A/N: I do not own these characters. Feedback welcomed. This is my first House/Huddy fic. Special thanks to my beta, Kel.
Synopsis: A "What if" fic. Takes place at the end of "Let Them Eat Cake." What if Cuddy had come to House's office 5 minutes sooner?
A (Romantic) Gesture
If she didn't know any better, there was no way she would ever believe that he would do this amazing, incredibly romantic gesture for her. But she knew him. She knew him well, behind all of the sarcasm and cutting remarks and sensational brilliance was a man with this heart and history that knew her just as well.
Cuddy stepped into House's dimly lit office, a wave of disappointment washing over her as she realized he had probably left for the evening. She hesitated by the door. Instead of turning around, she stepped inside, eyeing their former place of co-habitation. The desk pad was still turned in the fashion of a partners' desk—she grinned, running her hands across the back of his chair, happy to see he hadn't erased any remnants of her yet.
Suddenly, his recognizable yet not often heard laughter filled the hallway. She felt her cheeks flush without warning. Even though she had ever right to be here in her own hospital, the feeling crept inside of her that now she was trespassing, and any excuse she had to be here would be painfully transparent.
Before she could step around his desk, the soft laughter of a woman echoed through the glass door and she froze. He was with someone. He was touching someone. She was holding his bike helmet. His hand was on the small of her back.
House smiled at the woman.
Cuddy knew that smile. She knew him.
She wanted to run, but she was stuck behind House's desk.
"Thanks for the…um…" Cuddy watched as the blonde woman chewed her lip flirtatiously, her eyes sparkling with night wind and something else, "…ride."
House grinned, but Cuddy couldn't make out his eyes in the darkness. "Anytime," he said with soft, whiskey-coated humor.
Too embarrassed to stand there any longer in the silence, Cuddy jerked back too hard, knocking the chair against the side desk.
House and Cuddy's eyes met as she reclaimed her composure behind his desk. His brow furrowed quizzically as he searched her face. His hand instinctively dropped from the actress's back, a move not unnoticed by Cuddy or his temporary employee. He cringed and then smirked at his boss's direction.
He felt like a guilty husband. In a damn relationship.
"Is this your wife?" The bad actress staged whispered far too loudly.
Strangely, neither House nor Cuddy had an immediate knee jerk reaction. House's head tilted, amused by the thought, his eyes mischievous as he contemplated his answer. Cuddy lifted her eyebrows, clearly giving him permission to label them, but more so, curious as to what he would say.
"She's my….my….well, my," House closed his mouth, not finishing the muddled thought.
"Right," the actress said, before backing away. "Well, you've got my email once you've worked whatever this is out."
The blonde sauntered away; her heel clicks fading as she disappeared down the hall.
House turned back into the room, tossing the helmet on his sofa. His eyes disconnected from hers for a moment, perhaps in preoccupation, more likely his sense of decency gnawing at him.
"Leave your thigh-highs behind, Dr. Cuddy? I know how much they appreciate your whip and chain routine on the night shift."
"Clearly your own shift started earlier than I anticipated," Cuddy countered back, but she didn't want to do this. She had seen enough. Her reason to be here now gone; all she wanted to do was go with it. She skirted around the desk.
"Leaving so soon? You sure you don't want to spank me for being a bad boy?" House stopped her at the door.
"What's the point?" She pushed off the glass, turning back, shrugging with a sad smile.
"Come on. It'll get out some of that aggression." He picked up his cane and approached her, cutting off her exit. "Jealousy does nothing for your complexion."
"You're not baiting me, House." She didn't want to engage him, but she could feel the hot, stinging words prickling on her tongue, ready to fire back.
House leaned in closer to her, gesturing towards the elevator. "You scared away my date so you better give me something because if it's going to be like this from now on—"
"I don't have to give you anything!" She finally exploded, her hand pushing hard against his chest, pulling him closer at the same time.
He knotted his fists at his side. He held his cane tighter. He wouldn't hold her. He wouldn't put his arms around her. He wouldn't kiss again. Not like she wanted. Not again. "It goes both ways, Cuddy!"
"Fine! Take the desk back! I don't want it."
"I'm not taking it back. I—I gave it to you."
"Oh, please. You called my mother and—"
"Which was as much fun as a root canal—"
"And she had it sent—"
"Do you know how damaged that thing was from all of those frou-frou grape sodas you used to drink to stay awake? I had the best craftsman in New Jersey fix the damn thing, make it all shiny and new for your big ass, and you want to send it back to storage? Really?!"
"Really," Cuddy said softly, losing some of her bravado.
"Fine. Let's call them right now. And I'm sure I've still got the number somewhere here for that bidet company. Maybe they can come in and install one smack dab in the center of your office. It'd be really snazzy for those big investor types who puff all that hot air up their—"
"House." Cuddy put her hand over his, hanging up the phone. "I want it. Don't send it back."
"Okay." Her hand was warm against his. He wanted to run his finger across her palm and watch her react. He didn't. Nothing about the woman in front of him was temporary, and that scared him to death.
"Now what?" She asked, her heart so clear in her chest and eyes and lips again. How easy it would be; how incredibly hard it was.
"I'm not kissing you," he said harshly, perhaps more to himself than her.
"I didn't ask you to." This time, she didn't blink.
House hesitated and finally asked, "Then what do you want?"
"I just wanted to thank you for the desk. That's all."
His thumb betrayed him at her kind words, and he caressed her palm as if they were longtime lovers.
"You're welcome." And with a small smile she left him. He could still feel the residue of her touch on his skin, the claim and pull it had him, the humming of a heartbeat as it clicked down the hall in rhythm with his own, with him left thinking, my, my, my…what?
A slow grin spread across his face. He knew where she was going. After all, he had given it to her.