The shift was about to change across the hospital, from the afternoon to the night and Cuddy wanted to be gone before that. Not because it was busy, or anything like that, but it meant she'd spent another twelve hours straight at work, and most of those in the office. She was tired, in a contented way, she loved her work, her hospital, but twelve hours straight, for the third day straight, she was wearing out quickly.
She was getting old.
Her coat draped over her arm, scarf wrapped around her neck, briefcase in her hand, she headed through the dark clinic. It was closed on Wednesday nights, and she found it a little unsettling. She forgot that when she saw House and Cameron walking through the main reception from the elevators, heads down, shoulders touching. They weren't speaking, just glancing at each other every so often, and she felt something in what she saw between them but wasn't sure what.
Keeping her distance behind them, she headed to the parking lot after them. She felt like she was spying, but House, she always had to keep an eye on him, for his own good and hers. She watched as House went to kiss Cameron, the younger woman leaning towards him for a mere moment before moving back and walking away towards her own car. House headed to his bike and Cuddy decided to tackle it tomorrow.
"Cuddy," she said, answering her phone, her voice still full of cheer out half nine. It was her quiet time, before House started for the day, and she listened to Matheson tell her about Chase and sighed. Quiet period gone and she had to go and deal with one of her surgical staff, one of the favoured members of her surgical staff.
She knew she shouldn't have favourites, but she did, the odd one or two up and down the building; Robert Chase was one of them, and it was purely based on his looks at first, despite his unscrupulous personality traits.
She found him collapsed over a toilet bowl in the doctors locker room, head on his arms, skin pale and sweaty. She checked his pulse, finding herself relived, then shook him gently awake.
"Allison," he muttered. She sighed.
"It's Dr, Cuddy."
He looked at her and groaned, and he was probably embarrassed but she wasn't angry or amused, just worried. He looked like he'd drunk a bars worth of alcohol. Certainly smelt like it.
"Matherson called me. He's worried about you"
He grunted something, closing his eyes again and resting his head back on his arms.
"What happened?" she asked, quietly, trying not to cause any pain.
She sighed and helped him to his feet, holding on as he wobbled.
"Where we going?"
"You're going to have a lie down, then I'm taking you home," she told him, "can you walk ?" she asked, taking a step away. He still wobbled, but stayed upright.
He followed her down to her office, leaning against the elevator as they traveled down to the ground floor. When the doors opened she headed straight out and noticed Chase was slow to react. As she walked across the main lobby she glanced behind at the young doctor as he trailed after her, his head down the entire time. She wanted to ask him what was going on again.
She stopped and smiled when he walked into her and looked up.
"Lie down," she said quietly, gesturing towards her sofa. She fetched a bottle of water from her desk and handed it to him. "Drink that, sleep," she ordered softly, "I have meetings all day, and clinic duty, so you won't be disturbed."
He didn't reply, merely nodding and settling on the sofa. She placed a trash can by his side and sighed. He looked a little better with his eyes closed, cute, and she wanted to stroke his hair.
She restrained herself, collected up her files and left him to sleep in her office, telling her assistant no one was to go in.
She couldn't hold off any longer and in an empty clinic exam room between patients she pulled out her cell phone and called House. When he answered she launched straight into him.
"What did you do?" she said, trying not to yell, "in fact, where are you?"
"I decided to take a personal day," he replied and she could visulise the expression on his face.
"A personal day?" she asked, with a frown, regretting it.
"Very personal, naked and sweaty kind of personal."
" I don't want to know the sordid details of your sex life House, I just want to know what you did."
"Don't know what you're talking about, I've been behaving. Mostly," he replied and she smiled, behaving her ass, she thought. There was a short cry, a woman in the background calling out his name.
"Who was that?"
"That? Oh, that was a hooker, I pay them part in orgasms," he said and she rolled her eyes, "Wilson stopped loaning me money."
She hung up. She wasn't getting her answers and she didn't expect to really but she had to try. Always had to keep trying with House.
She had tiptoed back into her office, pleased to see Chase still sleeping on her sofa and the trash can empty next to her. She took some painkillers from her handbag and dropped them onto the coffee table next to him before setting down at her desk to work. She didn't want to wake him and tried some experimental typing to see if it disturbed him. When it didn't she threw herself into her work, not thinking about the young man asleep on her sofa for another hour until he sat up.
"There's some painkillers on the table," she said, keeping her voice down. He downed a couple, then turned to price her.
"I am really sorry Dr. Cuddy," he said, getting to his feet.
"I spoke to House," she said.
"Quick to admit it was he?"
"No," she hesitated, "but I think Cameron was there."
He shrugged and ran a hand through his hair and she turned her attention back to her document, saving and closing her work.
"If you give me five minutes I'll drive you home. "
"I'll be okay."
"No," she said, face stern, voice sharp. "You shouldn't have driven here in the first place." His cheeks flared up and she felt a little guilty for chastising him.
"No," he mumbled.
"Go get your things. I'll meet you by my car."
He left her office and she switched off her computer and packed up her things. She wasn't sure what she was doing, but she couldn't be seen leaving with Chase, so she was at her car waiting for him when he walked into the parking lot, bag over his shoulder. She smiled at him and unlocked the car getting in and waiting until Chase was settled into her passenger seat.
"I live at..." he started. She chuckled and put her hand on his knee to stop him
"I know where you live Dr. Chase," she said, starting the car.
"Of course, I should've realised that."
He blushed again, she glanced at him as she drove, taking the odd safe moment to watch as he checked his cell phone.
"Three messages," he huffed.
"Listen to them tomorrow, when you've got a clear head," she said, "when your system is clear of the..vodka?" she guessed.
"Beer," he told her.
A whole lot of beer, she thought, but didn't say it, turning her concentration back to the road. He looked almost forlorn. Sad but the heat of embarrassment still staining his cheeks.
She pulled up outside his apartment building and put her hand on his knee again to stop him from getting out.
"I know it hurts right now," she said, knowing far too well how hard House could screw someone over. The memory still stung a little, "just don't get drunk again tonight. Deal with it tomorrow."
She smiled again and let him get out of the car.
The next morning on the drive over to his apartment, she hoped that he'd paid attention to her and had stayed sober. All night she'd mulled this situation over, had called House again to reem him out but he hadn't answered. She'd considered calling Wilson but had left it alone and gone to bed instead, wondering why she was so obsessed with this, whether it was because of House fucking up or Chase getting hurt.
Even when she was gently rapping on his apartment door she wasn't sure. It left her feeling a little anxious as she knocked again, once, twice and a moment later he opened the door. He was only wearing a towel and was still wet and it distracted her for a second as she looked him over.
"Dr. Chase," she said, " I just came by to..."
"Make sure I hadn't drank myself into a House-like oblivion?"
"Something like that," she said, feeling a blush on her cheeks. "How are you doing?"
"Hangover's gone," he said. "Cameron came round."
"You talked?" she asked, then rationality hit her. "Sorry, none of my business."
"Nah, it's fine." He smiled."We didn't talk, I didn't answer the door."
"Okay." She nodded, wanting to know more, everything, but holding back. "Do you need a ride to work?" she asked, "you must've left your car there yesterday."
"Yeah, that'd be great," he said smiling bright enough to make her blush again, but lightly. "I need ten minutes."
"I'll wait in my car."
"Come in, help yourself to coffee," he said, holding the door wide open, she smiled and slipped past him into the apartment. "Kitchen's just through there."
She followed his finger, and took a last look at his drying chest, before going after some coffee. He was good looking she wasn't going to deny that, but this was the worst time to be ogling him. Sometimes she wondered where her decorum went. She got to herself a mug of coffee and went back into his lounge, looking over his books, his CDs, ignoring the photos of his family, of Cameron because it was all getting too personal.
She was supposed to be playing the part of the caring boss.
He came out fully dressed and she felt guilty for snooping, she went to say something but he cut her off.
"I know, I have no dress sense, Cameron keeps..." he said, pausing at her name and she fought the cringe she felt. "You preferred the towel look right?"
It was cheeky, but she could tell it was forced, She smiled at him.
"Are you ready to go?"
In her car, she reached into her back seat and dumped a white paper bag into his lap. She'd picked up breakfast on the way over.
"You don't have to look after me Dr. Cuddy." It was a weak protest and she smiled when he took a bagel any way. "I can take care of myself."
"I know, I just ordered too many," she lied, hoping her voice didn't sound as fake to him as it did to herself. He smiled and she was slightly reassured.
"Are you going to talk to Cameron today?" she asked, focusing on the road. Out of the corner of her eye she saw him turn his head to look out of the window.
"Can't avoid her entirely can I?" he said. "She might not have slept with him."
She nearly laughed, a little noise escaping her before she could stop it. She waited for him to say something and was relieved when he didn't, she knew what she had heard yesterday.
"Just don't confront House about it. At least not in the hospital," she said, visualising security restraining two of her best doctors, "someone will get hurt."
"Gonna take his side?" he snapped, and there was a tinge of hurt. "Sorry," he quickly added.
"No, but I'm the one who has to clean up afterwards," she snapped back.
They were silent for the rest of the drive. Cuddy feeling a little guilty for snapping, but still a little annoyed. They pulled in the parking garage and she shut the engine off, she hesitated, then spoke, stopping him from getting out of her car.
"I didn't think you'd get hurt."
"Excuse me?" he said, his brow wrinkling.
"Out of all this, I didn't think you'd get hurt," she said. "I thought Cameron would, by you and House."
He relaxed in the passenger seat and she felt confident to continue.
"I knew, I know how House feels about her, I should've seen this coming," she paused, "I'm sorry."
"What do you feel for House?" he asked. She baulked at the question but managed to keep her face neutral.
"Does it matter? This isn't anything to do with me really."
She didn't see the kiss coming until his lips were against hers and she was stunned for a moment before she started to kiss back. She leaned over towards him, her hands hovering until he took them and held them in his, kissing her a little deeper. A car dashed past and she came to her senses and pulled away, scurrying into the drivers door.
"Dr. Chase," she said, wishing she didn't sound so breathless, and that he wasn't smiling, "these are rebound feelings because Cameron slept with House, and you don't even know if she did."
"What made you think she was there?" he asked. "When you spoke to House?"
"I heard her, in the background," she said, "called him House.""
"What, he has his hookers call him Greg?" he spat.
The angry truth made her feel sick and she looked away. He put a hand to her chin to kiss her again but she pulled away the moment their lips connected, she opened her door, grabbing her briefcase and got out, waiting for Chase to follow. Her mind was spinning, with feelings, old memories and she needed to get some control back.
"You're in surgery at ten," she told him, trying to sound stern, scare him off. "Talk to Cameron, stay away from House, do your job."
She went straight after House. She knew he was in by the look on woman manning the main information desk, and her assistant's. She didn't even have to ask, she just dropped her briefcase off at her office and went up to his, finding him dozing in his lounger. She batted him around the head to wake him then stood over him, hands on hips like she had done a hundred times before.
Things rarely changed.
"You're in early," she snapped. "Cameron drive you in?
House sighed and grabbed his cane, using it to push himself up into a sitting position.
"Yes, she wouldn't let me go back to sleep, most annoying."
"You're a fucking asshole House, you create all this mess and don't give a shit."
"Flattery will get you no where Cuddy," he said with a smirk that nearly made her tear his head off. Or his dick. If she ever really lost it with House, it was going to be a close call on which went first.
"Chase nearly gave himself alcohol poisoning because of you."
"Nearly," House pointed out. "Why do you care?"
"You really love her?" she asked, changing the subject before she gave away her feelings for Chase.
Whatever they were.
"You actually love another person?" she continued.
"I loved Stacy."
"Loved," she pointed out.
"I loved you."
"Don't," she said, putting a hand up and looking away. He struggled to his feet and faced her, chasing her face when she constantly turned her head to avoid looking at him. "Bastard," she hissed.
"I love Cameron."
"Can't you do things without making a mess?"
"I don't know how."
It was the most honesty she had gotten out of House in years, and it was a little too much to bear. For someone as blunt as she was, House's sincerity, as rare as it was, had always been too hard for her to take. It had been their downfall in the end.
That and the prostitutes. And her drug reps.
She was not without blame and could only hope that Cameron would fare better. Could deal with House when she couldn't.
"Stay away from Chase," she said. He didn't reply, instead walking around her to his desk and she went back to her office.
There was a knock on the her door and she looked up to see Chase open the door and look in.
"Dr. Chase," she replied. He closed the doors behind him and stood in front other desk. She watched as he tried to decide what to say and helped him along.
"Did you speak to Cameron?" she asked, standing up.
"She loves him."
"I'm sorry Chase."
He shrugged and she bit back a sigh. She'd already had House on the mess he'd made and it was done now, no point on dwelling on it. She just wished it hadn't hurt Chase or anyone. She hoped he didn't go out and get drunk again, it wouldn't help. She knew that from experience too. She walked around the desk and put a hand on his shoulder.
"If you need to take a day off-" she started.
"I'll be fine," he said, his tone a little harsh, "I just wanted to apologise, I was out of line in the car, and I wanted to thank you, you've been...nice."
"You're forgiven and you are welcome."
She should it seen it coming because she recognised the look in his eyes from earlier in the car, and it was a hot look she liked a lot. He leaned forward, grasping the hand on her shoulder in his own and kissed her.
So she kissed back again, tightening her grip on his shoulder and quickly pushed her tongue against his, wanting this, wanting him for just a moment or two. She moaned from the pleasure of just kissing him and the realisation of what she was doing kicked into her sensibilities and she pushed him away.
"Sorry," he muttered.
"You're hurting, it's okay but," she took a breath, regaining a little dignity. "I will not be your one night stand, your release and revenge," she said. "I won't get caught up in this mess." Anymore than I already am, she mentally added.
She smiled, and gave him a chaste kiss on the lips.
"Come and talk to me again in three months," she said.
"Three months? Is that how long it took you to stop hurting when House screwed you over?"
She slapped him without a seconds hesitation in her mind, the sound echoing right through to the glass panes in her office doors. He had no damn right to push those buttons.
He clasped his cheek and took a step away, but she closed the distance between them and kissed him hard. She wanted him, she was clear on that, and House was a bastard, but Chase had so much to think over and she couldn't afford to get involved with him. In this. She hoped it only took three months but she was being optimistic, it had been the first number to come into her head.
It had taken her three years and she and House had screwed each other over.
"If you need anything else," she said, sitting back down but not looking at him.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw him nod, then he walked out of her office and she was left ticking down the clock.