Collapse chapter 5

Cuddy

"You're a cold hearted bitch who just ripped my heart out. I'm not crawling back to you so you can do it again."

"I wish I'd known what I was getting into 20 years ago. Just like Sam and Wilson 12 years ago, only worse. Sam only came back into Wilson's life once. You just won't go away. I don't love you, Cuddy."

As Wilson slept out on the couch, House went back to his bedroom thinking about what he was going to say to Cuddy Wednesday morning.

He really didn't hate Cuddy; in fact, he truthfully had no idea how he felt about Cuddy. Unlike all the other puzzles, she was one that he had never been able to solve. She had a long history of dropping out of his life, and then popping back in at the most inopportune times.

One day he loved her, the next he hated her; or maybe it was the other way around. THAT was the unsolvable puzzle. One day they kissed when he was there for her after the adoption fell through, the next day she set a trip wire and made him fall in his office in front of his whole team, and made fun of him when he hobbled into her office using a janitor's mop as support because she stole his cane. One day she invited him to Thanksgiving dinner, and the next day she sent him on a six hour wild goose chase in the car without caring what kind of pain that would cause him. One day he walked into her office hallucinating, not having slept in days, and obviously sick, threatening to quit, and she walked out on him.

One day she was a hot date and 12 years later, he found out how dangerous it was to ever have loved her when he showed up in her hospital as a patient. One day he trusted her to do as he asked, and three days later he woke up to the consequences of trusting her. One day he was a highly-sought-after diagnostics genius, and after the infarction and its aftermath, he'd been fired from the other top notch hospitals and the only administrator who would hire him was HER.

He wasn't sure who the bigger fool was. Cuddy for continuing to pop back into his life after ripping him up, or him for actually thinking she loved him. So now he was stuck in an impossible situation. This woman, who once told Wilson that House really knew how to stick the knife in deep, had just stuck a knife into him deeper than anyone else had ever done and he had no idea how he was going to pull that knife back out again. He knew it had to be done, though, and he knew that if he was ever going to get any kind of stability back in his life again, he was going to have to make her help him pull that knife out.

On the ride in to work the next morning, both men remained a little uncharacteristically quiet, but Wilson was relieved to see a look of quiet determination and confidence on House's face that never appeared unless House had one of his epiphanies. Wilson knew that something was on House's mind.

"Wanna talk about it?" Wilson asked. "Are you alright?"

"Those must be the three most useless words in the English language. Are you alright. Not really, but after last night, I'm a lot better, and after I see Cuddy today, I'll be even better than I am now," House answered with a quirky smile.

"Are you kidding?" Wilson looked at House incredulously. How can he think about flirting with her now was the thought running through Wilson's mind.

"You do realize that sentence contained the fourth most useless word in the English language. Kidding. And no, I'm not. Trust me." House replied.

As they arrived at the hospital, Wilson thoughtfully switched places in the car with House so House could get out right at the door. Wilson parked House's car in House's spot and thought about trying to reschedule some of his appointments today. Several things could happen; the most interesting possibilities were that House and Cuddy would just kill each other outright, they would have wild make up sex on her couch, or they would wind up having wild sex on her couch and THEN kill each other. Whatever happened, Wilson had a pretty good idea that the fallout would be astronomical.

House made his way up to his office and met with his team about the crane driver. They'd finally diagnosed him and he was responding well to treatment. Foreman announced that he was going down to the ER to look for cases. House just said "Have at it. I'm booked the rest of the day" and headed down to the cafeteria to have a bagel and gather his thoughts one last time before heading off to Cuddy's office. Once he arrived at his favorite table, he sent a text message to Cuddy: "Clear AM sched. Need to C U. B there in a min."

ZZIINNNGG went House's phone. Text message from Cuddy: "No. I'm busy."

House replied: "Make time today. Need to C U."

ZZIINNNGG: "L8tr" was Cuddy's reply.

Oh Hell no, she's not blowing me off today. House stormed off to her office.

Cuddy's new assistant stopped House. What is this, like her hundredth lackey? What does she do, use them up and toss them out too? House thought amusedly.

"She's busy. She said for me to tell you she can't see you today," said the new assistant to the man she obviously didn't know very well.

"I don't take no for an answer. See, you don't know me. I'm annoying as hell and I stick like glue. I'm not going anywhere. I'll outlast you." House thought Wow, I can rhyme too, smiled, and eased down into a chair in Cuddy's outer office. He prepared for a long wait.

Cuddy wrapped up her meeting with the hospital's attorney. On his way out, the attorney shot a verbal jab at House: "Haven't seen you in awhile. Miss me?"

House ignored the attorney, lurched to his feet, and quietly limped into Cuddy's office.

Cuddy looked up with an exasperated look. "House, I told you, I will see you later. I don't have time now."

House stared her right in the face and said, "That's just your way of blowing me off, so to speak. We need to talk." Seeing no response other than just a hard and somewhat confused look from Cuddy, he kept up the grin and the stare. "I'm not one of your Boy Fridays here, one of your temps, that you can just use up and toss aside."

"What are you talking about?" Cuddy said, looking genuinely confused

Ok. Gotta keep the job, but I'll be damned if she's gonna walk all over me any more and get away with it thought House.

"House, what's wrong?" Cuddy asked

"You're smart. I sure don't know why you're so confused. You sure as hell weren't confused Monday." House asserted.

Cuddy still wasn't quite sure where this was going, but she thought she had an idea. House continued: "I've fallen over and over again since Monday and all you've done is yell at me. You saw me on the floor twice, and you still have the nerve to ask what's wrong with me. I should be asking you what's wrong with you." House was nearly yelling now, but the lopsided, quirky smile was still there. Cuddy was ready to match him in volume but he cut her off before she had a chance to fire off a reply.

House hesitated a moment. When he resumed speaking, the smile faded and so did the volume. His voice took on a somber tone. He stared daggers at her.

"If I was anyone else, you'd have genuinely cared about me all along. All those times I told you how bad I was really hurting, you would never have blown me off if I was someone else."

Cuddy shot back: "House, when have I ever blown…" House interrupted her: "I came in here when we had that adolescent supermodel. Remember? I could barely stand up. I asked for a shot of morphine in my spine. Remember? You think I was proud of having to ask for that? You tried to blow me off then. You called me a junkie. I dropped my pants because you obviously didn't believe that I was hurting. I thought you obviously needed some sort of a reminder why my leg hurt. Yeah, you gave me a shot and it was a placebo. Instead of really helping, you acted like I was some kind of a Frankenstein, staring at my scar like I was some kind of freak or something. You already know what my scar looks like, remember? You didn't have to act like it was something to be afraid of. I already feel like a damn freak. I hate the way I feel, and I don't need people making me feel even worse."

Irate by now, Cuddy leaped up from behind her desk and started pacing behind House and around her office. She wheeled around and opened her mouth for another reply. House opened his mouth to cut her off, but Cuddy fired the next volley: "You've lied to me over and over and over again. I gave up trying to weed out the truth from your vast field of lies a long time ago. I'm sorry that you feel like a freak, but don't blame that on me. And as far as my calling you a junkie, I know about that morphine stash you had on top of your bookshelf at home. I know about all the places you hid stashes of Vicodin. I know about the booze you hide in your office – hell, everyone else here knows about it too. I also know what you had planned to have done when you faked cancer and booked that trip to Boston."

House clamped his eyes shut and started banging his cane on the floor. He was developing a massive headache and the anger was literally oozing out of every pore of his body. He rolled his eyes and said, in a drawn-out voice, "Yeeeaaahhhh, here we go again. You're just gonna keep digging that corpse back up again, aren't you? Yeah, it's a big corpse and yeah, it isn't buried all that deep and it still stinks sometimes. Every time I think I've buried it deep enough, though, you dig the whole Vicodin mes, this meshugas back up again. I get it. Everybody's got their own shandah. You just can't let mine alone."

House diverted his gaze to the floor and then back up at Cuddy again.

Cuddy said "Well, since you're going all Yiddish on me, we need to stop this krig. Everybody has something that they think they have to be ashamed of. We can keep finding fault with each other until I get sick enough of it and fire your ass, or"

"Or we can suck it up and deal with it." House continued her sentence for her. "My money's on the latter."

Both looked at each other in silence.

"Can we talk like adults or do I have to get out the choke chain collar?" Cuddy quipped.

"I *KNEW* you were into S&M," House said with a zing and a return of his lopsided smile.

Cuddy turned to walk away. "And *I* knew this was a mistake. I'm going home," she said as she walked out the door.

"Cuddy, wait. Please," came the suddenly quieter voice from her office.

"I call a Mulligan. I'm sorry. Seriously. No choke chain. I promise I'll be good." House said, hoping against hope that he hadn't permanently burned his last bridge with Cuddy. Lord knew he'd burned Dresden a thousand times over, but so has she, dammit!

Cuddy turned with an exasperated look. "A Mulligan, House? Please. Counting this last one, you've had more Mulligans than hos,. Your hos should be jealous." Then she saw the look in his eyes and softened her attitude a smidge. "Ok, I'll listen, but this better be good."

House took a deep breath, painfully stood up and walked towards Cuddy's door. As he moved to close her door and blinds so they could have some privacy, Cuddy couldn't help but let her concern for him show just a little. She tried to hide it behind some sort of a protective shell she'd built to shield herself from his usual sarcasm, but something about his demeanor told her she could let her guard down safely this time. He really was hurting, and so was she, and they really did need to talk.

House said, "I don't know how much of this…brokenness…. we can fix. I say 'we" because it isn't just me and you know it. If you think I'm the only one around here who still needs fixing, then you're right, there is no 'us'. Are we fixable?" he asked her pointedly.

"I don't know what to think, House, except I'm tired of the squabbling and the games and whatever part I had in all this mess. Where do we go from here? You ask 'are we fixable?' Hell, I have no idea. I don't even think *I'm* fixable, let alone you."

House said "Cuddy, I'm not going to defend my need for pain relief anymore. It's not all there is to me but it's a big part, and I'm not going to defend what I do to relieve it anymore. I don't use my pain to drive people away like I used to; that broken part of me I did manage to fix at Mayfield. I wasn't lying when I told Hannah that it changed me. But the pain didn't make me a worse person. Having to constantly defend my own pain relief methods to every Tom, James, Dick, Lisa and Herschel did. I'm on Ibuprofen now and I'm in as much or more pain now than I ever was when I was on Vicodin, and the chances that I'll ever be completely pain free are getting slimmer and slimmer the older I get and the more failed therapies I undergo. So now that's out in the open. I refuse to hide behind it anymore."

Cuddy took a minute to compose herself before replying. "House, I'm barely holding it together myself. I'm not exactly the queen of stable relationships. You were right, years ago, when you told me adopting a baby wasn't exactly in the baby's best interest. I thought being a mother would come naturally, but I have to work at it much harder than I realized. It all came so naturally to my mother. When Lucas came along, and don't look at me like that, but when Lucas came along I thought finally I'd have a stable man in my life to be a good father figure for Rachel. I guess you were right about that too. He's a nice guy and he's good with Rachel but I don't love him. I know it's screwed up, and I can't explain it, but I love you. I always have. I just don't know if you and me together can work. You're not completely fixed yet but I saw something in you, the way you helped Hannah, that I've never seen before. I see more hope of you getting fixed than me getting fixed."

House replied, "So are you willing to give it a try?"

A/N – I'm deliberately ending this on a question. I simply don't know if their relationship will work. I would have no idea how to resolve that question. To end this story on a happy note, like they're riding off into the sunset together, would be a mistake. My guess is it's going to be a very stormy ride. I guess it's up to others to resolve it, and I guess we'll see in Season 7. Enjoy!