Prompt:"So it takes two beers to remember, now and five to forget: I loved you, so what?"

Ani DiFranco, I Loved You, So What?


It was hardly his version of Cheers.

The bartender may not know his name, but he knows his drink and doesn't try to waste time with small talk. By the time House's ass cheeks made contact with the split vinyl covering the stool, there was a bottle of Heineken in front of him, beads of condensation already trailing towards their cardboard grave.

Wilson doesn't come drinking anymore, and to be honest House is miserable enough without Captain Buzzkill and the specter of his dead girlfriend lingering over every conversation. They had only just got back on track, and already House had thought up five new ways to piss him off without even trying.

The first bottle drained quickly, a victim of thirst more than anything else. With a practiced flick of the wrist, he signaled for the second before downing the last slightly sour mouthful.

He vowed to keep away from the hard stuff for once, no matter how many overtures that bottle of Maker's Mark sends his way in the dim light of the evening. The slutty blonde in a dress at least ten years too young for her pissed him off with her pathetic attempts at flirting, preventing the barkeeper from fulfilling his humanitarian duties.

House almost considered propositioning her himself if it liberated the man who had access to the fridges any quicker. Plus, it would be cheaper than a hooker, banging some bar skank in the bathroom. It would teach Cuddy a lesson, too.

This reminded him of exactly why he wanted that second drink, and the buddies who will be nobly lining up to sacrifice themselves behind it. For once, he should have taken Wilson's word for it, toed the party line of friendship and not followed him to that damn uterus-in-a-store.

He wanted so badly to stop seeing her face, that crinkling round her eyes as she fucking lit up the room with that smile. It was fireworks on the Fourth--blinding—and no matter how much he told himself he didn't give a crap, he'd found it impossible to look away.

What did Cuddy want with a baby anyway? It was going to spoil everything, this stupid quest she was on to buy herself happiness. A kid would be no more fulfilling than the thousands of dollars she spent on shoes every year, and at least nobody ever went to jail for locking shoes in a closet.

With another gulp, he came back to the one point that was bugging him more than anything: how had he not seen this coming?

Oh sure, the whole distraction of saving his only friendship and recovering from massive head trauma, those were pretty plausible excuses. But Cuddy hadn't done anything in the last ten years that he hadn't picked up on way before she felt like telling him. Last he heard, she was still failing at IVF. Maybe just not talking to him about it since he had ever so subtly pointed out she wasn't made for motherhood.

Irritation made him drink quicker, and when he caught the trampy blond gazing lustfully at him, he shot the barman his best pleading look. Thankfully Tuesdays were quiet nights, and drink number three was there to greet him as he placed his empty bottle back on the bar.

Cuddy might not be as smart as him, but then nobody was. Someone as allegedly competent as her ought to have realized that motherhood was simply a case of setting herself up for disappointment. It was like him trying to forget his fucked-up thigh by running a marathon. All she'd succeed in doing would be bringing all her fears and inadequacies to the fore.

Christ, wasn't it about five minutes ago she'd shown up in his office trying to ask him to father her child? Then he got shot and she was too busy feeling sorry for him and trying to interfere in his life to ask.

His bladder began its typical weak bleat of protest; age and too many pills meant the first bathroom break of the night was called for. When the blonde slid off her stool to follow him, he shot her his best death glare, which mercifully stopped her in her tracks. He just wasn't that desperate, not tonight.

Considering it was the nearest bar to Cuddy's snobby neighborhood, it really was a dive. The flickering lights in the men's room gave it that lovely crime scene vibe that was just so welcoming.

Having taken care of business, he wandered back to his place at the bar. House nodded at the bartender for his fourth, but the guy seemed intent on ignoring him. With a sigh, he grabbed a crumpled twenty from his pocket, snatched from Wilson's wallet earlier in the day when House was looking for evidence that he was being lied to. Friendship had a price, as Wilson knew only too well by now.

The production of cold hard cash had a magnetic effect on the bartender, and the next drink was quick in coming once the register had rung out. When he considered the unpaid bar tabs he had all over town, it probably wasn't so unreasonable that the guy demand money early on.

House sucked intently at the mouth of the bottle, his thirst as great as before the first drink. It occurred to him that he should be pretty pissed at Wilson. Hadn't they just rebuilt the weird co-dependence they called a friendship? Then five minutes later, Wonder Boy was sneaking around on secret missions for the ultimate enemy? He should have taken more than a couple of twenties from his wallet, that was for damn sure.

The jukebox whirred loudly between songs, and then spat out some Billy Joel, of all things. At least someone else in the bar was having a crappy night if they felt like "She's Always a Woman" was part of their personal soundtrack. Nothing like a good old ballad about the fickle, twisted nature of women to make the drinks slide down easier.

He checked his watch and saw it was only just after eight. Cuddy and Wilson were probably just leaving the mall now that the stores were closing. Wilson would have been happily blushing all night at the assumptions that he was going to be a father, that he'd somehow bagged a bona fide hottie like his boss. Would they go out for a meal to celebrate? Laugh about House's quiet freak-out over a ridiculously overpriced bottle of wine? Or had he spoiled their little sorority meeting, sending Cuddy home with tears trailing down her face?

There was only one way to find out, and it was why he'd chosen to drink in this end of town. The stale beer and sawdust scent of the room had faded considerably, so he saw no point in rushing. Always time for one more, then maybe he could start forgetting why he needed a damn drink in the first place.

Not that it wasn't tempting to drink until gravity crapped out on him altogether, but having nursed the fifth drink pathetically for the best part of an hour, he thought it was finally time to go and intrude on Cuddy. Better she know right away that it wasn't a habit he planned on stopping even if she did get her own real live Cabbage Patch doll.

The cab driver gave him a skeptical look when he barked out the address, and another when they pulled up in front of Cuddy's immaculate home. Clearly, he didn't think House was supposed to be there, which was excellent justification for skimping on the tip.

His beer buzz was wearing off as House limped tiredly up the garden path. He rapped obnoxiously on the door with his cane, taking some delight in damaging the paintwork just a little. It occurred to him as he heard Cuddy's footsteps that he couldn't actually remember why he'd come here in the first place.

Then she opened the door and the pain, confusion and irritation he'd been trying to submerge for the past couple of hours came flooding back to him. She looked casual, comfortable in the soft yellow glow of her hallway. The only thing he had in his favor was that she didn't look at all surprised to see him.

"I suppose you're here to tell me the latest stats on matricide in adoptive families?"

House shrugged and pushed his way past her, leaving her to close the door behind him with a sigh. For a moment he was squarely in her personal space, but she squirmed around him and trotted off to the kitchen, hopefully to fetch him another drink.

By the time he had shrugged out of his blazer and thrown it over the back of her sofa, she had reappeared with two steaming mugs.

"That had better be Irish coffee, or I'm likely to spit it all over your upholstery."

She placed his mug on the end table and jerked her head in the direction of the drinks' cabinet.

"You know where the whiskey is if you're so desperate. Though it smells like you've already had a few."

He didn't feel like dragging himself across the room and back, so he settled into the overstuffed cushions and picked up his drink with a scowl. It didn't seem to have any effect on her. This damn mommy mania was making her impervious.

"I only had a couple of beers. Reminded me that I forgot to congratulate you on wrecking your life. Well, it was that or go beat the crap out of Wilson for cheating on me with you."

Cuddy snorted at that, his attempts at machismo never impressed her. Maybe she really did love him for his mind.

"I'm sorry I made your boyfriend keep secrets. He's just… a great girl sometimes. I needed someone reliable for the adoption agency; it made sense."

House drained the coffee in two quick gulps, determined to think of a way of getting off the maternity talk.

"So, you'll leave Thirteen alone? I can't have you interfering with my team, other than, you know, sexually. On the condition that I get to play too."

She sipped daintily at her drink while watching him suspiciously.

"Since when do you go to bat for your employees? And rest assured, I'll page you the minute Dr. Hadley and I give in to our uncontrollable lesbian lust. Hey, wasn't that the name of the movie you tried to put on the hospital's cable bill last week?"

House gave her his best fake laugh, though he did actually find her quite funny at times. She stood to take their empty cups, ever restless and compulsive. She liked her home as organized and sterile as an OR.

He couldn't quite work out where the impulse came from, but he grabbed almost desperately at her wrist, causing her to drop her own mug on the floor in shock. Before she could berate him for shattering porcelain all over her living room, he pulled her down beside him and kissed her square on the mouth.

Of all the reactions he'd been hoping for, blind rage wasn't high on the list.

"What the fuck?"

Cuddy was flushed, though it was definitely more anger than lust. House didn't let go of his loose hold on her wrist, staring her down across the limited space between them. He watched her chest heaving slightly, her fingers flexing as though she might punch him out. It surprised him to find he was holding his breath as he watched for her next move.

Her lips parted a couple of times, though no words emerged. Her thoughts played out across her face, a movie in a foreign language but with no handy subtitles. Just when he'd given up hope, relaxed enough to suck in some air again, she took his stubbled face in her hands and kissed him with an unexpected tenderness.

He shifted closer to her on the sofa, reducing the space between the two of them as the gentle meeting of their lips progressed quickly to open mouths, their tongues colliding and dancing as though they did this every day. He felt her fingers grip his biceps, squeezing intently through the thin cotton of his shirt. In turn, he let one hand caress the back of her neck before tangling in her hair, allowing him to press her into an even deeper kiss. The other ran along her side, stroking smoothly over the tight top she was wearing. He almost didn't dare to take it further, scared that at any moment Cuddy would see sense and throw him out into the night.

Thankfully, her only response to his tentative cupping of her breast was to moan encouragingly against his mouth. That was all the green light he needed, and in seemingly a matter of seconds, he had her bra undone, the increasing passion of their kisses an excellent cover for his moments of clumsiness with the clasp.

Cuddy's hands were grasping at his shirt, and she managed eventually to get the buttons undone, only to growl in frustration at the presence of the t-shirt underneath. Smiling at her as they broke apart, House dragged the offending item off over his head, and was pleased to see her doing the same with her own shirt.

He couldn't help the appreciative whistle when he saw Cuddy in all her topless glory. For all the mocking he did about her assets, she really did have the kind of amazing body that made him far more turned on than any artificial porn star could. The now uncomfortable straining in his jeans confirmed it, and he saw her notice that as she bit her bottom lip, apparently lost in a moment of self-consciousness.

Telling her how hot she was seemed like too big a risk; talking only ever led to trouble with them. Instead, he reached out and squeezed her right breast, following up the caress with determined strokes of his thumb across her rapidly hardening nipple.

Of course, Cuddy couldn't just let him grope her and see where things went. No, she had to take charge, and so she pushed him back on the sofa before straddling his good leg. When she leaned in to kiss him on the mouth again, he ducked and nuzzled her neck instead. She had to know winning wasn't going to be that easy.

Both hands continued their devoted massage of her breasts, and House was pleased to note the hitch in her breathing, the low whimpers that would hopefully soon develop into the throaty moans that had filled his fantasies on many a lonely night. He kissed a trail of kisses along her neck, capturing her earlobe playfully between his teeth, before resuming the alternate touches of lips and tongue back down her elegant neck and along her collarbone.

Cuddy's frankly inspired response was to shift carefully until she was straddling his lap. She braced herself with her hands on his shoulders, her nails digging into his skin only serving to make him think how good it would feel when they were raking down his back. When she settled herself on top of his now raging erection, even the two layers of denim between them couldn't disguise the heat and arousal.

He knew he wasn't going to last long with her rocking in his lap like that, and with the sensation of her hands running over his chest, it was quickly pushing him towards the edge. With remarkable restraint, he managed to halt his ministrations to her gorgeous breasts, and the lack of contact got her attention right away.

"We need to move this to somewhere more comfortable. My leg…"

He hated himself for mentioning it: the flash of guilt in her expression almost derailed the whole thing. Thankfully she recovered in an instant, and crawled off him, offering a hand to help him up and lead him to the bedroom.

House followed as quickly as he could, not stopping to retrieve his cane. He captured her in a hug from behind, halting their progress in her bedroom doorway, showering kisses on her neck and shoulders while pulling her back against him. She twisted in his arms to kiss him firmly on the lips, then led him slowly across the room to the bed, unbuttoning her jeans and slipping out of them before leaning back on the mattress.

Inspired by her invitation, House divested himself of his remaining clothes, grateful that she looked away in the moments when he struggled with balance. Soon enough he was lying on the bed beside her, his fingers tracing impatient patterns on her flat stomach. This was probably the moment for discussion, to talk themselves out of this. Rather than chance it, he put his mouth to better use and sought out her nipple with his tongue, leaning over her as she arched up into his touch.

Leaning on his elbow, he let his free hand trail softly across her abdomen, heading slowly but deliberately south until he made contact with the neatly trimmed hair between her legs. The gasp it provoked from her made him grin, and he set about teasing her quite mercilessly.

With feather-light touches, he traced around, dipping his fingers to feel how wet she was for him before reverting to a delicacy that had to be making her crazy. Sure enough, her hand soon took a firm hold on his wrist, causing him to look up at her with his best neutral expression.

"Don't tease me. Please, House."

He moved into kiss her, more overwhelmed by her open declaration of need than he wanted her to see. Cuddy never said please; she just made demands. Rewarding her honesty, he began touching her more deliberately, enjoying her enthusiastic reaction as he parted her folds and sought out her clit. By the time he allowed his fingers to slip inside, she was humming happily as she buried her face in his neck.

House stroked intently, seeking out her G-spot as his thumb rubbed rhythmically against her clit. His erection nudged her thigh, but he was determined to get her off at least once before dealing with his own release. Sooner than he'd thought, she was writhing underneath him, her body seemingly undecided between resisting and continuing the pleasure he was giving her. His name hissed between her teeth just before she came, the yell of climax music to his ears.

He withdrew his fingers cautiously, and saw her watching as he licked them clean with a lascivious grin. Cuddy stroked his arm as she smiled through her afterglow, breathing heavily but still not talking. House shifted and dropped fully to the mattress next to her, giving his tired arms a rest. Cuddy rolled on top of him, pressing lazy kisses along his jaw until she captured his mouth once more.

The anticipation almost killed him as she kissed her way down his body, and when her mouth first made contact with the head of his cock House thought he was going to lose it altogether. Sheer determination, and a mental listing of the bones in the hand kept him from hurtling over the edge too soon, but very quickly all he could think about was the warmth of Cuddy's mouth and the swirling heaven of her tongue.

He was vaguely aware of her moving, he felt her hand take a firm grip on his shaft and in a blissful second she was lowering herself onto him, causing him to cry out in sheer ecstasy.

It was everything he remembered, but a hundred times better, and he thrust into her with an abandon he didn't know he still possessed. The details lost themselves to sensation, the scent of their arousal and the slapping of skin against skin filling the room until Cuddy was leaning forward for a frantic kiss that was all tongue and heavy breathing, and suddenly the world went white as he felt himself coming hard inside her. He smiled a little bit wider as he felt her tensing around him, calling out as she followed him into another climax.

When Cuddy collapsed beside him with a careless giggle, House hugged her to him reflexively. He tilted his head and pressed a soft kiss to her forehead, the gesture causing her to squeeze him a little tighter. A few minutes elapsed before Cuddy broke the silence.

"Well, I wasn't expecting that when you showed up at my door."

They laughed quietly, the surreal nature of the situation not lost on either of them.

"I think plenty of people would say it's about time. Especially all those people who've been gambling their salaries away with Chase the crooked bookmaker."

Cuddy groaned, not wanting to hear tales of illegal activities happening under her nose.

"Still, it's good it happened when it did. If we can work something out, you won't have to go whoring yourself out to every adoption agency in the Tri-State area. Better you keep inviting me into your bed than some whiny brat who'll come crying about nightmares."

She went tense in his arms, the relaxation suddenly sucked out of the room.

"Excuse me? You think because I got laid I'm going to suddenly reverse a huge life decision?"

They both sat up, ready for combat, even in their state of undress.

"Oh come on! You only wanted a baby because you're lonely. I'm not saying we're going to be the new Hepburn and Tracy, but you have to admit we have a shot. We're both so messed up it might actually balance out."

"So you're the answer to my prayers? How do I know you won't tell me to go to hell the next time you have a bad pain day?"

House grimaced at her shrill tones.

"Keep on like this, and you're going to give me one."

That angered her further, and House felt everything positive about the night slide off the bed with her as she sought out her robe, suddenly concerned with modesty. At a loss, he grabbed a pillow to throw in his lap as a counter-measure.

"How dare you? You thought you could come over here and screw me into doing what you wanted? Poor House doesn't like change, so he won't let anyone else try it. Well, fuck you."

She began collecting his clothes from the floor, throwing them at him as he sat on the bed. Some were still in the living room, but she showed no sign of leaving.

"Hey, I thought getting some action might make you more pleasant. Guess the she-devil isn't appeased by sex after all, my bad. Go get your stupid baby, go get six of them for all I care. If that's the only way you can feel good about yourself, then that's your problem."

She turned back to him, eyes blazing.

"Get the hell out of my house. Get your things and go. If you mention this mistake to anyone, I'll deny it. And if you push your luck, I'll fire your ass. You'll come into work tomorrow and we'll start pretending that this never happened."

House searched desperately for a counter-argument, anything to get them back to the happy moment they'd been in just minutes before. Unable to come up with anything, he made his way awkwardly from the bed and clambered into his underwear and jeans. He popped a defiant Vicodin in front of her before starting out in search of his shirt.

By the time he was fully dressed, Cuddy was leaning against the front door, her face completely dispassionate.

"I called you a cab. You can wait on the porch."

House nodded, waited for her to open the door and then made his way out steadily, his cane back in his hand.

He paused in the doorway, uttering her name before she shook her head and cut him off. Out of options, he stepped into the cold night air and heard the final click of the door behind him.

It would be a few minutes before the cab got there, another ten to get home. He didn't know the timescale on forgiveness for this, but he guessed it wouldn't be brief. Sure, Cuddy would forgive him, she always did. He just wished she didn't have to, that for once they could have both gotten it right at the same time.

As the familiar sight of a yellow cab appeared around the corner, House contemplated turning around and banging on the door until she was forced to give him another chance.

Instead, he accepted his lot. He'd blown it again, and maybe it was just never meant to be. Having sex twice in 20 years was hardly an encouraging statistic.

She'd get her unwanted brat, he'd rack up his credit card balance with Cashmere Escorts. They'd be miserable, alone and angry with each other.

People really didn't change, but for once the satisfaction of being right felt more than a little hollow. Without a backwards glance, House started down the path to the waiting taxi. He remembered just a little too late why there was no point in trying.

He wouldn't make that mistake again.