Title: Eschara


Rating:PG-13 for mention of doing the nasty.

Pairing: Cuddy/House

Prompt: 67. Cuddy/?, or gen 5 scars on Cuddy's body

Disclaimer:I don't own anything connected to House MD, would adore not being sued etc.

Summary:She doesn't mind flashing her cleavage to rein House in, or even to get the attention of an indifferent donor, but there are some parts of her body that Cuddy is reluctant to share with anyone.

Spoilers: Nothing too specific, but let's assume anything up to s4 is fair game. This is basically AU, in that none of the actual events have ever been referenced on the show, I suppose?

Today was the one day she could be forgiven for not thinking of him, and to rid House from her mind, she began running down a list of his most irritating qualities. This generally left her pissed enough that she could move on to other topics eagerly. This tried-and-tested method was failing her now, though it seemed a welcome distraction from the box of solid pine and rain-soaked earth in front of her. Forgetting House could have freed up enough thought space to replay her mother's disapproving glare at Cuddy's lack of a partner on such a public occasion. Instead, Cuddy found herself ruminating over House drawing the news of her father's death from her, for once solicitous and patient, realizing something was wrong without making it worse. He had sat there in his faded jeans and crumpled t-shirt, even reaching for her hand when she finally spat out the words she had heard on the phone a few hours before.

It was unlike him, and that's what she found so hard to get past. By the time she had finished the call with her mother, she had already decided not to tell anyone, unwilling for the entire hospital to shower her with platitudes, to expose her complicated family life to the gossip mill. She would be in New York tomorrow, not tonight as her mother had demanded, deal with the formalities and be back for the board meeting on Thursday. Not sitting shiva for three days was going to be another silent battle, but she would pay her respects and grieve alone; it was how she dealt with every other feeling these days.

Snapping back to the moment, she shivered as the fine drizzle cloaked her skin and began to seep through her clothes. Cuddy tried to remember her father as a younger man, as an overworked attorney who used to sweep her up on a Sunday morning and take her out for pancakes. All that came to mind was the father she last saw at Passover, thinning gray hair and a fixed scowl on his features. Her success hadn't pleased him, nothing ever did. Unwilling to focus on the negative, she absent-mindedly stroked the torn black ribbon fixed to her jacket and recited El Maleh Rachamim with the rest of the mourners. With a heavy heart, she stepped forward at the rabbi's nod to throw in her handful of earth, and offered a quick and silent prayer that wherever her father might be, he would finally be happy. The line of people offering their condolences passed swiftly and respectfully, and as she approached the gates of Mount Zion cemetery, intent on reaching the waiting town car, she was jolted from her reverie by words spoken in a familiar voice:

"Baruch dayan emet," he murmured from somewhere over her shoulder. As she turned, she caught sight of him limping away from the throng; she saw the freshly pressed black suit and white shirt, no doubt stolen from Wilson along with the tie, and a look that was, for once, neither confrontational or patronizing. It almost looked like compassion.

When she left that evening, with hostile whispers from her mother ringing in her ears and headed south along the turnpike, she knew immediately that she didn't want to go home. For once, she wanted more company for these feelings bubbling in her chest than a glass of Pinot Grigio and a throw cushion. When she came past the hospital at last, she took the turning that would lead her to House, ignoring the warning bells in her own head.

He opened the door without ceremony, as though he had been patiently waiting for her. Cuddy seized on her impulse and moved to kiss him, but he caught her by the wrists and guided her to the sofa, unsurprised by the tears that suddenly began to pour. Like he did with everything else, House watched her face intently, as though trying to figure out some damn puzzle. When the tears were spent, he motioned for her to lean into him, offering his left arm as support. As she settled against his chest, his right hand instinctively began to stroke her tear-streaked face. As she turned her face up to thank him, his fingers moved reflexively to her top lip, in what she thought was another attempt to ward off her attentions. Almost instantly she realized what had caught his attention: her makeup had betrayed her and the white crescent on her top lip was no longer hidden. On the rare occasions she'd talked about it before, she'd lied about falling from her bike or make a crack about cutting herself shaving. Surprising then, that when faced with the inquisition of House and those damn eyes that she didn't retreat to banter or deflection. For the first time in twenty years, she told somebody the truth.

Until her teens, Cuddy didn't see her father in the evenings, his long hours bringing him home long after her curfews and bedtime. At the most awkward of ages, she had to learn to adjust to his sullen presence, and wherever she wanted to be, he seemed to be blocking her path. If she wanted to do homework at the dinner table, he would sit there with a Scotch and a cigar, his glare preventing her from even crossing the threshold. When she tried to help out with the laundry in the basement, he would miraculously need the whole room to himself to sort out something about shelves that never materialized. Even her bedroom was no sanctuary; right next door to her parents' room, he would need an early night that prohibited her listening to music or talking on the phone. This perverse game of musical rooms continued for years until one night, after another blazing row, her mother drove off crying. Seventeen year-old Lisa came up to her dad at his chair to ask him if he was okay. Instead of an explanation she received a swift backhand to her mouth, his beloved high school ring splitting her lip. When that sort of thing happened on television, there was shock and apology and an effort to take it back. He offered her no such thing, just a perfunctory glance and a grunt about the medicine cabinet as he poured another few fingers of Scotch. Not daring to approach him again, she cleaned the cut as best she could and pressed wads of gauze against it until he passed out and she could safely grab the car keys, driving herself to the ER for hasty stitches from an intern. Her dad moved out before she got home, and though she had tried to tell her mother the truth, Cuddy knew she was still blamed for forcing him away by being 'difficult'. The man who had made both of their lives a misery was suddenly a saint in his absence, not helped by his returning to the marital home two days after Cuddy left for Michigan. His time away was never mentioned or explained, and so on her obligatory visits, Cuddy had made polite conversation about the weather and work, the lack of praise for her achievements stinging as much as the slap had.

House listened patiently and when she was done she could almost see the repertoire of sarcastic remarks scrolling behind his eyes for selection. She couldn't help the fresh tears that spilled when he kissed her squarely on her top lip, covering the mark with his touch. "Your dad was a bastard, Cuddy. You're worth more than that."

She replayed that moment in her head with quiet smiles for 24 hours, only for House to dissolve any good feeling towards him by waking her in the middle of the following night to inform her that another patient was suing him from the recovery room.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Of course she forgave him, the détente hastened by the discovery that for once House was not at fault. Rather , the patient was a litigious asshole with no intention of going back to a job he hated. House sealed the deal by showing up at her house (an intrusion she seemed no longer seemed to have a problem with) armed with take-out and a bottle of wine.

She sent him away that night, not ready to let him develop expectations. Over Pad Thai he gestured with his chopsticks to the long, thin scar on her right knee. Cuddy laughed off his insistence on knowing everything about her.

"No soap opera plot for you this time, House. I got hammered after graduation and split my knee open on a step when I was trying to get back into my apartment."

He considered this for a moment, weighing up her answer as he chewed, and then filed it away in whatever dark recess of his mind he used for such pointless information.

"Why are you only noticing now? I mean, it's faint, but I wear skirts all the time."

House fixed her with one of his "Well, duh"glares.

"I'm paying more attention now".

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The quiet moments when they lie still in twisted sheets and attempt to regulate their breathing are just the calm before his storm of questioning. All Cuddy wants is to enjoy this temporary détente between them, but he always presses her for a story and she can't ever bring herself to deny him. Neither seems to care who decided that sleeping together was an option, but when she's languid and relaxed like this, it doesn't seem to matter. He could ask her anything, and she'd probably blurt it out.

Their fingers are entwined, and the soft lamplight of her bedroom picks up the inch-long white mark on her left hand. She catches the glint in his eye as he notices it, and attempts to divert him with a kiss, but the words are still spilling from his mouth in between the meetings of their lips. This one irritates her, a question she really doesn't want to answer, a story she doesn't wish to tell. Not an invasion of privacy as such but just her stupid pride getting in the way. It's small and insignificant, a reminder of a time when life wasn't in her complete control. College had been a stressful time for a perfectionist, the learning process a frustration for someone like Lisa Cuddy who wanted to already be the best, not be stumbling along the road like everyone else.

The first procedure on her surgical rotation was a simple appendectomy, and it should have been a walk in the park for the teachers' pet and all-round superstar like trainee Dr. Cuddy. Her shame, no mortification, at making the incision too high and then in the panic of being corrected, nicking her own hand with the scalpel, well, that was hardly a story she trotted out for some self-deprecating laughs. Her first instinct, as always, is stubborn refusal.

Two minutes later, she tells him anyway.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Of all the rules she hadn't thought to make for herself, not having sex in the clinic might have been a good one. Cuddy ran through the construction details she could remember from the original plans and struggled in vain to recall any mention of soundproof qualities; a potential problem since she was all too aware that she had just been rather loud. House was buttoning his jeans with a self-satisfied smirk and she would gladly have slapped it off his face if she weren't just so damn satisfied herself. This was supposed to have been an official reprimand for not seeing his required number of patients, but the petulant sneer on his face had led to her basically jumping him instead. So much for professionalism, Dean of Medicine, she thought to herself with a wry smile. Having replaced her panties, she bent over to retrieve her discarded black skirt, and was startled when House let out a noise that sounded almost like a squeak.

Turning to face him, she was expecting a jibe about her ass, a habit that hadn't disappeared even with the promise of regular sex. House might be surprising in many ways, but ultimately he would always be House. Instead, she saw the glint of happiness that usually presented when he had solved something unsolvable.

"What? I'm amusing to you now?" she growled.

"Nope, it's just that I already know how you got that one…" House waited for the penny to drop.

"What? The… oh, right, the scar on my thigh. Are you collecting them or something? You realize there's no prize at the end of this, right?"

Rolling his eyes, he proceeded to recall, in vivid detail, the night four years ago when Lisa Cuddy had been stabbed in the back of her thigh with a dinner fork. Ignoring his "witty" recounting of the incident, Cuddy focused on making herself presentable enough to face the stares and whispers she was sure awaited her in the clinic. It was all true, though since he had been upstairs in his office on the night it occurred, the level of detail was fairly astounding. To hear House tell it, the whole incident was her fault for intervening in the care of a patient he was successfully diagnosing. She'd had no business visiting the woman behind House's back, and if she'd listened to him in the first place, Cuddy would have known that the symptoms of metachromatic leukodystrophy included psychosis. Sure, the patient shouldn't have had metal cutlery in the first place, but that was small consolation when the response to Cuddy checking the monitors and IV was a fork embedded in the top of her leg.

Not giving him the satisfaction of seeing her either irritated or laughing, she swept out of the room with as haughty a demeanor as she could manage, and avoiding the sight of Brenda's raised eyebrow, made it safely into her office before she cracked a smile.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

At first, she wondered why House of all people would have such luxurious sheets. These would have been expected in the classiest of hotels, and put even her own high thread count purchases to shame. When she finally thought to ask, the realization that these were probably purchased and left behind by Stacy stopped her in her tracks. It was enough that she enjoyed their incredible softness in contrast with the roughness of House, currently recovering from their recent exertion beside her. This time, she took the initiative.

"You missed one, you know."

His features crumpled in confusion.

"Missed what? It seemed like I covered all of your… bases."

When realization dawned, he turned to her with the gleam of excitement in his eyes, ready to begin an exploration for the mark or blemish he had missed. Ordinarily this focus on her flaws would have made Cuddy insecure, but for some reason she welcomed this detailed attention. She wasn't sure anyone had ever known her this well, or even cared to. Flippant though he could be, nothing was ever truly superficial with House.

"Not so fast, buster. I'll tell you where it is if you tell me what your morbid fascination with my old war wounds is."

Cuddy kept her tone on the teasing side, but was suddenly desperate to know the rationale behind it, if there even was one.

His attempt to brush her off and continue exploration was cut short by her gathering the thick sheet around her body and shifting to a sitting position. Seeing that he was thwarted, he opted for the kind of swift and disarming honesty that usually caught her off guard.

"I'm curious," he shrugged.

Being succinct had done him no favors, and the navy cotton remained resolutely in place, much to his chagrin.

"You were my doctor. You've seen all of my scars, even gave me a couple for good measure. Not to mention all the other info you have about me that I'd rather you didn't know. I can't be at a disadvantage with someone when I feel a certain way about them, and knowledge is power. The more intimate, the better."

Cuddy had initially winced at his allusion to the surgery that had almost cost them any kind of relationship, as friends or otherwise. As the significance of the following words sank in, she was instantly on a knife-edge between hope and disappointment. With reluctance, she forced the inevitable question from her lips.

"Which certain way do you feel about me?" she ventured, unable to keep the nervousness from her voice.

With an exasperated sigh, House threw out the answer like the most obvious thing in the world.

"I love you, stupid."

Cuddy froze for a moment, a tidal wave of emotion hitting her as happiness, shock and love collided somewhere in the pile of mush currently masquerading as her brain. Unable to form coherent sentences, she said the first thing that came to mind.

"Oh. Good."

He cracked up laughing right in her face. Before she could elaborate, he cut her off.

"Yeah, yeah, I know you do too. It's practically on a neon billboard above your head. Now to business. Where's the missing scar?"

Shaking her head at the surreal nature of well, everything, when it came to House, Cuddy dropped the sheet and traced her index finger over the tiniest of scars on the side of her breast.

House's expression was priceless. Of all the places to miss a piece of the puzzle, it had to be his favorite. If this was the kind of story Cuddy told to people, he'd never live it down. He'd probably tell Cameron just to make her squirm.

"Something happened to one of the twins? Oh. My. God. Now, you tell me every single detail, and if anyone is responsible for this crime, you be sure to tell me so that I can hunt them down and kill them."

As Cuddy began her story about straightening irons and the dangers of gesturing with them in your hand, it occurred to her that for the first time since her father died (and in truth, a long time before that) she was happy. It made for a very welcome change.