Author's Notes: Thank you LiaHuddy, Billie, grouchysnarky, Alex, fantasiadvd, Abby, mstimekeeper, and IHeartHouseCuddy for taking the time to read and review. I'm so glad that you've decided to give this little story a chance. Thank you so much. There is a little bit of anal play in this chapter, so if that's not your thing, please turn away now.

Disclaimer: not mine

Darker Inclinations
Chapter Four: Talk To Me
By Duckie Nicks

Her hand runs along his thigh, but he pretends not to notice. He must think she's only doing this for the attention, that if he denies her the reaction she wants, she'll stop. He's wrong about that. Of course, she'll stop if he indicates that this is something he's uncomfortable with. But that's clearly not the issue here; he's too busy acting as though her touch is unimportant and uninteresting for that to be true. His eyes are defiantly on the film, as if to say her actions are meaningless.

Maybe they are to him.

He enjoys being in control, resisting her when she needs something from him. At least that's true at work. Why wouldn't he feel the same way now? She's not doing anything to make him want to lose control.

She decides it's time to change that.

Her fingers slide to the fly on his jeans.

He looks over at her with mild curiosity. "What are you doing?" he whispers. She smirks but offers no explanation. They both know what she's doing. "You could get caught," he warns, reminding her of the danger.

As if she needs that.

Cuddy knows what could happen. She's glanced around the room enough times though to know that they are safe, that no one will see. And in any case, she is only planning to tease him, not to go through with anything more. If they are caught, they won't be caught doing anything… naked.

With that plan in mind, she runs a nail along the zippered seam of his jeans. But instead of enticing him, he just rolls his eyes and focuses on the movie once more.

She touches him more insistently. Her palm presses into him, squeezes him with just the right amount of pressure to get him interested. Beneath the denim, his cock starts to respond.

Again, he looks to her. His mouth moving to her ear, he warns more seriously this time, "You can keep going if you like." She starts to stroke him through his pants the best she can. It's too much of a barrier to really take hold of him, but she manages to make him stiffen a little. "But," he forces out. "You can't start something you don't intend to finish."

She doubts his definition of finishing is waiting until they get home. If she continues then, she realizes how this will end.

They'll have sex.

In public.

The idea makes her light-headed. It doesn't repulse her.

She's scared of going through with it, but at the same time, she's exhilarated by the possibility. But that's hardly surprising.

It was the same way on their first date, when she sat across from Wilson. House was next to her, touching her. Instead of making him stop, she was so close to doing anything to make him continue. Naturally he stopped in deference to the need to explore things quietly.

She's not sure she wants the quiet now.

Professionally, yes, it would benefit her to know that this will last before telling other people. But how will they know this is right if they never take risks? House said that to her last week, and right now she sees that he knew what he was talking about.

If they were together, if everyone knew and there were no work-related issues, she also sees in that moment that she would have no problem continuing. Her hand has stilled as she thinks, but if they were just a normal couple, she wouldn't even consider stopping.

Before med school, she liked to party; she liked casual sex and didn't mind having it in bathrooms of bars and clubs occasionally. She would have never been afraid to do something in a movie theatre. Not back then, before her career started to seem possible and she realized that she needed to be more careful. She hadn't been fearful then, hadn't cared at all, and didn't until she understood the need to be guarded as a young doctor.

She's no longer young though. She's an adult, with a career that has many accomplishments and accolades. If they get caught, she'll only be punished if she gets arrested. She'll be admonished for fraternizing with an employee, but she won't be fired. When her contemporaries have gone through divorces, addictions, and in a few cases, call girl scandals, she seems much more competent, much more focused on her job. It would be embarrassing, but she would survive – and by extension, so would House. There's little to fear there, she thinks.

And that makes her wonder if she has lost her mind, if her logic is being dictated by the desire to have some fun with House.

As soon as she thinks it, she suspects it's true. She wants to believe she can do whatever she wants without repercussions, so she reasons with herself that it is so.

"You're hesitating right now," House points out, interrupting her thought process. "And if you're not sure, you really should stop."

He's trying to dissuade her from continuing – not because he doesn't like it, but because he can see that she has her own reservations. But his efforts don't pay off. If anything, his concern for her makes her defiant. He's treating her like a child, as though she's unaware of how she feels and how she should behave because of it. Cuddy doesn't need that; she knows what she should do. And if she mostly felt that this was stupid, she wouldn't go through with it. But the fact is she's only partly worried about what might happen. She's frightened enough to give attention to the thought, but that fear hasn't been enough to stop her. And his reaction to her has the opposite effect, because her instinct is to brush off his concern.

She starts once more to touch him.

Again, his initial reaction is to ignore her. Perhaps he's hoping that if he does that, the others in the theatre will remain clueless. By Cuddy's estimation, they would be oblivious no matter how he responds. But she doesn't question his behavior, doesn't fight it. She just waits for the inevitable.

She doesn't have to wait long.

Without warning he grabs her hand. Holding it tightly, he tells her, "Get your things. We're going."

She doesn't hesitate to follow, but she tries not to seem desperate to leave either. Leisurely grabbing her things, she gets up and lets him lead her out. When they are far enough from the screen, she tells him, "We can stay until the end if you –"

"No. We can't."

He must think she's needling him (and maybe she is), but she means what she says. If he would prefer to stay to watch the movie, she'll be acquiescent, if disappointed. However, she doesn't have a chance to tell him that. The second she opens her mouth, he shoves her towards the bathroom off to the left.

No one sees him push her through the door. Theatregoers are few on this Tuesday night. Those that are here are watching their movies, not wandering the hallway reserved for unpopular and older films. There are no witnesses to the two of them entering the bathroom together.

As soon as she slips into the room, she breathes a sigh of relief. He's chosen a family-style bathroom, the kind reserved for the handicapped and men and women with children. As such it's an individual bathroom, the kind with a lock on the door, the kind that will prevent anyone from disturbing whatever happens.

Consoled by that fact, she only feels excitement when the door closes behind House. She has no idea what he's intending to do to her in private. Have sex with her? Spank her? He could do either, and both possibilities are equally welcome. Odd as it is to think, it doesn't matter what he wants; one will almost inevitably lead to the other. And as he turns to lock the door, she tells herself that doing anything in public is what matters here. It means they are behaving like a normal couple.

He's just being her boyfriend.

At that thought, she can no longer passively wait for him to choose what they will do. She needs answers now, and the quickest way to get them is to make the choice herself.

Taking a step forward, she waits until he's turning back to her to kiss him. Her tongue barely slips into his mouth before he gently pushes her away.

"What's gotten into you?" he asks suspiciously.

"The movie was boring, and I want you."

"I see. And you couldn't wait –"

"I don't want to wait."

"And you're aware someone –"

"No one in that theatre –"

"Someone could have gotten up to get popcorn, go to the bathroom. Leave."

She is dismissive. "They wouldn't have seen anything."

"You don't know that." His agitation is real, not something he's put upon for the fun of it. He's actually unhappy, making her think sex isn't the option he's going to choose. "You think, but you can't be sure –"

"And you couldn't be sure when we went out with Wilson and you –"

"That was different."

"No –"

"I didn't intend for anything to happen. You, on the other hand, planned on this."

"And that bothers you."

His voice is forceful yet quiet. "You know how I feel. This," he says, gesturing between their bodies. "Is mine. It's not for anyone else to –"

"If you're that concerned with privacy," she challenges. "Why are we in a public bathroom?"

"Yeah, well, that's kind of necessity this time, isn't it?"

She doesn't understand what he means. "Why –"

"When I touch you in public, no one's the wiser. When you touch me, it's a little different – unless you think it's a good idea for me to walk through the front lobby with an erection."

He looks to her for… she doesn't know what – an apology, a retort, some sort of response. But her mind is occupied interpreting what he's just said. Realizing he has no intention of leaving in his current state, she gets that there is only one solution to the problem – sex.

She smiles. "I can take care of –"

"Yeah. Let's just get this over with." Again, his displeasure is real. Although most men would be happy that their girlfriend was willing to have sex with them in public, House is not like most men. He dutifully sets his cane and jacket to the side and does the same with her things soon after. At no point does he kiss her, begin to show her any affection, or seem even remotely excited that this is happening.

As he begrudgingly takes a step towards her, she tells him, "I'm not a trip to the dentist, House. If you don't want –"

"Don't want?" Her description surprises him. "I didn't say that."

"No, you didn't," she agrees. "But you're acting like –"

"Because this isn't how I planned on the evening going. But the funny thing about that is plans are adaptable. And last I checked, I'm going to enjoy this either way."

Saying that has an effect on him, or maybe it's just the simple act of unbuttoning her pants that erases his agitation. After all, it's hard to feel wronged when he's about to have sex with her in a public place. They may be good at pressing each other's buttons, but even she's not that good.

Nor does she want to be, she realizes as she breathlessly waits for him to undo her zipper. Her obvious anticipation makes him slower. To torture her, he goes tooth by tooth, pausing every step of the way to see her reaction. Part of her wants to tell him to hurry up – to yell, order, and even plead the words until he listens. But she keeps silent; he won't give her what she wants until he's ready.

And he's obviously more interested in taking his time.

He slowly slips her jeans over her hips and takes them down. Air rushes through his teeth as he does this, a soft almost silent whistle spreading through the tiny room while he looks upon the sight of her pale thighs. His demeanor is casual, calm… as if he's not looking at her with her pants at her ankles. His eyes roam wantonly for a brief second, but he tries not to let that desire show.

She sees it anyway, and she has to bite her lip to stop herself from asking him to speed things up.

But he knows that's what she's thinking. He makes that clear.

"That's good," he tells her, completely serious. His thumb gently brushes against the center of her panties, along her mound. "It's nice to finally see you're capable of behaving."

She blurts out a "Please" before she can stop herself.

If he considers this a mistake, he doesn't let that show. His thumb parts her labia and strokes her clit. The effect is instant; she has to swallow to stop herself from asking for more. That's how nice it feels. But he decides to encourage her anyway.

"That's right," he practically coos as he coaxes her body into a slick mess desperate for him. "Get wet for me. Show me how much you want me."

His thumb snakes down her body and pushes into her hole, taking the underwear with it. The fabric clings to her, makes the act of him touching her warmer but less satisfying. But she doesn't oppose what he's doing. On the contrary, she relishes the feel, wants more of it, even as she thinks it's not enough. Her body helplessly listens to his orders.

He knows this. "Good. That's perfect. Be a good, wet little girl. Show me how juicy your pussy is for me."

It should make her laugh; she thinks that he shouldn't get the reaction he's getting. Where they are, what he's saying, it should seem ridiculous. But she can't stop herself from listening to him, from hanging on every word and responding to every soft and stern command he gives her. Her vaginal muscles tighten with each syllable, try to capture his fingers and the heat he's stoking throughout her. Every cell on fire because of him, she yearns for more, her entire being a testament to that.

Her feet tingle in her shoes. Her tight nipples rasp against the lace of her bra. Her cheeks turn pink, her gaze catching sight of herself in the mirror next to them.

"No. Look at me," he orders.

Submissively she listens.

This pleases him, because he nods his head approvingly and slowly takes down her underwear. To her dismay, he leaves the purple scrap of lace around her upper thighs. Between her jeans and now her underwear, she can't really move or even spread her legs.

She doesn't dare try to take anything off, because he's left things where they are for a reason. But she's not sure she's going to enjoy the reason. From her perspective, it's not an issue of if he'll be able to get between her thighs and penetrate her. It's a matter of how deeply he'll be able to go. And maybe he's content to tease her with the tip and leave her wanting more. But that's not what she wants.

Cuddy wants every inch of him. She wants, most particularly in that moment, to feel his balls bounce against her as he punishes her with his thick cock, as he fucks the come out of her and fills her with his own.

She realizes though that she probably won't get any of that.

Not if he's doing this.

For a second she tries to stay positive. For a moment, the instant he drops his own pants and shorts and stands before her with his erection proudly jutting into the space between them, she thinks maybe she's jumping to conclusions. Maybe he'll give her all of that.

"Don't move." He says that, but then he shifts her body with his hands. He brings her closer to him until her chest is flush with his. His fingers separating her thighs, it's just enough so that he can slip his dick between them.

He does not enter her.

The top of his cock nestles between her wet folds, and that's it. His fingers carefully gather her juices and slide them along his dick before his hands slip away.

Confused – turned on and intrigued but mostly confused, she asks, "What are you doing?"

"Shh," he tells her, palms on her outer thighs and pressing her legs closed. His dick becomes trapped between them. "Just stay still like a good girl, and I'll make sure you come."

It's easy to believe he'll make good on his promise. His hands moving to her ass for balance, he begins to thrust in and out of the space her thighs and pussy have created. The feeling of his penis touching her like this is odd for her. But every now and then he'll pull back enough to rub against her clit, and suddenly that weird sensation turns into one she needs more of.

Her juices dribble onto his cock, smear along her thighs, making it easier for him to have sex with her. To do whatever this is to her anyway, she amends.

"Oh yeah," House grunts, leaning forward to finally kiss her. Her eyes close at the sudden contact, passionate and hot and just a little sloppy. Instantly she's surrounded by the touch and sounds of his dick noisily rubbing against her and his mouth on hers. It's not exactly what she wants, but for now, it's enough; hearing the effect this is having on him makes it enough.

Really, it must be more than that, because she doesn't notice his fingers collecting her juices once more. She's completely oblivious until his finger nudges between her butt cheeks, surprising her. In shock, her eyes wide, she pulls her mouth away from his.

"Wha –"

"Shh," he hushes once more. His middle finger presses against her anus. "You're so wet for me, I think you've earned a treat."

She readies herself to be fingered, tries to relax enough so that he can enter her easily. But he doesn't increase the pressure against her.

"Do you want that? Would you like that?"

He isn't asking for the potentially humiliating answer. He's not asking because he thinks she's getting off on the question. She can tell he's genuinely trying to verify that doing this is okay.

She starts to tell him "Yes" in a whisper; they are in a bathroom after all, and she's trying very hard not to forget that fact. But his dick suddenly brushes against her clitoris, and she loudly says, "Yes. God –"

"He cuts her off with his tongue in her mouth. Her cries for more dissolve into him, and his finger forces its way inside her. The new sensation renews her desire to shout, but he doesn't let her pull away from him.

Not at all to her dismay, House has her trapped. The wet finger in and the hand possessively on her ass prevent her from backing up. His body keeps her from moving forward, and his lips are unforgivingly on hers. No matter how much she wants to moan her thanks loudly, she is forced to take it all quietly.

His finger moves around inside her, but he doesn't thrust in and out of her. He keeps the digit stuffed in her while he rubs his cock along but not in her pussy.

It makes her feel used.

Controlled.

It makes her want to come.

She can't though. All of this feels good, but the occasional stroke to her clit and the finger in her ass aren't enough.

She moves her hips in the hopes that he'll stop doing what he's doing and screw her properly. Instead he tightens his grip on her and pulls away.

Her mouth suddenly free, he's quick to say, "Don't scream. You can't –"

"Please," she whimpers, wanting more.

"Stay still." His thrusts pick up speed. She's not close, but he certainly seems like it.

And she wants to get him off, but her body's needs are more controlling than he is. She doesn't listen. "I want to come," she says, trying to keep her voice low. "Please. I…."

She stops talking, because she sees there's no point in asking for sex then. She's ready to beg, but at that moment, he begins to pull his dick from between her thighs. And as her voice trails off, he orgasms.

Come splashes against her labia and mound.

Before she can feel the disappointment from knowing that he won't enter her now, he's pulled away from her completely. His finger pops out of her ass, and before she understands what's going on, he's dragging her underwear back up her thighs.

"What are you – no," she protests, as he presses the damp fabric against her skin and between her folds.

His spent cock still hanging out, he repeats what she's just said, "No?"

"I want to –"

"You're going to," he says emphatically, knowing precisely how she was going to end that sentence. "Right now in fact."

He starts to rub her clitoris through her underwear.

She wants to complain. Well, she wishes she had the wherewithal to demand something more than being masturbated through her panties like a young teenager. But by this point, she's willing to take whatever she can get. She's too desperate to refuse, and part of her understands: this is all he will give her.

"Does that feel good?" he asks. She doesn't have a chance to answer, because he keeps talking. "Probably not as good as if I were really touching you, right? But if you're going to try to get me off in my pants, you haven't earned any more than this, have you?"

The lesson is lost on her. If she's supposed to care, she doesn't.

At all.

If he's touching her like this, even if it's not ideal, she's still going to orgasm. Right now, nothing else matters.

She focuses on the rough feeling of her underwear being rubbed against her. She is uncomfortably wet, her own juices weeping to mix with his, and with each of his finger's motions, the feeling gets worse.

"You ready to come?" he asks, right at the moment the keening energy inside of her starts to become too much.

She can't answer.

"I think that's a yes." He reaches into her underwear with his free hand to spread her lips. Beneath her panties, he doesn't stroke her. He just tenderly adjusts her body so that the finger stroking her over her underwear can really give her clitoris proper attention. And as he does so, he encourages her, "Come on. Come for me."

Between his words and the added friction from her clothing, she orgasms hard, surprisingly enough.

It's so intense that she wants to scream loudly. The pleasure suddenly too much, she feels the urge to fight the sensation. But she's too busy trying to breathe to shout. The oxygen being sucked of the room seemingly, Cuddy pants as she rides out the onslaught of joy.

The very second her breathing slows, he pulls away from her. Unceremoniously he starts to get dressed, and eventually, after a brief moment of reluctance, she follows suit. Comfort requires that she wipe his semen off her body with a paper towel, but she doesn't even bother to see if House will allow that. Inwardly she sneers at the term, allow, but that's only a minor concern given where they are. Still at the movie theatres, she's less interested in the terminology and her own comfort and more interested in getting out of here. House must feel the same, because he diligently washes his hands. Since he's standing still, she takes the time to wipe the sweat off of him, then herself.

But even then, after cleaning up, she looks at their reflections in the mirror, and she thinks:

They still look like they had sex.


The ride home is quiet, filled (on her part) with relief that no one stopped them on the way to the car. In the aftermath, she sees her own foolishness with uncomfortable clarity.

"I can't believe we just did that."

He's unsympathetic and makes it known. "If you're embarrassed or regretting it, next time keep your hands to yourself."

"I'm neither, but you don't have to worry about it happening again."

"Good."

She's not sure why she says it, if it's for her benefit or his. "No one would have seen us."

"Probably not," House agrees as he turns down a street. "Still doesn't mean you should do that again."

"No, I know." Even as she says it though, she can feel herself hesitating to let the subject go. There's something about his need for privacy that makes her suspicious. "You realize at some point we're going to want people to know we're a couple. Right?"

"Yeah, I'm pretty sure telling people we're dating doesn't require a visual in the form of a hand job. But then again, I haven't done this in a while. Maybe it does require that, in which case, I'll get the PowerPoint presentation started –"

"You don't have to keep talking."

"Great, because if I had to keep going, I'd start to think I was reassuring you about this relationship, and you know how I feel about that."

"This is different."

His voice is tense, a little more strained than normal. "Is it?"

Inwardly she sees that… maybe it isn't. Maybe he's right. It's still a type of doubt in their future. She's still questioning how House will react when things progress and become more complicated. But she wasn't lying when she said it was different. For her, it is. She's not questioning whether or not this will last.

She's trying to see if he needs comfort, if he needs to be consoled about the inevitably awkward reveal of their relationship.

Apparently though he doesn't.

Or he won't admit that he does.

Either way, there's no point in pursuing the subject. She won't get very far.

"It's different," she says definitively.

"If you say so."

His doubt is galling. "We just had sex in a bathroom. I let you come all over me, finger –"

"You just let me?"

"Put it however you'd like, House. What matters is I'm not dying for you to tell me it'll be all right if I'm willing to do that."

"I'm sure that's exactly what it means." He pretends like he's considering the subject. "Well either that or you're just easy."

"That's how you want to end the night?" she asks, referencing the fact that he's pulled up in front of her home. "Calling me easy?"

He puts the car in park and says, "Who says the night's over?"

"Me."

He doesn't try to dissuade her. Although she's sure he's used to staying up much later, he offers her no fight at all as they get out of the car. He simply follows behind her without complaint.

When they reach the front door, he makes his move. One of his hands rubs the back of her neck as she searches for her keys in her purse.

"That was fun," he says, as though he's getting ready to say goodbye.

Keys in hand, she's taken aback. "You're leaving?"

Now he's the one who looks confused. "No. What makes you think I –"

"You said, 'That was fun.'"

He nods his head. "And it was, if you don't count the movie itself, which is why I said, 'That was fun.'"

"So you're not going home."

House doesn't bother to confirm or deny it. He just says, "Open the door, honey. My hands are getting cold." To prove his point, he lets his cane fall to the side and stuffs his hands into her coat pockets.

"Right. Okay."

She feels out of sorts, standing on her front porch. They've had a good date – he's right about that. It wasn't exactly normal, but they are moving towards that, towards being a couple that can enjoy simple things like going to the movies. It's been a good night – without fighting, without work getting in the way. He's been good to her. Even in the parameters of their bizarre relationship, he has been nice. He's called her "honey;" his warm hands now stroke her gently through her pockets, and it all just seems so perfect that she's not sure how to process that.

And then as he leans in to kiss her neck, she no longer cares how she's supposed to respond. She can't help but ruin the moment by complaining, "You smell like –"

"You think you smell much better? Cause if we're being honest," he tells her as she pushes the door open. "You smell like a used –"

"Come inside and shut up," she interrupts, pulling away from him.

"Just saying." He picks up his cane, which has been resting against the side of the house, and follows after her. "We're both pretty ripe."

She closes the door behind him, hangs up his coat when he hands it to her. As he helps her out of her own, Cuddy suggests, "Bath?"

The kiss to her neck finally comes, followed by a lascivious, "Do I get to scrub your back?"

"Maybe," she says coyly. She can feel his mouth against her skin, poised as ever for a retort. "Why don't you get the water started? I'll get some towels for you."

They separate at the end of the hallway, House heading into her bedroom without her. As she gets a towel for him out of the closet, she hears the rush of water start. Once more there's realization, that this has gone better than expected, that this is actually perfect. The thought makes her uncharacteristically bubble with pleasure, which she is quick to tamp down. Great as the feeling is, it's one she fears she'll lose if she relishes it.

She's not wrong to think that.

At first, it seems silly to be worried. The bubble bath is hot, the perfect way to counter the winter weather. The tub is uncomfortably full, House's warm skin surrounding her. But the discomfort melts away quickly. Eventually she welcomes the contact. His hands run along her body, petting and washing with each movement. His cheek brushes against her hair, and the intimacy of the motion lulls her into a state of bliss. Yes, for a second, she thinks that things can't go wrong, can't get any better.

Then he says it.

"What about Thirteen?"

Her eyes, which she didn't even realize were closed, open. She tries to glance upward to see what he means, but his chest and somehow simultaneously his face are in the way. Instantly she gives up, her gaze focusing on their pink feet, hers resting on top of his.

Frowning, she says slowly, "You're thinking about another woman while –"

"No." His hands glide through the water, and his arms wrap around her waist. "Well, I guess technically, but not like that. I'm trying to figure out who Wilson is –"

"You're thinking about Wilson while I'm naked in front of you."

"Are you jealous?" he asks, amused.

"I'm annoyed."

"That's not an answer."

She doesn't bother to consider whether or not he's right. She just tells him, "Clearly I need to find you a patient if –"

"Then find me one."

"I will."

She can feel him nodding his head behind her. "I'm sure you will. But that isn't an answer to my question."

"I'm not jealous, House. Why would you think I am?"

"I don't know." It's not a genuine statement; he knows and demonstrates as such before she can say anything. "Maybe because you won't answer my question directly. Maybe it's because when you say, 'You're thinking of Wilson when I'm naked,' that sounds to me like you think there's something wrong that all of my focus isn't –"

"And what's wrong with that?" she asks, trying to sound conversational.

He shakes his head lightly. "I didn't say there was anything wrong with it. But if you're envious of Wilson of all people, you should just say it. There's no point in lying about it."

"I'm not jealous of Wilson," she says tersely.

He waits for her to change her mind, but she won't. She's not going to admit to harboring feelings she doesn't have. She's certainly not going to do that if he won't even address the things she has admitted to.

When he realizes things won't go the way he wants, he gently pushes at her shoulders. "Okay, fine. Let's get out."

"You're kicking me out –"

"Because it's late and the water's getting cold," he explains gruffly. "Don't read into that."

Cuddy tries not to. For the sake of her own sanity, she tries to avoid assuming House has sinister motives. She doesn't want to get in a fight with him tonight. Besides, it is late. The water isn't as warm as she would like. Her fingers and toes are starting to prune, making it clear that all around her are reasons they should get out and dry off.

But it's hard to believe that those are the reasons motivating House. Even if it's coincidental that they should get out at the same time things have gone sour between them, it's not by chance that he says it now. In the very least, he's aware of the implication of his words, knew what she would think when he announced they should get out of the bath, and is okay with that. And that fact means any attempt to give his motives the benefit of the doubt is pointless. She can only believe then that his choice is intentional. He's trying to punish her, push her away.

Because she won't give him the answer he wants.

That's what does it for her. That's why she gets out.

"Fine," she snaps.

It's got nothing to do with wanting to please him. It's the opposite in fact; she's pissed off, so the idea of being this close to him no longer has any appeal. Climbing out of the bathtub, she's angry enough not to help him out. She's at the point where all she wants is to go to bed and pretend like this isn't happening. But that would be childish and possibly dangerous for him, so she forces herself to turn back and offer him a hand.

He doesn't take it. He just looks at her confused. "You're in a huff, because I said we should get out." She shakes her head, which immediately has him in disbelief. Reaching forward, he pulls the stopper out of the bathtub. "You don't have to help me out, Cuddy. I'm fully capable of caring for myself while you throw a tantrum because –"

"That's not what I'm doing."

He looks disappointed, though she can't say if that's due to the argument or the towel she's just wrapped around her body. And she can't ask why, because that's the moment he forces himself out of the tub as ungracefully as humanly possible.

Water and bubbles splash loudly everywhere. Pink limbs lumber over the lip of the tub, hands gripping the tile and faucet to keep his balance. It's a practiced move, a perfected one made less perfect by the different environment. But somehow he manages it without falling.

"See?" he says bitterly, grabbing one of the towels she brought for him. "I'm fine. Continue as you were."

She knows what he's expecting her to do. Now that he's fine, he thinks she'll, to use his choice of words, return to the tantrum he seems to believe she's throwing. That's not what she was doing, but she has clearly given him a different impression. And so she decides to do her best to change his perception.

The last thing she wants is for him to think he's right and she's annoyed because of that and not because he's completely wrong.

Ignoring how childish that sounds, she asks, "Want me to dry you off?"

"No, I'm a big boy." He moves the towel up to his head to dry his hair, which results in his body being bare. As she drinks in the sight, he adds, "As you can see."

She doesn't say anything back. If she's complimentary, he'll use that against her. If she's mean or anything less than enthusiastic, he'll accuse her of being immature. And if there's no way for her to win, and there isn't, she doesn't see much point in reacting either way. What she fails to realize is that, by being silent, she's inviting those accusations anyway.

When she starts to comb her hair without a word, he says with disdain, "So now I'm getting the silent treatment because –"

"I'm not giving you anything. I'm getting ready for bed." She yanks through her hair roughly, with enough force that she quickly stops what she's doing. Not wanting to create a bald spot, she prepares to brush her teeth instead.

"All of this because I think –"

"I'm not doing anything," she points out.

His dark gaze is aimed at her back, reflected in the mirror for her to see. She watches him open his mouth to say something, watches it close as he changes his mind. Whatever he wants to tell her, he doesn't do it. He simply stands there quietly, eyes trained on her, until she leaves the room.

As she gets dressed, she thinks that this is not how she wanted to end the evening. Things were going well; the date had been great, and now…. She doesn't even know how to describe where they are now. She would say that it's the opposite of where it seemed like the night would end, but that's not exactly true. They are better fighters than lovers, as this very moment is proving.

Crawling into bed, she concedes that they aren't even really fighting. They're snapping at each other, frustrating one another by not communicating… which is, she guesses, normal enough. But he's accusing her of lying or worse, not knowing exactly how she feels. He's chosen to push her away because of it, and that's definitely not their norm.

Worse, she's not sure how to fix the problem. Wait for him to see that he's wrong? Considering how stubborn House is, she's not sure he'll ever notice the flaws in his logic. For the same reason, explaining why he's wrong won't work. And so that leaves what exactly? Telling him he's right just so they can move past the issue? That's not going to happen.

She decides going to sleep and letting the matter blow over is the best course of action. But as soon as she closes her eyes, she feels him.

The mattress dips as he crawls onto the bed. She doesn't roll over to look at him, doesn't open her eyes. She's not pretending to be asleep, but if he thinks she is, that's not necessarily the worst thing in the world.

He clearly doesn't think that however. His hand gently pats her ass before moving up her back. As he lies down next to her, his fingers brush the hair away from the nape of her neck. And soon after, his mouth is against the warm skin there, kissing her, whispering, "Can we just… pretend that didn't happen?"

It's not the best way to handle the situation. In the back of her mind, she's aware of that. But she finds herself nodding her head anyway. "Yeah."

He sighs in relief. Resting his head on her pillow, he says quietly, "I'm not trying to fight with you."

She wants to say that she knows that. Yet she's not convinced that she does know that, not with this conversation at least, so Cuddy doesn't respond.

"Maybe I'm wrong," he continues. "I –"

"Maybe?" she repeats. "You're not convinced that you are."

There is a long pause as he uses the silence to get better control of himself. She watches him bite back his initial reaction. And when he finally does speak, his tone is completely neutral.

"Even before you said something… when we were in the car, I mentioned Wilson's girlfriend, and you weren't happy. Obviously," he says, talking louder so that she can't speak. "That doesn't mean you're jealous. I understand that point, so you don't have to say it. I get it. Now… maybe you could hear me out."

He's calm, kind in his delivery, which is the only reason she agrees. "Five minutes. Then I'm going to sleep."

"All right. I can work with that." He leans over and kisses her bare shoulder, just peeking out of the covers. "I don't have that much to say." His head flops down onto the pillow once more. Slowly he begins to explain, "The working theory is: you got annoyed, because my attention wasn't focused on you."

She bristles at his characterization. He makes her sound… like she can't bear the thought of him thinking about anyone else. It's such an awful description that she can't quite get to the point where she asks herself whether it's true.

"That sounds bad," he admits. "But that's not important."

"Not to you." She's the one being made to seem immature; why would it be important to him? She doesn't mentally answer her own rhetorical question, because she catches sight of his glare. He's annoyed that she's interrupted him. "Sorry," she says with a roll of the eyes. "Continue."

"I will. If you're quiet." She shoots him a glare of her own but says nothing. "Like I was trying to say, I don't care if you…." He cuts himself off and shakes his head. Starting over he says, "I don't want you to think I'm not interested. I am." Again he leans over and kisses her shoulder. "If I've left you wanting more from me, then I have failed to keep you completely aware of the fact that you're mine."

She could tell him that she is aware of that; however, she won't. She likes where he's taking this… to an extent. His possessiveness pleasantly awakens her own, but in the back of her mind resides the possibility that he might use the feeling to his advantage. She forces herself to remain vigilant.

No, she goes beyond that, she corrects. She's challenging.

"So fix it," she demands unsympathetically.

He's amused at her behavior, in the same way anyone is when their indignant opponent poses no threat.

"Oh I will," he says confidently. "Seems to me we both need a reminder of –"

"So do it."

She's trying to prompt him into action, but her words only sharpen his own. "This is interesting," he notes. "All this insistence that you're not jealous, and yet here you are, doing everything you can to ensure I'll –"

"Have sex with me, yes."

"Give all of my attention to you," he finishes over her. "We're not having sex tonight."

She's not surprised that he is intent on denying her what she now wants, but at the same time, she is. Based on what he was saying, she thought that was where this was headed. The way he spoke, she thought….

Well, it doesn't matter now what she believed, she tells herself.

"What are you talking about?" she asks, already dreading how this will turn out for her.

"And now you're going to ignore my point, I take it."

"No." Her answer is instant and firm. The conversation having gone on long enough, Cuddy has come then to the conclusion she knew existed all along: she will never get what she wants if she is unwilling to give him the same in return. "I won't ignore it. You're right."

"About?" he prompts.

"All of it."

He sees the lie. "Don't do that. Don't tell me I'm right if that's not what you think."

She tries again. "I don't think I'm jealous. I didn't think I cared that much about being the center of your attention, but I guess I… would be wrong about that." It's still not enough, and she knows it. Anything less than total honesty will get her nowhere.

No, she realizes; that's not precise enough. Of course, he wants honesty. He might anticipate lying, but that's not what anyone would like in their relationship. Obviously he wants the truth. But… it hits her that she doesn't exactly know what the truth is. Shameful of the possibility that he might be right, she hasn't reflected much on the actual accusation, that she is jealous. She hasn't considered it at all really. That alone guarantees that anything she tells him will be gazed upon with utmost suspicion, because he doesn't just want the truth.

He wants to see that she has put some thought into her response.

Right now, she can't fake that. Even if she would like to, House has been a witness to her thought process too often for that to work. He knows what she looks like when she's thinking, knows half the time her line of reasoning before she even says it out loud. He cannot be fooled.

With that fact cemented in her mind, she finally capitulates. "I don't know; you might be right, but I don't know."

As soon as she says it, part of her regrets it. He's not doing anything to make her feel that way, no, but she fears it's only a matter of time before he does. Before he makes fun of her, uses the answer against her, before he does something, a voice inside of her whispers. Rationally she understands what that means; as much as she trusts him, she still worries how her own behavior will work against her. Any form of chastising or patronizing from him won't be serious – she know that – but inwardly the tiny piece of her that wishes she were above all of this will punish herself with his words.

But he doesn't give her inner loathing the ammunition she needs. Not tonight anyway. For that, she's grateful.

"You don't have to know," he tells her in a calm voice. "I'm not looking for a confession."

She sighs. "Then what –"

"Consider the possibility, at some point, not now. That's all I want."

His kindness, and it's so odd that she's not even sure she wants to call it that, is confusing. They've been working through this conversation for how long now, and his only point is that she should reflect upon her own behavior? It seems unbelievable. Yet it's all real, earnest, and that more than anything ensures that she will do as he suggests.

She has no other choice.

All this time, she has assumed his motives have been less than pure. She has told herself that he is desperate to be right, that he wants to force something out of her. But that's not the case, not if he's behaving like this. And that can only mean that she hasn't come to the conversation with the appropriate frame of mind. She's been looking for ways to twist his words and places where he might do the same to her own. She hasn't taken in what he's said, listened to him without judgment. And that makes her wonder just how much she has missed.

Watching her, he surely knows then that he has won. He understands that he's made his point, because he moves on.

"I don't need an answer. Just think about it. And in the meantime… allow me to reassure you of my intentions."

"Now?" she asks hopefully.

"As fun as giving you all my attention would be right now, that can't happen," he says, the sorrow apparent in his tone. "It's late."

She shoots him a look to let him know that she thinks he's crazy. "You're putting me to bed?"

"If you want to call it that." He shrugs. "Nevertheless, if we're keeping this between you and me, I can't have you going into work tomorrow morning looking like you've been getting some."

"Then when –"

"Tomorrow morning?"

"Don't be an idiot. You're not going to get up at –"

"Why not?"

"You're going to get up at five in the morning to do whatever it is you have planned? I doubt it." He looks like he wants to object, but she won't let him. "I'm finding you a patient tomorrow. I need you at your best, not half-asleep, because you woke up early to have sex."

He considers this. "You're right. That's no good. Especially since I plan on doing a lot – and I mean a lot – more to you than getting you off."

"How surprising" is her dry response.

"Tomorrow night then."

She's ready to say yes. She has no idea what he's got planned, but the way he's talking it up is more than enough for her to be interested.

Then she remembers.

"I can't," she says apologetically. "I have a meeting tomorrow. I already know it's going to go late."

"Okay. Then what about –"

"How about Saturday? At the earliest." He doesn't seem pleased at having to wait so long. "If you have a case," she explains. "You're not going to have time for me."

"I'll make the time."

Her incredulity is obvious. "House, I'm sure you think that you'll be able to take a break from work. But we both know that the second you're with me, you'll have an epiphany… most likely at the worst time possible. And if the goal is to remind me that you want me –"

"You know it's more than that," he says softly.

"Then leaving me midway through is not the way to show that."

He can't argue with that. "All right. Saturday, I guess." Almost immediately he adds, "All day Saturday. Don't make plans to do anything other than me."

Scooting closer to him on the bed, she asks, "Why would I make other plans? I want to spend time with you."

The response is what he wants to hear. His enthusiasm is not stated outright but rather expressed in a passionate kiss and his hands dragging her body up against his by her hips. His lips linger on hers for a moment, and then he pulls away, perhaps out of the fear that things will get out of control if he kisses her any longer.

"Good. Now that that's settled, one last thing."

Her cheek brushes against his bicep as she looks into his eyes. "There's something else?" She can't help but be disappointed that he's put an end to any fun they might have tonight.

"This is frustrating to you."

"That's the last thing?" she asks, confused.

"No. Just a fact. I'm driving you a little –"

"That's okay," she interrupts honestly.

"Is it?" He's almost nervous with concern, which only makes his question even more confusing. As if to explain himself, he tells her, "If, and I did say if, the problem has been a sense that I don't appreciate you, I don't want you to feel as though I'm pressuring you into –"

"That's not happening." Her denial is flat but honest.

He doesn't seem relieved. "You're sure? Because –"

"And if I said it was," she says, wondering what his answer will be. "What are you going to do? Have sex with me this instant to prove that you'll do what I want?"

"If that's what it takes."

She's tempted to say that it is a problem; if she can spend a little more time kissing him, holding him, being with him, the lie seems worth it. She knows, however, that it's not. That's not a good reason to lie to her boyfriend, even if it seems like it.

"We're fine."

"You're sure."

"Yes."

"What happened in the –"

"Was it what I would have suggested we do?" she poses. "Of course not. But obviously I liked it, so don't worry about it. Please."

The way she stresses the last word seems to have an effect, because he doesn't counter her argument with one of his own. He stays quiet instead – but not for long.

"I don't need to tell you that you can tell me if you don't –"

"Yes, I'm a big girl. I am capable of telling you no."

He must feel the need to end the conversation. As though his fears have been allayed sufficiently, he wants to extricate himself from any discussion that makes him seem insecure. The desire is one she fundamentally understands; giving themselves to one another sexually does not absolve them of the need to have some pride in this relationship. And so she gets why he seizes on her words to once again take things in a more familiar and comfortable direction.

With a smirk, House murmurs, "So I'm not cajoling you into any of this. You're really just a dirty slut. That's good to know."

"Don't talk like that if you don't plan on –"

"Believe me. I'm going to do something about it." He bows his head, so that he's in her face. Conspiratorially, he tells her, "I'm going to use every hole, every inch of you on Saturday. You're mine, and the reminder I'm gonna give you will make you so glad it's a weekend, because you're not going to be able to sit until Monday."

She groans because of the promises he's making and the way he's saying him. "Do it now," she whispers, knowing even as she hopes he'll use her that he won't.

"I told you no." But he squeezes her ass anyway. She's not sure if he's trying to drive her nuts, console her, or remind her of his plans. Either way, he leaves her wanting more.

"I –"

"So," he interrupts, not giving her a chance to ask again. "Like I said, one last thing. When's Hanukkah?"

The question is random and almost amusing under the circumstances. Holding back a laugh, she answers, "It ended. Last week."

"Really? Where was I?"

"Working?" she suggests casually. She doesn't mention the fight they've had recently. He's well aware, and Cuddy doesn't want to bring it up in case he feels the need to talk about it or apologize for it.

He frowns, although she's not sure why. An explanation comes quickly though and in the form of a declaration.

"Fine. I can adapt my plan easily. You're getting a Christmas present. Now go to sleep."

He says it all in a rush and seriously, which makes the idea of him giving her something for Christmas – a holiday she doesn't celebrate – even more ridiculous.

She blinks a few times and waits to see if he'll change his mind or elaborate. She waits for the part where he admits that it's a joke. But none of those things ever come. She opens her mouth to question him, but he stops her with a finger lightly tapping across her lips, indicating that she shouldn't talk. For a second she considers demanding an explanation, but that idea is quickly discarded. If he hasn't said any more now, he won't. Not tonight anyway.

A mix of confusion, excitement, and frustration overwhelming her then, it takes her a long time before she falls into a deep sleep.

To be continued