House hobbled through the doors of the hospital, eyeing the hall carefully for any sign of the hospital administrator. If he could make it to his office, he would be safe for at least an hour. It took Dr. Cuddy that long to work her way to his end of the hall.
People were always stopping her in midstream with questions and demands. This
first fifty yards were his personal, daily gauntlet. He drove himself across
the perfectly polished floor, burst through the office door, and flung himself into the desk chair. Victory! Some mental neuron taunted him with the thought that
his standards of victory had fallen woefully, but he silenced it with the quick gulp of a friendly Vicodin.
He frowned slightly when he realized he’d needed one earlier today than normal.
The idea was unnerving, but the release from pain was almost immediate. He
made a note to himself to get his leg checked that week. Then he reached for
the few patient files left on his desk by one of the nurses and went to work – his way.
One hour later, Dr. Cuddy found him playing happily on his GameBoy. House
kept his eyes on the tiny screen, intent on blowing up the next sub before she could stop him.
“Dr. House.” He loved the way she insisted on addressing him
by his title, when he knew there were many other names she wanted to call him. He
could often gauge how much trouble he was in by how formally she spoke to him. “Dr.
House, I need to speak to you…now.” The firmness of her tone let
him know this was serious, so he paused the game and looked up.
He was not prepared
for the look on her face. Usually it was an interesting mixture of frustration
and annoyance, tinged with what he was sure was an unwilling dollop of admiration. Despite
her tone this morning, her face conveyed something totally alien from her – compassion.
Her face was set, but her eyes were soft. House was immediately on guard. Compassion from Dr. Cuddy could mean serious trouble.
She could be trying to lull him into a false sense of security before lowering some horrid fate upon his work day. Or it could be genuine. He could be dying
and not know it. He shook off that last thought.
Of course he’d know if he were dying. He remembered the extra Vicodin
pills but knew it more likely Dr. Cuddy had something terrible in mind for him.
What was the last thing
he’d done? Skipped clinic hours?
Maybe, but she must be used to that by now. Insulted a patient? No, he’d tried hard not to see patients yesterday, and he’d seen none this morning. Perhaps she’d heard he was spending too much time in the waiting room watching hospital dramas. Whatever it was, it must’ve been bad.
Now she was actually smiling at him – well, sort of smiling, but definitely not smirking.
His distrust showed
plainly in his face, and Dr. Cuddy straightened her stance and her expression. She
strove for a more professional demeanor.
“I need to speak
to you about a situation that has been brought to my attention. In the past two
months, your consumption of Vicodin has almost doubled. Is there a change in
the condition of your leg that I need to know about?”
He burned briefly over
her question. Was someone spying on him?
Was there something in his performance they thought lacking? He knew he
routinely stepped on his team’s toes, but usually if they had a problem, they came to him directly. Who had taken this to Cuddy? He forced his voice past a suddenly
tight throat. “No, there is no change in my condition. I am still in almost constant pain, thank you for asking. And
make sure to thank whichever staff you have playing mole that I appreciate their concern.
Better yet, tell me who it is, and I’ll give them my thanks in person.”
She tried not to smile
at that, but this was too important to laugh at. “I know you have had a
valid reason to take this medication, but an increase in dose with no change in your condition is a danger signal I cannot
“A danger signal
of what?” He wasn’t joking anymore.
She pressed her lips
into a thin line, not enjoying this as she’d often fantasized of doing. “Of
addiction. I think there is a possibility that you are becoming addicted to the
Vicodin.” She waited a moment, watching his face. “You’ve thought of this as well, haven’t you,” she accused, reading his expression.
He sighed and looked
down. When he raised his head, he spoke clearly and carefully. “I’ve thought about it, yes. Anyone who takes
this stuff should. But I don’t believe there are any other ‘signals.’ My work has not suffered…”
choose to work,” she couldn’t help interposing.
“Have there been
any complaints about my work? I mean, other than the usual complaints from patients
who are upset because I don’t believe their lies or from colleagues who are tired of me showing them up? Any real, substantiated complaint?”
She had to admit there
“Then I fail
to see why this very awkward interview was necessary other than to satisfy some dark sadistic side of your character that
you keep barely in check. I hope you enjoyed it.” His tone was needling and silky, his expression smug.
Dr. Cuddy squared her
shoulders and faced the lion, wounded and scraggly though he was. “I have
to take this seriously. This could be the first sign of addiction. It’s best to face this now before the hold it has over you becomes stronger. I want you to stop taking the Vicodin…now. I’ll
prescribe you a milder painkiller that should get you through.”
House narrowed his
eyes at her. “Are you ordering me?”
He saw her shift uncomfortably. “You can’t, can you? No one’s complained. There are
no visible problems with my performance. You have nothing to justify ordering
me.” He was smiling wickedly.
Dr. Cuddy played what
she thought was her last card. “I’ll let you out of clinic duty.” Her voice was low, so he had to ask her to repeat it.
“I said I’ll let you out of clinic duty. No more runny nosed
children, no more boring sprained ankles, no more coughs and colds. You get off
the Vicodin and stay off for one week, and I’ll cancel your clinic assignment.”
“For how long?” She had his attention now.
got to be kidding.”
“I could get
that cashing in my sick leave.”
“Two months! I can’t do that. This is a hospital,
you know. We hired you to see patients!”
“You hired me
because I’m brilliant and because my name brings in donations. Two months…or
maybe we could make a deal.”
“What kind of
“It occurs to
me that you could substitute some other distasteful task in the place of clinic duty.
It would be just like you, mean and sneaky. So, how about this. One month, no clinic duty plus for that same period of time, I get to be the boss.”
“What do you
“I mean, for
one month, I tell you what I’m going to do. It wouldn’t interfere
with any of the other staff, just when it’s you and me. That way, you can’t
have me emptying bedpans or something equally humiliating to my position. Between
you and me, I’m the boss.”
She thought hard, looking
desperately for an alternate idea. She just didn’t trust him. “You’ll still work your caseload? You won’t
pull anything in front of the staff? If you did that, all bets are off.”
He couldn’t believe
she was even considering this, but he wasn’t going to let up until he had as much as he could. “I am enough of a professional not to endanger the running of this hospital just to make you look
bad. I might do it to get out of uninteresting work, but I wouldn’t do it for this.
All communications about work will be confidential. I’m just trying to watch my back. Personally I think
you’re way off base with this, but if it’ll get me out the clinic for a month, I’m willing to try it. Are you?”
She took a breath,
certain this was a bad idea, but she was desperate. She believed he had a problem,
and she couldn’t afford for it to get worse. The hospital couldn’t
afford it. Besides, when had he ever really done the work she gave him unless
it suited him? She held out her hand. “I’m
He stood and
clasped her hand with his long rough fingers, and she felt a shiver run up her spine.
He smiled down at her, his blue eyes piercing, his expression cunning.
“Well, let the
games begin.” He pulled a familiar small bottle out of his pocket and handed it to her.
“The last of my latest prescription. It’s all yours.”
She nodded, took the
bottle and said. “I’ll get you a prescription of something milder
within the hour. Until then, I believe you have clinic duty in fifteen minutes.”
“Just for the
next week. You’d better start rearranging that schedule.”
She turned and walked
out. Thirty minutes later, an orderly delivered a small bottle of little yellow
pills to the clinic examination room. House took a deep breath and pocketed the
In two hours,
House was a bundle of nerves. The Vicodin from that morning had worn off too
soon. He pulled out the little yellow pills and popped one. He waited, knowing it would take longer for the pain to fade. He
concentrated on getting to the doctors’ lounge and getting lunch. While
he went through the motions of preparing his food, he couldn’t help consider that maybe there was a problem. The Vicodin should have lasted longer. He felt a chill through
his body. If this was true, he was in for a worse ride than he’d thought.
The next morning
he came in determined to walk calmly through the halls. He’d gotten almost
no sleep the night before. The pain was intense, or at least he thought it was. He had to admit, it was hard to know what was pain and what was withdrawal. It killed him to think Dr. Cuddy might have been right. He
really wanted a Vicodin right now. His mind raced, wondering how he might be
able to get one without her finding out. He was halfway to his office when she
stepped into the hall. He knew she’d been waiting for him. He could see it in her eyes. That knowledge stiffened his
resolve. He’d show her. He’d
do it. Getting out of the clinic was great, but rubbing her face in it would
be the best reward.
He nodded to her but
didn’t stop to talk. She kept her expression neutral until he passed, then
allowed herself a small grin followed by a slightly worried frown. He really
did look bad. She debated which doctor to call upon to keep an eye on House and
decided on Chase. Foreman might lord it over House, even if he didn’t mean
to. Cameron would give him too much sympathy and that would irritate House. Normally that would be a bonus, but she didn’t want to jeopardize his detox. Chase would handle it discretely.
the wrath of House that day. He tried hard to hide his ill temper, but patients
who usually rubbed him the wrong way positively grated on his nerves. One woman
wanted a pill to help her lose weight. A young boy had a yellow hue to his skin. His mother thought he had an allergic reaction to something. House decided he’d been coloring his skin with a permanent marker to get out of school. It was like the whole world was out to make his life difficult today.
The last straw was when he noticed Chase looking at him out of the corner of his eye even when House was acting fairly
He strode into Cuddy’s
office as fast as his limp would allow, pulled the phone from her hand and slammed it down with as much force as he dared. When she began to protest, he said, “Tell them the trouble must be on their
end.” He sat down in the chair opposite and leaned forward. “I don’t appreciate having our little experiment broadcast to the entire hospital. If you thought I needed a babysitter, you should come down the hall and do the job yourself.” He was making a joke, but inside he was seething.
Dr. Cuddy took
a deep breath. She should have known he’d pick up on it. “I didn’t tell Chase about our agreement. I simply
told him you were under a lot of stress and asked him to keep an eye on you.”
Exasperated as she was by this man, she felt the need to reassure him. “I
would never breech a confidence like that. I’m just trying to do what I
think is best.” She couldn’t help the tinge of hurt in her voice. This was almost as difficult for her as it was for him. She was risking the hospital’s reputation every time she allowed him through the front doors. He never appreciated that fact. He had
no idea how many times she’d run interference for him from patient complaints and senior board members who heard about
one of his stunts.
Part of her itched
to tell him these things, to see him struck with remorse, to see him struggle to give her the thanks she knew was her due. Of course, he was just as likely to tell her it was her job and stop sniveling. Right now, though, knowing what he was going to be going through for the next week,
she kept silent. He would simply have to trust her, and if that wasn’t
good enough, well, he could go stuff himself.
House studied her face,
and something there told him it was time for a strategic withdrawal. Not exactly
running away, since he couldn’t do that gracefully anyway. The anger in
him ebbed just enough for him to see the humor in the situation. He grinned sardonically. “Alright. Enjoy yourself. You’ve got six days. Then it’s
my turn. Maybe then I will call you in to baby sit me anyway.” He looked her over. “I don’t think I ever truly
appreciated the experience before.” He rose, pivoted painfully, and limped
out the door.
Cuddy sat back in her
chair. She felt exhausted, as if she’d run a mile, but she was tingling
inside. Curse the man for his blue eyes and his sharp tongue. And curse him for not meaning half of what he said.
At seven o’clock
that evening, House was back in front of Cuddy’s office. He was trying
to decide whether to go in when she came out holding a bag, obviously done for the day.
She took one look at him and dragged him inside. He sat down heavily in
the chair. The hand not gripping his cane shook slightly. His face was grim and set. Cuddy perched on the edge of her
“Do you want
me to get you some Vicodin?” Her voice was deliberately non-expressive.
“No.” The word was spat out. “I’m
going to do this…but I don’t think I can make it home safely. I shouldn’t
be driving, and I’m not sure I could navigate the bus system right now.”
He wouldn’t look at her, and she knew this was killing him.
you home, and I’ll come get you in the morning. Are you ready?”
House nodded and finally
looked up. “Thank you.” Cuddy
nodded once and gathered her things. They walked together to the parking garage
without speaking. Traffic was light, but Cuddy tried to concentrate on the road
not the man sitting next to her. He’d folded his tall frame into her small
car and seemed to fill all the extra space.
“Is there anything
you need? I can stop if you need to pick anything up.”
She drove expertly
to his apartment building, parking in his space. She unbuckled and followed him
to the elevator.
need to be walked to my door. It was a lovely date, but my parents don’t
let me have girls up at this time of night.”
a girl. I’m a doctor. I’m
going to see you safely to your apartment and make sure you’re settled.”
“What if I don’t
want you to?” He glared at her.
She glared back. “What are you going to do to stop me?
Beat me with you cane?”
“You really should
work on your people skills. It’s politically incorrect to pick on the handicapped.”
politically incorrect to say handicapped. Now let’s go.” She pulled him into the elevator as it opened.
As they waited for
it to rise to his floor, he couldn’t help getting in the last word. “You
may be a doctor, but you’re still a girl. I could take you if I really
wanted to.” The sentence hung in the air making the elevator seem suddenly
too small and too warm.
At his apartment door, Cuddy didn’t even pretend that she was going to leave him in peace. His limp had become more pronounced during the walk from the elevator, and she knew she couldn’t
just leave without trying to help. The pills she’d sent to him would take
care of most of the pain, but they would do nothing for the withdrawal. For that,
he needed another human being. He settled in a recliner and stared as she entered
his kitchen and began rattling pots. He could hear her moving about, opening
cabinets and drawers. The edges of his nerves started to fray. His leg pained him, but his head throbbed.
“If you’re taking orders, I’ll have a rib eye, medium rare, baked potato and a Caesar’s salad. If you can’t find everything you need, you could leave and go buy it.”
She popped her head out, enjoying his irritation. “I’m making
you an omelet. Protein will do you good.
For now, however, here’s a cup of chamomile tea. Very relaxing.” She handed him a cup. “Do you need
any sugar or milk?”
“No. Nor do I need lady fingers or cucumber sandwiches. And I really
don’t need a busybody woman in my home! Unless, of course, you’re
trying to impress me with your domestic skills. I’m sorry to tell you,
I’m not in the market for a wife, but if an opening for maid comes up, I’ll let you know. Would you be willing to wear a short black skirt with a frilly apron?
Because that will weigh heavily on the application.” He eyed her
figure and grinned. She seriously considered pouring the hot tea into his lap.
As she so often was forced to do when dealing with Gregory House, she counted to five and breathed slowly. “When you’ve finished dinner, I’m going to massage your leg. I suggest to alleviate the withdrawal, you choose a movie or a book that will absorb your attention for
the rest of the evening.”
“Thank you, Miss Nightingale…”
“That’s Dr. Nightingale.”
“Thank you for those pearls of wisdom. Tell me, how many patients
with withdrawal have you actually had? Is all this sage advice from the font
of medical wisdom, or did you happen to read an article in Readers’ Digest?”
“I had a sweet little old aunt who became addicted to pain killers after hip replacement surgery. Her addiction was not serious enough to merit hospitalization, but these are some of the things we did
to help. I believe yours is a mild addiction as well, and given your phenomenal
ego and stubborn nature, I think this may prove sufficient to break it. You could
at least try.” She returned to the kitchen.
House sat in his chair brooding, sipping the tea, thinking. The pain flowed
in again. He reached for his pill bottle…then stopped. He’d wait. He put it back in his pocket and stared at
Cuddy set the small corner table, and they sat opposite each other to eat. House
had to admit the omelet was delicious, just what he needed. He found himself
focusing on the woman across from him. It made the pain easier to bear. He grinned.
“I’ve been rethinking your application.”
“So have I.”
“If I’d known you could cook like this, I’d have offered you the job of housekeeper long ago. I’ll even forego the frilly apron. I’m
sticking to the short black skirt though. You have to maintain some standards.”
“Can I have every other Tuesday off and medical benefits.”
“I’m reserving judgment until I see how good you are at massage.”
She looked him straight in the eye. “I’m very good.”
His eyebrow went up. “Well, then, we may even include a dental plan.” He decided to try another tack. “I
did some thinking while you were busy proving your culinary skills. I was very
He waved his hand. “Not about our little bet. I’ve come to realize you may be on to something. But
I thought one of my esteemed colleagues was running to you with tales. A spy.” He held her gaze. “But now I think
I know who’s been watching me so carefully. It was you, wasn’t it?” He seemed to be suggesting all kinds of things with his tone. He settled back in his chair a bit. “Now, why, I ask
myself, would the chief administrator to a huge hospital be watching one doctor so closely that she would notice a growing
addiction to pain killers before any of his fellow doctors?” He smiled
wickedly and let the question hang in the air.
“I think the withdrawal has crashed head long into your ego. It’s
my job to watch for trouble areas, and having one of our top doctors sent to rehab would have been a pain in the butt. Not that you’re not already a pain in the butt.
This would just have been more public. Now finish your omelet. I, for one, have to at the hospital on time tomorrow.”
“You didn’t answer my question. Was one of the other doctors
reporting on me behind my back or was it you that noticed I was taking more pills
than before?” He folded his arms across his chest, obviously willing to
wait her out.
took another bite, looking at her plate. “I noticed.” She raised her head. “The bothersome little boys always
require looking after. I get more trouble from you, therefore I expect more trouble
from you, therefore I’m always on the lookout for trouble from you.”
“Alright, if that’s the way you want to play it, I’ll go along.” He shoved his plate away. “Well, I’m done. I think I’m ready for that massage you promised me. Should I take off all my clothes or just my pants?”
“How does a charmer like you stay unattached? It can’t be
that you outrun your hordes of female admirers. Are you, perhaps, a master of
disguise? Do you leave home every morning in a false mustache and raincoat? Warn me if you ever come to work dressed as yourself.
I’ll alert security to have the tear gas and riot control gear ready. In
the meantime, do you own a bathrobe?”
She cleared the plates while he changed. Her hands shook slightly. Gregory House had a way of unsettling her. It
was irritating to feel so mad and so alive at the same time. Still, she knew that their verbal sparring was keeping his focus away from the drugs and the pain, so she’d
stick with what worked. She needed him clear headed at the hospital. The hospital was her baby, and she took care of it. Yeah,
keep thinking that, she told herself.
“I’m ready if you haven’t changed your mind.” House
came out of the bedroom. “Hmm, you are efficient. Sure you wouldn’t like to apply for that housekeeping position?”
“I don’t think you could afford what I would consider benefits.”
She convinced him to take one small pill before they began. He led her
back into the bedroom.
“How do you want me? I’m yours to command.”
She ignored his tone and said, “Lay down on your back. I’ll
work the thigh first, then the calf.” She tried to ignore everything about
his bedroom, but the bed would not be ignored. It was huge. When he hobbled around on his cane, it was easy to forget how tall he was.
She only noticed when he loomed over her, something he did deliberately.
He settled himself on his back and watched her through half closed eyes. There
was plenty of room on the bed for her to kneel next to his legs and be in no danger of falling off. “You know I have had several rounds of physical therapy. Aren’t
you concerned you’ll rate poorly compared with professionals?”
She began gently kneading the muscles of his uninjured thigh. He’d
need all the muscles massaged to relax him completely. “I know you have
skipped your physical therapy for the last two months which may have led to an increase in your Vicodin usage. And no, I’m not concerned.” She looked him in
the eye. “I am a professional. Believe it or not, I used to do this for a living.
It’s how I put myself through medical school, and I’ve kept up my certification.”
“Wow, all these years…oww!”
“I’m sorry. Did that hurt?”
“I would sue you for malpractice, but the thought of Dr. Lisa Cuddy as a masseuse is just too delicious.” The strained ache in his leg was beginning to fade, and he tried to breathe evenly. She moved to the atrophied muscle and started gently maneuvering the thigh.
parlor did you work for? Umph!”
She was digging in a little harder now, feeling her way through the tight muscles in his leg. “I worked at the university gym and for a health spa. Now,
I just moonlight occasionally for my doctors who are too stupid to keep up with their therapy schedules. Aren’t I lucky to have you on staff to help keep me in practice?”
“How many other of ‘your’ doctors have you given a massage?”
The tone of his voice had her lifting her eyes to his face. What was he
doing? His face was set from the pain in his leg, but he seemed determined to
hold her gaze until she gave him an answer.
“I gave Dr. Washington back rubs last year.”
“During her pregnancy?”
“Yes. And when Dr. Mitchell strained her lower back, I gave her
a massage in the middle of her shifts to help her finish her rounds.” She
returned to the stiff muscles, pushing, kneading, stroking.
“Any of the male members of the staff benefit from your expertise?”
She concentrated of the inside of his thigh. “No.”
“Then I’m your
first…mmm.” He shifted uncomfortably.
“Perhaps we should move to the calf muscles.”
“I’m not quite done. Just a min…” He reached out and grabbed her hand.
“I think it would be better if I rolled over.” Involuntarily,
her eyes drifted up to the front of his bathrobe. He really should get one of
the fluffier terry robes – much more concealing.
Blushing fiercely, she nodded. “Yes, I think that would be wise.” He rolled over, and she was grateful for the chance to compose herself. She shook her head slightly to clear it. She was a doctor. She’d given men massages before and knew this was a normal physiological response
under certain circumstances. But this was different.
House didn’t know whether to be thankful or not. It was a bit embarrassing,
but they were both adults and medical professionals, accustomed to the vagaries of the human body. What bothered him most was that it was this woman. He hadn’t felt any real desire for sex since his leg had gone bad.
Depression, anger, constant pain and medication had kept him preoccupied. People
in general were a source of irritation, this woman in particular. While he would
like to enjoy her discomfort, it was damned uncomfortable laying on his stomach in this condition. It was a good thing he had such a soft mattress or he’d be doing serious damage to himself.
He let his mind drift, feeling her hands on his calf muscles. She really
was good at this. His head still hurt but in a far distant way. All the nerves in his body seemed to center on his calf muscles.
He could feel her fingers and palms. She eventually moved to his feet,
and he thought his head would come off. Who knew feet could be an erogenous zone? Now he ached for a different reason. While
the rest of his body melted into a puddle, his erection grew and pressed insistently into the bed. He couldn’t help the moan that escaped his lips.
Cuddy heard him groan and smiled to herself. She was feeling a little
more in control of herself and the situation. She knew the massage was helping. She felt the tense muscles relax, saw his back sink further into the mattress as the
pain decreased. His shoulders softened.
She couldn’t help the rush of satisfaction that she was able to affect this man.
She finished with a quick massage of his back, neck and scalp. House thought
he was going to come in the sheets just from the incredible relief from the pain. She
stopped just before he disgraced himself, and he didn’t know whether to be glad or yell in frustration.
House buried his face in the pillow for a moment, but the blood refused to rush to his face. He heaved a sigh of resignation and turned over. She was conspicuously
busy straightening her blouse and skirt. He pulled his robe to and tightened
the belt. All desire to tease her was gone.
All he wanted to do was pull her back down on the bed and sink into her, to lose himself in the feel of her tight body,
to spill into her and hear her cry out. The robe really wasn’t much help,
but as she made certain not to look at him below the waist, maybe they could make it through the next couple of minutes.
“I’ll come pick you up in the morning. If you need anything,
call me and I’ll bring it with me.”
“Thank you. I...mm…it really helped the pain and all. I don’t think I’ll need anything, nothing you would…well, anyway,
thank you.” He saw her eyes dart to his lap, and the erection which had
waned with embarrassment, suddenly leapt back to full attention. She saw the
movement and gaped for just a second. House pulled a pillow over his lap. “Don’t worry. It’s
not going to attack you. I’ve had one of these before without resorting
to rape. I would have thought a woman of your
years would be able to handle this kind of awkwardness with a little more grace.”
“I’m just surprised a man of your years would still find himself
in this situation. I’m simply making note of an interesting physiological
He stood. “I suggest you make your way to the door before I have
you do more than make a note of it.”
“I thought you said you didn’t have to resort to force.”
“Would it be force?” His mocking smile was there on his face,
his voice softly insinuating. Things were back to normal. She didn’t answer but gathered her things and left.
Day Three. Cuddy came to pick up House at 7:45 the next morning. If she noticed that his eyes were clear and his face relaxed, she was wise enough
not to mention it. He greeted her with little more than ‘Good morning,’
but she saw that he leaned less on his cane as they walked to the elevator. The
ride to the hospital she covered with the radio. No sense straining a promising
Wilson greeted him as he came through the doors. “Greg, you look
great! Five years younger, well, maybe two.
Whatever you’re doing, keep it up.” He thumped House on the
shoulder and moved on. House glanced over at Dr. Cuddy, but she was studiously
looking through some files an assistant had greeted her with. When he turned
to go to his office, she glanced up through her eyelashes and allowed herself a grin.
Two more people told him how great he looked before he made it. By then,
the scowl was firmly back in place, and he was deliberately limping harder. Self
defense, he told himself. Who could concentrate with all the chattering going
on. Couldn’t a grown man get a good night’s sleep without everyone
commenting on it?
An orderly dropped off his daily caseload, and he got down to business. Two
hours later he was fighting the shakes. His vision blurred. The little pills helped him get through lunch, but by two o’clock, he was feeling nauseous. He made it to the bathroom and was able to hold off the nausea with cold cloths. When he got back to his office, Cuddy was there.
He scowled impressively at her.
“Did Chase come running?”
She stepped aside and he saw a cup and saucer on his desk. “I brought
you tea.” She walked to the window and closed the blinds halfway. Then she turned on his radio, finding it tuned to his favorite soft jazz station. “Sit down.” He obeyed without
really thinking about it or talking back. That made her brow furrow with worry. He leaned his cane against the desk and picked up the cup. It wobbled slightly, but he got it to his lips without spilling.
She stood behind his chair and gently rubbed his shoulders and neck. The
muscles were tense and knotted in places. She smoothed his scalp and forehead
until she felt his head drop slightly. Then, she sat down on the corner of his
desk. When he finished the tea and put down the cup, she reached for his hand.
He pulled back and mumbled, “I hardly know you.” She smiled
and reached out again. She began kneading the muscles and fine bones. She could feel the strain from his putting his weight on the cane.
He winced at first. She moved up his arm.
He drew a deep breath and let it out. She went on to his other hand, and
he started to relax. She stepped out of her shoes, knelt in front of him and
ran her hands over the dead thigh muscle, working gently at first, building pressure.
House groaned and opening one eye said, “I think I’ve had this dream before, but you’re usually Michelle
“That’s okay. I’ve had this dream, too, and you’re
usually Mel Gibson.” She kneaded harder on the muscles, feeling the tension
easing under her hands. She worked down his leg to the calf, then took off his
shoe and massaged his foot. House shifted uncomfortably but allowed Cuddy to
finish. He did fold his hands in his lap, wondering if part of his withdrawal
was going to be this weird foot fetish. Every time she touched him there it was
like an electric current going through his body. Maybe he’d found a non-medical
alternative to Viagra. He breathed deeply in and out when she finally moved away
“I don’t know whether to say thank you or light a cigarette.”
“Say thank you. Let’s take care of one addiction at a time.” She straightened her skirt, and he realized it was getting to be a familiar gesture
for him. He sat back in his chair, totally at ease, the pain receding to the
back of his mind. He ran his eyes over her shape, taking in the neat jacket and
“What would the rest of the staff say if they knew the hidden depths in their head administrator? I find myself in awe.”
“Good, then you won’t give me any trouble when I send you back to the clinic. You’ll have patients ready in about fifteen minutes.”
He deliberately raised his hands, bringing her attention to his still at
attention body. “I may be a few minutes late. Would you mind explaining for me?”
She took a second then said, “You really should get out more. I’ll
give you twenty minutes. Will you need a magazine or are you going to take a
“No magazine necessary. I’m sure I can conjure up something
from the old imagination.”
He smiled as she pivoted
sharply and reminded him over her shoulder, “Twenty minutes. Don’t
make me send an orderly after you.”
He wasn’t exactly
whistling when he walked through the clinic, but his hands were steady enough to finish the day.
Six thirty. Awkward. House
stood outside Cuddy’s door. His head was spinning. His stomach churned. He hated this. Part of him wanted to go to Wilson. Wilson would give him
a ride, but then he’d have to explain why. He didn’t want to do that. Not until he absolutely had to. And part
of him, a dark, hidden part, was hoping Cuddy would take him home, feed him, and put those wonderfully talented hands on him
and make the pain go away. He squelched the hidden part. He reminded himself what a pain in the butt Cuddy could be, how those cold eyes could bore through his
skull and make him feel like a fifth grader sent to the principal’s office. But
over all this, there was a picture in his head: a picture of Cuddy handing him a cup of tea, of Cuddy running her hands on
his leg, concentrating on him. He could feel her hands now…He had to stop
this. He raised the cane and knocked once.
Cuddy called out a ‘Come in,’ and he pushed open the door. Cuddy
looked up and for a split second there was a real smile on her face, but she quickly settled for a neutral look and pointed
to a chair opposite her desk. She had an open file in front of her, but she closed
it when he sat. He just sat for a moment.
He really didn’t want to do this.
“House, I’m glad you’re here. I was about to call you. If you can give me about five minutes, I could give you a ride home. I know your car is here, but until the end of the week it would probably be best if you didn’t drive. I know that’s a pain for you, but since I’m your boss, you could just
consider it an order.” She finished her little speech and went back to
House sat there. What had she done?
He felt like the air was out of his balloon. Had she just done something
nice? Had she given that slightly insulting speech along with the thinly veiled
order so that he would be spared having to ask for a ride?
She looked up wide-eyed. “What did you need to see me about?”
He stared. “I need an extra twenty minutes at lunch tomorrow.”
“Okay, that shouldn’t be a problem.” They both knew
he routinely took extra time at lunch without ever asking, but apparently, she was going to play as long as he did. “So, are you ready to go?”
She drove him home, made him a large sub sandwich and chicken noodle soup, then put those hands on him. He managed not to disgrace himself, but somehow, he thought she knew the state he was in. When she finished and he rolled over – wearing really
baggy sweats under his robe – he said, “We’ve got to stop meeting like this.”
She didn’t even look at him while she straightened her skirt. “You’re the only one ‘like this.’”
“Really? You see, I have a problem just taking your word for that. Physiologically speaking, women are much harder to read in these situations. You have a physical ‘leg up.’ Now,
if you were to allow me to verify your state, or non-state as the case may be, then I could accept your assertion with much
“Even if I had confidence in your remembering what it is like for a female to be in that ‘state’
or ‘non-state,’ I’d still say ‘No.’”
“I’ll admit it has been a while, but I am a doctor. We did
study this in medical school. In fact, I assure you, those were the classes I
made sure to attend. All A’s.”
She tilted her head. “How long?” She said it like she couldn’t help herself.
He hesitated but couldn’t help but be brutally honest, even with himself.
“You mean, you haven’t…since your leg?”
His face was set. “No.”
He swung his legs off the bed and tied his robe tighter. “It’s
getting late, and I’m sure you need your beauty sleep.”
She took the dismissal without comment, still a little too dazed to say anything anyway, gathered her coat and left. House sat in his chair in front of the TV and watched a comedy of the classics station,
but he didn’t laugh.
Day six. They settled into a routine where Cuddy picked up House each morning. He wasn’t
so sunny. He said ‘good morning’ but nothing more than was absolutely
necessary to get to work. His eyes showed red with fatigue and he squinted as
if he couldn’t see well, but she saw he wasn’t leaning on his cane so much.
That meant the pain killers she’d given him were working but that he was feeling the effects of withdrawal. She made a mental note to send him tea, but today, she wouldn’t be going in
It was getting more
difficult to shrug off her reaction to his
reaction to her massages. She could joke and mark it down to his celibate life
style, to normal human response, to his being off heavy medication, but what was surprising was the jolt of arousal and pride
that went through her when she realized he couldn’t seem to help himself when she touched him. The temptation was there, to continue, to stroke him all over. He
wasn’t a conventionally handsome man, but there was something about him that made her feel alive when they were together. The arguments, the tricks, the frustration.
It was exhilarating if nothing else. And, she had to admit, there was
a part of her, a tiny, evil part, that fantasized about seeing Dr. Gregory House lose his composure just once, to see him
out of control and needy, to have him completely at her mercy. It was this that
made her decision not to see him in person today. It wasn’t a healthy part
of her, not good for her, not good for House, not good for the hospital, and the hospital always came first. Yes, she thought, the hospital always came first.
So she sent him
tea and sat at her desk through lunch, going over reports and handling phone calls from directors and medical supply companies;
and she tried to ignore the niggling thought that something was missing.
up as the candy striper brought in a tray with the tea. He didn’t thank
her; he barely looked at her. He sat there for a moment fighting the unexplainable
urge to throw the cup against the wall. He hurt all over. He’d been playing a game with himself for the last hour. Every
time he felt nauseous, unable to handle the strain in his body, he’d thought, ‘Ten minutes. I can make the next ten minutes.’ In the back of his
mind had been the knowledge that if he could hold out just a little longer, Cuddy would come.
She’d come and take all of the stress away, make the pain bearable because the tension behind his eyes would
But here he sat with
this damned cup of tea, and she wasn’t coming. He wanted to hit something. He wanted to pick a fight with someone, but even his colleagues were avoiding him
today. He’d been foul tempered since he walked through the door and not
because of the detox. That was hitting him now and hard. He stumbled to the bathroom and threw up. A cold cloth helped,
and he brushed his teeth. He sat and drank the tea, hating to admit that it settled
his stomach. His eyes clouded over for a moment.
Finally, he gave up and ambled out the door and into the hallway.
Cuddy was sitting
at her desk, purposefully intent on the fascinating work of being a hospital administrator, quietly wondering why she hadn’t
become a policeman or a firefighter or a ballerina. If she got one more phone
call about the number staff attending the next stuffy symposium held by Director So-and-So, she was going to scream. Didn’t these people realize that her doctors needed some time to actually live?
She was pulling out
the records of the newest batch of possible hirees, when her door opened. She
let out a breath and knew she’d been waiting for him. House shut the door
behind him and closed the vertical blinds that shielded her office from view. He
sat down in the chair facing her desk and stared at her, the lines on his face harshly etched.
He was obviously in a foul mood.
She decided to
take the offensive. “Was there something you wanted to discuss with me,
Dr. House?” She all but folded her arms across her chest and thought about
sticking out her tongue at him. She refused to feel sorry for him, no matter
how tired and washed out he seemed.
you come?” His voice was s hiss.
She played dumb. “What?”
you come? Why did you send the tea and not come?” His eyes narrowed wickedly. “I thought maybe you were
swamped with paper work, but then you’re always swamped with paper work. So
maybe there’s another reason. Then I thought, maybe the good doctor is
nervous about something, maybe afraid of something. But that couldn’t be
it. Dr. Cuddy’s not afraid of anything, are you?” He was daring her to give him an excuse, any excuse.
Her brain worked frantically,
but her innate honesty wouldn’t allow her to lie to him. She could see
he was in a bad way. His hands clenched on his thigh. His jaw worked back and forth while he talked. “I thought
it would be better if I didn’t come to your office.”
“Better for who,
you or me?”
“Better for both
of us, better for this whole situation.”
He smiled bitterly. “Better for the hospital?” He
sat back. “Yes, better for the hospital.
Better for the hospital to have one of its leading doctors going through symptoms of withdrawal on duty? Better to have me making decisions when I can barely see for the ache behind my eyes? Do you really think so? Or is this just a way to protect yourself,
hiding behind your precious hospital?”
“Protecting myself? From what?”
“You tell me. I thought this was all about helping me get through the next few days, getting me
off Vicodin. Why would you need to run and hide from doing such a good deed?”
She didn’t answer
for a moment. Then she stuck out her chin slightly and said, “I don’t. What do you need me to do?”
a loaded question. So you’re going to make me ask. All right.” He leaned forward, looking straight into
her eyes. “I need for you to come over here and rub my forehead and my
neck. Then my shoulders and back.
Then I need for you to kneel down in front of me and massage my thigh and calf until the pain is manageable. But I’m not going to ask you to do my feet because we both know that when you do that, I don’t
really relax, do I? So even though I may think
I need you to, I won’t because, contrary to what you seem to think,
I am capable of controlling myself and I do occasionally do what is best for this hospital, too.”
She stared at
him, then without a word, she stood, went to lock the door and walked behind his chair.
She started with his neck and scalp. He felt the first warm touch of her
hand and almost sighed in relief. He rolled his head back to rest against her
chest while she did his scalp. There were no sarcastic comments, no pointed barbs. He just sat there taking in all the sensations: the warmth and strength of her hands,
the smell of her perfume, the feel of the soft material of her jacket against his neck.
Slowly, the tension left him. He could breathe without a hitch, he could
concentrate on something besides the pain and nausea.
She worked the
muscles in his shoulders and back. His head fell forward, and she had to resist
the impulse to stroke his hair. This really was too intoxicating, the knowledge
that he needed this, that he had actually sought her out, that the muted groans
coming from him were because of her. And underneath the feeling of power was,
surprisingly, an inkling of tenderness. She’d become a doctor because she
wanted to help people, but her talents had drawn her to administration. Her work
kept the hospital running smoothly, so she was helping people – indirectly. But
she missed this personal connection.
When she finished
his back and shoulders, she hesitated. This was the part that concerned her. She squared her shoulders and moved around in front of him. His eyes were closed, his face still showing signs of pain. She
stepped out of her shoes and knelt carefully so she could reach his thigh muscles. She
massaged his uninjured leg first, working all the tension into the remaining limb. She
stopped at his left foot. No, no, that wouldn’t do. His right leg was stiff, the muscles surrounding the damaged thigh straining. She started at the top of his leg and moved down. She could
hear him suck in his breath now and then, trying not to moan out loud. After
a few minutes, she felt the leg relax. He stretched out just a bit more, and
his breathing was regular.
She stopped and made
to get up. He grabbed her hand pulled it back to his leg. She looked up for the first time and saw the blue of his eyes muted by half-lowered lashes. “Just a little longer. Please.” His voice was harsh and demanding.
The very air
changed. She knew he was feeling better, knew the stress in his body was eased. What he was asking for now was not relief from pain.
And he knew it. He kept her gaze, wouldn’t let her look away.
think that would be wise,” she whispered.
His eyes darkened,
and his mouth thinned out. “No, I guess it wouldn’t. Forget I said anything.” He let go of her hand and started
to get up. She gently pushed him back into the chair. He sighed, leaned back and closed his eyes again.
Without a word, she
began again, working the upper thigh that no longer needed to be worked. Now
her fingers caressed his muscles. The change was subtle, but he felt it. He allowed her to set the pace for as long as he could stand it. Then with an impatient groan, he guided her hands. She followed,
touching him wherever he led. Finally, he pulled her up so that she leaned against
his body, resting between his legs. He reveled in the feel of her, soft and fragrant. His hands on her waist, he pulled her down to kiss her hungrily. She wrapped one hand around the back of his neck and settled herself against him with the other.
He pushed her
up. She fought to keep her balance. Before
she could orient herself, she felt his hands sliding under her skirt. He peeled
her undergarments down her legs and nudged her to step out of them. Then he slid
his hands back up, gripped her waist and pushed her to sit on the desk behind her.
Now he stood, towering
over her. He locked her gaze with his.
“Could you get pregnant now?”
His voice was
harsh, and it took her a few seconds to comprehend what he was asking.
“Can you get
pregnant now?” he repeated. “That’s the only thing that’s
going to stop me, so if you want to lie, do it quick.”
She shook her head. “It’s not the right time.”
“Good.” Then he swooped down and continued to kiss her while his hands quickly removed all
barriers between them. She cried out softly at his first thrust, so he pulled
her to his shoulder to muffle the rest. Folders and papers fell to the floor
and the phone rang once, but neither noticed.
“What do we do
now?” House forced himself to look Cuddy in the eye, and he wouldn’t
let her avoid his gaze.
She tried to keep her
voice calm and neutral despite the fact that she couldn’t seem to catch her breath.
“We get back to work. And at six o’clock, I’ll take
you home.” She was daring him to say something. For once, he didn’t take the dare. He nodded and walked
At 6:10, buckled into
her car, neither had said a word. House decided to break the silence.
“We have to talk
about this, you know.”
“No. I don’t know that.” Then nothing.
House shifted in his
seat and frowned. “Look. We’re
adults, medical professionals. This doesn’t have to change anything.”
She looked at him quickly,
then back to the road. “Are you kidding?
This changes everything. I
He sat. “Yes, I guess you’re right. This
does change things.” They rode the last two minutes to his place in silence.
When they pulled into
his parking garage, he turned to her. “Come up.”
“I really don’t
want to talk about this right now.”
right. Avoidance is always the best option.
We’ll just pretend nothing ever happened, and I’m sure it will have no effect on our working relationship. You were already pretty crabby most of the time.
At least now you’ll have an excuse.”
“I am not crabby. I have a job to do.
You’ve heard of those – jobs? Where someone pays you to work. And for your information, the day you came into the hospital, I had an excuse to be
as crabby as humanly possible.”
“See? What did I tell you? Everything’s back to normal. Just because we’ve…”
“It is not back
to normal if you insist on talking about it. Promise me you’ll never bring
this up at the hospital.” He just looked at her. “Promise me!”
His expression hardened. “It would be a lot easier to promise not to talk about this at work, if we discuss
it now in the privacy of my apartment. But even you should know I wouldn’t
jeopardize the smooth operation of the hospital. Not unless it promised to be
“I think we’re
passed the one-up-manship stage, don’t you. Besides, I think the last time
we played the score was one all.” He smiled wickedly. “Come up.”
glad to see you’re taking this so calmly.” She was agitated, not
sure why she was here.
He settled in his favorite
chair while she stood and clutched her drink. “I’ll admit, I didn’t
think this through, but then conscious decision making is very seldom a big part of…”
“Yes, yes, no
thinking. That sums this situation up very well,” she interrupted.
He tilted his head
at her. “Can you even say the word?”
“What do you
you say the word – sex? Can you look me in the eye and say ‘sex’?”
She tried. She really tried, but every time she looked at him, she saw…other things. She scowled and sat down. “I am an adult and a professional,
but this is something I never thought I would do. It’s very awkward for
me. You seem to be handling this just fine, but then, of course, you’re
not encumbered with any of those pesky moral issues. So why wouldn’t you
be fine. What is this to you, just another day in the life of House.” She stopped when she realized she was babbling.
“Do you feel
really. Maybe a little.”
“Good. For a moment there I thought I was going to have to slap you. Maybe
if you’d tried that earlier, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”
“Do not blame this on me. I didn’t barge into your office demanding…”
knew you couldn’t say it. And for the record, I didn’t demand. I asked politely. You could’ve
said no. But I do admit to starting it.”
His gaze shifted to her body and he smiled slightly.
He refocused on her
and tried to look innocent. “Stop what?”
“Is that humanly
on it. Don’t smile about it. This
is not funny!”
He stared at her. “I wasn’t smiling because I think it’s funny. It’s an enjoyable memory. I haven’t felt so good
in a long time. I had fun. You had
fun, too. If you weren’t wound too tight, you could admit that.”
“I am not wound
too tight. You’re wound too loose.
We should not have…done this.”
even say it. You’re a doctor, for Pete’s sake, and you can’t
even say the word.”
“Sex! Okay? Sex, sex, sex!”
“I love it when
you talk dirty.” He folded his hands in his lap. “This is not the end of civilization as we know it. You
need to calm down so we can discuss this like rational adults.”
believe you’re acting like this is no big deal.”
a big deal. Come on, I just had real sex for the first time in six years. I think I’m still post coital.”
“It would explain
the idiotic grin. And your inability to think clearly, although that might just
“Ah, the Dr.
Cuddy I know and love. You know, I really don’t think I can call you Dr.
Cuddy anymore, given the present circumstances. What do you think of Snookums?”
“I think I may
be the first hospital administrator to murder a physician.”
“Okay. How about Dr. Snookums? That’s a little more formal.”
“I’m leaving. When you grow up and decide to talk, call me.”
He grabbed her arm. “Sit down. We’ll talk.” It was the first time he’d touched her since that morning. The electric shock ran through his fingers and into her hand. House
saw that she actually shuddered. His hand tightened for a second, the he released
her. “Serious.” He ran
his eyes over her, and she flushed.
got to stop doing that.”
“I know. Just let me enjoy it for now.”
“I really just
want to forget this ever happened.”
“Do you really? We could do that, if we both decided we never want it to happen again. Is that what you want?”
She started to agree
but couldn’t get the words out. Finally, she said, “I think it would
be wisest if we never did this again.”
“Ah, yes, wisest. You’re right, of course. The problem
is I don’t feel like being wise. And even if I did, I’m not sure
I could stick to it.”
She looked away for
a moment. “This was not a good thing.”
“Look me in the
eye and tell me you never want it to happen again. Tell me you didn’t enjoy
it. Just remember I still have the bite on my shoulder to prove you wrong.”
“Of course I
enjoyed it! That’s what sex is all about.
But it doesn’t make it right. I’m your boss, sort of. It’s unethical.”
“Only if I feel
I have to put out to keep my job. I have tenure.
You can’t fire me. Half the time I don’t follow your orders
anyway. So ethics is not an issue.”
“What if I feel
that I have to put out to keep you on the job?”
“I think I could
live with that.”
She had to smile but
rubbed her forehead to ease the tension there. “I’ve never been good
at normal relationships. How could this possibly work?”
“Maybe what you’ve
needed all along is an abnormal relationship.”
“Well, I certainly
picked the right partner.”
“See? Nothing’s really changed. You insult me, I insult you. And we both get to have mind-shattering orgasms from time to time. Piece of cake.”
“Want to see
the bite? I think it’ll leave a scar.”
“From time to
“Well, I won’t
insist on making out a schedule – that’s more your style – but I’ll fit you in whenever I can.” He looked at his watch. “How’s
right now for you? I don’t have to be into work until 8:45 in the morning,
but no later. My boss is a crab about punctuality.”
“Big bed. No rush. Full nudity. I must tell you that, as a doctor, I’m capable of detecting even the slightest signs of arousal,
no matter how hard you try to hide them. I think in your highly excited state,
it would be unwise to turn down my offer. That much unrelieved tension in your
body could cause long term damage.”
“Is that what
this is about? Relieving tension?”
He heard the real question in her voice.
make an appointment with my physical therapist. If we’re going to be involved,
I think I’m going to need it. Just us.
No ulterior motives.”
She nodded. “We’re taking a risk.”
street is a risk. There are no guarantees.
But I promise I won’t take this lightly.”
She smiled and stood. “You mean you’ll try your best?”
He nodded, not quite
trusting the look in her eye. She settled on the arm of his chair and leaned
into him. “You’ll keep at it until you get it right?”
He smiled now and slipped
an arm around her. “I think I’ve already got it right, thank you. But, I suppose there’s always room for improvement.” She kissed him, softly, almost experimentally. He ran his
free hand into her hair and pulled her closer, deepening the kiss. “Are
you ready to take me up on my offer?”
“Big bed. No rush. Full nudity. That one?”