A/N: Thanks for all the feedback and your patience. I got stumped on this chapter, mainly because I haven't quite wrapped my mind around where TPTB are taking Huddy. But, I'm happy to say, that after seeing that teeny, tiny scene in "The Social Contract," my faith has been restored. Enjoy! Feedback is loved and appreciated.
He didn't speak to her for a month after the suicide.
He wouldn't answer her phone calls and never answered the door when she came to his apartment.
It was for the best, he reasoned. She missed her biology exam because of him and was now in danger of losing her scholarship. He was only screwing up her life.
Their separation would have gone on indefinitely if his sweet tooth hadn't been irritating him one dismal Friday night.
"House," she said his name crisply, approaching him without hesitation. His body went rigid and he didn't move from the box of Mallomars he was attacking at the corner street bodega. When he finally turned to look at her, he was unable to maintain the static emptiness in his eyes he had perfected in her absence.
However, his effort was valiant.
"Cuddy," he replied impersonally.
She took a deep breath. "It's good to see you."
He raised his eyebrows at her. "I thought you would've gotten the picture by now."
She stepped forward, invading his space. "You're a part of my life, no matter what happens."
He threw down the Mallomar and pushed his way around her. "You're so naïve."
She grabbed his hand, stopping him. "House."
He looked down at their joined hands, hers delicate in his, soft and right. He grimaced as his thumb accidentally skimmed across her flesh. "You can't see what's missing from this?"
Cuddy spoke patiently, "You're upset. You screwed up. It happens, House."
He squeezed her hand to the point of pain. "It happens?! I couldn't help a man so I watched him die."
"It's not your fault!"
"There were options. I could have kept my fat mouth shut during the differential. I could have told someone besides a stupid 19 year old that my patient was suicidal."
"You didn't kill him, House. You didn't," she said ardently, tears springing to her eyes as he gripped her hand tighter.
He smiled sadly at her blind faith in him. "What makes you think that?"
"Because you would have never told a stupid 19 year old if you didn't do everything to save him."
He released her hand, disgusted with himself. "You don't know me at all."
"I do. I—"
"Hey, Lisa! Hurry up!" An obnoxious yell came from Cuddy's Pontiac Trans AM.
House did a double take as he looked at the silly, drunken high schooler hanging out of the passenger's window. "Looks like your car got hijacked by Pippi Long Stockings."
"It's just my sister. She can wait. I want to tal—"
House stepped closer to her and instinctively tilted her chin up. "Have you been drinking tonight?"
"What do you care?" Cuddy tried to push his hand away, but he wouldn't let her go.
"Don't give me that look when I've had to clean up after your wasted ass before!" She closed her eyes and exhaled as he kept staring at her concernedly. "I'm fine."
"Fine. But if you're going to do it, you're coming back to my place." He took her hand in his, not letting her argue, not giving himself enough time to protest.
It wasn't that he missed her, but if she was acting stupid because of him, then he had to take responsibility for her. His fingers tightened around her smaller ones.
No, he didn't miss her at all.
"You doing anything Friday?" She asked casually, however prepared herself for their inevitable spar.
"I'm taking a lovely young lady to the Philharmonic," House said glibly, avoiding her eyes.
Honestly, he never thought that far ahead. It was too depressing.
"Is that your way of saying you're having sex with a hooker?" Her expression unaffected, however, she couldn't help but remember the mysterious blonde standing in his office, a smile on her face that she recognized. That woman had known House intimately, albeit only for a few hours.
She hated herself for being jealous.
Even more so for being hopeful.
"Two. Can't create a harmonic with just one." He hoped that worked; that whatever she was about to ask him, she would be too hurt or shocked to speak now.
However, her train wreck kept coming.
"Well, I was hoping you'd might be available for Rachel's Simchat bat. It's a—"
"Jewish baby naming ceremony, a time-honored tradition dating all the way back to the 1960s," House recited as if Wikepedia was chipped into his brain.
"My house at 7:00. It'll just be the Rabbi and a few friends and some family."
House pruned his face theatrically. This wasn't like her; they never did anything normal together, let alone with her family and friends. And her family…we'll he would prefer to forget spending any time with them period.
"Nothing like welcoming a baby into the world with a completely naked display of hypocrisy," he deflected, aiming his attack at the event verses the idea of spending an evening together.
"They'll be plenty of wine and nice people you can quietly mock," she said, not admitting to herself why she ordered the extra case of Merlot. Drinking had always made everything easier between them.
"Wish I could. But I already put down a deposit on 16 crates of jello." He escaped into the elevator. Her words and the image of them sitting together followed him, alone on her couch after the had left, her knees curling up in his lap and her face tilted just enough so…
She stopped the elevator. "House. It's one evening. I'd like you to be there."
"Religious Hokem. Get sponge bath. Can I get back to you?" The elevator shut in her face, but he didn't stop holding his breath till he reached the 4th Floor.
"So Lis," Pippi popped her head in between House and Cuddy, now removed to the back seat of the car, "why didn't you tell me you had a boyfriend?"
"Cause he's not my boyfriend," Cuddy said pointedly, eyeing House as he drove them back to his place.
"Whatever. I'm telling mom and dad!"
"You won't tell them anything!" Cuddy spun around jabbed a finger in her little sister's face.
She grinned like a Cheshire cat and caught House's eyes through the rearview mirror. "Is he good in bed?" She asked loudly.
"Stop it, Cara!" Cuddy gritted her teeth, her face flushed with anger. "That's none of your business."
Cara Cuddy, in all of her sixteen-year-old wisdom, looked suspiciously between the two of them.
"What? You don't know?" Cara's mouth dropped as crickets passed between House and Cuddy, neither one of them willing to answer. "You don't! Well, maybe I should find out and get back to you on that—"
"Don't you dare."
"Mighty possessive considering he's not you're boyfriend." Cara looked back in the rearview mirror, catching House's eyes. She grinned mischievously at him.
House saw her get into the elevator, his conversation with Wilson fresh on his mind. He couldn't believe her; she had always been a crafty shrew, but this was a new low blow for the she-devil. "Let's see. How do I keep House from ruining my precious display of religious hypocrisy? I know. I'll pressure him to attend, knowing he'll never agree to anything I actually want him to do."
Their eyes met sideways; she was totally caught.
"I didn't pressure you; I invited you. And there's nothing hypocritical about recognizing your heritage."
"Keeping kosher now? Wearing four corner garments? Slaughters heifers to the god Rah? Wait, is that one of your people? Do it all, do nothing, or option C: you're a liar and a hypocrite." And he was pissed. It was bad enough that she wanted him there. That was typical. But not wanting him there? Despising his presence? That wasn't part of the rules, and she knew it.
She turned to him, freezing his zinger, and looked at him with soft acceptance. "House, for better or worse, you are a part of my life. It isn't a ploy. It's a sincere invitation, and I want you to come."
His voice suddenly low and hitched, he said with a tepid smile, "Wouldn't miss it for the world."
Now she was the one to inhale. She held her breath as she exited the elevator. "I'm glad."
She turned around, lies and truths jumbled together on her tongue.
Bored by their long looks and slow sips of Corona, Cara jumped up from the table with her empty beer bottle in hand. "Wanna play spin the bottle, you two?"
"Tell me again why you invited 'Lil Sis to stay with you for the weekend?" House grimaced as the girl's hands clamped down over his shoulders.
"My parents hate me."
Cara leaned on House's shoulder. "House, you have to play. I can't kiss my sister, so you'll have to take turns kissing both of us."
House smiled at the lesser Cuddy. "Jailbait, sweetheart."
"Is that the excuse you gave my sister too?" Cara smiled wickedly at her sister.
"That's it. You're outta here. Go wait in the car for me." Cuddy jumped out of her chair, true authority in her voice.
"I'm going to call mom!" Cara whined.
"Lots of good an empty house and answering machine will do you."
"Bitch," Cara spat in Cuddy's face.
"OUT!" Cara huffed and grabbed Cuddy's car keys off of the table.
As she slammed the door behind her, House twisted his face. "Good to know I'm not the only one with a screwed up family."
"She just wants attention," Cuddy said, staring at him, knowing she was only talking about herself.
"Makes sense. Gotta be pretty hard to have a perfect sister." House stood up from the table. He stepped closer to her and pushed a loose curl behind her ear.
"You're such a liar." Pain etched across both of their faces, knowing the truth. They were terrible for each other.
He began to kiss her anyway.
"Hey!" He said with false cheerfulness as she made a beeline down the hall. "I was just talking about you. Not you, specifically. Whores and hypocrisy."
She stopped in the middle of the hallway, the jig up. She couldn't play games with him anymore.
He would never change.
No, it wasn't that he would never change—he would never go back.
"You were right. I don't want you there. It's a special occasion filled with love and acceptance, and the last thing I need is someone there filled with loathing and contempt."
For the first time since they (she? he? Who was scared more?) had backed away from this thing between them, she finally saw the hurt and disappointment in his eyes.
"Okay," he grimaced, no more moves to play.
She regretted her words immediately. He hadn't backed away at all. It had been her, and she was scared to death to let him back in her life again.
"That's it? You're really not coming?"
"I'm really not coming," he said shortly.
"Thank you," she said, as if they had just agreed on a simple medical procedure.
"You're welcome. Gosh, I feel so grown up." He narrowed his eyes at her and escaped as fast as he could down the hall.
They tumbled back unto his couch, quick to take liberties with each other, shedding their clothes even faster.
"House, I—" The words came dangerously close, bubbling over uncontrollably.
"Let me…" He began to ask, but she took his hand, taking it to his answer.
"Touch…" She begged, but she didn't have to.
"There?" He attempted, but he was already there.
She moaned, her mouth biting his shoulder blade. They were here and nothing else mattered.
Except a thunderous knock at his door.
"Ignore…it," she whispered against his cheek.
But an authoritative voice came through the door, ending all passion like a death sentence.
"Gregory House! Please open the door! It's the police."
Cuddy gathered her pink notes and shoved them into her purse. She had an hour to get ready, and the caterer was already invading her space with only her nanny and Rachel to supervise. She needed to get home and take back control of her domain.
But as soon as she saw him, she stopped in front of the glass doors, not as eager to get on the Parkway and into bumper to bumper traffic as she thought.
Control could wait.
Snow fell in soft crystals, and they watched it together, almost companionably.
"It's cold out there," he said softly, all bitterness gone from earlier. He just seemed…resigned.
"At least you have shoes that cover your toes," she said casually, as if they always talked about the weather together. As if that was what she really wanted to say.
"So it's tonight?" He asked, even though he knew it was. He had marked it in his day planner a week ago.
"Yep. Bad weather for it, huh?" She looked out into the snowy sky, Cameron's words on her mind.
You should tell him.
"Maybe you'll get lucky," he paused hesitating, as he remembered the night they almost did get lucky, and a small smile etched across his face. Then, he broke their rule, and spoke of a time when they were happy together, "Maybe your sister will decide the roads are too dangerous to drive on."
"Let's keep our fingers crossed," Cuddy said nervously, and in that moment, as silence and memories passed between them, she wanted him there. She wanted him with her, his hand slipping too low on her back in front of all her guests, his sarcasm, rudeness, pain, all of it.
But she couldn't exhale.
"Have fun." He pushed the door open, and they turned, not looking back as the distance between them grew.