Disclaimer: The characters of House and Cuddy are not owned by me, but borrowed for the purposes of the story.
WE ARE RIGHT
"My damaged, depressed, drug-addled judgment is still better than yours or any other doctor's in this hospital."
The words reverberated in her mind. He had been right. Of course he was right. The hospital was still abuzz with news of his brilliant procedure. Blowing up a heart! It was a ridiculously dangerous idea, and yet it had been so right. It was classic Gregory House. These kinds of crazy, dangerous, brilliant ideas were what made him the most well respected diagnostician in the United States, and possibly the world. It was the reason she'd always admired and respected him, why she advocated and sided with him in spite of his tendency to alienate staff, colleagues and his own patients.
And she had questioned his abilities because he was on drugs. What an idiot!
Cuddy rested her elbows on her desk and let her face fall into the palms of her hands, guilt and frustration pouring over her. She should have known. He had been going by the book with the patient, testing ideas and diagnosis and finally came up with exactly what was required to treat him. He had been doing his thing, just like he always did. Through pain, heartache, shock, tragedy, even detoxing, he always managed to solve the puzzle. Did it matter that he'd been doing it on drugs again? Hell, he'd become renowned for his talent and skill when he was on drugs. So, what if he'd been clean for almost two years.
People may hate him and think he's the biggest jerk alive, but they respected his skill. Medical students, interns and doctors around the world wanted to learn from him. Why? Because he is amazing.
He was right, even on drugs he was the best doctor in the hospital, one of the greatest medical minds of our time. The drugs didn't change that. If anything, they just freed him up to think more clearly, an ironic thought since narcotics usually dulled your brain. But House dealt with the distraction of pain on a daily basis. The drugs dulled that pain so he could focus on the issue at hand, the drugs weren't a handicap, they…
Cuddy's head jerked up from her thoughts and she quickly turned her chair around and stared out the window of her office, facing away from the busy halls of the clinic. "…drug-addled brain is still better than yours …" she heard his voice again. He was so angry, so controlled, so hurt…so right. Her eyes filled with tears. He was right.
He'd been clean for over two years. She knew he still hurt; his pain was chronic, only managed, not cured. She'd been with him in the mornings when he fought with the pain in his leg, slowly stretching and working out the cramps so that he would begin to move easier. It took his toll on him. He was tired. Every day he fought pain, and he had been fighting it with Ibuprofen and determination alone…and for a time hope. She'd taken that from him.
His pain was a constant that was a part of every minute of every day. Yet he'd spent all these months not once complaining about it, sneaking drugs or manipulating. He just dealt with it, trying to maintain that tedious balance, working every angle he knew to ensure nothing would tip the scales. Her fear tipped that scale. Once again, she was the cause of his pain.
"I'll hurt you again," he had told her. She'd assured him she didn't want him to change. He hadn't really believed her; she knew that. Still, he wanted to be with her. He'd wanted her as desperately as she wanted him, but he'd been so afraid he would mess up, so afraid she'd remember he was a jerk and leave him. He didn't give in to those fears and numb them with drugs. She'd watched him work for distractions, taking her on dates, stealing those silly toys from patients room and flowers from the lobby, secretly stalking her, and even working hard to bond with Rachel. He was easing his fears through acts of love and commitment, as strange and distorted, as they sometimes seemed.
He had stayed clean; he had focused on her, on their happiness because those fears made his pain a little worse and he couldn't deal with any more pain. He dealt with enough physical pain; he couldn't deal with any more.
A tear rolled down her face as Cuddy suddenly began to understand. Every "failure" to step up was not a failure at all, but another weight that tipped the scale of pain. He was faced with an emotional situation that created fear in him, and nothing is more painful to House than fear. For most people that pain would be tolerable, but for House a man already tired and straining under the weight of a managed pain, it was just enough to throw him. How many times had another weight been added and he'd staggered, but not fallen?
"I'll always choose you," he'd said. Those words still haunted her. He hadn't made it to her award ceremony, but she'd understood. He'd lost a patient. As much as he pretended these things didn't bother him, they did. Losing a patient hurt him more than he let on. And the loss weighed heavy on him. Yet, he hadn't fallen. He'd staggered into a bar and felt sorry for himself. He's fallen into self-pity and self-doubt as his mind had sorted through the facts. She hadn't been mad that he'd missed the ceremony; she'd been furious that he'd not let her be there for him in his pain. She wanted to share his life, his burdens. She wanted to share the load. But he crawled into his cave and got drunk, ignoring her calls. She'd been so hurt and betrayed. Then he'd shown up at her door, soaked and trembling, eyes moist with tears that still hadn't found the freedom to be shed.
"My God, I'm an idiot," she muttered as the pieces came together in her mind, forming a new picture much different than the one she'd painted the past two weeks.
She'd come to his apartment that night and told him he was trying not to feel pain, as if he was running like a coward and would be incapable to really be there for her. She said he'd never really opened up to her, but that night standing before her soaked, cold and more vulnerable than she'd ever seen him, he'd shared everything. He'd admitted his fears: "Being with you makes me a crappy doctor." Even now those words made her cringe. She'd been upset that he felt that way; that he felt he had to choose between happiness and his gift. What he was really admitting is his fears were taking him over. He was afraid of losing her and afraid of losing his gift, afraid they couldn't co-exist and he'd have to choose. Yet, he was trying to keep those scales balanced – he would make the decision so that he wouldn't feel the fear so much. He chose her. He could put those fears aside. He would only need to deal with the leg pain. He didn't have to take on the weight of those fears. He had her.
He'd chosen her. He'd shared his heart, his fears and his burdens with her that night. Yes, he was drunk, but he was speaking with the clarity of a man who was desperate not to drown again in a darkness that was more painful than he could bear.
"Don't…don't do this," he'd begged as she caressed his face. She'd told him she couldn't do it. He'd been fighting his demons for her, for them, and she'd been oblivious that the war was even going on. She'd only felt the pain of being alone when she most needed him. She'd accused him of being "stoned" and not present even though he was physically there for her. He'd followed her, had his team follow her, tapped into her computer, checked in with Wilson… He'd been ruthless in his pursuit to stay on top of her condition and encourage her in his sarcastic, idiotic way. She'd seen it as deflecting and being afraid. Could it have been much deeper? Was he fighting to maintain that delicate balance so that he could be there for her? Was he being there the only way he could while he sought answers on how to keep from giving into the pain that was overwhelming him?
He'd chosen her above the only thing that had ever mattered to him: his gift. Was the pain of losing her too overwhelming? He was lost and confused on how to maintain his equilibrium and show her the support she needed. His forte was never emotional support, so that would have scared him, enough. But it was more than fear of not being there for her. It was fear of not being enough for her, not being able to save her, of a life without her, a life where his gift wouldn't be able to save him. He'd chosen her.
She was startled from her reverie when Wilson came through the door, distressed and obviously exhausted.
"Here are the reports you need for your meeting tomorrow." He laid them on her desk and turned to leave.
"Wilson," she called to stop him from leaving. "Are you okay?"
He shrugged. "I'm fine." He turned to look at her. He saw her eyes were red and her face blotched. She'd been crying. He didn't think he could do this any more. He couldn't stop the pain in either of his friends. They were dealing with it in completely different ways, but they were both dying inside. House, through drugs and a complete downward spiral; Cuddy in her wall of control and determination not to think about it at all. Neither one of them were succeeding. They were both falling apart. He was too.
"I can't do this, Cuddy." He whispered, "I can't do this." He bowed his head in defeat.
"What's happened?" She came around her desk to face him.
"You've obviously been crying," he answered. "You need my support, but I don't know how to help you anymore than I can help House."
"What's happened?" she repeated. Wilson shook his head, refusing to answer.
"You just need to deal with your pain the best you can and try to move on," he commanded, disregarding her question. "You've made your decision, and I understand – I do – but I've got all I can handle right now with House and I can't be the friend you need right now. God knows I want to. You're my friend too, and I want to be, but…"
The stress in his voice was palpable as he shook his head.
"Take care of yourself," he whispered and turned to leave
"Wilson!" She called. "Talk to me!"
"Cuddy, I can't," he answered. "You said you couldn't help him. I understand. You need to do what you need to do, and I am always your friend, but House…"
"Wilson," Cuddy grasped him by the shoulders, silently commanding him to look at her. "What's happened with House?" Wilson just stared at her.
"He did something amazing yesterday. He solved his case, he proved his genius, he proved he was right. He's the talk of the hospital. He was right and proved me an idiot. That's got to make him feel good."
Wilson shrugged off her hands and stared blankly at her. "He doesn't feel anything."
Cuddy looked at him confused. "You already know he's been fighting to feel again. You know he's searching for something to fill that hole. Well, solving his puzzle and proving his genius didn't even create a spark. He's completely dead inside." He ran his hand through his hair and rested his palm on the back of his neck. "Last night he jumped from a 10 story balcony into a swimming pool. He spent the night partying with college kids and taking every crazy dare they offered in the hopes that something would make him feel alive again."
He looked at her in desperation. "I'm losing him. He's falling off that cliff and I have no rope to hold him. Even if I did, he has no strength left to hold onto it."
The tears welled up in Cuddy's eyes and she couldn't stop herself from hugging him. "I'm sorry," she whispered as she held him tight. "I'm so sorry."
"It's not your fault," he comforted her. "You had to do what was right for you; I get that."
"No," she shook her head and she held him tighter. "I really screwed up. I really messed up, Wilson."
Wilson froze. She couldn't mean what he thought she meant. Not after all that had happened, not after...
He gently pushed her away. "Don't, Cuddy," he spoke more firmly than he had since entering her office. "Whatever guilt you're feeling, whatever is causing this second-guessing, just stop. You'd better be 100% certain that you will stick around and fight for him no matter what he does, or what he says, or what destruction he brings on you and even Rachel…You've got to be so committed that nothing could make you walk away. If you're not that confident, then keep your distance."
Wilson waited for her to look at him, waited for her stunned eyes to reach his. "Cuddy," he urged her. "He's barely hanging on here. If you only "try" again, it won't just mean another fail for him…it will kill him."
H H H H H H H H
Cuddy was just going through the motions. Ever since Wilson had left her office, she'd been considering his words. He'd scared her. She didn't want to hurt House anymore. He was already damaged, broken. Dammit! So was she. But she didn't want to destroy him. But, how could she go on this way? How could she let him go on this way?
God, she remembered what it was like to watch him breakdown in her office, suddenly realizing his hallucination wasn't real. To realize he'd been falling apart and she'd missed all of the signs; she hadn't been there. She remembered when Wilson took him to Mayfield and how hard he'd tried to be a better man when he returned. She'd been scared. She didn't want to be the one that caused his breakdown. She didn't want him to want her if that's what happened. She had spent so long loving him, and to find that their love might actually be damaging to him…she made certain that wouldn't happen.
She'd determined to start another life and keep House on the periphery. She buried herself in her work, in a loveless, convenient relationship and had avoided as many antics with House as she could. That wasn't easy. He was always there…hovering, giving her an ear when she was frustrated, advice when she needed it, a laugh when she was ready to break, and yes, even a boost of confidence when she was starting to feel more a bitch and less a woman. And he did it all under the radar. It was always so subtle. He would be in elevator just when she was entering, in the cafeteria just when she went for lunch, need a consult at just the right time, even show up in the stairwell when she was hiding. He always knew when she needed him and was there. Why had she never thought of that? It wasn't like a lover, or even a friend, would expect. He'd always deflect and pretend he was there solely for selfish reasons. He'd say those brutally honest things that made you want to hit him, but in the end he helped her. He always helped.
Cuddy smiled. Just being with the pain in the ass helped her. Life was better with him, even when it was pretty bad. At least it was before he started trying to change. She'd told him she didn't want him to change, but that's exactly what he'd been trying to do. He'd been trying to change for her. She'd felt it. She'd been afraid of it. She'd tried to stop it, hadn't she? Had she?
Looking back, she'd actually just tried to control it. She'd treated her relationship like she would the hospital. She'd taken charge, followed rules and checked off lists. What she hadn't done is made him feel safe, safe in her love, safe in her commitment. Maybe he'd been right to be afraid. They'd both been afraid.
"You run from what you want, and have no idea what you need," he'd once told her. She always remembered what he said, carried his words with her. His words haunted her as much as they helped her. It turns out he was right again. She ran at the first sign of failure, the first sign of trouble. Why? Because she really had no idea what she needed. Even with the newfound understanding that House had actually been there for her, she had to admit her decision made no sense. How was being alone all of the time better than being alone a few times? How was him not being there for her any worse than her not being there for him? How was his running from fear any worse than her daily dash into control and denial?
Cuddy looked out the glass wall of her office and spotted House. He was signing out at the desk. He was tired. She saw it in his eyes, in his stance; in the way he leaned so heavy on his cane. He didn't look her way.
Her heart broke. There was a time he'd always looked her way, he'd always monitored her location, checked her office. He was always so aware of her every move. Was he still? Did he not need to look? She was an idiot to hope.
She watched him walk toward the doors, his limp more pronounced, his pain evident to anyone who cared to notice. He was an expert at alienation, which ensured people wouldn't notice. They wouldn't care. But she cared. She more than cared. She…
She had to talk to him.
H H H H H H H H H H
He heard her voice and the click of her heals behind him. He tried to ignore her, focusing on clicking his cane to the side of his motorcycle and strapping his bag to the back.
"House!" she called again.
He continued to ignore her. He'd been ignoring her for days. Well, not really. He'd been trying to get her to stop ignoring him. He'd been baiting her, pulling stunts around the hospital geared to raise her ire, to make her angry, to make her see him. She was so controlled and he was so out-of-control. He was dying inside and she was rebounding. He wanted her to hurt like him. He wanted her to care. He wanted her to miss him as much as he missed her. He wanted her to stay away. Hell, he didn't know what he wanted. He wanted to feel something besides hurt.
She was beside him now as he turned to get on his bike, and she blocked him. "We need to talk."
He tilted his head dramatically as if considering her words. "No," he quipped. "I don't think so."
She breathed deep. "Yes, we do."
"You want to thank me for putting the hospital back on top with my mad doctor skills," he quipped. "You want to validate me, and encourage me like a great administrator should. No problem. Rake in the money. I'm glad I can do something right. Just don't expect me to entertain any of your pathetic donors, take on any additional clinic hours or teach any more young doctors – unless they're twenty-five with perky breasts and are in it for the naked biology – in that case I'm all in. Otherwise, this is all you get. I treat my patients and I'm done."
He squeezed between her and the bike, pushing her aside as he straddled the seat of his motorcycle.
"This isn't about the hospital," she asserted.
"Then we have nothing to talk about." He still didn't look at her, but went to start the engine until her hand on his arm halted him.
"You do a lot right," she whispered. In everything he'd said, she'd latched on to that one statement. Of course! This was Cuddy. "You were right."
House gulped. He felt a jolt of current shoot through him from her touch, and a sudden rise of emotion at her words. Right? He wanted to be right, but right about what? About the patient? She said it wasn't about the hospital. So, what was he right about? He wanted to turn away, to be angry, to drown in the bitterness and hate that was somewhere in this shell of a man he'd become. God, he was tired! And here she was giving him a puzzle. What the hell was she talking about?
Cuddy came in closer to him and he felt her eyes on him, pleading with him. He tried to pull up the memory of her leaving him, tried to tap into the onslaught of emotions from that night. He tried to find it in him to push her away, but instead he was drawn to her. He was a pathetic moth being drawn to his death from the flame of Lisa Cuddy. He hated that! He hated his weakness.
Powerless to stop himself, he looked into her eyes, searching them.
"I was wrong." Her voice was shaky, as if she was barely holding on to her emotions, and her eyes were pleading with him. "You were right, House," this time her voice was a little stronger. "Please talk to me. At least hear me out."
There's no way she was talking about breaking up with him. She was right about that. Even he could see that. He hated it, hated himself. He was so tired, so weary of it all. His leg was hurting. He could always count on that pain when he felt nothing else! But he was feeling something else. For the first time since he'd sat on his bathroom floor and downed those vicodin, he was feeling. She did that to him. With a simple touch, a look in her eyes and a few whispered words, she brought him to life…and that made him angry. It made him want to lash out. It made him want to hang on. It made him want to run.
"Get on," he demanded.
Cuddy stared at him. She'd seen something spark in his eyes, felt something shift between them, but she didn't know what it meant. What was he saying?
"I'm leaving, Cuddy." His voice was gruff and commanding. "You can come with me and talk, or you can stay here. It's your choice."
She hadn't expected this. She didn't know what she expected. She couldn't go with him. It would be foolish. She couldn't gauge his feelings, his intent. She couldn't guess at his mindset. She would never be able to control the conversation, the situation. She wouldn't…
The engine started and she knew he wasn't bluffing. He was going to leave, and with it her only chance…Her only chance to what? At what? Cuddy didn't know what she was doing. She was afraid. She'd be crazy to trust him, to trust this.
She was crazy, she thought, as she climbed on the back of the bike, taking the helmet from him. She was jumping into the dark without a parachute, without a plan, without logic. Her heart began to beat and she felt the anxiety build, but in that moment she'd made a decision. Cuddy slipped her arms around his waist and held on tight. House was in the drivers seat.