Candy Canes and Mistletoe
A/N: I was in need of some Christmas fluff and I missed my odd little pair. I still hold the lone candle that maybe…. just maybe the winds will blow back in this direction, I'd take it as a very late Christmas present in May maybe? During Sweeps? Ahhh, wishful thinking…. Anyway, enjoy!
Christmas music poured merrily through the overhead speakers as people in both festive wear and scrubs mingled together in celebration of Christmas Eve. The lobby of the hospital had been transformed into a winter wonderland with sparkling garlands and glittery ornaments. Fake cotton snow stacked itself against the glass of the front windows rivaling the recent snow drifts put there by the recent storm a couple of days ago. The place smelled of cinnamon and fir and peppermint creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. It was a nice change, cheerful and happy instead of its usual antiseptic and sterile aroma.
Thirteen poured herself a cup of eggnog and wandered around the perimeter of the annual staff Christmas party. She wasn't normally into Christmas but she felt like participating even if it was just for a little bit. Everyone could use a little bit of Christmas cheer once in a while.
She carefully avoided Foreman and the team because she was so not interested in starting anything back up with him. No, that ship had sunk to the bottom of the ocean right there next to the Titanic, never to be salvaged again. She was done with him; he had made sure of that. She had cared about him once but he had taken her for granted and she couldn't forgive him. So, she was a free agent once again and she wanted to keep her options open. There was a really cute nurse in Pedes with a rocking body, long brown hair and a pretty smile but, since she was on her whole non-self-destructive path, Thirteen figured a little bi-fling was probably not in her best interest at the moment. That option out of the question, she meandered and engaged in idle chitchat with some of the nurses from the clinic and the other doctors she'd known from working this past summer the ER. It was odd that Cameron wasn't there this year. She had been such a staple in the hospital since she'd arrived that it felt a little empty without her. Thirteen looked over to Chase to see how he was doing. He was trying his best to keep jovial among the people who had known about his rather quick separation from his wife. Most were kind and supportive and that was nice.
Time was passing and it was getting late. Thirteen was about to go home when suddenly, she felt his eyes on her. He was here, somewhere. She smiled as she sipped the thick creamy eggnog, spiked with Spiced Rum. It brought a flush to her cheeks as the warmth hit her belly. She knew however that it was really the combination of the alcohol and the knowledge that he was watching her… again. He was always watching her lately. She could usually tell because her skin would tingle as if those baby blues could actually caress the outline of her body like fingers in a lover's touch. Each time he did it, her breath would catch in her chest and her stomach would squeeze in anticipation. Outwardly she showed disdain for it, but secretly she loved it. It reminded her of how he used to look at her in the beginning, how he'd bicker and flirt with her over the dumbest things while he stared at her with those incredibly intense eyes. Looking up, she saw him leaning over the balcony railing casually observing the party he had no intention of attending. His eyes met hers and he gave her an almost imperceptible smile, caught in his stalking. Smiling, she grabbed a candy cane from the sparkling tree and took the elevator up to the second floor.
She met him at the polished wood of the banister. He was in his usually getup, tweed blazer over a wrinkled blue shirt and printed rock tee underneath. His jeans were faded and comfortable and his sneakered feet were crossed at the ankles in a casual pose as he leaned on his elbows just staring out into the festivities below. Somehow he always made that scruffy mess look damn good.
House slid a sidelong glance at her as she approached him and nodded his head once to acknowledge her presence.
"I brought you a candy cane," she told him holding it out for him to take.
He lifted an eyebrow at her. "Are you mocking me?"
Grinning, she twirled the striped confection between her fingers. "Maybe."
He pursed his lips into a frown and grabbed her eggnog instead. "I rather have this."
Chuckling, she let the cup go and unwrapped the candy cane, breaking off a piece and popping it into her mouth as she watched him sip from her cup. "So how come you're even still here? I thought you couldn't stand these little shindigs?"
He frowned at her and looked to the floor below. "I'm supposed to be doing homework."
Thirteen arched a curious eyebrow at him. "And avoiding it like clinic duty, I take it?"
He tipped his head to the side and smiled sheepishly. "My therapist wants me to go to a party and mingle. Says I still need to practice trusting people. Something about human connections… blah, blah, blah…"
"Well, I think the twenty foot distance and the wooden railing kind of make for difficult small talk," she quipped looking out to the crowd of people down below. "You're therapist would not be pleased."
"I'm talking to you," he declared with a hopeful lilt to his voice. "Doesn't that count?"
"Well, since you know me already, I'm thinking, 'no'."
"Technicalities," he shrugged stubbornly.
"You should go downstairs, talk to people," she suggested. "They're really not that bad once you get to know them. They don't bite, you know."
He shook his head and frowned again, ruefully this time. "I'm thinking, 'no'," he echoed her words.
"Why not?" she teased. "You too shy?"
He rolled his eyes and lifted the corner of his mouth into a bashful little smile. He was shy, even more that he was before. He really didn't know how to do the human connection thing. He sucked at it.
Chuckling, Thirteen took her cup back, accidentally grazing his fingers in the process. Their eyes met for a brief second as a spark of something different passed between them. Blaming it on too much eggnog, Thirteen hid her smile and sipped the drink before handing it to him offering him more. He took it from her with a smirk, toasting her before sipping a bit and leaning back over the railing.
Thirteen mirrored his pose and just watched for a bit. It was quiet up here, almost peaceful and she began to understand why he liked to come here. He could observe quietly away from the fray protected by the distance, watching the social interaction without having to partake in it.
After a few moments, Cuddy walked by in a bright red holiday sweater holding her daughter escorted by Lucas. Thirteen watched her from above as the elegant woman greeted and chatted happily introducing her daughter and new beau to everyone. The woman's soft hair shown in a glisten of warm chestnut; she was lovely in the glow of her little family. Feeling a pang of regret for House, Thirteen slid her eyes to the side trying to judge his reaction to the scene before them. His face looked passive, almost lost in thought. She knew what had happened off of this very balcony six months ago. She knew how he had fantasized about their boss as he had plummeted to the depths of his addiction and psychosis. It was sad and heartbreaking and she wondered if he had come to terms with it.
"Does it bother you?" House asked all of a sudden.
Taking her eyes away from Cuddy, Thirteen turned to face him. "Does what bother me?"
"Foreman, being here," he said. "It's been a year since…"
Arching her eyebrow at him, she made a face. He always did that, turned the situation back on her. "It's been a year since Rachel was born," she deflected. "Does that bother you that she's here with him?"
His lips twitched into a thin wry smirk and then he looked at her, pinning her to her spot with his crystal clear blue eyes. "No."
"Why do you care?" she countered, "If it bothers me or not?"
His eyebrows came together in a deep contemplative crease like they did when he was perplexed and subsequently annoyed by it. "Why do you care?"
"I asked you first," she replied obstinately.
"No reason," he shrugged.
Shaking her head, Thirteen laughed. "You're so full of shit. You wouldn't have asked me if it didn't matter to you. You only asked questions when you want real answers."
"And you only avoid answers when there are real answers to be had," he shot back, narrowing his eyes speculatively.
Sighing, she stared at him. His eyes continued to search her and she knew he wouldn't cease until he got what he wanted. "I'm over Foreman. I've moved on," she replied simply. "Your turn."
His eyebrows twitched and he took a step closer to her. "There never was anything between me and Cuddy."
"Wow, I think you just got an A plus on your homework," she said.
He chuckled at her and closed his eyes. "Smart ass."
Looking down, she realized that her hand was on the lapel of his jacket. When did that happen? He was standing so close to her that she could smell the scent of his skin. It was intoxicating. She had always been attracted to him despite his cantankerous ways. And in the beginning it was no secret that he found her attractive, as well. They had kind of circulated around their mutual fascination for each other ever since then, never really crossing that line of respectability for one reason or another. She wondered what was going on now as his eyes turned a deep shade of sapphire. Removing her hand from his chest, she took a step backward but he moved closer, closing her hand under his to keep her fingers where they were.
"What are you doing?" she asked him breathlessly.
"I don't know," he whispered honestly.
Pulling her back away from the railing closer to the wall and away from prying eyes, he brought his hand up from the pocket of his jacket and held it above their heads with a boyish little smirk on his lips.
Looking up, she smiled broadly, feeling like a giddy teenager. "Is that mistletoe?"
"Yup," he said with a self-conscious laugh. His face became serious again as he tucked the sprig of green leaves behind her ear. The white berries tickled the skin of her cheek.
A piano version of 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas' began to play in the background and she smiled self-consciously as his eyes drifted to her lips. She felt her tongue come out of it's own volition to moisten her lips in anticipation of his kiss. God, what was she doing? She wanted him to kiss her so badly. Suddenly, she realized that she'd wanted this for a long time.
Instinctively, she lifted her chin to him and closed her eyes as he slowly closed the distance between them. Touching his lips to hers, his kiss was tentative at first, soft and gentle as if he was afraid she might reject him. His lips were smooth, warm and the soft scruff of his beard scratched against the corner of her mouth, tantalizing her senses. Allaying any of his concerns, she sighed and melted into him accepting his kiss wholeheartedly. Parting her mouth to allow him access to deepen it, his tongue came out to mingle with hers in a slow, sensuous dance. He was smooth and sexy and tasted of eggnog and rum, sweet and strong. It was exciting. A heat coursed through her as he continued to kiss her. She couldn't believe in her wildest dreams she was kissing House but she was thoroughly enjoying every second of it. It was truly amazing and she tingled all over, now that he was actually touching her. He was absolutely electric.
Slowly, his hands came around her waist pulling her closer to him. His fingers splayed against her back holding her with his surprisingly delicate touch. Spurred on by his passion for her, her hands wound their way around to the back of his neck where her fingers touched the soft silvery hair at the base of his head. He deepened the kiss to an urgency that fanned the flames of desire within her. He was seductive, passionate and incredibly male. The more he touched her the more she couldn't get enough of him.
When their lungs burned with the need for air, he broke their connection, leaving her feeling charged and practically begging for more. His hands still held her to him as he rested his forehead against hers regaining his breath. Her own breathing came in heavy drags as she tried to gain control over the incredible desire she was feeling for him. He pulled away from her further severing their connection. Her hands trailed along his arms to his hands, not really willing to let him go just yet. His eyes were dark and heavy. He looked confused and awkwardly torn about what to do next.
Thirteen smiled at him, letting her fingers linger on his for a second to let him know that she was glad he had taken the chance.
Making his decision, his expression changed to his guarded one that he always wore as he retreated back into his protective shell. "Merry Christmas, Thirteen."
"Merry Christmas, House," she said with a smile.
Letting go of her hand, he turned and entered the elevator, leaving her standing there alone on the balcony. Thirteen touched her hand to her lips still feeling the electric current of his touch. Closing her eyes, she laughed to herself, tickled by what had just happened. House had kissed her, thoroughly kissed her senseless. Though they would probably never share another kiss again, it was a rare moment with him that she would treasure always. She saw a glimpse into his humanity. He was human. He was vulnerable and sweet. It was nice.
Leaning over the balcony, she watched him as he came out onto the floor of the lobby. He went immediately over to Cuddy. He shook Lucas's hand and gave Cuddy a kiss on the cheek. The woman looked surprised, indeed, by the casual display of affection but smiled warmly at him in return. Leaving them with some kind of sentiment that Thirteen couldn't discern, he meandered over to the Christmas tree where he picked up a candy cane. Fingering the hook of it contemplatively, he looked up behind him to her. Their eyes met again for another electrified moment before he smiled at her. He had made a connection to her and he seemed pleased by it, almost happy about it. She picked up the cup of eggnog that he had placed on the ledge of the wall beneath the banister and tipped it at him with a smile. She had affected him and that made something in her chest squeeze in excitement. He smiled broadly at her then, and winked before going off to find Wilson.
Thirteen let out a deep breath, smiling at his retreating back.
Maybe not the last kiss… Merry Christmas, indeed.