Title: The Second Time Around
Fandom: House MD
Pairing: Wilson/Cuddy (possible stealth H/W)
Author's notes: Written for secondsilk who requested "Wilson/Cuddy and a a meal."Special thanks to Mr. Francis Albert Sinatra and the lyrical geniuses, Lorenz Hart and Cole Porter.
Warnings: Spoilers for "Forever" and "Who's Your Daddy?"
Summary: Cuddy wants to tie up some loose ends.
Life at PPTH was quiet without House, maybe too quiet. It took nearly three weeks for Cuddy to stop reacting to every knock on her office door as if a madman were about to barge in and demand permission to run some completely unethical test or try an unproven medical procedure that might just as likely kill the patient as cure him. Once she got it through her head that he wouldn’t be coming through the door any time soon, she was surprised to find out how much she missed him.
House pissed her off, got the hospital sued on a regular basis and cost them Edward Vogler’s millions. He was also a genius, an invigorating sparring partner and, in his own lean, unshaven way, attractive. There was too much history blocking the doorway to friendship, much less anything else, but she still looked forward to the day he returned to work with a fresh supply of jokes about her breasts. Maybe he’d even walk in without his cane.
Cuddy had first seen the findings of the German Ketamine study in a journal more than six months earlier. Knowing that House would reject the information out of hand, if it came from her, she passed it on to Wilson. Maybe he’d mentioned it to House or merely left it somewhere that his compulsively nosey eyes couldn’t fail to find it. Somehow the words “Tell Cuddy I want Ketamine” had passed his lips as he was being wheeled into surgery and Cameron frantically conveyed the message.
He had woken up from surgery complaining of soreness from the shooting, but none of his accustomed leg pain, even when his morphine dosage was titrated down to nothing. Long term, it was still a 50/50 gamble. Cuddy was too much of a skeptic to believe that prayer would change the odds, but too desperate not to try anyway.
House signed himself out a week before any of his doctors thought he should. The only contact she’d had since then were emails consisting of jogging mileage and stupid jokes.
Without House’s antics to keep her busy, she had time to tie up loose ends. The shooting required paperwork, affidavits and a revamping of the hospital security system. She had salary reviews to sign, board meetings to attend and appointments with her fertility specialist.
There was also unfinished business with Wilson. Cuddy blamed herself for inviting him out on an “audition” without knowing what she was looking for. She shuddered at exactly how uncomfortable the dinner had been. It was a shame because she genuinely liked Wilson and trusted him to do the right thing as long as it didn’t put him in conflict with House. The smile on his face when they were joking about Julie not wanting custody of House made her decide against asking Wilson or anyone else to be a donor. In fact, that was the exact moment she knew it would have to be the anonymous route.
House had figured out what was going on, of course, but there was no indication he had told Wilson, which was fine with her. She still wanted to fix the friendship and thank him for backing up her decision on the Ketamine. Cuddy had been acting on Cameron’s word that House had requested it. House no longer had a medical proxy and there was no time to contact his parents. She wasn’t going it alone. Their eyes had met outside the OR and Wilson gave a brief nod, tacitly promising to support the decision if something went wrong. For that promise, she owed him another dinner, hopefully one where they could actually relax.
“You wanted to see me?” Wilson came in, responding to Cuddy’s page.
“How about dinner Friday?”
She watched as he tried to cover an expression that said “Oh no, not again.”
“The last one sucked,” she admitted bluntly. “I can do better.”
How that man had won a poker tournament was beyond her. Concern, aggravation, doubt, and frustration played across his features in rapid succession.
“It’s not an official request. It won’t affect your job, if you say ‘no’”
Wilson’s face relaxed into a smile, reminding Cuddy that he’d always looked younger than his age as long as she known him and that she had always looked older.
“OK,” he said, seemingly surprised to hear himself say it.”
“OK,” she replied, trying to keep another round of awkwardness from setting in before they’d even gotten to a restaurant. “So, where should we go?”
“Excuse me?” That was forward even for Wilson.
“I miss cooking. You buy the groceries and I’ll do the work. Deal?”
He was almost out the door before she blurted, “Have you heard from him?”
Wilson answered without turning around. “Three and a half miles and ‘How many plastic surgeons does it take to screw in a light bulb’?”
The menu called for shrimp scampi and angel hair pasta so Cuddy put some classic Sinatra on the CD player.
She gets too hungry for dinner at eight. Hates the theater but never comes late.
Cuddy looked in the refrigerator to make sure she had everything on the shopping list that Wilson had emailed. Her kitchen was well-equipped and seldom used for more than coffee and Lean Cuisine.
The doorbell rang, snapping her out of a momentary wallow.
She never bothers with people with she’d hate. That’s why the lady is a tramp.
She slipped into her red pumps on the way to opening the door. Wilson stood on her front steps with a bottle of wine in one hand and flowers in the other.
“James,” she said, letting him in. It was fun watching him try not to stare at her cleavage. Usually he had House being the blatantly bad-boy, while he only snuck peaks. In the face of her red sweater, black sheath skirt, and hair down to her shoulders, he couldn’t resist a full-court ogle.
That was a good start. The constrictions of their work personas began to loosen slightly. The relaxation continued with the first glass of Chardonnay and some more Sinatra. It was a toss-up as to which one of them had the least singing ability, but they both crooned along with the Chairman of the Board.
Don’t you know you fool, you never can win. Use your mentality. Wake up to reality.
Soon Lisa was sitting in the kitchen watching Wilson mince garlic. His jacket had been left in the living room and he’d rolled up the sleeves of his blue shirt. She found herself momentarily entranced by the sight of his forearms as he proceeded to chop an onion and peel shrimp. He turned to smile at her and she couldn’t help grinning back,
Over the years, she’d had to comfort crying nurses and break up fights because of that smile. Three wives had believed that smile and look where it had gotten them. On the other hand where had it gotten him? He needed to boil the water for angel hair pasta in her kitchen because he’d left his wife and was living in a hotel room.
I get no kick from Champagne.
But a nice Chardonnay was going to her head as the extra virgin olive oil was heated and the garlic tossed in the skillet sending a sizzle and pungent smell into the air. With it came the longing for someone to share good food and bad singing with on a regular basis.
Flying too high with some gal in the sky is my idea of nothing to do, but I get a kick out of you.
Lisa got a kick of out James. They ate at the kitchen table to avoid the oversized emptiness of the dining room. The scampi was delicious, both eye and mouth watering with the intensity of garlic and onions. He amused her with hospital gossip that even she didn’t know, and she was supposed to know everything about her employees. She deliberately didn’t bring up Julie, but somehow the topic arose anyway.
“I thought I could fix things by taking her up to New York for a romantic weekend. We stayed at the Peninsula, walked in Central Park, every cliché you can think of. I asked the concierge to get us some theater tickets. All Julie said was, 'anything but Cats.' Trust me; we would have been better off with the singing fur balls than a Eugene O’Neill revival. Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Not exactly a toe-tapper. I don’t think we ever recovered from that.”
“James, I’m so sorry.”
“I blame the concierge.”
“What about Julie?”
Lisa regretted the words and was prepared to curse the wine and garlic for her faux pas. He didn’t look upset, merely resigned.
“I was never there. Not really. I had a wedding with Julie, but I was married to the hospital…”
“No, I’m married to the hospital. You’re married to….”
“The department,” he finished emphatically. She nodded. That wasn’t what she’d been thinking, but it was a safer answer for both of them, especially since the evening was moving into the living room with the last of Chardonnay. James had removed his tie before serving the scampi and Lisa had left her high heels back in the kitchen. She pulled one leg under her as they sat on the sofa.
The conversation rambled from Senator Wright’s possible run for president to the mind-boggling stupidity of “Project Runway,” which it turned out they were both shame-facedly addicted to. Embarrassment or wine provoked a case of the giggles. Their shoulders bumped together and instead of pulling away, she stayed put, leaning against him.
She stopped laughing and nodded, allowing him to take her empty glass and place it on the coffee table next to his own.
If she wanted to keep anything from happening, now was the time to say so.
James’s hand reached up to stroke her cheek, touch her hair, and pull her into a gentle kiss, testing, teasing, almost endearingly cautious. She smiled into the kiss, opening her mouth to him. It was a good thing they’d both had the scampi. She could taste the garlic and wine as his tongue swirled against hers. His hands remained chastely on her shoulders, barely touching the skin, but her body pushed against his chest. It had been so long since she’d been with anybody, years if she told the truth, because she was married to that damn hospital. The most physical contact she’d had with anyone lately had been her fertility specialist and some how those early morning pelvic exams left a bit to be desired in the romance department.
Now she was nearly lying down on the couch, Wilson leaning over her, holding tightly, the kiss getting more intense. Lisa had a sudden impulse to invite him to move in. She had a spare bedroom going to waste. Why the hell was he still living in a hotel anyway? The roomies thing with House had been doomed because who could live with House (or vice versa) but there was no reason Wilson couldn’t stay with her until he found a place.
He pulled her closer, hands running down her back, finding skin where her sweater was coming away from her skirt.
She’d let him cook instead of paying rent.
And if something happened and he didn’t stay in the guest-room, well that wouldn’t be the end of the world, as long as they both knew what they were getting into. She caught herself imagining a baby with James’s brown eyes and sweet smile.
She moaned slightly, trying to adjust herself, to press against him. Her whole body vibrated with tension.
No. That was his cell phone in his hip pocket, going off against her leg.
They separated, gasping slightly. Lisa felt like a teenager who’d been caught necking in the living room before reminding herself that she was a grown woman and it was her living room to neck in if she wanted to.
Lisa didn’t have to wait for James to start talking to know who it was. His face changed as soon as he looked at the number.
“What is it?” he demanded, but behind the frustration, she knew he didn’t mind the call. “Now? Now!!? No. I’ve just eaten…yes, a date. No, none of your business. Where? Maybe.”
He closed the phone, putting it down next to the wine glasses.
“Lisa, I’m sorry. Where were we…”
“How, he’s doing?” she asked softly, pushing a strand of hair behind her ear.
“I don’t know. He’s at a diner on the interstate. He wants me to meet him.”
“You should go.” She sighed deeply, biting down on her lower lip to keep from saying anything else.
“O for two.” He noted glumly.
“Do I get another chance?”
“I don’t think so.”
Lisa went to the kitchen to fetch his tie. She had dishes to do in a kitchen that finally looked as though someone lived there. And she’d have left-overs for a few days. That was nice. At least he was leaving her with something.
James had put his jacket back on. He accepted his tie and casually tucked it into his pocket.
“Goodnight…Wilson.” Now that he was leaving, she felt like they needed to redress themselves in protective covering. If they stayed emotionally open to each other, it would be too painful. “Thanks for coming and cooking and everything. Give him my best. Just in general…he doesn’t have to know about this.”
He kissed her on the cheek so sweetly that she was tempted to smack his face and leave a bruise to go along with the lipstick mark that she wasn’t going to bother mentioning.
The referee in her mind called a foul. Aside from the work issues, she’d always avoided acting on her attraction to Wilson because she knew better than to get involved with a married man. Julie was out of the picture, but there’d be another Mrs. Wilson eventually. Besides, House and Wilson were married to each other, whether either of them knew it or not.
“You should wash your face.”
He touched his face, finding the spot immediately.
Wilson took the opportunity to use the restroom, coming out free of any indication that he’d been in an intimate situation, unless you counted his vain attempts to cover the garlic with a breath mint. House would smell though that in a minute. She hoped that Wilson was better at lying to House than she was.
They said their goodnights and she stood on her steps enjoying the warm night until he had driven away. When she went back inside, it was just her and the music. Cleaning up could wait till the morning. She decided to go to bed, giving Frank the last word.
So good-bye dear, and amen. Here’s hoping we meet now and then. It was great fun, but it was just one of those things.