Fear of Fire Leaves You Cold, Chapter 9Author:
House, Cuddy, Rachel Cuddy, Wilson, Arlene, Julia, etc.Author's Note:
Since this piece is set post "Moving On," there are spoilers for that episode. Also please note that, while I plan on making this House/Cuddy, it's not going to be a quick thing. Given what House has done, it will take a while to work through all of those issues. If you're looking for an easy happy ending, this isn't the piece for you. Some chapters are split for length.Warning:
This fic contains sex.Summary:
After House crashes his car through Cuddy's home, both strive to rebuild their lives and deal with the consequences of their broken relationship.Previous Chapters: Chapter 1
, Chapter 2 (Part 1
), Chapter 2 (Part 2)
, Chapter 3
, Chapter 4 (Part 1)
, Chapter 4 (Part 2)
, Chapter 5, Chapter 6
, Chapter 7 (Part 1)
, Chapter 7 (Part 2)
, Chapter 8Disclaimer: The show is not mine
Stepping into the hospital for the first time since the incident was harder than he’d anticipated. House had had no illusions about the people he worked with. They loved gossip, and he had given them just about the juiciest scandal any of them could ever dream of. But he’d thought that they’d have the tiniest bit of shame when they first saw him. On the contrary, most of them seemed to stop what they were doing to stare at him. Normally that type of reaction would elicit a response from him. Nothing spectacular of course, it would never amount to more than a sarcastic remark. But today he didn’t even have the impetus to do that much. Cuddy could see him possibly, though he wasn’t going to look around to check. Word could get back to her either way, and she could take that to mean that he was glib about what he had done.
Of course, Cuddy was perceptive enough to notice the “good boy” act. If he did what he had been told to do, she would assume arrogantly that it was to impress her.
She wouldn’t be wrong.
Not entirely anyway.
It was hard to tell at any given moment how he felt about Cuddy now, if he still wanted her or resented her for her choices. On the other hand, it was very clear to him that he wanted his job. Doing it would be more complicated now, but even so, his job was one of the few things that made him happy, one of the few things he still had. If behaving was what it took to stay employed, he would. As though no one was watching him, he headed to the elevator bay.
No one approached him. No one joined him on the elevator. That wasn’t exactly odd on its own. There weren’t many people who leapt for the chance to be near him, not among his colleagues at least. Today it simply confirmed that he was completely alone.
That didn’t feel weird until he got off on his floor. He quickly noticed Wilson’s assistant and a few other interns packing boxes on a couple dollies and wheeling them past House’s office. There was no sign of Wilson, but House could hear Ron Simpson bitching in front of Wilson’s door.
“Sampson? That’s not how you spell my name. Do you even know my name?” Ron started muttering then in a voice that was too low for House to hear.
It was easy to figure out what was being said when Regina, Cuddy’s unofficial assistant, came up from behind Ron and asked, “You wouldn’t be talking about your boss now when you say, ‘That vindictive bitch,’ would you?”
As Ron struggled for a defense, House slipped into his office. He didn’t allow himself to think about whether he should be offended by or feeling something toward Ron. House already felt overloaded. After going to therapy, he wasn’t ready for anything other than work. He couldn’t handle deciding whether he wanted to defend his ex-girlfriend or let someone say whatever they wanted about her. So he chose to ignore the situation altogether.
When he stepped into his office, he instantly noticed Chase seated at his desk. Taub and Foreman stood in front of him. Thirteen was nowhere to be found. House knew he needed to announce his presence. It would be awkward to just stand there and wait for someone to notice him. But there weren't really words for this type of situation, were there? Thankfully, the door shutting behind him was loud enough to draw the fellows' attention toward him. Gratitude was abruptly abandoned when he noticed that no one seemed particularly happy to see him.
When he thought about it, it wasn't that surprising. He'd given them all a career, but each had reasons to reconsider whether that had been a good thing. Had Chase’s loyalty been worth losing Cameron, the woman he had chased after for so long? Did Foreman look at his life and wonder how he’d gone from the man capable of being a leader to the doctor who had been unable to escape from his mentor’s shadow? He had tried so hard not to be like House, but no one saw Foreman as his own man. They all thought he was tainted.
And those two were the luckiest of his associates. Kutner and Amber were dead. Thirteen had been in jail. Cameron had quit her job and fallen off the face of the earth. Taub was the only one House could consider unaffected, but he wasn’t exactly someone House could take pride in. It certainly wouldn’t make anyone else feel better about working for him. Of course, they would be disappointed he’d come back.
“Just got a new patient,” Foreman said for lack of a better way to end the silence.
House dropped his book bag on the lounge chair. “Great.” He was almost hoping for unenthused, but he sounded more eager to get started than anything else. Instead of being detached, he came across as desperate to move past the awkwardness currently enveloping his office. “Where’s Thirteen?”
“Meeting with her probation officer,” Chase explained.
“To make sure she can work with you,” Taub added, earning him disapproving looks from both Foreman and Chase. “Guys, I know you both want to get in her pants, but he’s gonna find out soon enough. Might as well tell him the –”
“I don’t want her back,” Foreman said without any emotion in his voice.
House frowned dramatically. “That’s a shame. No offense to Chameron in its heyday, but Foreteen was clearly the romance for our times. And I’m not sure I can get behind Chase and Thirteen as a couple, because all possible portmanteaus seem vastly inferior. I mean Chirteen? Sounds like something a beaver does to attract a mate.”
“I think,” Chase said agitatedly. “That it would be a good idea for us to not talk about relationships while we’re working together.”
Everyone understood what he meant, and immediately they all fell silent again. Obviously, no one wanted to discuss what had happened with Cuddy, what House had done to her, or why he was back. For that, House normally would have been appreciative. But if not talking about it meant they would just allude to it when he said something they didn’t like, House would have rather they discuss it outright. Of all things they could hold over his head, that was unbearable.
And yet, he had no means of stopping it from happening. He couldn’t talk to them about Cuddy. Even if he wanted to, his mouth seemed incapable of opening and forming the words necessary to explain what he’d done. There was no justification that would give him total control over his team. Cuddy had ensured that he couldn’t have absolute power anymore. The dynamics between them completely upended, House could only look away miserably and wait for Chase to change the subject. He had no other means to fight now.
Eventually, Chase relaxed and dismissed the issue with a simple – “Thirteen will join us when she can. In the meantime, we’ll focus on our patient.”
He handed House a file. Before House had a chance to read it, Chase summed up where they were. “Don Cassidy, thirty-two. Went to the doctor’s after coughing up blood. Attending physician noted clubbed fingers, and the patient also complained of pain in his shoulder that didn’t exist prior to his persistent cough.”
“Sounds like lung cancer,” House muttered, tossing the file back onto the table. “Hand it over to Wilson, or does he not work here anymore?”
An uncomfortable pause passed before Foreman said simply, “He’s still here, just asked Cuddy to change the location of his office. She obviously agreed.”
“Obviously,” House repeated, stifling back the scoff he wanted to make. “Still. Sounds like lung cancer. Hand the case over to Wilson.”
“No.” Chase sounded like a little boy standing up to his mommy.
“For one, I’m in charge of this department now. Also, if you’d bother to read the case file, you’d notice that it’s a little more complicated than just cancer. The patient has FOP.”
“How advanced?” House asked, knowing that the answer, based on the patient’s age, wouldn’t be good.
“The guy bumped his hip into the edge of a table three months ago and has been wheelchair bound since,” Taub answered. “His family physician had a CT scan done, shows lesions on his lungs. He felt he couldn’t safely get a biopsy, so we got the case.”
Before House could even offer his opinion, Chase stepped in. “I was telling the others that I’d like to redo the CT scan – make sure we’re looking at an accurate picture. PET scan and blood work as well.”
“You don’t think it’s cancer,” House deduced.
“Lesions could be from a fungal –”
“That’s the plan. Once we get more up-to-date information, we can decide the medical ramifications of attempting a biopsy or bronchoscopy,” Chase stated with a sense of finality that made it clear House wasn’t to argue. “I will get started on that. Taub, Foreman, you go search for the home. If it is a fungus, he probably hasn’t been able to leave his house much. Source of the fungus would more than likely be there.”
“Right,” Foreman said in agreement. Taub nodded his head as well, and they quickly left like they didn’t want to be around for the rest of the conversation.
Figuring he felt the same, House turned to leave also. Chase instantly stopped him though by saying, “While we do that, you can catch up on those.”
Confused House turned back around, his eyes following the direction in which Chase was pointing. In the fellows’ office were a couple boxes of paperwork. “They’re your billings. You’ll get that settled away and do your clinic hours. If we need your help, we’ll come find you.”
There was no missing the implication there. Chase thought House was unnecessary. Maybe there was reason to suspect that. At some point, Cuddy had clearly put him in charge. Thinking he would be running the department, Chase had told himself that he could do this on his own, that he didn’t need House. House wanted to believe otherwise, but Chase had done this for a while now. He was good at his job. It was possible that House would be unnecessary in diagnosing the patient, and if that happened… then what?
House clenched his jaw and refused to consider the future. The present was more than enough as it was for him to deal with. Tempted as he was to rail against what was going on, he did not. Instead he just nodded his head curtly and went into the fellows’ office to get started. For all he knew, this was something Cuddy had told Chase to make House do. Either way, she would expect him to do as Chase instructed.
At that moment, as he sat down to do paperwork, House felt that he didn’t even have his job anymore. He was here, mostly as a mascot though, a prop, a puppet to make Chase seem more legitimate than he was.
House almost longed to be back in prison. It would be less embarrassing than this felt.
No, he corrected after a moment. That wasn’t true. Just the thought of Gene made him queasy. This wasn’t perfect, but it was better than jail. It had to be.
Sighing he pulled out the top of file in the box closest to him. Boredom hit him before he even opened to look at the first page. He had to do this though. There were no other options.
But secretly he hoped Chase, over his head and needing help, would interrupt him at any moment.
Cuddy got the distinct impression that Rachel wasn’t telling the truth when she said she didn’t feel well. Every time Cuddy got out of bed to go to the bathroom or make tea in the hotel room’s kitchenette, Rachel threw a fit. But whenever Cuddy returned to her, Rachel seemed perfectly normal. She was chatty and affectionate, demonstrating that nothing was wrong.
It was probably bad to let the lie continue. Rachel had started complaining about her tummy hurting last night, a little after Chase had stopped by the hotel to grab the boxes Cuddy had taken from House’s office not too long ago. It had been Chase’s idea, and that alone had made Cuddy happy. She’d felt like she might actually have an ally in that department. Relief didn’t last long however, because nearly the second he was gone, she’d had to focus on Rachel. Cuddy had found Rachel convincing enough at the time. She’d decided to stay home, because Rachel had seemed so agitated at the thought of being without her mother. Cuddy hadn’t had the energy to deny her daughter what she wanted. But now… it was apparent that the illness had been a ruse. Cuddy knew it was wrong to pretend otherwise.
On the other hand, she’d already given Marina the day off. There were worse things than not being at the hospital when House returned too. Cuddy felt like she should be there in a show of strength or defiance. But there would be plenty of opportunities to demonstrate that she could withstand House being in her hospital. Besides, if Rachel was pretending to be sick, then it was important for Cuddy to address that situation.
So far though, there hadn’t been much of that. The first part of the morning had been spent mostly in bed with Rachel curled at her side. Cuddy was still trying to find an age appropriate way to talk about what was happening.
Deep in thought, she was forced out of it when Rachel tugged on her shirt. “Mommy,” she whined.
Cuddy looked down at the wriggling little girl who was half buried beneath the covers. “What’s wrong, honey?” Rachel didn’t answer. She just buried her face in Cuddy’s chest. Cuddy pulled her closer and kissed her forehead. “You like snuggling with your mommy? Is that it?” Again, there was no answer.
Cuddy sighed into Rachel’s hair. Maybe a response wasn’t entirely necessary. Of course, Rachel would like to be close to her mother. After everything she’d been exposed to, how could it be surprising that she would want to be near her? It wasn’t. But at the same time, Cuddy found it concerning. Rachel had gone from saying she didn’t feel well to acting fine to being quiet and sullen. That wasn’t like Rachel. There was nothing healthy or normal about the speed in which she could go from happy to sad. It might have been understandable, but that wasn’t the same thing as good.
And the worst part about it was that Cuddy could tell, to the depth of her core, that she had no idea how to fix it. It was difficult to predict what Rachel wanted when her mood kept changing. In this particular moment, she seemed okay with being held close. But there was no telling when that would suddenly stop being true.
There was no permanent solution either. Rachel wanted to go home, but that wasn’t ever going to happen. Even if it did, it wouldn’t be right for Rachel, because he wouldn’t be there.
“Mommy,” Rachel said quietly, thankfully pulling Cuddy’s mind away from him.
Rachel started squirming around, her feet lightly kicking Cuddy. “I wanna play.”
“Does that mean you’re feeling better? Your tummy doesn’t hurt anymore?”
Rachel’s cheeks turned pink. Reluctantly she admitted, “Uh huh.”
Cuddy chose to let this revelation go uncommented upon, for now anyway. Instead she said, “Good. What do you want to play?”
“I don’t know.”
“How about we color a little bit?”
The first suggestion was accepted easily enough. Finding a pack of crayons and piece of paper in the boxes strewn about the hotel room was harder. Keeping Rachel calm while Cuddy looked around for what she needed was even more difficult.
“I wanna color!” Rachel eventually shouted in frustration.
Exasperated herself, Cuddy replied tiredly, “Don’t talk to your mommy like that. I’m doing the best I can.” Just as she felt a glare being aimed her way, her hand closed around a packet of white construction paper. Cuddy pulled it out of the box with ease and set it down on the coffee table in front of the couch. When she looked back in the same box though, there were no crayons to be found.
“Give me a minute, honey,” she said before Rachel could complain. “I just need to find your crayons.” That was easier said than done however. When the phone rang five minutes later, Cuddy hastily gave Rachel a pen to use. “Here. Mommy needs to –”
“No! I don’t like blue. Don’t wanna –”
“It’s temporary, Rachel. Just… draw a picture of the ocean or… something. The sky even. Mommy has to get the phone.”
Rachel didn’t exactly embrace those suggestions, but Cuddy didn’t give her a chance to object. She quickly reached for her cell phone and answered the call. “Hello?”
“Congratulations. You got the house.”
“Dana. Hi.” The words came out without any joy. She’d made an offer knowing she would never be able to return to her old home. But that didn’t mean she’d had her heart set on the five-bedroom house along Carnegie Lake. Her offer had been borderline insulting, but apparently that didn’t matter. She wasn’t sure how to feel about it now.
“You sound nervous, but you don’t need to be. They accepted your bid on the condition that they won’t provide any allowances for repairs and fixes the inspection discovers are needed. And you still have the right to walk away,” Dana reminded.
Cuddy began to look around for the crayons once more. “I know that,” she said almost impatiently. “So when can we get an inspector out there?”
“This afternoon if you’re interested.”
“Really?” She was surprised it could be done so quickly. Dana offered an explanation – something along the lines of having a friends with benefits (and real estate benefits) relationship with one of the local inspectors. But Cuddy wasn’t exactly paying attention; Rachel was becoming visibly agitated at being forced to use a pen, and Cuddy just wanted to avoid a meltdown altogether if she could. Letting Dana talk, Cuddy searched through another box. Still there was nothing, and Rachel began to whine.
“Mommy….” She exaggerated the word into a long shriek that made Cuddy’s skin crawl. It more than drowned out whatever Dana was saying.
“Dana, hold on. Give me a second.” Cuddy turned her attention to her daughter. “Rachel!” she snapped warningly. The tone instantly shut Rachel up, which allowed Cuddy to say more calmly, “I can’t find them, honey. If you want to color so badly, you’re just going to have to get up off your little bottom and help Mama look. Okay?”
She anticipated a lot of complaining, but Rachel took the order well. Perhaps out of boredom, she offered no fight at all. Instead she got up right away and toddled toward a box Cuddy hadn’t noticed before. It was jammed between the legs of the giant stuffed giraffe, which they’d pulled out of storage, in the corner of the room. Naturally, the second Rachel reached into the box, she found the crayons.
“There you go,” Cuddy said with forced cheer. “You found them!”
The congratulations went right past Rachel. It was as though Cuddy hadn’t said anything at all. Rachel just headed straight back to the coffee table and began drawing with the same seriousness an artist might have when working on a masterpiece. Cuddy wasn’t sure if this was just childish dedication or if she should be concerned. More concerned, she corrected.
She was aware though that she still had Dana on the phone.
“Sorry. I’m back. There was a crayon emergency.”
“You’re with your daughter? I would have expected you to be at work.”
“Not today. So if we can get the inspection over with, I’d appreciate it.”
“We can,” Dana assured her. “How about two o’clock?”
“That’s fine.” There was nothing about Cuddy’s voice that sounded committed or excited. She was perfunctory, and the remainder of the conversation didn’t come across any different.
“See you then.”
“See you at two.”
For a second, it could almost be believed that things were settled. The moment Cuddy hung up the phone though, dread came over her. There was nothing requiring her to purchase the home, but that didn’t matter. It just didn’t feel right.
And yet there was no escaping this. She’d have to resolve her living situation some time, and for Rachel’s sake, it would be better to accomplish that inevitable task soon. Moving would be an adjustment, but at least then, there wouldn’t be any more changes to deal with. The thought made Cuddy sigh. It was clear to her that, if the house could be suitable, it would have to do. Rachel needed this to be over.
As if to prove that point, Rachel suddenly groaned in frustration. One of her tiny hands shoved the crayons away while the other crumpled up the drawing she’d been working on.
“Why’d you do that?” Cuddy asked in a mix of sympathy, curiosity, and dismay.
“Don’t wanna color no more.”
There were two ways to approach the situation: to ignore it or to address it head on. Since she had no desire for a fight, Cuddy was willing to accept Rachel’s explanation. At least for now… it disturbed her how often she had started to say that.
Cuddy didn’t doubt that House was the root of Rachel’s problems. Clearly he was. And eventually something would have to be done about that. Cuddy would have to find a way to fix the situation with her daughter, heal her somehow. Today though, the solution would remain elusive, and until there was a way to make everything better, the best thing to do was to not antagonize Rachel.
“Okay. What would you like to do?”
The question was probably not the best one for a two year old. There was a good chance the answer would be one Cuddy hated. She was relieved then when, after a moment’s contemplation, Rachel answered, “Read a story.”
“That’s a good idea. Let’s do that.”
They settled down together on the penthouse balcony. As Rachel found a comfortable position in Cuddy’s lap and carefully opened the book, Cuddy looked out at the scenery. It was a nice summer day, the kind made for curling up with your child in the middle of the warm afternoon. But even so, it seemed inevitable that Rachel would throw a tantrum and ruin the moment. That obviously wouldn’t be her fault, not after what she’d been subjected to recently.
Nevertheless, Cuddy braced herself for the impending storm.
Ninety minutes later, House had only made it through a few of the case files. Given that he'd usually left his charts for someone else to handle, he hadn't realized how empty some of them were. Well... he'd realized. He just hadn't cared to keep the paperwork in order if he could rely on one of his fellows or even Cuddy to help him out later. Now that it was his responsibility once more, it took him a while to make sure that everything looked okay before feeling comfortable enough in setting it aside. He had to double check online charts, carbon copies of his prescription pads, even call a few people – all of which was pretty easy to do if difficult to want to do. It was never far from his mind that he couldn't cast the work aside. He'd promised Cuddy that he would behave himself. Now that it was clear that Chase had new loyalties, House couldn't depend on him to lie for him.
House tried not to think about how it was another thing his actions had lost him. But it was hard not to do that when he was only looking through charts. Sure, there was the case, but that wasn't all that interesting either. No matter the outcome, their patient was slowly turning into a living skeleton. That was going to end in death and fairly soon based on the patient's age. Of course, there was something fascinating about that, but if there were no hope in truly fixing the patient, all this was was prolonging the inevitable.
But it wouldn't have mattered if there'd been a better case selection. House still would be sitting in the fellows' office with various charts strewn out in front of him. He'd still have an afternoon in the clinic to look forward to. He wasn't in charge, making the decisions that mattered. Thus far, his suggestions had been completely ignored, the option they were going for nothing more than "let's re-run the tests." He was a bystander and a witness to the least interesting choices possible.
In short, this was terrible. It was better than being in prison, but that hardly said much about what he was doing.
He kept working anyway.
An hour later, Foreman and Taub returned with a plastic trash bag in hand, and House was relieved for the distraction. House stood up awkwardly. He didn't want it to seem like he'd been waiting around for their return, although he had. Calling further attention to that truth was his leg. Cuddy had banished all toys and items of interest from his office, so he'd had no choice but to sit and work on his case. Without breaks, he hadn't had a chance to move around. His thigh muscles felt tight and achy, and he longed to take a Vicodin. But he wasn't sure if he should. Cuddy had said his access would be limited. Since she had no interest in showing him the slightest bit of kindness, he had to believe that his prescriptions would be restricted severely.
"What'd you find?" he asked out loud while internally assessing his pain level. It hurt, but maybe he could wait an hour before taking something. Perhaps he could go longer. What if he had to?
Foreman didn't say anything, so Taub offered, "We have to wait... for Chase."
"I do," Chase said as he entered the fellows' office from the hallway. "What did you find?"
"Vodka bottles," Foreman answered. "Lots of them."
Taub dropped the trash bag onto the ground and opened it up just enough for the rest of the team to see nearly a dozen Pinnacle whipped cream vodka bottles.
"Well, that's embarrassing, but it would explain the clubbed fingers," House said. "Cirrhosis of the liver would do that. Find anything moldy?"
Chase was visibly uncomfortable with House taking the lead, which House secretly enjoyed.
"No," Taub said after an awkward moment. "The place was clean."
This seemed to make Chase even more distressed, especially when he had to admit, "Maybe it really is cancer." House would have gloated at being right while the pretty boy was wrong. He would have pointed out that it didn't matter if Cuddy had put Chase in charge; there would always be a better leader for the team in the room. There wasn't an opportunity for it though, as Chase quickly handed over the PET and CT scans. House took them, preparing to look at them himself, but that wasn't what Chase wanted. "Take these to Wilson. See what he has to say."
House knew it was in his best interest to listen, but he paused in doing so. Part of him wanted to see his best friend... ex-best friend. He wanted the chance to explain or at least apologize. An even larger piece of him knew though that Wilson would be in no mood to forgive him. There was no explanation that would undo what had been done, not while Cuddy was still furious. He could appreciate that he had done something that warranted extended amounts of anger. He could. For that very reason though, he just wanted to move past it, to have gone through the uncomfortable fighting and gotten to the good part where all was forgiven.
There was no chance that would happen today. With that being the case, it seemed to House's benefit to ignore the problem altogether. If he could make it through a week or two of dealing with work and the way things had changed here, maybe he would then feel okay with adding his issues with Wilson to the mix.
He tried to get out of it. "Maybe –”
"You were the one who suggested it, House, so you can be the one to take it to him," Chase said without any sympathy.
House attempted to make a joke out of it. "Using the crippled guy to run your errands? That's harsh, even for you."
"Thirteen's gone. She's not coming back." Chase's voice was even, but the resentment for House was palpable.
"That's too bad." Now House sounded like the resentful one.
"She felt it was in her best interest to leave now before it reflected poorly on her probation, so –”
"Bummer," House said sarcastically. "Who are you going to flirt with now? Taub? You're running out of chicks on our team to seduce."
"No, I'm running out of patience actually. You've cost us a team member. We have to work around your inability to get along with our boss, so truly the least you can do is attempt to make up with the one staff member whose expertise we currently need."
"Pretty sure that's not going to happen."
"Then I’m pretty sure I'll have to go to Cuddy and tell her that this situation isn't working out. And who do you think she'll defend to the board about this?"
Foreman and Taub watched the exchange with distinct interest. House wasn't sure why they cared so much about it; it was clear already how this was going to end. Chase had an unbeatable argument. House could say whatever he wanted, but the truth was Chase would win every time now that he had Cuddy in his back pocket. Defeated House picked up his cane. "I don't know where I'm going."
"Ron Simpson's old office."
"B.R.B.," House said with a sneer.
He wished he'd taken the Vicodin the second he stepped out of the room. When Cuddy had laid out her plan for him initially, he'd understood then that it would suck. He wasn't used to having so many restrictions, and it was clear from the very beginning that he would rail against his restraints only to be forced to accept them. He'd comprehended it in theory anyway. In reality... it was worse than he could have imagined. It was harder. And the worst part about it was that he had no one else to blame but himself. Cuddy was doing what she felt was necessary to protect herself. Wilson and Chase were indignant for legitimate reasons; House had hurt people they cared about and in a way made their jobs harder for them.
It was all his fault.
No one else was responsible for this, something that would be far easier to accept if he were numbed with narcotics. He could hardly go back into the office now though. His back was to Chase and the rest of the team, but he could feel them watching him, to see what he would do. Ironically that just made House want to act up more. Their stares called forth his exhibitionism, but he had to ignore that urge.
He needed to earn back Cuddy’s trust, he reminded himself. In the very least, he needed to remind her that he could be a valued hospital asset when allowed some freedom. Having her friendship again was out of the question, but he could try to rebuild their professional relationship, couldn’t he? Probably not, he realized, but for his own sake, he knew that he needed to try.
The elevator ride seemed long and replete with recriminations for the way he had behaved the last time he saw Wilson. House hadn’t heard much about how Wilson was doing. Surely he’d hurt himself trying to dodge the car as it drove through Cuddy’s home. The memory of that moment was currently fuzzy, or maybe House just didn’t want to think about that day much. Had Wilson been bleeding when House walked away from Cuddy? Had he been grabbing at his wrist? Was he okay now?
House didn’t want to know the answer when he was standing in front of Wilson’s door. Unlike Ron Simpson’s incorrect nameplate, Wilson didn’t have his up yet. A piece of paper was taped to the door in its place. This was where House was supposed to be, but it was hardly where he wanted to be.
Nervously he raised his hand and knocked.
There was a brief moment of silence followed by the muffled sounds of Wilson, presumably, getting up from his desk and heading towards the door. House grimaced at the fight that was about to happen and swallowed hard. Bile caught in the back of his throat, and he gripped his cane tightly. As the door began to open, he braced himself for a punch to the face or Wilson’s hands shoving him away. This wasn’t going to end well….
Thankfully or perhaps unthankfully, Wilson didn’t hit him. When the door had opened enough for Wilson to see who it was, his eyes narrowed in disgust. That warm gaze that had once been so inviting only narrowed on House now. Wilson’s jaw tensed as he clenched down on his teeth. It was obviously all Wilson could do not to attack House or yell at him, and House believed that it was a kindness he didn’t deserve.
Wilson didn’t invite him in or show any indication that he would be receptive to that. House knew better than to try.
“What do you want?”
House’s mouth dried out at the question. His lips parted to say what he had come here for, but the need to apologize seemed more pressing than anything else. And that desire got tangled in the job he was supposed to be doing, leaving him unable to articulate anything.
“I don’t have time for this. So if you have something to say, please do or go away.”
It was the push House needed. “I have a patient I need you to look at.” He was disappointed in himself for talking about the case.
He was a coward.
And Wilson seemed to share his opinion.
“A patient.” He scoffed. “Of course.” House tried to hand him the files, but Wilson refused to take them. “You don’t have to play games, House. We both know there’s no patient.”
“You think I’m making this up?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. You just suddenly have a patient?”
“You’re an oncologist. Cancer isn’t exactly a rare –”
“Get inside,” Wilson snapped, abruptly opening his office door. House shifted on his feet but couldn’t find the courage to take that first step. “Look, I’m not going to fight in a hallway in front of patients. You want to have this conversation or not?”
He didn’t. But walking away would only make things worse between them. “Fine,” House said, brushing past Wilson. "But just so we're clear, I do have a patient who could use your advice. And if you don't believe me," House said, tossing the files onto Wilson's desk. "You can ask anyone on my team."
"I'll do that," Wilson challenged while he shut the door behind him.
With that bit of business settled as well as it could be, House was left with the other matter to discuss. However that was a topic that required care when broaching. It had been hard enough to talk about it with Cuddy, but in a way, it felt even more difficult with Wilson now. Of everyone involved, only Wilson had seemed to be under the notion that House wasn't really that bad. After their break up, Cuddy might have believed that deep down House was a decent person. But Wilson was the only person who had continued to see goodness in him in his post-break-up state. In spite of everything House had done to him in the past, Wilson had always been his champion, his pardoner.
His one true friend.
House didn't know how to apologize for proving that that belief was poorly founded.
Wilson looked like he didn't care how House did it, because it would never be enough for him. Yet Wilson asked demandingly, "Are you going to say something?"
House sighed. "I'm –”
"If you're getting ready to apologize, it's a waste of time, House."
"I was going to say, I'm trying to figure out what I want to say."
Wilson put his hands on his hips. "Well, ‘I'm sorry’ would be a good place to start, wouldn't it?"
"You just said –”
"You are an idiot. You could have killed her."
"You think I don't know that?"
"Oh, so you were trying to kill her."
"No," House said hurriedly. "Of course not."
"You say that as though it's self-evident, and I've got to tell you that it's not, and it wasn't."
"Obviously I wasn't thinking." The explanation was hardly sufficient.
"Well obviously. That makes it okay, I guess. Sure, you're a grown man in your fifties, but you weren't thinking about what happens when cars and homes collide. Who could have guessed what would occur? That makes total sense. All's forgiven. Let's have dinner tonight." Wilson wasn't rolling his eyes, but he might as well have been. The sarcasm was so obvious, so potent that it hurt. When he was like this, there was no getting through to him. Forgiveness wouldn't be allowed through the hard wall of self-righteous anger, and House didn't have the argument necessary to get through to Wilson. One probably didn't even exist.
Still House tried as best he could, uttering a lame, "I didn't say that it was okay."
"Yet here you are."
"Because... I don't want to lose you as my friend."
"That's already happened."
"It was an accident. If I could take it back, I would. I was –”
"Do you think I care about that?" Wilson asked with a smile twisted in cruelty. "Do you honestly believe that anyone who has been around you and had their life completely ruined cares that you never mean to do what you do? Do you think that when you killed Amber, I just thought –”
"Don't go there," House implored, not for his own sake but Wilson's. House had never believed that he’d fully received Wilson’s forgiveness. Wilson had stopped being angry with him; they’d become friends once more, but House had thought, and could see it to be true now, that that had more to do with Wilson’s need to move on. Wilson couldn’t actively hate House without it taking a personal toll on himself. Reconciliation had had more to do with Wilson’s own health than a desire to have House in his life again.
Habit had taken them the rest of the way back to normal. Things had turned out okay. House’s mental breakdown had elicited enough of Wilson’s pity to push back any lingering resentment. Everything went back to the way it was before. And now House had ruined it.
“We are there!” Wilson bitterly pointed at him. “You could have killed Cuddy.”
The guilt was too much, and House pushed back, “Oh I get it. This is a sisters before misters sort of thing, yeah?”
“Sure. Go ahead. Make a joke out of it, because this is just so funny to you, isn’t it?”
House shook his head emphatically. “No. Wilson, no, I don’t.”
“Well, I don’t believe you.”
“Please. I –”
“I don’t see what the point of this is,” Wilson interrupted flatly. “Anything you say is a lie in my eyes right now. Until I see even a shred of remorse from you, there’s no point in talking. We shouldn’t even try.”
“I’m done, House. I know I’ve said that a thousand times before, but this time, I mean it.”
With that, Wilson reached behind him and wrenched open his office door. Again, House hesitated to leave.
“Just let me explain,” House pleaded.
“I don’t want to hear it.”
“But I –”
“Get out before I call security.” Wilson pretended to contemplate the matter. “I wonder what Cuddy would say if I had to do that….”
Once again, House had no choice but to do as he was told.
She carefully plucked Rachel out of her car seat. Having skipped her naptime, the little girl had fallen within seconds of being in car. Cuddy wasn’t going to wake her up prematurely by foolishly yanking her out of the vehicle. There was a brief moment of distress when Cuddy closed the door behind her; Rachel began to stir, and Cuddy had to rub her back softly to coax her back into a peaceful slumber. Thankfully, she was early to the inspection, so no one had to witness the potential disaster.
The second Dana and the inspector got there, Cuddy half-warned them, “Wake her, and I’m not taking the house.”
Dana smiled. “Don’t worry about that. We’ll be as quick and quiet as mice.”
They did their very best to keep to their word. As they went room to room, the inspector practically whispered the few things he noticed. The seal on a window in the living room was broken. An outlet in the kitchen didn’t work. The windows weren’t energy efficient, which would up her gas bill in the wintertime and electricity during the summer. A few of the shingles could benefit from being replaced.
Before Dana could even ask what she thought, Cuddy decided that there was nothing wrong with the home itself that should prevent her from purchasing it. Indecision seemed to grab hold of her anyway, made her think that it just wasn’t fair to make her do this.
She should have been in her home.
Rachel should have been happy, without anything troubling her.
Their lives were supposed to be different. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
An inkling of self-pity dawned on her before she forced herself to focus on the issue at hand. Her home was gone. That life was gone. What she needed now was a new place to raise her daughter. Whether she wanted it or not, Cuddy felt self-discipline grab hold of her. Unemotionally, she surveyed the home while standing in the kitchen.
Could she imagine Hanukkah here? Rachel running through this very kitchen every morning? Would there be tea parties in the backyard and dinner parties in the formal dining room? Could they be happy in this place?
Cuddy was skeptical.
Then she realized that there was no reason why House ever had to know that this beautiful home was hers. She would never let him see the address, and they could be safe, away from him.
She smiled slightly at the thought, and Dana instantly understood what that meant.
“Let’s finalize this, shall we?” she proposed.
Cuddy honestly meant it when she agreed.
To be continued