Author's Notes: This is the last chapter for harvesttime88 who donated to the help_lisa auction on Livejournal. Thank you for inspiring me to bang out so many words for this piece and for helping others in the process. Also thank you to MissBates, grouchysnarky, dmarchl21, CaptainK8, Guest, Alex, Abby, newsession, MrsBock, Huddyphoric, Ocean'sWriting, LapizSilkwood, menolly-au, IHeartHouseCuddy, lenasti16, jaybe61, Lize, red blood, bere, and OldSFfan for leaving me a review. Suffice it to say, this is not a light-hearted story to write, and all of the encouragement along the way helps so much. So thank you for that.

Disclaimer: House belongs to other people.

Fear Of Fire Leaves You Cold
Chapter Seven: Tell Me Lies

By Duckie Nicks

"True passion is not a wisp-light – it is a consuming flame, and either it must find fruition or it will burn the heart in which it has been enkindled to dust and ashes." – William Winter

"Mommy!" Rachel squealed, running towards Cuddy as quickly as her chunky legs would allow her to move. Cuddy grunted in surprise as Rachel threw all of her weight against Cuddy's body and wrapped her arms around her.

Things with Julia had not gone well. Cuddy had left work early in the afternoon in the vain hope that she'd have a nice long conversation with her sister and their issues would be resolved. Since that hadn't happened, she'd come home long before Rachel needed to go to bed. As she reached down to pick Rachel up, she caught out of the corner of her eye a relieved Marina.

"She was as good as ever, I take it," Cuddy said dryly, giving Rachel a pat on the back.

Marina's recollection of the day was forgiving. She never outright stated when Rachel had misbehaved or what she'd done wrong. By now, Rachel's shortcomings had become quite clear. Unless something else happened or something changed, Marina didn't need to include the crying after Cuddy had left or the tantrums in her retelling of events. Cuddy would just assume those things had happened sometime between their trip to the farmer's market and the park.

"Well, I'll be going," Marina said after a few minutes.

As she grabbed her things, Cuddy told Rachel, "Say goodbye to Marina."

Rachel seemed a little too happy to say, "Goodbye!" But Marina didn't seem to mind. Then again, it was hard to discern any sadness when she looked so overwhelmingly happy to be leaving early.

When she'd left, Cuddy said to Rachel, "Were you nice to Marina today?" Rachel nodded her head. "I hope so, because you know I expect you to be a good little girl when I'm not here."

Rachel's cheeks turned pink in embarrassment, but she didn't confess to her crimes. She just muttered, "Sorry, Mama."

"It's okay. It's okay," Cuddy repeated, squeezing Rachel tightly. "How about you watch some TV while I go change?" Cuddy started to put her down, but Rachel whined and hung on as best she could. And though Cuddy knew she could force Rachel away from her, she didn't do that. She stood back up with Rachel holding on. "Rachel, nothing's going to happen. I'm right here. You don't need me to hold you all the time."

"No."

"Fine. You can come watch me change, but I am going to have to put you down."

"Okay," Rachel said reluctantly.

Carrying her down the hallway, Cuddy decided a distraction was in order. If she could get Rachel talking about her day, she wouldn't have time to realize she was no longer in her mother's arms. "Marina said you went to the farmer's market."

"Uh huh."

"What did you get?" Cuddy asked, gently setting Rachel on the bed and hoping she wouldn't notice.

Rachel thought hard. "Um… strawberries," she said with a smile.

"Yummy. I like strawberries."

"I like strawberries too. They is good."

The conversation was banal. After the day Cuddy had, she didn't exactly have her heart into discussing a trip to the farmer's market. But she knew she couldn't do anything with regard to House until Rachel was asleep. Cuddy's plans would require thought, uninterrupted thought, and that wouldn't happen as long as Rachel was awake. So while talking about strawberries was hardly interesting, she would do it.

Besides, it was effective. Rachel didn't cry or whine, which shouldn't have been the accomplishment that it felt like. But that was where they were, Cuddy thought sadly.

Not wanting to lose that, she asked Rachel, "Did you eat a lot?"

"No. Marina say we have to wash the berries first."

"Good," Cuddy said as she finished changing. "Maybe we'll make a pie before I start dinner. Come on." She gestured for Rachel to follow her, not that Rachel needed the encouragement. "Honey, don't hang on me," Cuddy said when Rachel started to grab onto her leg. "You can walk like a big girl."

Rachel had no choice but to listen, because Cuddy didn't slow down to give her a chance to latch on to her completely. And in the end, no matter how close Rachel wanted to be, watching Cuddy cook in the penthouse's kitchen bored Rachel to the point that she wandered off quickly to go play.

With Rachel out of the way, Cuddy had an opportunity to call Wilson. As the phone rang, she thought that this had been the most she'd called him ever. But since he was on sick leave, thanks to his wrist, she didn't have the same opportunities she normally would have to talk to him.

"Hey, Cuddy," he said, answering the phone shortly after it had begun to ring. "What's up?"

"Do you have a minute to talk?"

"Sure. Everything okay?"

She knew the answer to that question wasn't yes, but the truth wasn't going to slow down her [possibly disastrous] cooking. "Hold on. Let me put you on speakerphone." As an explanation, she said, "I'm trying to make a pie."

Wilson chuckled softly. "You know how to do that?"

"Sort of," she said, trying to roll out a piecrust that had already torn in two places. "As long as I don't kill Rachel, I'll consider this a success."

"I'm sure it's not that bad," he offered reassuringly. "You'll do fine."

"Yeah, we'll see. I didn't call to talk about pie," she confessed.

"I kind of figured that out."

The mood suddenly turning serious, she asked, "How are you doing?"

"I'm okay" was his flat response.

"Wilson."

After a moment of hesitation, he explained, "You're going through enough. It's not right for me to add my own –"

"Then I shouldn't talk to you about this either, if we're going by that logic."

"I don't want to make you sadder," Wilson said in a quiet voice. "You don't deserve that."

She felt her entire body relax, the tension oozing off of her as though it had been covering her skin. His sentiments weren't necessary, because she didn't want to be the only one in this friendship being comforted. She wanted to be able to do for him what it was he had tried to do for her. And yet she couldn't help but be touched by his concern. He was the only one right now who even tried to understand.

"That's very sweet," she said after a moment. "Thank you."

"You don't have to feel guilty. I have other people to talk to." Before she could say anything else, he offered up the information. "I've been seeing Sam again. Well, as of last night, I am anyway."

"Again?" she asked in surprise. "How did that happen?"

"She called me. My assistant became friends with her assistant. They talked about it, you know, about House, and I guess her assistant told her. She called me. I… took the opportunity to blame House for the things that led to us breaking up and –"

"Was that really his fault?"

"… Not exactly," he said reluctantly. "Since our break up, I kept thinking that if I hadn't spent so much time listening to him, I would have heard what she wanted from me, but I don't blame him. Still… you were right. I need something else to focus on, and I haven't gotten over her. I was with her before I met House, you know."

"I do know that."

"I don't want to be this way for the rest of my life, Cuddy. So… I said what I knew would work with her," he said simply.

"So if I tried to get House freed from jail, that would be a problem for you," she reasoned, getting to the point of her phone call.

He didn't hesitate to go along with the subject change. "I don't know. My reaction would depend on why you're doing it, because last I checked, you didn't want him out of jail."

She carefully lifted the crust off the countertop and placed into the pie dish that had somehow been taken out of storage with the other, more essential, pieces of bakeware. Slipping the dough into the oven, she explained, "Wells visited me the other day."

"To tell you to press charges or –"

"No. Apparently, every argument I've ever made defending House has convinced the board that quietly firing House would be better than giving every adult in Princeton a ring side seat to his downfall."

"And you agree with them?" Wilson asked surprised.

She shook her head though he couldn't see it. Reaching into the fridge for the strawberries Marina and Rachel had purchased, Cuddy said, "I'd love to keep House in jail, no matter the personal cost, but that's not rational."

"You don't have to be. Not with this."

"No. I think I do," she disagreed, grabbing a knife from one of the drawers. "He doesn't deserve that kind of reaction. I don't want him in jail thinking he got to me or reading one day that my contract wasn't renewed and have him believe he had something to do with that." She began to chop the tops off of several strawberries, the white cutting board turning red and pink. "The only one who should suffer is House, and I think I can do that without the legal system in my way."

"Is this the part where you tell me you're going to need my help burying the body?" She laughed a little. It did sound gruesome, dangerous, the way she was talking, but that wasn't what she was planning. Killing House might have seemed tempting, and yet she would never do that, no matter what he'd done. Obviously sensing that to be the case, Wilson sighed with relief. "Well, that's good to know. What do you need me to do?"

She paused, knife in mid-air. "Tell me you won't be angry if –"

"If you want him out, I'm okay with that. Might have to pretend that I'm not because of Sam. But it's your choice."

"Do you mean that?" she asked nervously.

"Yes." Then he backed off a little. "If you're bringing him back to work, I want to switch offices with someone else."

"Okay. I can do that." She wasn't sure who would be willing to switch, but she had enough cache to force the move on someone. "Then that's all I need for now."

"Really?"

"Yeah. Congratulations on getting back together with Sam."

It was hard for her to say it and mean it. She supposed some part of her did mean it. Envy made that fact hard to recognize though.

After they hung up with another, she couldn't help but think it was so easy for him. He could want a girlfriend and with no effort at all, have one. Companionship was simple for him, because women weren't intimated by powerful men the way men were by powerful women. He obviously had trouble maintaining a relationship, but Wilson was a man who was only ever alone by choice. She couldn't even imagine what that was like.

But, she thought, circling back around, if he was happy, she would be supportive of that. She wouldn't take over for House and make things more complicated for Wilson. Besides, if Wilson had Sam, he would be less likely to welcome House back into his life. What he'd told Sam ensured that befriending House would be a betrayal of her. That didn't guarantee that Wilson would stay away from House, of course, but it would at least make it harder for a friendship to grow.

And Cuddy wanted that.

Later that night, when she began considering what it was that she wanted to do with House, she understood what her plan needed to achieve. House's life needed to be completely controlled and devoid of the things he loved the most. She couldn't settle for simply firing him afterwards. If she did that, there would always be a chance that some other hospital administrator would pity him and hire him. Granted, that was an unlikely scenario, but Cuddy wasn't going to leave that to chance.

Not when it would be more painful for him to be at her mercy completely, to have everything good in his life gone or with far more strings attached than there'd been before.

The malice in her thoughts was jarring. Before, she would have never believed she could be so hateful toward someone she had once loved. She'd always known that House had made her more cynical, more ruthless even. He'd brought that side out of her. But even so, this seemed far from the days of trip wires and challenges to go without Vicodin.

This was intended to make him so unhappy that jail would look like a respite.

She had it in her to succeed too. That was the scary part of it all. Without much thinking, she knew exactly what it was he valued in life and how to take it away from him. And there would be no one to stop her from doing it either.

Wilson had a reason to stay away. The board, she would make sure, wouldn't interfere. Her sister would want prosecution, but Cuddy had with her the means to keep House free no matter what Julia preferred. Cuddy didn't want to overstate the strength of her argument and face defeat in the morning, and yet she knew the police would listen to her. They wouldn't want to, of course. But she had it in her to make them.

She had no other choice. Success was a necessity.

That, however, didn't make it easy for her to sleep that night; knowing that in the morning House would be free, she couldn't rest comfortably. She guessed that shouldn't have been surprising. Her anger could blind her to a lot, but it couldn't erase the fear he had done such a good job at creating. For her own sake, she needed him out, but it made her wonder how much she could really do to him on her own. He had, after all, thought very little of destroying her home. What would he do when she started taking away the things he loved most in this world?

Cuddy realized it couldn't be a simple matter of revenge. It would become an arms race, and by default she would lose. She had more responsibilities than he would ever have, relationships she valued and needed to protect. He would threaten those things, and she would have to back down eventually. That was what would happen if she solely wanted to hurt him.

So, she thought slowly, it had to be more than that. There had to be a reason for him to let her do what she wanted. At least there needed to be something beyond the initial guilt or gratitude he might feel toward her. Because at some point, he would believe he'd taken enough hits.

She needed him to believe such a thing could never happen.

Again, the answers came to her almost immediately. She hated him so much that hurting him was simple now. Part of her wanted to linger on that fact, because amazement of its truth was as close as she could get to regret. The rest of her, however, knew that without regret, there was no point in hesitating or reconsidering. It wouldn't change anything.

Even if it did, she didn't get a chance to consider the matter any further. Rachel was in the doorway, whining, "My tummy hurts."

It took a moment for Cuddy to react. To be as unfeeling as she needed to be with House required her to ignore the empathy she naturally had within her. And it wasn't easy to come back from that, to return to the mother Rachel needed immediately.

By the time she understood what Rachel had said, the little girl was right next to her. "Mommy," she whined.

Cuddy reached down and stroked her cheek. Rachel didn't feel warm. "What's wrong?"

"I don't feel good."

"Do you think you're going to be sick?" Rachel whined a little bit. "All right, come here," Cuddy said in a low voice, picking Rachel up and pulling her up onto the bed. "I think you ate too much pie."

"No."

"Lie down with me. On your side. I'll rub your belly," Cuddy offered.

Rachel listened, but she curled up so close to Cuddy that Cuddy had to scoot over a little so that she'd be able to touch Rachel's stomach. The slight moment made Rachel plead, "Don't."

"Sweetie, I'm not going anywhere. I just –"

"You go to work," she grumbled.

"Rachel," Cuddy said with a sigh. One hand moved to brush through Rachel's tangled hair, the other beginning to rub her stomach. "I wish I could spend all my time with you. I think I would be much happier with you all day. But Mommy has to work."

"No, you don't."

Cuddy shook her head. "I do. I have to, and some day when you're a big girl, you'll understand that."

Rachel just tried to clutch at her more. "Nooooo," she whined loudly.

"Shhh. It's late. You need to sleep," Cuddy said, attempting to soothe her. "And tomorrow I'll try to come home early again, and we can watch a movie or go to the park together."

Promises weren't enough. "Don't go," Rachel cried.

Cuddy told Rachel that she was right here, that she wasn't going anywhere, that even if she went to work, she would always – always – come home. But Rachel had been exposed to too much. She had once come to believe that House would be a permanent part of their lives. Even though no one had ever told her that, she'd believed it anyway. And then he'd left without a goodbye, without an explanation that made any sense to her young mind. When she'd seen him again, she'd been so excited. Someone she'd missed had been standing right in front of her, and of course, she'd want to reclaim what she'd gotten so used to. But by then, things had changed between House and her mother. To see that hatred between them and then his arrest had been too much for Rachel to comprehend. Not only had she lost someone she cared about, but the security she'd once had was gone now as well. And there were no reassurances Cuddy could offer that would make it all okay for Rachel.

Because, as had been made all too perfectly clear to Cuddy herself, none of this would ever be okay again.


The morning was more frantic than usual. It had taken a long time to console Rachel last night, leaving Cuddy tired and feeling behind. Admittedly, she was actually behind. Extra responsibilities this morning meant that her entire day was askew. But at least Rachel was still asleep, giving Cuddy plenty of time to get ready.

She needed it too. For all of her machinations, looking gorgeous was a small but crucial part. Her argument wasn't one that could be bested, but she wouldn't leave that to chance. Superficial though it was, if she could distract with her body, she would. If it made the police less likely to question or attempt to guilt her, it was worth the extra effort. If it made House ache with the knowledge of what he could never have again, that was even better. And most of all, if it made Cuddy feel attractive and more powerful, then it could only help her get through this arduous day. It could only be a good thing.

But there was a fine line she needed to traverse. Her efforts couldn't be obvious or over the top. Dressed too sexy, she would seem either desperate or unapproachable. Either description would undermine the point in looking nice, and even if that weren't the case, she had no interest in going to work in clothing that made her look like someone House would pay for sex. Lucky for her, she had practice in walking that line between being sexy and being too much. Without lengthy consideration, she settled on a dark purple dress that had the perfect v-neck to show just enough cleavage to be interesting.

Rachel slept on, drooling on Cuddy's pillow, as Cuddy debated the merits of wearing a push-up bra. No, she thought after a moment, stuffing the bra back into the bureau provided by the hotel. She would look good in the push up, but it wasn't worth the comments the occasional clinic patient would offer her today when they saw her in it.

Settling for the demi cup she'd picked out, she carefully got dressed. Now more than ever, it was important that there was not a wrinkle in her dress, not a strand of hair curled out of place, not a single visible imperfection that would take away from the image she wanted to portray.

For a moment, Cuddy wondered why her bustling about hadn't awoken Rachel. But then the answer seemed obvious: it had been a difficult night for them both, and she was probably tired. Rachel had said she felt sick last night, but Cuddy suspected that that had been a ruse to get closer. Rachel probably felt fine. And if that were the case, Cuddy should have taken advantage of the quiet time she'd gotten up early to have.

Determined she quietly slipped out the bedroom. Her cell phone in hand, she dialed the number reserved for the phone her assistant would use if she had an assistant. It was too early for anyone to answer, but Cuddy was counting on that. Regina would be the one who checked the line when she first came in, and so she would be the one to hear, "Regina, I need you to schedule a meeting with Dr. Chase for later today – I'd say after lunch to be safe if that's at all possible. Wilson in oncology has asked that his office be moved. I don't know exactly where we're going to put him yet, but you should have his assistant get started in packing. And if you have any suggestions, that would be helpful. Thank you." She started to hang up the phone, then remembered, and hastily added, "And don't suggest that I hire an assistant."

The second she hung up, she was dialing another number. This time, she didn't know if someone would pick up. But since she was calling Sanford Wells, she didn't care.

"Dr. Cuddy," he said assertively after the third ring. "You're calling me early."

He sounded wide awake, so she didn't apologize. She doubted she would have apologized even if he had been sleeping. "I'll be out of my office this morning if you need me."

"I was about to go for my morning run. You felt the need to call me to tell me that?"

"I'm going to ensure the charges against House are dropped."

She could practically hear him smiling. "That's great to hear."

"Yes, I knew you would be pleased."

"You'll see this is good for the hospital, Lisa. You wouldn't want the scandal a trial creates." When she didn't say anything, he added, "Besides, you can fire him. In fact, you should –"

"No," Cuddy interrupted firmly. "I'll keep him from jail and protect the hospital from those repercussions. But what I do with House beyond that is my choice, and considering what you've asked of me, I'm not requesting your support in this matter. You will give it to me without objection."

His response came slowly and with remarkable tentativeness. "Of course, I'll support you. What happens to him is… in your purview. Since he won't be convicted, I suppose you can keep him employed – although I'm not sure why you would want to."

"I have my reasons."

"Then… you have my support."

"Good," she said, hanging up the phone.

"Mommy," a voice behind her cried.

Dread building inside of her, Cuddy turned to see Rachel standing in the hallway and rubbing her eyes. Immediately, Cuddy mentally went over the conversation she'd just had. Had she mentioned House's name? Had she done it recently enough that Rachel could have heard her? Feeling caught, Cuddy didn't know whether or not Rachel knew anything.

"What's wrong?" Cuddy asked in an unnaturally high-pitched voice.

"I'm hungry."

Cuddy glanced at her watch. Marina wouldn't be here for another ten minutes.

"Okay. I'll make you something. Do you need to go potty first?" Rachel nodded her head. "Of course."

If Cuddy had hoped to feel attractive today, somehow being the person to hold her daughter's hand while she peed took away from that. On the other hand, Cuddy knew she didn't get weekday mornings where she could take care of Rachel often. As unpleasant as some of it might have been, this time together was something Cuddy couldn't help but enjoy.

"You slept in late," she said, rubbing Rachel's back. "I think maybe you're still sleepy. Why don't we go back to bed for –"

"No," Rachel exclaimed, leaning forward so she could hug her mother. She understood, even though it hadn't been stated, that if she went back to sleep, Cuddy wouldn't be there when she woke up. Surely though, Rachel knew that Cuddy would go to work either way. But she must have thought that if she were awake, if she were able to cry and complain about it enough, Cuddy would give in.

Eventually, Rachel would learn that no amount of histrionics would work, and she would stop. Cuddy wasn't sure what would be worse, walking away when her daughter cried for her or walking away to silence created from long-existing disappointment.

Cuddy tried not to think about that. Gently pushing Rachel back onto the toilet, she said, "Careful, honey. You need to stay on the potty while you use it." The last thing she needed was urine on her heels.

"I'm done."

"Good. You know what you have to do next." Rachel began to ball a huge mound of toilet paper to wipe herself with. "Rachel, you don't need that –"

Cuddy cut herself off. Rachel had already ripped off what she wanted to use, and there was no point now in correcting her. Cuddy just prayed she wouldn't need to call maintenance, because the toilet had become clogged.

When it became clear that the bathroom would survive Rachel, Cuddy washed both their hands and carried Rachel into the kitchen. "How about some eggs for breakfast? Does that sound good?"

It did, but just as Cuddy pulled the eggs out of the refrigerator, Marina entered the hotel room. The shift in Rachel's mood was immediate. She'd been a little cranky before but mostly quiet, manageable. The second she saw Marina though, screaming, she rushed to Cuddy.

"Mommy! Don't go!"

Exhausted of this particular morning habit, Cuddy picked Rachel up and hugged her closely. "You know I'm coming home later," she said in a voice that she hoped sounded more gentle than tired. But of course, Rachel was too busy throwing a fit to notice either way.

Marina asked loudly, "Has she eaten yet?" Cuddy shook her head. "I'll feed her. You don't want to be late."

This was Marina's way of saying that Cuddy could – should – leave. Cuddy hated to go to work with Rachel like this, but she had to. She couldn't stay with Rachel for forever, and the longer she stayed, the worse this would get.

"Okay, Rachel," Cuddy told her in a tone that she forced to sound upbeat. "Mommy has to go to work."

"No," Rachel wailed.

"You stay here with Marina and play. I'll see you later."

Rachel kicked in the air as Cuddy handed her off to Marina. She screamed the entire time, cried for Cuddy, but both adults ignored her in the exchange.

And then Rachel couldn't be ignored any longer.

She bit Marina.

Marina was trying to adjust Rachel in her arms. One of her hands reached up to cradle Rachel's head close to her in an attempt to stop the little girl from flailing about. Her arm close to Rachel's mouth, Rachel took advantage of that and instantly bit down on the flesh of Marina's forearm.

To her credit, Marina remained calm, in control, even as Rachel continued to fight in her arms. But Cuddy couldn't be as collected. She had tried to be patient with Rachel who couldn't possibly understand why House was gone. This was too much though.

"Don't you dare bite her, Rachel."

It wasn't what she said that got Rachel's attention. It was the tone she used, deadly and loud. Rachel had never experienced that before; if being raised by Arlene had taught Cuddy one thing, it was that she didn't need to shout or hit to be completely intimidating. No, Cuddy didn't want the same relationship with her daughter that she had had growing up – and still had – with her own mother. But it had guided Cuddy's choices as a parent… until now.

The sudden change in demeanor terrified Rachel. Whatever reaction she'd anticipated, it hadn't been the anger she received. Instantly regretful, she apologized, "I'm sorry." Then she turned to look at Marina. "Sorry."

Marina didn't say anything, deferring to Cuddy. Cuddy didn't hesitate to step in. "We don't bite people. Do you understand?" Rachel nodded her head emphatically. "Good."

Finally Marina said, "I can handle this if you need to leave."

Cuddy didn't want to say okay, but what other choice did she have? She had a few more phone calls to make, and she couldn't avoid going to the police station – not when she had a full day of work to do afterwards. Unless she wanted to stay at the hospital until the middle of the night, she really did need to get started now. But it felt wrong to leave Marina to essentially parent Rachel. Then again, Rachel had only bitten Marina to keep Cuddy at home. And Cuddy thought that if she stayed any longer than ordinary, Rachel would take from that that she'd gotten what she wanted by misbehaving.

"Okay," Cuddy said, realizing that she had to go. "I want a good report when I get home," she told Rachel who blushed in shame. As Cuddy reached for her briefcase, she said, "Thanks, Marina."

When she left the apartment, she thought it didn't matter how she was dressed.

She felt completely powerless.

But in that helplessness, she found the determination necessary to address the problem. If she'd been reluctant to take Rachel to a psychologist before, that hesitation was gone now. It was clear that something needed to be done. If Rachel were biting her nanny, something had to change. And Cuddy accepted that this was beyond her control. She'd tried her best to ease Rachel's fears, to make things better for her. Yet Cuddy had failed.

Rachel's behavior wasn't going to improve on its own. It wouldn't. That happy, sweet little girl who didn't understand loss was gone.

House had destroyed her.

He was the one responsible for all of this… and she was about to have him released from prison.

Truth be told, it was almost enough to make her change her mind. No matter what she'd said to Sanford Wells, knowing what House had done to her daughter nearly had her drive to work and not to the police station handling her case. For Rachel alone, House deserved to spend the rest of his life in jail.

But Cuddy didn't alter her plans. If anything, this latest development erased all doubts she had about her behavior. She'd wondered what it would say about her, to make a man miserable so easily. Now she knew she didn't care.

He'd hurt her daughter, and Cuddy didn't care what it took to make him suffer after that.


She sat across from two detectives – Williams, the man who had actually handled her case, and Parker, the woman who'd been called in to talk Cuddy out of what she'd come here to do.

"You told Officer Soltes you wanted to press charges, Dr. Cuddy," Williams said in a tone that belied the beginnings of agitation he was desperate to hide.

Cuddy didn't deny it. "I did. I'd just watched my ex-boyfriend drive his car through my home. I was furious."

Parker leaned forward in a sympathetic manner that was equal parts earnest and calculated. "Then why don't you explain to us why you changed your mind, Lisa? Because I would like to understand why you'd like to have him set free."

"A few months ago, one of our doctors in research began testing a drug that would regenerate muscle growth after muscle death," Cuddy explained in simplistic terms as she reached into her briefcase and pulled Dr. Riggin's medical files out. Setting them on the table between Parker, Williams, and herself, Cuddy told them, "At first the study appeared to be successful. Muscle tissue was growing. Shortly afterwards, however, the mice begin to display lethargy in their movements. According to Dr. Riggin's notes, the researcher conducting these tests, he suspected the mice had trouble compensating with the new mass of tissue. Tests revealed, however, that the drug stimulated tumor growth, and the drug was deemed unsafe for further studying."

Cuddy gave them a moment to ask questions for clarification, but they seemed to be following her so far. "As you have probably become aware by now, years ago House had a blockage in his leg. A delay in treatment led to tissue death in his thigh. Amputation was recommended; he refused. We excised that part of the thigh and saved his life. But… the side effect of that procedure was, is, pain. Constant pain."

"So what are you saying?" Williams asked. "He took some drug for rats?" Williams chuckled at the idea.

"That's exactly what I'm saying." She reached down into her bag and pulled out House's medical records.

"We can't look at that," Parker said when she noticed what this particular file was.

Cuddy wasn't deterred. "All it will do is confirm what I'm telling you, which you will want to do anyway, I'm sure. So if you want go through the steps of getting House's consent, which he will give you if he thinks he has a chance of being released, then by all means."

Williams didn't seem as concerned as Parker when it came to privacy violations. "Parker's new to the case," he lied, not realizing that Cuddy had already figured out why the woman was here. "We've already gotten access to his medical records. Based on the amount of Vicodin in his possession when we arrested him, we wanted to be sure that he had a legitimate reason for having that much."

"He does. House's recurring pain is only relieved through continual drug use. Legal drug use, but Vicodin has serious side effects, which you will know by now he has had." A phantom of sympathy she once felt for the man in question passed through her. Her instinct was to fight the feeling, but in front of two detectives, she allowed the emotion to shine through. If she didn't make his actions seem understandable and worthy of pity, no one else would believe that.

"He heard that the trials were going well with the mice. I don't think I need to explain how dangerous and downright stupid it is to take a drug that has yet to be given even the most cursory of studies performed on it," Cuddy said matter of factly.

"Not to mention how illegal it is," Williams pointed out. "Why weren't we informed of the theft?"

"Drug company knows what happened; they plan on reworking the formula eventually, and if the compound ever passes drug trials, they don't want it on record that their product once harmed a man."

"And the hospital?"

Cuddy shrugged. " House was desperate… and eventually as tumor ridden as the mice had been. He removed the first tumor himself. He tried to perform surgery on his own body. In my mind, that more than punishes him for any theft he may have committed."

"You said the first tumor," Parker said then. "This is an ongoing problem?"

"There were three tumors discovered. House could only cut out the most shallow before he went into shock. A surgeon removed the remaining two. Afterwards, tests indicated, and we believed, that he would be fine."

"So… you want him released because you think he has more tumors or –"

"Dr. Riggin first noted a problem in the mice, because they were cramping and having trouble moving around. Although I initially believed House to be acting of his own accord, I now suspect that… he originally drove off in anger, then thought better of leaving James Wilson in front of my house, and when he returned to pick him up, like the mice, Greg House experienced cramping in his leg that left him unable to control the car that destroyed my home."

Parker reached forward and patted her hand. "Look, I know you want to believe that he couldn't have done something like that. You still love him and –"

"I really don't," Cuddy said flatly. "We broke up before the accident, because I didn't want to date him anymore. This isn't about love."

"If that's what happened," Williams interrupted in an equally bored tone. "Why did he flee the country? Why didn't he stay at the scene? Why hasn't he said anything about any sort of cramp?"

Cuddy shrugged. "I can't say for sure, because I'm not him. But I would think it'd be understandable to have this… episode if you will and to fear that no would believe you."

"It is rather unbelievable," Williams said plainly.

"And," Parker added. "Intent is only part of the equation. His behavior, intentional or not, is still…." She paused, changed her tactic. "Lisa, we understand this is hard, but what you're –"

"It's quite simple actually. You can go through the expense of a trial, and what do you have?" She gestured to herself. "A victim willing to defend the perpetrator. A –"

"There were other victims involved," Parker said.

"A broken wrist on a man who got hurt getting out of the way," Cuddy said dismissively. "A complete stranger and two family members who couldn't tell you anything about Greg House or what he's capable of. I'm the one you need, and you don't have me. More importantly, you don't have a criminal that people are going to want to convict."

"And you went to law school when exactly?" Williams asked.

"I don't need to be a lawyer to know that House is a pitiful person. All he has to do is walk five seconds in front of the jury, and no one will convict him, because they see a man with a cane – not someone who is capable of nearly killing five people."

That wasn't a lie. She'd thought she would be bullshitting her way through this whole exchange, but she realized at that moment that some people would ignore House's malice no matter what. They didn't know him and in a court of law, wouldn't get to see that he was a complete jackass. They would only see the cane, the inherent sadness in him. They would forgive him, because they felt bad for him. And in doing so, they would justify everything he had done to her or worse… act as though it had never happened.

"A jury won't give you what you want," she said then. "I have no interest in going through a trial and having my life dissected for something that already has a foregone conclusion."

Detective Parker seemed to sense the increased honesty in the words. "If you're here because you're worried we can't get a conviction, let me assure you: we can. We will do our best to –"

"I don't want that." Cuddy sighed. "I've wanted to believe that he was as obviously guilty as I thought he was when he got out of that car. But…. rationally I know he's not."

Cuddy couldn't be sure if she'd had the desire effect on the two officers. She understood that it was part of their job to detect lies, to be unmoved by stories. Yet Cuddy thought, well, hoped anyway, that she'd been convincing enough. If she hadn't been, she didn't know what she would do.

Unfortunately, they didn't confirm or deny her success. Both detectives excused themselves, telling her to stay where she was, but they didn't give her any idea as to how this had gone.

She waited for at least a half hour, which she took as a good sign. If they had no interest in dropping the case, they wouldn't keep her here. They would remind her that she'd be subpoenaed to testify, and that would be the end of the conversation. Maybe they thought they could change her mind if they kept her in an interrogation room long enough. But even then… this was a considerable amount of time being spent not talking to her. If they had planned to convince her of something, they weren't making good use of her limited time.

That seemed to be the case though, because five minutes later, a man walked in – a different man. He was clearly not a detective. His suit was too expensive, too well-fitted. It was possible he'd inherited the money necessary to afford such purchases, but she doubted he would be here if that were the case.

"Sorry to keep you waiting," he said, dark brown eyes flashing apology in her direction. As he closed the door behind him, she took in his appearance – noted above all else that he was attractive, almost indecently so. He was tall, though not as tall as House, muscular but thin. His hair was neatly cut short. His dark black curls were the same length as his goatee, which on him was appealing, not sleazy. And when he turned back around and smiled at her, she knew why she'd been asked to wait for him. Whoever he was, he was good enough looking to convince people of all sorts of things.

Cuddy refused to give into her baser instincts. But she knew she wouldn't mind watching this man try his best.

"I'm Malcolm Reinbeck," he told her, shaking her hand firmly.

"Lisa Cuddy."

"I've been the district attorney assigned to your case. Detectives Parker and Williams thought I might be able to convince you that I can get you a conviction." He sat down across from her and shook his head. "But I suspect this is the part where you break my heart."

"Is it?" she asked doubtfully. She leaned forward, letting the neckline of her dress slip down just a tiny bit. "I had no idea you cared so much about my case."

"I don't like to lose," he said, simplifying matters, taking in her appearance as much as she had his. "I don't think you do either, which is why you're afraid of taking this to trial."

"I'm not afraid. This is just the right thing to do."

"Okay." He sat back in the chair and relaxed.

However, Cuddy was suspicious of him giving in. It seemed too easy. "That's it?" she asked after a moment. "No speech about how you can get a conviction if I just take the stand against him?"

"Not at all. I know better than to try to convince a beautiful woman of something she doesn't want to do."

She smiled a little. "Smart man."

"Selfish one," he corrected. "See, if I'm still handling your case, I can't ask you on a date."

She liked that he wasn't playing games, but at the same time, she couldn't be sure that this wasn't the game – to pretend as though he liked her to ignite some passion for prosecution in her. And then, reading between the lines further, she had to ask, "Is that how this is going to work? I say yes, so you'll release –"

"No," he said hastily, bordering on horrified at the idea. "I can't convince you to see this through to the end, so I'll push the paperwork forward so the charges will be dropped. Independent of that, I'm not blind to your physical appearance."

"Thank you."

"I'd like to have dinner with you some time."

"You don't even know me."

He nodded his head. "That would be the point of going out on a date. But like I said, I know better than to try to convince a lady of something she doesn't want, so it's completely up to you."

"Okay," she told him before she could regret it. "Dinner."

The more reasonable side to her knew that a romance was not what she needed right now. It was hard to say what it was that she needed, but a boyfriend didn't seem like one of those things. But Malcolm was cute and interested in her and most importantly, not House. It probably wouldn't lead to anything serious, because she wasn't ready for that. Still, there was no harm in having dinner with an attractive man.

It was the opposite really, she thought as she pulled a business card from her briefcase and handed it to Malcolm. This could only be a good thing. Given Rachel and House and everything else, it would be nice to spend an evening with an adult who wouldn't try to kill her at the end of the date.

No matter what, it would be nice to have something to look forward to.


She dreaded this moment, had since the second he'd ruined her home. Of course, right after House had done that, she hadn't imagined that his release would be welcomed by her, the product of her actions. But when he hadn't killed anyone, she had known that this day would come eventually.

And here she was now – living that moment she'd never wanted to happen.

Any enjoyment she'd gotten from being asked out on a date was gone. The self-assurance she'd had that this was the right course of action disappeared. Whatever she'd told herself to get herself to this point suddenly seemed inadequate when faced with the reality of picking House up from jail.

At that moment, she berated herself for insisting on it. She could have had him released and let him figure out a way to get home on his own. That would have been easier, probably smarter as well. But she'd told Malcolm, and everyone else, that she would be picking him up. No doubt they believed she was doing this to prove that she really thought House wasn't responsible for his actions. In truth however, she'd wanted to take the drive back to his apartment to explain in detail how his life was going to be from here on out. She wouldn't allow him to think he'd achieved any sort of freedom when he walked out of his jail.

Being here though… it was a lot harder than she imagined it would be.

Part of her wanted to turn and run, but she knew she couldn't. Thanks to her own behavior, she would have to come face to face with House eventually. She couldn't avoid this meeting forever.

But when he suddenly came through a heavily locked and guarded door and into the same room that she was in, she wanted to run.

It wasn't fear that she felt, not exactly. That would have been understandable, she thought, but she doubted he was dumb enough to do something to her in a room filled with armed policemen. It wasn't that she was afraid of being hurt.

It was just… a deep longing to be free of him and the unbidden knowledge that she probably never would be. Because even as part of her hated him, there was another part that couldn't help but notice how gaunt he'd become. In the last month and a half or so, he'd lost weight, muscle mass. He didn't look as though he'd been mistreated, but he was thinner and paler. His eyes were wild with disbelief and concern, and if there were fear in the room with them now, it was his.

His things bagged in a clear plastic bag, he held them tucked under the crook of one arm. His other hand grasped his cane and shook with each tentative step towards her. When he stopped in front of her, he said nothing. He just stood there in complete bewilderment.

"Do you have everything?" she asked unkindly. He nodded his head. "Let's go. I want to be able to go to work, and there's traffic."

He didn't say anything, which made her feel even more uneasy. Being with him at all made her uncomfortable. Seeing that he had… changed (she hesitated to say that) didn't help her feel any better. It should have. His newfound docility should have pleased her. Instead, she felt as though the rules had changed, things between them had shifted. She didn't know what had happened to make him think this was the best way to handle her, and she didn't care what the reason was. But the difference confused her anyway. She hoped it didn't show.

Turning away from him, she started to walk towards the door. She assumed he would follow her, and he did, slowly. Nevertheless, that fact sent a ripple of disappointment through her. Although she knew this had to happen, it wasn't easy to go through with it. She didn't think it would ever be.

That became particularly apparent when they stepped outside into the bright sun. Instantly House stopped moving. He couldn't keep walking, because he was too busy wincing in pain. When Cuddy turned around to see what the problem was, she understood automatically.

He probably hadn't been outside since he'd been arrested, and his eyes had trouble adjusting to the sudden rush of light and the overwhelming heat of summer. He cringed, trying to shield himself from the sun instinctively. And seeing him suffering, she felt her own instincts respond. She found herself wanting to help him, feeling bad for him.

It wasn't even a thought in her mind. There was no moment where she heard herself thinking that she should do something. The impulse was simply there. It was only when she felt her body begin to move toward him that she realized what she was doing.

Thankfully, she stopped herself before she'd taken that first step. Squashing whatever concern she might have had, she told him sternly, "Come on. Unless you want me to leave you here."

He followed, not having a choice in the matter. He kept his gaze cast on the ground though. An indication of submission would have been nice. This wasn't one however; it was just easier for him to see where he was going. And when he got into her car, it was clear that he didn't feel beholden to her at all. As he buckled his seatbelt, he asked, "So… what's the case?"

Her jaw clenched in irritation. Turning the ignition, she told him emotionlessly, "There's no case."

"I don't believe that. You're here. You're still pissed, so –"

"Can you blame me?" she snapped, backing out of the parking spot with her foot bearing down on the gas pedal harshly.

He stayed calm when he answered, "No. But you've left me in prison for I don't know how many weeks, and now you've suddenly changed your mind?" He shrugged. "Something's happened. And since it's obviously not that you've decided that you missed me, the only logical solution would be –"

"There's no case."

His fingers absentmindedly scratched at his beard, which had grown longer since he'd been in jail. "Then you either really do want me and have yet to admit that fact to –"

"Don't." She was practically snarling at him while she pulled onto the nearest and hopefully quickest highway that would take them back to Princeton. "The charges against you are dropped because of me, and instead of being grateful, you think you have the right to talk to me like that?"

He looked out the window. At first she thought he felt guilty. But the truth was revealed quickly, because he told her, "Watch your speed. There's a cop car sitting in the –"

"Then stop making me want to drive over a cliff."

His way of doing that, it seemed, was shutting up altogether. In a perfect world, he would have apologized… although in such a place, this would have never happened. But she was willing to accept an absence of antagonism as the I'm sorry he couldn't say.

She took advantage of the silence, or at least she wanted to. She'd gone over this moment in her head many times, what she would say, how she would say it. Over the last month, there had been a lot she wanted to tell him… yell at him. But now, when it was time to actually let him know how the rest of his life would go, she was unsure where to start.

The need to get this right made her shy to open her mouth. She would only have one opportunity to make House's situation absolutely clear to him, and she didn't want to screw it up, because his presence unsettled her. Yet she knew that the longer she stayed silent, the more she would question herself, drive herself nuts considering and reconsidering what she wanted to say. So she decided to risk saying the wrong thing by forcing herself to speak up now instead; it was easier that way.

"The board felt that your insanity would taint the hospital's reputation, and –"

"So they made you –"

"No. And don't interrupt me again."

"Fine," he said with a shrug. "Continue."

He was snide – even now, after all she'd done for him. Perhaps that was a way of ignoring the debt he was in. She didn't know. Regardless she wanted to pull over on the side of the road and leave him where he was. He deserved as much.

But knowing that she had a lot to say, she ignored his response and kept going. "I agreed to drop the charges against you. You should know that they didn't force me to protect you. They don't care what I do with you as long as it doesn't scare donors off. In fact, they wanted me to fire your ass."

"Then do it already," he challenged. "I don't need the speech. Just fire me."

"That's my point: I'm not firing you." She had to keep her attention on the road, but out of the corner of her eye, she could see his eyes widen in shock. She saw the way he nervously fidgeted in his seat. "I thought about it," she admitted. "But I know what you would want: anything to avoid facing what you did. Of course, you understand that no one will ever hire you again, but part of you would be relieved that you didn't have to face me every day. So I decided that there wasn't a chance in Hell of that happening. You're not getting what you want."

He raised an eyebrow at her tone. "If that's true, what's to stop me from quitting?"

"You won't quit," she said knowingly. "That would indicate you felt bad about what you did, that you knew you were guilty. You can't even thank me for dropping the charges against you. You're not going anywhere."

He didn't confirm or deny. He just asked, "So I just go back to work? Like nothing happened? That's it?"

"You're not that dumb. You know that's not it."

"Then what do you want?"

"Nothing I say is a request. If you don't do what you're told, if you break a single rule I have, you can spend the rest of your life bagging groceries for all I care," she warned. "So I would pay close attention."

When she was sure that she had his focus, she started to go down the list she'd created the night before. Every rule calculated to make his life just a little more miserable, to take away a privilege he'd once had, it had taken planning. But she knew it would be worth it in the end.

"For starters, you show up to work on time. Not when you feel like it, not when you plan on leaving an hour early. You come on time. If you're more than five minutes late, you're fired. You'll do ten hours of work in the clinic per week. That's not negotiable. If you don't show up, you're –"

"Fired. Right." He didn't seem surprised or even that upset by those changes. But then, they weren't that hard for him to follow. She fought the urge to smile, knowing how that would change.

"In your absence, I appointed Chase the new head of diagnostics. That won't change." House turned his head to look at her in surprise. He hadn't anticipated that. "You'll share the title for the time being until one of you makes a mistake. You'll share the team and cases. Any tests you want to do must be approved by him."

"You realize he'll just do whatever I say, right?"

"Doesn't matter," she said, shrugging, changing lanes. "It's an extra step for you, which I know you don't like. Speaking of, there will be times, of course, where you need my approval for tests or treatments. You will not come to be directly," she ordered. "Ever."

That confused him. "I don't understand. What do you –"

"If you need my approval, you send someone else. I don't want to talk to you."

He shook his head once. "That's stupid. What if whoever it is I send – Taub – doesn't agree with me or they don't understand what –"

"Convince them," Cuddy said simply. "But don't come to me personally."

"Or what? You gonna fire me for trying to do my job? For being professional?"

"No." She grimaced. "I'll just refuse your request. Your patient will die."

"I don't believe that. You wouldn't do –"

"Try me," she said in all seriousness. "Given what you've done, I don't think it's asking too much that you allow me to pretend that you don't exist. I'm giving you your job. I gave you your freedom. The least you could do is never speak to me again after today. If you can't do that and your patients die, that's your fault – for not honoring my wishes."

House fell silent once more. She wasn't sure if she should take that as agreement or if he was shocked by how determined she was to never forgive him. She didn't care.

"I have boxes of paperwork from before your arrest that need to be taken care of. Before you treat any patients personally, it'll be your job to complete that paperwork. And you'll be expected to maintain your billings afterwards. You'll have time for that too," she explained, moving onto the next rule. "No more toys, instruments, or television in your office. Any item not directly related to work will be confiscated and not returned. No prostitutes, no porn. Your computer will be updated to prevent you from looking at any site that's not directly related to work."

He bristled. "What if –"

"No more free floating prescriptions of Vicodin," Cuddy said, ignoring his protest that surely would have amounted to an absurd possibility that would never actually happen. "Anything in your office was already confiscated. This afternoon, someone will be by your apartment to take whatever you have at home."

House reached into the plastic bag he had. Pills suddenly in hand, he popped one quickly. "You didn't see that."

"I don't care that you still do it. But you'll be given a reasonable dose. One prescription a month. You can go outside the hospital if you want more and risk being arrested. I would be cautious though; you'll be taking random but regular drug tests from now on."

"So you don't want to talk to me," House said slowly. "But you want to make sure I don't overdose. That's interesting."

She waved off his point with a hand. "Vicodin's something you like, so I'm limiting what you can have. It's that simple."

"Some would say it's proof that you care." He stared at her as though trying to see whether he could draw the Cuddy that loved him from within her. That person was dead though, and there was nothing House could do to bring her back to life.

"I don't care."

"I don't believe you."

"And I don't have to convince you. A few more things," she said, glossing over House's accusations. "No driving to work for six months."

He scoffed. "Why?"

"I told the police I thought you were suffering from side effects of Compound CS-804. You had cramping, and that's why you drove your car through my home."

She could tell he was impressed. "Thank you" was still impossible for him to say, but he seemed to find no flaw in her method of freeing him. If anything he clearly liked the reasoning.

Suddenly, softly he asked, "Why can't we act like that's what happened? I'm… I know I was wrong. I could have… killed you. But I didn't want to hurt you. That wasn't – it was a mistake," he said with conviction. The power in his voice quickly gave way to a plea. "I'm sorry. I really am, Cuddy. Can't we just treat this like it was an accident and –"

"It wasn't an accident," she interrupted loudly. As traffic slowed to a stop, she reminded him, "You weren't injured. No matter how angry or hurt," she said mockingly. "You were, you could have driven away. If you cared about me at all, you would have. So no, I'm not going to pretend, for your benefit, that –"

"Then why does it matter if I drive? Unless you actually do suspect that –"

"Hardly. But I don't think the police really bought my theory, and if I'm telling people that you couldn't control your muscles at the time of the crash, then your behavior needs to reflect that possibility. No driving."

"That doesn't make sense. If you're afraid someone will realize that you lied to the police, then shouldn't your behavior –"

"If my theory were correct, you would still be the idiot who stole an experimental drug and used it. I'm pretty sure I'd still be angry."

He couldn't fight the logic in that. As much as he wanted to, he couldn't.

"So don't drive," she repeated. "And since I've already had to save your ass from the police more than once, get to know your wife. I won't spare you the wrath of I.N.S. if they discover what you're doing."

"How do you know I don't know her?"

"If you gave a damn about her, she wouldn't have come looking for you when you were arrested. I know it's not in your nature to think of other people, but if there was anything between you and her, she wouldn't have had to ask me where you were."

He wasn't pleased by that development. The sour look on his face suggested he wasn't happy about that at all. "She wasn't supposed to bother you with –"

"We both know why you agreed to marry her, so please don't act like you wanted to protect me from that," she said with a sneer.

He couldn't deny that, so he tried to offer, "I'll divorce her if it means you'll –"

"No, you won't. She's innocent in –"

"She's defrauding the government and living off me for free while she screws her boyfriend on the side. That's hardly innocent."

She shook her head. "I'd like to believe that. But I keep coming back to one question: how desperate did she have to be to marry you? Well… two questions actually, because I can see what she gets out of this sham of a marriage, but I wasn't sure what you get out of it. And then I realized exactly what you would want from her. You're so disgusting; the answer is obvious."

"What is it that you think I –"

"Help her get her citizenship. Stop having sex with her. Stop using her to do your laundry and cook for you. It's not up for discussion."

"Who said we were having sex?" Since they were sitting in backed up traffic, she could glare at him as if to say that he shouldn't have bothered with that lie; she would never believe it. "Fine. I admit that that's about as believable as when you say you don't have feelings for me any –"

"I don't."

"But here you are, telling me who I can have sex with."

"Because it's not right –"

"Right?"

"You're using her," Cuddy told him. "I don't want you for myself, and I didn't have your charges dropped so you could go home and take advantage of –"

"Well now you're just projecting," he said casually. When she tried to explain why he was wrong, he added, "That's exactly what this is. She comes to see you, and you two bonded over how mean I am, how cruel I was to –"

"That's not what happened. Stop making this about my behavior and start reflecting on your own."

His response was quick. "But I understand my behavior, and yours is so much more –"

"What is wrong with you?" she exclaimed, nearly screaming. Her hands shook on the steering wheel; her eyes cast longingly on the side of the road, as if an exit she could take would magically appear.

She thought she could handle it. She thought she could sit in a car with him and listen to him be completely unappreciative. When she'd imagined all of this, part of her had known that gratitude would be too much to expect. He couldn't accept that the person who had saved him was the same woman he could have killed. He couldn't reconcile that any more than she could get past the part where the man she'd loved had ruined her home. But she'd thought she could ignore him, that her hatred for him would get her through this conversation.

She was wrong.

"We are not having this conversation anymore," she declared. "You will do everything I've said. Additionally, and this is my last caveat for the time being, you'll be seeing a psychiatrist twice a week."

Cuddy thought he would go for the sarcastic remark. But perhaps afraid that she would kill him or dump him on the side of the road, he asked, "Nolan?"

"Considering your behavior since being treated by him, I'm not sure he's up to the task of fixing you. No, I've set up an appointment for you for tomorrow morning at ten with Audrey Jenkins." He didn't seem to recognize the name. "Her office is right next to the public library. Like I said, you'll be seeing her twice a week. She's agreed to keep me updated on your progress, meaning if you don't show up, if you show up late, if you refuse to participate in therapy, if you leave because of a patient, she'll let me know."

He rolled his eyes. "Nothing makes a person open up faster to a shrink than knowing your boss is going to hear about it, right?"

"She won't tell me what you say. The less I know about what goes on in your diseased mind, the happier I will be."

"Well that's a relief."

"This is the way things are, House. You can either accept that, or you can leave Princeton forever and never come back. It's your choice."

"Are you done?"

"Yes."

He didn't say anything then. Whether the decision was clear for him or not, he gave no indication. She could only assume she had his cooperation. The alternative for him was unthinkable. No matter how much he hated every requirement, it would be better than to be jobless, to never see Wilson again… or her, she supposed. She wasn't sure House counted her as a reason to stay, not anymore.

Cuddy didn't ask for clarification however. He was busy leaning his seat back and closing his eyes. And she thought that if he wanted to take a nap or even just pretend to take one, she was okay with that. It was better than having to listen to him talk.

She wasn't prepared for the quiet though. Traffic was still backed up for as far as she could see. She'd decided there must have been an accident somewhere along the highway, and it must have been bad enough if she was driving under twenty miles per hour. That alone didn't bother her much. But being stuck in a car with House, who quickly fell asleep beside her, was… disturbing.

In truth, fighting would have been easier. He would say stupid things, and she would hate him, and that was a dynamic she could handle well enough. Now that he was asleep though, she was left with… the sight of him looking so peaceful, innocent.

The thought made her feel ill, the betrayal of her own mind far worse than anything House had done. But there was no wiping away the idea completely; when she looked at him, she could see the things she had once loved in him. She remembered the nights they'd slept together, the mornings she'd woken up, curled into him, his face just as serene then as it was now. Here she was trying to snuff out any trace of a relationship between them, creating rules to keep him out of her life. The past would always exist though. He would always have that part of her, no matter how he proceeded. And she might have hated him, might have wanted him to be in jail, but there was another part that longed to reach out to him. To run a hand along the side of his face, aged with sadness, would have been so wrong.

But part of her wanted it anyway.

Hands gripping the steering wheel tightly (there would be no contact between his body and hers), she forced herself to drive on.

To be continued