It became a game. He avoids her, she chastises him. She reaches out a hand every now and then, he smacks it away. He calls in the middle of the night, and every other time she won't hang up on him. He insults her, she smiles that way that never fails to shut him up. She never invites him over, but he always gives the peanut gallery something to talk about.
She had nearly given up on him, on trying to save him from himself. When he pretended not to care when a billionaire swooped in and tried to take her hospital away from her. When she defended him and protected him until a final ultimatum forced her to chose between him and the hospital, she took a step back and realized that when it all came down to it, he would never make the same kind of sacrifices for her, and standing by him, protecting him, it was all personal. It had nothing to do with the hospital or what a good doctor he was. Besides, Wilson was here now. House didn't need her protection anymore.
And yet somehow, someway, in the end, she stood up for him.
And when the young naïve ingénue tried to force his feeling out of him, because she didn't know any better, he agreed to take her out. He needed to let her get it out of her system. Cuddy knew that was never quite so easy. So when she smiled coyly and teased him about his "date" he couldn't help but wonder why she was taking it so well.
Cuddy had been embarrassed the week before when the Marine laid one on her in front of god and everyone at the fundraiser. House had stalked her there and was brooding in the corner with Wilson, but in the end he left them alone. He knew it was harmless. This muscle head wasn't her type. He wasn't even type that she tried to convince herself was her type.
The same was true of Dr. Cameron. She affected House in a way, but he knew, Cameron would never be able to hold his attention, or challenge him, or captivate him the way that Cuddy did. That was the problem with all of them these days. That fact that Cuddy had sworn him off completely only started to bother him when he looked around and saw everyone in his life was finding peace in the people in their lives except for him. And except for her.
It was saline. I gave you a placebo….
House followed her out into the snow and stepped in front of her car door blocking her way. "What are trying to do? Show me that I was an idiot for telling her to go, that I was wrong and now I've blown my chance for happiness, and now I'm making up this pain in my head because I don't know how to deal with losing her? I already got this lecture from Wilson, but thanks."
Cuddy frowned. "No," she said. "I never wanted her to stay. I was stupid for offering her a job and keeping them here in the first place. But yes, I think you're making up the pain in your head, not because of her but because you don't want to be alone." She shivered and then scooted House out of the way. As she reached for the door handle House stepped in her way once more.
"I think I'm in enough pain already without needing to make some up in my head don't you?"
"I think that Stacy coming back brought up a lot of feelings for you, and how you felt the last time she left."
"If you were worried something would happen between us why did you keep her here?"
"Because you're a grown up. Some of the time. And because I don't have any say over who you do and don't have sex with," Cuddy stared at him, not wanting to do this now, but knowing that he wouldn't let it go. "Why," she asked him, "knowing how things ended between you two the first time and that she's married now, why would you get involved with her to begin with?" Her breath hit the air in a cold puff of steam and House shook his head. He turned to walk away but surprised Cuddy by climbing into the passenger side of her car. Cuddy frowned and climbed in beside him. She started the car and turned on the heat, then waited for him to either speak or get out.
"I may have loved you more and for longer, but you never let us get that far. Stacy was the only grown-up relationship I've ever had. I thought that…"
When he didn't finish his sentence, Cuddy nodded. Her unease with him being so vulnerable, so unguarded was obvious. They tried their best to avoid moments like this these days, lest they start to rehash old feelings…
"You wanted that back?" She offered.
He nodded. "I thought I did. Wilson's upset because he thinks I never got over her, but that I'm trying to be miserable, that I like being alone. The truth is she isn't the same person to me anymore." House glanced over at Cuddy. "And I did move on didn't I?" He rarely opened himself up but when he did, it was raw and sometimes painful for the person he decided to unload upon. Cuddy had not felt this in some time. His accusations toward Stacy, Cuddy took personally. She was an accomplice in the scheme to cripple him, so any resentment he still felt toward Stacy, obviously he still harbored against Cuddy as well. But he surprised her again when he reached for her hand stroked it with his thumb.
"For some reason it always keeps coming back to you." He leaned his head back on her headrest and closed his eyes. Cuddy stared at him at length. She had built up a pretty strong resolve over the years, partly lying to herself about what she wanted, and partly denying what they had ever existed. She moved her hand away from his.
"We never had a relationship, House."
"No," he said, his eyes still closed, "but it was a little bit more than casual fucking wasn't it?"
Cuddy didn't answer, she just stared into the snow flitting over the landscape in front of her, and willing him to get out of the car.
"Did it hurt you?" He asked her after a canyon of silence.
"You're not above lying to me House, why would it hurt me to lie to you for your own good once in a while," she answered assuming he was referring to the placebo.
"Not about that," he said. "Did it hurt you to know that Stacy and I had slept together?" He opened his eyes and turned to face her, but she refused to look him in the eye.
"Stop screwing with me House, and get out of the car, I need to go home."
"I'm not screwing with you. Answer the question and I'll leave."
Cuddy crossed her hands in her lap, and continued to stare out the window. "I was worried about you," she said honestly if not giving him a direct answer.
House stared at her and nodded. He truly couldn't say why he was even pushing her. Things seemed like they were finally getting back to normal between them. Why the hell would he want to complicate things now?
"Well you can stop worrying," he said, bringing himself back to the present instead of wallowing in the past. "I'm not your concern, never was." He opened the passenger door, dropped his cane into the snow and pushed himself out of the car, slamming the car a little harder than necessary before trekking back into the building.
You're on fertility meds...with red clover as an herbal booster.
The look on his face when he reveled to her that he knew her secret was the same look on his face years ago when he told her he knew about the pregnancy. It could only be described as restrained anger. It was almost as if she was going behind his back somehow, now like she did back then.
She didn't know why she was surprised that he knew; House always knew. But he kept her secret, from everyone, even his best friend. And when she asked him to help her, he was a willing participant. So willing it became almost intrusive. Almost comfortable.
"What did you want today?" House leaned on her door frame. He almost didn't come, but when she walked out of his office after thanking him for the injections, his curiosity got the better of him. She didn't invite him in; she just stood in her entryway, in a slip that barely covered her thighs, arms crossed in aggravation.
"Nothing," she lied. "I just…I don't think you should give me the injections anymore. If I'm going to do this, we'd be asking for trouble if you got involved."
"Oh." He shoved his hands in his pockets. He thought for sure she was going to ask him. He had been trying to think of a way to get it out of her and then decline without sounding too much like an ass. He hadn't fully decided on what he was going to tell her when she finally did ask, but was caught off guard by this confession that she actually did not want him involved. He also didn't believe her. "So, you're going to get someone else to do it?"
That fact that she had considered Wilson for the job, that idea that she might confide in him instead, stung House. He knew the two of them had bonded over their mutual frustrations with him, but until recently he never thought that Wilson might actually take an interest in her. The thought of it sickened him.
"I don't know," she said. "I just know that we shouldn't be doing this."
"Because we almost had a baby once, and now you regret it and you're ashamed to say that you want to try to have a baby with me again?" His voice was mocking her, but he meant every word. "That's what you came up to my office for."
"No, House. We never almost had a baby. I almost had an accident, and yes, I regret it now, but it has nothing to do with you."
"Then why did you come to see me today?" He was pushing her again. He had his hands on her doorframe so she couldn't shut him out, and if she tried to walk away he'd follow her. "It's because you still have feelings for me and you desperately want to have my babies." He was smiling now, exaggerating, hoping to make her smile, make her confess.
"House I came up there today, because I may have found a way to treat your leg pain. I wanted to talk to you about it, but it didn't feel like a good time."
House drew back slightly. "What are you talking about?"
"Ketamene. We could put you into a coma, and—"
"No," he said.
"Cuddy, stop fucking trying to fix me! Jesus, for someone who claims to like me just the way I am, you sure do spend a hell of a lot of time trying to—"
"To what? I told if I could find a way to fix this I would…"
"Ketemene is not a solution. It changes brain chemistry; you would be essentially re-programming me without having any idea the effects it would have, and without knowing if it would even work."
"Isn't it worth the risk though if there was a chance you wouldn't have to live in constant pain anymore?" She took a step outside to place a hand on his arm, to tell him she was on his side, and she was just trying to help.
But House just shook his head. "No, it's not."
He was out for several days. They had detoxed him while he was under and when he finally started to come out of it a nurse was standing by his side, checking his IV.
"Dr. House?" She smiled. "Dr. Wilson and Dr. Cuddy asked me to page them as soon as you woke up."
House blinked, but then shook his head. "Don't page them yet," he said. His stomach was killing him, but the grilling pain in his thigh was gone. For a moment fear seized him. There was no pain, no numbness, no tingling; it was as if the leg wasn't there anymore. House reached out and dropped his hand down to find his leg still in tack. He closed his eyes. She did it, he thought. She fixed me.
House pushed himself into a sitting position, but the nurse grabbed his shoulder. "Dr. House, your stitches haven't healed."
"I'm fine," he said brushing her off. He swung his legs over the side of the hospital bed and planted his bare feet on the cold tile.
"I'm calling Dr. Cuddy. You're not supposed to get out of bed yet."
House nodded to her, but didn't answer. He leaned the bulk of his weight down on his bad leg. Some slight pressure in his abdomen, but no pain in his leg. He let go of the bed and took a tentative step forward. And then another. Nothing. House grunted a laugh; last week such a small feat would've left him crumpled on the floor in agony, but not today.
House took a few more steps around the room, and he started to get light headed. Cuddy appeared in the door, ready to order him back into bed, until she saw him standing next to his bed without his cane and a silly grin on his face.
"House…" She lowered her voice and stepped close to him, "how do you feel?"
House leaned down on his leg again. "I feel…good." He turned his body in her direction though the dizzy sensation took over and he reached out for the bed but it wasn't there. Cuddy hooked her arm around him and he leaned on her.
"You just came out of a coma House, you have two gunshot wounds. You need to stay in bed."
"I worked Cuddy," he said as she helped him back into the bed. "My leg feels better."
"I'm glad." She pulled the sheet over him and dropped down into the seat next to him. "We still don't know if this will stick or if there's going to be any long term effects, okay so—"
He turned his head toward her. "Thank you for doing this."
Cuddy shook her head. When Chase had burst into her office and told her that House had been shot her own heart stopped. She had never been so scared. And when Cameron told her that House asked for Ketamine, she almost didn't believe her. He had been so adamantly against it a couple of nights before.
House was unconscious when Cuddy burst into the surgical bay, and told the surgeons to administer the Ketamine, knowing full well that if he woke up and the drug had no effect, or his cognitive abilities were somehow compromised he would blame her.
And even though he reached out for her hand now and thanked her; if it wore off he would blame her still. Only this time it would be worse. It would be as if she offered him a glimpse of a life he wanted and then brutally ripped it away from him.
She held his hand for several quiet moments, stroking his knuckles with her fingers and staring out the window. Wilson stepped into the room and Cuddy tentatively let go of House's hand.
"They told me you were awake," he said, stepping up to the bed. "How do you feel?"
House nodded. "Good," he said, "but Mistress Cuddy won't let me out of bed."
Wilson smiled down at Cuddy. She had jumped into the role of doctor again with him, only this time she may have healed him. Yet she still looked guilty. Unabsolved. He rested a hand on her shoulder. "You did a good thing Cuddy," he said.
She swallowed. "I just did what he asked."
"For once," House said. He was joking but it stung nonetheless.
"What made you decide to do it?" She asked him.
House turned and looked at both of them. His best friends, the only people in his life that he truly trusted and knew loved him no matter what. He owed them the truth.
"When I was shot," he started, "I had a…hallucination. The man that shot me did it because he wanted me to care about something; he wanted things to matter…" House looked back up at the ceiling. "I want things to matter," he whispered.
Cuddy put a bottle of aspirin on House's nightstand. She had brought him home that night on the condition that he stay in bed and call her or Wilson if he was feeling weak. "You're head starts to hurt, this is all you get, okay."
House nodded. "Are you gonna stay?" She pulled the covers over him and sat down on the bed.
"I wasn't planning on it. Why? You scarred he's gonna come back and finish the job?" She didn't realize how insensitive she was being until after the words left her mouth. But House wasn't angry, he just laughed.
"I doubt you'd be able to protect me in those," he nodded toward her pumps. "Unless of course you through on at his face and stabbed him in the eye." The both chuckled and then House said, "No, I just don't really want to be alone."
Cuddy nodded. "I can call Wilson."
"Why don't you want to stay?" He scooted up until he was sitting level with her. "You've been acting strange ever since I woke up."
"I just don't want you to get your hopes up okay," she was nearly whispering, her voice wet with regret, "in case this doesn't work."
"I know my chances," he said. "But everything feels good right now. Let me enjoy this."
Cuddy licked her lips. "I'll stay on the couch," she said.
But no sooner than Cuddy had tucked her legs beneath her and pulled a throw over her body did House appear in the hallway.
"I can't sleep."
"You've barely tried."
"Maybe you should come cuddle up next to me," he said grinning. "Naked."
"No," she said. "But I could call Wilson."
"Shut up." He walked into the living room and dropped down on the couch next to her.
"You really need to be more careful, your stitches—"
"Could still pop out, yes I know." He stretched his legs out in front of him and let his hand fall over the scar on his thigh. He rubbed it out of habit, but stopped when he noticed Cuddy watching him. "It doesn't hurt," he assured her. "It just feels strange there now."
Cuddy didn't say anything, but pulled the blanket tighter around her.
"So…are you still doing the ivf?" He chanced a look in her direction. Cuddy, who had hoped beyond hope that he wouldn't bring this up shifted uncomfortably next to him.
"I told you I didn't want you involved," she said.
"Yeah, after you involved me. I've been thinking, and I really don't think this is a great idea—"
"House," Cuddy warned, "drop it or I'm leaving."
"Why do you want this so badly?" He asked.
Cuddy stood up and grabbed her jacket. "Goodnight House."
"Oh come on," he turned to face her as she opened the door. "Wouldn't you rather do it the old fashioned way? Mommy, Daddy, Goober. One big miserable family?"
Cuddy threw up her hands. "Who wouldn't rather have it that way? But as you've pointed out to me more times than I can count, I don't do relationships that well. If I waited for the real thing I'd never have a family."
"Not wanting to be alone isn't a good reason to have a kid Cuddy."
"Don't start lecturing me on my life choices."
"Why not, you lecture me on mine all the time."
Cuddy spun around and opened his front door and slammed it behind her.
You owe me…
It didn't take long after the pain inevitably came back that House started to spin out of control. He brushed it off like it didn't matter, like he expected that it would. And when Cuddy admitted her lie about the Addison's patient, he loved her more for believing him. But he hated her for the pain. When he ignored her, when he abused her, she took it all. When he got arrested, she found him a lawyer, when he screamed at her and made her cry, she brushed it off and went back to work. When he found himself lying in a puddle of his own vomit, not caring if he lived or died, Wilson first called an ambulance and second called Cuddy. She was right there in the middle of the night. And when he ran out of options and burned every other bridge, Cuddy took the stand and lied threw her teeth.
If that wasn't enough for him to admit to himself what she meant to him, when she told him she was giving up the IVF and he felt guilt, genuine guilt, for pushing her into believing she would be a failure.
"I said I was sorry. I was in pain, I didn't mean what I said…"
"It wasn't you, House. I just think it wasn't meant to be."
"Obviously you don't want it bad enough then." He circled her desk, trying to goad her into fighting back, to not giving up. He felt for the first time in a long time like they were sharing something. It was dysfunctional, but it was theirs.
"How many times to I have to say the words, none of your business? Stay out of it, House."
I don't want to be miserable….
When she died, and it was his fault his world collapsed. Cuddy was there to hold his hand again. He was becoming dependant on that. He risks his life; she holds his hand and makes him better. He honestly wouldn't know what to do with himself if he woke up in a hospital bed and she wasn't there. But everything else was gone. Amber was gone; Wilson was gone.
There was a time when House resented Amber for taking his friend away. But the happier Wilson was the more he saw in them, what he wanted for himself. When she died she took all of the hope with her.
Wilson came back eventually, though he still hurt. Every day, he missed her. House wanted to talk with him about it but he was too afraid to bring it up. Too afraid to tell his friend that even though it's not the same, he lost something too. Because of her, a part of House had died. The part that was complacent about his loneliness and misery, the part that didn't need more, was also gone.
Why do you need to negate everything?
He honestly couldn't say what brought him to her house that night. He understood pain better than anyone else, and thought for a moment that he could understand hers, and maybe even make her feel better. He told her what he thought she wanted to hear and she unleashed her pain on him like venom. But fools rush in where even demons fear to tread. Between Amber and his dad, between Wilson and the prospect of losing Cuddy to another life that didn't include him, he couldn't hold it back any longer. He whipped her up in his arms and kissed her like it might be the last time. And to his amazement she didn't slap him, didn't rationalize or tell him to get out because she wasn't going down that road again. No. She fell into him as hard as he had fallen into her, and she pleaded with him to stay, to make it all go away. But it was the pain talking, it wasn't her.
Never had it been so hard for him to pull away from anything or anyone in his life. It was easy for them to write it off as nothing, and in fact she did just that first thing in the morning. For all the good it did. He had ignited something in both of them, which had been long buried. He knew it and wasn't afraid to admit it (to himself at least) but it wasn't his fears that stopped him from telling her. It was hers.
Nothing between them had changed since their last failed attempt at a relationship. He was who he was, and she didn't trust him enough to believe that if given the chance, he wouldn't wreck her heart. If history was any indication, she had good reason to believe it too. He realized that as he watched her through her window. He had come armed with platitudes, and ready to confess all, to change his life, to pull her in. And she would come willingly, but it wasn't him she wanted. She would use him to fill a hole, to replace a child or a man she knew twenty-five years ago.
Twenty-five years ago when he had left her in Michigan, he gave her a desk and told her he loved her (a sentiment that she in fact never actually returned). Now when she pursued him, because she had given up on becoming a mother, and he had hurt her in order to remind her of what she was getting herself into, he regretted ever coming to her house and kissing her. He'd opened up a door that was better locked and bolted up tight. Now he'd never get her out of his system now, not a chance.
He clicked on his computer and typed in Cuddy's password. He pulled up her personal address book, and the picked up the phone.
"Hi, Mrs. Cuddy," he cleared his throat. "I'm calling from L&L contractor's… a Dr. Lisa Cuddy asked us to call you about a desk you have in storage….yes that's the one. She's remodeling her office, and she'd like us to pick up the desk and have it sent here….Tomorrow's perfect."
He hung up the phone and cursed under his breath. What the hell are you doing?
You can't always get what you want…..
If Cuddy ignoring the desk wasn't enough for him to resign himself to the fact that he had lost his chance with her, Rachel pretty much sealed that deal. When she told him her plan to adopt the baby girl, there was so much he could've said. She's sick, probably brain damaged. You won't be able to handle her, it'll be too much for you. But he didn't say any of those things. He wanted her to know that he didn't always have to negate everything. And despite his protests, the baby girl started to grow on him from the moment she puked on his shirt.
That's why it hurt even more tonight to know that Cuddy and the baby and Wilson and just about everyone else he knew were together and celebrating and he was alone. Again.
By the time midnight rolled around House was drunk enough to pick up the phone, but not so drunk he would be obnoxious. He decided it was time to put an end to this, so he dialed Cuddy's number and waited. Everyone would be gone by then and Rachel would be asleep. But not Cuddy. She picked up on the fourth ring.
"How was it?" He asked her tapping at the keys on his piano.
"It was nice." She had gone to bed, but couldn't fall asleep. The fact that everyone was there, everyone was smiling, and House was home alone, had upset her, and she couldn't shake the feeling that something had been missing from the night.
"That's it? You don't want to tell me all about it?"
"I kind of thought you would've just shown up." She shivered under her duvet.
"You told me not to." House sipped his bourbon and then started aimlessly tapping the keys on his piano.
"That's never stopped you before."
House smiled and started to play the song he had written earlier that night. "I was there in spirit," he said.
"The spirit of hypocritical Jews present?" She said, and she listened to Rachel stir on the baby monitor. She slipped out from under the sheet, slid on a pair of socks and pulled her robe around her. House hadn't said anything for a few moments. "Goodnight House," she said as she stepped into Rachel's room.
"We have to stop playing games like this Cuddy." He tucked the phone between his ear and shoulder, and moved both hands onto the keyboard. Cuddy stopped over Rachel's bed and stared at her daughter who had woken up and was squirming uncomfortably.
"I'm not," she said, lowering her voice. She picked Rachel up and felt that her diaper was wet. "You've been acting different ever since—"
"We've both been acting different," he said. "I just don't want to do this anymore." She didn't respond. "Cuddy?"
"That's pretty, that song you're playing," she said finally. She had put the phone on speaker as she changed the baby's diaper and they both had been staring at the receiver listing to him play.
"Thanks." He slid into Have I Told You Lately as Cuddy laid Rachel down on her back in the crib, and pulled a blanket over her. She grabbed the phone and turned off the speaker.
"We both know a relationship between us would never work. We would both screw it up, not just me."
"I'm not an easy person to be with; I know that. But I wouldn't walk away from you. Even back then, if you had never lost that baby—"
"House please don't talk about that," she pleaded, feeling a pang at the distant painful memory.
"So, then what? You think we should keep trashing each other's offices, lying and trying to manipulate each other to prove that we don't give a crap?" He had stopped playing and just stared at the keys.
"No. I just want things back to normal."
"What does that mean?"
"I—I'm not sure anymore. I just know that if we were to be together I would have to be able to love you for who you are; not who you have the potential to be." She slipped back into bed, though she was sure, her sleep would be restless, if she was able to sleep at all.
House's mind started racing. "And what if I could be that guy?"
"What do you mean?" she asked, a little worried.
"Nothing," he said, his voice now distant. "Goodnight Cuddy."
A/N: So that's the end. I actually had a different ending to this story in mind, but then I saw 'Unfaithful' and completely changed the ending (that's what took so long for me to update). Thanks so so much to those of you who stuck with the story...I love you peeps to death and I hope you enjoyed it, and I would love to hear what you think (even if you didn't love it)... I'm also still playing with the idea of a sequel that would use this history, but it would be a kind of alternate universe kind of thing, that would split off from the show...what say you all? would you read such a thing?
Oh, also...there is a song by Damian Rice you might check out called "I Remember"...I listened to it a lot while writing this story, and the title came from there...