There was a knock at his front door.

It was late - past bedtime late - and House was watching crap while nursing a glass of scotch. It was cool outside, a light summer breeze blowing in through the window. The quiet was peaceful, but, for House, it merely accentuated how alone he was.

Sighing, he got up and opened his front door.

Cuddy was standing there, looking mad as all hell. Her eyes were reddened and House could smell the alcohol on her breath. He swallowed, nervous. She looked... feral. Wild and crazy and angry, and House couldn't help but feel like that anger was directed at him. "Cuddy?" He said tiredly.

She marched in, pushing him roughly out of the way. Even though she weighed next to nothing, she caught him off guard and he stumbled back. "I want," she said slowly, "to have our fight."

He sighed. "What fight?"

"The one we should have had. The one I asked you about," she slurred. "Before you crashed through my house with your car."

House felt a pang of guilt, but quickly squashed it. "There's nothing to fight about."

"Yes there is!" She shouted, surprising him. "There is so much to fight about! You told me you felt hurt, and that was the most genuine emotion I've seen out of you since we broke up."

House laughed incredulously, rounding on her. "I know you don't have much experience with break ups - as you don't have much experience with relationships - but the emotional, cuddly stuff tends to stop after one person tramples on the heart of another."

"I didn't trample you," she scoffed.

"Really?" House replied. "If you want us to do this, fine. We'll do it. But that means that you'll have to take responsibility for the massive bitch you were."

"I'm the bitch?" She repeated, eyes wide with disbelief. "You were rude, and juvenile, and you didn't support me, didn't help me, didn't do a damn thing to make my life easier. I'm not the bitchy one here," she shook her head. "I don't revolve around you. None of us revolve around you. And you chased me for this relationship for a year. You knew that I'd have needs. I'd have expectations. And you were an idiot for pretending like you could ignore them."

"You said you didn't want me to change!" He exploded. "And I'm the one with the wrong expectations?"

"I was wrong," she admitted. "I thought... I thought you'd make an effort. I thought the House I'd seen all these years would be different to the House that apparently loved me. But, I was wrong. What I said when I broke up with you was true. You'll choose yourself over and over again."

"That never bothered you before!" He argued.

"Because I hadn't imagined you to be in a situation where you would need to choose me!" She countered.

"I chose you, in every way that mattered." He said, softly compared to the decibels from a moment before. "If you'd really been dying, I'd have come around, I'd have - "

"Become a fully fledged Vicodin addict again," she finished. "You just dull everything - "

"Because it hurts!" He shouted.

"You're a coward," she screamed back at him. "You're scared of everything. Of life. House, it happens. Things happen. You have to accept that it's never going to end. There isn't a point where bad things stop happening... But you killed the good things!"

"You left me," he slammed his fist on the table. "You killed us."

"Because you weren't making an effort," she tried to explain, but he cut her off.

"I made a fucking effort!" He roared. "I fired my masseuse, I babysat, I apologised time and time again, I bought another toothbrush, I went to dinner with your mother, I tried to get Rachel into that school, I made that fundraiser fun for you because you deserved better than what you were getting... How can you stand there and say I didn't try?" He fired back at her, watching the pained expression come across her face. "You didn't try. You just let me follow you around."

"I loved you," she said slowly, sniffing. "More than anything. So I wanted us to work - "

"Why couldn't we have worked if I was me and you were you?" He challenged. "Why weren't us as who we are enough for you."

There was a silence. "I don't know," she said in a small voice.

"Then why are you screaming at me?" He shot at her. "Why are you just trying to blame me? Why can't you accept that some of this was you. You aren't perfect, sweetcheeks. Not even close," he said. "Fortunately for you, I thought you were pretty damn close. You knew I'd do anything for you, and you exploited - "

"I didn't ask you to do anything crazy, or over the top... I asked you be there when I was scared," she said gently. "When I needed you to just... hold my hand and tell me that everything was going to be alright. And you... you ran. As fast as you could," she shook her head. "It's not about you changing. It's about you causing pain for yourself to help someone else with theirs. And you're not willing to do that."

"Pain is bad," he replied. "And it's - "

"Inevitable," she supplied. "Our relationship was never to be a smooth ride. You must have been prepared for problems."

"Not you dying," he said immediately. "Never you dying. I'd never even thought about that for a second." He looked at her. "Had you?"

"Yes," she emphasised. "I've seen you nearly die too many times for me to pretend that it won't happen again. Every year you nearly die, or do something that makes me think, 'Gee, this is it. We're done now, he'll die this time,' but no matter how many times I try and convince myself that I could handle that, I never believe it. You're not alone when you say that the thought of the person you love dying scares you. It's human."

House was looking at the floor as she spoke. "If you died..." He said sadly. "I'd have nothing."

"That's not true," she sniffed.

"What would I have?" He asked sincerely.

"Wilson. Your job. Your mind," she tried to tell him, but he merely let out a breathy laugh. Then, he grabbed the lamp off the side and threw with all his might against the wall. It shattered, and glass skid everywhere. Cuddy jumped back, eyes wide and panicking. She didn't know his limits...

She didn't know if she was safe with him anymore.

"Didn't you fucking listen to me when I came to you after you got your award?" He accused. He made his way over to her and pushed her roughly back against the wall, holding her arms. "You're it. I love you. I don't give a fuck about anything other than you."

"House - " She breathed, squirming. "You're hurting me," she whimpered, but he didn't seem to hear.

"You lied," he hissed. "You said that you weren't dating, and..." He pushed her harder against the wall. "I saw you touch his arm, and..." He pushed her again. "I got mad," he said. Tears slid down her face. "All I'd done was try to love you, and be the man with you. And you not only destroyed that for me, you acted as if it was nothing. I saw you with him and I wanted to kill you." he put his face close to hers. "I could kill you," he warned, watching as another tear slid down her cheek.

"Please don't," she whimpered.

And then House jumped back like he'd been burned. Those two little words. Please don't. She was begging him not to kill her. No, no, no... He looked at his own hands like they were alien to him.

He hadn't just done that.

Had he?

Cuddy had slid down the wall so she was crouching, watching him carefully, crying. Her lip was trembling as if she was trying not to break out into sobs. He looked up and his gaze caught hers. She whimpered, and pushed herself up, wincing as she did so.

"I'm... sorry," he said lamely. "I didn't... I don't... Did I hurt you?"

"No," she said quickly, sniffing. "You... uh..."

"Scared you," he supplied.

"Yeah," she nodded gently.

There was a silence.

"I wouldn't hurt you," he said after a moment. "I wouldn't. Not seriously."

Cuddy gave a little laugh. "You drove your car through my house," she reminded. "You... tried to kill me then too."

"I didn't try to kill you just now," he said immediately, but as if he was convincing himself rather than her. "I knew you'd left the room," he told her. She shook her head.

"You couldn't have," she argued.

"I saw you gesture for them to leave," he explained, but she shook her head again.

"You couldn't have been sure," she wept, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. "You're insane, House."

"Don't call me that," he murmured.

"Why?" She sniffed. "You think you're not?"

"I'm a guy who spent two months before in rehab because I started hallucinating," House said. "My head lied to me, and yeah, I started shouting about crazy sex stuff I'd done with you that I actually hadn't. Don't call me insane," he warned again. "I don't like it."

Cuddy looked at him steely. "But you are insane," she replied. He turned to her, eyes blazing.

"Cuddy - " He said lowly.

"I'm not scared," she said defiantly. "You're right; you could kill me. Who knows if you just tried to kill me? But you won't. Not deliberately."

"What do you call that then?" He asked.

"I don't know," she shrugged. "Anything other than the man I love trying to kill me with his bare hands."

House turned to her. "You love me?"

"Of course I love you, you idiot," she spat. "You don't fall out of love that quickly. Or at least, I don't," she edited. "House, I'll always love you. But we can't be together. We just can't."

"Because you're scared," he muttered. "You're just a control seeking narcissist. I don't fit with your anal little mould."

She smiled weakly. "You don't fit with anyone's mould, House," she murmured.

"Thanks," he replied dryly. "All I want is to fit in," he mocked. "And yet - "

"Shut up," she breathed, as if the energy had literally been knocked out of her. She felt tears well up in her eyes. "I shouldn't be here."

"No, you shouldn't," House agreed. "Since you're in process of suing me and all. Bet your lawyer wouldn't be too thrilled if he found that you were crying on my shoulder all of a sudden."

"I wouldn't have to sue you if you hadn't been so stupid and reckless," she sighed. "House... I can forgive the car. I can forgive the crash. I can't... overlook the fact that you crashed into that room with no knowledge of where my daughter was. Fine, you saw me motion for everyone to leave. You know what three year olds are like. She could have been underfoot," Cuddy's voice cracked. "You actually could have killed her."

House felt his chest constrict. "Cuddy, don't - "

"I thought you at least felt something for her," Cuddy sobbed. "You and her... you had something. And then you went and tried to run her over," she wailed.

"I didn't try to run her over," House sighed. "Cuddy... I wasn't. I like Rachel. I know what she means to you - "

"No you don't!" Cuddy wept. "You don't what it's like to love someone so entirely. To know that they depend on you completely. To love someone unconditionally, and have them love you unconditionally back? No, you don't know what she means to me," Cuddy tried to stop the tears. "Nothing in your miserable life even comes close."

House whipped. "And something in your lonely, pencil-pushing mindless existence does? What are you gonna do now? Run through every guy you meet, bringing all of them back with you because you're frustrated and alone and the sluttiness will bite you in the ass then, when you find out that one of them was sneaking into Rachel's room when you were asleep, and - "

But he didn't get to finish that thought because Cuddy smacked him clear across the face. "Don't you dare imply that I can't keep my own child safe," she snarled. He reeled back, still unclear as to what had happened.

They were both breathing heavily. House looked at her. Her mascara was smudged and her eyes red and she looked lost and alone. He didn't imagine that he looked much better. As their gazes interlocked he moved toward her, and captured her lips with his.

The kiss started gently, his tongue stroking her lips before sliding inside her mouth and running along each of her pearly whites. She whimpered as their mouths moved together, though House assumed it wasn't out of pleasure, but pain and loss.

As it heated up, House felt his hands slide across her shoulder and down her back to grip her ass, smiling against her mouth as his hands slid back to a place where they felt very comfortable. She ran her hands through his hair and then locked her arms around his neck. They stayed, clutching each other, as the minutes ticked by. They both knew that this was the last time they'd ever kiss like this.

In the end, she pulled away. Her eyes were streaming, House could feel her tears left on the apples of his cheeks. He wiped them off himself first, then moved to her. As he brushed the beads away with his thumb, he whispered, "don't cry."

She took in a shaky breath. "I love you," she breathed. "And I hate you too."

He nodded. "I know."

They stood there in silence. She looked to her feet, then back into his eyes. She pressed one soft, lingering kiss to his lips, savouring it. "Goodbye," she whispered. His arms held onto hers, not letting go.

"Don't - " He started, but then stopped. He let her go.

She stroked the side of his cheek. "I..." She tried, but faltered. Then she whipped round and stormed out of the apartment, as quickly and forcefully as she'd entered it.

House stumbled to the couch and collapsed. His head, heart and hell, whole body ached as he tried to sleep. The memories of her clouded his mind. It was too much to see everything he'd lost imprinted in his head, but, when it came down to it...

These memories were all he had left.

"Is your yelling designed to scare me because I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be scared of. More yelling? That's not scary. That you're gonna hurt me? That's scary, but I'm pretty sure I can out run you."

"If you would consider going to a shrink, I would pay for it myself. The hospital would hold a bake sale, for God's sake."

"Because the world hates you. Or because it's a class on diagnostics. Pick whatever reason feeds your narcissism better."

"Do you like me, House?"

"Someone like you?"

"Well, whatever now what we do decide on... comes after you take a bath."

"I just had to explain to him that I had his balls and he's not getting them back. Excuse me."

"Then move on to your secret-secret-secret stash!"

"Do you think I like the cameras? Do you think I want the whole world watching you check out my ass, and question my wardrobe."

"You son of a bitch. When I was getting a baby, you tell me I suck as a mother. Now that I've lost it, you tell me I'd be great as a mother. Why do you need to negate everything?"

"Except that I didn't use to have sex with him, you idiot. Plus, he was a gay hooker!"

"House, I need you to come to that dinner for two hours, keep your mouth shut, and act like an adult. Yes, you will be in hell, but I will feel better having you there. That's what a relationship is. We average our misery."

"I don't want you to change."

"You are the most incredible man I've ever known. You are always going to be, the most incredible man I've ever known."

"I don't love you."

"I love you. I wish I didn't. But I can't help it."

~ Of all ghosts, the ghosts of our old loves are the worst ~

~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes ~