Their relationship is something like a jigsaw, kicked apart by impatient feet before the final pieces can be placed in the center. Every time they gather it all up again, the picture they're trying to replicate has changed. Still they sit down together, grumbling about blame and fault and the wounds sustained, but always trying to put everything in its proper place.

Longevity has never given them consistency; they merely drift in and out of each other's lives according to the tides of distraction and curiosity that have sustained them for twenty years or more.

Lately, they've retreated to their own separate puzzles, competing in sulking silence across the imaginary table. While Cuddy seeks out the edge pieces and blue sky first, methodical in her attempts to be a mother, a girlfriend, the fuller person that she was promised by everyone from her mother to Cosmo, House simply picks at disparate fragments and tries to force an image from them.

Neither succeeds, of course. Not willing to concede defeat, not comfortable with showing the slightest weakness, they persist with therapy and commitment and all those things that were supposed to make them better, supposed to make them normal.

When the inevitable comes, when the pieces are scattered in the wind and neither one can remember what they were trying to build in the first place, that's when they find each other.

They fit perfectly, despite the twenty years of separation. In the heat of battle, a screaming match about his irresponsibility versus her inconsistency, they end the war not with recriminations but with a kiss so passionate that even Cuddy's healthy legs threaten to give out.

It's not slow, nor tender. Instead their movements are haphazard in the attempts to ifeel/i it all at once. Terrified that they'll be stopped, that they'll stop themselves, they tumble to the long, comfortable sofa that dominates Cuddy's office.

She pauses, places the photos face down and smothers her guilt even as House's hands are under her shirt, massaging her breasts through her bra. He whispers something that she can barely hear above their already ragged breathing, but his eyes repeat the apology she's been waiting for so clearly that all doubt is erased.

Not that she forgives him, but damned if she can't forget, just for a little while.

The blinds already drawn against the darkness of the clinic, Cuddy allows House's hands to undress her, disconnected for a moment from the surreal nature of this moment. How can he still be the same boyish athlete who didn't call her in Michigan as well as the cantakerous ass who's cost her more than she likes to count in bruised knuckles and empty wine bottles?

When she looks at him, devoted to the cause of her imminent nudity, she thinks it might well be love that she feels. Which makes this another shift, another jump in the mess of everything that's happened between them.

Engaging once more, Cuddy divests him of his jacket and t-shirt with ease, not so out of practice these days. She dismisses that lingering thought of Lucas, already nursing a broken heart that prompts him to leave her three pitiful voicemails a day.

Here, now, with House she doesn't have to muster her enthusiasm. There's no need to conjure thoughts of Ralph Fiennes in the desert to get her fully involved. She was wet from the second he kissed her, the ifrisson/i of excitement building since the first angry word had passed between them.

When House sits back to undo his jeans, she lays a hand on his to stop him. The panic in his eyes is unmistakable, and she moves quickly to reassure him that they're well past that point of no return that has always thwarted them before.

In just her skirt, stockings and shoes she slips to her knees in front of him, and the image alone is enough to provoke the first moan from House's lips. Undoing his belt buckle with considerably more calm than she actually feels, Cuddy eases his jeans and boxers down gently, smiling at the burgeoning erection that her task releases.

His attraction to her has always been palpable, like a trail of unlit gunpowder between them, but she can't deny that it's pleasing to see evidence of it.

Cuddy kisses along his uninjured thigh, skimming his scar delicately with her left hand. With care, she allows her naked breasts to follow, knowing House's fascination with them all too well. Not willing to prolong what they've already waited too long for, she doesn't delay much before turning her attention to his waiting cock.

He's unquestionably hard for her now, and she's silently pleased that there are no longer the potentially disappointing effects of Vicodin to counter. With methodical strokes of her tongue she covers the length of him, and doesn't even object when she feels his hands buried in her hair.

The smug bastard is well-endowed, and so when she takes the head in her mouth her hand is already working the base of his cock. House is already past the initial murmurs of appreciation and straight onto the more vocal praise for her talents. Cuddy doesn't always enjoy this particular act, but there's something so delicious about having House at her mercy this way that she can't resist it.

It's apparent that he's close, his litany of 'Oh God's giving way to more profane thoughts as his hands gently but urgently pull her away.

Cuddy looks up at him for the briefest of moments, seeing both lust and vulnerability radiating back at her. With a discreet hand at her elbow, House directs her back to the sofa beside him, drawing her into a languorous kiss that still manages to send shivers down her spine.

Then, with a quick shuffle that removes his jeans from around his ankles, House is on top of her and she leans back under him without hesitation. His mouth is fervent in its attentions to her neck, the sensitive hollows by her collarbone and then the planes of her chest. The slightly cool air has hardened her nipples but the warmth of House's tongue against each in turn sends jolts of pleasure radiating right through to her clit.

If she had any sense right now, Cuddy would be scared by how much she wants this.

Instead, she's digging her nails into House's shoulders and he makes a trail down across her abdomen, pausing only to tease at her navel for a mere second or two.

By the time his tongue runs along her folds, Cuddy is incapable of thinking or saying anything but his name. He draws it from her with each maddening stroke, turning that last consonant into a protracted hiss of pleasure.

House laps rhythmically across her clit and the sensation is almost too much to bear. By the time he crooks two fingers just inside her, Cuddy is powerless to stop the onrushing wave of her first climax. He holds his mouth against her as she comes, drawing out the crest for longer than she remembered possible.

She recovers as he kisses his way back up her body, and when she finally tastes herself on his lips it makes the seemingly impossible seem real. His patience is commendable, but she rewards him by reaching between their bodies and guiding his erection inside her, his hips completing the thrust almost automatically. Any concerns she has about not coming a second time are quickly alleviated by the exquisite pressure of how he fills her.

Now, they permit themselves a little tenderness, though Cuddy suspects it's more to do with House trying to preserve stamina than any notions of romance. He buries his face against her neck as he thrusts, his forearms supporting him but pressed possessively against her sides. Her whole world is reduced to the sight of him above her, and the feel of him in and all around her.

She rakes her nails across his back and delights in the hiss of pleasure it draws from him. The gentle approach changes when he finds the perfect angle, Cuddy's startled exhalation directing him without the need for words. His pace increases and she feels the tightening in both her pussy and her breasts that signals the impending climax that she craves.

Being with him makes her greedy, insatiable; she somehow always knew that it would.

As she feels herself falling, House finally lets go. He comes in stuttering thrusts, with a yell that seems to take even him by surprise. He collapses on top of her, the heaviness bearable as they both try to catch a breath. House strokes her hair absent-mindedly and presses a clumsy kiss just below her ear as he revels in their mutual success.

In a minute, maybe two, they'll allow their bodies to separate. Conversation might spoil everything and so silence remains their safety net. Maybe soon they'll discuss the lack of contraception, or what this really means, or maybe they'll go to their respective homes and pretend it never happened.

Cuddy can deal with all that if and when it happens.

For now, she just needs to feel him there. They finally completed their picture, and Cuddy's quite certain that she's already in love with the view.