Log in

28 January 2010 @ 11:43 pm
HOUSE FIC: It started out as a feeling, PG-13  
Title: It started out as a feeling (which then grew into a hope)
Author: Julie S
Rating: PG-13
Characters: House/Cuddy
Summary: Three first meetings for House and Cuddy; they'd been unlikely chance acquaintances.
Disclaimer: Do not own, only play.
Notes: The title and subtitles were taken from Regina Spektor's The Call.

Just because everything’s changing (doesn’t mean it’s never been this way before)

Cuddy woke abruptly. The bedroom was dark; when she’s fallen asleep – she’d only meant to rest her eyes – the room had still been illuminated by whatever hints of sunlight penetrated the thick layer of clouds that hung overhead that day.

She was startled suddenly, realising – she’d missed it now; her careful planning for naught. She raised her head to examine the red rectangles on her clock: past eleven. She lay back down on her side with a sigh. She’d barely slept the previous night.

She was still wearing the clothes she’d picked out earlier – the clothes she’d changed into after tireless examinations of a mirror that didn’t lie. She’d shoved the pile of discarded pant suits and pencil skirts onto a shelf in her closet in the end, content to pretend that it hadn’t taken her over an hour to choose an outfit, and for once, not thinking of tidiness in the face of what had been later to come.

She’d ended up changing back into the very first outfit she’d tried on. When she’d looked in the mirror one final time, she’d laughed nervously and resolutely ignored the tinge of hysteria even she couldn’t help but recognise in it, as she’d torn the laminated hospital ID from her lapel – clipped on out of ritualistic habit.

Now, her black skirt and neatly ironed blouse were creased and uncomfortable. The underwires of her bra made grooves in her skin and her pantyhose were too warm despite their thinness. The jacket she’d meant to wear was still neatly lying over the arm of a chair in the living room.

She squeezed her eyes shut. Tears of disappointment threatened to burn, and she let a few of them spill, but kept their successors in check. She reached back, unclipped her bra, then turned to lie on her back, stretching her arms in the air to lie across the spacious bed she so rarely took advantage of.

When it landed, her hand hit something warm and hard instead of cool, soft, and flat.

She jumped as the tactile shock was accompanied by an auditory one – a distinctly masculine exclamation of shock and possibly pain: “Ow!”

Cuddy felt the blood quickly drain from her face, and scrambled to get off the bed. She fell awkwardly to the floor.

“This is my one good leg,” the voice continued.

Heart still beating hard and fast in her chest, and barely daring to believe, she stood up, then kicked off the stilettos she’d only just realised she’d still been wearing. “House?” she asked incredulously, when she finally found her voice. “How did you get in here?”

House was sitting up on the other side of the bed, his back against the headboard. He was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, and he hadn’t shaved – he looked like he always did. Jeans suited him, she’d always thought.

She examined him for differences.

He’d taken off his shoes. The last time he’d broken into her home (without her knowledge or consent and she was almost glad he hadn’t lost that audacity to violate her privacy), she’d found his footprints in every carpet she owned.

“Spare key under the planter. Some things don’t change in four months.”

She couldn’t decide what some things meant.

“I knocked,” he continued, when she didn’t answer. “You were either asleep or not at home.” He looked away from her to his feet. “Was going to wait up or wake you up, but I went for self-preservation instead.” He returned his gaze to hers with a very House mock-accusatory expression. “You’re cranky in the middle of the night.”

She grinned fleetingly, because he was sniping at her again, and she would never admit (never admit it to him) that she could miss his biting tongue.

He would have woken her before (how many times had he revelled in disturbing her sleep?), she noted.

“How are you, House?” she asked, and then winced inwardly, wondering if the question sounded as stupid to him as it did to her as soon as it left her lips.

He lifted his gaze to the ceiling. “I’m off the Vicodin.”

She sat down on the bed, facing him. “Your leg?”

His hand wandered idly, probably instinctively, to rub his thigh lightly. “Doesn’t hurt any more than it did on the Vicodin.”

“That’s something.”

He looked down again. “Yeah.” He back up and gestured in her direction. “Why are you dressed?”

She looked away from him. “I was going to go out. I meant to rest my eyes for a second… I guess I fell asleep.” She paused, and tried to let her next words sound casual. “Who picked you up from…?”

“Wilson,” he said.

She knew he was going to say Wilson. There wasn’t anybody else.

He frowned slightly and raised an inquisitive, accusatory eyebrow. “You were going to go with him?”

She looked down, finding words again. “I didn’t tell him… I was just going to follow him in my car,” she admitted, then laughed humourlessly. “I lay down for a second.”

“You have circles under your eyes. It’s pitch black in here and I can see that. How long haven’t you slept?”

Cuddy tried to remember. “I sleep as much as I can. I have a baby to take care of.”

But she knew he wouldn’t believe her. “She’s almost a year old now. Should be sleeping just fine.”

Rachel had been sleeping through the night, long before House had left. She felt a stab of guilty for just a moment, for using her daughter as an excuse. She looked down and didn’t answer him.

“I noticed she’s not here.”

“My mother has her,” she replied.

“How are you, Cuddy?” he asked suddenly, after a pause.

She laughed and suddenly those tears were threatening again. These awkward tiptoes between words weren’t for them. “Uncomfortable,” she said, standing up. She padded across the room to the walk-in closet, undoing buttons in her blouse as she walked. “Be with you in a second,” she called out.

She let a few more tears spill unchecked when she was out of his sight.

Unthinking, she pulled on a pair of pyjama bottoms, pink and too thin, and a matching thin tank top. She shivered and thought of the old, gray, probably stained sweater she kept on the very top shelf, out of sight. The one with the University of Michigan emblem on it. But she wrapped a robe around herself. It was good enough.

She hadn’t heard the clang of his cane against the floor until he was behind her. She wiped her cheeks quickly with her hands before turning around. His face was too close to hers.

“Comfortable now?” he asked, his voice raspy.

She nodded, unable to look away from him. Though she should have been backing away from him, she stood rooted to the spot (and still noted: that was something he would have done before, too).

“You’re not comfortable. You’re shivering.” He flicked the light switch on, illuminating the small space, and they both winced, their eyes unadjusted. But he looked around, up at the shelves, ignoring the barren clothes hangers and the spacious shelf piled with what was usually on them. “Aha.” He pulled the folded grey sweater from the bottom of a pile. The rest of the pile topped to the floor. He ignored it.

Cuddy laughed as he unfolded the garment, looking exceedingly proud of himself. “How did you know that was even there?” she asked.

He raised his eyebrow. “You were always too sentimental to throw garbage like that away. I took a chance. Also,” he continued, as he gently (his hands had always been more gentle than his tongue) pushed the robe down her shoulders, “I only pretended not to know where that went, the last day of med school.”

She remembered. She’d helped him pack up his apartment, and snuck the garment into her schoolbag. Her guilt had hung in background, consumed by the fear of never seeing him again after that day. They’d been chance acquaintances: they’d sat together in the classes she audited because he took (and she never did tell him, though she suspected he only pretended not to know about that either), and stayed by each other’s side if they met at a party (and there were even a few nights spent at her dorm or his apartment, cramming for an exam, and one weekend they spent learning to skateboard in the university parking lots). But they’d never kept in touch over the breaks.

He helped her pull the sweatshirt on as if she couldn’t do it herself. It didn’t smell like him anymore (it hadn’t smelled like him in two decades), but he smelled like him, filling the small space, and she almost didn’t want him to let go of it. But he smoothed the edges over her hips and released her.

“You knew I stole it?” she asked, smiling to hide her disappointment.

“I knew exactly where I left it before you came over that day,” he said, turning his back to her and walking out of the closet, supported on his cane.

“Not like you not to ask for it back,” she replied, following him, not sure if he would return to the bed or leave the bedroom.

“Not like you to steal my things.” He sat down at the foot of the bed and watched her, still standing between him and the closet.

“I slept in it for weeks even though it was a hundred degrees all summer,” she said.

He shook his head slowly. “While I was forced to sleep naked.”

She laughed, then sobered. “Every time I ran into you in college, I’d ask myself if I’d ever run into you again. After you finished med school, I honestly never thought I would.”

His gaze dropped. “Me either,” he said.

“And when you left with Wilson that day, I was scared all over again.”

He shook his head. “I bet the last time the hospital’s run this smoothly was when I got shot,” he replied sardonically. “You don’t need me.”

She shook her head and closed the distance between them with a few steps. “I wasn’t afraid for the hospital, House.” She stood in front of him and put her hands on his knees. “Idiot.”

“Thief.” He rested a hand on her hip, and threaded the other one though the curls falling on her cheek.

* * *

I’ll come back when you call me (no need to say goodbye)

The small apartment on Elisabeth Street was full of cardboard boxes sealed with tape by three in the morning. The movers would be in early, and currently its two occupants hovered between the barren furniture, each debating the idea of sleep, but not out loud.

“I’m not sure this couch is even worth moving. It’s costing me more to move all this junk than it’s worth in the first place.” Its owner was sitting on the couch he spoke of, and looked around himself.

“Well, you might as well do it now, since you made them order the biggest truck they have,” said his companion, who was sitting beside him, knees folded. “And it’s a good thing you did, or you’d have had to put it in storage and we’d be sitting on the floor right now.”

He smirked. “Storage in this case is another word for dumpster.”

She punched him in the arm.

“Ow,” he said, in a mock offense. “You’re very violent for such a small person.”

She laughed. “I’m sorry, I thought the great lacrosse player could take a punch from a girl.”

“A punch from a girl, yes,” he explained, as he rubbed his arm. “But you were born on Krypton.”

She rolled her eyes. “I don’t read comic books, House.”

He shook his head. “Well, then, I guess I just called you an alien.”

She frowned in mock disapproval.

“But I believe I have something in my unplugged fridge that will numb our physical and emotional pain,” he suddenly said, and stood up.

She waited in silence as he walked to the kitchen and came back with a glass bottle of clear liquid. She opened her mouth and raised her eyebrows in surprise, wondering for a few seconds if he was serious. When he tore the seal around the cap, she closed her mouth. “I can’t believe you saved this, even after packing up your entire apartment!”

He winked at her. “Priorities, Lisa. Alcohol is always packed last. Preferably, drunk rather than packed.”

“You’ve packed all the cups and glasses.”

In response, he took a swig of liquid straight from the bottle, then offered it to her. “What, never been to a frat party? Because I know you have.”

She took the bottle and drank a considerably smaller sip, screwing her eyes shut as she struggled to swallow the bitter shot.

He sat back down, unimpressed. “Oh, don’t pretend you’ve never been drunk, it’s unbecoming after I’ve seen you throw up in a toilet.”

She punched him again as she handed him back the bottle, still wincing, and wiping a few drops from her lips. “I had food poisoning at that party.”

“Keep telling yourself that,” he said with a smirk.

“And when have you ever seen me do vodka shots?”

“Potato, potato,” he said, emphasizing the different pronunciations and took another swig. “It’s all the same as long as it can give you a buzz.” A few moments of silence passed between them.

She slid closer to him along the couch, leaning her head on his shoulder. “I guess we’re not going to sleep, then.”

“Semester’s over. We can sleep tomorrow.” He didn’t put his arm around her, but didn’t move away from her either. Instead, he offered her the bottle again, and she took a small sip, this time better prepared for the taste.

“I can’t believe you’re done.”

“Unless they find out I paid someone to write my last paper for me.”

She sat upright and stared at him. “You did what?”

He threw his head back and laughed, loud and throaty. “I’m kidding! Jeez!”

She swatted him again but smiled despite herself. “I can’t believe you’d even contemplate that after Hopkins.”

“You keep hitting me in the same place like that, I’ll have a bruise by morning,” he said, rubbing his arm again. “You really are very violent.”

“Hey,” she said, holding her hands in front of her in a defensive gesture, “all of your scars, you did to yourself. I didn’t make you play lacrosse or buy a skateboard.”

They both glanced at the wheeled object, leaning against the wall. It hadn’t fit into any boxes. “No,” he conceded. “But you count as an enabler.”

“Oh, please.” She stood up. “Let me show you how to do a kickflip and not dislocate your elbow.”

House rubbed his left elbow as she crossed the room, picked up the black, beat-up skateboard, and carried it to the end of the apartment.

He looked at her dubiously. “Are you sure about this? I really do have to go in the morning. I’d hate to leave you alone in the hospital.”

“Ha, ha,” she said, deadpan. “Watch.” She stood on the board and bit her lip, momentarily unsure, but she knew she remembered how to do this. She kicked off, and, finding her momentum, flipped the skateboard over underneath her just as she passed neatly in front of him. “Yes!” Grinning victoriously, she picked up the board and held it perpendicularly to the floor.

He didn’t look impressed, though his eyes betrayed him. “Well, sure, anyone could do it on a smooth floor. I wouldn’t call that parking lot the perfect skating arena.”

“Whatever, loser,” she said, as she set the board back against the wall, and headed back towards the couch, exhilarated.

He followed her intently with his eyes, turning to face her when she finally sat down, their faces too close. She could feel something was about to happen and when she opened her mouth, he met it with his.

It was a flitting first kiss. He touched her lips with his and paused, testing the waters. The second kiss was everything she’d wanted it to be – what she’d wished he would do to her for two years. When she leaned in to kiss him again, he laced his fingers through her hair and opened his mouth to hers, held her waist close with his free arm as she gripped the front of his t-shirt and tried desperately to be closer, to somehow taste more.

Her fingers found the hem of his shirt and pushed it up. It bunched under his arms until he let her go for the split second he needed to take it off, throwing it to the floor. She smoothed her hands down his chest as he gripped her hips and pushed her back. “Never did christen this couch,” he said against her throat as she lay back and he trailed open-mouthed kisses along it.

She tried to say something, but all that came out was a muffled, “god.” She closed her eyes. Why hadn’t they, indeed.

It didn’t matter that she’d been skateboarding across his living room less than a minute ago (skateboarded better than him), or that they’d never been more than friends (that they had admitted in words), or that she wasn’t sure she’d ever see him again (and she didn’t dare ask him for his parents’ address) because his hands were under her shirt and he was finally kissing her.

* * *

Now we’re back to the beginning (it’s just a feeling and no one knows yet)

Lisa didn’t enter the lecture hall until the class was almost due to start, despite having been among the first to arrive. She hung back, leaning against a wall at the end of the hallway, and watched.

People trickled in through the door steadily; she carefully examined each student as they hurried in. As her watch ticked closer to ten, she contemplated going inside, but just as she was convinced she had missed him, he entered the hallway and into the classroom with confident strides. He didn’t seem to look at anyone he passed – he didn’t look at her, and she was both grateful and disappointed.

She felt foolish for a moment, and rather like a stalker. She hesitated for a few seconds, feeling blood rush to her face, but she followed him in and spotted him already sitting down, leaving some distance between himself and his classmates.

She took a seat next to him and slowly took her books out of her bag, laying them in a stack in front of her. She was straightening again, after putting the bag down under her seat, when she noticed he was examining her peripherally.

She turned to him and smiled, heart beating slightly faster than usual, hoping it looked natural. “I’m Lisa.”

He looked slightly surprised at being addressed. “Greg House.”

He turned back to his own books and started to open the heavy textbook.

“Hope you don’t mind me sitting here,” she said, because she didn’t want to conversation to end on their names, unable to think of anything more clever to say.

He knitted his eyebrows together. “Why would you think I’d mind, Lisa?” he asked, his tone more curious.

“You came in right in front of me, and you sat down here. Plenty of free spots near people. Did you want to sit alone?”

“You observed that and you still sat down here?”

Lisa felt herself blushing slightly again. “I thought I was running late and this was the first free seat I spotted.”

He shook his head, grinning as if he’d won a lollipop. “There are free seats closer to the door and closer to the front, and it’s not ten yet. Which means you’re making excuses to sit next to me.”

She laughed nervously, shocked at his observation. “You really are as full of yourself as they say.”

He laughed too. “Yeah, but see? I’m not wrong.”

“Actually, I’ve heard of you because everybody in med and pre-med has heard of you. And I sat down here because you’re the only person I vaguely recognised.”

He raised one eyebrow. “Recognised me as a notorious jerk?”

“Those are just the rumours. I could always switch seats next time.”

He smiled. “No, you can sit here. Maybe I can cheat off you in the midterm.”

She smirked and shook her head.

He paused for a few seconds, then asked, “Aren’t you going to ask me how I could even consider that after Hopkins?”

Her smile faltered as she tried to consider her reply: pretend she didn’t know what he was talking about, or admit she’d heard of his expulsion.

He chuckled after a moment, obviously sensing her discomfort. “Relax, I know everyone knows. Because I don’t care if everyone knows.”

She let out a breath. “Aren’t you worried about you reputation?”

He shook his head. “Employers will find out anyway. Anyone else can’t do anything about it.” He leaned in, as if to tell a secret, and continued in a hushed tone: “I’ll get revenge on the guy who ratted me out eventually.”

She grinned. “A noble thing to aspire to, definitely.”

As the elderly, tweed-jacketed lecturer shuffled his notes and the noise in the room slowly died down, he leaned back in and whispered, “You look like you take good notes. Don’t switch seats.”