A/N: Hey all! Just a quick note to say thanks as usual to alias424 for being the most amazing beta ever in life - and also to let you know I won't be updating again until April 1st - snce my family and I are going on vacation to Egypt over the next two weeks. Enjoy!
She was subtle – well, she could be, if she wanted to. But this was her hospital. Her building. Her walls, her floors, her boring tiled ceilings, her cranky janitors, her gossiping nurses, her annoying doctors, her whiney patients. Everything in this building belonged to her. My chair. My clinic desk. My waiting room. She had every right to be here. Sitting, no – taking my break – wherever the hell she felt like it. No one – and by no one you mean House – could find any fault whatsoever in her right to be in this very spot, at this very second.
Watching as a screaming twenty-month-old, its face scrunched up in extreme outrage, fisted blood-red (an all-over color the infant had acquired upon being subjected to the exam room) hands into House's hair as he bent to vaccinate the child and pulled with all its might. Which was apparently considerable, considering the look crossing House's face and the young mother's flushed attempts at an apology.
House sat up, once he had disengaged the child's hands from his hair, and looked around suspiciously. Cuddy gasped and scooted lower in her chair until she couldn't see over the desk, her heart beating a loud tattoo against her chest. She waited a beat, then two, breathing quietly, only to jump when someone spoke right next to her.
"He knows you're out here." Brenda's voice was a dry intrusion, crisp and crumbling in its scathing, like dry toast being shoved into your mouth. Cuddy simply sat – waiting for the saliva to kick in – and glared at her erstwhile nurse in a –hopefully- scary manner. "You seem to be in a good mood." Brenda swivelled her chair toward Cuddy as she spoke, the wheels squeaking as she inched just a bit closer.
"I was," Cuddy ground out, pulling her chair closer to the desk as she risked another peek over it. The infant was gone now -a shame- and replaced by a grinning girl who looked to be about six and was clearly a very good talker, from the speed at which her mouth was moving. House was simply sitting there, one hand shoved in his coat pocket -clutching pills no doubt- and the other cradling his head as he glared at his shoes. All of which the girl ignored, legs swinging from side to side as she continued to speak.
"You know, if you hang out here all day, he will eventually see you. He does bring back charts. Sometimes." Brenda sounded amused as she continued signing the paperwork in front of her, not looking up once.
"My hospital. My chair. And I'm on my break!" Cuddy whispered back, causing Brenda to glance around for the eavesdroppers who weren't there.
Brenda chuckled, the sound low and dark as she shook her head. "Okay, first – that made no sense. Second, you've been 'on your break' for almost an hour, thirdly you weren't even scheduled today. You had a day off. A day off." Brenda eyed her with something akin to sympathy as she tsked lightly and drummed her pen on the desk top. "This is not what you should be doing."
Cuddy opened her mouth before closing it just as rapidly. It shouldn't be what she did on her day off – but she found herself gripped with an odd desire to see him. They hadn't really talked about anything that had happened two weeks ago – but every few nights he would show up at her place with take-out, and she would let him in. And not let him out again until morning. He always kept breaking her record. She kept a tally – every hour of every day she managed to get through without touching him. It had been so good at first – ninety hours, eighty-two, sixty-three, forty. It was sad – how small the number had become. And the last time it hadn't even been him, knocking on her door with a good salad and a twisted smirk that he imagined passed as charming. It had been her, scratching at his door with no excuse at all and a fever she couldn't seem to quite kill.
If it was only the sex, she wouldn't be so upset about it. But it wasn't the sex. It wasn't the myriad of touches, punctuated by moans with a cadence of harsh breathing. It was the stillness afterwards, when he held her close, and he didn't mock and she didn't bitch – they breathed together in the sudden lack of sound – his hand pressed into her hip and her ear against his chest as his heart provided a baseline for the silence's refrain.
She longed for him – his skin next to hers and his hands stroking idly across her back until it felt like more than his epidermal cells on hers, more than sexual energy harnessed in a hand span – it felt like love. You idiot. She closed her eyes and felt the blood drain from her face, all under Brenda's watchful eye.
"Uh huh." Brenda finally spoke when it became obvious Cuddy wouldn't – or couldn't. She stood, taking the files with her as she muttered, "Look who's finally waking up." Cuddy didn't get a chance to chastise her as she placed her forehead against the desk, waiting for the light-headedness to recede and rational thought to rush in, taking over the space where her brain used to be. But there was no rational thought, only irrational panic, her heart racing as her mouth went suddenly dry.
"Oh God, I need help," she moaned before pushing herself up and sliding out from behind the desk. Her hand hit the stack of files next to her wrist. It swayed once, and then twice before sliding over in a landslide of paper and plastic, clattering loudly to the ground. She froze, feeling eyes on her – his eyes on her –as she crouched and fumbled with the mess she had created.
"Go, I've got it." Brenda was at her side in an instant – a dark angel of mercy, allowing Cuddy to rise slowly and turn purposefully toward the exit. She didn't look back, and once she got out of the doors, she ran to her car.
"I am going out of mind. Insane. Insanely insane – I mean, do you know what I just realized?" She pushed past a confused-looking Wilson, who was standing by his front door, yawning and watching her pace his hotel room with sleepy eyes.
"I don't suppose it was the realization that if you barge into a friend's place before noon, you should always bring coffee?" He yawned again, ignoring her nervous pacing and crawling back across his bed to wrap himself in blankets.
"Coffee – God, Wilson it's almost noon! You're always at work on time, what the hell?" She stopped pacing long enough to glare at the blanket cocoon on the bed before striding over to his windows and jerking the curtains open, allowing the sun to stream in.
A muffled groan came from the sheets, and she opened the window too, just to let air in. He rolled over to glare at her, one baleful brown eye staring at her from a crack in the cocoon. "It's my day off," he grumbled, his voice muffled as his eye disappeared from view, lost in a sea of unremarkable bed sheets. "Normal people sleep in on their days off. They do not get up early to stalk unsuspecting employees."
"Oh my God, he called you? I am going to kill him!" She grabbed one of the blankets and jerked it off the bed, twisting it in her hands as she pictured House's mottled face above it, gasping for air.
"Who? I meant me, Cuddy. God. And don't kill my sheets please." He sat up again, leaning heavily on the edge of the bed as he rubbed his eyes and sighed. "I'll be right back." He disappeared into the washroom as she stared, her face flushed as she repressed her desire to bang her head on the nearest available surface. Her fingers twitched with nervous energy as she waited, so she made his bed, anything to occupy some small segment of her mind.
"You know, I do believe they pay maids for that. More specifically, I pay maids for that, considering how much I pay to live in this hellhole." He was muttering as he grabbed two bottles of water from the mini fridge and steered her toward the sofa, forcing her to sit before he sat next to her.
"Sorry." Her apology was weak, and she took the water gratefully, draining almost half the bottle before she stopped to breathe.
"So," he stated, leaning his elbows on his knees as he stared at her thoughtfully. "You were up early stalking House. And something's been going on with you two – don't deny it – that thing with whatshername and you in the cafeteria. That? Was strange."
She sighed as she listened, rolling the half empty bottle of water in her hands as she struggled not to run. No running. "I don't know, Wilson. House is – he's just so – " She growled in frustration, dropping one hand to pull it though her hair as she moved to the edge of her seat.
"House?" Wilson provided helpfully. "He's irritating and selfish and exasperating. Caustic and bitter and he loves to inflict pain, which is amusing enough, when you're not his target. He's egotistical and refuses to believe anyone is right but him." She nodded as he spoke, snorting in some places and closing her eyes and shaking her head at others. "But," Wilson continued gently, "he's loyal. And he cares, and sometimes – sometimes, you know exactly why you love him. And you can't help it."
She froze at his words, smiling nervously – incredulously in a you can't be serious manner. "What? Wilson..."
"Oh, you'll deny it, and God knows he does – but if you think I don't see it, you really are insane."
"I do." She spoke softly, and mostly to the water bottle in her hand as she frowned fiercely at it.
"See? I knew you'd – wait, what?" He leaned forward and grinned. "You do? That's great!"
''It is not great!" she spat out angrily as her hands clenched around the neck of the bottle. "It is so far from great I can't even begin to – he's my employee. My employee who irritates me so much I went into therapy. Do you know what my therapist told me, Wilson? He told me to resign, and start over – away from 'unhealthy ongoing relationships', which of course means House because other than my mother, he's the only 'ongoing relationship' I'm cursed to have!" As she spoke, she stood again, pacing in front of the couch they had been seated on as he watched her with sympathy written all over his face.
"It's not that bad. I mean – yes you fight, but I think you could be good for him – "
"And is he good for me?" Her question was a whisper, barely discernable above his voice, but he fell silent at it all the same. Finally he stood as well, crossing the floor and taking her hands.
"In an odd, more than twisted way – yes. Cuddy, you give everything away – your time, your energy – you give it all to a building that can't give back. House is selfish – and at least he'll force you to be that way too – even if it's only for thirty minutes, or an hour – he'll force you to stop thinking and just be. And yes, you do need that."
She stared at him for a beat before choking out a laugh that turned into a sob halfway through, and he pulled her into a hug that was utterly undemanding and completely comforting. One sob turned into two, and three – choking sounds, not really tears – it felt more like shocked disbelief had lodged in her throat until it was raw. Wilson held her, making soothing noises and patting her shoulder awkwardly.
"Hey, come on – it could be worse." His voice was teasing as she pulled back once her breathing was under control.
"I don't see how." She spoke in a low, defeated voice and he chuckled.
"Well, I could sleep in the nude."