Rating: T.

Disclaimer: They aren't mine, obviously.

One-shot post-ep for Known Unknowns

***

Lucas could feel her annoyance propelling him forward all the way down the hall toward their hotel room. By the time they got there, he thought her shoulders might break from the stiff tension, and when she spun to face him once the door was shut, he flinched at the anger in her eyes.

"What the HELL was that for?"

Lucas looked away, using Rachel as an excuse to avert his eyes. "I'm sorry. Sometimes when you aren't sure what to say, something just comes out."

"Oh, come off it. You weren't just awkward and scrambling socially. You were subtly marking your territory, like a dog, making sure he knew you knew everything. Rubbing his nose in all of it. And then offering him a ginger ale at the end, just a final slap to emphasize avoiding drugs and for the most part alcohol."

Lucas shrugged. "Look, he's the one who brought it up."

"To ME. Asking me a question."

"Which you then lied to him about. We both know how worried you've been about him."

"I did not lie; I just avoided getting into something which SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN DISCUSSED IN PUBLIC." Rachel jumped and whimpered at her tone, and Cuddy soothed her automatically, walking a circle both to jiggle the baby and to work off frustrated energy. "It wasn't your place to enter that conversation at all. And even if he brought it up, you went into way more detail that he did. You made us sound . . . "

"Intimate?" Lucas asked. Cuddy stopped her pace circle and faced him. "Like two people who would discuss something that large with each other? Maybe like two people who are in a meaningful relationship? By my definition, we ARE intimate. Physically and in a lot of other ways."

Cuddy stared at him. "How dare you take advantage of our talks in confidence and use that to step on his hopes."

Lucas shrugged again, and his refusal to get annoyed right back at her just made Cuddy more mad. "Is it fair or kind to let the poor man have hopes if they are empty ones? You're concerned about his mental stability, and I get that, but you've also still not pulled totally back to business or even just good friendship. I've seen you with him – still. You still let him think he has a chance. You enjoy that, Lisa. You're playing not only House but both of us. And face it, you aren't really mad at me for violating his confidentiality. You're mad at yourself for violating it."

Cuddy's voice was rising again. "Believe me, right now I am definitely mad at you. Sitting there and dissecting his history like that, in public. You're supposed to be the reliable, steady one, and in every encounter involving the three of us today, HE'S been the one to act like a grown-up instead of a teenager."

Lucas simply stood, still refusing to get annoyed back. "Lisa, who do you want to be with? We've had three people in our bed for the last few months. I was just trying to push you to a decision that you need to make. You aren't being fair to him - or to me."

Cuddy put down Rachel in the playpen, and her slap landed firmly across his face as she turned. Without another word, she stalked toward the door. "I'll babysit," Lucas called after her. A slam of the door was her response.

Lucas walked over to the playpen, and Rachel gurgled happily and reached for him. "I'm a good baby-sitter," he said softly, with just a bit of the lake of regret visible through his tone. At times the past few months, he had felt exactly like that with Cuddy, simply a temporary stand-in holding the fort, keeping an eye on things, waiting for the true family to return home. No matter what her decision, he thought it was time that she made one – for everybody's sake.

***

Cuddy walked around the hotel grounds, oblivious to the beautiful mountain scenery. How dare Lucas imply that she was still leading House on? Just because she was concerned as a friend, as a boss, just because she thought about him multiple times a day, even when with Lucas, didn't mean that she . . . no. Her mind slammed the door. She wouldn't go there. Like she had told Wilson, she needed someone reliable in her life now, for Rachel's sake. House was not that person and never would be, no matter how her spine tingled when she was near him. Spine tingles must be shoved into the background against the responsibilities of motherhood.

Still, she could not forget his eyes, his stunning blue eyes, as he had seen Lucas and put it together, or across the table earlier today, looking not at him during that excruciatingly painful conversation but at her. The hurt in them, not accusation as there once might have been, just wounded disbelief. And then, as she'd just pointed out to Lucas, he had responded entirely maturely, not escalating a bad situation further, both times.

Maturely. An odd word to apply mentally to House. But yes, today, he had acted maturely. It was Lucas who was being childish and inconsiderate. It certainly was NOT her, no matter what Lucas stated.

Maybe if she kept telling herself that, the image of those wounded eyes would start to fade.

Abruptly, she came to a halt in her agitated laps of the hotel as she recognized the tall figure out on the dock. Silhouetted by the sunset, his tall, lean figure was brought into full relief. The slight lean to the right. The third leg that inadequately filled the gap for the missing muscle. The weary but resigned droop of his shoulders.

Her spine tingled.

Damn.

As if he had felt her gaze from nearly a hundred feet away, he turned to look toward her. She couldn't see his eyes at this distance in the fading light, but her mind immediately filled in the wounded blue, not accusing, not as they once would have been, but simply hurt. He held her attention for a minute, as if he, too, could see her eyes across the distance. He did not approach yet did not turn away, leaving the choice of contact purely up to her.

She sighed and started forward, walking out onto the dock, the wood echoing dully beneath her footsteps. "House, I'm sorry," she said.

"It was true," he replied, turning to stare out at the sunset. The waves lapped gently at the piers.

"He shouldn't have said it like that. Not in public." A muscle high on the side of his face twitched. That wasn't what was truly bothering him – or her – and she knew it. Damn Lucas for spelling it out to her. "And I shouldn't have shared all the details with him. I'm sorry. I should have respected your privacy."

He swung around there to face her, his still-wounded eyes searching hers. "People . . . talk about things together when they're in a relationship. Or should."

She was struck anew on the last two words with how hard he really was trying lately. In general, with everything. He was truly making efforts to change. She tried to salute his honesty by matching it. "We . . . are not in that close of a relationship yet. Not to the point that I should have told him everything. I was wrong there. I violated your confidentiality as a friend when I shouldn't have. I'm sorry."

Was that a flicker of hope that shot through his eyes, lighting up their wounded shadows momentarily before fading again? "Apology accepted," he said softly.

Cuddy smiled at him. "Thank you. I don't deserve it, but thank you."

"You deserve a lot more . . . " His voice trailed off, but she mentally filled in the ending. Than me. He thought she deserved more than himself, even the new and improving version.

Cruel to give him empty hopes, Lucas had said – correctly, damn it. This was the time to explain to him, in a mature, quiet conversation as friends, that she valued his friendship but didn't want to take it to the next level. Time to define the limits. Time to move on.

She moved – but her feet misread the signal and went forward instead of back, and in the next second, her arms were around him, her lips on his, drinking hungrily from the spring she had been thirsting for. A dim voice in the back of her head was shouting that this was wrong, but she ignored it.

He did not. After the initial shock, the momentary response, he pulled away. "Cuddy, this isn't right. You're intimate with someone else."

Her eyes fell. "No, I'm not. I'm trying to be. It isn't working." It was an admission to herself as well as to House.

She looked up again when he didn't respond, and once again, she saw hope warring with hurt in his eyes. "House . . . please tell me. Do you want this?"

"Yes," he said softly, as if afraid to be heard, but she caught it unerringly. "But you can't always get what you want."

She smiled slightly in recognition of the quotation. "But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need."

He smiled back, starting to reach for her, then stopping himself. "But is this what you need?"

Her spine tingled. What she wanted. What she needed. "Yes," she said softly. "You are changing. I can see you trying, in everything. I'd like to . . . try in this. Just don't ever change too much, House."

He tilted his head and grinned at her with the old playfulness. "Not a chance." They came together again, and once again, he was the one to break it after a moment, stepping back. "You need to talk to him. Don't let him keep believing – if there isn't at least a chance."

He was right. And being mature, too. "I know. I will."

***

Lucas leaned on the balcony, watching the two of them, seeing how House's posture straightened, how her regretful shoulders relaxed, how they leaned imperceptibly into each other as they spoke. Seeing the chemistry visible easily from several hundred feet away. Seeing them embrace with all the passion that he had always sensed in her – only not with him. Seeing them silhouetted against the sunset – together.

Rachel made a noise from inside, from her playpen, and Lucas turned away and went in to her. He had always been a good babysitter.