Author's Note: This fic was written after "Frozen" aired, so spoilers are through that episode. Also, please note that Cuddy and House are in an established relationship, for a lack of a better term. If that's not your cup of tea, well… you've been warned. Thanks to my beta, Olly, for all of her advice and hard work.
Disclaimer: I don't own it. Don't sue me.
For the love of Cable
(Or Something else she can't Quite Name)
by Duckie Nicks
She's cooking chicken in a skillet, when he enters the house. There's no telltale sounds of him struggling, which can only mean he has a key she never gave him to get inside. At least Cuddy hopes it's him or else a burglar's going to get a frying pan filled with chicken piccata to the head. Though even when it comes to House, the two aren't mutually exclusive. She listens quietly, relieved in a way to hear his uneven, syncopated steps above the sizzling food.
The brunette doesn't turn when he enters the kitchen; she knows he'll feel more accomplished if she acts like she didn't notice. And after a bizarre conversation on the phone with Wilson about an interrupted date, Cuddy figures House will want his ego, among other things, stroked.
"Whatcha makin', Mommy?" he asks in that childish voice he sometimes uses. His arms wrap around her in a decidedly not-so-innocent manner. Her shirt is pulled away from her skin at the waist, and she can feel his rough fingers move underneath the fabric. The warm pads dance around on the soft flesh of her slightly rounded stomach. Pregnant she's not, though sometimes, when he calls her Mommy, she wishes it were for reasons not easily explained by Freud.
And Cuddy's almost surprised that he hasn't noticed her small weight gain over the past few months. No, she tells herself. House is House; he's noticed, which means he's either keeping quiet, because he likes the changes in her body that age has brought about. Or, the more likely scenario, he just doesn't want to lose his all access pass to her ass.
His chin digs into her clavicle as he rests all of his body weight on her, and she lets out a harsh breath at the contact. Which he'll naturally assume means she's surprised that he's here, so ego stroked. Mission accomplished.
"You should have called," she admonishes, even though she already assumed he'd come over now that his case is over and he's figured out who Wilson is sleeping with. But she says it anyway on the off chance that he'll appreciate what an inconvenience it is for her to guess when he'll stop by. Most of the time, Cuddy's right, of course. She's gotten good at predicting when he'll feel the need to be near her, but there are still times where she'll be wrong and make enough food for two people, only to throw the leftovers away. Which is still preferable to when she's wrong, and he comes over, and he practically throws a tantrum from the lack of sustenance.
However, Cuddy's sure it won't make a difference. Because the brunette understands that he'll most likely never call ahead. That would put them into relationship territory, after all, and push them out of… wherever the hell they were now.
He pulls away from her almost instantly. And she thinks jealously that for him intimacy can only be had with blondes in the Antarctic.
House leans against her countertop, the cane mirroring his posture. And as he pops a Vicodin into his mouth, the bottle rattling as he puts it back into his pocket, he tells her, "So I think I met the most perfect woman this week." He's taunting her like the bastard they both know he is.
"Your patient, you mean?" She's able to keep her voice calm, but the way she shoves the chicken in the pan with a spatula has him smirking. Ass.
"She's like you – only her boobs look firmer –"
"You've seen her breasts?" Cuddy asks, her throat feeling tight at the thought.
"I prefer the hands on approach," House defends. "At least when the patient's that hot. And smart, though her job is clearly a waste of that mind and tight ass, and she had a real medical problem for me to diagnose. Your mass hysteria doesn't even begin to hold up to her broken toe."
"Next time I'll try to contract something diagnostically interesting for you," she says sarcastically. Whatever embarrassment she might have felt from that flight has long since given way to irritation at the fact that House likes to continually bring it up. And to stop him from claiming that she still owes him, Cuddy snaps, "And if things were all that great with South Pole Girl, you wouldn't be here."
"I showed her my leg," he says, his voice slightly lower and quieter than normal. The change is one that might go unnoticed by most people, she thinks. But she is not a casual acquaintance, and something is going on.
"Why?" the brunette asks carefully, curiously.
"I… don't know." House sighs, his hand instinctively grasps his cane so he can fiddle with it. "I really… don't know." Her blue eyes tear away from the chicken, and she looks over to him. But already his line of sight is elsewhere, purposely avoiding her, and she knows that she won't be able to push him. Not without making him leave, anyway.
"So what – you just took your pants off for a stranger?" she asks. "With Foreman in the room?" And then a thought occurs to her. "In your office with all the windows – in the hospital?" She closes her eyes, trying not to imagine the potential slew of angry callers leaving furious voice mails on her office phone.
"Wait a second," he says, pointing a finger at her. "You're actually more upset about me possibly being pantless in the hospital than me getting half-naked for a woman I hardly know."
She waves off his concern as she reaches towards the back burner to stir the pot of whole-wheat spaghetti she has cooking. "Over the years, I've learned that you're going to do incredibly stupid things. And since I can't stop you from being an ass, the best I can do is make sure your audience is as limited as possible."
"How's that working out so far?" House asks snottily but smiling at the same time, as though making her life miserable is a point of pride for him.
And her glare is all the answer he needs, she thinks, as she reaches for the jar of capers sitting on the counter.
"Don't put those in," he whines.
"Why not?" She opens the jar.
House moves closer to her, sticking his fingers into the glass container and pulls a caper out. He shuffles it around in his hand, sniffs it. "This looks like something a five year old in the clinic would pull out his nose and wipe on the back of your skirt when you weren't paying attention."
"That's disgusting." Nonetheless, Cuddy starts to empty the small greenish buds into the skillet.
"Don't add them!" he orders, and when she doesn't stop, he tells her, "Fine. Put 'em in. I'll just throw them at you."
Sometimes she wonders, as she begins scooping the capers out of the frying pan, if adopting a hoard of toddlers wouldn't be easier. She ponders that question for only a moment before getting an answer; he moves back behind her once more, chin painfully pressing into her shoulder. And his fingers quickly dip into the sauce smothering the chicken. "Stop that," Cuddy orders, as he loudly slurps the liquid into his mouth. "You should wash up," she tells him. "This will be ready soon."
But he stays exactly where he is. "House. Move your ass and get ready." Naturally, though, being a two year old, he tries to stick his hand back into the skillet. His fingertips mere inches away from the food, she manages to catch his wrist and shove it back. "Do you have to do the exact opposite of what I tell you? Like, is there some biological imperative in that twisted brain of yours?"
"I don't want to wash my hands" is his defense.
"You work in a hospital. You ride that bike of yours, and you are a slob. You're dirty. Wash your damn hands before I tie you down and clean them myself."
His head still resting on her shoulder, he turns it so that she can feel his lips move against her neck. "That sounds interesting. Let's do that."
"House!" There's a dangerous edge to her voice, and for once in his damn life, he listens to her. But as he pulls away, he takes the opportunity to slide his hand along the top curve of her ass.
Standing in front of the sink, he apparently decides they need to discuss his patient some more. "You know, the thing I like about Kate is she accepts me for me. She doesn't want to change me," he taunts, washing his hands anyway.
Cuddy rolls her eyes. "Then I was wrong, and she really is a crazy person." As she checks to see if the chicken is done, she adds, "And I don't want to change you. I'd just like you to have clean hands."
"Thereby changing me." Drying his hands on the front of his shirt, House tells her, "She'll be back in two months. If you want to keep me," he warns, "you'd better do something to demonstrate your love for me."
"I have sex with you for free," she says simply. They both know that that's hardly a sacrifice for her. Given that her personal life has been colder than the Antarctic where Miss Perfect is, Cuddy's perhaps not so secretly relieved to have these little moments with House. Because even though it doesn't happen as often as it could, there's something nice about having someone around to kiss and talk to. And… if she's being honest with herself, she's begun to realize that whatever this is has gone from moments shared together out of desperation to something so much more.
But afraid of even thinking about this being a real relationship, she distracts herself by saying, "And I'm making you dinner. What else do you want?" The tone of her voice dares him to make a suggestion.
"Well, I suppose there's only one thing you can give a man in a time like this," he says in complete seriousness. He takes a deep breath, and she turns to him to see what he's going to tell her. Slowly, he draws out, "It's what every man wants, I suppose… cable restored in Coma Guy's room."
Silence fills the room for a beat, and she can tell he's not breathing – perhaps silently praying that she'll cave.
Her fingers tightly grip the spatula in her hand, and she can feel the anger and irritation bubble within her. "That's what this is all about?" she nearly screams. Control forgotten, she throws the yellow plastic kitchen utensil at him. "You've been flirting with your patients and disrupting my staff, simply because I wouldn't talk to Carlson about your cable?"
"Yeah… except for the 'simply' part," he says calmly. "Still would have gotten pervy with Kate – how could I not?" She glares at him, and he sighs. Turning it back to her, House defends himself. "It didn't even work, Cuddy. You're supposed to be good at playing games. But you were an amateur," he insults. "Firing Cameron was more transparent than a wet t-shirt. And I had to make my team pay for the cable!"
"You made your new team pay for your cable?" she asks, repeating his words to herself. Despite the fact that Cuddy isn't looking in a mirror, she can feel the corners of her mouth turning down into a frown.
She walks away then, and it's impossible for her to miss the feel of his eyes on her. And somehow, knowing that she has an audience, despite being irritated, she takes her next few steps with an extra sway in her hips.
Searching through her purse on the sofa, Cuddy roots through the bag for the check that she'd conned out of the family from earlier today. She finds it, though part of her wonders if she should even give it to House.
Returning to the kitchen, he looks down, sees what she's holding. "What's that?" She hands him the check, but he doesn't understand. "So… I flirt with a patient, and you show me the proof of another successful attempt at fellating an eighty year old man out of his money?"
"You don't recognize the name?"
Exasperated, Cuddy explains, "I know this may be hard for you to understand, but Coma Guy's name isn't actually Coma Guy. If you'd ever been in his room to do something other than watch porn and perform illegal medical tests on the poor man, you would know that his name is actually William Bryant."
He waves off the information, completely uninterested. And she knows she'll have to get to the point soon enough before he, like a child with Attention Deficit Disorder, ignores her completely.
"His son, William Junior, was a self-made multi-millionaire who recently died. And his son, William the Third, the man who wrote that check, is the one who inherited all that money," she says quickly. House opens his mouth, but she's not finished, so Cuddy continues, "And he regularly donates money to the neurology department in the hopes of finding a way to wake up his grandfather some day."
House wipes a fake tear off his cheek before finally interjecting. "That's a touching story, Cuddy. What's the point?"
"The point is that I realized, after talking to Carlson, that there was no way he was going to change his mind about the budget. Especially since pleasing you isn't exactly a legitimate reason why the hospital should lose thirteen thousand dollars a month."
Well, Cuddy thinks… that's not really the case. Over the years, the hospital has lost plenty of money, thanks to House; from the beginning, his department has been a black hole in profits, and Vogler and Tritter didn't do anything to change that. So in a way, losing cash because of her diagnostician is nothing new.
But she knows in her heart that this is different, because her motivation is different. There are times when she's given into him in the past, despite not understanding his reasoning, but this is the first time she's done it for the sole reason of making him happy.
And she realizes then that she was right, on the day of his trial, when she said that everyone was worse for being around him. Because it's true – at least in this case – because she would have never lied like that in the past.
It's almost as though, Cuddy thinks, that House opened the door for it all; that, once she'd decided to keep this relationship or whatever it was with House a secret, she was able to lie about other things. Deceit in that one area of her life spread to every other part, a cancer manipulating and tainting her decisions.
Gesturing with her hands, she explains quickly, pushing the thought away, "So I contacted Mr. Bryant, had him come in today, and told him that there had been a few studies in Japan on how cable television actually helped coma patients recover."
"And he bought that?" House asks surprised.
"I said he was rich, not smart. All the coma patients will have cable for the next two years thanks to him." His grin widens as the words sink in, making her feel even guiltier. Because if House is a fan, then Cuddy's pretty sure she really has screwed up.
But maybe, she thinks, she can use the money and the situation to do something good. Maybe hire a new nurse for the ward or… something to lessen her guilt.
Her plan is incredibly vague, and part of her knows that there's a good chance she won't follow through. But for the moment, at least, it's enough to stave off the feeling of shame and the questions her actions have raised in her mind.
"I thought you might like that," she tells him, her voice low and husky almost on its own accord. And she makes a mental note to stop flirting with him unintentionally – or else they'll get caught, and whatever they have between them will become fodder for the hospital rumor mill.
His blue eyes brighter now than any other time she can remember, he looks back down at the check. Holding it up into the light, he announced, "Now that is a thing of beauty."
House's hand clasps around her elbow, and he pulls her to him. Her fingers grip his rumpled shirt in an attempt to steady herself from the sudden movement. And he's so close; she can feel his breath on her forehead. She tilts her head up so she can look him in the face, her hair falling below her shoulders, caressing her back.
But he looks at the check, still amazed, and not at her. "I want this framed, Cuddy."
"After it's cashed, right?"
"I mean it – paying for my porn and lying to a patient's family so you could cheat them out of their money." He sets the check on the counter nearby and rests his hands on her hips. "You're even more perfect than I thought, especially with the free sex. I think I'm in love."
The words are said in jest, she can tell, but there's something in his eyes, which she can't quite name. But… maybe, just maybe, it's not a complete lie. What that means for the future, Cuddy doesn't know. And frankly, at that moment, she thinks it doesn't matter – and she doesn't want to think about it. So she deflects, says, "So I guess that means you and your patient aren't going to be getting married? That ended quickly."
Tight-lipped, he looks upward. Then he quips, "Now you're less perfect." She watches as House thinks about it some more. Finally he adds, "Guess I'll have to settle."
"I don't want to be stuck with you," she argues, though not really feeling the words. And it doesn't matter anyway, because he decides to ignore her, much as he usually does.
His hands pull on her hips, so her body crashes against his. Stubble brushes against her smooth skin as he kisses her. It's almost ridiculous, she thinks, as her hands cup his cheeks, how much she wants him. How, no matter what he does, she always seems to want him and vice versa. Their lips pressing firmly against one another, a hand moving to grab her ass – this is what they're good at. Great at.
But it ends too soon for her taste. He pulls away, smacking her butt hard, saying, "Food first, then sex."
"Not the other way around?" she asks curiously.
"Death by succubus doesn't sound too unpleasant," he admits. "But even prisoners get a last meal." He squeezes her ass once more, his hands practically mauling at the fabric. "Don't worry, mistress. I'm worth the wait."
He pulls away and heads toward the food.
His attention completely on the chicken, he misses her barely whispered, "Ass," and the way she can't help but smile when she says it.