Most of my stories are somewhat self-contained, but this one requires a pretty solid knowledge of the show. I tried really hard to stick to canon, except for one obvious change (you'll know it when you get there.) I love the idea of secret scenes between House and Cuddy that happened off camera. Also, I seem to be finding homes for all my stray fics. Members of the inner circle will recognize the post Mirror Mirror stuff, slightly modified to accommodate this format. Anyway, hope you all enjoy. xo, atd
Cuddy had been called into the clinic for a consult.
The attending physician suspected "drug-seeking behavior." It was, apparently, the patient's second visit to the clinic in three days.
This kind of thing was always tricky. Jonesing addicts were in a kind of agony not completely dissimilar from patients experiencing real pain. You had to read the tea leaves—a combination of medical know-how and good old fashioned horse sense.
The first thing Cuddy noticed was that the patient wasn't alone. He had a very worried, very tall, and very beautiful brunette at his side—presumably his wife or girlfriend.
This was her first clue: The woman was dressed in a $500 power suit. She looked refined, professional. (Of course professionals could be addicts, too. But Cuddy was playing a percentage game here.) Also, the woman's hovering nervousness suggested someone who wasn't used to hospitals.
The patient was doubled over and groaning and if he was faking pain, he was giving a command performance. She noticed that he was neither shaking nor sweaty—both telltale signs of addiction withdrawal.
"I'm Dr. Cuddy," she said.
And the patient looked up.
His superhumanly blue eyes, rimmed with red, were now staring at her.
She'd know those eyes anywhere. She almost dropped her chart.
"House?" she said, startled.
"Lisa?" he choked out.
The girlfriend looked at them.
"You two know each other?" she said, shocked.
"We, uh, went to med school together," Cuddy said.
Then she turned to Bradford, the attending physician.
"This man is a doctor!" she said. "He didn't tell you that?"
"Doctors can be addicts, too," Bradford said.
"Idiot," House hissed.
Cuddy approached House gingerly.
"May I look at your leg?"
With great effort, House raised his pants leg. The girlfriend gasped. The limb was dark red, swollen and scaly—atrophy seemed imminent.
I'm seeing my med school crush after twelve years and he's going to sue us, Cuddy thought.
"I want a full blood workup and a urinalysis," she said to Bradford.
Then she put a reassuring hand on House's shoulder.
"We're going to take good care of you," she said.
"Too late," he said.
"And this is the clinic, but I guess you're all too familiar with it," Cuddy said, chuckling nervously, leading her new recruit around the hospital.
He was now walking with a permanent limp. And he was in pain, all the time—at least partly because of the compromised treatment that she had suggested.
He had been dumped by his beautiful girlfriend, was depressed and out of work, and was virtually unhireable (his reputation as an impossible-to-control maverick had only been augmented by his nifty new habit of brazenly popping narcotics in plain view of everyone).
So she had offered him a job. Partly because she was relieved that he hadn't sued the hospital. Partly because he was the single smartest medical mind she had ever been in contact with (and it wasn't even close). And partly because the idea of working close with him again—even in his current disillusioned, gnarled, bitter state—was an incredible intellectual and sexual turn-on. (He was, unbelievably, even more attractive now than he had been in med school. A little grizzle did wonders for him.)
But right now, they were still in the negotiating stage.
"All physicians are expected to put in 4 hours of clinic duty a week," she said.
"Except for department heads, of course," he said, confidently.
"Even department heads," she said.
"But won't I be too busy doing all the important . . . uh . . . things department heads do?" he said.
"Yes. And clinic duty is one of those things."
"Come to think of it, isn't it a little silly to call me a department head when I'll be working by myself?"
"You'll hire three fellows to assist you," Cuddy said.
"What part of lone wolf don't you understand?"
"What part of 'department' don't you understand?"
"Three fellows, huh? Will you judge me if they're all hot babes?"
"Yes," Cuddy said.
House shrugged. "So noted. I'll limit myself to one hot babe." Then he smirked at her. "At least there's always guaranteed a good view in the boss's office."
"I meant, out your window," he said. "What did you think I meant?"
"My window looks out onto the parking lot," she said.
"A very lovely parking lot at that," he said, ogling her.
Then he folded his arms.
"So. . .about the salary. . ."
"Non-negotiable. Take it or leave it."
"I'll take it," he said quickly.
"Good," she said. "And House?"
"Yes Cuddy?" he said, raising an eyebrow. He had stopped calling her Lisa—a way of making it clear they had no further personal relationship? Or maybe as a sign of respect? (Instead, it felt collegial, chummy. Like they were on a sporting team together.)
"We need to talk about the pills."
"I need them because of the excruciating pain I'm in all the time," he said, sharply. For the first time, the mirth was gone from his voice.
"I can't have you taking opiates in front of the other doctors and patients."
"Then you can't have me. I can't function without them."
"Have you tried tramadol? Codeine? Ibupro—"
"Nothing else works," he said, pursing his lips. "It's vicodin or unbearable agony. You make the call."
She looked at him, with concern.
"Can you at least try to be discreet about it?" she said.
"I can try," he said.
"So, what's next?" he said.
"Next, we head over to human resources and draw up the contract. That is, if you want the job."
"I want it," he said.
"Good," she said, pleased. "Follow me."
And she began heading out of the clinic.
"Cuddy?" he said, stopping her.
The clinic waiting room was beginning to get a little chaotic. There weren't enough chairs so a few people were forced to stand or sit on the floor and several others were at the desk complaining about the wait.
"What's happening here, Debbie?" Cuddy said to the nurse in charge.
Exasperated, Debbie handed a patient file to one harried doctor and held up an index finger to a frustrated patient: One minute.
"I don't know," she said. "We have two doctors on duty. And. . ."
"Let me guess? One is Dr. House?"
"He's been in Exam Room No. 1 for over an hour—by himself."
Cuddy shook her head, stormed into Exam Room No. 1.
House was sitting in a chair, with a tabloid magazine shading his eyes, sounds asleep.
"Are you out of your mind?" Cuddy yelled.
He jumped, woke up. The magazine fell to the floor.
"Damn woman. You woke me from a good dream. A much more pleasant version of you was in it, by the way."
"There's an angry mob forming in the clinic right now."
"Then why are you standing here! You should do something about that!"
"I am. I just woke up the sleeping doctor who now has to do double his clinic duty hours this week."
"There's another doctor sleeping in this hospital?" House said.
"Do I look like I'm amused by any of this?"
"Actually no. You were a lot more fun in med school, Cuddy," House said.
Debbie came to the exam room door, wielding several patient files, at her wit's end.
"Is he going to help or not?" she said.
"Define help," House said.
"Get out there and do your job," Cuddy said, pointing.
"I love it when she gets bossy like that," House said, with a grin. He took a file off the top of Debbie's pile, glanced at it and shuffled it in with the others. Then he looked at the second file, started to reshuffle that one, too.
Cuddy grabbed his arm.
"You'll take that file."
"Vaginal itching. I'm sure a female doct—"
"You'll take that patient," Cuddy repeated. And then she grabbed three more files off the top of Debbie's pile. "And that one and that one and that one."
House looked at them in dismay.
"Sore throat, constipation, and runny nose. You do realize this is like asking Van Cliburn to play Chopsticks?"
"I'm sure a virtuoso like you can breeze through these four patients in no time. Especially now that you're so well rested."
"Do I get a reward if I say yes?" he said.
"Yes, your reward is you get to keep your job."
House looked at Debbie.
"She has a massive crush on me," he said. "She just hides it very well."
And he limped into the waiting room.
"Vaginal itching?" he yelled loudly.
An embarrassed looking middle-aged woman raised her hand.
"Boy, he is too much," Debbie said.
"I can handle him," Cuddy said, watching him out of the corner of her eye.
"At least he's easy on the eyes," Debbie said.
"You think?" Cuddy said, smiling. "I hadn't noticed."
"Shouldn't you let one of the real doctors do that?" House said, entering into Exam Room No. 2, where Cuddy was bandaging a patient's bloody elbow.
House started fiddling with the tongue depressors and cotton swabs on the counter as he watched her work.
"I am a real doctor," she said, catching the medical tape that he tossed her. "Wilson had an emergency so I'm filling in for him."
"How come when I tell you I have an emergency and can't do clinic duty you don't believe me?" House said.
"Because you're always lying."
"Oh yeah," House said. "Good point."
"What do you want, House?" Cuddy said wearily, sealing the patient's arm tightly.
"I was wondering if I could borrow ten bucks?" he said. Then he laughed, pointing at her. "See what I did there? I asked to borrow money when yesterday I cost you $100 million. It's called irony."
"Still not laughing," Cuddy said.
She wrote the patient a prescription for a mild painkiller.
"Take these, twice a day. And try not to get the bandage wet."
"Pro tip," House said to the guy, as he hopped off the exam table. "It's a great excuse to get sponge baths from the wife—or someone who isn't your wife, if you prefer."
The guy nodded at him, pleased.
"Thanks man," he said.
After the patient was gone, House said to Cuddy: "Admit it, you feel 250 pounds lighter today."
"I don't know," Cuddy said. "How much does 100 million weigh?"
"I meant Vogler," House said. "The guy was an enormous tool."
"I know what you meant."
"You hated him as much as I did."
"He was a giant dick," Cuddy said. "And he also was going to fund our new cancer wing."
"You said giant dick," House said, with a smile.
"If a new cancer wing means so much to you, why didn't you just let him fire me?" House said. Finally, the real reason he had sought Cuddy out.
"Because you're a great doctor," she said, somewhat defensively.
"Thank you. But even I'm not worth a whole cancer wing," House said.
"No, but. . .In the end, I guess I couldn't sell the soul of the hospital to the highest bidder."
"I'm proud of you," he said.
And the sincerity in his voice made them both blush.
"If the mountain won't come to Mohammed, Mohammed will come to the mountain!" House said, cheerily, entering the exam room, where Cuddy had just finished giving a consult.
"I was just about to head back to my office," Cuddy said.
"Not necessary," House said. "We're strictly BYOS around her—bring your own syringe."
"You're awfully eager," Cuddy said.
"Injecting you with baby-making hormones is the highlight of my day," House said. "Speaking of which, any luck in the Bionic Father department?" Then his voice took on a low, TV voice-over quality: "We can build him. We have the technology."
"Not yet," Cuddy said.
"Is it possible you are actually the first woman to be rejected by a sperm bank?" he said.
"I'm just being choosy. Like someone told me to be."
"Good luck finding an athletic, handsome guy with blue eyes and a genius IQ whose name is not Gregory House."
"Oh yeah, you're real athletic," she said, eyeing his cane.
"The infarction is not hereditary," House said. "Also, you just basically conceded the brilliant and handsome part. Sweet."
"You wish," she said.
"Bend over, boss."
Cuddy rolled her eyes, bent over, and lifted her skirt.
Every time House injected her, he spent a little longer swabbing the disinfectant.
"You'd think after two weeks, you'd get tired of doing that," Cuddy said.
"The day I tire of doing this is the day I should hand in my Man Card."
His hand continued to move in a slow circular motion around the moon of her ass.
"Is that another syringe in your pocket or are you just happy to disinfect me?" she said.
House dropped the cotton ball, and jumped back, embarrassed.
"I'm not!" he said.
House was looking for an empty exam room where he could watch Prescription Passion.
Exam Room No. 1 had a screaming baby wailing from within.
Exam Room No. 2 was occupied with a middle aged man with a rather nasty looking rash on his penis.
"Sorry," House said, shutting the door quickly.
Exam Room 3 was quiet.
But when he opened the door, he was surprised to see Cuddy there, sitting alone. She wiped her eyes hastily.
"Busy in here," she said.
He stopped, stared at her dumbly.
"Were you crying?"
"I'm fine House. Go away."
But he didn't budge. Just kept staring at her, his hands shoved in his pockets.
"What's wrong?" he said.
"I don't want to talk about it."
"Did someone hurt you?" he said. Through his pockets, he involuntarily clenched his fists.
"It's nothing like that."
"If you must know I . . . had a miscarriage," she said.
His mouth dropped open.
"I . . . didn't even know you were pregnant."
"Well, I was. And now I'm not."
He was never good in moments like this. Always felt awkward, useless. Wilson excelled in moments like this. Gave hugs. Said comforting, profound things.
"That. . .. sucks," he heard himself say.
He continued to regard her warily.
"It's one miscarriage," he said, finally. "A minor hiccup. You'll try again."
"Actually, it's two miscarriages. I'm done."
"I lost the first one back in November."
House did a quick mental calculation. His face went white.
"When I told you you'd suck as a mother?"
"Right before that, yeah."
House closed his eyes.
"I'm an asshole."
"You didn't know."
"I knew you were trying to get pregnant."
Cuddy gave a sad smile.
"Okay, you're an asshole."
"I was so strung out that day. I just wanted everyone to hurt as much as I did."
"Fuck me," he said. "I'm the worst human being ever."
"Not the worst. Gunga Din. Hitler. Vanilla Ice."
"Thanks," House said. "I feel better."
Then he looked at her earnestly.
"Don't give up, Cuddy," he said.
"It's too late. It's already done."
The clinic was getting backed up—again.
Cuddy walked up to Debbie.
"Let me guess? House on duty?"
"You're good," Debbie said, ironically.
"That little shit. Which room is he sleeping in?"
"I think 2."
She barged into Exam Room 2. He wasn't asleep, exactly, but he was daydreaming.
As always, he was easy to startle. She cleared her throat and he practically fell off the chair.
"What are you doing, House?" she said.
"Lovingly recreating the events of the week," he said, with a smirk.
She had been prepared for this.
"Which part of the week?" she said. "The part where you had the runs or the part where Foreman made you his bitch?"
"The part where our mirror man knew that I was the boss of this relationship."
"Mirror man is sexist," she said
"Mirror man knows no gender, he only knows the scent of power."
"Or, in your case, the scent of bathroom air freshener. How does the stomach feel anyway?"
"Fine. Don't deflect."
"Mirror man assumed you were in charge because you have a penis. End of story."
"Why must every conversation be about my penis?" House said, putting his hands on his hips. "I hate when you objectify me like that, Cuddy!"
"Adorable. You should be lucky I'm talking to you at all after you switched my birth control pills."
"Don't get your thong in a twist. I didn't switch your birth control pills."
"You said you did!"
"I was bluffing."
"Maybe you're bluffing now."
"I assure you I'm not."
"So what you're saying is. . .I outsmarted you with the vicodin. I outsmarted you with Foreman. . ."
"I outsmarted you with the mayonnaise caper," House countered.
"Yes, House, it took a mensa IQ to create a food poisoning panic in a hospital cafeteria."
"I thought it was some of my best work."
"Admit it, on balance, I won this week. And, by extension, you lost."
"And yet, ironically, I'm still the alpha in our relationship."
"And yet, ironically, I still hold all the cards. For example, I could fire you for insubordination, sue you for sexual harassment, report your drug abuse to the AMA. . ."
"And yet you never do."
"But I could. . . at any time."
"And yet, Cuddy. You never do. Which brings us back to my penis. . ."
"Get back to work, House."
House bumped into Cuddy just as she was leaving Exam Room 1 and he was entering it.
Ever since they had kissed two days earlier, they had been feeling a little sheepish around each other.
Now they did that do-si-do thing at the door—both going left, then right. Finally, House wedged himself up against the doorframe. "After you," he said, gesturing.
She laughed, but instead of stepping into the hallway, she followed him back into the exam room.
"How's the hand?" she said, pointing to House's bug wound.
"I briefly considered amputation," House said. "But I think this tiny, girly band-aid will suffice."
Then he swallowed.
"How are you?" he said.
"Better. Almost feeling human today."
He looked down at his feet.
"Sooooo. . .what did you do last night?" He tried to keep his voice casual.
"Some paperwork, fell asleep early," she said. "You?"
"Uh. . .the same."
Cuddy laughed nervously.
"If Wilson had his druthers, you and I would've been out on a hot date last night," she said.
"If Wilson had his druthers, we'd be picking out china patterns last night."
Now they both laughed nervously.
"He means well," Cuddy said. "He just can't help himself."
"If meddling was an Olympic sport, he'd be its Mark Spitz."
There was a long pause. House scratched his beard; Cuddy bit her lip.
"So. . . big plans tonight?" Cuddy said finally.
"Not really," House said, fiddling with his cane. "How bout you?"
They looked at each other, then both looked down.
"Well, I suppose I better. . ." Cuddy said.
"Yeah, me too. . ." House said.
And they both went back to work.
"You've been avoiding me," Cuddy said.
"I'm right here, in the clinic, exactly where I'm supposed to be."
"Which, as you know, based on experience, is the last place I'd look."
He gave her a slightly annoyed look.
"Well you found me now. What do you want, Cuddy?"
"I wanted to. . .apologize. For the way things went down at the conference. I feel like I ambushed you. That was never my intention."
"What was your intention? To keep your relationship with Lucas a secret forever?"
"No, I just. . .I didn't want to tell you until I knew it was real."
"Looked pretty freakin' real in that hotel room."
"I guess it is."
"Well, congratulations," he said, bitterly.
"I'm sorry. I didn't meant to hurt you."
"Who says I'm hurt?"
"No one. I was just. . ."
"You know, I was with someone at Mayfield," he blurted out. Then he lowered his eyes: "Lest you think I was pining away for you the whole time or something."
Her mouth dropped open.
"A . . . woman?"
It was a colossally dumb thing to say.
"Yes, Cuddy. A woman. With breasts and a vagina and everything."
"A fellow patient?"
"You wish," he said. "The sister-in-law of a patient."
She felt upset, which she knew was ridiculously unfair.
"What happened?" she asked. "I mean, where is she now?"
"Back with her husband," he admitted.
"I'm sorry," she said.
"Yeah, right," he muttered.
"House," she said, looking up at him. "Did you mean what you said on the dance floor? About Michigan? About how you were going to call me?"
"Why would I lie?"
"To get an invite back to my hotel room," she said, with a slightly suggestive chuckle.
"I'm not into threeways," House growled.
Cuddy eyed him. There was another of their famous awkward silences. She felt like she didn't know how to talk to him these days.
"Alright," she said sadly. "As you were."
She started to leave the Exam Room.
"He doesn't deserve you," House said, quietly.
"He's a good man," she said.
She closed her eyes.
"I didn't mean for this to happen, House. It just did. You're going to have to find some way to make peace with it."
Cuddy strode briskly into Exam Room 2.
"Where's the consult?" she said, looking around.
House locked the door behind her.
"The patient is an adult male, aged 51, with these uncontrollable, painful urges," he said, putting his arms around her.
"House!" she said, gently pushing him away. Then she whispered firmly: "What did we say about sex at the hospital?"
"Never during regular business hours," he said, by rote.
"And what time is it?"
"It's 8 pm in Kuwait!"
"We're in New Jersey."
He looked at her pitifully.
"You can't expect me to concentrate after that lap dance you gave me last night," he said.
She smiled sneakily.
"That was pretty hot, wasn't it?"
"Molten lava hot," he said.
"Maybe I'll give you another one, this weekend. If you behave."
"Define behave," he said.
"Letting me get back to work."
"But work is so booooring," he whined.
"No hospital with you in it could ever be boring," she said.
"Let me show you just how exciting it can be," he said, stepping toward her again.
She shook her head, smiled. She could never resist him.
"Come here," she said, grabbing him by the collar.
He grinned, kissed her—casually slipping his tongue in her mouth. His hands rested on her hips and then roamed to her ass.
"You feel so good," he whispered, nibbling on her ear.
"So do you," she admitted. She kissed him again, this time grinding up against him a bit, losing herself in his taste and touch.
He started to kiss her throat and unbutton her shirt.
"We shouldn't," she said, unconvincingly. Her voice was already taking on that slightly breathy quality it got when she was turned on.
"I'll be fast, I swear," he said, as his hands dug under her skirt.
"God, I hope not too fast," she said, and she moaned a bit as he reached between her thighs.
She missed him. This was the part of the breakup she hadn't fully anticipated.
House had been such a huge part of her life for the last 13 years—as colleagues, as lovers, as sparring partners, but also, as best friends. It was, curiously, the friendship part she missed the most. (Okay, the sex part, too. But she had expected to miss that.)
So she took note of his clinic schedule and arranged to "accidentally" bump into him on her rounds. (For years, he had been compulsively aware of her schedule—it was flattering, if a bit unnerving. Now the roles were reversed.)
"Hey," she said, trying to act surprised.
"Hi," he said, nodding. "What are you doing here?"
"I check in on the clinic from time to time. Part of the whole Dean of Medicine thing."
"Oh," he said.
"So. . .how are you?"
"I'm just grand. You?"
She shrugged a bit.
"I'm okay. I need to fill the department head in immunology. Landers has tenure—he'd be the popular, predictable choice. But I really like Rodriguez. She's feisty, smart, takes no shit. But she doesn't have nearly Landers' experience."
"Sounds like a dilemma," House said, idly.
"What would you do?" she said.
She valued his opinion above all others.
"It's not my call," he said.
"I'm asking for your advice, House," she said.
"That's not the kind of relationship we have anymore," he said, and he brushed past her into the waiting room.
Cuddy was doing a routine inventory check in the clinic after hours, but when she opened the door to Exam Room No. 2, she saw House, tightening a tourniquet with his teeth, about to inject himself with a needle.
"What the hell are you doing?" she said.
He was so shocked, he dropped the syringe.
"That's fucking great, Cuddy," he said.
He went to pick it up, but she grabbed it faster.
She feared the worst—heroin. But it was something else: A drug she had never seen before.
"What is this?" she demanded.
"It's for my pain," he said, snippily.
"I figured so much. House, what are you taking?"
He clenched his jaw.
"None of your business, " he said.
"You're injecting a drug in my hospital. You're damn right it's my business."
"It's a new drug," House said finally. "Still in the trial period."
"Tell me the name of it."
"Lymadol," House said.
Her mouth dropped open.
"That drug is years away from human trials! It's being tested on lab rats!"
"It regenerates dead nerve cells," House said, tersely.
"In rats! And we haven't even seen the side effects, which could include, I don't know. . .tumors, blindness, or possibly death. Are you out of your mind?
"I'm in pain."
She grabbed his arm. "How long have you been taking this drug?"
"This was going to be my second dosage," he said, shaking himself loose. "Until someone rudely interrupted me."
"Your little adventure in pharmacology stops now, House. I'll test your urine on an hourly basis if I need to."
He glared at her.
"You don't want me to get better. You prefer me when I'm miserable."
She closed her eyes.
"That's not true. I want you to be happy."
"I was happy," he said. "Once."
As usual, she had an incredible urge to hug him, console him, make his pain go away.
"House," she said. "You can be happy again. Why do you feel like you need this drug?"
"The pain has been unbearable lately."
"It was manageable when we were together," she said, lamely. "And you weren't even on vicodin then."
"For some reason, it hurts a lot more these days," he said.
She looked at him.
"I hurt, too, you know," she said softly.
"Oh yeah," he said sarcastically. "You're a fucking mess. I think I might've seen a hair out of place the other day. Everyone was talking about it."
"I miss you," she said, ignoring him. "I can't concentrate. I can't sleep. I'm not me without you. Does that make any sense at all?"
His eyes widened.
"Yes," he said. "It makes perfect sense." Then he hesitated: "Did you pick the new head of Immunology?"
"I went with Landers," she said.
"I would've suggested Rodriguez," he said, with a tiny smile. "Feisty, smart, takes no shit. Sounds like someone we both know and love."
She reached over, on impulse, and took his hand. This time he didn't pull away.
"Maybe we could have dinner tonight," she said.
"As what?" he demanded.
"As . . I don't know. Just friends. Maybe more."
"We don't do just friends, Cuddy," he said. "We've been many things to each other over the years, just friends has never been one of them."
"I know that."
"So what are you saying?"
"I'm saying. . . let's have dinner tonight."
House needed an endocrinologist to confirm that the female patient he was treating in the clinic for muscle weakness should be admitted for hypothyroidism, so he called in Cuddy for a consult.
On her way to the clinic, she got stuck putting out a minor fire in pediatrics (a lost stuffed bunny that had managed to wedge itself behind the X-ray machine—now happily reunited with its 4-year-old owner). She was running 10 minutes late.
"Sorry!" she said when she arrived, slightly out of breath
"Did you get lost?" House said to her. "Because I could put out a trail of breadcrumbs next time—sorry, organic, whole-grain breadcrumbs."
Then he turned to the patient, with a grin.
"This ravishing but inexcusably late creature is Dr. Cuddy," he introduced. "My wife."