This was originally written for Wilson Fest, prompt 146: "House and Wilson are in jail because of a bar fight. They have to call Cuddy to bail them out." Spoilers through 4.12, "Don't ever Change."
Thanks to my beta, co-fester, and co-mod of Wilson Fest, Olly, for all of her help and hard work. I couldn't have done any of it without you.
Disclaimer: I don't own the show.
Jail and Other Prisons
By Duckie Nicks
He holds the prison phone at a distance. Having already spent an hour in a cell, Wilson knows that it's probably pointless to worry about germs. The hacking cough of the guard making sure he doesn't make a break for it pretty much guarantees he's walking away with something. But instinct has Wilson being careful anyway. Because if (and it's a big if at this point) Amber decides not to marry him, then he'll want to work through his pain. And he can't work if she's sick, and God, life would be so much easier without House in it.
His anger begins to bubble within him. He's never expected a lot from his best friend. But they seem to be continually in a moral game of limbo, and Wilson is losing badly. Because no matter how low he sets the bar, House seems to worm his way under it.
But his fury is temporarily put on hold by the husky-with-sleep voice answering the phone. "This is Cuddy."
Wilson almost doesn't know what to say; the situation is so ridiculous, and he's not even sure how to explain it. "Hey," he starts. "It's Wilson."
"What did House do?" she asks simply, the hint of accusation audible. At any other time, part of him might feel the need to defend his friend. But tonight, right now, Wilson feels immediately better. Because he hasn't said a word and already she's blaming House, which means at least someone realizes that this isn't his fault.
"Well. The bachelor party was a… disaster."
He can hear her sigh over the phone, and he imagines her sleepy-eyed in bed brushing a messy curl out of her face. "Again, what did House do?"
Wilson rubs his forehead with one of his hands. For a split second, he contemplates explaining what's happened. But that would take too long, and if he thinks about it too much, he'll kill his best friend. Not to mention, he's not sure how long his one phone call will last.
"We're in jail, Cuddy." He ignores the "are you serious?" from the other end of the line and presses on. "Look, I don't have time to explain. Just… bail's 600 dollars for each of us, and I'll pay you back."
"You're serious," she says shocked.
"Yeah." He knows he shouldn't be short-tempered, but House has already ruined his bachelor party, possibly his marriage. And that's not entirely her fault, though Wilson distinctly remembers telling Cuddy that this was exactly what would happen if he invited the diagnostician to his party.
The night flashing before him, he can't help but wonder what else can go wrong. Of course, as if fate knew he thought that, House begins to sing a slurred version of "O Danny Boy." The noise filters down through the small building, taunting Wilson.
So he mentally tells Cuddy to shove it and lets out an exasperated sigh before pleading, "Yeah, can you hurry?"
There is a moment of silence, and he can practically hear the gears turning in her head. Come on, come on, come on, he thinks. And Wilson understands for the first time why House likes to yell at her at work.
"Yeah," she says stunned. "Right. Okay," the brunette rattles off quickly afterwards. And then without missing a beat, Cuddy asks, "Is this one of your sick jokes with House to see how far I'll –"
"If it's a joke," he interrupts. "Then I'm not on it. Get to the Princeton jail as soon as you can," he instructs, handing up the phone.
The guard standing next to Wilson asks, "You ready to go back?" But the tone of the man's voice makes it sound anything but optional.
House's off-key voice soaring through the air, Wilson's brown eyes meet the police officer's pitying ones and says, "No." The word comes out quick, without though, and even faster, he corrects himself, "Yeah. I'm done."
As they walk back toward the holding cell, the guard tells Wilson, "I hope your friend does come. Cause if they don't, I might just beat the crap out of your punk ass friend." Seeing as how they're only feet from where House is, there is, the oncologist knows, no way the older man didn't hear that.
With that in mind, Wilson tells the police officer, "Please do."
A gentle shove and he's back in the cramped area with House and a few other restless drunks. And Wilson can't help but think that this is the story of his life.
Cuddy places the phone back in its cradle next to her bed with a clatter.
Part of her is absolutely sure that this is nothing more than a joke. Wilson has never seemed like the type to lie, but… years of working at the hospital has proven the oncologist is often neck deep in House's plans.
Despite that though, Cuddy still believes Wilson wouldn't do something illegal. And a quick mental review of the events leading up to this moment has her scrambling out of bed and getting dressed. Because this has House's fingerprints all over it.
As she searches blindly for a bra in her bureau, the brunette remembers how Wilson originally decided to keep House away from the bachelor party. And, at the time, given that all of Amber's male relatives were going to be there, Cuddy believed her friend had made the right choice. After all, no normal family could have produced Amber. They were all sure to have fangs and sleep in coffins and God knows what else.
She rummages tiredly through her drawers trying to find a pair of jeans to wear. When the subject of Wilson's bachelor party had first hit the hospital gossip, Cuddy had honestly thought that it was a good idea that House didn't get an invite. It wasn't – isn't – as though she worried what might happen to him; on the best of days, House was, she's all too aware, rude and inappropriate. On every other sort of day, he was ferocious. Biting, snapping, and snarling at every thing in sight, the diagnostician had been dubbed "the werewolf" by the patients in the pediatrics ward.
Cuddy's tired mind laughs at the idea as she fumbles to do the buttons on her pants. Yes, House being left out was probably for the best. Because in a meeting of werewolves and vampires, the only one who would be hurt was Wilson. That she's awake now confirms as much.
But at the time, House hadn't agreed with her, had come storming into her office demanding that she fix the situation. And… somehow, like every other time they disagreed as of late, she caved and talked to Wilson.
Pulling a thin sweater over her head, the brunette glances at the clock. 2:00 am glares back at her in red lights, and it's all the proof she needs to know…
She should have told House no.
This is Hell.
Not figurative, not man-rush-hour-traffic-in-Princeton-sucks Hell. But the actual Hell – this is where he is.
As a child, Wilson always heard from his mother that Jews didn't believe in that. But if she were here now, he knows she would agree. Granted the details are a little off. Instead of fire and brimstone and all that, there's a distinct draft in the small room lined with metal bars. The rattling radiator at the far end of the hallway does little to ward off the chill.
And no, Hitler and Stalin are remarkably absent, but then again… House is here to fill up the spot of "token megalomaniac." Which really just begs the question – why is Wilson friends with this ass anyway?
The oncologist looks over at the other man. His right eye dark and swollen, blood drying in his stubble, House is a mess. In the back of his mind, Wilson knows that his "friend" might need medical attention; it's the kind of thing that usually tugs at Wilson, forces him to act sympathetically.
But the only emotion looking at a bruised House inspires at the moment is anger. Because the man's current state is, as it always is, his own fault. It's not like he had to say those things to Amber's family – just as House didn't have to shove a thermometer up Tritter's rectum, but Wilson knows the ass won't see it that way.
He never does.
And bitterness clutching at his throat, Wilson can't help but ask, "Why tonight?"
His friend taps his fingers along his pants leg and ponders the question. But it's not done seriously – or it is if only because House is searching through that rat-maze brain of his for the wittiest retort. The diagnostician, Wilson knows, will give weight and thought to each potential come back – but not to the question or to Wilson himself.
So he angrily gestures at House. "Well, come on, House. I'm sure you've got a reason in that head of yours. I'd really like to know why you decided to screw things up tonight."
"Never had the chance to meet the Bitch's family before," he says, shrugging. "Kind of hard to get into a fist fight with people I've never met. My eye's fine, by the way," House tells him irritably, gesturing to his bruised face.
"Oh – I'm supposed to be concerned about you," Wilson snaps back, a mirthless chuckle following. "You're the one who forced your way into the party. You –"
"That's not true! You invited me."
"Because you went crying to Mommy, House!" he shouts, practically spitting. He takes a deep breath and clenches his hands into fists. "You didn't have to go to Cuddy. You didn't have to come! This isn't you standing in front of a moving train – you didn't have to do any of it. In the very least, you didn't have to tell my fiancée's relatives that she's a bitch –"
At that moment, House looks towards one of the other drunks in the cell. The man doesn't look any better than they do; he too is littered with bruises and stinks of vomit. But that doesn't seem to detract House at all from whispering loudly (so that Wilson can hear), "She carries his balls around in her purse…"
"House!" He counts to ten in his head, but it does nothing to alleviate the desire to absolutely murder his best friend. "That's not true – and you don't even know her."
"Right," House says sarcastically. "Cutthroat Bitch is filled with hidden depths."
Wilson throws his hands up in the air. There's just no point in arguing, he realizes. Because when it comes to fighting with House, there's no chance he'll ever win. Hell, when it comes to fighting with House, the best Wilson could ever hope for was the subject being dropped. And he knows that's not going to happen now.
So he just sits back on his little metal slab and stews.
Really, he should have anticipated this, known it was going to happen. Insults, fights, vicious stirs to the pot – they were all part of House's repertoire. And Wilson never believed that would stop exactly, but…
Over the past few months, House had seen just how happy Wilson was – is, he tells himself. His relationship with Amber had, in some ways perhaps, begun as part of his regular pattern. But it quickly developed into something more, and he was – no, is, he corrects again, happier with her than he's ever been.
And House must have known that, surely saw it… and decided to ruin it anyway.
Once again, Wilson wonders why he's friends with this jackass.
But it is not those words that break the tension-filled silence. Rather it's House, turning to their fellow, barfed-on cellmate once more and saying, "You'll see when she gets here. She –"
"I didn't call her," Wilson says loudly, annoyed. And yet in the back of his mind, he's a little glad that House got something wrong. Snottily he tells himself that it means his friend doesn't know everything. Ha.
"Who'd you –"
"I called Cuddy."
A twinkle dances around the bright blue eyes, not unlike the red light flashing to green before the bomb goes off in the movies, Wilson thinks uncomfortably. And he knows in that moment that he's done something wrong… done something that House will pick apart, in any case.
But he's in no mood to hear the ramblings of the lunatic he's sharing a cell with. Not after everything that's happened. So he decides to cut House off. "She's the only one who would have bothered to bail you out."
House, smirking, points a finger at him. "This is precisely why I like you. I… totally ruin your bachelor party, insult your would-be wife –"
"Will-be wife," Wilson corrects. "And someone had to protect you – or else you would have died a long time ago." That much he knows is true. Between all the times House has gotten into fights or accidentally overdosed on something, Wilson understands that his friend would be dead if it weren't for him. "You're welcome, by the way."
House waves him off. "Whatever. The point is – I was a dick, and you still felt the need to protect me," he says, half-smiling. "CB's honor be damned –"
"Ho oh!" Wilson interrupts in exasperation, knowing where this is headed. "So in that twisted mind of yours, if I defend you, it means I somehow don't love her?"
"Course not. If anyone understands me, it's me with a panty hamster." The oncologist closes his eyes, willing away that mental picture. "But you called Cuddy anyway, even though Cutthroat Bitch wouldn't have cared."
"You punched her closest cousin in the face!"
"Well, he started it" is House's simple defense.
Biting down on the inside of his lip, Wilson rings his hands together. This whole conversation, he knows, is just so… pointless. And infuriating.
House won't let it go until the younger man tells him what he wants to hear – that Amber's all wrong for him or that, no matter what, their friendship will always come first. Or something else, and it doesn't even matter at this point.
Wilson doesn't know what House wants. And right now he's not in a giving mood or even a remotely tolerant mood. So he stops talking. Turning his head towards the corridor, he prays for Cuddy to get here soon.
Unfortunately for House and Wilson, Cuddy's taking longer than she expected. It really shouldn't have been this hard, but the first ATM machine she came across was broken. And the second one she's not sure about. It might have worked, but the brunette didn't feel like waiting for the drunken fool to finish peeing in it to find out.
Now at her third ATM, things don't seem to be going much better. It takes her two tries to enter her PIN number correctly. Maybe it's because she's exhausted or maybe she can't stop imagining House and Wilson in jail long enough to focus. Either way, her brain can't quite deliver the message to her shaking hands. And when the black and white screen finally changes to let her withdraw money, she's more relieved than when she passed her MCATs.
But her reprieve is short-lived. Even to her sleep-deprived mind, the words on the ATM machine look different… longer than normal. Her light blue eyes dart back and forth; she quietly mutters the words as she reads: Due to a recent string of card thefts and subsequent robberies, customers may only withdraw a maximum of 800 dollars from the machine per day. Those wishing to withdraw more must enter the bank with their bankcard and appropriate identification.
She groans, her eyes shutting tightly at the unwanted news.
This shouldn't be happening, she thinks. How exactly did this become her life? Though Cuddy can barely remember it, she knows there was a time when she was Lisa Cuddy, woman with all the potential in the world. Even a few years ago, when she listed for Stacy all of the accomplishments she'd had, there was still something there. Some… sense of self.
But now what does she do – chase House around all day? Argue with him for mere minutes over the most convoluted and dangerous procedures a doctor can make only to give in?
Cuddy's not sure when it happened, but somehow… she's become little more than House and Wilson's lame duck sidekick. It's pathetic, and worse still, she realizes that there's no way out. Because she won't fire House, and he knows that, which means he'll continue to find ways to exploit her. So she's stuck… at least for now anyway. And begrudgingly, Cuddy withdraws 800 dollars.
As the machine spits out the crumpled bills, she contemplates what she should do now. Assuming getting her out of bed isn't a joke, that Wilson and House are, in fact, in jail, Cuddy understands the money she has won't be enough. Her ATM card has hit its max – so she can't withdraw any more cash. And there's not going to be another bank open at this hour to help her.
Worse still is the fact that she has no other friends who would give her the money to bail her employees out. The ones who did work at the hospital would say that House should rot in jail indefinitely – that much she knows. And her friends outside of her work…
Well, she doesn't have any of those left, does she? They disappeared in direct proportion to the amount of time she spent at the hospital. The few who stayed for her transformation to "Dean of Medicine" went running for the hills the moment House became a fixture in her life.
As the machine spits her card back out at her, Cuddy sighs. This is just… not how she imagined her life going. But resigned to her fate as a secondary character in the "House show" and occasional bail bondsman, she decides to see if the ATM machine will give her more cash. Maybe the bank's new limits are just an…estimate of how much a person can withdraw. Granted she's going several hundred dollars over the limit, but… still, maybe it'll work.
In any case, going to the jail with only enough bail for House and a third of Wilson isn't going to work.
Her fingertips press the card back into the slot. And things seem to go okay. But when she goes to enter her PIN number, she realizes something's not right.
The black and white screen reads, "Sorry, this card has already reached its daily withdraw maximum, as recently outlined in our new policy." Cuddy scans down toward the end. "As a result, this card has been surrendered to the bank until the card holder approaches us with the appropriate documentation."
It takes a moment for the information to settle into her sleep-deprived mind. And when it does, she cannot contain the "Damn it!" she screeches into the cool night air.
Cuddy realizes she'll only have enough bail for one person… and as House won't be able to spend the night jail and function, she knows, the guilt knotting her stomach, that Wilson won't be happy.
He sits in his corner of the cell and watches as Cuddy examines House. Her thin fingers press on his swollen cheek and skirt around his bruised eye. Her concern is etched onto her face, even though Wilson is absolutely sure nothing's been broken… aside from his own patience with House that is.
And with Cuddy too for that matter.
The tenderness she's showing isn't unique; the brief moments Wilson has seen her treat patients has shown him that her bedside manner can be quite good. But right now, she's putting all her energy into taking care of House the jackass and honestly…
Wilson has never found her more cloying. Which isn't fair to her, part of him knows – the same part that won't shut up about how he should have checked House out. And trying to push all of that aside, he speaks up, trying hard not to sound testy, "Is there any way we can take care of the being-in-jail situation first?"
Admittedly it's not as calm sounding as he wanted. But there's no helping that now.
Cuddy turns to him then, apology written all over her face. "Wilson, there's… a problem with the bail."
Great, he thinks, burying his head in his hands. His fingertips scrub at his face hard. He was wrong before, Wilson admits to himself. This is hell.
Finally, he asks, "What?"
The brunette frowns as she says slowly and quietly, "The bank… wouldn't let me take out more than 800 dollars, so –"
"What!" he nearly shrieks, making House smirk. "That's impossible." His voice sounds whiny, even to his own ears, and Wilson can feel his mouth hang open dumbly.
"I'm sorry," she tells him, her fingers fumbling on House's cheek.
"Jesus," House snaps. "I said I was fine. And if I wasn't, I would get a doctor who didn't get through med school by getting on her knees."
It's below the belt and horrible, even for House, to say it, and on any other given day, Wilson would defend Cuddy. But at the moment… he's still too stunned by the fact that Cuddy's only going to bail one of them out. Well, she didn't say that, but he knows that's obviously what's going to happen. And between him and House, Wilson understands he'll never be chosen. So he's going to spend a night in jail for stepping into a fight he never wanted to be in. The price he pays, the oncologist thinks bitterly, for being their friend.
But Wilson's thoughts are interrupted by the harsh way Cuddy presses on House's cheek and tells him to shut up.
And of course, the barfed-on drunk in their cell has to speak up, telling House, "Man, let her stay. She's got a hot rack."
The diagnostician shrugs. "It's the water bra."
"House," Cuddy warns through gritted teeth.
But he continues unabated. "The real things are okay, sure. But what you see isn't what you get."
And though Wilson doesn't exactly mind the brash insults, he instinctively finds himself saying, "House, come on."
His words, however, fall on deaf ears. Cuddy and House merely glare at one another. And the drunk, still staring at the breasts in question, says in disbelief, "There's no way you got with that."
"I can get with that," House mocks, "anytime I want." Wilson shakes his head. This is how it started at the party and every other time. His friend got even more cocky than usual – which was a feat in and of itself – and pushed around someone who should clearly be avoided. And if the oncologist ever believed the other man would learn from his mistakes, this is just further proof that that will, in all likelihood, never happen. Because, seemingly feeling bolstered, House pokes their cellmate with an index finger and says, "I've tapped that more times than you've hit the keg. In your life."
Wilson stands up, using his palms against concrete to push himself upright. As much as he wanted Cuddy to suffer some humiliation, he cannot let this continue. Especially since the drunk is looking Cuddy up and down, appearing as though he's seriously considering House's words. And if the stranger ends the night convinced of anything, then the diagnostician will never let it go.
"He's lying," Wilson says, catching Cuddy's grateful smile out of the corner of his eye.
"Yes, you are," Wilson snaps. He clenches his hands in and out of fists. Deep down inside, he knows that fighting with House on any matter is pointless. But still… he can't help himself. "No one is that desperate," he quips. "And since she's not a hooker…" His voice trails off, letting the silence (or what would have been silence if the drunk didn't say, "she should be though") speak the rest.
Once more a smirk graces House's features. "I don't think you're giving desperation the consideration it deserves."
Wilson shakes his head and looks to Cuddy. But she doesn't respond, despite the fact that all eyes are on her.
Instead she pulls away from House, dropping her hands to her sides, and stalks toward the metal bars lining the jail cell. She calls for the guard who's a good 10 feet away, purposely keeping her back turned from them.
And when the officer saunters over, Cuddy explains calmly, "This man is fine. And now, if you don't mind, I'd like to post bail for James Wilson."
Wilson's brown eyes widen in surprise. She wants to post bail for him? His eye flit quickly towards House. His friend's mouth hanging open, shock set in his features, the oncologist can't help but think his night is finally looking up.
She drums her fingers against the countertop as the officers behind the desk fill out Wilson's release paperwork. This isn't exactly how she planned on spending her night, and Cuddy still can't believe the things House said. Or rather she can, but still… this always happens: just when she thinks she's come to some sort of an understanding with House, he does something that is so offensive and cruel, she can hardly believe it.
Wilson shifts next to her, probably sensing her torment. And since he always feels the need to make her feel better, he says, "You did the right thing."
Annoyed and exhausted, Cuddy turns to him. "Really?"
"House needs to learn there are –"
"Consequences for his actions?" she offers dryly. It's not the first time he's said that, and normally she's willing to go with it. But it seems like every time she defers to Wilson's point of view, all hell breaks loose. And so before he can say anything more, Cuddy says, "One of us has to bail him out. We can't leave him here."
"But it's one night in jail, and then they'll let him go – they've said as much, Cuddy. House has been through worse."
Her eyebrow raising on its own accord, she sighs, knowing that the truth… is more complicated than that. House would survive a night in jail, but then he would spend the next several months making her pay for choosing Wilson. Closing her blue eyes, Cuddy can see it now: charts unsigned, expensive tests for everyone, whether they need them or not, clinic duty ignored (more than usual), mass emails detailing their sexual encounters sent, among other things.
She sighs again and slowly opens her eyes. Looking at Wilson once more, the brunette can barely control the resentment welling up inside of her. He means well, of course, which is why she's always deferred to his judgments on House. But somehow, whenever she did that, it came back to haunt her. Not him. Because no matter what happened, she was the one who had to bear the brunt of House's ire.
"We can't leave him here," she repeats simply and with finality. Wilson opens his mouth to respond, but Cuddy ignores him and continues. "We go home now, and Monday morning, he will be unbearable – worse than that actually. And frankly," she tells him, moving closer, her voice lowering. "I don't need him telling everyone that he and I slept together."
"He's not going to – we both know he'll do a thousand things before saying he slept with his boss."
She rolls her eyes. "Right. House will do what he always does: make tons of administrative messes that I'll have to clean up. And in the meantime, you'll be relaxing in the sand with your new wife –"
"He already ruined my bachelor party," Wilson stresses. "I'm not even sure I'm going to have a wife in a week. But if I do, my relaxation will be well earned." As he reaches up to rub his forehead with his hand, Cuddy realizes how ridiculous it is that they're fighting over this. And, as though Wilson's realized the same thing, he says more calmly, "House isn't going to tell everyone at the hospital that you two slept together. It's not like –"
"He told that drunk in the cell that we –"
"Wait a second," Wilson says quickly. And Cuddy watches him intently as he furrows his brow and then jumps in surprise. "A ha!" he exclaims, pointing a finger at her. "You did sleep with him!"
Her hand instinctively reaches up to play with the necklaces she usually wears. But seeing as she was in such a rush to get here, not to mention asleep before, her fingertips only graze the skin of her neck. And frankly, right now, she could use the jewelry to calm herself down; the way Wilson's eyes are quietly assessing her, waiting for her to say something, makes her uncomfortable.
In all honesty, Cuddy understands that the way she's acting is confirmation in and of itself. But admitting the truth would guarantee, she knows, a lecture from him. Which is probably why neither she nor House told him to begin with. "No, I didn't. I have never –"
"Yes, you have," he counters, almost amazed at the fact.
"Are you going to bail out House?" she asks. Since denying it is no longer an option, her only choice is to change the subject back to the asshole who brought them here to begin with.
"Uh no. Someone else will have to help him tonight. I think I've reached my limit." But only seconds later, Wilson says, backtracking, "By the time I get to the ATM machine and back, they'll probably have released him anyway."
Sensing weakness in her companion, Cuddy goes back to her original argument. "That is not true. You have to do this, Wilson, or he will act like a toddler for the next two weeks."
And he, in turn, argues in frustration, "You don't give a misbehaving child what he wants." Apparently he's not as weak as she would have liked.
"No, you're right," Cuddy agrees. "But… we do anyway. What difference is one more time going to make?"
This kind of logic has been her mantra for a while now, something that happened by pure accident. She never meant to fall into this lull with House, where he could pretty much say and do whatever he wanted. But for right now, she's okay with that. Because it sounds pretty good – something Wilson might go for – and that's what matters at this particular moment.
"I… just don't think I can," he says apologetically, dashing all hope. "Amber –"
"Who else is going to bail him out?" Cuddy snaps.
And then a voice behind them speaks up, the tones familiar and smug. "Well, I guess that would be me, Dr. Cuddy," Cutthroat Bitch says brightly.
His mind was already reeling with the realization that House and Cuddy did – are? – have – having? – sex. It's a fact that's almost shocking enough to make him numb to his fiancée's sudden appearance. But not quite.
On the one hand, Wilson knows he should be grateful that she's calm enough to come down to the police station at all. Then again… Amber's here to bail out House, and like Cuddy, she seems to have a soft spot for the man. So it's possible, hell, with the way things are going, likely, that she's ready to kill Wilson.
But even that isn't enough to stop him from watching his fiancée take charge of the police station. It has always amused him – and why shouldn't it when he constantly reaps the benefits of it? But now… he thinks it's quite possibly her greatest gift, because within five minutes, his paperwork is taken care of. And the officers have scurried to get rid of House.
Which leaves Wilson plenty of time to think about what he's just learned – Cuddy and House. He shudders at the thought, prompting Amber to wrap her arms around his waist. The gesture is meant to warm him, and it bolsters him ever so slightly. Maybe she won't kill him after all.
But he still feels uncomfortable. The way Cuddy looks at them both is filled with confusion and disgust. And it's weird how, after all this time, she still doesn't like Amber or them as a couple. Then again… Wilson is sure he'll always feel the same way about Cuddy and House.
"Who called you?" the brunette asks accusingly, her arms folding across her chest. Wilson himself wonders that, and his dark eyes slide to Amber's, waiting for an answer.
"That would be Greg."
"House?" Cuddy scoffs.
"Yup," House himself says as he limps canelessly towards them. The uneven steps interrupt their silence with the occasional sound until he's next to Cuddy.
"Why'd you call her?" she asks, turning to him. The accusation is back in her voice.
And Wilson can't help but watch the two of them. House slings an arm around her shoulders for balance, earning a glare from Cuddy. They look close, he thinks. Comfortable, even as the brunette threatens to kill him with her eyes. As the other man begins to explain "the usefulness of Cutthroat Bitch," the oncologist ignores the insane and typically cold words.
Really, he couldn't pay attention if he tried, he knows that much. Because looking at his two friends now, it seems obvious that they slept together. Are sleeping together? As much as he doesn't want to think about the matter, Wilson can't help it.
"So you see," House finishes, "I had to call her."
"Right," Cuddy says, sounding as though it made no sense at all. And though Wilson didn't listen, he's inclined to agree with her.
"Well, if he didn't," Amber pipes up, "He wouldn't get to see Wilson beg for forgiveness or me deny him that. It makes perfect sense really."
To Wilson, it makes no sense at all. As much as he understands his fiancée and House separately, he's never really been able to comprehend the way they get one another. It's just… odd how they can spar and meddle and mess around with each other but still tolerate the other person's presence.
And perhaps that's the greatest part about Amber – her tolerance of House. A small smile plays on her lips. She finishes her last thought. "Assuming I would do that to my fiancé or that he would do that to me, that is."
Cuddy turns to House, her eyebrows raised. The words, "Is that true," aren't said, but he clearly understands. Because he nods his head and says coolly, "Well, you didn't think I wanted her here just so she could learn that we slept together, did you?"
Cuddy bites down on her lip before smacking one of her hands loudly on the counter next to her. And Wilson watches, his eyes darting back and forth, to see what will happen. Of course, House does what he always does – gives Cuddy an innocent look, the mirth dancing obviously in his blue eyes.
But Wilson isn't prepared for the chuckle coming from his side. In unison, three sets of eyes turn to Amber, who is laughing.
And if her ability to tolerate House is her strength, then this has to be her weakness. Because he doesn't expect her to be Mother Teresa – that's not why he fell in love with her. But sometimes, a little tact, Wilson thinks, wouldn't hurt, and right now especially, it would be nice. Maybe it's just him, he concedes, but Wilson can't understand what is precisely funny about this mess of events.
Amber tries to swallow her laugh, and she does for the most part. But it's impossible to miss the smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. "You two slept together?" she asks amused. Before either can say anything (though Cuddy gives House another glare), she continues, "I mean – not that I'm surprised."
"Really?" Wilson asks.
"Well, I'll admit, I thought Greg had better taste than that, but –"
"Hey," Cuddy snaps angrily.
"It makes sense to me now," Amber admits.
"Really?" Wilson asks again, his brow furrowing as he turns to look at the two in question.
"Why else would Dr. Cuddy let him get away with so much?"
Put that way, it really does make sense to the oncologist. Of course he understands that that might not be his boss's sole motivation. After all Wilson himself has done things for House all the time, and there'd never been any romance between them.
But still… surely it accounts for some of her actions, he decides. Because Cuddy did things that even he wouldn't do for House – like lie under oath. And at the same time, Wilson realizes that what House does is similar. "Wait, is this why you were so uncomfortable with me taking Cuddy to a play?" he asks his best friend the moment the question pops into his head.
"You went on a date with her?" Amber asks horrified.
"No, we just –"
"You called it a date at the time," Cuddy reminds him not so lightly.
Wilson rings his hands together. "Slip of the tongue, and I –"
"Slip anything else in her, James?" Amber demands, turning his words on their head.
He holds his hands up in front of his chest. "Whoa, you need to –no, I didn't sleep with her."
"Good," his fiancée says earnestly. "I'd hate for you to have sex with someone who'd probably use the occasion to balance her check book." Cuddy fumes at this, which doesn't stop Amber at all. If anything it eggs her on. "You should thank Greg for trying to stop you from making the same mistake he did.
"Wow," Cuddy says in disgust. But just as she's about to say more, the jackass who started this whole thing interrupts.
"Actually, I was the one telling him to sleep with her," House defends.
"To stop me from marrying her!" Wilson yells. The words are said a little too loudly, garnering the attention of every cop and detainee in the vicinity.
There is a brief moment of silence from all of them, an unnatural quiet filling the room, and Wilson can't help but wonder what everyone else thinks of them. Cuddy's eyes darting back and forth, it's obvious she's trying to decide who to kill first. Turning his attention to House, the oncologist can see that his friend is practically smiling, his eyes filled with glee. His girlfriend is calmer than Cuddy, thankfully, but she's still clearly annoyed.
And Wilson knows that he probably looks as frustrated and fed up as he feels.
But the silence in the room doesn't last long, and within minutes everyone around them goes back to what they were doing before. This includes the officer who was sent to collect Wilson's things. Plopping them down onto the counter, his keys jingling loudly, the woman says, "That should be everything. You're free to go."
Wilson uses this turn of events to distract him from the silent argument going on around him. Quietly, he checks through his belongings to make sure everything is there. But Amber announcing, "And on that note, I think I'll be leaving" abruptly interrupts his leisurely pace. "Good night, Greg," she says, emotion noticeably absent from her voice before turning.
The glare she shoots Wilson is unmistakable. And while he would love to stay behind to kill House, he can't let his fiancée go. His hands grab blindly at his things, and Wilson chases after Amber, apology on the tip of his tongue.
"I can not believe you, House," she hisses as he limps behind her to the car. Her sight is intent on the dimly lit parking lot in front of her, but even without the sound of his footsteps, Cuddy knows he's following her. Anger surging within her, she doesn't give him a chance to explain. "You weaseled your way into Wilson's bachelor party – using me no less. You got yourself arrested, and you told everyone that we slept together," she lectures.
"What the hell are you doing, House?" Angrily she yanks open her car door. As Cuddy settles into her seat, she watches House do the same thing, and it drives her nuts.
Because – and he gives voice to her thought – "And yet, you're the one giving me a ride home. Way to take a stand there."
"You shut up," she half-orders, half-snarls. "This is the part of the evening where I yell and you stay quiet."
Out of the corner of her vision, she can see him rolling his eyes. "I'm pretty sure that part of the night doesn't exist," he retorts.
"House." The chances of her warning working, she knows, are slim to none. And as Cuddy turns the car onto the highway, her companion dashes any hope of his silence.
"You're mad," he says simply. "I get that. But you know I'm right about Wilson and the Bitch."
"That doesn't matter," she argues. And she really does believe that. Because while there was no denying that the relationship was a mistake… it didn't justify House's actions. "You can't force someone to fall out of love." Cuddy glances at him sympathetically. "I know human emotions are a foreign concept for you, but it doesn't work like that."
He waves her words off. "I didn't hold them at gun point."
"No. You just –"
"I started a fight," House interrupts. 'Wilson didn't have to defend me. He didn't have to interject himself so much that he got arrested. He didn't have to call you to bail him out, and he didn't have to mention his attempts at wooing you with exhibits filled with ball gags and bicycle pumps. That was his choice."
Cuddy drives silently, mulling over his words. She will never admit that… maybe he's right in that respect; she won't give him another reason to believe his own hype. Still… if Amber and Wilson were right for one another, nothing House could do would change that.
A few more minutes pass in silence, and the brunette can tell that her companion is watching her intently. It makes her uncomfortable – the way he's waiting for her to say something. And finally, she decides to admit it without saying the words. Quietly, Cuddy offers, "Well, at least he'll know the truth this time without paying the alimony for it."
"See? You agree with me."
She scowls. "That doesn't mean you were right. And," she adds loudly, "I still don't see how telling everyone we slept together is anything other than an attempt to humiliate me."
They pull up to House's apartment, and Cuddy puts the car in neutral, so that she can turn and look at him. He stays quiet for a moment before saying simply, "If I hadn't, you would have bailed me out and not Wilson."
His answer makes no sense to her. She narrows her eyes on him. "I would think you'd find that appealing."
"Yeah, well, it'd be a lot harder for Wilson and CB to fight if he was in the clink all night – don't you think?" he asks, his voice filled with annoyance at having to explain his reasoning.
Cuddy turns away from him then, her blue eyes looking at the window as she contemplates his words. It all makes sense to her well enough, and part of her wishes it didn't. After all, it was one thing to work with House and merely… tolerate him and something else entirely to be able to understand and possibly… respect his twisted schemes. And especially after tonight. Because she realizes now that none of this could have worked without hurting Wilson, Amber, or her.
Inwardly Cuddy sighs. Next time, she tells herself, she will be prepared. Next time, she will stop him. Next time she will be better.
For now though…
Perhaps sensing her mental capitulation, House undoes his seatbelt. "Glad we cleared that up." He opens the car door to his right but doesn't get out immediately. Turning back to her, he lets out a rush of air between his lips.
"So…" he starts quietly, and Cuddy can feel her own features soften ever so slightly at what she thinks will be an important revelation. But all he says is "Wanna come inside? We can 'balance your checkbook' all night long." He waggles his eyebrows suggestively.
Her lips turn downward into a frown. She can feel her teeth bite down on the inside of her cheek. She is going to kill him. There's no doubt about it in her mind.
"Is that a no?" he asks sarcastically.
"Get out of the car before I hit you," she tells him, her voice tense.
He nods his head and grabs his cane. "Your loss…"
"House, this isn't a game."
But the smile tugging at his lips clearly tells her that he thinks it is. "Night, Cuddy," he says happily.
"Good night, House," she tells him curtly, irritably, as he closes the door behind him.
Her anger doesn't last unfortunately. It never does. Her drive home is uneventful, but the farther away she is from House, the harder it is to maintain her fury. The feeling so quickly dissolves into a desperate desire for rest, a need for slumber so powerful that it's nothing short of a miracle that she makes it home in one piece.
She honestly believes that she should be able to stay angry with House longer. With everything he does, Cuddy knows she should be mad at him all the time. But for whatever reason, though she won't believe Amber's right about the cause, she just can't find it in herself to be furious for very long. And crawling back into her bed, the woman knows, as she gazes upwards at her ceiling… that in the morning, this will have been forgotten between the two of them.
Nothing will have changed.
And that fact fills her with a sadness Cuddy can't even begin to explain.
"Amber," he calls after her, but she is intent on ignoring him. Wilson chases after her, scrambling into the car just in time before she drives off. And his stomach muscles clench themselves, waiting to hear all the insults his fiancée is no doubt dying to hurl at him.
But she is silent.
Which… freaks him out, because it's completely out of character for her to be so quiet. The result of which has him rambling all the way home.
"Look, Cuddy and I only did a few things together – they weren't… dates. And it wasn't anything serious or – it was just two friends having fun," Wilson tells her.
"Okay." Her voice is devoid of all emotion.
"House was just being… well, himself. There was absolutely no chance of me marrying her – or falling in love with her."
Her lack of response effectively ends the conversation, because he knows better than to try and convince her of something she doesn't believe. So he waits in silence until they're home. And by then, while Wilson knows Amber's still angry, he can't let this go on. After three marriages, he's learned that it's things like this, when left to fester, that ruin a relationship, and he doesn't want that to happen here.
He sighs loudly. "I'm sorry that House dragged you into this," he apologizes. "I know that I screwed up by not calling you and by not letting your cousins kill him. Believe me – I'm regretting that so much, you don't even know."
"It's fine," she says quickly, as she begins to change back into her pajamas.
"Really?" Wilson asks confused. "Because it doesn't sound okay."
Amber sighs. "I don't care about what Greg did. Or what you might have done with Cuddy. In fact the less said about that, the better." She hesitates to say anymore, swaying from side to side. But finally she lets him know what she's thinking. "I just..."
She sits down on the bed. "I knew Greg would do something stupid – that's just who he is. Interrupting dates, breaking into my house, I expected those things."
He nods his head, glad that she at least knows that much; it makes her an enormous improvement over his last three wives.
"I guess… I just didn't realize how the two of you worked together." Amber takes a deep breath, and Wilson sits down on the bed mirroring her position. "I could have figured he would have gotten into a fight with my relatives. I mean… that's why you weren't going to invite him, right?"
Again, he nods his head, his annoyance at Cuddy rearing its ugly head once more.
"But I never could have guessed that you would… defend him. Go to jail for him."
Wilson takes her hand in his own, squeezes it. "I had to. Your cousin would have killed him."
"Maybe. But then you called her to make sure someone would bail him out. And…" She searches for the right words. "I just never realized… how… incredibly complicated and self-destructive your relationship with House is." Slowly, Amber pulls her hand away from his. "I always thought that what we had – the way you love and respect me – was unique. And… I realized tonight that it's… not."
He stands up. "It's not the same."
She leans back on the bed, tears forming in her eyes. "But in the end, he and I will always compete for you. It will never end – not even if we get married. Because he will never stop looking for a way to 'expose our true colors' to one another." She sniffles a little. "And I just don't think I can handle being second best. To anyone."
"You're not second –"
"If I have to compete for your attention, James, then I'm certainly not first," she says loudly, angrily.
Wilson runs a hand through his hair. "Are you… dumping me?"
Amber looks away from him briefly. But when she glances back at him, her eyes have changed. Gone is the look filled with tears and vulnerability. A hardness has set in, one that he hates to see. "I need someone who… can distinguish between me and everyone else. And I know you love me, but you'll… never really be able to keep Greg out. Because you don't want things to change. And that is… just not enough for me." She bites down on her lip before finishing, "I don't want to marry someone I'm doomed to divorce."
There is nothing apologetic about it, no hint of remorse. There is no hesitation, no hope he can cling onto. And Wilson knows he's been cast aside – that, in the end, House was right.
Bitterness fills him, but even that is not enough to ward off the chill biting at him. Numbly, he nods his head. There's no sense in arguing it, because deep down, Wilson understands that she's not wrong; he can't get rid of House, despite the fact that he often wants to. And he doesn't want to hurt his… fiancée – no, ex-fiancée any more by lying and offering her hope that their situation could change. Because… he knows it can't. Or won't anyway.
He does not pack a bag, doesn't say a single word to her as he leaves their – no, her – apartment. There's no point in that; if Amber changes her mind and wants to find him, there's no doubt in his mind that she will move heaven and earth to do that. But somehow Wilson knows that won't happen. Because after all this time, he didn't change. House and Cuddy didn't change, and he doubts that the woman he loves could or would for him. There's no hope for reconciliation now, because, after everything they went through to be together, they stayed exactly who they were before.
And it's that fact, not that they broke up, but that he couldn't be someone different that fills his heart with a painful ache and his eyes with tears.