House is avoiding his clinic patients as usual, rummaging in the drawers of the nurses' station for some imaginary lost file when he sees the suits approaching. They might as well have Social Services stamped on their foreheads, though doctors usually develop a sixth sense about those people after a few months of practicing anyway.

The guy has an identikit haircut that looks like he copied it from a store mannequin and a dark gray suit that's just shiny enough to show that it's pretty cheap. He's clutching his briefcase and strutting through the clinic in a way that instantly puts House's teeth on edge; there's only room for one arrogant jerk on this floor. His partner looks the part of the world-weary, cares-too-much sap with frizzy hair and a nervous half-smile that shows how ready she is to be disappointed.

For the most part, House is simply glad he isn't treating any kids and so he won't have to go to the effort of running rings around them.

At first it's simply an opportunity for gossip – another Jerry Stringer storyline unfolding somewhere in the assembled ranks of the hospital's patients. House lingers longer than he had intended to, waiting to see where Cuddy will take them, which department he'll have to scope out for the story.

He doesn't expect to see her leave with the grim-faced bureaucrats, buttoning her jacket as she exits her office. Her expression is far too serious for simply confronting some angry parents.

Limping after her, House is surprised to see her head straight for the exit, the glint of her car keys showing in her hand. Curiosity tugs at him momentarily, but he knows a chance to play unsupervised when it presents itself.

Knowing he'll get the skinny on Cuddy's sudden disappearance soon enough, he flees the clinic and seeks out the sanctuary of his office, pleased that he won't be disturbed for once.

There's no sign of Cuddy when he sneaks out a couple of hours later, and being able to leave early puts him in a much better mood. Not that it really matters when he has an evening of porn and beer to look forward to, but he has always firmly believed in taking the perks where he finds them.

When he rolls in the next morning, just after ten, he has one eye on the clinic: waiting for Cuddy to come barrelling through those glass doors and admonish him for lateness yet again. He makes it to the elevator unscathed and isn't paged by her once the whole morning. By lunchtime he almost feels something that might be mistaken for worry.

Scavenging from Wilson's overfilled cafeteria tray, House picks aimlessly at his friend's fries as he scans the cafeteria for their boss. Not that he cares where she is of course, it's simply a matter of self-preservation. Always better to know the location of the she-devil in order to avoid her.

One of the simpering pediatric nurses stops by their table to flirt with Wilson, shooting the usual glare at House. It doesn't take long for their inane chatter to turn to Cuddy and how she hasn't shown up for work that morning. The nurses are frantically trying to cobble together a story, but nobody seems to know much beyond rumors too outlandish even for House to have started.

House clears his throat in apparent disgust and stands to leave, earning a warning look from Wilson. It's already obvious where House is going, but Wilson knows better than to fuel the insanity by mentioning it in front of an outsider.

The journey to Cuddy's house isn't long and the roads are relatively clear in the mid-afternoon chill. There are no signs of life and her car is nowhere to be seen. Unwilling to knock on the door yet, he opts for trampling through her flowerbeds for a sneak peek.

House peers into the window of the once cheerful yellow bedroom, the shadowy piles of boxes and partly disassembled furniture depressing enough to tug on even his ossified heartstrings.

They'd come to take Rachel.

It has to be the grandparents, of course. Cuddy couldn't possibly be an unfit mother, not with the army of babysitters and thousands of dollars she's already spent on baby crap.

House had seen the adoption papers on Cuddy's desk last week. Clearly, they had been some kind of catalyst for the super-responsible morons who had let their own daughter get secretly pregnant and dead. Lucky Rachel, going to such qualified child-rearing experts.

The enormity of the situation dawns on him slowly, as he realizes this is going to be a hundred times worse than Joy (which he still thinks is a stupid name). Then, Cuddy had been grieving the idea of motherhood; now she has actual memories to torture herself with.

This is the kind of time he usually lets Wilson step in. And there's the added irritation of Lucas who is no doubt stocking up on flowers and candy so he can sympathize at her as though she'd sprained an ankle.

House almost enjoys the fact that the boy wonder has no idea what's about to hit him. Cuddy in pain is a fearsome and deadly scenario. Much like a wounded jungle predator she lashes out wildly but decisively. While he appreciates the added frisson it brings to their exchanges, poor little Scrappy Doo has far too soft an underbelly for such a dangerous environment.

As though House's thoughts of the private investigator have somehow conjured the younger man out of thin air, he appears then from the front door. Lucas has rage in his eyes, and for a moment House thinks he's about to be on the receiving end of some home-defending vigilante action. After all, what excuse does he have for standing in the flowers outside Cuddy's house?

Lucas stares at him for an uncomfortably long time, like House is some kind of old school buddy he can't quite remember. Then, with a shrug, he bounds down the front steps and heads along the street to a beat-up Dodge that he presumably owns.

House smiles at the thought that Cuddy probably makes him park it there so that the neighbours won't frown about her at the Neighbourhood Watch meetings. They probably have enough to say about him showing up on his bike in the middle of the night.

At a loss for what to do now, House retreats to his bike, dallying for longer than necessary before revving the engine. Without another look at Lucas, or Cuddy's overly quiet house, he speeds off in search of the nearest bar.

Hours later, after a fortifying drink or three and a terrifying, lurching ride in the rain that makes him vow (again) that this is the last time he'll risk driving drunk, House is back at her door.

Dutch courage in abundance, he knocks loudly and swipes the spare key instead of waiting to be ignored.

Finding the place in darkness startles him, his senses dulled by Maker's Mark and the lateness of the hour. Still no car in the driveway though, and for a moment House wonders if Cuddy has skipped town, hiding out in one of those anonymous New England hotels she seems to like so much when she's stressed. God knows, he's sent her on trips to half of the Hilton chain just by being himself.

Then he sees the sliver of light under the bedroom door, hears a quiet cough that confirms her presence. He hesitates, his sneakers squeaking against the dark hardwood floors as he stands outside her bedroom. This doesn't feel right, but House can't compel himself to move away.

Still with some reluctance, he uses his cane to push the door open. There's no theatrical creaking noise, just the soft swoosh of wood across plush carpeting. Cuddy's sitting up in bed when he enters, but there's not a hint of surprise when she finally lays eyes on him.

The silence is the definition of awkward. He has no idea what to say, and she's in no mood to facilitate discussion. Eventually, she shows some mercy.

"What are you doing here, House? Heard I lost another kid, thought you might get laid this time? Well, you are shit out of luck."

The blow lands, but he's been on the receiving end of much worse from her. He edges towards the bed, ready to halt at any moment on her command.

House takes in the details as best he can in the dull light – her eyes are dry but the redness suggests her last tears were not so long ago. Tissues piled up on top of the sheets seem to confirm that. Her tiny frame is drowning in an oversized Michigan sweatshirt, and he assumes there's something equally un-Cuddy-like on the legs that are hidden beneath the covers.

Her hair is in a state that it's kinder not to mention, so he doesn't let his eyes linger. Cuddy is a mess, but what the hell else did he expect right now?

"God, House. You smell like a brewery."

Some of the malice has left her tone, and he wonders for a second if she's pleased to see him.

"Well I had to get liquored up in case your boyfriend tried to throw me out. Never fight sober, my old man used to say."

It's the opposite of what his father would have told him, had they ever discussed anything beyond the banalities of existing in the same building, but it suits his purposes for now.

The way Cuddy winces doesn't escape him, though.

"I broke up with Lucas."

House nods as though he expected as much, although Lucas showed no obvious signs when their paths crossed earlier in the day. Cuddy won't meet House's eyes, and he assumes it's because she expects crowing or a round of 'I told you so'. While he might be thinking it, even House doesn't stoop to saying it now. It'll keep for a few days, until she's back at work and harassing the living daylights out of him.

"You're getting predictable in your old age, Cuddy. Get your heart broken so lash out at any fool stupid enough to try and help you through it? The poor kid. How much did he beg you to change your mind? And did you tape the groveling? "

She throws a small pillow at him, but it's half-hearted and he takes it as a cue to sit down on the bed before his thigh gets really mad at him.

"I don't want to talk about that. I don't want to talk about any of it."

He shrugs, since he has no idea of where to start anyway. Reaching inside his jacket, he retrieves the nearly empty bottle from its pocket. Maker's Mark goes down easy, but when he takes his first hit from the bottle, he's greeted with Cuddy's expectant hand reaching for it.

"Weren't you ever taught to share? I think I need that more than you right now."

With some reluctance he passes her the bottle, watching as the pads of her fingertips flatten against the glass, the arching sweep of her wrist as she raises it towards her waiting lips.

When she downs most of the remaining liquid without so much as a sputter, House remembers why he liked her in the first place. Despite her dictatorial tendencies, Cuddy has always been a class act.

She hands him back his empty bottle, suppressing a ladylike little burp as though it matters in his company. Cuddy has accused him of being many things over the years, but a gentleman isn't one of them.

"So when does your reign of terror resume, Dr. Cuddy? Or should we just check the sky each morning for your flying monkeys?"

The question seems to deflate what little spirit she has left, and House almost feels like taking her by the shoulders and giving her a shake to make sure she's still in there.

"I don't know. Tomorrow; next week? Whenever the thought of getting up and getting dressed doesn't make me want to vomit, I suppose."

House pushes himself up off the mattress at that, leaning a little desperately on his cane.

"You shouldn't be driving in this condition."

He snorts at her interference.

"I've driven in worse conditions than this, Cuddy. I got here alive, didn't I?"

There's a wave of dismissal, there'll be no debating with her tonight.

"Call a cab. Or crash in the spare room. Entirely up to you."

As she suggests the proximity of an available bed, he feels the crushing wave of tiredness finally wash over him. Here's poor, affluent Cuddy in her house with too many bedrooms, but no baby in the nursery. With a muttered 'goodnight' he slinks off into the adjacent bedroom without protest.

Stripping down to his t-shirt and boxers, he thinks he hears her crying resume, muffled but forceful sobs echoing through the wall. But contact with the pillow is enough to send him into a drunken sleep, and so he thinks no more about it.

Morning arrives with a loud scraping noise and a sudden, blinding light. As his eyes blearily adjust, he discovers Cuddy looming over him, her now manageable hair pinned back and surrounded with a halo of daylight.

"Rise and shine, House. I need to get out of this place, so you're leaving too."

He takes in her casual clothes, the impossibly tight jeans and the red sweater that draws all attention to those fabulous breasts. Seems she's helping out with his habitual morning 'rise' whether she intends to or not.

"If you're slacking off today, I'm not going to work either. Don't see why you should have all the fun."

Cuddy puffs out a sharp breath of frustration. House assumes she has woken up with some miracle cure for forgetting daughters snatched away, and in typical Cuddy fashion is raring to get on with it.

"You can at least let me shower. And if you need something to occupy yourself, make me some breakfast."

She groans at the inevitability of him sticking around, but instead of dragging him from the spare bed, she disappears into the hallway and returns with fluffy white towels.

"You can go into work when you're done, House. I have things to do."

They both know that even as she says it, the very possibility of him obeying has gone from remote to non-existent. Without further argument, they begin this unfamiliar morning routine.

A little while later, when they're sipping coffee in her spotless kitchen, House searches her face for a clue as to how she's feeling. Some of the professional mask is slipping back into place and she can deflect his curiosity pretty well when she feels like it.

Cuddy avoids his eyes, staring down at the breakfast bar as though the meaning of life is somehow spelled out in its marble patterns.

When they do speak again, it takes mere seconds for it to dissolve into argument. She tries half-heartedly to send him to work, and he refuses with a little more venom than he's used in the past day.

"Why are you in such a hurry to go out?"

She tenses at the question, staring him down in the middle of her kitchen.

"I want to go out because my nanny is coming over to take all of the baby stuff away. I don't want to be here for that, okay?"

Every so often, other people's pain can permeate the selfish haze of House's own. For a moment there's no buzzing of angered muscle from his thigh, no lingering drumbeats of the hangover he woke up with. There's only Cuddy, radiating hurt at almost nuclear levels, because somebody ripped her world apart.

"Okay. I'm, you know, I'm sorry about this stuff."

That makes her laugh, but it's dry and humorless.

"You're not sorry. You wanted Rachel gone from the minute I told you in the hospital that I would be fostering her. This way you get me all to yourself. All the better to make my life a living hell."

House flounders for a denial, for a more convincing apology, but words are failing him in a way they usually don't. He's relieved when Cuddy takes a deep breath and waves away his fumbling attempts at a response.

"Never mind. You're a pain in my ass, but this isn't your fault."

House sees his chance to restore the equilibrium and grabs it with both hands.

"And may I say what a particularly giant ass it is?"

The truce is brokered, the odd calm of the morning restored. They prepare to leave, Cuddy leaving dishes carelessly in the sink. House doesn't risk commenting in case he's made to wash them.

Stepping out into the gray morning, House lingers as long as he can on the front stoop. Cuddy is fussing with something in the hallway, but she finally emerges and locks the door behind her with a sad kind of finality. He wonders if she'll hurry her decision to move now, to escape these memories? Or if she'll withdraw behind the walls of her fortress, locking children and boyfriends out for good?

Before she can say goodbye, before she can walk over to the garage and end this weird spell of companionship, House is seized with the urge to stop that from happening.

"Wanna come for a ride? And I promise, that was meant to be exactly as dirty as it sounded. I'll even let you have my helmet. Again: dirty."

Pure suspicion is in evidence on Cuddy's face, the same look he sees whenever she catches one of his clinic patients leaving without cursing.

"Can I drive?"

That shocks him, quite frankly. He'd been expecting a polite refusal and another reminder that he should really go to work.

"Have you ever driven one before?"

She cocks an eyebrow at him, the kind of knowing look that does peculiar things to his brain chemistry. Of course Cuddy can ride a motorcycle. The woman is still surprising after 20 years, and it's getting to be almost unfair.

With a mocking bow, he hands her the helmet and keys. With the first real smile since last night (albeit only the ghost of one) Cuddy leads the way to his beloved machine. House tries not to feel nervous, but he keeps flashing on images of scraped up paintwork and detached exhaust pipes.

Cuddy takes forever to get going of course. She insists on checking the bike thoroughly before consenting to get on. House sits on the rear part of the seat, acting bored until she finally swings a leg over and wriggles down in front of him. If he hadn't relieved a little pressure in the shower already, he'd be in serious danger of embarrassment from that move alone.

She's too small for him to get a comfortable grip around, so he leans into her back and lets his arms slip around her until his fingers make contact with the convenient grooves under the seat. At least this way he doesn't have to worry about hitting asphalt face-first in the middle of Princeton.

"We're not going far, House. It's not safe if you don't have a helmet."

"So swing by my place first, and we'll get the spare."

That seems to meet with her approval, and he wonders how much it's just about getting out of there as quickly as possible.

She's a little unsteady at first, the heft of the bike seems to overwhelm her for a few life-flashing-before-his-eyes seconds, but by the time they turn off of her road he feels secure in her ability to handle it.

Cuddy makes it to his apartment without incident, and she leaves the engine idling as she nods for him to go and get the other helmet. House grumbles about the cripple having to do his own fetching, but he takes his time once inside, choking down a large glass of water before changing his t-shirt and digging the other, dusty crash helmet from the hall closet.

She doesn't look too impatient when he emerges back into daylight, there's some relaxation about her now that she's escaped the confines of her own home. House takes a second before she looks around and sees him to appreciate the sight of her in front of him. The jeans still show off her legs, all the more impressive as they lean against the now quiet motorcycle. The sweater and its hidden delights are blocked by the leather jacket she threw on top of it, but she's still quite a treat for his eyes.

It strikes him, oddly, that they probably look like a couple heading out for a day trip, dressed in complementary denim and leather like this.

What House definitely doesn't dwell on is that he kind of likes that thought.

Seeing him outside of the apartment at last, Cuddy guns the engine back to life and waits for him to join her.

"You know, Cuddy, this is kind of emasculating."

"Tough. You offered."

House has to concede that particular point, so he tells her she can drive anywhere she wants for half an hour, but then he's reclaiming his handlebars. As they take off into the now quieter traffic, House still isn't sure if she agreed or not.

Forty-five minutes later they pull into the parking lot of some nature… place that House isn't familiar with. As soon as she brakes fully, House slips off the back and stretches his legs carefully. Seeing a picnic bench just to the left, he hobbles over to it and lays his afflicted leg out fully on the bench as he sits. The bike really isn't so easy to cope with in these Vicodin-free days.

Cuddy doesn't get off though, and when she revs up again, House is suddenly struck with the fear that she's leaving him there to be eaten by a bear. Not that there are bears in New Jersey, probably, but it troubles him nonetheless.

Instead, she's driving in circles around the loose gravel, when he sees her face on the first swing past she looks distracted and strangely content. If it stops her blubbing all over him about departed infants, then House doesn't mind how much of his gas she uses up in the process.

He relaxes under the weak sun, feeling the last of the wind chill seeping out of his bones. As House tilts his head back and lets his eyes slip closed he hears the crunch and skid that he's been dreading all this time.

As quickly as he can, limping heavily without the cane that's still strapped to the motorcycle, House makes his way to where Cuddy has fallen. At least she's been thrown clear and isn't trapped under it, he reasons with himself as he reaches her.

She sits up suddenly, without warning, and begins to laugh. It's not her usual laugh, not the throaty and full-bodied noise he used to take pride in drawing out of her. It's cold, empty and it makes him feel like he's intruding, standing next to her on the scattered gravel.

The unsettling laugh finally gives way to tears. Although he'd rather get the hell away from that and go check on his bike, he does what he hopes is the right thing and eases his way down onto the ground beside her. House isn't sure whether to take her hand, pull her into a hug or just sit there and watch.

As she has so many times before, Cuddy makes the decision for him, leaning instinctively into his chest and gripping his t-shirt. The sobs wracking her body vibrate through his own torso and House finally remembers the importance of keeping his mouth shut.

It only takes a few minutes, in which she soaks his t-shirt quite thoroughly and almost tears it at the collar, but before cramp can set into his complaining muscles, the pace of the hysterics seems to lessen.

He's forgotten what it's like to see someone he cared about in pain, it's been a number of years since he became an expert in blocking it out. Sure, some random moments have pierced the defences over the years: Wilson, after Amber; his mother after the funeral; Stacy, on any one of the occasions he'd broken her heart.

There is a reason he insulates himself from crap like this, because it's pretty damn frustrating to know that for once he can't be the brilliant genius who makes it all better in an instant. What's the point in always being the hero if it was all wasted on strangers and morons?

When Cuddy pulls away from him, his first and only reaction is to complete the hugging process and pull her in again. He's relieved when she doesn't fight it.

It ends eventually, the twinges in his thigh drowning out even the best of intentions.

They clamber awkwardly to their feet, Cuddy taking her time so that he can use her for support without having to ask. These are the little gestures that he always forgets to appreciate from her.

"Come on Sylvia Plath, let's get your depressed and bruised ass back to civilization."

She smacks him on the arm, without too much of her normal, deceptive, force and House knows that he didn't cross the line.

There's no argument about him driving back, though she delays for a minute, wiping at the scrapes on her hands with tissues retrieved from the tiny purse that's slung across her body.

Damage to the bike is minimal, House is relieved to note as he pulls it upright with little effort. For once, all the upper body reps he does out of boredom when he can't sleep have come in handy.

It feels alarmingly pleasant when Cuddy wraps her arms around his waist and leans against his back. He doesn't ask where they're going, even though a couple of hours have passed, he's quietly confident that she doesn't want to go home yet.

He must be right, because there's no word of complaint when they pull up at the apartment building, to the home that Cuddy doesn't yet know he and Wilson are about to abandon for the loft she wanted.

Once they're inside, Cuddy heads straight for the bathroom without needing to ask where it is. He wonders how often she came here, when Wilson retreated after Amber; while House was away in Mayfield.

House raids the fridge for Wilson's meticulously prepared snacks and dumps a couple of Tupperware boxes on the coffee table. He isn't particularly hungry, but he figures Cuddy will like this healthy crap at least.

She returns to the living room with Wilson's oversized First Aid box and freshly washed hands. House intercepts her at the sofa, and begins rooting in the green plastic case for antiseptic wipes and adhesive bandages.

Surveying the damage, he notes that her jeans have borne the brunt of the impact. Starting with the safer ground of her already clean hands, House treats her with a delicacy he'd never waste on any of his patients. This seems to amuse her, and he catches her looking at him with the early stages of a smirk forming on her lips.

"I could do this myself you know. There's an MD after my name too."

"Yeah, but we call bookworms with PhDs in Applied Coffee-Drinking doctors too, don't we? Surely you're not actually qualified to practice medicine? Least of all on yourself."

Cuddy accepts the teasing with relatively good grace; she doesn't even roll her eyes too much.

House continues his mission of disinfecting wounds, pushing her jeans up as far as he can to deal with the minimal damage to her shins. She hisses a little when he dwells over the only deep cut, but otherwise it's a silent ritual.

Which just leaves the big patch of ripped denim and very angry skin on the side of her thigh.

"Okay Cuddy, I say this as a medical professional, but it's time to drop your pants."

She flushes slightly at the thought, edging away from him on the couch.

"I, uh, I'll go do it myself in the bathroom."

House shakes his head sadly.

"How can I, as your attending, abandon you at such a critical stage of your treatment? Let me finish what I started, I want to make sure there's no gravel wedged anywhere it shouldn't be."

It's taking all of his restraint not to make any of this seem suggestive. Taking advantage has never been his style.

He can see the arguments against flicker and die on Cuddy's lips, but she seems too tired for the debate.

"Fine, but not here. I don't want Wilson to come home and think I'm rolling out a new employee incentive scheme."

House smiles at the thought of Wilson's extreme mortification if he walked in on Cuddy half-dressed in their apartment. He'd really have to set that up as a prank sometime.

"Choose your operating theater, ma'am. As your humble doctor, I will follow."

He almost faints when she gets up and marches straight towards his bedroom. Maybe she doesn't know at first, but it would only take a second after opening the door to confirm – the guitars and infectious disease textbooks are always a giveaway.

Cuddy stands beside his bed, seemingly at perfect ease with the change of venue. Which is roughly when it occurs to him that she's doing this to throw him off-balance. It's certainly working.

Making a comical exaggeration of averting his eyes, House listens to the soft sound of denim sliding across skin. There's a sharp inhalation as she presumably angers the injury on her thigh, but with a polite cough she signals that he can turn around.

If it weren't for the fact that he really, really likes what he sees, House would have wished that he hadn't. There's Cuddy, in a sweater just long enough to preserve some modesty: bare-legged and expectant in his bedroom. Panic messages are being sent to his groin because this is absolutely not the time to be responding.

Attempting to focus on the task at hand, House retrieves fresh antiseptic wipes and another, larger dressing for the very scratched and reddened skin. It almost angers him, such a blemish on one of his very favorite places.

There's really no reason for him to sink to his knees, but he does it anyway. Cuddy's hands tangle in the hem of her sweater, trying in vain to pull it closer to her knees. At least it's making her a little edgy now too.

He's finishing up, the sticky edges of the dressing have been pressed down under his fingertips, when he feels her hand on the top of his head. At first, he assumes she's telling him to stop, but her fingers are in motion across his close-cropped hair, and it's definitely starting to feel a lot more like a caress.

Swallowing nervously, House dares to look up. He sees what he can only describe as sheer naughtiness in her eyes. From the second their eyes meet, he knows where this is going.

Which is why he summons every last scrap of restraint, and when hegets to his feet, he steps away from her.

"House…"

Her voice is barely above a whisper and that tone is a dangerous one that he's heard before: most recently in his all too vivid hallucination.

"Cuddy, I know what you're thinking. And believe me, I'm thinking it too. But for the first time in all the time we've known each other, I'm going to be the responsible one. You're going to put your pants on and go home."

She smiles at him, but it's far more predatory than he knows how to deal with. Cuddy has a new plan now.

"Trust me, House, being responsible sucks. I keep trying to be responsible, and look where that got me."

"That's where you went wrong!"

He doesn't mean to snap, but House isn't entirely in control of all his faculties at the moment. Not in the face of Cuddy and her naked legs and inappropriate looks.

"The last thing you need is more responsibility. You already have more than any sane person could want. What you need is to have some fun."

Which is exactly the opposite of the correct way to make his point, and he knows that he's fucked it up from the second the words depart his lips. If she makes her move now, he isn't going to tell her no again; the last thing he actually wants to say is no.

"I really do need to have some fun. Maybe I'll stop crashing bikes and crying on the ground if someone reminds me exactly how it is that a person has fun?"

Danger, Will Fucking Robinson. Danger walking right towards him and there just isn't enough space between them to buy him time to think. Cuddy's right in front of him, and her hands are sliding across his chest, and what else can he do but kiss her?

There's nothing considerate or tentative in how their mouths meet, this isn't the confused sympathy after Joy or the playful teasing that he imagined after a fake night of detox. It's raw, unadulterated need and he's responding far too quickly with no idea of how to stop it.

"Cuddy, wait."

They're barely words, uttered in the brief gasps when they break for air. Cuddy has him backed up against the door and damned if he doesn't like her this aggressive. The lower half of his body is already in full rebellion and chances of not giving in to this have all but evaporated.

"Wait for what, House?"

He doesn't have an answer to that. He freezes there, trapped between Cuddy and the door.

"House?"

"Yes?"

"Quit being such a wuss. Step up, be a man, and screw me senseless. To put it another way: be a friend and make me feel better. Unless you don't think you can…"

Well, that was provocation if ever he heard it, and it would just be shameful to back down from a challenge to his very manhood.

So he takes her hips in his hands and pulls her close. The little gasp as she feels his erection pressing against her only pushes his arousal up yet another notch. When Cuddy loops her arms around his neck he's no longer paying attention to the faint scent of antiseptic or the boyfriend he saw leaving her home only yesterday.

House is getting what he wants and turning that down would just be stupid.

He wants to pick her up and carry her the short distance to the bed, but he's learned the limitations of his leg by now. Instead they move in a shuffling sort of quickstep, his shirt pulled roughly over his head and as soon as he resumes kissing her, Cuddy's hands are tugging at his belt buckle.

"Fuck!"

Cuddy is as direct about sex as she is about everything else, but it's still a pleasant surprise when her hand cups him through his now exposed boxers. He steps out of the jeans now pooled around his ankles and finally divests Cuddy of the sweater he's been dying to see her out of since she first appeared wearing it.

The sight doesn't disappoint, even with 20 years between viewings. Cuddy in her underwear takes his breath away, and before she can revel too much in his stunned silence, he recovers enough to resume his earnest trail of kisses down her neck and along her collarbone. It's all he can do not to rip the plain black bra from her body, but he musters enough self-control to begin his war with the clasp.

The universe really wants this to happen, since he succeeds on the first attempt. With something approaching reverence, he eases the straps down her arms and is rewarded with seeing her topless at last.

She retreats momentarily, but only as far as the bed, where she assumes a kneeling position on the mattress and pulls him towards her with a sharp tug at the waistband of his boxers. Cuddy can do whatever she wants with him at this stage, and she seems to be enjoying that knowledge, if the deep breaths and excited way that she licks her lips are any indication.

House leans down for another kiss, addicted to the way she tastes, to the sensual battle of her tongue against his. His hands are drawn automatically to her breasts, stroking lightly with his thumbs as he luxuriates at the gentle weight of them in his cupped palms.

If she wants someone to fuck her troubles away, then damn, he's the man for the job.

Not that Cuddy is in any way a passive observer in this experience. Her hands slide his boxers down and celebrate with a playful squeeze of his ass.

"Ready for me, House?"

It's a whisper in his ear before she nips at his earlobe, and it's somehow the sexiest part of it all so far.

Well, right up until Cuddy dips her head and takes his cock in her mouth.

"Oh, God."

If she was good in Michigan, Cuddy has only improved with age. House feels his knees begin to buckle, mostly because he's been ignoring the warning signs from his right leg since Cuddy had him pinned against the door.

Placing a hand on her shoulder, House brings a halt to the amazing swirling sensation of Cuddy's tongue along his shaft, and when he finally drops free from her mouth there's a genuine sense of loss.

As soon as he tumbles onto the bed, Cuddy is on top of him, seemingly insatiable. Unwilling to let her do all the work, House grasps her wrists firmly and rolls his gorgeous boss onto her back. Supporting his own weight on his knees and elbows, he's able to take up a comfortable enough position above her.

Wasting no time, he seeks out her nipples, already tight and erect. Cuddy is as vocal in bed as she is everywhere else, and his efforts are greeted with a quiet but steady stream of soft moans with the occasional 'oh' or 'House' thrown in for good measure.

He alternates the teasing strokes of his tongue with sucking firmly and when Cuddy digs her fingernails into the flesh of his back, he raises his game a little and grazes his teeth across each of the sensitive buds in turn.

From the torrent of excited curses that spill out, House can only assume she likes it.

Their breathing is heavier now, and when he chances to let his right hand wander down across her perfectly flat stomach and lower again, he finds that she's every bit as turned on as he is.

In fact, she's so wet that she's already soaked through the flimsy scrap of black material masquerading as panties. With some reluctance, House leans away from her breasts and rocks back onto his shins to remove her one remaining piece of clothing.

Cuddy looks amazing like this, the pink flush across her neck and chest only serves to accentuate her now glistening nipples and the way she's biting down on her bottom lip. Making her wait is clearly not an option.

Without ceremony, House takes the flimsy waistband of her thong between his fingers and renders it useless by tearing twice in quick succession. As he pulls the remaining strands away from her body, he makes sure to let his fingertips drag over her wet and swollen pussy lips. The way she arches into his touch only makes him more determined to have her.

He throws the wrecked panties in the direction of the pillows and when Cuddy shoots him a questioning look, he simply answers:

"For my collection."

Not that she cares. All Cuddy cares about right now is where he's going to touch her next; and that he does it now.

He leans over her once more, stealing a brief but fierce kiss, before continuing to retrieve that all-important piece of latex from the bedside table. Of course, when Cuddy sees what he has, she snatches it from his hand and tears the foil with her teeth.

House falls over onto his left side as Cuddy rolls to face him. Wasting no time, she places the condom on the head of his cock and unrolls it deftly along his shaft, adding a few extra strokes for good measure.

They've been trading control since the moment this all started, and honestly, House still isn't sure how it's going to play out.

It seems Cuddy has a plan in mind, because she has him on his back before he realizes what's happening. She grinds against his uninjured thigh for a moment, and it's deliciously dirty to feel her that wet, all for him. It's over in a few seconds though, and then she's straddling his hips and House knows they're entering the final stretch.

No amount of knowing that can prepare him for the mind-blowing moment when Cuddy takes his cock and guides it inside her, inch by tantalizing inch until he's immersed in her, the gentle rolling of her hips enough to drive him insane.

She stretches her arms upwards as her inner muscles flex around his shaft and House is seriously concerned about how much longer he can control himself. He's mesmerized as her hands drift back down, massaging her own breasts as she begins to move slowly up and down.

As though following some silent instruction, House moves his hands to her hips and takes a firm hold of them. Now he can control the pace more, get some leverage to angle and put some force behind each thrust.

Cuddy eyes him with approval.

"You like watching me touch myself, House?"

He can only grunt appreciatively as a reply, words are long since beyond him. It's enough, as she tilts her head back, showing off the elegant lines of her neck. She's rolling her nipples between her fingers and as he builds a rhythm to fucking her, the little gasps and moans are increasing in both frequency and volume.

Fuck, she's hot. No wonder he's been fantasizing about her for all this time, and the reality most certainly does not disappoint.

One of her hands moves south, in search of her clit presumably, but that's one base that House definitely has covered. He pushes her hand aside and uses his own thumb to begin a rhythmic stroking of her clit. They're both close now, he can feel it.

Cuddy bends forward, placing her hands on his chest as he continues to grind their bodies together, the friction between them building deliciously until she comes hard with a breathy scream. With a cry of excitement and relief he hurtles over the edge right after her.

The world is bright and deafening for a while, until the senses fade back in and he's sore, spent and cradling Cuddy's warm body against his naked chest. For once, genuinely, House wouldn't have it any other way.

Formalities dispensed with (condom, wrapped in tissue, thrown in the trash can for a clear three-pointer) House lets Cuddy snuggle into his left side and pulls the sheets over them with a little difficulty. He can't quite believe she's in his bed, and he's terrified that anything he says now will scare her away.

So he concentrates on his breathing and waits for her to speak. Eventually, she does.

"Thank you."

There's no need to thank him, and she knows that.

House plants a soft kiss on the top of her head.

"It's going to be okay, Cuddy."

At first he thinks she's crying, but then discovers that she's trying to suppress a laugh.

"Don't… comfort me. It's sort of creepy."

With his face still buried in her hair, House laughs right along with her. She has a point, after all. It just doesn't sound right coming from him.

"Oh, Cuddy?"

Her giggles subside.

"Is there any chance you could be half-naked in the living room when Wilson gets home? I owe him a decent scare."

She groans and drapes her arm across his middle. They both know that before too long real life is going to come rushing at them and blow this insane afternoon apart.

But it hasn't happened yet.