Fandom: House MD
Pairings: Stacy/Cuddy, House/Stacy, House/Cuddy, House/Wilson (implied)
Notes: Written for madampresident. Thanks to michelleann68 and evila_elf for last minute, but hard-core beta.
Warnings: Angst ahoy. Fluff-free zone. Spoilers through the current season.
Summary: When you're dating House, the danger zone is everywhere.
The problem with living in a minefield is that you never know where the mines are.
Cuddy had honestly believed Chanukah arriving just a week after Thanksgiving was a blessing, allowing her to get through two potential nightmares in her relationship with House before the hospital Muzak even started playing Christmas music.
House had been reasonably well-behaved for Turkey Day, although she tried not to notice exactly how many glasses of wine it took to keep him on an even keel. There was a bit of a tiff with her Cousin Vivian, but anyone who chose Thanksgiving to espouse Veganism, and brought their own Saran-wrapped Tofurky, pretty much had it coming.
The first night of Chanukah had produced only a few unforgivably anti-semitic comments and one off-color reference to playing strip dreidel, so call the night a draw. Cuddy had lit her Menorah alone for the remainder of the holiday, considering herself lucky. The sitter was booked for New Year’s Eve and they had a reservation for dinner and a hotel in Manhattan. Disasters avoided at least until Valentine’s day.
Until she saw the look on House’s face when he walked into her office on December 20th. Shit, shit, shit she said to herself. This wasn’t House’s ‘I need to do something completely insane to save my patient’ face or even his ‘I’m bored, so let’s fuck with Cuddy’ expression. This was something much worse. It was closer to the look he’d had when he’d asked for morphine injections. He was clearly in pain, and it wasn’t just physical.
She tried to maintain her silence, forcing him to speak first, but it was impossible to see him obviously hurting without feeling guilty and wanting to fix it. Maybe this was what it was like to be Wilson, and even he seemed to be trying to detach himself from the black hole of need that was Greg House. Cuddy tried to analyze the situation, to be House-like, wondering what was going on that would bring House to her office with this expression. He was leaning heavily on his cane, knuckles white with the force of the grip, and in his other hand was a white envelope. Christmas card sized, she noted. Maybe something from his mother, opening up the old wounds of his difficult childhood?
“Yes?” she finally said, shuffling some completely unimportant papers and using her ‘busy hospital administrator’ voice to hide the depth of her actual concern.
“What the hell is this?”
The envelope landed on her desk with more force than a mere two ounces of paper and cardboard should have been able to achieve.
She was tempted to play the fool and note that it appeared to be a Christmas card, thereby allowing House to enlighten her as to the significance, but House did not have his game face on, and she’d never been his match in head game department anyway.
Cuddy picked up the envelope. The address was precisely hand-written in gold ink to Greg House, and the return label was that of Mr. and Mrs. Mark Warner. Cuddy winced. She didn’t have to be a genius to see where this was going.
“So?” she said, trying for an indifference she didn’t feel. “Stacy sends cards. I got mine yesterday.”
And stupidly she hadn’t thought anything of it. You never know where the damn mines are.
“Not to me,” he retorted, with a rough edge in his voice. “Not since she left. again. But now she decides to send me a card. Which means she’s decided that I’m safe again. Healed in some way, perhaps?” House was goading her. “She knows about us. Now who could have told her that?”
“Wilson?” she suggested weakly.
“Thanks for playing. We have some lovely parting gifts. I busted him on the Stacy front once and it wasn’t pretty. So unless Chase and Cuddy did some attorney client ‘privilege’ stuff during his prep for the peer review, you’re the only one I can think of who might be sharing any kind of personal tidbits. “
“Fine!” she erupted, standing up to make the point. “Yes, I confess, I’ve been having improper contact with a woman who committed the heinous sin of walking away from Greg House. It so happens that Stacy is my friend and you know what? She told me this would happen. She told me that you wouldn’t be able to stand me having a close relationship with anyone besides you. It doesn’t even matter that it’s Stacy, you just don’t want me to be able to lean on anyone else. Does that sound just slightly abusive to you? You’re the bad guy here, House, not me!”
It felt good to say out loud that maybe House wasn’t the victim he liked to paint himself as, and that she wouldn’t let him isolate her, the way he tried to do to Stacy and even Wilson. The good feeling lasted only as long as the mini-tirade and then she saw another look on House’s face. It wasn’t just hurt and anger anymore. He was onto something. She’d said too much; opened the wrong door.
“Tell me about this great friendship with Stacy.”
House’s voice was calm now, and that meant danger. He sat down at her desk, still holding the cane, but more loosely now. His focus was elsewhere.
“Did you know each other before you conspired together to cripple me? Is that what happened? Did she need me out of the way, so when I had the infarction, you gave her the weapon?”
“Even you know that’s crazy.”
“But not totally crazy. You didn’t just meet her at the hospital. You knew her before.”
“Vaguely,” Cuddy admitted, taking her own seat again. Maybe, just maybe they could have this conversation like adults. “Her firm was doing some legal work for the hospital. Couple of social events. A few drinks here and there. We compared notes on how hard it was to have a relationship and a career.
House’s eye-roll was almost a relief.
“What about the infarction,” he said coldly.
“You know about that. I gave Stacy the best advice I could. She made a decision. She saved your life.” Cuddy could see the old anger in House’s eyes. “I know you hate to hear it, but it’s true. I thought you’d finally… When we were in the building wreckage with Hanna. You seemed to understand.”
Cuddy could barely stand to look at House in that moment. All the pain of the past ten years was plain on his face, as well as his need not to forgive; to keep his status as the one sinned against. Clearly she’d been fooling herself to think he could ever move past that event.
She watched as he gritted his teeth and gripped the head of his cane that much harder. The desire for some kind of pain relief was tangible. The fact that he was choosing not to use drugs had to mean something.
“All right,” he agreed, doing a bad imitation of reasonableness. “What about afterwards? How did you two career gals end up going all Laverne and Shirley, or was it more like Cagney and Lacey?”
She felt the emotion building up along with the memories and any hope she had of keeping her cool went out the window.
“When you were being an absolute prick and treating everyone around you like shit.”
“I was in pain!” he roared back, “Because you and Stacy!
“And you used Wilson to punish both of us,” she continued, nearly shaking with remembered rage. “I had a full program of physical therapy to help you strengthen the leg and get you weaned off the painkillers and instead you got Wilson to give you everything you wanted.”
“Which you know because you tried all of less than one session.” Cuddy snapped, trying to control her voice. “And while you had Wilson to undermine my medical authority you were also leaning on him emotionally. “
“I didn’t hear him complaining.”
“But you knew it was hurting Stacy. That was the whole point, wasn’t it?”
The shrug was an eloquent admission. Cuddy felt a small thrill of victory on Stacy’s behalf. They’d both known what was happening, but it was good to finally have a confirmation.
“You wouldn’t talk to her. You’d get Wilson to take you out for hours, doing god knows what, and then you wouldn’t even tell her where you’d been. She needed someone to talk to and so did I. So yeah, we got close.”
“How close?” House’s voice was low and dangerous.
“You figure it out.” Cuddy shot back. She should stop there; let House stew in his own paranoid juices, but she’d been carrying this pain for too long. Maybe House wasn’t the only one who’d gone into this relationship under false pretenses. “Do you remember the first Christmas after your surgery?”
He didn’t answer, but this was House, so of course he remembered. No way was he going to forget the black rage he’d spewed over Stacy’s desperate attempts to make a real holiday with a tree and presents and an extremely potent eggnog. Wilson was there with a date, although by all reports she went running after less than ten minutes of House’s rudeness, missing the major blow-up which occurred when House found out that Stacy had sent a Christmas card to House’s parents, just as she’d done every year they’d been together.
That year, House threw what was by all reports (Stacy’s and later Wilson’s) a mammoth tantrum, even by House standards, which resulted in House storming out, followed by Wilson, who hadn’t bothered to defend his own date or even make sure she got home safely.
Stacy, (at least in her telling) refused to let House’s verbal abuse push her to the point of tears, at least not in his line of sight. Instead, she settled down with her eggnog and a DVD of “Come To The Stable.”
It was only when Loretta Young and Celeste Holm had built their hospital and she was three sheets to the wind on rum and sugar that the thing hit her. Not just this fight, but all the fights and the possibility that it was never going to get any better.
That’s when she called Cuddy, who came out in a nasty wet snow-storm to pick up Stacy, who insisted she didn’t want to be at home when and if Greg ever came back. Cuddy was determined to be sensible, and offered to take Stacy back to her apartment. Stacy was just drunk enough to be poised between stubbornness and self-pity. She suggested a trip to New York. Cuddy knew this was completely ridiculous, but for some reason, probably the affection she felt for Stacy, plus their bond of guilt, she agreed.
Things got a bit insane after that, as the weather got worse and Stacy went from maudlin to giddy, taking Cuddy along on her emotional roller-coaster ride. Cuddy couldn’t even remember how many near misses they had on the Turnpike, not to mention the GW Bridge, all of which made Stacy even gigglier and more irresistible. Stacy also insisted on singing along with all the Christmas songs on the radio, in a voice so off-key that they only way to stand it was for Cuddy to try and drown her out by singing even louder.
Thus they arrived in Manhattan shouting the words to “Feliz Navidad” at the top of their respective lungs, thereby causing the windshield to fog up even worse than it had been before. The snow had turned to sleet, visibility was absolutely nil, and Cuddy was desperate to get out of the car and into someplace warm. She did have to admit that it was nice to see Stacy this happy, even they were stuck in mid-town traffic, in her clunky old Buick, and absolutely no idea what they were going to do next.
I wanna wish you a merry Christmas, I wanna wish you a merry Christmas, I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas, from the bottom of my heart.
“Great!” Cuddy shouted, turning off the radio so she could hear herself think. “But I really need to pee, and I think we’re running out of gas.”
“Let’s go to the Ritz Carlton.”
“Are you crazy? It’s Christmas Eve.”
“Whatever,” she replied tossing fate to the wind and carefully driving toward Central Park West, with Stacy opening the window to play navigator. By the time they pulled up to the hotel and turned the car over to the valet, they were both shaking with cold, and Cuddy’s hair was frizzing up from the raindrops that had hit her. She assumed her make-up was a wreck as well. Stacy shouldn’t have looked much better, but somehow she did.
In fact, she took about two minutes to put on some lipstick, apply a bit of blush and do something to her hair. Then she proceeded to walk up to the front desk, where she took out her business card and invoked the name of the managing partner of her law firm. Within ten minutes, she and Cuddy had been led to a suite with a fireplace. Twenty minutes later champagne and caviar had been delivered and shortly thereafter, Stacy had lured her into the deliciously inviting Jacuzzi.
Cuddy had been losing herself in the hot water and deeply massaging jets, when she felt Stacy’s hand on her shoulder and realized how close their faces were. She saw the intention in Stacy’s eyes and thought of resisting or at least protesting, but the words just weren’t there. Why shouldn’t they? Because of House? Hardly.
The first kiss tasted of salt and bubbles. The first touch was under hot water, and she’d love to tell herself that everything after that was vague or hazy, but it was nothing of the sort. It was all too real, from the clear fact that Stacy knew exactly what she was doing and that it came from a place of fear and deprivation.
Maybe she should have stopped it, but when Stacy touched her again. There. Like that. Like her breasts were a gift from god. Like her pussy was the sweetest thing on earth. And like there were only the two of them, together, wrapped in big fluffy robes in a giant four-poster bed, being paid for on Stacy’s expense account.
So she let it happen. They both needed it so much, she told herself. Stacy was a hungry thing, and Cuddy let herself be feasted on. It was the best night of her life. Even now she could remember the heat of Stacy’s hands as they moved over her body, and she felt a flush come to her cheeks. She even found herself squirming a bit in her chair, and wondered if House could actually sense her arousal.
He was still sitting there. Waiting for an answer. Maybe it was how he looked when Stacy finally went home the next night. If they’d been able to talk then, things might have been different, but according to Stacy, nothing had changed. No explanations or apologies were given. He never told her where he’d gone with Wilson and he didn’t seem to care where she’d been for over thirty-six hours. It took six more months for Stacy to be broken enough to leave, but that night was the beginning of the end.
Cuddy wondered what would happen if she and House stayed together with this much anger and denial between them. It couldn’t end well.
“Did you fuck my girlfriend?” he asked, crudely.
She was tired of living in a minefield.
“Did you fuck Wilson?” she shot back.
Cuddy waited for the whole damn thing to blow up in her face. Oh well, she thought, out in a blaze of glory. Maybe it would be worth it to lose House, just to know the truth, and possibly get her life back before it was too late.
The explosion never happened. She saw a moment of a nearly unidentifiable emotion on House’s face and then a look that she interpreted as surrender. Whatever it was with Wilson, he couldn’t risk naming it. That was both sad and powerful, and it meant that she couldn’t use Stacy either. It was as though they’d come to the OK Corral and decided to cancel the gunfight and go out for a Sarsaparilla instead.
“OK,” he said, getting up to leave. There was a weariness about him. He looked beaten and Cuddy caught herself feeling sorry for him again. “I’ll see you later?” he asked tentatively.
“Yeah. I’ve got the sitter all set. The movie’s at eight, but we’ll need to get there early to line up for the Imax, and NO, you can’t just play your cripple card and jump the line.
She heard a hint of relief in his tone. Nothing had changed, and that was how he liked it.
She watched him go, taking a moment to appreciate that he did have a nice back-side, and yes there were other reasons she’d decided to pursue this thing with House against all common sense.
Cuddy thought about doing something with those meaningless papers, but she honestly couldn’t make herself care just then. Instead she took out her cell-phone, hit a number on speed-dial and waited while it rang, thinking of intoxicating bubbles and fish eggs. It rang through to voicemail giving her the prompt to leave a message.
“Hi, Stacy. It’s me. Give me a call. I really need to talk. “
She put the phone away and smiled to herself.
You can’t lose every time, even if you live in a minefield.