Disclaimer: They aren't mine, and I'm making no money from this. Nor do I own the songs or lyrics from Disney's movies, or Gilligan's Island, or any other music mentioned.
A/N: A pure fluffy fun bite that's been stuck in my own head for a few weeks, so I'm giving into it. It's made a nice humor break at times from the intense funerary topics of Hopes and Fears. I dearly love H&F, but sometimes, you just want some lighter reading (or mental writing) for a few minutes. It is a one-shot, at least at the moment. My muse wanted to end it with the game afoot. This is set anytime during any of the initial few seasons - i.e. before the Joy kiss, before Rachel, definitely before TPTB got House and Cuddy together. Pure comic relief, folks. Enjoy!
It all started when Ariel Hunter, 9 years old, was a challenging patient for House, and solving her case took an entire week. Several personal visits to her room and examinations and questions were required before House finally got the answer. He didn't say so, but he actually grew to admire the girl over that week, which itself softened his stance on personal visits. While feeling like utter crap, Ariel did not turn into a whimpering, whining wreck, fighting her battle with young but indisputable bravery, and she held on for them until the epiphany when many patients would have already succumbed. Her only demands seemed to be one of her parents in the room and her favorite Disney movie playing on the portable DVD player they had brought in as distraction from her illness and the hospital environment. Even when she dozed off for fitful sleep, she would wake up to attempted silence and say she wanted to dream about her namesake character, too. So the movie was playing every time House entered the room.
Every single time.
Cuddy exited the elevator with a brisk, annoyed stride. Already, even before she reached his office, she could hear the commotion that had set off a slew of simultaneous complaints in the last fifteen minutes. Still, the other doctors were all too chicken to confront House themselves, and Wilson was out of town until tomorrow.
She stalked through the door into the world of her best - and most exasperating - physician. "House!"
He was sitting at his desk, eyes closed, the stereo at his elbow pounding out at maximum volume some racket that Cuddy wouldn't have even dignified with the title of music. She had no idea who that group was, nor did she want to know. House didn't respond, which wasn't surprising. The glass walls were almost throbbing in time with the beat. She closed the distance and turned up her own volume. "HOUSE!"
His eyes snapped open, and he stared at her, startled. Not his boyish "caught-me" look of adorable mischief. Something else.
"Turn the volume down."
He pointed at the stereo, though he didn't turn away, his gaze locked onto her face. "Can't hear you. Sorry."
"TURN THE VOLUME DOWN!" She hurried around him and found the appropriate knob herself, and the nameless destroyers of tonality died to a murmur that was much quieter, though no better otherwise.
"I was listening to that," House protested. "Trying to, at least, before I was so rudely interrupted."
"This is a hospital, House. You can't play music so loudly that people two floors each way can hear it. Don't you have something better to do?"
"Patient was solved this morning, and the team is treating her. No new patient yet. Thus I'm bored."
"So play with your ball. Do clinic hours. Find a new patient. But whatever you do, do it a little more quietly." He was still staring at her lips, and the fixed regard was starting to make her uneasy. She raised a hand halfway to her mouth before dropping it. "Is my lipstick smeared or something? What's wrong?"
She saw his Adam's apple bob as he swallowed before his delayed reply. "Nothing's wrong. Just killing time, like I said."
"If you're that bored, you could try paperwork." She shifted one step to the right. He followed her like a bird dog on point. One step back left, and he repeated the maneuver. Had he replaced her lipstick with some awful color and she hadn't noticed? No, surely she would have caught that. But maybe with some chemically delayed awful color that his mind had cooked up - except that he had been tied up for a full seven days on that case he had solved this morning, and House the prankster stepped aside for House the brilliant diagnostician. Besides, he wasn't laughing. He looked exhausted, which wasn't surprising, since he'd been sleeping here more nights than not lately when he slept at all. "Go home, House. Just take the rest of the day off and get some rest, or at least disturb your neighborhood instead of this one. Good job on that patient; you've earned an early day." She turned away, almost hearing a crack as she broke his intense line of sight, and headed out the office and straight to the fourth-floor ladies' room to check her face in the mirror.
Wilson settled into his desk chair with a satisfied sigh of homecoming and started to read through his accumulated messages during the oncology conference. He hadn't even made it through the first one when the office door crashed open. Ah yes, he'd just been waiting for that, too. Home sweet hospital. "Need a prescription," House stated.
"Well, good morning, House. Yes, the conference went very well, and thanks for asking. Now, was there -" Wilson skidded to a halt in mid sarcasm as the actual words registered. "Wait a minute! I wrote you a refill Friday before I left, and that was only four days ago. You really need to cut down on the Vicodin. You're going to fry your liver."
House hooked his cane on the corner of Wilson's desk and leaned across the organized surface, taking a moment to send the stack of messages flying before he propped himself on both extended arms on the desktop, bending to nearly eyeball-to-eyeball with the oncologist. "Not for Vicodin, you moron. You might listen to me instead of jumping to conclusions for once."
Wilson broke the glare-off and started collecting the message slips from the floor. "I was reading those, House. Some of them are probably important."
"So is this unless you want my head to explode. If that happened, who would you buy lunch for? Who would fill your need to be needed? So write the damn prescription already so I can get some sleep!"
Wilson looked up at him, pausing in his message hunt. "You want sleeping pills?"
"That's what I said! I couldn't really get sound to sleep last night, even though I'm exhausted. Couldn't shut my mind off. It's this case; it made me too tired and susceptible by the time I solved it. I need some help to snap out of it. One good night would make the difference."
Now that he really looked at his friend, House did look awful. Bags below the eyes, which were slightly bloodshot, lines on his face tightened up a few notches. "You look like crap," Wilson said with concern, abandoning (temporarily) his current task.
"Which is why I need some sleeping pills. So gimme." House thrust out a hand, making the gesture more often associated with money than prescription pads.
Wilson sat up straight in his chair again and unlocked his top desk drawer. Pulling out a pad, he started writing. "What did you mean by susceptible?" he asked curiously as he wrote House's name. "Susceptible to what exactly?"
House sighed. "I've got some damned song stuck in my head."
"Which song?" House's reply was mumbled, and Wilson stopped writing in mid prescription and looked up in surprise. House rarely mumbled. Whatever he had to say on any occasion was usually clear, often scathing, and zeroed with laser focus on the point. "What did you say?"
"Kiss the Girl," House admitted. He shifted his weight like an embarrassed teen, his expression suddenly looking decades younger.
Wilson put down the pen and broke into an ear-to-ear smile. "From the Disney movie? The Little Mermaid? Gregory House has a Disney song stuck in his head?"
"Don't rub it in," House snarled. "It's that kid's fault. She was watching that movie every time I went into the room, and it took a week to solve the case."
Wilson considered. "You wouldn't happen to be thinking of anyone specifically when you think of this song, would you?" House looked away, confirming his guess. "Oh, really, House, I think it's perfect. You two can't decide what your relationship is anyway."
"We don't have a relationship," House snarled.
"But I can see where the song fits. It's not just the kid; this is your subconscious talking to you, trying to get some answers." Straightening up, Wilson struck a pose. "First," he quoted, "we've got to create the mood."
House rolled his eyes. "Of course you've seen the movie. You probably watch Disney movies all the time."
Wilson shrugged. "Can't help knowing them. I treat cancer kids. And interestingly enough, even though I have been around that movie many times, that song never got stuck in my head, which brings me back to my point that this is actually about you and Cuddy." He started singing. "You don't know why, but you're dying to try. You want to kiss the girl."
House immediately launched into a very loud rendition of Mick Jagger, pinning Wilson down with a defiant glare. Wilson refused to be pinned, turning up his own volume. "Yes, you want her. Look at her; you know you do. Possible she wants you, too. There is one way to ask her!"
House started singing deliberately off key, even though his musician's soul couldn't conceal a wince at it, and sang even louder, doing his best to drown Wilson out. Wilson managed a little more with an effort, going full blast.
Neither of them noticed the door of the office open or Cuddy's dumbfounded gaze. She stood there for a second in disbelief, and then her bellow cut through both songs. "QUIET!"
Startled, they both turned with near identical guilty expressions to face her, only House's expression changed almost immediately to that other expression, the one she couldn't quite place, and his eyes zeroed in on her lips again. "What the hell is going on here?" she demanded.
Wilson at least still looked guilty, as well he should. "We were just goofing around. Kind of a welcome-back celebration."
Cuddy sighed. "You do both have jobs, you know. You work here. This isn't a kindergarten playground. Now get busy." She hesitated, looking back at House. That odd fixity of gaze, and behind it, she could see that he still looked exhausted. "Are you all right?"
He looked like he had to remind himself how to speak. "Just tired," he replied after a moment. "Still catching up after that case."
"Why don't you take today off, too? You were working straight through the weekend. Go home; get some more sleep." She was getting worried watching him - purely professionally, of course.
"Good idea," House said meekly.
Cuddy looked over at Wilson. "I came up here to make sure you got the message that the board meeting was rescheduled to 10:00 instead of 11:00. That change was after you left on Friday."
"Thanks. I'll be there," the oncologist replied.
Cuddy gave up. She didn't think she really wanted to understand whatever had been going on anyway. "House, go home, and Wilson, get to work. That's all." She turned away, aware of House's eyes on her as she left the office.
After the door had closed, House wordlessly reached out a hand again, and Wilson wordlessly finished writing the prescription and handed it over. Pocketing it, House exited.
Wilson sat in his chair for a full minute, alternating between grinning and looking thoughtful, before he returned to picking up the message slips.
The next morning, Wilson already knew as he got off the elevator that Operation Sleeping Pill had failed. House's guitar was blasting at its loudest. Wilson didn't even take his coat off, going straight to his friend's office. "Didn't work?"
House glared at him. "It worked great while I was drugged out. I took two rounds of them, two nice 7-hour stretches of sleep, and every time I woke up, that damned song was still there."
Wilson gave him a sympathetic look. "It's obvious that the only way to get this song out of your head is to put it into action. Come on, what's the worst that could happen?"
"Remember who you're talking to," House pointed out.
"Yeah, right. Good point. So you are admitting now that you want to?"
The guitar gave an especially annoyed run. "NO, damn it, I've just considered it as a way to get rid of the music. One possible treatment along with several others."
Wilson looked over at the empty conference room. "Where's the team?"
"Dunno. They scrammed as soon as I got here."
Wilson studied the guitar and House's less-exhausted and consequently more-ticked-off face. "I can't imagine why."
Cuddy entered the office, marching straight over and unplugging the amp. "All right, damn it, I've had enough of this."
"Good luck," Wilson wished him, then turned and left Diagnostics.
Cuddy looked after the departing oncologist, briefly knocked off of lecture stride. "Good luck with what? Driving me and the rest of the hospital crazy and seeing how many patients and physicians you can get to complain? You don't need luck on that; you're doing fine without it." House didn't answer, locked visually onto her lips again. She resisted the impulse to check for a smear; she had already double checked quickly before leaving her office when the complaints started this morning. "What's wrong with how I look?"
House took a deep breath. "Absolutely nothing," he said, sounding totally sincere for once.
"So why do you keep staring at me like that? And what's with all the obnoxious music?"
He shrugged. "Obnoxious is my middle name."
"Not like this, it isn't. What's going on, House?" He tried to look away from those tantalizing lips, but the mental soundtrack unerringly pulled him back. "Whatever you are up to, you are seriously starting to add stress onto my already-nuts job. This isn't some joke, House. The board was even complaining yesterday about me, not just you, telling me I needed to do a better job controlling you. Several patients had objected about the noise that first day, as well as fellow doctors, including two board members. Your performance this morning won't have helped much."
House actually looked taken aback. "They wouldn't come down too hard on you. Not just for me being a jerk. I'm always a jerk."
"Not always like this week. So for the sake of both of our employments, what is wrong with you lately?"
"I've got a song stuck in my head, and I can't get it out," he admitted.
She looked at him dubiously. "That's all? You've got a song stuck in your head? That's easy, House. You just replace it with another."
"Which is what I've been trying!" he snapped. "It won't go away, no matter what I do."
"Which song?" she asked, getting curious now.
Those lips were all but magnetic. He swallowed. "Kiss the Girl," he said softly.
"Kiss the Girl? I don't know that one." The delayed reaction hit. "Wait a minute, so that's why you're staring any time I'm around. You actually want to . . ."
"No, it's just the damn lyrics. That's what they say, so of course, any woman around, that's what I think of."
She almost looked a little disappointed, or was he just imagining it? "Look, whatever song it is, it can't be that hard to get rid of, especially as much music as you know. So just get your mind on something else, but softly, House. I'm not kidding about the complaints from the board." Her cell phone rang, and she pulled it out to answer, then left.
Once he was alone again, House looked back at the amp, but he didn't replug it. Instead, he sat there mentally running through every catchy song he could think of, even advertising jingles, even old TV shows, but not even Gilligan's Island would shake the sweet, fluffy, Disney tune prancing through his head complete with animated fish, or the very non-Disney thoughts it led to. Cuddy didn't know this song; she didn't realize how catchy it could be.
Cuddy didn't know this song.
Slowly, the plotting smile set in, and House put his guitar aside and reached for the computer, logging on, going to Youtube. It took only a minute to find a link. It took only a few seconds to email it to Cuddy.
Then he sat back and dutifully tried to think of something else, but at least now, he did it quietly. A little later, the team returned with a new case, and he tried to throw himself into work, but even that was somewhat distracted.
The next night, sitting in his apartment at the bench of his baby grand, he wasn't being soft at all. The case was solved, but the song was not. At the moment, House was trying John Phillip Sousa marches, fortissimo, attempting to be the entire US Marine Band on one piano. The floor trembled. The neighbors no doubt would complain, but he didn't care. At least he wasn't impacting Cuddy's job here. Damned song. If he had to have something stuck in his head for days, why did it have to be something so. . . so cute? He refused to be cute.
Halfway through Stars and Stripes Forever, he abruptly realized that the pounding on the door wasn't part of the march. He got slowly to his feet, collected the cane, and limped to the door casually, giving the neighbor outside plenty of time to get wound up at the slowness of the poor cripple before the door was opened. He reached the door, unlocked it leisurely, and prepared his you have a problem? eyebrow as he opened it.
It wasn't a neighbor.
It was Cuddy. She was staring at his lips, and she looked absolutely, gorgeously furious. "You!" she blasted him, poking him in the chest with a finger for emphasis. "You sent me that link to that diabolical song."
House tried to catch his breath. The effect with her this mad was even stronger than before. "You didn't have to watch it," he pointed out.
"How was I supposed to know what it was without having heard it before?" She paused for breath herself. She was still staring at his mouth, just as he was staring at hers.
Seizing her before the other part of his mind could stop him, he kissed her.
It was a full minute later that she abruptly came to her senses and pulled away. She now looked flushed and rumpled in addition to gorgeously furious. "You wanted that, too," House challenged.
She backed away, straightening her business suit and her dignity. "I was only trying to get rid of the song. I'd tried everything else."
"Yeah. Me, too."
"So that's all this meant," she insisted. "Just purging a song. It worked, too."
"Worked for me." Indeed, his mind was full of anything but Disney at the moment.
"I'll see you at the hospital tomorrow, House." She turned away.
He watched her leave, admiring the twitch of her ample posterior as she walked toward the main door, and then he slowly closed the door and headed back for the piano. His smile expanded with each step. Lips didn't lie, at least not kissing lips, even if talking ones did, and Cuddy had enjoyed that every bit as much as he had. She had wanted him. She had wanted him. She just couldn't quite admit it yet.
He sat back down at the piano, but his touch this time was a gentle caress on the keys instead of the annoyed pounding. Disney was finally banished, and Cuddy wanted him. The game was afoot. Now, he just had to decide what appropriate song he should send her next week.