Author's Notes: This was originally written for Cuddy Fest on Livejournal. The prompt I took was #106 – Cuddy orders different lollipops for the clinic. Instead of cherry, they're grape. Thanks to Olly for betaing. Please read and review!
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters or the show.
A Small Victory
By Duckie Nicks
Her fingers stopped typing, hovering in mid-air when he barged into her office. "We need to talk," House announced obnoxiously, as he limped towards her desk. Already he was annoying her, but the way he was walking – somehow his limp looking worse than usual – made her stop what she was doing.
Turning the computer monitor to the side, Cuddy could see that he wasn't using his cane. And just as she opened her mouth to ask him what he'd done with it, she noticed the jar of lollipops in his hands.
It was the one from the clinic, the one she'd just refilled this morning. The jar still packed to the brim, there was no obvious reason why House had it with him.
She blinked in reaction, in confusion.
This… was not going to be good, Cuddy thought to herself. No matter what he was going to say next, there was no way it could end well. "What do you want?" she asked suspiciously.
"We have an emergency," he told her with complete seriousness in his tone.
Her response was a sigh. Resting her chin on the palm of her hand, Cuddy waited for what he was going to say. Anticipating a story about something incredibly trivial, she refused to entertain the idea that what he wanted was actually an emergency.
After all, House hadn't had a case for days and had spent more time getting out of clinic duty than actually performing it. That latter fact alone made it incredibly likely he was just here to bother her.
Her compassion non-existent, she asked dryly, "What's wrong? Drop a Vicodin in the candy jar? Want Mommy to fish it out for you?" Her tone was as condescending as she could make it, a playful pout on her lips.
It made him scowl, much to her delight.
Unfortunately, Cuddy hadn't dismayed him enough to keep him from continuing. Without ceremony, House plunked the jar of lollipops onto her desk. "I see yellow and green," he noted, picking a few of the candies out and dropping them into her trashcan.
"Don't throw those away," she scolded, her voice sounding as harried as she felt.
He ignored her, as he was always prone to do. And Cuddy knew then that the chances of him slinking away and doing his job were about as likely as…
She didn't know how to finish the thought, her irritation too high to make proper analogies.
Continuing, he told her, "Orange and purple ones too." This time, however, he managed to jam some of the lollipops into her pencil holder. The change in behavior didn't go unnoticed, but it was hardly appreciated.
"So they're teaching you colors in your kindergarten class then?" she asked sarcastically. "Out of curiosity, what are you gonna do when you learn to count to ten?"
House scoffed at the question, his face screwing up in disgust. And speaking in a tone that made the answer to her question seem obvious, he told her, "See how long my penis is. Duh." As an afterthought, he added with a shrug, "Course I should probably wait till I can count to twelve or thirteen before attempting that."
His eyes lit up then, almost as soon as the words had been spoken. And Cuddy couldn't think that was a good sign. "Hey, I know," he said happily. "Let's measure your penis instead!" A smile played around the edges of his lips, forcing his mouth into a small, impish grin.
She, however, was decidedly not amused. "I see an anatomy class is in order." Not that he would ever give up on the idea that she'd been a man at some point in her life. "I am a woman," she told him didactically, ignoring the skeptical look he was giving her. "Women don't have penises. So how about you put your yardstick away and go back to work?"
"Wish I could." But of course, House sounded anything but contrite. "But I can't work under these conditions," he told her seriously. Explaining, he added, finally getting to the root of the problem, "There aren't any red lollipops."
Her immediate reaction was an eye roll. Really, lollipops? House had had his fair share of complaints and reasons to get out of the clinic, legitimate or not. But this was ridiculous even for him.
"Keep digging," she told him, dismissing the problem. As she turned back to her computer, Cuddy said, "You'll find one."
"But there aren't any," he petulantly pressed. "I looked."
She sighed, understanding then that this wasn't going to go away simply because she wanted it to. "You looked? Or you looked, as in glanced at it for five seconds and decided it was a good enough reason to come bother me?" she asked wryly.
This time he was the one to roll his eyes. "I looked," he said, his intonation leaving no doubt that he really had searched the entire container. "Since you don't trust my opinion though," he started to say, his voice cool and biting.
A feeling that she could only describe as dread pooled in her stomach. Her eyes widening in surprise, she knew what he was going to do only seconds before he actually did it.
House's hands picked up the jar of lollipops. Holding it at eye level, he looked at her and smirked.
"House, don't you dare," she started to yell, her hands curling into fists at her sides.
But it was too late.
The plastic jar turned upside down, lollipops rained onto her desk. In an array of color, the candy plopped loudly onto her stacks of paper. The sounds of wrappers rustling and hardened sugar hitting dark wood filled the room.
Immediately punctuating the noise was her own order; loudly, angrily, she told him, "Clean it up." The bite in her voice was lessened, counterbalanced by the fact that she herself had already stood up, ready to clean.
In the back of her mind, Cuddy realized that this probably confirmed House's belief that she was weak. Because here he'd been the one to make the mess (yet again), but as usual, she was the one grabbing the plastic container and shoving lollipops back into it.
Now on her hands and knees in front of her desk, Cuddy grabbed the candy that had ricocheted off her files. Her back turned to House, she was giving him a nice shot of her ass, which he had no problem pointing out.
With a sigh, he exhaled a rush of air before settling back on her couch. "You know, if you weren't so anal, it might not be so bad to –"
"Well, I don't see any red lollipops," she interrupted, glancing briefly at each candy before shoving it into the plastic jar.
"This is what I'm saying," he said annoyed.
Turning around to face him, she sat down on the back of her heels. "Guess you'll have to make do with one of the other flavors until –"
House leaned forward, his eyes narrowing on her. "I don't think you understand the severity of –"
"Wrong lollipops?" she snapped in irritation. "I'm sorry, House," she said, not sounding sorry at all. "I pretended to care as long as I could. But now, it's time for you to put on your big boy underwear so I can do my job."
Pulling herself up off the floor, Cuddy handed the jar back to House. "Put these back where you got them," she ordered before sitting back in her chair.
But House made no move to get up. And she could only watch silently as he sat on her couch, the candy jar in his hands. His fingers tapping the side of container, he said after a moment, "So what you're saying is you won't buy a new bag to correct your mistake?"
Argumentatively, Cuddy said, "I didn't make a mistake. It must have been a faulty bag of candy. You cannot blame me for that."
Almost immediately, House pulled out a plastic bag from his pocket. Wrinkled and twisted, it was, she recognized, the packaging she'd thrown away earlier when she'd refilled the lollipop jar. "Why," she asked in frustration and confusion, "are you going through the trash by the nurse's station?"
Unwrapping it, he read some of the label aloud for her. "It says 'by popular demand – now cherry free.'"
"So… you made a mistake," he accused.
"Each time you fill the jar, there are about… ten cherry lollipops," House explained leaning forward. "But this is a cherry-free bag, meaning you ordered something different, meaning you made a mistake. Which means now you have to fix it."
At that moment, part of her was very tempted to point out the flaw in his logic. After all, even more likely than her screwing up an order she'd placed countless times was the idea of the lollipop company itself making a mistake. But somehow… she knew he'd turn it back on her, blame her for it. So she kept that thought to herself.
Turning her attention back to her computer, Cuddy said dryly, "Yeah, I'll get right on that." But if House realized she was dismissing him, he didn't let it show much less obey. So she explained to him, "Playtime is over. Go be a doctor."
"You first" was his immediate retort. A familiar, biting comment from him, it had become almost second nature for her to hear how insignificant he found her job to be. Which was, she knew, a pretty convenient position to take when he reaped all the benefits without having to work for them.
Of all the things he did, House didn't have to sweet talk the donors and the board. He never had to set aside hours of time to convince the budget committee that it behooved them to spend money on his legal troubles over buying a new MRI machine.
He didn't do any of those things, because she did them for him.
And as Cuddy mentally went through the list of all the ways he benefited from her hard work, House verbally cut across her thoughts. His words sarcastic and completely unwelcome, he said, "Then again, if you can't order the right candy, it's probably best if we keep you away from the patients. Wouldn't want you to stick a thermometer in the wrong place…"
Oh, she thought to herself, she knew exactly where to stick it. But instead of telling him that, she simply leaned back in her chair. Smirking, Cuddy told him, "You know… for a second there, I was actually considering wasting my time to fix this for you."
"And now?" As an afterthought, House asked, "Still gonna give me whatever I want?"
"Have I ever done that, House?"
"Well, not today," she replied happily. Almost immediately, he looked like he was going to protest, so Cuddy added quickly, "Now go away."
House stood up then finally. The sight of him headed towards the door so surprising that she was convinced she must have been hallucinating. "You're mean," he called over his shoulder.
And just as she was convinced he was leaving, a sigh ready to escape her, House paused. An idea obviously, unfortunately, talking hold of him, he asked, "Any extra bags of lollipops in storage?"
Her mind already focusing back on her work, Cuddy only partially paid attention to the question. "I keep the extra bags in my assistant's desk."
Time seemed to tick by slowly, as the realization over what she'd said hit them both. As the words washed over her, she couldn't deny that it had been stupid to admit where she kept her stash. Not only because House would no doubt be ransacking the drawer immediately. But also, it just meant that when he broke into her office the next time, he'd know where one more thing was.
Even though she'd been the one to reveal the information, the invasion of privacy was not welcome.
"House, don't you dare," Cuddy barked, leaping out of her chair.
Both headed towards her outer office, where her secretary sat… or would sit if Cuddy hadn't fired her this morning. House, being closer to the door, should have gotten there first. But bogged down by the lollipop container and the lack of a cane, he could only hobble along slowly.
Much to her glee.
Her own pace quick and sure, Cuddy reached her assistant's desk first and quickly yanked the drawer open. One bag of lollipops left, unmarked by the words, "cherry free," she could see that it was the kind she normally got. The plastic bag yellow with a window of clear cellophane, it was impossible for either person to miss the cherry lollipops inside. Bright red circles winked among the yellows and oranges like rubies gleaming among buried treasure. And knowing that this was exactly what House wanted, Cuddy grabbed the bag and held it close.
"Gimme," he ordered. He moved closer to her then, obviously waiting for her to let her guard down so he could snatch it.
"No," she told him, trying to maneuver her way back to her office without him.
But he wasn't about to give up without a fight. Making grabbing motions with his hands, he tried to reason, "Just give me the bag. You've been acting like this crisis is beneath you, Cuddy. So I'll just take matters into my own hands."
Cuddy, however, had no intention of giving him what he wanted. Trying to dodge around the desk, she retorted, "And you've been acting like this deserves all my attention."
She made a break for it.
Her legs limber and toned from regular jogging, she was, even in the tight skirt and high heels she was wearing, no match for House. Try as he might, he couldn't handle the sharp angles and changes she made.
And with a few moves to the left, Cuddy was able to dart into her office and slam the door shut, locking it, behind her. As House pressed himself up against the glass to try and jiggle it open, she told him, "Well, now, you have my attention, House. And you're going to play by my rules."
She turned her back to him, ignored the way he called her name. Quickly her hands worked to open the bag in her possession. And once that was done, Cuddy decided, as House started to pick the lock with a paper clip, to dump the candy on her coffee table.
Lollipops cascading onto the surface, it was a colorful mess she would have to clean up.
But she didn't care.
Deftly grabbing all the red ones she could spot, Cuddy pocketed the cherry candies. The last one dropping into her suit jacket's pocket, House managed to break in at that moment. "Give 'em to me, Cuddy." His tone was serious, but she was hardly ready to cave.
"See three patients in the clinic, and I'll give you one," she offered.
He, naturally, shook his head no. "Give me one now, and I'll work in the clinic."
Like that was going to happen, she thought dryly. Scoffing loudly Cuddy told him, "No, you won't. I give you one now, all you'll do is run to your office and play videogames."
"No, I won't," was his petulant and completely unbelievable response.
"Yes, you will." She wasn't willing to be swayed on this, as stupid as this whole thing was. "Three patients – who you examine without mocking or insulting – and one lollipop."
House seemed to think about it for a second, was probably wondering how to be a doctor without the mocking and insults. Which, truth be told, Cuddy was only somewhat sure he knew how to do.
But after a second, he told her, "You know I can always just make Wilson buy me a couple."
Sitting down at her desk again, Cuddy, however, knew better. "You could, but you won't," she said knowingly. "He might not buy the right ones, and besides," she drawled, her voice trailing off for dramatic effect. "You could have just done that to begin with."
"Yeah," he admitted cautiously.
"But you didn't. You didn't, because you were bored and wanted to play a game," she said simply. And then her voice lowered almost… seductively, as she teased, "So play with me."
It was an offer he couldn't refuse. Even though it meant he'd have to do work, House couldn't deny himself the chance to beat her; she knew that much. "Three patients?"
She nodded her head, and he left, never noticing the small smile on her face.
In the scheme of things, she realized, this was a very tiny victory. Getting what she wanted was only a passing thing, knowing House. And it was petty to take so much pleasure in it.
But it didn't matter.
Even if it was only momentary, Cuddy loved winning. And that was exactly what she was doing right now. As she began typing once more, Cuddy couldn't help but grin. The lollipops secure in her pocket, she couldn't help but think – sometimes it was the little things that made a person the happiest.