Shout out to Anne, aka MystryGAB for providing me with a line of dialogue that saved this fic. Also, I'm rather desperate for some inspiration, so if you have any good prompts, now would be an excellent time to send em my way. xo, atd

House poked his head into Wilson's office.

"All you can eat wings night at Sullivan's?" he said. "Your turn to buy!"

"I bought last time," Wilson said.

"Exactly. You set a precedent."

Wilson put his head in his hands, in a somewhat theatrical way.

"Normally I'd love to go, but I have a horrible headache," he said, rubbing his temples mournfully.

"I asked you to eat wings, not have sex with me," House said, with a frown. Then he squinted at him. "And you don't have a headache."

"I'm pretty sure I know when I have a headache."

"When you have a headache, you spend the whole day whining about it like a woman. This is the first I'm hearing about this."

"It just came on suddenly," Wilson said. "And it's gotten worse in the last 2 minutes. I can't possibly imagine why."

House ignored him. "Come to think of it, you said no to all-you-can-eat wings last week, too," he said musingly. "Something about having a lot of paperwork you needed to get through."

"That's because I had a lot of paperwork I needed to get through!" Wilson yelled.

"A guy with a bad headache like yours probably shouldn't be yelling like that," House said.

Wilson rolled his eyes a bit.

"I'm sorry if I can't always accommodate your craving for artery-clogging pieces of fried chicken parts. But I really do have a headache and last week I really did have mounds of paperwork."

But House was already scrolling through options in his mind.

"It's not a new girlfriend, because you get this kind of insufferably smug look on your face when you're getting laid," he said.

"It's a headache!"

"Unless you're seeing one of your ex wives, in which case a headache would be an apt analogy. . ."

"I'm not seeing anyone!"

"Or maybe you're running senior bingo night at the retirement center again and you don't want to tell me because of the shame?"

"House, not everything is a puzzle. I have a headache. Last week I had paperwork. Wing night will go on without us."

House folded his arms.

"You know you're not going to be able to keep this from me forever."

"I'm not keeping it from you now."

"If you say so," House said. Then he leaned in and yelled loudly into Wilson's ear: "I hope your headache GOES AWAY REALLY SOON."

####

Wilson bumped into Foreman in the PPTH men's locker room, just as Foreman was pulling his gym bag out of his locker.

"Do me a favor, Foreman," Wilson said conspiratorially. "Can you wait to get changed at the gym? House has been poking around. I don't want him to get suspicious."

"Too late," House said. He had emerged from the shadows in the locker room doorway.

"You followed me!" Wilson sputtered.

"Way to deflect, Wilson," House said. "Because I'm the real guilty party here. Not the guy sneaking around and lying."

House looked at Foreman, then back to Wilson. "So . . .what? You guys are gym buddies now? You're teaching Foreman some super white sport? Like squash? Or full-contact backgammon?"

"If you must now, we joined a pick-up basketball league," Wilson said warily.

"And you've kept this from me because I'm going to be jealous of this new beautiful bromance? Ebony and ivory, living together in perfect harmony?"

"I didn't want to rub your face in something you can't do so soon after your brush with. . ."

"Normalcy," House finished.

"I was going to say: being pain free."

"I'm a cripple," House said. "This isn't exactly a news flash. We don't get to play in the pickup basketball games."

"I'm sorry," Wilson said. "I shouldn't have lied to you."

"No, you shouldn't have. I'm really not this delicate flower you need to. . . ."

"I never said you were a . . ."

"So I assume this pickup game is every Tuesday?"

"Yes."

"I guess I'll just have to take Chase to all-you-can-eat-wings night from now on."

As if on cue, Chase came into the locker room, wearing shorts and a tee-shirt and tossing a basketball.

"Did someone say my name?" he said.

House looked at him. In an attempt to mask his disappointment, he grabbed the ball and began effortlessly spinning it on his index finger.

Wilson felt a little pang for his best friend. Back in his day, House was probably a better athlete than any of them.

"More wings for me then," House said defiantly. He threw the ball hard at Wilson, who caught it squarely in his chest. It took his breath away, but he didn't say a word.

######

The following Tuesday night, House was in his office, when Cuddy came in, sat down across from him.

"Hi," she said.

House looked over his shoulder, like perhaps there was someone behind him.

"Hi?" he said suspiciously.

"Whatchya up to?" she said.

"Just sitting around wishing I had two legs like the other kids!" he said. Then he smirked at her. "Is that what you came to hear?"

Cuddy chuckled, in a touché sort of way.

"Something like that," she admitted.

"Wilson send you?" House said.

"Kind of," she said, wrinkling her nose.

"Cuddy, I'm fine. Wilson keeps forgetting that I'm not him. I'm not full of gassy, diffuse emotions. I'm a real man. I keep my emotions where they belong: Bottled in!"

"I know," she said.

"Now you're patronizing me."

"I'm worried about you, House."

"Nothing to worry about. I don't focus on the things I can't do. I can't play basketball. I also can't leap tall buildings in a single bound. And yet I don't get jealous when I read Superman comics either."

She looked at him. Not convinced she was buying it.

"Two months ago you were running, doing tricks on your skateboard."

"Two months ago, I could do those things."

"House. . ."

"Cuddy. . ."

"You wanna go to Sullivan's?" she said. "Eat some wings?"

"A chicken wing has not so much as passed your rarefied lips in your entire life," House said.

"There's a first time for everything," Cuddy said, gamely.

"Cuddy, I'm fine. Actually, I'm not fine. Everyone's hovering concern for me is getting on my last nerve. I beg you to go."

Cuddy sighed.

"Why don't you ever let anyone help you?" she said.

"Because I don't need anyone's help!" he said angrily.

Cuddy stood to leave. Before she got to the door, she stopped, turned to him.

"You were right," she said softly. "I was pregnant."

His eyes widened.

"But I lost the baby last week. I . . . miscarried."

He was too much of an emotional guppy to distinguish between pity and real intimacy. She was sharing some of her real pain. But he was in no state to receive it.

"And you assume that your useless womb is going to make me feel better about my useless limb?" he snarled.

Her face went white. She looked like she had been slapped.

"You fucking bastard," she said, and practically ran from his office.

He watched her, in some shock.

He had screwed up. That much was clear. It never really occurred to him that he was capable of hurting Lisa Cuddy. And he had no idea how to make it right.

#####

Cuddy's phone rang at 2 am.

She groaned.

"What do you want House?" she said, rubbing her bleary eyes.

"Lisa Cuddy please," House slurred. There was the din of a crowded bar in the background.

Of course. Drunk.

"I'm listening."

"I have something important I need to tell you," he said.

"Spit it out, House!" she said sharply.

"Your womb isn't useless," he said. He was so drunk he actually thought this was some sort of compliment.

She closed her eyes tightly.

"House, hang up, call a cab from wherever the hell you are, and go home," she said.

And she rolled over and went back to bed.

#####

Two days later, a bouquet of flowers arrived in her office. There was a note:

"I'm sorry for your loss. – Greg House."

If she was feeling charitably toward House, she might've actually been touched by the awkward formality of this gesture. House really didn't have the language to deal with grief. And he certainly had no clue how to properly apologize.

But she was still hurt, furious. She had opened up to him, made the fatal mistake of allowing herself to be vulnerable in his presence. And, of course, it had horribly backfired. When would she learn?

She picked up her phone.

"Anita," she said to her assistant. "I have a bouquet of flowers I need you to drop off in the children's ward."
######

House saw Cuddy out of the corner of his eye, just as he was in the middle of conducting a DDx. He didn't even bother to excuse himself—literally stopped mid-sentence, popped up, and limped after her in the hallway.

His team exchanged looks.

"That was . . . strange," Cameron said.

"Looks like mommy and daddy are fighting again," Foreman said.

"Have we considered sarcoidosis?" Chase asked.

House limped after Cuddy, called out her name, but she pretended not to hear him. He finally caught up with her, just as she was about to get on the elevator.

"Hey!" he said loudly. He was out of breath from trying to keep up with her.

She finally stopped.

"What?" she said, folding her arms.

"Did you get the flowers?" he asked, gently.

"I got them."

"So, we're. . .okay then?"

"We're fine, House," she said.

But it would've been a lot more convincing if she hadn't said it just as the elevator door was closing in his face.

#####

"I sent you to cheer House up," Wilson said, sitting across from Cuddy in the cafeteria. "Not make him extra miserable."

"House is always miserable," Cuddy said. "How can you tell the difference?"

"We had lunch yesterday and he didn't bother to steal food off my plate."

"Alert the media!"

"I told him that my team nickname was The Jewish Jordan and he didn't even mock me."

"Yes, that's obviously my doing."

"So he says."

She tensed.

"What exactly did he tell you?"

"He said you're not talking to him."

"Did he happen to say why?"

House was the only one in the hospital who knew about her attempts to get pregnant. Would he violate that trust, too?

"Only that, even by his own low standards, he managed to really put his foot in his mouth."

Cuddy exhaled a bit. Of course not. House was many things. A gossip wasn't one of them.

"Huh, well that's closer to an apology than anything he's expressed to me," she said.

"We both know Greg House doesn't do apologies."

"Well, maybe it's time he learned."
####

The following Tuesday night, a knock at her door.

She looked through the peephole.

"Go away, House," she said. She assumed he was drunk. She assumed that whatever he was about to say was going to be sloppy, artless and probably make her feel worse.

"I'm sorry," he said loudly.

Well, that was unexpected.

She sighed a bit, opened the door. He was wearing a black tee-shirt, motorcycle jacket, and jeans. He didn't smell of alcohol. Except for the normal vicodin haze that surrounded him, he was sober.

"Did Wilson tell you to say that?" she asked.

"Yes," he admitted.

"Apologies tend to work better when they're sincere," she said.

"I am sincere," he said.

"Do you even know why you're apologizing, House?"

"Your womb is nothing like my leg," he said. "It's not broken. No part of you is broken. You're nothing like me. I didn't mean to imply that you were."

"House. . ." She closed her eyes. "You better come in," she said, taking his arm and leading him into her living room. "You wanna drink?"

"No," he said, looking down at the floor. "I probably shouldn't."

"Sit," she said.

He sat down on the couch. Wasn't sure if he was about to get scolded or not.

"When I told you about my miscarriage," she said, "it wasn't because I felt sorry for you and thought if you heard about my miserable life you'd feel better about yours."

"Your life isn't miserable," he said.

Cuddy shrugged, like that point was debatable.

"I told you because I was in mourning and I thought maybe we could take a little comfort in each other."

"Your first mistake," House said.

"Clearly," Cuddy said, ironically.

House scratched his head.

"I'm an asshole," he said. "That's not exactly breaking news."

"House, why did you say such a mean thing?"

"My defense mechanism has an itchy trigger finger," he admitted. "Shoot first, ask questions later. You were just. . ."

"Collateral damage?"

He looked down.

"Something like that," he said.

"Well, you landed a direct hit. A real bulls eye."

"Cuddy, I'm so. . ."

"Forget it House, I accept your apology."

He looked at her, swallowed hard.

"You're more woman than any mother I know," he said, looking at her. "Any 10 mothers."

She felt a tear form in her eye that she hastily blinked away.

"Thanks House," she said.

"I mean it," he said.

"I know you do," she said. "It means a lot."

There was a silence. House rubbed his hands on his pants legs.

"You know what I fear most in this whole world?" he said finally.

"Real Housewives of New Jersey getting cancelled?"

The corners of his mouth twitched in a tiny smile.

"Besides that. . .I fear being pitied."

It was probably the most honest thing he had ever said to her.

"I don't pity you House."

"Don't you?"

"Of course not," Cuddy said. "I. . . admire you."

"And I. . .admire you, too," he said.

Then looked at each other. The air was thick with things unsaid.

Then she looked at the clock over the mantle.

"How late does Sullivan's serve wings?" she said.

House gave a sheepish smile.

"Til 1 am," he said.

"What do you say?"

"Really?"

"Let me throw on a pair of jeans," she said.

"And boots," he said. "If we're going to take my bike."

"Don't press your luck," she said.

THE END