Hi everyone. After finishing the last House/Chloe story I really did try to write a different story, even got a few thousand words into it, but then this came into my head and wouldn't leave me alone... Hope you all enjoy.
Many thanks to Gypsy71 - she encouraged me to write a sequel to "Too little, too late?" and then in gratitude I went and stole (well, borrowed with permission) some of the plot from one of her very excellent stories! Thanks Gypsy!
Chloe sighed as she put the key into the lock. She couldn't wait to flop down on the sofa and take her shoes off. Her feet were killing her and she was bone tired. Surprised to find the television on when she walked inside, she peeked over the sofa cushions to find House, stretched out, watching some unidentifiable sitcom.
"Hi honey, I'm home," Chloe called sarcastically. She kicked off her shoes and went and stood near House's feet, waiting until he lifted them slightly. She sat down and pulled his legs back into her lap, resting her hands on his calves.
House still hadn't spoken or moved his eyes from the screen. Over the past twelve months of living together, Chloe had become better at reading his strange moods. She knew this one had two mostly likely causes.
"So, did someone die or was someone saved?" she asked, gently rubbing the legs resting in her lap.
"Died," came the gruff response.
"Do we know why?"
Well, that was something, Chloe thought. At least he'd get some sleep tonight and that meant so would she. No doubt there'd also be some sex in the near future. He'd told her once that sexual desire was considered a normal psychological reaction to grief. She wondered if he'd actually read that or if it was just wisdom from his own personal experience, because she'd discovered a definite pattern between a patient's death and his especially desperate and passionate lovemaking.
As she trailed her hands over his legs in some approximation of massage, Chloe yawned and wondered absently if they'd reached the end of the honeymoon period of their relationship, because she wasn't sure whether she was looking forward more to the sex or the sleep. He'd been called in to the hospital around four that morning and after he'd gone she'd been wide awake. She had a huge consulting job currently going, one that could mean a significant promotion if everything went well, so she'd eventually risen and taken advantage of the early start to do some prep work for the day. Then she'd spent most of the afternoon walking around a factory site – not what her Prada pumps were exactly designed for.
"Hey, do you think we could get something reciprocal going here?" Chloe asked. "My feet are killing me. I spent three hours this afternoon walking around a carpet factory."
She knew from experience there was no point asking for more details about his day. If he wanted to share them they'd come out – first hesitantly, then in a flood – sometime during the evening. Probably right when she wanted to go to sleep.
"I've told you before, wench, I don't do massage," House grumbled. But when Chloe twisted around on the sofa to put her feet in front him, he raised himself a little and started rubbing them. He watched as Chloe leaned back, forgetting her massage of his legs, her eyes closing and lips parting in a sigh. House wondered when he'd become so domesticated. And, more importantly, when he'd learned to like it.
He dug his thumbs into the arches of her feet, rubbing along the sensitive inner side of her foot. Despite his protests, he was very adept at massage and she knew it. I'm completely pussy whipped, House thought. Why else could a woman walk into his home, shove him aside to sit on his sofa, then push her stinky feet into his face and have him not only rub them, but enjoy doing it?
He moved his hands up to her ankles then stroked her calves as far up as her suit pants would allow. He watched as a smile curved on her mouth.
"Why aren't you wearing a skirt?" he demanded.
"I told you, factory tour," Chloe replied, eyes still closed. "I've found it's far more productive if people are actually looking at my face when we talk."
"Hmm," House murmured, tickling the inside of her calf and raising one of her legs to press a kiss just under the inside of her ankle. "I can see where a skirt might be an advantage. Distract your enemy, have them agree to anything while they're ogling your legs."
"Yeah, that sounds like a sure-fire negotiation strategy," Chloe said sarcastically.
"Even better, a low cut blouse," House suggested further, reaching over to pull meaningfully on the discreet, high-necked knit that Chloe wore under her suit jacket.
Chloe smiled a little to herself. She wondered what he would think if he could see her out on the factory floor, surrounded by predominantly male union bosses, arguing the latest benefits package. Not that she'd ever been really unsafe, but she'd certainly felt threatened at times, and her clothing was always chosen to be carefully neutral in the whole equation. She needed to be considered an equal in the bargaining and she didn't need them wondering about what she looked like naked as a distraction.
"So are we going to have sex or what?" Chloe asked, opening her eyes to give House a suggestive smile.
"Thought you'd never ask," he growled.
"As if that would stop you."
They got up and made their way down the corridor into the bedroom with the easy companionship of two people who knew each other well. Despite their familiarity there was still a sense of excitement, both still slightly desperate in their need for each other.
"You're on top." House whispered in her ear as they reached the bed.
"Leg? Or just your general preference today?" Chloe asked, concerned. She'd noticed his leg had been giving him more trouble over the past week or so.
In lieu of answering, House kissed her deeply then pushed her onto the bed. She watched as he undressed, slowly removing her own clothing too. She saw him flinch a little as he pulled his jeans off. It was definitely the leg.
Chloe lay back, pulling House with her as he climbed onto the bed. As he leaned over he starting kissing her breast, using his tongue to lave her nipple. When he began tangling his fingers into the curls between her legs, she sent up her usual superstitious prayer.
Dear dead person, Chloe began. House never told her his patients' names; she'd thought it was because he was protecting their confidentiality until Wilson once mentioned to her that it was more likely because he didn't know them. Dear dead person, Chloe silently prayed, I'm sorry that you died and I'm really sorry for the loss of your family and friends. But I hope you don't mind that, because you died, this man is going to give me a mind-blowing orgasm. I hope that's okay with you. Amen.
She groaned aloud as two of his fingers made their way inside her. She knew her prayer was ridiculous, but it made her feel better, knowing that she'd made peace with his motivation.
Later, lying in bed, slightly sweaty and still tingling between her legs, Chloe's stomach gurgled loudly.
"So it's not enough that I satisfy your every need in bed, now you want me to feed you too?" House complained, his head tucked against her breast, one finger lazily tracing circles around her navel.
Chloe gave a short laugh. "Yeah, as if you've ever cooked."
"Hey, dialling counts," House said, mock-injured.
"Actually, I can't decide if I feel hungry or sick," Chloe said truthfully. "Stupid Maggie has been coming into work for the last few days with a gross stomach bug that her youngest kid picked up at kindergarten. I'll kill her if she's given it to me."
"There's another good reason not to have any of those little buggers around." House said casually. "They're basically nature's germ carriers."
Chloe couldn't help the automatic tense of her muscles at his remark. House often made similar comments – generally themed around why they were better off without having children. Chloe was sure he did it to make her feel better about her infertility, perhaps trying to reassure both of them that it was no big deal. But every time he brought it up it just reminded Chloe of something she'd never have, something she could never give him. She just wished he'd leave it alone.
To change her thoughts, she wriggled out of House's embrace and pulled on a silky robe.
"Come on, go do some dialling. I guess once food arrives I'll soon work out which one it is."
Reluctantly, House got up and pulled on jeans and a t-shirt. He groaned at the effort of reaching his bad leg through the clothing.
"You okay?" Chloe asked lightly, knowing not to express her concern too dramatically, knowing he'd bite at any intimation that he was less than fine.
"Nothing a couple of Vicodin won't kill, you desperate woman, you," he joked back. "I should know by now that you leave no prisoners in your search for satisfaction."
Chloe rolled her eyes at the silly comment, but decided to leave it at that.
A half-hour later they were sitting on the sofa watching TV when the pizza arrived. House paid and brought the box over, settling it on the coffee table and opening the lid.
Chloe's stomach did a little flip at the smell of the salami and cheese, but she'd eaten very little that day and thought it was probably just a reaction to her body's need for food. She picked up a piece and took a large bite, enjoying the spicy flavour. It was a really good pizza.
"Mmm, yum," she said, between mouthfuls.
As she took another bite she suddenly was overwhelmed by a wave of nausea. She knew there was no way she could swallow the piece she had in her mouth. She froze for a second not sure what to do.
House looked at her.
"It was sick, not hungry, wasn't it?" he asked. "I really hope you make it to the bathroom in time." He took another huge bite of the pizza and went back to watching the television.
Chloe rose from the sofa and made it into the bathroom just in time to slam the door and make it to the toilet.
After sitting on the cool tiles for a little while, she decided she felt well enough to move in to the bedroom. She couldn't possibly go back into the lounge with the smell of that pizza, watching as House ate. She washed her face and rinsed her mouth, returning to the bedroom and the bed's rumpled covers from their earlier activities.
She took off the robe and pulled on one of House's old t-shirts, her usual nightwear, climbing under the comforter.
A few minutes later House came in with a glass of water.
"If you give me those germs I'm going to kill you," he said, setting the water down on the nightstand.
"Hey, with the amount of germs you're around on a daily basis, I don't think you could ever trace something back to me."
"Yeah? We'll see about that." He ruffled a hand through her hair briefly and then went back to the lounge. "Get some sleep," he said over his shoulder as he left the room.
House woke from an unsettled sleep and looked at the clock. It was three am and his head was aching and his stomach was roiling.
Damn. I've picked up that stupid bug, he thought. It probably hadn't been such a good idea to eat the piece of pizza Chloe had left unfinished when she'd made the dash to the bathroom. But it had been very good pizza. And it probably didn't matter, given they'd swapped a lot more than spit earlier in the evening anyway.
He moved as fast as he could to the bathroom and spent a while there, sitting on the floor next to the toilet.
Eventually Chloe knocked lightly on the door and came in.
"Sorry," was all she said.
"So you should be," he answered, rising gingerly and putting one arm around her shoulders, letting her help him back to bed.
They both lay in bed for a while, sipping water. Then it was Chloe's turn to run for the bathroom.
House tried to get more comfortable against the pillows. He couldn't help smiling at the thoughts that crossed his mind as he watched Chloe, face pale, return to the bedroom with a basin and a couple of towels. She'd been laying a few hints recently about commitment – specifically marriage. Nothing overt, just the odd comment about engagement rings, likes and dislikes at weddings. House had easily seen the undertone. But what were rings and weddings really? Taking turns in the bathroom puking; watching someone throw up and knowing you still wanted to kiss them, wanted to look after them? Now that was commitment. He reached over to try to pull Chloe into a hug.
She slapped his hands away.
"Don't touch me," she said brusquely. Then, her tone softer, "Sorry, I just don't think I can cope with it. It will make me want to throw up again."
"Nice," House said, a bit hurt, especially given what he'd just been thinking.
Chloe reached over and grasped his hand in hers. She had learned the hard way that underneath all that crusty exterior, House was fragile in the worst way. Even just a simple off-hand comment could send him into a dark, self-pitying mood.
"There," she said. "I can do that. Is that okay?"
House just snorted as if still miffed, but he squeezed her hand.
They both fell asleep for a couple of hours, waking again in the early morning.
Chloe got up and managed to make a cup of tea, the smell of coffee not something she thought she could cope with. She showered and dressed, deciding that if she managed to do that without throwing up then she could probably go to work. She really needed to go in, and besides, this new project had meant she'd been feeling nauseous with stress for weeks now anyway, so this wasn't all that different to most days. It had been great for her waistline, but she couldn't let it get in the way of a successful outcome to the negotiations.
She went back into the bedroom to tell House she was planning to go in. She took one look at him and realised he was suffering far worse than she. He'd been working so hard for the past few days, getting very little sleep, so Chloe figured he was probably run-down and more susceptible to the bug.
She reached down and touched the back of her hand to his forehead. He was hot.
House cracked open an eye to look at her.
"I feel like shit," he grumbled. His stomach was churning, his head pounding, and to top it off his leg was killing him. He'd taken a couple of Vicodin before bed, but the dose he'd tried to take at three hadn't stayed down and it didn't feel like any would be soon.
"I'm really sorry," Chloe apologised, crouching down next to the bed. "Can I get you something? I was planning to go into work, but do you need me to stay home and look after you?"
House thought about it, through the haze of illness feeling the warmth that never failed to surprise him. Someone cared about him. There was someone around to look after him. He wondered for about the millionth time what exactly he'd done to deserve it.
But despite those feelings he knew he just wanted to curl up and be left alone. That was the best way for him to recover. But he couldn't resist a little stab to make her feel guilty for not being as sick as he was.
"Nah, go to work. I'll just suffer here by myself."
Chloe looked at him, concerned, wondering if she should stay anyway.
"Really, go. I'm just going to sleep. And throw up, probably. You could call work for me though." He loved the fact that he had someone else to call in sick for him. He wished he could see Cuddy's face when she got the call.
"Okay, I'll call when I get to work, it's still a bit early." Chloe rose and gathered her suit jacket from the back of a chair. "I'll call you through the day to see how you're going and if I can manage it I'll come home at lunchtime."
House nodded and shivered.
"Can you get me another blanket before you go?" he said, a not-entirely-put-on pathetic tone in his voice. "Think I have a fever."
Chloe grabbed a rug from the chair and smoothed it over him. She leant over and pressed a kiss against his damp forehead, taking in the strong smell of him, sweaty and male. She waited to see how her stomach would react, relieved when it stayed still.