Title: No Children (part 1 of 16)
Author: Lola Lauriestein
Rating: PG13 to be on the safe side, R in later chapters
Pairing: Cuddy/OMC, House/Cuddy, House, Cuddy, Wilson friendship.
Spoilers: Everything up to Wilson's Heart, takes place not long after.
Disclaimer: not-not-mine, House et al belong to David Shore, Fox etc. The song "No Children" is by The Mountain Goats, they are awesome and you should check them out.

Summary: Cuddy has a new boyfriend, House has a problem and Wilson is grieving. As matters go from bad to worse, will they be able to help each other as they once did? Friendships under strain and tough decisions ahoy

"I hope that our few remaining friends give up on trying to save us."

Had Cuddy not stopped mid-stride to check that she had her keys, the free-falling Magic Eight Ball would most likely have made contact with her head. There was no need to look up to confirm the origin; only one reckless doctor with an office overlooking the staff entrance would pull something like this. Unwilling to be later for her dinner date than she already was, she merely grumbled with dissatisfaction and continued on her way. For once, someone else would have to deal with the details, and House was not getting her attention through such juvenile methods.

On the fourth floor, Gregory House surveyed the smashed fragments of plastic with a dispassionate glare. It had been an accident; Cuddy's sudden appearance giving him cause for panic, only to return to numbness when he saw that the eight ball missed. To his surprise, she didn't even turn her head, not even for a dirty look. What he was really hoping for was for her to turn on her heel and march upstairs to lecture him about immature behavior. For the same reason, he had been especially rude and unpleasant to patients and staff, stolen supplies from all over the hospital, and signed her up to about 40 different porn mailing lists. All of his usual tricks and tactics had been to no avail: Lisa Cuddy was, quite simply, distracted. Typical that the one time her reign of terror and obsession over detail was relaxed was at the one time he found himself hankering for her company.

Cuddy broke more than one speed limit on her way to the restaurant – a charming little Italian restaurant that friends had recommended – one she hadn't gotten around to visiting in the year since it opened. With a perfunctory check of her lipstick in the rear-view mirror, she stepped out of her Lexus and took a deep, steadying breath. A few yards away was a man who liked her enough to stick around past the first date. In fact, this was the sixth and so far he had shown no signs of losing interest. His conversation was interesting, he wasn't threatened by her job, and he kissed her exactly the way she liked. And hell, he was Jewish, which had shut her mother up during Sunday's phone call of obligation. Why did she feel so apprehensive about a potentially wonderful evening with a handsome and charming professor who made her feel like the centre of the universe?

As she reflexively scanned the parking lot, realization dawned: this budding relationship hadn't been subjected to the evil interference of House. In fact, he hadn't made even one sarcastic comment during the times she'd seen him recently. It can't be that he missed the evidence; dates were written clearly in her planner as 'dinner with Zach'; there had been flowers delivered to her office. Perhaps he was too busy wreaking havoc elsewhere to notice. He certainly seemed to be causing more than his usual weekly legal calamity.

Cuddy felt her telltale pang of guilt as she thought about him, his misery more obvious than normal while his playmate grieved and performed only light duties at the hospital. She herself had nursed House through the relatively quick convalescence from his injuries, and as usual had tried to use it as an opportunity to sort out his life. House had been predictably resistant, and so she had given up on her attempts to save him, losing herself in the welcome distraction of a new boyfriend who did actually appreciate her.

Speaking of whom, she decided to enjoy the peace while it lasted and strolled inside for what promised to be the highlight of her day.

Zach kept her laughing and talking until the restaurant staff made their glares and noisy cleaning too blatant to ignore. Cuddy tripped the invitation back to her place from her tongue like the next logical sentence of the conversation. Zach willingly agreed, heading for her car as his was parked on campus, around the corner.

Before fastening their seatbelts, they shared a kiss far more passionate than their previous encounters, and Cuddy felt the start of the familiar butterflies in her stomach. It had yet to hit the heights of her previous romantic adventures, but for now it felt safe and welcoming, just what she needed to save her from the loneliness of her everyday life. Years ago, she had learned not to have expectations, and as she started the engine she smiled to herself about her pragmatic approach to everything, apparently including her sex life.

House sat on the curb, ignoring the twitching curtains from the ostentatious house opposite. If the residents were so worried about his buttocks enjoying a little sidewalk time, they could call the damn police, or knowing this neighborhood, their own elite vigilante squad.

The thin cardboard of the file clasped tightly in his left hand was crumpled and dog-eared already, despite his only collecting it from a terrified courier two hours before. It contained fairly damning evidence in a case he'd been puzzling over in private for the past month or so, confirmation of his worst fears: cancer. His first instinct had been the obvious, to consult with Wilson, but the oncologist had yet to resume full duties following Amber's death and House didn't want to risk their slowly healing friendship.

Instead, he found himself making the clearest bid yet to get Cuddy's waning attention, sitting on the curb outside her quiet little house, motorbike parked in one of her flawless flower beds. An hour had passed since his arrival, and a cursory glance at her day planner had mentioned only a dinner with Zach, who was either her nephew or some doomed first date with another loser.

It irritated him that tonight she didn't rush home to escape what would undoubtedly be a dull meal in a mediocre restaurant, especially since his pride was wounded by her borderline ignorance of him. Had House bothered with things like social niceties, he could simply have asked her for a chat, or called before showing up at her home. Unfortunately for all concerned, that simply wasn't how he rolled, but tonight was too important to let his awkwardness stop him getting what he needed.

The familiar purr of Cuddy's Lexus shook him from his haze of thought. As she drew closer, her trademark frown was painfully evident. Worse, some preppy-looking guy was filling her passenger seat, confusion apparent on his features. This was going to be just great, he sighed to himself.