Guess who's tour I have tickets to? :D
Cuddy set down her groceries and checked her mailbox. She took out the mail and frowned as it felt abnormally heavy. Looking at the first envelopes, she picked up the bags and shouldered into her home.
It was a Saturday evening, a week or so after the last mishap with House. He was seated in her den, watching TV; Rachel sat in front of him on the floor, playing with some toy cars. Cuddy popped her head in for a second before she went to the kitchen to put her bags on the counter. Completely ignoring everything else, she spread out the day's mail on the table, eyes growing wide as she passed from one to the other.
She swallowed. "House? I think you should come here."
"Why?" he called gruffly.
She suddenly found it hard to talk. "Just get over here."
She heard a sigh and then the shuffle of his limp as he made his way to her side. When he entered the room, he stared at her expectantly, and she just stared back. His gaze then turned to the display of letters, and as Cuddy gauged his reaction, his eyes softened and his jaw muscle released.
As she watched, the corner of his lips turned up into a smile.
That night Cuddy crawled into bed and shakily picked up a first letter. As she had watched, House had arranged them into an order.
"You should open them in this order," He said as he tried to leave. She wasn't letting him off that easily, and stopped him, narrowing her eyes as she judged his motives.
"If you know about these letters…" She started slowly, "Are they for you?"
He looked at her like she was stupid. "Is my name Lisa Cuddy? They're obviously addressed to you."
He turned around, but not fast enough as Cuddy caught the knowing smirk.
Skeptic, she avoided opening the letters all day. To be honest it kind of freaked her out. She did everything else, but temptation ate away at her, and here she was, lying in bed, one of several letters from James Wilson clutched in her hands.
Delicately, she traced the lip of the letter with her fingers, eyes burning with unshed tears. Slowly, she ripped it open, taking out the paper it contained as if it were the most precious thing she owned.
And, for the night, it was.
We miss you here. There just seems to be something missing now that you're gone, kind of like a queen-less hive of bees. And, though it isn't said, Foreman isn't you.
I'm incredibly saddened that it all came down to this. In retrospect, what did we think was going to happen? Were any of us ever fooled into thinking any of it would end well? You and I, we both should've known better. If we couldn't have protected House, we should've at least protected ourselves.
Yet, the man still has something. I'm sure he's explained how he faked his own death to spend the last few months with me. I don't think any of us realize the stupidity – and bravery – that takes. His life is literally nonexistent. And after I go… What will happen to him?
I sincerely hope this – and he – will get to you. He told me his plan, and I'm doubtful. But maybe you two can pull it off. I hope you do.
But this isn't about him. This letter is about us. I'm dying, Cuddy. I'm going to be dead before the next full moon. You've been one of my closest friends, so I wanted to say thank you, and goodbye, and actual goodbye, from me to you.
She traced over the last six words, over and over, until it was a constant motion, helping to soothe and comfort her. Something about this letter made him even more dead in her eyes.
She broke down, some stray tears cascading onto the paper. She curled into a ball, a grief-stricken wreck, the night like a blanket, protecting her from everyone else in the world as she mourned the death of one of her only true friends.
The next morning was bleak. House and Cuddy sat tiredly together at the table. She absentmindedly drank her coffee. House watched her, her eyes still puffy and red.
"Are you alright?"
She nodded. "Yeah."
"You read Wilson's…"
"Goodbye letter? Yes."
He nodded. "Why didn't you call?"
She was taken aback. "Excuse me?"
His eyes flashed angrily, but his voice remained steady and calm. "You knew he was dying, but you didn't do anything. No calls, no cards, no support, nothing."
"Oh, let me guess, you don't know?" He snorted.
She clenched her fingers. "I never meant to hurt Wilson. I needed – needed – to forget that life, and start this one – and that included Wilson. I wasn't his best friend; that was your job, House. I never meant to hurt him."
"But you did." It was very quiet. She got up, gave him an exasperated look.
"Whatever. I'm going to work."
Work helped her calm down a tiny bit. However, at the same time, she was a hurricane of productivity when she was pissed. Sela shot her impressed looks all day but was wise enough to stay out of Cuddy's way.
She was actually able to relax for a bit, doing some easy email replying in her office. Her phone rang and she reached for it, a hair length away from pressing Talk when she glimpsed the caller ID. Tom. She… She just couldn't talk to him right now. Swallowing, she stared as it rang, and then ignored it.
Feeling disrupted, The Dean then decided to take her lunch break. She paused on the car, took a steadying breath, and opened the glove box; the set of letters fell out. She picked one up.
House is broke. Like really, really broke. He has nothing, and if he did have something, I'm sure he'd pitch in. He left me his money, which I am, in turn, leaving to you. I hope it gets to you in the next few weeks.
Remember, you're doing a good thing.
Once again, Cuddy slipped the letter carefully back into the envelope. She sat back, pondering over it, before turning the ignition.
House was lying on the couch in the dark, eyes pinched closed and one hand on his forehead. The other was messaging his thigh – up and down, rough and gentle.
It wasn't that bad, not yet, just a dull, rolling throb. He wasn't stupid; he knew it'd only get worse.
He hadn't had Vicodin in four weeks. Most of the time it hadn't bothered him too much because other things were more important and created a much bigger pain. But now was the whiplash, coming back stronger than ever.
He heard the door open, managed to muster the strength to get up. He winced, then walked slowly to the door, watching Cuddy shrug off her coat.
She glanced at him. "Are you alright?"
He glared. "Yes; fine."
"You sure don't look fine."
She dropped it. "I read Wilson's other letter."
"Which?" His voice had taken an odd tone that Cuddy couldn't place: slightly hopeful, slightly wishful.
"About the money," he followed her to the kitchen.
"Oh," he said.
"Yeah." Really, she had enough to go around, but House could be (more than just) a challenge, and the extra money would be like a reward in her mind.
They sat down at the kitchen table, eating in silence for a few minutes.
"I'm having a few people over tomorrow night," Cuddy announced. House didn't reply at first.
She shrugged. "A few friends."
He raised an eyebrow. "Friends?"
She shot him a look. "Surprisingly, I have friends."
He frowned in mock – or genuine? – surprise. "Sure. What about Tom?"
Cuddy cleared her throat. "No, he doesn't mix with the hospital crowd."
Cuddy rolled her eyes, body language clearly saying she wasn't in the mood to talk about Tom. For once, House respected this. The rest of lunch was relatively peaceful.
As soon as Cuddy left, House doubled over in pain, easily popping a few pills of Ibuprofen, knowing it really wouldn't do all that much.
The rest of the afternoon went by relatively normally, more normal than it had been in weeks. This surely didn't pass over Cuddy's head; she didn't think she had ever been happier for something that had always seemed to be given.
Normalcy. What a concept.
She was busy putting her hair up in a fancy ponytail when she spotted House in the mirror. He was leaning casually on the doorframe. Cuddy took her elastic out of her mouth, watching him watch her.
His eyes trailed down her body, inspecting her. Cuddy felt self-conscious and incredibly awkward.
His gaze roamed over sights he hadn't seen in a year; curves and dips he had been familiar with, edges he had once felt under his own rough hands.
He cleared his throat, feeling the tension in the air, the pure friction. "Pretty fancy for some of your work friends."
"You know me, I like to look good."
"Oh, I know."
Cuddy made a choking sound, strange goose bumps running up and down her body. "You should probably get going; the first few guests should be arriving."
House nodded slowly, knowing he had stepped over an unspoken line.
"Well, good night then. Have fun?"
She grinned at his doubtful last words. "I will."
It was a great night. They were five in total, and though she never relaxed, she still enjoyed the night.
As she shut the door behind the last guest, she took a step back, shaking slightly. There had been no reason for anyone to suspect anything was amiss, thank God.
A bittersweet feeling started in the pit of her stomach. Her life had begun to be comfortable – her new life, without anything from the past – but, as with everything, House had screwed that up, too.
She was beat, but she didn't have to clean up – she'd charge House with that tomorrow morning. Okay, there was one good thing about having him around.
She stumbled up to bed, drained. She had the incredible urge to read another letter though. She slid under the covers.
Before Wilson left to go God knows where, he asked me to write this; to let you know how Princeton-Plainsboro is doing and such.
I can assure you PPTH is in good hands and steadily improving itself, as always. I've just started to plan out a better ER, a project that should take a few years to fully do, but I'm confident.
House left me something after he died. Actually, two things, but one is really for you. I have his guitar, something that should really be passed on. I don't need, or play, the guitar. I have no use.
He said you might.
Cuddy put the letter on her night table, turning off the light and sinking into the mattress. Thoughts and memories ran through her mind, as pesky as a fly buzzing in your ear. She tossed and turned, but it all came flooding back. Not some of it, all of it.
She started trembling, her chest tightening. She knew it was going to be a big one as the wave of hopelessness that usually set off the panic attack engulfed her. The most powerful symptom of them all was the utter dread that coursed through her blood; the anxiety of the past, present, and future that overtook her being.
She whimpered and cuddled further into the sheets, cursing her past, cursing the letters – cursing House.
House woke up the next morning with pain flaming through his leg. Every movement caused a tremor to shoot up into his core. He blindly flailed around for Vicodin before remembering he had none.
"Shit," He cursed, grinding his teeth.
Cuddy was already downstairs, absentmindedly stirring her coffee, watching it swirl around the spoon. She had had one of those nights where you feel more tired when you wake up than when you fell asleep. She was too busy musing to notice that House hadn't come down yet.
Sela caught her yawn, raising an eyebrow that Cuddy waved off. The Dean did, however, gladly accept the cup of coffee offered.
"Not really. I was there."
Cuddy blushed, embarrassed. "A lot of cleaning up."
Sela gave a half nod, unconvinced. "Tom's in your office."
Cuddy sputtered. "He what?"
"He's in your office."
"He's got to stop doing that." She muttered.
"He seemed surprised to learn about last night's party."
Cuddy's eyes flashed. "You told him?"
She shrugged. "I thought you had invited him, and he was just busy!"
Cuddy sighed. It was too early to deal with this. She picked up some files in her free hand.
"Well, tell him I'm still not in." She spun around, ignoring the other eyebrow that rose to join the first.
I'm pulling a House, she remarked as she locked herself in a currently unused patient room, sitting cross-legged on the floor with her mug, laptop, files, and the letters, of which three remained.
She really dreaded opening the next one, especially after this last one – which really hadn't been all that personal – and it happened to be from Cameron.
Much more thoughtlessly than those previous, Cuddy tore it open and steeled herself for what was to come.
I know we didn't see eye to eye on a lot of things, but I think we owe this to each other. Or, at least, to House.
But first, a little about me and my new life. I live out near Chicago, head of one of the fastest growing ERs on the planet. I've remarried, and I have a son – Connor. He's about eighteen months old now.
I think I owe my start to House, and to you. You both jumpstarted all of our careers, and where House taught us the greater (and lesser) rules of life, you were always the better role model.
House left me with a few things, one being the one and only Steve McQueen. The other wasn't said, but it was obvious.
He cared about you. We all knew he did, but I guess I have to be the one to say it. He was a changed man after you – not in any fundamental way, but he was a little less there when you left. Now that he's gone, I suppose it's up to me to say these things. He never stopped, never, his rage and jealousy driving him over the edge, because it was him that would destroy things without ever meaning to.
I miss him.
She threw away the paper, hands shaking, feeling the last of what she thought she knew being ripped apart; complication upon complication.
She didn't know what to think, what to feel. She stormed out of the room, not knowing what else she could possibly do.
She didn't go home for lunch, feeling slightly sick, and definitely not in the mood to be around House. Or Tom.
He incessantly called. She was irritated. Alright, fine, her ignorance of him wasn't nice either, but of all the men she had ever dated, he was the only one who called this much.
She kind of hated it, kind of loved it.
Oddly enough, the only thing she could think of doing that would calm her down was reading another letter. The last two were from Wilson, who used to be who she would talk to when she was all worked up.
Who else am I going to leave my stuff to? Some of it is being donated, some of it is going to family, and some of it is going to you. And there are House's things too, though I don't exactly know what you'll salvage or need.
Do with them what you will.
A new project. Cuddy liked projects. And this one wasn't too hard. It would be good for her.
She called it an early day, leaving the hospital at mid-afternoon.
She set the table and called her daughter and House to eat. Rachel bounded down the stairs; House trailed a little more slowly from the den. Cuddy watched is progress, concerned. He gave her a glare as he rounded the couch, but stumbled, his breath escaping through clenched teeth.
She shot up from her seat, ready to aid. He continued to glare through his pained state, sitting down heavily.
"You're not okay."
"No! I'm not doing this again. Remember what happened last time?"
He grunted in reply.
"Your leg is acting up?" She asked softly.
"My leg never acts down," He muttered.
"I'm fine." He assured.
She dropped the subject. "I have one left."
House exhaled. "Thank God."
Cuddy gave him a strange look, narrowing her eyes. House ignored her.
"Why don't you go ahead and read it now?" He sounded like an excited child.
Something clicked. "Did you write them?"
"The letters?" He laughed. "No."
"But you had something to do with them."
"Astute observation, seeing as they all had something to do about me."
Her eyes widened. "You planned them?"
He shrugged. "In a way."
She rolled her eyes. "You made Wilson write them, got him to make the others write, and got them all mailed at the same time?"
"Something like that."
Cuddy didn't respond, sorting it out in her head; trying to get Cameron's letter out of it.
"Open the last one now?" He practically begged.
"Fine." She tore it open.
She glanced up to a knowing – relieved – smirk. Frustrated and feeling slightly betrayed, she left the room.
Later, when she came down for a glass of water, she spotted House in the kitchen. Pausing on the stairs, she watched as he stared down at the collection of letters on the table. He picked up an envelope, one of Wilson's, and ever so gently ran his fingers across the label. She watched as he inspected the stamp, felt the weight of the paper in his hands. He didn't notice her, but continued to observe and touch each one on the table.
A ghost of a smile drifted across her lips, and she crept back up the stairs as quietly as she could as to not disturb him.
Thanks for everything, readers. You keep me writing!