Wilson had a little free time between patients so, as he often did, he decided to volunteer at the clinic.
"What have we got?" he asked the nurse in charge of admissions, peering at the sign-up sheet.
"7 year old boy who swallowed the family bird. A 21 year old girl who has a burning sensation 'down there'. And a 59 year old woman who's experiencing dizziness."
"I'll take dizzy," Wilson said quickly.
The nurse pointed him in the direction of Doris Morgenfield, who was sitting in the waiting area, knitting.
"Mrs. Morgenfield? I'm Dr. Wilson," he said, thrusting out his hand. "I understand you've been experiencing some dizziness."
"Yes," she said. "The room sometimes spins."
"Let's get you checked out, shall we?"
He led her to an exam room he had been told was empty. But when he opened the door, a tall, lanky man with several day's growth of beard and a petite curvy brunette in a powersuit were up against a wall, their limbs somewhat entangled, rather passionately making out.
"Ahhhh! Sorry!" he said, instinctively covering Mrs. Morgenfield's eyes and slamming door.
"Advanced CPR training," he said, quickly leading her away.
"Is it open to anybody?" she asked, peering hopefully at the closed door.
"That was looking pretty hot and heavy with you and Cuddy before," Wilson said to House later.
"I kept saying to her, 'It's inappropriate to make out on hospital property, Cuddy!' but she insisted," House said, with a sly grin.
"Uh huh. So what's the latest? She helping you plan Karen's surprise birthday party or something?"
"No, the Fox is out of the bag, so to speak. She knows that Karen and I are dunzo."
"And yet she was still kissing you. It's almost as if she likes you for you and not because you were dating some other woman."
"Time will tell, Jimmy boy. We have our first real date on Friday."
"Monster trucks or all-you-can eat wing night at Sullivan's?"
"Petite Jacques," House said.
"As in the real restaurant, with white table clothes and a wine list?"
"The very one."
"So how are you planning to screw it up?"
"I'm not. I'm pulling out all the stops," House said. "I'm going to be a certified Lisa Cuddy dream date."
Wilson looked at his friend cautiously.
"I'm not going to lie, House," he said. "This worries me greatly."
House arrived at Cuddy's house right on time.
"Whoa," he said, when she answered the door.
She was a vision in a cobalt blue Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress that hugged her body like an ace bandage.
She did a little spin.
"You like?" she said.
"I like," he said. "Wanna skip dinner and go straight to dessert?"
But in that moment, she noticed what he was wearing: Maroon-checked shirt, Paul Smith blazer, dark tan trousers.
"And why is your outfit giving me déjà vu?" she said dryly.
"I figured what better thing to wear on our date than the outfit you picked out for me?" he said.
"Yes, the outfit you bought to seduce another woman. Because what girl doesn't like being reminded that she's sloppy seconds?"
"Cuddy, you know you're anything but slop. . ."
"Forget it," she said, taking his arm. "Let's just go."
By the time they got to Petite Jacques, any tension between them had dissolved. (House had been his amusing self in the car, making up titles to medical country songs: "Achy Breaky Trachea" was one; "It's Lupus Somewhere" was another).
They walked up to the host, an impeccably dressed 30something man with balding, closely cropped hair and a stud earring.
"We have a reservation for 8:30," House said. "Dr. Gregory House."
The host looked at his reservation book.
"Right, Dr. House," he said. "Your table will be ready inabout 15 minutes."
"But our reservation was for 8:30 and"—House looked at his watch—"funnily enough, it is 8:30."
"Yes," the host said, slightly imperiously. "And we're running a little late. Why not have a seat at the bar and—"
"What's the point of taking a reservation if your table isn't reserved?" House said stubbornly.
"House, it's fine," Cuddy said, taking his arm. "I'm parched. Let's get a drink."
She led him to the bar. She ordered a vodka martini, House ordered a scotch neat.
Cuddy started gossiping about one of the nurses who's had a huge fight with her boyfriend in the lobby; security had to be called—but House was distracted, he kept glancing at the host.
"Do you think I should've slipped him some cash?" he said.
"No! House. It's fine. Let's just wait for our table."
"But tonight was supposed to be perfect," House said.
"It is perfect. Well it would be perfect, if you would stop obsessing on that host."
She put her hand on his and he looked down at it, smiled. Finally, she had regained his full attention.
"I can't get over how gorgeous you look tonight," he whispered in her ear.
"Thank you," she whispered back.
But at that very moment, a tanned, slick, middle-aged man and his much younger, very plastic looking girlfriend waltzed up to the host.
"Vincent!" the man said, thumping the host on the shoulder.
"Mr. White! Welcome back," Vincent said. "Good to see you!"
"I know it's a little late on a Friday night, but I was hoping you could squeeze us in?" Mr. White said.
"Of course, of course! Right this way, Mr. White," Vincent said, leading them to a corner table.
"Oh shit," Cuddy muttered under her breath.
She was helpless to stop what came next: House let go of her hand and began limping purposefully toward the host.
"My ears must be playing tricks on me," he said. "Because I could swear I just heard you seat that couple right away even though they had no reservation!"
"Yes. That was Bruce White. He's a very special guest of this restaurant. Do you even know who he is?" Vincent said.
"I don't care if it was Nicolas Sarkozy—he didn't have a reservation."
"He's the main anchor for Action News."
"Oh, why didn't you say so?" House said, in mock awe.
Vincent smiled, happy that House was finally getting it.
"He reads actual words somebody else has written for him on an actual teleprompter!" House continued, gushing. "You should clear out the entire restaurant for him! Maybe he should get all the tables."
"There's no need for sarcasm sir," he said.
"Really? Because sarcasm seems like the only appropriate response to me."
From the bar, Cuddy could see House's anger mounting. She popped up, a vain attempt to defuse the situation.
"House," she said, gently touching his arm. "It's okay."
"I got this," House said, kind of shaking her off.
"If you could just wait a few more minutes, Dr. House," Vincent was saying. "I assure you that a lovely table will be opening up for you shortly."
"It's 9 pm!" House said, "If you make us wait much longer, we'll be ordering breakfast."
"It won't be much longer. . ."
"I want to speak to the owner!" House said, thumping on the host stand. He was trying to impress Cuddy.
"He's left for the evening."
"Well, give him this message, will you: Tell him that his host is a pretentious little prick and a raging cokehead who snorts up his paycheck every night in the men's room."
"I beg your pardon?" Vincent said, turning red.
"Coke. Head. Cokehead. What part of that didn't you understand? Do you want me to write it down?"
"You can't possibly. . ."
"Your pupils are dilated, your hands are shaking, and either you've been snorting a lot of powdered donuts today, or you have a rather conspicuous residue of cocaine on your nose."
Now the veins in Vincent's neck were beginning to bulge.
"I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you both to. . ."
"And I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to. . ."
"House!" Cuddy said firmly. "Let's go."
And she practically dragged him out of the restaurant.
"The chef wouldn't know a buerre blanc from a béarnaise!" House shouted on the way out. "And I saw a rat coming out of the kitchen!"
In the parking lot, House was still fuming.
"Can you believe that asshole?" he said to Cuddy.
"No," she said, glaring at him. "I can't."
He looked at her.
"What? You mean me? I'm the asshole?"
"You just totally humiliated me and ruined everything," she said. "For a change."
"But I. . . It wasn't. . .Oh c'mon, let's forget about these snobs. Let's get a burger at Sullivans."
"Just take me home, House."
He looked at her, totally deflated.
"But we haven't eaten yet. And you're wearing that amazing . . .wrap thing. Let's go someplace else. Anywhere you want to go."
"I want to go home," Cuddy said.
"Cuddy you're being irrat. . ." but he wisely caught himself before finishing the sentence. "I'm sorry. If that's what you want, I'll take you home."
"That's what I want," she said.
"Fine," he huffed.
They drove back to her place in an icy silence.
He cut the engine.
"I suppose coming inside is completely out of the question," he joked, lamely.
"House, I just need to cool down. I'll see you on Monday," she said.
He watched her stride up to her door and go inside.
"Shit!" he said into the empty car.
And he pounded his head so hard on the steering wheel, the horn sounded.
"How'd it go?" Wilson asked.
"Which was the worse disaster, Chernobyl or Three Mile Island?" House said musingly.
"That bad, huh?"
"How'd you screw it up?"
"Why are you assuming I was the one who screwed it up?"
"It was Cuddy?"
"No, it was me."
"So what happened?"
"Well, it started when she didn't like my choice of outfit. . ."
"And then I had a tiny, minor altercation with the host at Petite Jacques."
"Well, I may have called him a prick and a cokehead."
"That's minor alright."
"So, apparently, I humiliated her. Which, apparently, is not strikingly out of character for me. . .but does prove my point."
"What point is that?"
"I was a lot more appealing to Cuddy when I had a girlfriend. The minute the idea of us as a—well—us became real to her, she remembered how annoying I am."
Wilson folded his arms, smirked at House in that knowing way of his.
"What?" House said.
"You really like her."
"I like certain parts of her. Mostly the round parts."
"No, this just isn't about sex. Admit it. This about becoming an us."
House rolled his eyes.
"And that's why you screwed it up, House. Stop treating Cuddy like just another woman you want to sleep with—"
"I'm sorry. Sleep with again. . .And start treating her like Cuddy. That's my advice. Take it or leave it."
"I'd love to take it. . .if I had any clue what the hell you were talking about."
He thought about Wilson's advice and, a few hours later, he poked his head in Cuddy's office.
"I thought our first date went well, don't you?" he quipped.
"It was certainly.. .unforgettable," she said.
"By way of apology, I wanted to give you this."
He handed her a tongue depressor with a frowny face drawn on it.
"You see? It's a depressed tongue depressor."
"I get it," she said, not able to contain a smile.
"I really am sorry, Cuddy. Wilson thinks you're some kind of cavewoman who was only interested in me when I was dating another woman. I want to prove him wrong."
"Oh yeah, that sounds just like Wilson," she chuckled.
"Any chance I get another shot?"
She looked down at the tongue depressor. It was cute.
"I suppose that could be arranged," she said.
"Great!" he said. "Wednesday night. I'll pick you up at 7."
"Where are we going?"
"Let me worry about that. Just wear comfortable shoes."
He arrived at her place on his motorcycle.
"Oh hell no," Cuddy said.
"Why not? I told you to wear comfortable shoes. What did you think we were going to do? Go on a hike?"
He glanced down at her feet. She was wearing open-toed sandals.
"Huh. Maybe something a little less. . .exposed would work better," he said.
"Or, better still, I can drive!" she said brightly. "Because with my vehicle, my feet stay inside the car."
"You can't drive. You don't know where we're going."
"Which brings me to my next question: where are we going?"
"It's a secret: You had your dream date, I have mine."
"Wherever it is, can we walk?"
"C'mon Cuddy. You trust me, don't you?"
"Is that a trick question?"
"You know I would never let anything happen to you," he said sincerely. "Besides, it's about time you let your hair down."
"I let my hair down plenty," she said.
"I meant metaphorically," he said. "By the way, your hair does look lovely tonight."
"I know what you meant," she sniffed.
She regarded the bike skeptically.
"Did you ever take Karen Fox on that thing?" she asked.
"All the time. She loved it."
She shot him a look.
"Kidding. Her bony ass has never seen the back of that bike. I assure you."
Cuddy thought it over. She looked at House, who was holding a helmet out to her expectantly.
"I left my motorcycle boots in my Swiss chalet," she said finally. "Will sneakers suffice?"
"Perfect," House said. And he smiled.
Their first stop was an arcade.
"I thought you said we were going to a play!" Cuddy protested.
"No I said 'play first, then dinner.' Big difference."
Cuddy shook her head, followed him inside.
It was loud and smelled vaguely of Axe Body spray and there were tons of mostly teenagers playing the various games, as well as a few families and a few sketchy looking older men.
A teenage boy with longish hair and mild acne approached House.
"I just beat your high score on Space Aliens 5, dude," he said.
"Liar," House said back.
"Go see for yourself."
"Your glory will be short lived, young Jedi," House said to him.
"I don't doubt it," the kid said, laughing. Then he turned to Cuddy: "This guy's a legend around this place."
When he walked away, Cuddy gave House a bemused look.
"Come here a lot?" she said.
"From time to time," he said. "C'mere, I wanna show you something."
He took her hand and led her toward the back of the room, where a few old-fashioned pinball machines stood out in marked contrast to the noisy video games.
"Look at this baby," he said, approaching one machine that was called "El Toro" and was emblazoned with a picture of a bull and a matador. "Look at the craftsmanship on this thing," he said. "That's original artwork. And the way it lights up like that—that was actually very rare at the time."
He showed her a few more pinball machines and then they passed a row of vintage video games.
"Ms Pac-Man!" Cuddy said, suddenly excited. "I used to love that game!"
"Yeah?" House said, grinning.
"I even dressed up as Ms. Pac Man for my high school Halloween dance, 1984."
"That must've been hot," House said.
"Apparently, not as hot as my Sleeping Beauty costume," she said.
They exchanged a look.
"Care to?" House said, gesturing toward the game.
She wrinkled her nose.
"Oh, what the hell?"
He handed her a token.
She played the game, roughly abusing the joy stick, using her hips to attempt to guide Ms. Pac Man through the maze and shouting at the screen.
"No, go left! Go left!" she yelled. "Ahh! Eat the strawberry! Eat it! Eat it!"
She let out a dejected "crap!" when she lost.
House watched her, his arms folded, amused. He really couldn't get over how sexy and cute she was.
When she lost, he pulled another token out of his pocket.
"Wanna go again?"
That had been the "play" portion of their evening. Now it was time for dinner.
House took Cuddy to a seedy part of town she'd never been to before—a few street lights were burned out and some of the windows were boarded up.
"Are we have dinner at a . . . homeless shelter?" Cuddy asked.
They got off the bike. Cuddy didn't see any restaurant.
She reluctantly followed House down a rowhouse stairwell.
House knocked loudly on the door. A Chinese man opened it.
Inside, was a surprisingly bustling Chinese restaurant—with a giant fish tank, red lamps on the tables and dragon murals on the walls. There was literally no indication from the outside that a restaurant was even there.
People were eating deliciously aromatic food and eating bowls of rice with chopsticks.
"Why all the secrecy?" Cuddy said.
"Technically, this restaurant doesn't exist," House explained. "No license."
"So this place could get . . . raided at any time?"
"What happened to letting your hair down, Cuddy?"
"I'm not usually in the habit of dining in an illegal—"
But before she could finish her sentence, a man and a woman—clearly the proprietors—approached House and vigorously shook his hand.
"Dr. House, long time no see!" the man said.
"Min and Chang Lee, I'd like to introduce you to my friend, Dr. Lisa Cuddy," House said.
"She very pretty, Dr. House," the woman, Min, said, staring at Cuddy bluntly.
"She's not bad," House said, smiling a bit.
"Dr. House never bring woman here," Chang said. "We begin to think he a little. . .funny."
Cuddy stifled a laugh. House looked at her.
"This way," Min said, leading them to a table.
"What's fresh tonight, Chang?" House asked, as they sat.
"Why not you come see for self like usual?" Chang replied.
House got up.
"Do you mind?" he asked Cuddy.
"Knock yourself out," she said.
House followed Chang into the kitchen.
"Dr. House like to look at fish," Min explained to Cuddy. "He very curious man."
Cuddy nodded knowingly.
"That he is."
"He must like you very much, Dr. Lisa Cuddy," Min continued. "He's—how do you say it in American?—very much lonely."
"Loner?" Cuddy suggested.
"Yeah," Min said. "That too."
She continued to size Cuddy up.
"You take good care of him?"
Cuddy looked down at the table.
"I. . . We work together. . . I'm not. . . I mean, this is actually our second official date."
"But he love you, yes?"
"No!" Cuddy said, turning a bit red. "I think lust is the more operative word."
Min made a face
"I not so sure," she said.
When House got back to the table, he ordered dinner for them both—in authentic Cantonese, naturally. (He was such a show-off.)
The food at Lee's was some of the best Cuddy had ever had and it kept coming and coming and coming—potstickers, crispy shrimp balls, sizzling rice soup, spicy squid with black bean sauce, stuffed eggplant, crispy rockfish with ginger and scallion. (House knew she didn't eat red meat, so had avoided ordering the beef and pork dishes.)
"House, I'm stuffed," she said at one point.
"They'll be very insulted if you don't take at least one more bite," he said, feeding her a crispy shrimp ball from his chopsticks.
He looked enormously pleased when she took a bite.
When they were done, Min and Chang hugged her goodbye.
"Come back," Chang said. "Don't be stranger."
Min whispered in Cuddy's ear: "Now you remember what I say. You take good care of Dr. House."
"I . . . will," Cuddy said.
They got back on House's bike. She couldn't lie. She was beginning to feel giddy—and not just because she and House had shared a bottle of wine at Lee's. She loved the sensation of the wind in her face and her body pressed up against his as they rode.
"Are you having fun?" he yelled over the din.
"Yes!" she yelled back.
Sometimes, she decided, it was good to cede control.
They drove several miles from Lee's and stopped at a scenic overpass.
"Did we run out of gas?" Cuddy asked, looking around.
"Follow me," he said.
They walked to the edge of the overpass, where an old bench was tucked next to a couple of trees.
"Look that way," House said.
She looked. It was the most wonderful view of Manhattan. She could see the Empire State building, the Chrysler Building, the whole majestic city, winking and beckoning from afar.
"I come here sometimes . . . to think," House said. "I like it. It's quiet."
He sat down. And she sat next him.
Much to her surprise, he put his arm around her.
The two of them stared into the skyline.
She realized, suddenly, how meaningful this all was. He was letting her into his private world. Showing her his sacred places. The places he never shared.
She whispered in his ear: "Let's go back to your apartment."
"Wait," he said. "I have one more thing to show you."
They got back on the bike and drove some more, until they pulled up in front of a church.
"House, have you found . . . God?" she scoffed.
"No, I found Jesus—he's the church's choir director. He lets me play the organ sometimes."
The door was locked, but House, improbably enough, had a key.
They entered the church. It was quiet and dark. The organ pipes were large, architectural, but the organ itself was tucked into a small booth in the balcony, up a steep and narrow stairwell. House went first and held out his hand to help her up—ironic, since she could negotiate the spindly stairs much better than he could. Still, she let him pull her up. He was a guy—he needed to feel macho sometimes.
The organ didn't look that different from one of House's arcade games. It had all sorts of knobs and buttons and levers.
"It was fully restored last year," House said. "It has over a hundred thousand different varieties of sound."
He sat down on the bench.
"It can play very quietly, like this," he said, playing a few notes of something pretty, ethereal.
"Or it can be incredibly loud! Cover your ears, Cuddy!" And he adjusted some knobs and pedals and played the famous opening strains to Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.
"House! You're going to wake up the whole neighborhood!" Cuddy shouted.
"Soundproof walls," he said, grinning. "Trust me on this."
He looked at her.
"You wanna try?"
"Yeah. . .press here and here and here. . . and I'm going to adjust this knob so it sounds like flutes."
She did as she was told. She felt little electric jolt of his nearness when House reached across her to create the flute effect.
"Wow," she said dreamily. "That was so pretty. I did that?"
"You did that," he said.
He was looking at her now, in a tender sort of way, and she knew he wanted to kiss her as much as she wanted to kiss him.
"Thank you for taking me here," she said, turning to him.
"Thanks for letting me take you here," he said.
He leaned forward, took her face in his hands, and they kissed. He kept looking at her—dazed almost, disbelieving that she was here with him, and that the date was going so well.
They kissed again and suddenly, he had lifted her up on the keyboard—it was making some tuneless notes as he pressed her against it—and he was unbuttoning his pants.
"House, we're not having sex in a church," Cuddy said.
"Why not?" he whispered, kissing her neck. "You're a Jew and I'm an atheist."
"It's a . . .sin," she said, but she was losing focus (and resolve), as House's mouth was now migrating to her breasts.
"No, it's not," he breathed. "It's a religious experience."
His mouth moved down her chest, toward her stomach and pelvic bone.
"And the walls are definitely. . .soundproof?" Cuddy asked.
"Definitely," he said, nibbling on her ear. "You can scream as loudly as you like."
"Okay," she said sheepishly, tugging at her jeans.
"There may be a God, after all," he said.