Author's Note: Of my 70 some-odd stories, at least 35 of them are post-Bombshells, the episode that traumatized (and inspired) me to no end. Make it 36.
This one is based on a prompt from a reviewer who asked: Why didn't I write more about Stacy?
Good question! In this fic, both Stacy and House find themselves single at the same time. Can they rekindle that old magic?
Needless to say, this is a very Huddy-centric take on the eternal "who was the real love of House's life?" debate. -ATD
"Gregory House, as I live and breathe!"
He recognized the voice—lilting, Southern, with that slightly old-fashioned idiom—before he even looked up from his scotch.
"Stacy!" he managed to choke out.
She got up from her barstool, folded her arms and regarded him with a smile.
"Look at you," she said, with a "what are the odds?" chuckle.
"Look at you," he said, smiling back.
In fact, she looked beautiful as ever. Graceful, even in this dive bar. The woman could be knee-deep in horse shit and she'd still look classy.
He collected himself: "What are you doing here Stacy? You're not the drink-alone-in-a-dive-bar type."
"No," she said, sliding into the barstool next to him. "That's much more your speed."
"Thus explaining my presence here."
She raised her eyebrows, took a sip of her gin and tonic.
"I have recently become the drink-alone-in-a-dive-bar type," she said.
"Trouble with Captain Condescending?"
"I left him," she said.
"Oh…shit," House said.
"No, it was for the best. We'd drifted apart quite a bit since Princeton. . . " She glanced at him. "And no, not because of you. I can see by the look on your face you think it was because I was still pining away for you."
"You got all that from my face?" House teased.
"Smug self-satisfaction masquerading as pity."
"Wow," House said with a tiny smirk. "You can read my face."
Stacy shook her head, but let out a small, breathy laugh.
"Okay, yes, you might've been a tiny contributing factor in the breakup. But the truth is, after his illness things were never the same between us. You know it as well as anyone: An illness has a way of slowly eating away at a relationship."
"Or killing it quick like a guillotine," House muttered under his breath.
"Nothing," he said. He endeavored to change the subject:
"So Mark. . .he's better?"
"Much better than me, to tell the truth: He's living in our old house with his new girlfriend. His 25-year-old girlfriend, I hasten to add. And I'm living alone in a loft apartment near this wonderful drinking establishment."
House stared at her incredulously.
"You're . . . living in Princeton?" he sputtered.
"Trenton, actually," Stacy clarified. "Easy subway ride to my Manhattan and it's rent-controlled."
"I see," House said.
"What about you? I heard that you and Lisa were together. Not surprised to be honest. There was always something between you two."
"Was being the operative word," House said. "Past tense She dumped my sorry ass."
"Oh no, Greg! When?"
"Three months, 12 days, and"—he looked at his watch—"22 hours ago. . . Not that I'm counting."
House slumped on his barstool, motioned for the bartender to refill his drink.
"She came to her senses," he said.
"Don't say that."
"I say it only because it's true."
"I'm sorry. It must be hard for you, working so closely to her."
"If one good thing has come out of all of this: She's too guilty to nag me about clinic duty. Besides that, for the most part, I stay out of her way, she stays out mine."
"That's a shame," she said. "You guys were always so close."
A lump formed in House's throat. He swallowed it back.
"Yeah," he said.
Stacy shook her head.
"We're a fine pair," she said.
House raised his newly filled glass.
"To a couple of unlucky-in-love barflies," he said.
"No always unlucky," Stacy said.
And they contemplated each other.
Wilson stood silently in Cuddy's office, his hands shoved in his pockets, waiting for her to acknowledge him.
"Speak, Wilson!" Cuddy said impatiently. "You look positively constipated."
"I'm trying to find the words to tell you something," he admitted.
"Let me guess. About Dennis the Diagnostic Menace?'
"Just blurt it out quickly," Cuddy advised. "Like pulling off a band-aid."
"He's seeing someone."
Cuddy looked up, surprised.
It was a dumb question but she had been thrown off guard.
"Yes, and it's someone you know. Someone from his past."
"Stacy?" Cuddy said, with the derisive snort. It was the snort of someone who hoped that what she was suggesting was ridiculous.
"Yes," Wilson said.
Cuddy blinked at him.
"But she's . . .married."
"And she lives in Manhattan."
"She moved to Trenton."
"Oh," Cuddy said, looking down. "How did it…how did they…?"
"They bumped in to each other at a bar," Wilson said. "Got to talking. One thing led to another. They've been seeing each other for almost a month."
"Wow," Cuddy said. She felt vaguely ill.
"I'm sorry. I thought you'd want to know."
"I do. . . I did. . .I . . . thanks for telling me."
Wilson cocked his head.
"You gonna be okay?"
She forced a smile.
"I'm fine," she said, straightening some papers on her desk like it was the only pressing thing on her mind. "This is a good thing. I'm happy for them."
Wilson gave her a sympathetic look.
"You might want to practice that line a few times before you air it out in public."
She dropped the act, nodded sadly.
"I will," she said.
Stacy and Cuddy were so different, House marveled over the fact that he had managed to love them both.
Of course, there were certain superficial similarities: Both brunettes, both beautiful, both extremely accomplished in their fields.
But Stacy was reserved, demure, gracious—a Southern belle in a power suit.
Cuddy, on the other hand, was feisty, a pit-bull—quicker, smarter, bolder than any woman (or man) he'd ever met.
Stacy would gently tease House; Cuddy relished in giving him shit.
Stacy hated confrontation; Cuddy couldn't wait to go toe-to-toe.
Stacy saw only the best in him; Cuddy knew him better than he knew himself.
He envied Cuddy's strength. He sometimes felt she was unbreakable. (Since the breakup, he'd occasionally look for any chink in her armor, any tiny sign that she was as miserable as he was. As usual, she revealed nothing.) Stacy sometimes seemed delicate to him, like she could split in two.
Of course, in the bedroom was where they were the most different. To put it plainly: Cuddy was the sexiest woman he'd ever met. He was in awe of her sexuality. Stacy was a different kind of sexy—sexy because she revealed that side to so few; it felt rare and precious.
Stacy was a gentle, tentative, eager-to-please lover—he remembered the first time they made love, she trembled a little beneath him. Her orgasms were as demure as she was: Little breathy sighs, like a tiny sneeze.
Cuddy on the other hand, was uninhibited. She had a raw carnality. She bossed him around in the bedroom, just like she did at the hospital. She was extremely vocal about what she wanted, which turned him on to no end. She was as insatiable as he was—he'd never met a woman with such a sexual appetite. Sometimes, after a romantic night, they would slowly make love, breathing together as if they were one. On other nights, Cuddy just wanted to be fucked. On those nights, she would scratch his back and pull his hair and her orgasm would be loud, powerful, seismic.
Stacy Warner never, ever wanted to be fucked.
But Stacy was kind and smart and lovely. And she had drifted back into his life at a time when he was at his lowest, when he needed her most.
He looked at her, lying in bed beside him, sleeping peacefully.
She was a blessing. And really so much more than he deserved.
House and Stacy were at the Fresh-Mart, just picking up a few things for dinner, when a tiny pair of legs came charging toward him.
It was Rachel. She hugged his (good) leg. (She'd been well-trained over the past year.)
"Hey kid," he said, craning his neck, looking for Cuddy.
On cue a harried Cuddy came racing down the aisle.
"Rachel!" she yelled. She was so focused on her runaway toddler, she didn't even notice House and Stacy.
Then she looked up, saw them. Wanted to curl up and die.
"Hello Lisa," said Stacy warmly. She was a professional smoother of awkward situations. Her voice soothed. "How are you? You look well."
Cuddy blew an errant lock of hair off her face. Looked down at her faded t-shirt and jeans. Great.
"Thank you, Stacy. As do you…" Then she added an ironic little: "Hi House."
He looked down. He was going to let the ladies do the talking.
"You guys picking up something for dinner?" Cuddy said, trying to keep her voice breezy and casual. Just a few friends bumping into each other at the grocery store. No big whoop.
"I'm making ratatouille," Stacy said. "Or at least trying."
Of course she was.
Rachel was yanking at House's pants leg.
"How come you never come over and play anymore?" she demanded.
"I would. But your mommy doesn't—"
"House and are I still friends but not the kind who have playdates any more," Cuddy interrupted, shooting him a look.
"Because House has playdates with Stacy now," she said, then immediately felt her face turn red. It had just sort of slipped out.
"Can I have a playdate with House?" Rachel said, baffled by the whole thing. Grownups were so weird.
"Maybe," Cuddy said. "Sometime . . . soon."
"I'd like that," House said. And he made such intense eye contact with Cuddy she had to look away.
"I…we… we better get back to shopping. You have no idea how much apple juice this little one can go through."
"I'm the Red Apple Baron!" Rachel said, giggling.
It was a term House had coined for her, a play on Snoopy's Red Baron.
"Yes you are," House said quietly.
"Good to see you both," Cuddy said, backing away. "Have a nice evening." She grabbed Rachel's hand and lead her away.
"Well, that wasn't awkward at all," House said, after they were gone.
"It wasn't so bad," Stacy said, giving him a little squeeze. "All things considered. God, that Rachel is such a cutie."
House looked at the spot where Rachel and Cuddy had just been standing, where Rachel had been hugging his leg.
"Yeah…" he said.
This is what Cuddy thought about on the way home: Not that Stacy and House were going to have dinner together. Not that they would probably make love that night. Not even that Rachel wouldn't shut about how she wanted a playdate with her favorite grizzled playmate.
She was thinking: Stacy gets to go grocery shopping with him.
It was a ridiculous thing, meaningless really. But House made mundane tasks—like grocery shopping or going to the bank —fun. He was always cracking wise or making rude observations about people or whispering dirty things in her ear.
The bottom line: House made everyday life just a little more exciting.
She had forgotten about that.
And now he was making Stacy's everyday life a little more exciting.
And it totally sucked.
"You're awfully quiet tonight," Stacy said, over dinner.
"Am I? Sorry," House said. "Not on purpose."
"You're thinking about her, aren't you?"
Damn. He'd really hoped to avoid this conversation—permanently.
"No," he said, taking a guzzle of wine.
"Don't lie to me Greg."
"I'm not. I can honestly say I haven't given Lisa Cuddy a second thought since I began seeing you."
"Now that's demonstrably untrue."
He glanced at her.
"Meaning. . ." She played with her food a bit, hesitated. "You call out for her sometimes in your sleep."
Holy fuck. Betrayed by his own subconscious.
"I do?" he said.
"I'm sorry, Stacy. But you know I have no control over that."
"But you miss her…"
"My subconscious misses her."
"Your subconscious is you."
"Stacy, don't do this."
"I'm not doing anything. I'm asking a question."
"One that's leading us down a dangerous path."
"It's only dangerous because you do miss her."
House closed his eyes, sighed.
"Of course I miss her. . ." he admitted.
"That's all I wanted to know," she said, sulking.
He watched her warily, not knowing what to say.
"I'm happy," he said finally.
"You were happier with her," she said.
He was quiet.
"Maybe we launched into this whole thing too soon," she said.
"No!" House said, panicking a little. He couldn't lose Stacy. She was keeping him off drugs. She was keeping him sane. She was literally all that was keeping him afloat.
He took one of her slender hands in his.
"Not too soon," he said. "Just at the right time. Your timing was excellent."
She smiled a bit, somewhat appeased.
"This ratatouille is pretty good, huh?" she said.
"It's excellent," he said, relieved.
He went to bed, however, thinking about Cuddy and Rachel in the supermarket. He was surprised how much he missed the little rug rat. That was the most unexpected ache of the breakup: Thinking about Rachel and her silly little laugh and her indecipherable drawings that she made him guess at ("A dog and a bone?" he would ask; "No silly! It's a baby goat and a carrot!") and her horrible food combinations (Cheerios, orange juice, and grape yogurt) that she would make him taste. Maybe Cuddy really would let him come over for a playdate—or at least let him babysit sometime.
He shook off the thought. Not gonna happen, House.
And then there was Cuddy herself.
He could tell by the way she had blown that lock of hair off her face that she didn't think she looked beautiful tonight. But to him she did. Painfully so.
In a way, he always liked Cuddy best when she was dressed down.
He remembered one day she had come home from yoga class, sweaty in yoga pants and a sports bra.
"I think I'm beginning to like yoga," he had said, kissing her neck.
"Ewww, I'm disgusting," she replied, hitting him playfully. "At least let me go take a shower."
"Woman, you have no idea what you do to me," he had said, practically dragging her to the bedroom.
In his memory, he could almost taste the salt on the skin of her breast in his mouth. "Namaste," she had whispered seductively in his ear.
"Hey…you in there?" Stacy said.
He looked up.
"I said, 'Earth to Greg House.' You alive?"
She gave him a light kiss on the lips. Then another, deeper one.
This was as close as Stacy came to initiating sex. It was his cue to take it from here. And he usually was all too happy to oblige.
But not tonight. Tonight he got out of bed, coughed, and said to her: "I feel like I'm coming down with something. I should probably sleep on the couch."
Which was a lie. But certainly better than the truth: That he didn't trust himself not to call out Cuddy's name during sex.
Two weeks later, he found himself in Cuddy's office.
He'd actually jumped through some pretty elaborate hoops to avoid her at work—sending Taub or Chase whenever he needed approval for a procedure; avoiding all staff functions; having Marge the lunch lady give him the all-clear sign in the cafeteria before he would enter.
But in this case, it was simply unavoidable.
"Hey," he said, limping up to her desk.
"Hey yourself," she said.
"How are you?" he said cautiously.
"I'm fine House. What's up?" All business.
"I need you to sign my vacation slip," he said.
She looked up.
"Yeah…Stacy's parents have this lake house in New Hampshire. They say it's very restorative. Fishing boats. Breathtaking views. That sort of thing. We're going next week."
Cuddy pursed her lips.
"Gimme," she said, grabbing the form from him. She signed. Handed it back.
"Anything else?" she said, folding her arms.
He looked at her.
Her face was as inscrutable as ever.
"No," he said.
"Have fun then," she said. And picked up her phone. A sign for him to go.
He was halfway back to his office when he realized that he had forgotten the second reason for his visit—to get the okay on a biopsy.
He was tempted to get Taub to do it, but didn't want to seem like such an enormous pussy.
So he limped back down the hall.
But when he got back to her office, she was nowhere in sight.
"Did Dr. Cuddy leave?" he asked her assistant.
"No, she must be in the bathroom."
He went back inside.
"Cuddy?" he said.
Then he put his ear to the bathroom door. And heard crying. Cuddy crying.
"Go away, House."
"Not until you tell me what's wrong."
"Nothing. I'm fine. Just. . . leave me alone."
"No," he said, stubbornly.
"Please go," she said.
"Open the door, Cuddy. Or I'm breaking in. Or, uh, calling Foreman and getting him to break in."
There was a long silence. Then the sound of a door quickly being unlocked.
He opened the door. Cuddy was sitting on the edge of toilet seat, fully clothed. Her face was streaked in tears.
"What's wrong?" he said, rushing up to her.
"I don't want to talk about it."
"Please…was it something I did?"
She rolled her eyes a bit, sniffled.
"Cuddy, I don't know how to make this right if you don't tell me what I did wrong."
She bit her lip. The man really had no clue.
"It's stupid," she said.
"It's so silly. You'll laugh at me."
"No I promise I won't."
"It's just that you never . . took me on vacation."
And for a moment, he actually did feel like laughing, because he was so damn happy and relieved.
She's crying because of you. She's jealous because of you.
He sat on the floor, across from the toilet. It was a small bathroom—his Nikes touched her pumps.
"I wanted to take you on vacation," he said gently. "Mont St. Michel, remember?"
"Yeah," she said.
"And we kept putting it off and putting it off and then, well. . . you know."
"I know," she said. "That's why it's stupid."
"It's not stupid," he said. And on impulse, he reached up and wiped a tear from her cheek with his thumb.
"I miss you," he said.
"You're with Stacy now," she said.
"What if I wasn't? What if I wasn't with Stacy?"
"What's the point?" she asked. "She's your perfect woman. She's any man's perfect woman. Even when we were together I always knew that if Stacy came calling, you'd drop me like a bad habit."
"You've got to be joking."
"She's your first real love, House."
"I think your chronology is off there, Cuddy."
Cuddy looked at him.
"What? Me? Please. I was a college fling."
"We both know that's not true," he said.
She blinked at him.
"House, stop. Don't do this. You're . . . confusing me."
"What about this? Is this confusing?"
And he reached for her, hungrily, and kissed her on the mouth. She didn't even put up token resistance, gave in to the kiss, to the feel of his mouth on hers, his scratchy beard, his hands on her face. Their mutual need was almost overwhelming.
Finally, House pulled away. Her lips were wet with his saliva. They were both panting a bit—wild-eyed.
"I'm going too ask you again: What if I wasn't with Stacy?" he said. "What then?"
"It's irrelevant House," she said, standing up, collecting herself. "Because you are."
That night, he called Stacy on the phone.
"Can I come over?" he said. "We need to talk."
"Yeah," she said. "That's probably a good idea."
And he drove to her loft.
She opened a bottle of pinot grigio with a corkscrew and they sat next to each other on her brand new Pottery Barn couch.
"What I want to say is. . ." he started.
"That you're still in love with Lisa," she finished.
He was stunned.
"How did you know?" he asked.
"Greg, I've known since that day at the supermarket. The infamous cold you faked that night."
"I'm sorry," he said, lamely.
"There's nothing to apologize for. The heart wants what the heart wants."
"My heart wanted to want you," he said, sincerely.
"I know it did," she said. "But you can't force these things. You and I had something really special Greg. So special that we keep trying to recreate it every few years." She chuckled ruefully. "But you can't go backwards. We're not the same people we were then. We're not 'Greg and Stacy' anymore."
"We were good together once."
"Yeah," she said. "We were."
"I don't want to hurt you," he said.
"I'll be okay," she said, smiling shyly. "You helped me get my groove back a little
"And a fine groove it is," he said, smiling back.
Then she regarded him, with what seemed like genuine concern.
"So what's the deal with Lisa? Has she come to her senses?"
He shook his head.
"I honestly don't know. I hope so. . . Maybe."
"Well, fight for her Greg. If you love her, fight for her."
He realized she was right. He had been a moron. Retreating, giving up, lousy with self-pity. It never occurred to him to fight for the woman he loved.
"I'll do that," he said. Then he added: "Stacy, I just want to say thank you. I know it's meaningless…but I need to say it anyway."
"You should probably go," she said. Her voice wasn't angry, just firm.
He put his glass down. Stood up.
"I do have one final request," she said.
"I've gotten a little attached to my dive bar. So hands off, it's mine."
"You drive a hard bargain," he said. Then he leaned over, kissed her on the cheek. "Goodbye Stacy. You're an incredible woman."
"I know," she said.
On Friday, Cuddy noticed an envelope on her desk.
She opened it. Was stunned by what she saw:
It was a plane ticket to Paris with a handwritten note.
I booked us a room at Mont St. Michel. You deserve this vacation. We deserve this second chance.
I'm going to be on this plane on Sunday. I hope you will, too.
Cuddy gulped a bit. Put the ticket back in the envelope and stared at it.
"Wow," she said.
The flight to Paris left at 2:30.
House arrived at the gate at 2.
No sign of Cuddy.
"We can preboard our disabled guests," the flight attendant said to him, noticing his cane.
"I'm good," he said, in a distracted sort of way. "I'm waiting for someone."
By 2:15 all the rest of the passengers had boarded.
Still no Cuddy.
By 2:20 they told him he needed to take his seat.
He was a fool. He had misinterpreted everything. Just because Cuddy was jealous of Stacy, that didn't mean she wanted him for herself. And just because she had kissed him back—so what? Sex. The sex thing had never been the problem between them.
There was no way he could face her on Monday. Might as well go to Paris. There are worse places to drown your sorrows.
He got onto the plane.
The flight attendants began their spiel. He put on his headphones, cranked up the music, numbing himself to the world.
"Sir, all electronic devices must be turned off," the flight attendant said.
"My iPod is not going to interfere with the flight deck," he growled. He was in the mood to pick a fight.
"Is this man causing you trouble?" a female voice said, mirthfully.
He looked up.
He yanked off his headphones, burst into wide, stupid grin.
"You came!" he said.
She shrugged, adorably, sat down next to him.
"I had some spare time," she said, smiling.
Then she turned to the flight attendant: "I'll keep him in line," she said. "I have a lot of practice."