching him always had.
'You are a stalker Lisa.'
Your hands are gripping the porcelain sink so tightly you think it may just break. This was not how it was supposed to be. Your dreams about university did not include you hiding in a bar bathroom while you obsess about some guy who probably doesn't even know your name.
You groan lightly, leaning your head against the mirror. You concentrate on your breathing pattern because it's something to do other than stare at your pale reflection and think on how exactly you came to be a stalker anyway. This did not happen to you. Things like this did not happen to Lisa Cuddy. You were first in your class – and you were already accepted at Harvard medical school next year. You had everything you wanted, so why were you hiding in a bathroom like some teenage girl with confidence issues?
'This is ridiculous.' Your voice is weak, barely above a whisper as you stare at yourself hard – trying to will yourself to leave this bathroom and then go home. You shouldn't be here. The lighting in the bathroom makes you look sick – too pale and the shadows under your eyes deepening. Perfect, really.
It had started six months ago – on the day after your finals finished. Every morning for the past three years you had gotten up, and gone to the track to run. You loved how quiet it was, how the ground itself sounded muffled under your feet. Running gave you energy – woke you up and got your mind ready for the day. You had just finished a particularly gruesome set of finals though – and you had slept in that morning.
When you finally managed to get your run in – it was almost four in the afternoon, and you had been the only one on the track, despite that. But not for long. He had run past you not long after, long and lean and tinged almost pink in the glare of the setting sun. He was faster than you, and out of pure instinct you had increased your speed, hungry for the sharp tang of competition. His legs were longer but you were already warmed up and the two of you were even for just a little while. You drew up next to him, and when his eyes met yours for a second – not even a whole one, just a fraction as you felt the electric gaze slide over your skin – you stumbled, slowing down slightly as the air squeezing through your lungs burned and your muscles protested, quivering slightly as you resumed a more normal pace.
You glared at his back – you hated to lose – but he didn't turn back or even glance over his shoulder. You thought maybe he was smiling though – and it caused a burning much deeper than mere oxygen in your lungs. It was in your blood. You had to win.
You haven't jogged in the morning since.
High-pitched whispers distract you from the memory as two girls in too-tight shirts and too-short skirts stumbled into the harshly lit room. You think that it must have been dark in the room when they got ready – because under the unforgiving fluorescent lighting their makeup is caked on and garishly bright. You frown at your own reflection quickly – perhaps you're being unkind – but all you can see of the other girls in the mirror is bright blue eye shadow and too-red lips: it screams, 'I'm easy and cheap'. Your own makeup is understated – or was before you drank a few too many shots and ran your hands over your face a few too many times, hoping the edges of your vision would clear and become less blurry. All it did was smudge your mascara – a dark uneven line under your eyes, making them look darker and scarier than they were. Or maybe that was the direct result of you following him all night, watching him intently.
One of the girls is tripping, laughing ridiculously as she stumbles in shoes she probably couldn't walk in sober. You detested those women who wore high heels and had no idea how to actually function in themYou think your mother would be horrified by the sight and the thought causes you to laugh slightly – a mumble as you can't seem to lift your head from the mirror or make this nauseous feeling go away.
Your mother is horrified by a lot of things – you included.
She would however fully approve of you right now – going out of your way to get a man to notice you because that's what good girls did. Got married to doctors and lawyers and popped out two point five kids – even if what said girl wanted was a career of her own. Of course, he probably wasn't Jewish – and that would be a deal breaker anyway. You heave a sigh of relief and the mirror fogs in the corner. You don't know if you can handle the thought of your mother approving. 'Please don't be Jewish' you mumble and one of the girls – with a shorter skirt and bigger hair – casts you an odd look. You don't care.
You had resigned yourself long ago to the fact that girls – women – simply didn't like you. You never did know why – if it was your breasts or your ass or the way you could look them in the eye and see right through them – but they often took one look at you and hated you instantly. Which was fine with you – boys were easier to understand anyway and it just made you more aggressive. You didn't play games to get what you wanted. You just got it.
Which was why you had drunk a little too much and stared a little too hard tonight. You were playing games and the idea of it sat so ill at ease that you needed those extra shots just to come to terms with the fact.
'Aren't you an undergrad? What are you doing here?' The girl with the medium height hair was speaking now – her voice dripping with venom as she leaned against the sink next to you and leaned forward unsteadily. You ignore her, still breathing evenly. She would be part of the graduating class – not the med school class you pray for humanity's sake – but a grad student none the less. Of course you can't seem to picture her majoring in anything other than cosmetology – but you try to give her the benefit of the doubt. No one looking at you would probably be able to tell you were about to be a med student either. 'Well?' Her voice is sharper now and it makes you open your eyes and glare at her.
'TA invited me.' Technically true – you are friends with the TA for your biology class. And while he may be under the misapprehension that his hands will become more familiar with certain parts of your anatomy – you are not. He was a means to an end – namely being involved in a social circle above you. His social circle, or so you had thought. This was the first time you'd ever actually seen him at any of these parties though.
'Whatever.' This is spoken so snidely that really you can't be blamed for moving your own foot out to the left as she walks away. She trips, and her friend catches her in a comical move. You watch with a small satisfied smile, still leaning against the cold mirror and wishing you were anywhere but here. She shoots a glare at you but doesn't press the issue as she leaves the room in a huff.
You are happy to be left alone with your thoughts – thoughts that of course will invariably turn back to him.
"Cuddy – I got here as quick as I could. What in the hell is going on?" Wilson didn't knock and wait for approval to enter, he just walked in and pulled up a chair next to hers. The dumbfounded expressions on the faces of House's team outside were almost comical – if she liked that sort of black humour.
"Walls are glass, James," she pointed out mildly. "I just saw you getting the news."
"Yeah, well, according to Cameron, you want House dead – put him in a coma and probably hired the gunman." He paused and winced under her glare. "Of course, she's in shock." Cuddy snorted at that and Wilson leaned forward, his eyes travelling worriedly along House's form. He reached one hand out, and rested it on House's shin for a moment before turning back to her purposefully. "What happened?"
"He was shot. He's in a coma," she responded dully, and he frowned at her disapprovingly. Of course, most choices she had made throughout her life would be looked at the same way – if only he knew about them.
"What happened, Lisa?" he asked again, and she sighed heavily, staring at the white gauze taped to House's neck for a moment before responding.
"He's in a chemically induced coma."
"I know that – you gave him ketamine. Why?" Wilson's voice was soft, but she could hear the subtle flint beneath it.
"There's a study. Patients with complex regional pain syndrome – "
"God, Cuddy." Wilson sighed and ran a hand through his hair before glaring at her. "He doesn't have CRPS – he has conversion –"
"No, you think he has a conversion disorder!" she snapped, that ever-present anger that simmered below the surface bubbling forward.
"His pain hasn't been as bad now that he's getting over Stacy –"
"Oh, shut up, Wilson. You have no clue." Her voice was bitter and she laughed slightly at the ridiculousness of it all. "He didn't tell you about his pain."
"What, and he did tell you? Pardon the hell out of me, Cuddy, but you two finally speaking again doesn't make the last eight years go away –"
"They never went away, Wilson!" She was yelling now – even if House could hear them, it wasn't like he would stop her anyway. "You have no clue. No idea about our history and you never will. He came to me with the ketamine treatment. He asked me to go with him to Germany to get it done. He trusted me. Not you –"
"And what? I'm supposed to take your word for it?!" Wilson stood abruptly, the chair scraping back against the tiled floor in protest. She stood as well, facing off with him as she finally was able to focus on something other than House's breathing pattern and her own memories.
"I'm his doctor. So yes. And it's too late now anyway. He was right, you know – he said you wouldn't understand –"
Wilson laughed, and the sound wrapped around the room mockingly as she closed her mouth with a snap. "And when exactly was he confiding all this in you?"
She shook her head numbly and pointed at the door, where Brenda was standing and watching silently. "No. I'm not doing this here – and I'm not leaving him. If it is CRPS, he'll wake up in a week and I'll be proven right. If not, you can boast all about it to him. But not to me. Not now. Leave."
"You can't do that –"
"I am his doctor –"
"I'm his best friend!" Wilson protested vehemently, and she stepped into him, pushing her face close to his.
"Then act like it. And leave." Her hand was shaking and Wilson glared at her once more before turning on his heel and leaving, pushing past Brenda and joining the team outside. Brenda shot him a look – speaking rapidly to all of them, before she moved over and closed the blinds.
"Thank you," Cuddy sighed, before sinking back into her chair and watching him again. He wasn't here to fight with her – or against her. She'd gladly take either right now. She pressed a shaking hand to her eyes, until the black behind her lids shot through with reds and yellows and blues – all seeping together into a kaleidoscope of color.
"No problem." Brenda's voice was dry and she perused House's chart once more. After a moment, she sat in the chair Wilson had just vacated and took Cuddy's hand silently. "Can I get you anything else?"
"Clothes. And my assistant."
"I already cancelled this week's meetings. Didn't figure you'd be moving." Brenda squeezed her hand slightly and turned to stare at House. "It's weird. Seeing him quiet. Not natural."
"No, it's not," Cuddy whispered, and Brenda nodded, before standing and moving to the door silently. "Not natural at all."
It had taken you three months to find out his name. You ran together everyday – even weekends when you would smile a little harder and run a little faster. He couldn't have a girlfriend, you think as your strides lengthen and you stare hard at the undulating muscles in his legs. What girlfriend would let her boyfriend leave in the middle of the afternoon on a weekend? There were much better things to do than run, you think as your eyes move upward, across the breadth of his shoulders. Much better things. Your smile widens just a bit as you pull ahead of him slightly and maintain the lead. Your head is held high, because now he's watching you and it feels like vindication. It feels like victory.
He passes you again five minutes later, but you don't mind because you've missed the view from back here, and if you could beat him for five minutes you will get better. Eventually you will kick his ass all over this track and he will like it.
You weren't exactly seeking out knowledge about him. Initially it fell in your lap – a discussion about your paper with your TA and he looked beyond you and glared. You looked too and saw him there, leaning against a pillar across the quad and smiling charmingly down at some blonde. You hate blondes. The TA explains about him; Greg House, famous because he was kicked out of Hopkins – Hopkins, he stresses, like the fact alone is enough to declare him evil – for cheating and has made a name for himself here by sleeping with the professor's wife and through half of his classes. You ask if he's failing and the TA just glares harder.
It should have made you go back to your room and set your alarm an hour and a half earlier, should have made you go back to your old routine. He had slept with a married woman – if it was true – and he had cheated. You are Lisa Cuddy after all, consummate good girl. But you don't, and the next day when his eyes slide across your body you feel a thrill of something reach from your chest down to your toes. He's a challenge, you think, and you particularly excel at those.
Once you apply yourself, it is so easy to learn everything about him. He is top of the class – he is graduating this year – he is a serial dater. He is caustic and acerbic – his personality is not liked by anyone but you think that if you ever spoke to him – you would like him. You see him in the afternoons and feel that same thrill skirt along your nerve endings and you know it would be true. He would amuse you, you think, as you run behind him. You could almost picture it in your mind, his smile – his wit – his hands trailing along your skin... you do not pull ahead of him that day because after that thought you cannot seem to hit the right rhythm in your stride. He glances at you across the field as he leaves – a lightning quick look but you feel it anyway and blush.
For two more months you run, beating him some days, trailing behind others, until time is up and the warm air of May is wrapping around you as you run and you know you are out of time. He will not be here in the fall. You will not be here in the fall. And all of this running will have been for nothing.
She slept badly, woken by the rustling of the night nurse and the constant beep of House's monitors. She distracted herself with work – answering e-mails and finished the personnel reviews she had been working on that morning. It felt like a lifetime ago, before his blood has been spilled and he had slashed across her mind – in magic marker.
She continued to watch him the whole time – eerily lit in navy, a blend of the inky dark around them and the blue glow from her laptop screen. Despite the noise from the machines, and the sound of his breathing – it seemed quiet as she sat back in that uncomfortable chair, and used her laptop as a pretence. She was working, not staring at him. She wasn't worried – just concerned – and Deans of Medicine routinely sat at their employees bedsides while simultaneously kicking out the staff and his friends.
The dark was comforting anyway – the night nurse didn't come as often as Brenda had – and she felt safe, sitting alone in the dark and whispering to him even though he couldn't hear her. At least, she wanted to whisper – somehow she felt if she spoke to him – out loud – it would be a goodbye. And they had never indulged in those. Not even in the very beginning.
She closed her computer, moving it to the table next to her, and leaned forward, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the sudden dark. When they had, she reached out hesitantly, her fingers brushing down his arm and finally gripping his hand tightly.
"I feel like if I say anything heartwarming and sentimental to you – you'll just wake up in a week and laugh your ass off at me. So I'm not enabling you. What I will say is this –" Her voice was a dry whisper – getting lodged in her throat and making her feel like she needed a drink. "– you will wake up. And you will be better. You haven't been wrong yet, House – so don't start now. And then you will handle Wilson and your team and everything will be normal. As normal as life with you gets, anyway. You will not die." He remained silent, his face oddly young-looking, forcibly reminding her of them years ago.
"I won't let you."
He likes blondes – and the mere fact irritates you but you have a few more drinks and decide that he chooses them because they are easy. Brunettes are challenging and too engaging. It sounds better in your head–although why are you even making excuses for him anyway? You take one deep breath and then another, pushing yourself up to standing as you look at your reflection once more. Your eyes look almost navy, dark and filled with equally stained thoughts as you smooth a hand over your hair and brush winkles out of your dress. If this was all you were going to do you could sit in your own bathroom at your apartment. There was no point in being here.
Your hands slip on the sticky wood as you push the bathroom door open and you weave slightly as you walk. The blurriness is still there, but your feet are steady as you move around people you don't care about, drinking way too much and talking far too loudly. You don't look around because you know if you see him, your feet will halt, and you will be unable to move again.
When you finally push your way out of the front door, the air is warm and refreshing as it hits you in the face. You breathe as if you were drowning, great gasps as your lungs fill and deflate repeatedly. 'Lise – where are you going?' TA has followed you, and his hand is on your back, hot and sweating through the thin cotton of your dress. You feel your skin crawl as you shoot him a glare that is so fierce he drops his hand immediately.
'Home.' Your reply is short, much like your patience and he senses this as he steps back.
'Come on,Lise– ' You grind your teeth at the nickname that you hate as he continues, oblivious. 'The party is barely started.'
'It's not my kind of party.' Your voice is almost polite – almost but not quite.
'Well if it's something more private you're looking for–' He steps closer and his hand brushes against your breast. And you want to nail him right in the nuts with your four-inch heels but you jerk back instead, levelling a glare on him that makes him falter slightly. 'I thought–'
'Wrong.' Your voice is firm and soft and he steps back, shoving his hands in his pockets.
'You bitch – you made me think–'
'What?' Your eyes narrow and he frowns for a moment. 'Go to hell.' You spit out and he flips you off – so mature– before turning back into the party. After the door swings shut again and you move a few more feet from it, you remember he was your ride home. 'Fuck.'
You could get a cab, but you decide to walk a few blocks before trying. It would take forever right here – and the night is warm anyway. You begin to step forward when a hand on your elbow pulls you back. You freeze, a familiar sensation shooting across your skin. Familiar but a thousand times more intense, and you think you can't breathe – even if you wanted to. You know who it is before you turn around. You shouldn't be able to know that without knowing him.
'I almost didn't recognize you without the sports bra' he stated, his voice lower than you expected, rougher but it suits him and you find yourself smiling. 'I would have talked to you months ago if I knew you were hiding those babies in there.'
'I'm sorry, do I know you?' Your voice is much more confident than you thought it would be and he stares at you hard for a moment, as if trying to decide the level of seriousness in your tone.
'If not then it was awfully inappropriate of you to be staring at my ass so hard earlier.' He is blunt and you laugh, really laugh – the sound full and dark on the night air. He stares down at you in confusion before smiling in return – only slightly, but it is better than any full-fledged grin you have seen him level on some moronic blonde – it feels like you pulled it out of him, and it leaves you more satisfied for the effort.
'It's a nice ass.' You are just as blunt and he eyes you for a moment, sizing you up and down.
'You've seen enough of it.' You nod and wrap your arms around yourself, drawing attention to your cleavage intentionally.
'Did you actually want something? Other than to stare at my breasts?'
'Touchy, aren't we?' He grins for half a second, his eyes deliberately lingering on your neckline. You don't really mind. 'I wanted to introduce myself. Greg House–'
'I know.' You speak simply and he stares at you for a silent beat, his eyes trained on yours and you feel ready to explode from the suspended tension of it all. Time has frozen you to the spot, and you know – deep down – that you were right that first time your eyes met his. Somehow you manage to drag a breath in, the air stirring you into action as you turn away from him and walk quickly. Each step echoes your thoughts. This is a bad idea. Bad idea.Bad idea.
His steps echo yours, in blatant disregard for any warning signs. 'And?' His voice is a challenge as he keeps up with you, walking along beside you easily as you plough ahead. The night seems too dark and the street lights seem too bright as they swim in the outside edge of your vision. You have had too much to drink to be walking and you halt suddenly, causing him to crash into you. His hands grip your shoulders in surprise but after the required second he doesn't let go or step back. You shiver under his hands, wishing he were closer and farther away all at once.
'What?' You speak somewhat incoherently and his hands move up higher on your shoulders until his fingers are just brushing against the exposed skin at you collarbone.
'What's your name? Or should I just call you Lise?' He speaks snidely and you shudder, knowing he had been watching you too. It somehow seems right – almost a justification for your own actions tonight.
'Lisa.' You clear your throat softly as his finger starts to trace along your neckline, his skin rough and warm against yours. 'Cuddy.'
'Hmm... Lisa.' But it sounds wrong, too short and harsh in his low voice.
'Cuddy.' You repeat stupidly and he chuckles against your ear. The world is tilting and you shake your head to correct the angle. It causes you to sway and his hands grip your shoulders now with a different purpose.
'Cuddy.' You shiver as he speaks, and he draws your last name out like it's a promise, wrapping around his tongue slowly before slipping out of his mouth against his will. It's so erotic you turn around but your heel catches and his hands are the only things keeping you up. His eyes narrow and his grip is bruising. 'How much did you drink?'
'Too much' you mutter and you close your eyes, resting your forehead against his chest. You can hear his heartbeat and yours, a thundering symphony in your ears as the edges of your vision darken. You know it had been stupid to drink that much – you thought you needed it for courage. Now it was ruining everything. He laughs, and it rumbles through his chest, the vibration slamming into you and making you swallow the sudden bile in your throat.
'This could have been so much fun too. Ah well, there's always tomorrow Lisa Cuddy.' The bile is almost bitterer at his words. There is no tomorrow, but he doesn't know that. There is your car – packed with boxes and waiting to be driven home for the weekend – one last visit with your mother to suffer through before continuing on to Cambridge and starting summer courses at Harvard. You never take a break – and it has enabled you to graduate pre-med a year early – it will do the same for med school as well. The drive from Ann Arbour to Grand Rapids isn't a long one – but your mother is expecting you early, before lunch at least.
He is pulling you along to a cab, and you want to voice your protest but really, what's the point anyway? All it could be was one night – you were going to Harvard and he was... not. An insipid voice whispers in your head something about one night being better than none, but your more practical side – and really who but you would even still have one after drinking that much? – is saying that maybe it was better not to know. If you never know how his hands feel on your skin, or how his mouth would feel against your own – if you never know how perfectly he fits you, you can never miss it, right?
'Don't think you're going to get away though. I can beat you in a race, remember.' His voice is teasing now as he holds open the door of the cab and helps you into it. The sudden turn of events seems to have cleared your head somewhat, and you hesitate knowing that you could convince him to get in with you – there's still time. But instead you smile with false cheer, grinning even though sitting down against the stained upholstery is almost painful. His hand brushes yours for a moment longer than strictly necessary and it slices along your heart, rubbing it raw. It all seems so pointless now – and you can only blink and smile as the door closes and he steps back. If only you had spoken to him that first day, if only he had noticed you the countless other times you had crossed his vision on the campus of Ann Arbour….
'Where to sweetheart?'
You sigh, giving your address to the cab driver in a low voice. If only's are all that's left, and you don't look back as the cab pulls away. You wouldn't be able to see through your sudden inexplicable tears anyway.
You don't see him again for six years.
Wilson was back again the next day, pacing the hallway outside and glaring through the window as only he can. His glare is never a glare, per say – more of a disappointed gaze that makes every inch of guilt she's ever felt in her life press down on her that much harder until she is positive she will be swallowed whole by it.
Wilson's mother must have been the world's greatest guilt-tripper. Sadly, Cuddy wouldn't know – because despite almost fifteen years of knowing him, she'd never asked about or met his family. House probably knew, she mused. But then again, maybe not.
Either way, he was out there – staring and perfecting the pained expression he often wore, until she ran a hand through her uncombed hair and slid the door open with a sigh. "I need a shower."
"Clearly." He was standing at the window with his arms crossed and not looking at her at all, despite addressing her.
"Can you sit with him?"
"He doesn't need someone with him 24/7, Cuddy. He'd hate it." His voice was sure – and still smug despite their argument yesterday. Clearly, he was still smarting.
"I know. But I need someone with him at all times. Please, Wilson?" He looked at her then – his eyes watching her carefully for a moment as a thoughtful expression slid over his face.
"Alright." He moved past her, taking the chair she just vacated and sinking into it wearily. "He looks different. Younger maybe."
"I know. I have absolute faith I'll be wishing him back into a coma two weeks from now, though." She smiled as she spoke – trying to apologize to him for yesterday – but sucking at apologies was a trait she and House shared.
"Do you really think this could work?" It wasn't an apology or even remotely close, but she took it that way anyway. It was the closest Wilson had come to thinking maybe he had been wrong and they had been right.
"God, I hope so."
"How did he – you, me – how did we get here, Cuddy?" Wilson shook his head as he spoke, and she shrugged, even though his eyes were trained on House – watching just like she had. "It seems like five minutes ago–"
"I know," she responded softly, and he looked over at her for a moment – his eyes dark pools of memories mixed with fear and worry. She was well aware that she loved House. But so did he. "I'll be quick." She slipped away before Wilson's tortured eyes could make her feel any guiltier than she already did. If that was even possible.
You need to get out of here –go for a run, escape for a few short momentsBut if you dothat you are sure your asshole of a new boss willbe all over you. It won'tmatter that you just worked forty hours straight, or that now – in your fellowship – you would expect slightly better hours than an intern. You flip the page of the file in front of you as you eye your salad listlessly. It, much like your life at the moment, looks completely unappetizing. Closing the file with a snap, you rest your forehead on the table, your mid wandering over the past few years.
You graduated right on schedule – three years at Harvard and you were second in your class. Had you waited and graduated in four years instead of three, chances are you would have been top. When faced with the choice between an internship at Detroit Gen. or Princeton Gen. – the choice had been clear. For once in your life you hadn't made a pro/con list or considered the career ramifications – Detroit was far too close to your mother and her blind 'dates' with nice Jewish lawyers and business owners. Even now – when you were a doctor for God's sake – she still wasn't proud. Because there was no house with a white picket fence and two point five kids. So you ran.
All the way to Jersey – where you completed your internship and residency in the obstetrics department, completing your specialized training for endocrinology. When the time for your fellowship came along however, you fought for the position here at PPTH. Dr. Surrey is at the top of his field – and more importantly is two years away from retirement. You can learn all you can, and hopefully take over his position when he goes. You don't worry about other applicants – you know when the time comes, the job will be yours.
You push your head harder against the cheap linoleum table, wondering if you could wish the entire day away. Dr. Surrey gave you a thyroid cancer patient three days ago and you know the patient is dying. Much quicker than you would like her to. Moving from obstetrics to cancer is foreign to you and suddenly for the first time since you were twelve you find yourself afraid. Unsure if you can do this. You want to run. Need to run. Instead you lift your head and pull your coffee closer to you, taking a long sip and keeping an eye on your wristwatch. Your lunch break is another forty minutes at least and you have no intention of moving until then – unless you are paged.
The cafeteria is busy – doctors and nurses moving around and there is a gentle murmur of voices in the background. You sigh, taking another sip and wishing you had at least brought a medical text to read
'Lisa Cuddy?' You freeze, coffee halfway to your mouth. You haven't heard that voice in six years, and you wonder if it says something about the sad state of your life that you recognize it immediately.
He moves around your table, dropping a tray to the right of you. You have to peer almost straight up, and you see a smaller man standing next to him, looking somewhat amused. 'Greg House.' You debated pretending to not remember – but what would be the point
'Wilson, sit down.' He has already dropped down into his seat and is staring at you with amusement. 'What a coincidence.' He nods at his friend – Wilson – who sits reluctantly and smiles apologetically across at you. He looks... like every guy your mother had ever wanted you to date. Reliable with a side of nice and completely uninteresting to you. You smile anyway though – because he isn't dating you and you have no reason to be irritated by him. 'James Wilson this is Lisa Cuddy. The running girl' he adds significantly and Wilson's eyes widen in surprise. You don't know if you should be flattered or afraid.
'I thought you made that up.'
'You can't make things like that up. Yup – she totally stalked me. So what are you doing here?' He is addressing you now and you narrow your eyes across at him. You did not stalk him. Much.
'Well this coat and funny badge say I work here.' You wave at your lab coat – fitted and pinstriped, a gift from your mother in a rare moment when she forgot to be upset you were a doctor. Of course it was a very flattering cut – so maybe she was just hoping some nice male doctor would see it and fall in love. Wearing your own clothes to work is one of the only perks of your fellowship – no more scrubs. You hated those. You even keep three extra outfits at work – just in case. No need to wear scrubs unless you have to right?
You pointedly eye his lack of anything that would denote him as a doctor. He is wearing jeans and a shirt, with a suit coat thrown over it. Noticing your gaze he pulls his ID out of his pocket. 'See? I'm a real doctor. In charge of my own department and everything.' You stare at his badge – Dr. Gregory House, Department of Nephrology – and you blink. It's odd to see him like this. You take the opportunity to study him silently. His hair is shorter, and he hasn't shaved. He isn't as lanky as you remember – his shoulders are broader and his waist thicker, but it all looks good on him. 'Wilson here kills people.' You blink in surprise, your thoughts scattering as Wilson winces across the table.
'Oncology' he explains almost apologetically and you nod. 'So – tell me, what was House like in university?'
You shrug, taking another sip of coffee as House – it's odd to think of him with a name – begins to eat. 'I don't really know. I just ran with him every afternoon. We didn't talk.'
'Too busy staring at my ass.' House is speaking around his food and you roll your eyes. 'Oh don't deny the truth Cuddy. You're avoiding my question anyway. Why are you here?'
'Jersey was as far as I could get I did my internship and residency at Princeton Gen. Now I'm here for my fellowship.' He has reached for the file under your tray, snatching it and reading it before you could react.
'Endocrinologist?' He leafs through the file idly with one hand while eating his sandwich with the other. 'Either that or you're an oncologist and Wilson neglected to mention his new, totally hot fellow.'
'Your powers of deduction are brilliant.' You speak dryly and try not to let the small thrill that went through you at being called hot show.
'So Lisa, did you attend med school at Michigan as well?' Wilson cleared his throat before speaking and you shoot him a grateful glance.
'Uh no, actually. I just did my undergrad at Ann Arbour.' You take another sip of coffee and find yourself the subject of two interested looks. 'I went to Harvard' you finally mumble, and Wilson looks surprised while House's look seems a little more unidentifiable. 'And call me Cuddy' you add absent-mindedly as you realize suddenly – you barely know this man. Not really.
'Interesting' House mumbles through another bite of his sandwich and you turn toward him. 'Top of your class, of course.'
'Second' you mutter, shooting a glare before turning the conversational tables as it were. 'How long have you been here?'
'Well I've been here forever–'Wilson answers enthusiastically. 'House on the other hand has only been here a year. He was fired from four other hospitals.'
'I have issues with authority' House adds solemnly and you choke back a laugh – it's not difficult to picture at all. 'So. Since we're intrinsically connected and all – you should join us for dinner–'Wilson is glaring at House as he speaks, and House is ignoring him blatantly.
'House. You know that I only manage to escape once a week – and you know how Julie feels about women.'
'He's married. Sad tale. He met said maiden – rescued her and found himself tied down for the next two years. I'm waiting on a divorce any day now. Oh and she really doesn't like other women – and Wilson really does if you know what I mean, so you just steer clear of him.' House speaks in an aside to you as though Wilson isn't anywhere near him. It didn't seem to faze the other man however, as he just rolled his eyes and continued eating.
'All the better to save myself for you.' You speak bitingly, but House either doesn't hear that or chooses to ignore it – you're not sure which – and he nods enthusiastically. Your pager vibrates at just that moment and you stand, leaning down before you leave and giving him a nice view down your blouse in the process. 'You'll need to try harder than that.' As you walk away, you work at putting an extra sway in your steps, all too aware of the eyes watching you. You smile as you throw your empty cup in the trash on your way out the door. Amazing how you can go from needing escape to never wanting to leave in the space of thirty minutes.
She eventually let his team in, too – thirty minutes at a time. Foreman only visited once, but thankfully Chase continued to accompany Cameron, who clutched House's hand in a way he would detest, shooting the occasional death glare at Cuddy. Chase just winced sympathetically and nodded at her before they left.
She and Wilson had been divvying up hours – allowing her to shower and change, grab food and attend a board meeting. She didn't take any donor meetings, though – she was not in the mood to finesse anyone.
"Brought you tea. Herbal." Brenda placed the cup in front of Cuddy and she shot a grateful smile at the other woman.
She sipped it thoughtfully as Brenda moved around the room, replacing IV bags and quickly checking stitches. When she finished, she sat next to Cuddy, glancing at her before speaking. "So. Is the baby his?"
Cuddy choked on the tea, sending the hot liquid down her throat too quickly and causing her eyes to water. "What?!"
"Well, you're not drinking coffee anymore. Plus you have folic acid in your make-up bag – I may have noticed when packing your things. Which means a baby. And judging by the way you two have been prancing around each other this year..." Brenda simply shrugged instead of finishing the thought, and Cuddy stared at her with shock.
"I don't know why you and House don't get along. You're just like him," Cuddy spat as she took a deep breath and another sip of tea. "I don't think I need to tell you that this goes nowhere – "
"I am not a gossip," Brenda shot back mildly. "You know that."
"I'm not pregnant. Maybe. We've been trying." Even admitting that out loud – sharing it with someone other than House, seemed like a huge deal. It felt like the tension that had been creeping up into her neck had let go suddenly, receding down her back with sweet relief.
"Oh my God," Brenda breathed out, looking at Cuddy with surprise. "Oh my God! I thought – I mean, I didn't know, but seriously? House?!"
Cuddy let out a small chuckle, which quickly grew into a full-fledged laugh, and she smiled for the first time in what felt like weeks. "You don't know him. Not really."
"He's an ass," Brenda stated – as if there was nothing else she needed to know.
"Yeah, he is." Cuddy's smile grew and Brenda simply shook her head and moved off the subject – instead telling her about Wilson's ex-wife confronting a peds nurse, and how the night janitor had been seen sniffling while he mopped the fourth floor hallway two nights ago. "I thought you weren't a gossip." Cuddy smiled wryly and Brenda shrugged.
"Well I don't tell everyone the gossip. Just you," Brenda pointed out, and Cuddy nodded, glancing over at House as she did so.
"Cuddy?" Wilson's voice was tentative and both women looked at him standing in the doorway. Brenda stood without being asked and exited the room, shooting a small smile at Cuddy as she left, and Wilson stepped inside the room.
He was uncharacteristically silent – his face a war of emotion as he stared at House sadly, before finally heaving a tortured sigh and turning to her. "What?" She smiled slightly – Brenda's company had lightened her mood somewhat – seeping light into the black that seemed to surround her these days – tinting everything a pearly grey, like a sky after a thunderstorm.
"I've been going over and over this in my head. You sitting with House, you knowing about the treatment, you being at his place – him being in that mood the last few weeks –" Wilson's eyes were pained as he stared at his best friend and hesitated. "How long –" He paused and cleared his throat awkwardly as she felt the temperature in the room drop three degrees as she stared at him expectantly. "How long have you been in love with each other?"