Title: Cuddy's Wager
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em.
Notes: Written for the michigandreams Livejournal community for House/Cuddy college!fic.
Prompts: House loses a bet resulting in Cuddy getting to shave his head, a drinking game where Cuddy drinks House under the table
"Why don't you call me Lisa? You've cheated off enough of my papers to know my first name."
"I memorized your name the first time I read it. Not my fault it was written in the wrong order."
"What are you... Oh! I know. 'Cuddy, Lisa H.'"
"From my syllabus. Didn't remember me that much, huh?"
"Well, I--Hey, watch it! I'm sort of attached to my ears."
"Then stop squirming, or who knows what I'll lop off?"
It was a win-win situation.
She was young, she was tiny. (Well, not all of her, but compared to his lanky, gangly frame, she was small.) There was no way in hell she could out-drink him. So he'd get to spend time with a beautiful--and drunk--girl and she'd owe him whatever embarrassing or enticing consequence he came up with when he won. And on the teeny, tiny, minuscule, almost non-existent chance he lost?
"I get to shave your head."
She wanted to shave his head. She wanted to shave his hair. His beautiful hair. The hair he'd been growing out since his eighteenth birthday. The hair that drove his father nearly apoplectic with rage--"And don't you dare try setting foot inside this house again until you look less like a fucking hippie!"--the first summer home from college. The hair that, combined with the right motorcycle jacket and sunglasses, could have just about any girl with a thing for bad boys eating out of the palm of his hand. He'd grown very fond of his hair. It'd be a shame to sacrifice it because of a stupid bet.
Well, he wasn't going to lose, so there was no sense worrying about it.
"Doesn't the condemned man get a final request?"
"Depends what it is."
"Well, I was thinking of asking for a quickie on the kitchen counter before--"
"But! I'll settle for you answering a question for me. Honestly and completely."
"OK, then. What to ask? Decisions, decisions..."
"Quit stalling, House. You're only delaying the inevitable."
"But this is such a golden opportunity! Complete and total honesty. I can't rush into something like this."
"Need I remind you I was the one who won our bet? And I hold the clippers, so..."
"All right, all right! ...Why do you want to shave my head?"
"I need a reason?"
"Hell yes, you do. Faced with beating me in a drunken bet, most people would pick something like 'wash my clothes for a month' or 'clean my bathroom with your toothbrush' or 'wear high heels to class for a week.' But you went straight for permanent disfigurement."
"Shaving your head is hardly permanent disfigurement."
"Hey, I'm putting several delicate organs in harm's way, here, without a clue how good you are with hair clippers. Least you could do is explain yourself."
"OK. A deal's a deal... If I told you to wash my clothes or clean my bathroom or anything like that, you'd laugh it off and forget it in a week. I wanted to shave your head because it would mean something to you."
"You think my hair means something to me?"
"What it means is I'm too damn lazy to go out and get a haircut."
"Well, then I'm doing you a favor."
"Do I really seem like the kind of guy who cares what he looks like?"
"In a word? Yes. No one spends more time getting that perfectly disheveled look than you do. It's part of an act, a well-planned persona. The man, the myth, the legend: Greg House. I want to see what happens when someone shoves you outside your comfort zone."
"Fine. Believe it'll mean something if you want. No skin off my nose."
"Keep telling yourself that, sweetheart."
She was right, of course. Damn her. His hair most certainly did mean something to him.
His whole childhood, his father made him get a buzz cut every couple of months or so. He tried everything he could think of to avoid it, got himself into every imaginable kind of trouble, but in the end he always ended up in the barber's chair. Figuratively speaking, at least, because even the time he'd broken his leg--he jumped off of something too high and hit the ground too hard, all on purpose--and was laid up in bed on Buzz Cut Day, his father borrowed hair clippers from somewhere and did the deed right there in his hospital room. There was no escaping Buzz Cut Day in the House household.
Growing his hair long while he was away at school had been the first real act of rebellion against his father the man could do nothing about. So, yeah, of course his hair meant something to him. Damn Lisa Cuddy to hell for noticing.
"That's it. I am never drinking again. And I sure as hell am not making any more bets with you."
"Come on, it's not that bad."
"You wanna give me those clippers so you can see what it's like on this end?"
"Uh, no thanks. Besides, I think it makes you look--"
"Bald. It makes me look bald."
"I was going to say it makes you look... mature. Distinguished."
"You're telling me it makes me look old."
"Damn it, House. You're deliberately misunderstanding me. Fine. Misunderstand this: It brings out your eyes."
She was right, of course. Again. Damn her.
Looking in the mirror, he was surprised he didn't find the same old angry boy staring back at him. That boy--the one who'd hid from his father on Buzz Cut Day, even though he knew it would make it worse in the end, who swore at his reflection through tears and snot and split lips after his head was shorn, who clung to every opportunity to one-up his father like a lifeline--was gone. Sometime during the years he had been growing his scraggly mane, he'd become a man. He'd just been buried so far under his "fucking hippie" camouflage, he hadn't really noticed until now.
There was another strange side effect to Cuddy's wager. Over the next few weeks, whenever they crossed paths, she always found a moment or two to run a hand over the growing stubble on his scalp, like he was her own personal talisman or something.
So, yeah. Maybe having his head shaved wasn't the end of the world anymore after all.