I don't care if this chapter doesn't make sense. It was late at night and it took an unexpected turn, but I love the corresponding fallout even if the medicine makes no sense. What actually happened doesn't matter, just the reaction.
I apologize for the f-bombs. But really, House would swear 24/7 in real life. And trust me, anyone would be swearing in this particular situation.
ALSO, my computer and keyboard are in some kind of strife that I'm not gonna even try to fix. I apologize for any typos and grammar mistakes.
Cuddy paled and stared wide-eyed at House. He gestured that he'd go place himself somewhere and that she should probably go open the door. Cuddy gave him an exasperated look and shooed him away with her hands. She waited until he was safely out of sight before answering the door.
She greeted her sister and her daughter, absentminded the whole time.
Maybe I should put House to the test… She thought, smirking at the idea.
"Want to come in for tea or something?" She asked her sister, Julia.
"Sure, why not." Julia shrugged and stepped inside. Rachel ran off to her room, Cuddy watched her go, shifting uncertainly from foot to foot. Staring at the place where she knew House was, Cuddy unwillingly followed her sister.
"I see you got new windows…" They small-talked for a little while, until Julia abruptly shifted gears. "Are you alright, Lisa?"
"What?" Cuddy blurted. "I'm just fine."
Her sister squinted at her. Cuddy shifted uncomfortably.
"You seem edgy. And there's bags under your eyes." Julia accused.
"Big Endo project is taking its toll," Cuddy lied with a shiny smile.
"Oh yeah, how's that going?"
Cuddy explained it to her sister, and then they moved on to subjects that allowed her to breathe again. Eventually, Julia left.
Cuddy felt reassured – House hadn't made a sound, and even though it was impossible to stop being incredibly terrified every time someone was inside, a part of her began to trust him. She went searching for him and found him in the room with the washing machine and dryer. She slid open the door.
"It's all good," she said. House practically fell out of the crowded space.
"Jesus, how long does it take you to answer the door? My first white hairs are growing in," he limped away from her. Cuddy rolled her eyes; despite his nonchalant demeanor, she could tell he'd been just as nervous as she had.
Cuddy slipped into House's room just before Rachel's usual wake-up time, offering coffee. She leaned on the desk.
"We need to tell Rachel today," she said, sipping at the warm liquid.
"Yeah, just go and tell the little child there's a living ghost in the house," he snorted.
Cuddy curled her fingers around her mug pensively. "That's not a bad idea."
"Are you serious?"
"Think about it. That way, if it does slip out of her mouth, no one would second guess it."
House gave a hopeless shrug. "Do what you want; I'm dead."
She glared. "I'm going back to work today."
He feigned surprise. "Hallelujah! Shout it out to the world!"
"Don't mess up my house," she warned. He stared back with solemn eyes.
She grinned teasingly in reply. "Now, show me the bruises. Quickly - Rachel's up in five."
"Mom," House whined.
"Shush," she scolded, lifting up his shirt as he squirmed. The sight made Cuddy gag. They were awful and infected. House watched her as she let go of his shirt.
"How are you not affected?"
"Whoever said I wasn't?" House said bitterly. "It hurts like a bitch."
She stared at him. "That's it, we're doing something more."
"Why are you so reluctant to get better?"
He clenched his teeth, refusing to answer. Cuddy shrugged her shoulders in a why-do-I-even-try manner.
"House. This could kill you," she said slowly as if he was stupid. This agitated him.
"What are you planning to do about it?!" He exploded. This blindsided Cuddy; she blinked.
"I don't know." She sighed.
"Seems to be your answer to a lot of things lately," he muttered. She passed a hand through her hair.
"I work at a hospital. I'll think of something." Just then Rachel called for her. Tiredly, she straightened.
"I'm going to go to work now. Don't screw up my house," she warned a final time before leaving. House shuffled over and shut the door behind her. Staring through the keyhole, he watched as Cuddy greeted her daughter with a hug and a smile.
"Have I really missed this much?" Cuddy asked, disbelieving. Sela Kearns, one of the more experienced nurses who had become Cuddy's assistant and secretary, peered up. Sela was a little younger than Cuddy, and Cuddy guessed her closest friend in the new town. Ignoring her own paperwork, Sela watched as Cuddy filed through the stack of papers on her desk.
"Well, that's what happens when the Dean of Medicine misses a few days."
Cuddy exhaled through clenched teeth.
"You'll get through it," Sela encouraged. Cuddy gave her a faint smile before diving into the papers in front of her. She worked incessantly for a few hours and then took a coffee break.
She stood outside the hospital as she sipped at her second cup of the day. She stared up at the building – this was her baby now. It was new compared to Princeton-Plainsboro, which had always been familiar. It was smaller, too, and not as successful. But Cuddy was certain she'd get it there, like she had done to PPTH. She finished her coffee, taking a minute outside before returning to the seemingly endless workload. She checked her phone – one message from Tom, requesting her to call him back. Nothing from House. She quickly dialed her home.
"It's me, Cuddy-" she said to the answering machine.
"House." He picked up.
"Just checking in."
"Everything's good, bye-" He went to hang up.
"House." Sternly, she stopped him.
"Don't get in trouble, now."
He sighed dramatically. "Of course not, Mom."
"Rachel will be home at 2:30."
"I'll make sure to be in the kitchen naked."
She rolled her eyes though she knew he couldn't see her.
"Okay. Bye," she hung up before he had the chance to.
House hung up the phone and looked around. He was incredibly bored. Watching TV, reading the newspaper, and going online were all growing thin on him.
He soon grew wary of the empty house as well. For the past month he'd been alone, with no close human contact. He never particularly embraced silence, no matter what he said. And now that Wilson was gone… He didn't even want to venture there.
He was still in shock. It still hadn't dawned that Wilson was permanently gone. He didn't allow himself to acknowledge it. He feared if he did, it would be the end of him as well. And yet again, he felt the need to be strong for Cuddy. Though she was aware of how fragile he was, he had the impulse to protect her. House also refused to acknowledge anything else on the subject of Cuddy – he couldn't, not now, possibly not ever.
Wandering around the quiet house, alone, it was incredibly difficult to fight off some of these thoughts. And sleep was definitely not an escape: terrifying nightmares often led to night sweats and panic attacks. He often took to just walking around, it helped his leg as well. He stopped in the living room.
On a whim, he headed towards the window, which was curtained. Taking a breath, he used the cane to part it. He wasn't sure what he expected to feel – possibly a rush of some kind of emotion, but nothing came. No exhilaration, no longing, no satisfaction; though the act would've given Cuddy a heart attack.
The street was quiet and normal on the sunny day. House peered at the houses up and down. No movement came from them. He suspected they were empty, but then again, this house wasn't.
He vaguely wondered when the next time he'd step a foot outside would be. He didn't expect it to be soon. He didn't miss it yet, in any case. He raised his cane to pull the curtain back more.
A searing pain shot through his abdomen and he stumbled back, the curtains falling back into position with some hint of dramatic finality.
Meanwhile, Cuddy was briskly walking back to her office when Sela wheeled her chair backwards from her desk and raised an arm to stop the Dean. Cuddy, in turn, kept walking and raised one hand as well.
"I'm unavailable, Sela, for the time being."
"That's all very well, but-"
Cuddy turned at the door. "I'm going to go into my office now."
"But, Lisa-" Cuddy shut the door and Sela sighed, returning to her work. "Don't say I didn't warn you."
Cuddy flipped her phone onto her desk and was walking around to the other side when she was finally aware of another presence in the room. She stopped, a lump forming in her throat.
"Tom." She managed slowly, studying the man in the corner. He took a step forward and smile; Cuddy was slow to return it.
"Something up? You seem dazed."
Cuddy blinked and shook her head. "What? No, no. Everything's good." She found a sudden interest in organizing her desk. He came nearer, placing a thumb under her chin and forcing her to look him in the eyes.
"I know you better than that."
Cuddy's stomach did and uncomfortable flip as she was caught up in his gaze. She smiled weakly. "Well. Um, just have this Endo breakthrough."
He removed his hand and she hesitantly continued her previous task.
"Not to be rude, but why are you here?" She asked. He shrugged and leaned on the desk.
"I was wondering if you'd like to go out for lunch."
Cuddy's breath caught. But… House… at home… alone… unattended for hours on end… No, she had to go home – it was the first day - no matter what.
She smiled apologetically.
"Uh oh, I know that smile."
"I'm sorry, with-"
He gave her a quick peck on the lips. "I know, I know. I'll see you later then, maybe."
She smiled sadly – genuinely. "Yeah, maybe."
He closed the door.
But probably not.
Cuddy put down her purse and proceeded to take off her shoes, looking and listening for House. Neither providing any clue, she braced herself for what he had done to her house.
It was exactly as she had left it. Stunned, she twirled around. "House?"
She stepped into the living room, eyes scanning the gloomy room. Her breathing stopped as her eyes fell on the motionless figure on the floor. She dropped to her knees and had two fingers to his carotid in a second. His pulse was faint.
A list of swear words formed in her brain, but Cuddy pushed that and the hysteria down.
Calm. Focus. And go.
She flew into the kitchen and breathlessly grabbed the phone, dialing the hospital. She stopped just before hitting talk, erased the number and dialed Sela.
"It's Lisa Cuddy. I need… I need an ultrasound machine and operation equipment."
House was splayed out in Cuddy's bathtub, ultrasound machine on his stomach. The owner of this bathtub was frantically studying the screen.
"Dammit, House." She spoke to herself in a hushed tone.
"How do you always get off so lucky?" The rip was small and on his spleen. Nonetheless, Cuddy would have to operate. Positioning herself, she dosed House and reached for the scalpel.
"How the fuck do you get yourself into these things?" She made the first incision. "No, more importantly, how the fuck do I get involved?" She located the spleen and the blood-gushing tear. "I was going to have a good life. A nice one." She started the stitches tenderly after stopping the onslaught of blood. "And then you came along, you sonavabitch." She weaved in the last one, and started on the skin. "How?" She whispered. "How? She repeated. "How how how how how how how?" Finished, she scurried backwards into the wall, hands trembling, eyes burning.
"Why? Why do you do this? Why do I do this?" Curling up into a ball, she let the first waves of the panic attack come.
Much, much later, House was in his bed, Cuddy curled up in a chair, waiting for him to come to, if he would, but he did, albeit groggily. She stared at him, wide-eyed and silent.
"You look like you've seen a ghost." He croaked. A faint amusement overcame Cuddy's face for a millisecond before it was washed away by irritation. She frowned.
"Shit, House, you almost died!"
She raised her arms in a whatever gesture. "Okay. Whatever. No big deal…" She started to pace, and hit a wall.
"Dammit, you almost fucking died!" She screamed hysterically, the tears starting to fall as her rage boiled over. "I just performed surgery on you in my bathtub!"
She paused and they stared at each other. She wiped her cheeks. "This is insane. I'm going to bed." She stormed out.
"Sleep well , Cuddy," he said softly to her back.
The next day began as the one precedent had, as if nothing had ever happened. Cuddy sure as hell hoped it wouldn't end the same. Pushing any thought of yesterday out of her head, she got up, got ready, got Rachel ready, dropped her off at school and returned home before heading into work.
House was groggily half-conscious as she checked the incision. It didn't seem infected and the swelling seemed to be going down a mile a minute. She exhaled in relief without even noticing she'd been holding her breath. She sat on the end of the bed and waited as House came to. He blinked at the figure.
"I'm going to tell Rachel today." She said, to the point. Grimacing, House sat up.
"Okay," he said groggily, having no effort to fight. She dipped her head.
"Okay," she echoed and rose. "I'm going to work now. Ibuprofen and water is on the desk, so is a thermos of soup if you're feeling hungry. Complete with crackers. There's a phone here too, and you can use those empty bottles of laundry detergent to pee in."
House closed his eyes and collapsed back down. "You're a dream."
She grinned in a sarcastic kind of way. " I wish."
Sitting in her car, Cuddy took a deep breath – oh, how she really didn't want to do this. The idea of work – and all the questions – really wasn't appealing. She had to face it someday though.
Walking briskly, she barely slowed at Sela's desk. "I don't want any questions until 10:30." She whispered. Sela rolled away from the desk and peered up at her boss. "But, Lisa –" She stopped and sighed. "Alright."
"Thank you," Cuddy called over her shoulder as she opened her office door.
She spent the next few hours alternating between dozing off, paperwork, emails, and staring off blankly into space. Yet, by the time it was 10:30, she felt as if she had been fairly productive.
Then the questions started.
At 10:45 she returned the equipment and filled out the paperwork. Sela observed.
"Why did you need all this?" The other woman asked. "What the hell were you doing last night?"
Operating on a dead guy, Cuddy thought, and said instead, "I was concerned about our cat. Thought she was going to need an immediate C-section to deliver her kittens."
Sela blinked suspiciously. "Did you use it?"
Cuddy finished the paperwork and turned to her, staring at and studying her for a full moment.
"No," she lied, holding Sela's gaze for a beat longer before returning to her regular daily work.
She was being productive, and quickly making up for lost time. Still, she was distracted, as her mind kept drifting back to House and Rachel. Every time she thought about the eventful night ahead nervous butterflies threatened to overwhelm her.
She wondered vaguely about her daughter's reaction. Would she just blink dumbly? Not understand? Fully grasp the situation? Would Rachel remember House? That thought alone made Cuddy bite her lip in anxiety. Would she remember how he had crashed through their living room window? How Cuddy picked up the shattered pieces of her life and came here?
More often than not, however, House occupied her mind. You could almost call it a strange distant fascination with man was insane, but incredibly wounded physically and emotionally. She repeated the scene when he first arrived over and over in her head, wondering again and again why she opened the door and took him in.
She debated calling home, but figured he was asleep. Which he was. House dozed in and out of consciousness all day. He woke up in fits of terror, many images from the past infiltrating his otherwise undisturbed sleep. Another, different bathtub operation. Watching Wilson suffer though his own treatment plan. Remembering how Wilson deliriously drifted in and out of consciousness for the last days of his life; sometimes not remembering House. Searing pain from the infarction. All of these memories and more tortured his unconscious mind.
His leg was starting to become a problem, too. He had, thanks to his year of pill-freedom, been able to cope – until now. The pain came from everywhere and was of an incredibly high degree. The only release was sleep, and, well, sleep wasn't fun.
Most of the time.
In between the horrors, there was bliss. Strange, impossible fantasies of him and Cuddy. None at all were realistic, and most had some element of surrealism. They unsettled him just as badly as the nightmares when he awoke – forming any kind of attraction to Cuddy and admitting it, even to himself, was unthinkable. He appreciated Cuddy only as a re-established friend nowadays, and concluded that the pleasant and oddly sexual dreams as pain relief for his fevered mind and body.
Despite his state, he managed to feel and decidedly expose one thing: his disapproval of Tom. Why? He didn't really know why he disliked the guy.
Tom just… irked him.
Satisfied with her day's work, Cuddy turned off her office lights in an overall contented mood despite everything.
Giddily, she walked to her car and was surprised to see someone leaning on it. Approaching cautiously, she quickly made out the figure as Tom and immediately relaxed. Her smile broadened.
The late afternoon sun illuminated him fron behind, and he smiled in greeting. "You look happy," he said, stepping towards her.
"I decidedly am," Cuddy replied, setting her things in the backseat and turning to him. He didn't speak but cupped her face. Her heart raced and stomach flipped as he pulled her closer.
"You look good when you're happy," he murmured, staring into her bright eyes before studying her lips and kissing her. Cuddy relaxed into him as they parted lips.
"Come over tonight," he said,tucking her hair behind her ears. She looked at him in surprise.
He recognized the look. "Oh, c'mon, you can spare one night." He quietly added, "When's the last time we've had the chance to…" He trailed off.
She sighed. "I can't, Tom."
"One night!" He protested, wrapping his arms around her waist. Oh, how she wanted to! Her desire almost clouded over her stress from tonight. She nestled her head into his shoulder.
"You know I need more notice sometimes," she said. He stroked her hair, clearly unhappy. She stepped away.
"I love you, okay?" She pecked him on the lips. "And I'll see you tomorrow."
He relented. "Alright. Good night."
She smiled and turned the ignition. He stepped back and watched as she pulled out.
Cuddy headed straight to her daughter's school and greeted her with a huge smile, completely and utterly aware Rachel had no idea what was coming.
Cuddy was slicing an apple, palms clammy and heart palpitating. Closing her eyes for a split second, she called her daughter downstairs. "Rachel!"
At her name, the youngster bounded down the steps and tracked her mother into the kitchen. With bright eyes, she looked expectantly up at Cuddy. The latter smiled and handed her the snack and Rachel wheeled around to bound back upstairs when her mother's voice stopped her. She looked over her shoulder.
"There's something I need to tell you," Cuddy crouched down to her daughter's level, placing a hand on her shoulder. The five-year-old's smile faltered.
"It has nothing to do with you," Cuddy assured quickly, and Rachel blinked in confusion.
"You must promise to not tell anyone, ever. This has to be our secret." She said firmly. "Do you understand?"
Fully aware of Cuddy's tone of voice, Rachel nodded took a moment to study her daughter's face before continuing.
"We have a very sick man in the house. He is not well, Rachel, but he won't hurt you." She said fiercely. Rachel continued to listen intently, but Cuddy had nothing else to say.
"You speak of this to no one, not ever. There will be serious consequences if you do." Cuddy's voice had taken its Dean of Medicine tone, which was the one she often used on House. Rachel blinked. Cuddy's voice softened. "Come, let me show you," she got up and took her daughter's hand, and together they made their way to House's room.
He was lying with his back to the door, unfocused and weak, but awake. Cuddy stopped in the doorway.
"House," she called softly. He took a moment to turn around.
More emotion than he expected hit him. Rachel had grown up so much since he'd last seen her. His eyes raced to take her in: her smallness, her innocence. Rachel stared back, a calm recognition washing over her face. She walked over to him, and House's features flashed with uncertainty.
Rachel paused at the edge of his bed, and the two made eye contact. House searched her eyes and Rachel's gaze remained steady. Something was shared between them: a silent promise, a re-established friendship. House eventually relaxed, and Rachel crawled up onto the bed beside him.
Cuddy smiled from the doorway, the apples long forgotten downstairs.