The Sound of Always

I always want to kiss you.

In the past, House found himself on her front steps out of necessity. Consult, interruption, permission. Only once did he find himself there out of desire. Desire, however, was not nearly enough to propel him past his own carefully constructed roadblocks. He left without knocking, an answer to a question neither of them had the courage to ask.

It was an even rarer occasion for Cuddy to stand on House's front steps, fingers twined nervously as she waited for him to answer. A vague but persistent feeling that he would feign absence lingered, but she heard locks click before amber light spilled across her shoes.

His disheveled, pained appearance made her cringe and on instinct she reached a hand to his brow. With a flick of his head he avoided contact, and his voice was more tired than stern.

"Unless you are here to take me to a very happy place, you need to leave. I'm sleeping." What was it, she wondered, that made it her deepest desire to press her palm to his forehead and ease something of whatever put that crease there? She felt his discomfort almost physically, and some deep part of her would have done anything to assuage it. But she could only stare at him mournfully, knowing he would shrink from any such attempt, as though he did not deserve it.

"No you're not." She murmured quietly, searching his face. He averted his eyes, rubbing his forehead on his knuckles. "Did you take the sleeping pills?"

He chuffed and her answering grin was tinged with chagrin. Of course he had, probably all in one mouthful.

"And?"

"And I slept." There was something more, she could feel it. He swayed back and she stepped further into his apartment.

"And?"

It took her several seconds to realize he was studying her intensely, running his gaze over her face as though memorizing it. His expression was softer, less guarded in these instants, desire widening his irises. He tilted forward, the most infinitesimal of leaning and the words tumbled from her mouth, surprised and yet not.

"You want to kiss me, don't you?" That he wanted her was no big secret - he made several allusions a day in regards to his prurient interest. It was flattering and deeply inappropriate, which made it quintessential House. But other than one not-so-drunken night years previous and a very grief-soaked kiss in the interim, he'd never made much of a move on what was, obviously, a mutual attraction. She held her distance not so much from avoiding an eventual bad end as from good, old-fashioned fear of rejection. She could stand House being a jackass, an idiot, a letch and an insensitive bastard. She could not stand before him and find that all his talk was merely bluster intended to keep her off-balance. He would hurt her - had for years - and that was no doubt. But nothing would hurt more than knowing that the understanding, and friendship, she thought they had, had merely been a manipulation.

His reticence was equally self-preservative. He did not fear losing his job, his protection, or his free reign. But he feared driving away the one person who had known him longer than all the others. Longer than Stacy, than Wilson. A constant in his sad, miserable existence. She was a measure of how far he had come, and how far he could go. Wilson was his moral compass, but Cuddy was his guide.

It was fitting that they would give in at the same time, she when she feared she was losing him to himself. He when he knew he would walk away from her. A desperate attempt by both, to hold on one second longer.

"I always want to kiss you." The quiet truth was not lost on her, and it was her undoing. When his fingers reached for her to pull her close, she caught his hand and helped him forward. When his mouth sought hers she met him halfway, no mournful, anxious desire to connect to anyone, but a deep-seated need to connect with him.

They fumbled there in his front entryway, desperate to find purchase and rhythm in this newfound place. To balance tenderness with a hot-running desire they'd been nursing for more than ten years. To make it mean more - and less - than what it would mean. Hello, goodbye. Sanity, loss.

Always.

In the morning he would be smug. He would announce to the world, anyone who would listen, that he had bagged Lisa Cuddy. She would prevaricate and blush, pretend he was making up elaborate stories to undermine her authority. He would be so boisterous and obnoxious that his team wouldn't believe him until they caught her watching him in the clinic, her expression an odd mix of sadness and desire.

But for now, this moment come to fruition with his palms pressed to her cheeks, there was no morning. There was no insanity, no insomnia, no emptiness. They followed a jittering pathway to his bedroom, skidding and bouncing against walls and furniture; loathe to separate for just one instance.

He always wants to kiss her. She always wants to hold him close. And for this night, perhaps the only, they will do just that.

And, of course, more.

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