SUMMARY: What a long, strange day it's been.
CHARACTERS: Cuddy, House
RATING: R for language and themes.
WARNINGS: Details the aftermath of events in Bad Company, a rough, violent story. Aftermath isn't always pretty; may distress some readers. Adult themes and adult language.
DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Never will.
NOTES: The pieces of this shattered story are numbered. The first number signifies the number of days that have elapsed since the original event in Bad Company; the second number signifies when the fic occurs during that day.
She goes into her office, shuts the door and stands there for a few seconds with her hand resting flat against it.
The door is wood, but what she feels is soft, warm fabric. The vibrations of a powerful, furious, desperate voice shouting at everything and everyone. Muscles straining as he does his best to get free from the men who hold him back. Struggling the way he would if he were fighting for his own life.
She can feel that pounding heart, hammering away so hard and fast, as if to escape its constraints.
House can lie about himself all he wants. His heart told her the truth.
It's seven at night and the necessary meeting is finally over. Vera Ostler is officially Interim Head of Oncology. Cuddy realizes that she could officially not care less.
Well, not right now. She'll care in the morning. At this moment, three minutes past seven, she cares that her feet hurt, her head hurts, her back hurts—and she keeps feeling the frantic pulse of House's heart beneath her hand. She cares that she missed lunch and that she's hungry.
She looks around and decides against taking home the latest stack of paperwork. Not this time. This time, she'll simply leave and try not to think of a single damn thing until tomorrow. Even cooking dinner would be too much to cope with, seeing as it would mean having to shop for groceries. She'll zip out to the edge of campus and pick something up at Trang's instead. That'll be easy, and easy is good.
Her plan works for approximately three minutes, which is how long it takes her to get to the parking garage and notice a certain orange motorcycle. House doesn't have a case, but he's still here. It doesn't take a genius to figure out why.
"You're not him," says House, the moment she steps into Wilson's office with dinner in hand. "And really—pretending to be Wilson? That's just pathetic."
"Shut up, House." Ideally she'd have some witty retort, but it's now quarter til eight and she is far too weary and hungry to be bothered. She sets the styrene box on the desk in front of him, popping open the top so that the aromatic steam can escape. "You're not him either, so why aren't you using your own computer?"
"I already know everything I've been up to. This is more fun."
She slips out of her heels and feels the relieved stretch in her arches as she pads around the desk to see what House has found.
"Titanium rhinoplasty? That's ... weird."
"So's Wilson," House quips, but he's serious about what he's reading. "Makes sense, though. It's inert, durable, already in wide medical use; why not? Could eliminate a lot of problems. Are these—?" he grabs one of the small spring rolls and inspects it carefully, his hopeful gaze alighting on the tiny plastic cup full of amber-colored sauce.
"Nem," she confirms, smiling at him. "A special order. And I'm not telling you where they came from."
"What, so you can use the secret to bribe me later? I don't care. As long as there are more where these came from." Deftly he wraps the roll in the fresh leaves of lettuce and mint that most Americans would mistake for a mere garnish. Cuddy smiles, settling into Wilson's sofa with her own box of Vietnamese heaven.
They eat in comfortable silence, and Cuddy realizes it's the first real respite she has had since Sunday afternoon. It's strange to think of House as a soothing, relaxing presence, but he is—at least for now.
She watches House lean back, closing his eyes and savoring the nem rolls with a curling smile of genuine, greedy pleasure. He's uncivilized; he lets flakes of crisp rice-paper fall from his mouth as he crunches blissfully away. He licks his fingers, drinks some of the fragrant pho soup right from its flimsy paper bowl. The air fills with the scent of beef broth, fried vegetables, sweet basil and cilantro.
There's something oddly rewarding about seeing House take what she has offered, allowing himself a little unabashed enjoyment. Until now, she has never understood why Wilson so often feeds him, but now she thinks she does. It feels good. It's as simple as that.
It's simple, but she'd missed it completely. She wonders, as she sips from her own bowl of soup, whether House himself has ever figured it out.