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by Tpel1



--- Tuesday morning ---


“Stop bleeding into the donuts.”


Wilson looked across table in the lounge to where House’s voice had floated up from behind a magazine.  Then he glanced down at his own hand, poised over the box of donuts, and noticed that it was, indeed, bleeding again.  No blood was dripping, but little crimson droplets had appeared along the three long slash lines on the back of his hand.


“Shit,” Wilson mumbled, annoyed.  He got an antiseptic pad and dabbed at the wound, decrying under his breath the myth that cats were domesticated animals.


House finally lowered his magazine and said, “You don’t have a cat.”


“It’s Cuddy’s cat,” Wilson explained.


House raised his eyebrows quizzically.  “You’ve been messing around with Cuddy’s kitty?”  He made it sound like innuendo.  Well, sort of.


“It’s not even her cat.  It’s her brother’s, or his wife’s, or something.  Their kid’s allergic, so they dumped it on her.  And she’s at that conference in Michigan this week, so . . .”


House mocked, “So, you’re cat-sitting?”


“Well, she asked me, and I . . . I know, I know, I’m such a . . .”


“Sap.” House finished for him.


“It wouldn’t be so bad if she wasn’t such an unpleasant little beast . . .”


“Are we talking about Cuddy or the cat?”


“She hisses at everyone and if you come near her she scratches you.  I had to give her a pill this morning and I’m lucky to have come out of the experience with all appendages attached.”  Deciding that he’d given his snickering friend enough entertainment, Wilson changed the subject: “Aren’t you supposed to be in the clinic this morning?”


“According to the desk clerk, that’s exactly where I am,” said House, “Remind me to go down there in a couple of hours to clock out.”  At Wilson’s slightly reproachful expression, he added, “Hey, when the cat’s away . . .”


--- Friday evening ---


“I’m not here.  Leave a message.” BEEEEP. 


Wilson: “I know you’re there.  I need a favor.  Please pick up the phone.”


“What do you want?” House answered gruffly.


“I’m in the car.  I have to go to this thing with Julie, and . . .”


“What kind of a ‘thing’?”


“A ‘Marriage Experience’ weekend,” Wilson explained in a pained tone, “It’s in Philly.”  Over an annoyed female voice in the background, he continued, “Apparently I agreed to it weeks ago.”


“You have my condolences,” House said.  Wilson could almost hear him smirking.


“The problem is, I still have Cuddy’s cat . . .”


“Uh uh.  Forget it.”


“She’ll be back on Sunday.  It’ll just be for a couple of days.”


“No way.  It’s a cat, not an infant.  Leave it food and water.  It’ll survive.”


“Have I mentioned that it’s Cuddy’s cat?  C’mon – you guys can ignore each other for 48 hours.  Please?”


“I can ignore it better if it’s at your house and I’m at mine.”


Raising his voice above the sound of angry feline yowling, Wilson announced, “I’m pulling up in front of your building now . . .”


--- Two weeks later ---


Dr. House entered Dr. Cuddy’s office and leaned against the door frame, his posture conveying boredom and insolence. 


Cuddy looked up from her desk and beamed, “You’re here.  It’s time for our monthly meeting, and you’re actually here.  Without me tracking you down and threatening your privileges!”


House scowled.


Getting up and walking around to the front of her desk, Cuddy continued with exaggerated enthusiasm, “Could it be that you’re developing a sense of responsibility?  A work ethic, even?  Could it . . .”


House interjected, “Could it be that you still haven’t come to get your furry free-loader?”


“Oh, right.  How is little Ira doing?  I bet she was surprised to learn that there’s a human being that’s every bit as ill-tempered as she is.”


“So, you’re saying you WANT me to leave her in your office at night without a litter box?”


“My office is locked . . .”


“Not a problem.” 


“. . . and good luck getting her into the carrying case to bring her here.”


House rubbed his fingers against his chin contemplatively, musing aloud, “I wonder how much Vicodin it would take to knock out a cat . . .”


--- Several days later ---


Dr. Cuddy pulled into a parking space near Dr. House’s address.  With a sigh, she turned off the motor.  It was time to get the cat.  She’d had her fun messing with House by procrastinating about retrieving it – a bit of well-deserved revenge for a multitude of sins!  But, given House’s penchant for outrageously juvenile behavior, it would be wise to end the game before he retaliated.  Besides, certain members of her family were giving her grief about leaving their pet with a man whom she had previously described as amoral and irresponsible.


Naturally, her cantankerous colleague had insisted on an inconvenient time for the pick-up.  By shifting around some appointments and canceling tennis practice, she’d managed to clear a couple of hours before her evening meeting.  Unfortunately, it could take that long to catch the damn cat.  House wouldn’t be mobile enough to help much in this task, and, anyway, he probably preferred to watch . . . and laugh.


Walking up to the building, Cuddy amused herself by imagining House and Ira sitting on opposite sides of the living room, glaring at each other.  Of course, she didn’t really know what the living room looked like, since she’d never seen the inside of House’s apartment.  She recalled Dr. Wilson describing it as “not as slovenly as one would expect, given the way the occupant dresses.”


Before she could ring the bell, she saw the note – yellow paper, folded in half, taped to the door.  With some trepidation, she unfolded it and read:


“Dear Dr. Cuddy,


So sorry to have missed you.  Ira says to tell you that she’s not ready to go home with you just yet.  She watched “Elimidate” last night and can’t deal with any more cattiness right now.  Maybe next week.


-- G.H.”


“Arrogant prick!  He blew me off!” Cuddy fumed.  In retrospect, she should have seen this coming a mile away.  House lived to annoy.  Of course he would take the opportunity to make her life difficult, even if it meant inconveniencing himself by having to keep the cat longer. 


She banged on the door to no avail, then briefly considered calling Dr. Wilson to see if House was there – it’s not like House had any other friends he could be visiting.  But time was short, and, anyway, House had already won this round.  She left, plotting her next move.


--- Very late that night ---


Greg House sat at the piano, coaxing a melancholy tune from the keys.  His head was tilted downward, eyes focused on nothing.  Although the music he created wasn’t loud, it formed a soft impenetrable curtain around his mind, letting his thoughts run free within.


The piece came to an end.  Fingers still on the keys, he listened as the last notes died out, gradually dissolving into silence.  But not silence.  A low rumbling whisper, audible now that the music had stopped, was coming from on top of the piano.


House looked to the source of the sound and reached up, the tips of his fingers hovering just above the head of a purring cat curled up on a towel.  With luxurious nonchalance, the cat raised her head to meet his hand.  As he lightly stroked her gray fur, one corner of his mouth quirked upward.


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