title: burnt once, twice shy
author: the unreliable narrates
fandom: House MD
episode/spoiler: references to 5.06 Joy
characters: House/Cuddy; [ House/Wilson impl.]
rating: R (but only for a short scene), het
warning: none I can think of, aside from the pairing and what I imply

summary: She woke; the bed next to her empty and cold. She couldn’t claim to be surprised he’d left. AU-scenario, obviously. House/Cuddy sex-only. oneshot

disclaimer: I have to feed a seven year old wabbit and a half a year old computer so please don't sue me. Seriously: I hope the idea to this story is mine, but I do not intend to touch the rights of the owner of the characters from House MD I’ve used. No moneymaking, no offence meant.


Beneath the stain of time / The feeling disappears /You are someone else / I am still right here… (Johnny Cash, Hurt)


“What do you think he would say… seeing you like that?”



He knew it wasn’t the cigarette she was talking about.

She stepped close to him to put both hands down onto his shoulders with gentle pressure, inhaled some of the smoke, surrounding him like a halo. He’d propped the window open a bit - coming from House, it was probably an enormous gesture of thoughtfulness.

The window ledge was just wide enough for him to sit on it – right leg bend and turned towards the glass; left leg dangling down; his bare toes barely touched the floor. When he left her bed, he had put on his jeans, but nothing else. The room had cooled down considerably, but it didn’t seem to bother him.

She pulled the woolen shawl, once belonging to her mother, closer around her chilled body and kept it together with one hand. With the fingertips of her free hand she drew an imaginary line from his hairline to his spine, to feel a shiver running down his body.

 

She woke; the bed next to her empty and cold. She couldn’t claim to be surprised… he always choose to run rather than to face an awkward situation, especially one involving emotions.

Until she caught the first, faint whiff of cigarette smoke; drifting towards her from the living room.

She forwent the lights, just grabbed the shawl sitting on the chest next to the door to put it around her shoulders. The slide of soft wool across her skin made her feel less naked, less exposed… it smelled familiar, of comfort and belonging.

He had left the door ajar and a thin shaft of light intruded into the bedroom to guide her towards the living room.

A reading lamp across the room, sitting next to the couch in a corner far away from the window, proved to be the only source of light, as she entered. The figure sitting on the window ledge a shadow against darkness, shrouded in silence and cigarette smoke.

For a moment she hesitated, slightly leaning against the door jam; arms crossed in front of her chest to watch him. He used the delicate china tea cup half filled with now cold Earl Grey, which had been left on the coffee table, as an impromptu ashtray, tipping the ash from the tip of his cigarette into it without sparing a look. Probably expecting her to be grateful he didn’t drop it onto the expensive carpet.

She could see the hair at the back of his head, dark and matted against the skull, as if he’d taken a recent shower. A few lost drops of water glistened on his bare shoulders and the neck. But as the bathroom was close to the bedroom she would have heard him. Maybe he used the faucet in the kitchen.

When she finally moved closer, her own - slightly distorted - reflection on the window pane erased what she had been able to see from his face, mirrored against the darkness outside. He knew she’d been standing there, watching him – she could see it in the slight tightening of his posture as if his body was unconsciously trying to curl into himself for protection.

The only outward reaction to her closeness he showed was to flip the still smoking butt out. Grabbing the pack from the sill, he fingered out another cigarette. After lighting it, he balanced the pack and the lighter on his knee and started to draw hieroglyphics onto the once clean glass, now fogged with exhaled smoke and warm breath.

She wondered what he was thinking and if he used her window the way he used his whiteboard during the differential; listing ‘symptoms’ and ‘indications’ to explain why he ended up here, with her.

“Obviously your mother didn’t teach you it’s not polite to stare at people. Hmmm... lacking the basic understandings of human interaction... maybe it’s better if you don’t raise a child.“

His words hurt but she didn’t really expect anything else. “Walking out at me isn’t quite winning you the ‘Man of the year’ award.”

“Too bad. I’ve already been working on my acceptance speech.”

 

When she touched him, he covered up an involuntarily flinch with a shrug. Pretending not to have noticed it, she worked the muscles of his shoulders with her hands, pressing the tips of her finger deep into the cool skin. He turned slightly more to the side, to give her more room and she understood it as an invitation to continue.

“You want to talk about him? Now?” He rolled the cigarette between his fingers, still staring out of the window. “Ouch,” he winched as she put more pressure into the massage. “Keep it up and you’ll have my head in a jar tomorrow morning, Jezebel.”

“Salome,” she corrected without thinking. “Nice compliment, by the way.”

At this he looked at her for the first time since she’s entered the room. “He’d lecture me about the dangers of smoking, that’s what you want to hear?” The tip of the cigarette gleamed as he inhaled. “Bringing out all the gory details as if he was some kind of doctor. At least that’s what he used to do.” He exhaled smoke with a sound partly scorn and partly desperation. “Now… I don’t know. He claims nothing’s changed, but…” He seemed to remember who he was talking to and became silent. House continued to smoke and to stare out of the window.

She kept her hands on his shoulders, the skin warming beneath her palms. “Everything changed. And than it changed again, until we ended up where we started.” This time she wouldn’t make the mistake to fall in love with him. This time she knew he was too damaged to love. Or probably too damaged to love her…

“A female dean with too tight skirts and biological clock ticking away towards its expiring date.”

“A genius cripple scared of letting anybody close. And let’s not forget your little ‘habits’,” she answered.

He dropped the half smoked cigarette into the cup and picked at his lower lip. “Well, after we finished proper introductions, we could return to bed.” He leered at her, but his heart wasn’t really in it.

“I’m not stupid. I’m not naïve. I’m not blind,“ she said and pulled back her hands to cross her arms in front of her chest. “I’m not him.”

“Nobody’s him.” He reached again for the pack of cigarettes. „Just like I’m not a proxy for Joy.“

She grabbed the pack out of his hand and pushed it out the propped window. The lighter followed suite, despite his protests.

House turned his head and what ever she expected to see in his face, she wasn’t prepared to see him smile. A rare, real smile. He tugged at the shawl and she allowed him to tug the wool away from her skin. He leaned forwards and his lips brushed across her skin; whispering over the sensitive skin at the neck, down the jugular to her collarbone. Her pulse started to speed up and she imagined he could feel her heart beating beneath the skin as he mouthed the top of her breasts.

Closing both hands around his face she lifted his head until he looked at her.

His mouth tasted of bitter smoke and something chemical, mixed in the distant aroma of Earl Grey and sugar. He tasted of loneliness.

*

She couldn’t see his face, he kept it pressed against her skin and his tongue played with the areola as his hand slid down, across her belly.

She bit her lower lip, splaying her legs wider apart, for now not afraid to feed him fresh material for more mocking about her desperation.

Her nails dug into the sheet as his mouth followed his hand down and his long and skilled fingers penetrated her… playing her like his piano.

*

As her pulse and breath slowed down again, she turned towards him, reaching for the waistband of his jeans to open them – but he pushed her away and turned onto his back.

She shivered – both from the clear rejection and the cold air – and tugged at the blanked he was laying on. He lifted his hips for a second, allowing her to get it out… and surprised her by swaddling her in it as if she was a child.

He stayed turned towards her, but it was too dark to make out his face.

She inched slowly closer until she could feel the pressure of his body against hers, the blanket like a barrier between them.

Lisa Cuddy didn’t try to fool herself into thinking there was any other reason than desperation and loneliness that lead him to her bed.

They turned towards each other while they were looking for something lost. Like travellers sharing a room for a night before continuing on separate roads.

She freed a hand from under the blanket and ignored his cringe as she touched the side of his face without warning. Carding her fingers through his hair, she wondered how long he would stay, probably only as long as it would take him to figure out what to do.

Pressing a chaste kiss to his temple, she closed her eyes. Her mouth brushed his ear as she started to hum a lullaby she learned in preparation of a child she couldn’t call her own in the end. A small smile grazed her lips as he put his arm around her waist, pulling her slightly closer.

End