So here's a little story I cooked up based on the events of Bombshells and Out of the Chute. What if House was planning on proposing to Cuddy the night she broke up with him? And what if that proposal makes Cuddy rethink everything?
I love the beginning, feel a bit meh on the end. But writing fan fic is a muscle. I gotta keep exercising it.
And no, you are not experiencing déjà vu: I stole a few lines from my Housekeeping story. (Hey, it's not plagiarism if you steal from yourself!) xo ATD
Special thanks to Frenchie, Julia, and Noémie for talking me off the ledge.
"I need a woman's opinion on something," House said over the phone.
"So, find a woman." said Wilson.
"Why do you think I'm calling you?"
"Seriously Wilson. I need your . . . unique expertise on a matter. Meet me in the parking lot in 10 minutes."
And he hung up before waiting for Wilson's answer.
"Where are we going?"
Wilson was buckled into the passenger seat, feeling trapped and anxious.
"I'm selling you into a black market oncologist slave ring," House said. "You don't mind, do you?"
"Excuse me for wanting to know where you're taking me," Wilson said snippily. "It's so incredibly nosy of me."
"It's a surprise."
"Usually when the surprise comes from you I end up alone on the side of the road—sometimes without pants."
"Your lack of faith in me hurts me to the core."
Wilson shook his head, decided to change the subject.
"Have you spoken to Cuddy since she got home from the hospital?"
"Talked on the phone," House said, swinging rather recklessly into the left lane. "She's recuperating. And she's surrounded by hovering Cuddy women. All parties agreed it was best if I kept my distance."
House made a quick right and pulled, nose first, into a parking space.
They got out, stood in front of a store: Versailles Jewelers.
House rubbed his hands together.
"What do you think?" he said.
"It's a jewelry store," Wilson said.
"You're good," House said, pointing at him.
"Okay, I'll bite: Why are we standing in front of a jewelry store?"
"Because I'm buying a ring."
"A ring ring?"
"No, a mood ring."
"Don't you think it's a little soon?"
"You do realize it's for Cuddy, not for you, right?" House said.
"I meant, a little soon after Cuddy's health scare."
"No, it's precisely because of Cuddy's health scare that I'm buying the ring," House said. Then he looked down. "I thought I was losing her. I don't want to ever run the risk of losing her again."
Wilson understood. He nodded approvingly.
"This is a big step, House. I'm proud of you."
"For me it's a big step. For you, it's a Tuesday. Which is why I need your advice. You have lots of experience with this ring-buying thing."
"Keep in mind, the last time I bought a woman a ring, she broke up with me on the spot."
"Good point." he said. "Wait in the car." But he grinned and opened the door, with an "after you" gesture.
The door had a little chime on it which rang when they entered.
An elderly man with wire-framed glasses slung low on his nose came out from the back.
"Can I help you gentlemen?"
House suddenly got self-conscious. He shoved his hands in his pockets, looked at Wilson.
"We want to buy an engagement ring," Wilson said. The voice of experience.
The store owner gave them a quizzical look.
"Not for us," Wilson added hastily. "For him. For a woman. . . We're not gay."
Then, in unison, he and House said: "Not that there's anything wrong with that."
"Congratulations," the store owner said. "My name is Eugene and I'll be helping you make your selection. Tell me a little something about your bride to be."
House gave a thoughtful sigh.
"Picture the most impossibly gorgeous, impeccable, powerful woman on the planet," he said. "My girlfriend looks at her and thinks, 'What a slob.'"
"A woman like that appreciates the finer things in life," Eugene said. Dollar signs seemed to literally flash before his eyes.
"With one notable exception," House said, with a self-deprecating shrug.
"I have just the thing." Eugene reached under the counter, pulled out a velvet cushion dotted with six impressive diamonds.
"See anything you like?"
House peered at them.
Wilson pointed at one—a round diamond stone in a square double frame set.
"That one's nice," he said.
Eugene pointed at another, less ornate diamond on the cushion.
House wrinkled his nose.
"Too plain," he said.
They went on like this for a while—with Eugene and Wilson agreeing over various diamonds and House rejecting them summarily.
Finally, Eugene said, "I do have one more diamond that I think you might like. It's from our heirloom collection."
"Which is just a fancy word for used," House said.
"It is a vintage piece. And a collector's item."
"Which is just a fancy word for expensive."
Eugene went into the back, came out with a diamond ring so beautiful and unique, it deserved its own velvet cushion.
"This is a two-carat, Edwardian-style ring, circa 1920, set in white gold."
"Wowsa," he said.
House looked at it for a long time. Squinted. Scratched his head.
"How much?" he said.
"$18,000," Eugene said.
"Jesus. Do you throw in the Bachelor party hookers too?"
"He's joking," Wilson said apologetically.
"It's an heirloom piece," Eugene said.
"Yeah, you mentioned that already."
House fiddled with the collar of his shirt, as though the room had grown suddenly hot. He looked back down at the gleaming ring.
"Do you take personal checks?" he finally said.
"Stop grinning at me like that," House said. "You're giving me the creeps."
"I'm excited. So when do you plan to pop the question?" He emphasized the phrase with a certain Wilsonian glee.
"As soon as the she-Cuddys retreat. If I'm lucky, maybe even tonight."
"Don't be nervous, House."
"I'm not nervous."
"You're gripping the steering wheel so tightly, you're cutting off circulation to your hands."
"Okay, maybe I'm a little nervous."
"She loves you. She's gonna say yes."
"Do you promise?"
"As the lady will soon be saying: I do."
Two days later, Cuddy skulked into Wilson's office. It was her first day back at work since the surgery.
"I assume you heard the news?" she said.
He grinned at her.
"Indeed I did."
Then he took in her somewhat unkempt appearance
"You look exhausted. House been keeping you occupied at night?" he chuckled.
"I admit, I haven't slept a wink these past two days," she sighed, slumping into the chair across from his desk and rubbing her temples.
Wilson furrowed his brows.
"I've gotta say Cuddy, I expected you to look happier."
"Happy? There's nothing happy about this Wilson. I'm miserable. I'm depressed. It just had to be done."
"Wait. . . You said no?" he sputtered.
"Said no to what?"
Wilson eyed her suspiciously.
"To the. . .the. . . Wait. . .what are you talking about?"
"I found out House took vicodin and I broke up with him last night. What are you talking about?"
Wilson's mouth dropped open.
"Oh my God. Cuddy, no! You didn't!"
"Wilson, I had to. I can't have that kind of behavior in my life, around my child. And what are you talking about?"
Wilson just kept staring at her, like she had two heads.
"House was going to propose to you last night," he said finally.
Cuddy laughed, bitterly.
"That's not funny, Wilson."
"I'm not joking."
She felt her face turning red.
"Back up," she said. "Start from the beginning."
"Just what I said. House was planning on proposing."
"When did he say this? In this midst of some vicodin-fueled delirium? I'm sure it was just the pills talking."
"I drove with him to Versailles Jewelers to buy a ring, Cuddy. He was stone-cold sober."
Now it was Cuddy's mouth that dropped open.
"He didn't say a word," she said.
"Did you give him a chance to?"
Cuddy thought about it for a minute.
"No. . . I . . . I guess I didn't."
Cuddy covered her mouth with her hands.
"How long was he planning this?" she finally said. "I mean, he gave me no indication whatsoever."
"He made the decision after your illness. He said, and I quote: I don't want to ever run the risk of losing her again."
"Oh my God."
Wilson stood up quickly.
"Where you are going?" Cuddy said.
"I gotta find him. He hasn't called me in two days. When things get bad, House calls me. When things get really bad, House doesn't call me."
And he marched somewhat angrily out of his office.
Wilson eventually did find House and the next day he told her everything. About the hotel room. About the pills. About the booze. He didn't mention the whores, but she was no idiot. She knew what House's particular version of debauchery looked like.
So she went to see for herself.
Banged on his door.
"Go away!" House shouted gleefully. "We don't want any."
She heard two high-pitched giggles. Perfect.
She took a deep breath, tried the door. Much to her surprise, it opened.
House looked at her. Looked at the two naked girls that flanked him—young, blonde, falsely endowed.
"Well, this is awkward," he said.
"House, we need to talk," she said.
"Actually, we don't."
"Who's she? Your wife?!" one of the girls slurred, laughing loudly.
Cuddy just stood there, feeling like a moron.
"Please. I need to talk to you."
"Then talk," House said.
"Anything you can say to me you can say in front of my attorneys: From the Law Offices of Do Me and Bite Me."
The girls cracked up. When he said "Bite me" one of the girls bit his ear.
Cuddy felt a pit of bile forming in her stomach.
"I know about the ring," she said finally.
House sat upright so quickly that the hookers, who were draped around him, almost fell off the bed.
"Fucking Wilson," he muttered under his breath.
Then he turned to the girls: "Party's over, ladies. Please help yourselves to some lovely parting gifts on the way out."
He gestured to the big bowl of cash on the coffee table.
The girls shrugged, giggled, put on their skimpy dresses with professional haste, and grabbed a wad of cash.
"Bye bye!" they trilled to Cuddy as they left.
Cuddy sat at the edge of the bed, looked at him. He was sitting up against the headboard, still undressed, his eyes glassy.
"House, I had no idea."
"What it have made a difference?" he said.
"I don't know. . .Maybe. Yeah. . .I think so."
"You didn't dump me because of my alarming lack of marriage proposals. You dumped me because I took vicodin."
"I dump—I broke up with you because you weren't there for me. A proposal suggests a certain level of commitment that I thought you weren't capable of," she admitted.
I don't want to ever run the risk of losing her again, he had told Wilson.
"Well, too bad. You thought I was an irresponsible fuck up who takes drugs and doesn't give a crap and now I am an irresponsible fuck up who takes drugs and doesn't give a crap. Congratulations, Cuddy, take a good look around you. I am as you created me."
"Let me take you home," she said softly.
"No," he replied.
"House please. . Let me help you."
Suddenly something caught her eye. A small velvet box on the coffee table.
House noticed her notice it.
"Don't worry, Cruella. Box is empty. I returned the ring yesterday. Turns out there's a 10 day return policy in case the woman you love decides to use your heart as a pin cushion instead."
"House. . ."
"I want you to go."
"Don't do this. . ."
"Now." There was an edge of anger to his voice that scared her a bit.
"I'm sorry," she said.
He folded his arms, didn't reply.
She looked at him. He looked back at her—completely emotionless.
"I do love you," she said. "Even before I knew you were going to propose. This was never about me not loving you."
"You have a funny fucking way of showing it."
"How is he?" Cuddy asked.
They were in Wilson's office three days after she had visited House's hotel room.
"He's better. He's home. And he's off drugs. As he put it, it was a rapid re-tox, followed by a rapid detox."
"Last time I saw him, he didn't look like a man about to stop using drugs."
"I know. But he said he didn't want to give you the continued satisfaction of confirming your low opinion of him."
"Glad to be of help," she muttered, then stopped herself. No point in getting defensive. "I'm glad he's clean. But he still won't answer my calls."
"He's hurt and angry, Cuddy. Give him time."
Cuddy was quiet.
"He even was able to joke about it," Wilson offered, with a tentative smile. "He said it was his duty as my best friend to take over the Most Pathetic Proposal award. At least I actually got to ask Sam."
"Not funny Wilson."
"I know," he said, sighing. "To be honest, I'm surprised you still want anything to do with him, in light of the whole Charlie Sheen routine at the hotel."
Cuddy shrugged wearily.
"It's my curse," she said. "I know him too well. The drugs, the booze, even the hookers—it's all just another way to mask his pain."
"Most women wouldn't be so forgiving."
"I'm not most women."
"No, you most certainly are not."
She looked at her hands.
"He returned the ring you know," she said.
"I didn't know that. I guess he found it too painful to look at."
"Yeah," she said. "I guess so."
She racked her brain trying to remember the name of the jeweler. Wilson had said it that first day in his office.
Buckingham jewelers? Monaco Jewelers? Then it came to her: Versailles.
She looked it up online, wrote the address down on a scrap of paper and drove across town.
It was a small shop, an old-fashioned, family-owned sort of place. House would never go to a chain. This was something she loved about him.
An old man emerged from the back.
"Can I help you, young lady?" he said cheerfully.
"I hope so," Cuddy said. "My, um, boyfriend was here last week to buy me a ring. Anyway, we had a big fight, he returned the ring. And I . . . want to buy it back."
The old man regarded her cautiously.
"Your boyfriend. . .tall, rugged sort of fellow with a limp?"
"How did you know?" she said.
"He …described you to me," the man said, smiling at her.
"And the ring?"
"The relationship between a jeweler and a prospective groom is a sacred trust—not unlike that between a priest and a confessor. I'm afraid I can't divulge any details about the ring."
"But I want to buy it. I brought cash," she said, feeling a bit desperate.
"First of all, I strongly doubt that you brought enough cash," he said knowingly. "And it's a moot point. I can't sell you the ring because I don't have it."
"You sold it to someone else?" she said, crestfallen.
"I've already said too much, I'm afraid."
"You can't even give me an email address? A phone number?"
"No. But I will share this: In my 50 years as a jeweler, I've never seen a man take so much time to make his selection. Most men take whatever sparkles. Your boyfriend wasn't going to leave here until he found the perfect ring. He obviously loves you a lot."
Cuddy blinked at him sadly.
"Loved," she said. "Past tense."
Later that night, there was a knock at House's door.
He peered through the peephole.
He considered not letting her in. She'd been calling a lot these past few days, feeling guilty about dumping him, no doubt. He really couldn't deal with her pity right now.
But he took note of her face. It was streaked with tears.
He had dated women in the past who used their tears to get to him. No guy liked to see a woman cry, least of all him. (Even Stacy, who had a certain dignified stoicism, would sometimes release the waterworks if it suited her purposes.)
But Cuddy wasn't like that. Sure, she cried. But she never wanted witnesses. He would watch her lower lip tremble as she clenched her jaw and struggled to get a hold of herself, almost always succeeding. If she really had to cry, she would do it in private. He would hear sniffling behind a closed bathroom door.
This was one of the many things she and House had in common: They couldn't stand being seen as weak.
So seeing her through his peephole, her lashes thick with moisture—it was really more than he could take.
He opened the door.
"What's wrong?" he said.
"They sold the ring!" she choked out.
He ushered her inside. Got her a glass of water and a handkerchief.
They sat on the couch.
"What are you talking about? Who sold what ring?"
"The ring ring," she said, dabbing her eyes. "I went to Versailles Jewelers to buy it back and the owner said he no longer had it."
"Wait. You went to buy the ring back?" House said, trying to wrap his mind around the concept.
"Yes," she sniffled.
"I'm confused. Why?"
"Because . . . it's mine!" she said, petulantly.
"Not officially," he said.
"I wanted it to be," she said, blowing her nose.
"Only you would try to buy yourself an engagement ring," he said, chuckling.
And she laughed a bit herself as she sniffled.
He looked at her sitting on his couch, as vulnerable as he'd ever seen her. He realized that she didn't pity him. She wanted a do-over on that night, just like he did.
"Cuddy, you crazy, crazy girl," he said.
She shrugged, adorably.
He moved toward her, kissed her still-wet cheek, then her eyelid. Then found her mouth, still salty with tears.
"I want to be your wife," she said, kissing him back. "I want to be your wife so badly."
Oh shit. Now he was going to cry.
He stood up.
He limped into his bedroom, opened the sock drawer, pulled out a pair of gym socks, reached inside and withdrew a small velvet box.
He came back into the living room, wielding it like a waiter with a very tiny platter.
"Cuddy, I never returned the ring," he said.
Her eyes began glistening again.
"No," he said.
"I guess I wasn't ready to give up on us just yet," he said.
She didn't even try to hold back the tears this time, they streamed freely down her face.
"I don't want to give up on us either," she said.
"The day I thought you were going to die was. . .the single worst day of my life," he admitted. "I'm sorry that I wasn't man enough to get through it without drugs. I'm. . .weaker than I thought."
"We're stronger when we're together," she said.
"Yeah," he said.
He opened the box.
She stared at the ring. It wasn't too big and it wasn't too small and it twinkled so much it seemed almost celestial.
"That's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen," she said, meaning it.
"It's the second most beautiful thing I've ever seen," House said, meaning it.
And he placed it on her finger.