By Angelfirenze

Disclaimer: stares You already know, damn it.

Summary: He gets the urge to pop a pill. The part of him that hates (himself; an admittedly large part, getting all the bigger by the day) says that he doesn't deserve it.

Rating: R for language, angst.

Timeline: Post-ep for 'Whac-A-Mole.'

Reviews are always encouraged and appreciated.

Cuddy is sitting on his couch when he gets back to his apartment. He wonders how long she's been there, but part of him doesn't have it in him to care. A whole lot of him doesn't have the strength to care about very much at all right now. He takes a breath and walks past the remaining carnage from Tritter's purge two weeks ago. He hasn't finished cleaning it up. He keeps getting too tired and anyway, it'll probably end up back that way soon. He walks past her through the darkened apartment and into his bedroom. He leaves the door open but strips down to his boxer briefs before coming back out and limping into his bathroom. Turning on the shower, he takes the time to watch the steam fill the room, wishing he could just…disappear. That'd be really, really nice right now, he's decided.

Taking a deep breath, he carefully steps the few inches up into the shower stall, somewhat soothed by the heat and the feeling of the water making his muscles melt. He never realized he was quite so tired. Maybe it was withdrawal setting in. He can't quite say.

When he finishes his shower, it's a long time later. He'd look at the clock, but that requires effort and we've covered that already. He manages to make it back to his bed and his cold sheets bring a little awareness back to him. He gets the urge to pop a pill. The part of him that hates (himself; an admittedly large part, getting all the bigger by the day) says that he doesn't deserve it. That he should feel this pain and be glad, God damn it, because that means he's still human.

But if this is him being human, does he really want to? It's not a question he can answer right now.

He wishes he was still in a coma. The first one, back when he was able to at least pretend that life might be better later. Even the second one, the one with his own personal hell made apparent, is preferable to this.

He wishes he weren't quite so blank.

Too bad for a lot of people that he doesn't believe in wishes, in hopes, in dreams.

It's a moment before he realizes that he's not alone anymore. The faint, slightly tingling sensation of Cuddy's hair is filtering over his face. He could swear she left while he was in the shower, but apparently he is wrong.

She doesn't say anything and for that he's grateful. But that other part almost wants her to, just because it would mean that he would have something to rail against, even if he doesn't quite know why.

Then he notices that she is speaking, but that her voice is so quiet, he can't understand. Some detached part of him recognizes that she is speaking Hebrew. He can't understand why she'd be praying, though. Can't understand how she thinks that would help him.

The words flow over him, though, and try as he might ignore them, he still can't block out the sound of her voice. So he gives up, for once, and waits for the disappearing to begin at last.

It won't be long now, he says (prays) to himself. Over and over as though if he says it enough, it'll be true. He just wants to stop, but that won't happen.

He knows that much.

She watches as those eyes (murky and indistinct and not for the first time) slide shut and the exhaustion that's been pulling at him for weeks now finally stakes its claim. His breathing becomes regular and deep, but she knows it won't last. She offered him the Vicodin earlier, but he didn't take it. Still won't. She knows that part of it is stubborn pride and wants to beat him over the head, but the gentler side of her understands that this is his generous nature rearing its camouflaged head. He tries to hide it, with snark and wit and disrespect, but it refuses to abate. That he knows she knows it must frustrate him to no end, but she's willing to let him pretend for as long as he needs. It's easier for him to believe he's a selfish son of a bitch than to admit how much all of this is bothering him. The toll it is taking is a heavy one and she wishes he knew he didn't have to pay it, but she doesn't know how to convince him and anyway she can't. He'll ignore her reasons with angry, flat-faced cynicism because listening to her would be, in his mind, agreeing with her. He's not ready to face that.

So she waits and hopes and prays that this doesn't blow up in his face. There are only so many things she can fix and she doesn't want him to find that out. He once told her, in a moment of slightly drunken clarity, that she saved him but she couldn't believe it then and still doesn't now. Not when he's managed to pick himself and her up and put them both back together so many times. He's the fixer, she knows, not her. She looks like the strong one, but in reality she might be more broken than he. She doesn't have his protective shell, after all, to deflect blows. Instead, they slash at her soul and leave her shattered and bleeding and she constantly feels the need to see if everyone can see the stains wherever she goes. She's continually surprised that they can't.

She'd give anything to protect him from himself, knows that James would do the same, but sometimes it's hard and she wants to give up. She can't though, and won't, because she knows that's what he expects. She can count the count the consistent people in his life on one hand and will be damned if she lets herself fall off that painfully short list.

So, instead, she curls closer and lets herself enjoy a tiny smile when his hand comes to bury itself in her hair. His sleep is uneasy and light; always has been and tonight is no exception. She doesn't sleep; instead following the moments until it will be safe for them to emerge again.

She's still counting.