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Saturday Night Special

Chapter Text

Random chords fill the room as you wait, your fingers moving over the keys of the piano without conscious thought. A melody builds, something soft at first that crescendoes like a storm moving in from a distance. Your eyes close and you let the music dictate to you, as if it has a mind of its own. The piece that flows out of the instrument feels portentous; the notes vibrate through your veins as if they have seeped into your bloodstream.

The phone rings and disrupts the mood. Fingers hovering over the ivories, you turn and stare at it, but don't make a move. After three rings, Wilson's voice comes over the answering machine. "House, why aren't you picking up? You want to get a beer tonight?" There's a pause and then, "Oh... I forgot what day it was. Never mind. I'll talk to you tomorrow."

People say you're unpredictable, a loose canon, and you like it that way. But there is a side of you that craves routine, and keeps to certain habits that balance out your spontaneous side. You keep that part of yourself private, with Wilson as your only confidante.

Every other Saturday night, you indulge, more so than usual. It's not just Vicodin and bourbon, self-recriminations and misery, but also pleasure. A hedonist. That's what your father called you; it's the only thing he's ever said that you took as a compliment.

Your Saturday night special's name is Paula. She is well-versed in what you want, and you tip her well in return. You'd gone through several girls before settling on Paula and making her your regular. Pretty and punctual, she is the only one who keeps strict adherence to your rules. The only one who doesn't touch your stuff, ask annoying personal questions, or try to make small talk about the weather or what you do for a living like you are on a first date instead of engaging in a business transaction.

On this particular Saturday evening, you are ready, bourbon glittering in the dim lamp light of your living room, condoms on the bedside table, Vicodin flowing freely through your bloodstream, old friends with the alcohol. You unplug the phone and return to the piano bench. Your pager is off, and all you need is Paula. When her knock comes, you strike a low G and let the note linger before you rise to let her in. But what you find at your door is a pretty young thing trying very hard to look bold and confident.

"You're not Paula," you say, losing yourself for a moment in the gray-blue-green kaleidoscope of her eyes. She is exquisite, this girl-woman, with thick dark lashes, perfectly arched eyebrows, cheeks like ripe peaches. Her hair is the color of mahogany and hangs past her shoulders in long loose waves, and her lips are luscious and shiny with a coat of red lipstick. But what strikes you the most is how impossibly young and virginal she looks. In a modest red silk blouse, she's showing less cleavage than Cuddy on a normal work day. Her navy skirt falls to just above her knees. Long, slender legs end in red pumps. She's a patriotic pinup girl, you think. God bless America.

Stepping into your apartment without waiting for an invitation, she says, "Paula quit."

You shut the door behind her, checking out her stunning little ass with hardy approval before she turns around to face you. "I guess you'll do," you say. "You're at least legal, right?"

"What do you mean?" she asks, worrying at her bottom lip with her teeth.

"I mean, can you vote? Drink alcohol without getting arrested? Would you be accepted into the military?"

"I'm twenty-seven," she answers, smiling for the first time. "The agency vets the girls thoroughly. They wouldn't hire anyone underaged."

"Oh, I'm sure they're all about legalities," you mock, stepping forward and staring down into those fathomless eyes and noting the little flecks of gold in them that make them look green from a distance, like shafts of sunlight on the surface of the sea. "What's your name?"

"Allison," she answers. She holds your stare for a moment and then looks away, glancing around the room and then clearing her throat and looking back at you. "As I'm sure you know, there are a few rules. One, I don't kiss on the mouth. Two, I don't do bare back. If you want that, I can tell Tara to send someone else. Three, well... you'll know if you break rule number three."

"Fine," you say, eyes narrowing as you study her with her little pearl-like teeth chewing delicately on those cherry red lips. "I've got a few rules of my own. One, you don't talk. Two," you lift your cane to demonstrate and continue, "I've got a bum leg-go easy on it. Three, you leave immediately when we're through."

With a single nod, she communicates her agreement to your rules and waits for you to tell her what you want. Smiling at her immediate compliance, you take her hand and lead her to the bedroom where you sit on the end of the bed and order her to undress. She takes her time with the buttons on her blouse, careful to watch your reactions. Beneath that red silk is more red silk with a bit of lace in the form of a very sexy bra. Her blouse flutters to the floor and she begins to slide the zipper of her skirt down and shimmy out of it, revealing a matching red thong and diaphanous black thigh-high stockings.

You can't deny she's hot. Hell, you're suddenly grateful for whatever made Paula quit as your cock springs to full attention at the sight of her, all moon-kissed skin with a constellation of freckles dotted here and there.

"Nice," you murmur, reaching out and tugging her to you, placing an open-mouthed kiss on the flat of her abdomen, your tongue sneaking out to dip into her naval.

She gasps, but doesn't say a word, and when you look up you see pleasure and surprise on her face. You slide one hand down over the little silk triangle that covers her, your fingers rubbing her through the fabric, pleased to find it damp. Normally you don't take the time or thought to worry over the pleasure of a working girl, but something about her-Allison-getting off on your touch does something to your ego, makes it swell along with your cock. Warmed at the sight of her with her head thrown back and her mouth open in a little O, you keep rubbing, sliding your fingers under her thong and into her slit as she spreads her legs for you.

"Take off your bra," you order, your fingers still working her over.

Reaching behind her, she unclasps her bra, drawing it down her arms and letting it fall to the floor. Her breasts are small with pale pink nipples that stand erect, as if happy to see you. The feeling is mutual. You pull her down to the bed, taking a moment to observe her laid out, a nymph created by the gods and painted with moonlight. She is as close to perfection as a woman can get. Latching on to one breast with your mouth, you roll your tongue over it until she is arching into you and emitting breathy little sighs. You think you might orgasm just from the sounds coming from those sweet red lips, and you wonder if you should rethink your no talking rule.

After paying due attention to her nipples, you kiss your way down the gentle slope where breast meets ribcage and lower, leaving a damp trail from breast to belly to the band of her thong. Nosing the fabric aside, you taste her, taking note of her fists clenching the sheets as you plunge in and out and swipe at her clit with your tongue, her hips raised to meet you. While your mouth works, your brain continues to whirl, filing away in your memory her taste and the feel of her skin and the sounds of pleasure she makes. You're sure you've never had such a responsive hooker. Most of them just fake it, which doesn't bother you in the least because your only concern has always been getting off. But this little thing, with her wide, honest eyes and her frantic pulse, is making you feel crazed with the need to keep pleasing her and be pleased in return. Her reactions are just about to undo you altogether, so you give her one last lick and then roll off and grab for the condom on the bedside table, while she makes herself useful and pushes her thong down her legs and tosses it into the pile where her other clothes lay.

Pulling down your pajama bottoms, she frees you from your boxer briefs, slender fingers stroking the shaft of your cock before releasing it. She takes the condom from you and rolls it on, fingertips brushing against your sack, her breath coming in warm puffs against you as she moves. Laying flat on your back on the bed, you watch with an almost unbearable anticipation as she finally lowers herself onto you, taking you into her tight heat little by little. Your hands run up her thighs, feeling the smooth, barely there layer of satin from her stockings, and up to the nubby lace around the band that holds them up. She begins to move, creating a delicious friction as her pelvis rubs against your own, her thighs clamping around your hipbones. You are barely aware of the moans coming from your own throat as she rolls her hips in a steady rhythm, her breasts thrusting forward with every arch of her back. Reaching up, you palm them and fight to keep your eyes open at the feel of her pebbled nipples against your hands and the suede grip of her body on your cock that takes you quickly and almost violently over the edge.

You can't move. She has screwed you into a heavenly oblivion and now she is moving off you and tiptoeing around the room, gathering her clothes. Lifting your head a bit, you watch as she dresses, quiet as a little mouse, her cheeks flushed and her mouth turned downward. There is something almost tragic about the way she carries herself, the look in her eyes that makes you look away for a moment. Just as she gets to the door of your room, you call out her name.

"Allison."

Turning, she just looks at you expectantly and waits, that not-so-innocent red lipstick still perfectly in place. Next time, you think, you'll let her leave some of it around your cock.

"There's a tip for you on the dresser," you say, nodding toward the chest of drawers. "I'll see you in two weeks. Same time."

Nodding, she takes the bills, tucking them into her bra, her heels clicking softly on the hardwood floors. You hear the door latch as she leaves the apartment, and you manage the willpower to lever yourself off the bed, dispose of the condom, and hobble out to lock it behind her. Back In your room, you collapse on the bed, pulling the sheets up over your sated body, and there her scent lingers, something delicate and feminine, sweet and sinful. You take a deep breath and commit it to memory, already eagerly awaiting her next visit.

A/N: This is going to be a long story; I'm up to about thirty chapters so far. My goal is to post at least once a week. Stay tuned for more. Also, reviews would be very much appreciated, if for no other reason than to let me know if there are still House/Cameron shippers out there reading. Thank you.

Chapter Text

She is late. Only ten minutes late, but still, it's so unlike her. Every two weeks for the last four months she'd arrived, punctual and quiet, following your lead, pleasing you and taking pleasure in return, gathering her clothes, her tip, and leaving as quietly as she'd come. There were times you'd been tempted to make her visits a weekly event, simply because she'd become your new addiction. But you held yourself in check, pacing yourself.

Limping around the room, your cock already half-stiff with anticipation, you glance at the clock again and scowl. As you pass your guitar, you grab it and sit on the couch, seeking a distraction while you wait for your distraction. The curve of the polished wood reminds you of the curve of her waist, and you rest your hand there for a moment as you draw from your memory images of her naked body. You see her, Allison, spread out on your bed, her arms raised over her head, one leg bent at the knee and angled over the other. Her hair is pooled beneath her head and arms, a tangle of glossy silk against your duvet.

Another ten minutes pass and you realize you've been fondling your guitar inappropriately, and your swollen prick is pressing painfully against your jeans. You think about calling the agency to find out where the hell she is when the knock comes.

You open the door to find a petite blonde with big blue eyes and hot pink lipstick on her overly pouty lips. Definitely not Allison.

"Who the hell are you?" you snap, blocking the doorway to prevent her from entering.

"I'm Heather. The agency sent me," she answers, a seductive smile on those Barbie lips as she reaches out to toy with the buttons of your shirt.

Grabbing her hand, you push it away as if it is made of hot coals singeing your skin. "Where's Allison?"

"She quit," Heather replies, tilting her head and taking strands of her hair between her fingers. "But I'm sure I can meet your needs."

It doesn't work. She's trying too hard, and there is nothing innocent about her, no mystery behind the eyes, no desire, no pain. Your erection shrivels up at the very thought of Barbie Heather.

"Not a chance," you mutter, slamming the door in her face.

She quit? She quit! Your mind can't quite wrap itself around this conundrum. How in hell could she have quit without telling you? A little voice reminds you that you'd instructed her not to talk, which would be a very good excuse. Still, she could have broken that rule for something as important as, "Hey, this is our last romp. Have a nice life!" The fact that she hadn't done that makes you unreasonably angry and disappointed. What are you supposed to do now? Find yet another replacement? You don't want another girl, someone who will go through the motions, fake pleasure and take your money without blinking an eye. Suddenly that's not good enough for you anymore.

The thing about Allison is... she is surprisingly lacking in cynicism for a hooker. Oh, she's got a protective wall around her, with vicious dogs all around its perimeter to keep people out. You saw that right away and it intrigued you. But there is also an honesty to her that took you by surprise, a warmth in the depths of her ocean-colored eyes. From the first time she touched you, it was like she knew your body, an instinctive, unspoken communication flowing between you. If you are honest with yourself, which you rarely are, you had a sense of connection with her and now you are loathe to give that up. She made it easy to feel something without the risk of either of you getting too close. In short, she was perfect and you will accept no substitutes.

Chapter Text

Over a week has passed. You've given up on the idea of trying another hooker, though you are a little put out with the very idea that you could find any prostitute irreplaceable.  But then, if someone had replaced your Vicodin with simple over-the-counter acetaminophen, you would also find that unacceptable, and so you tell yourself the two scenarios are comparable and you're justified in your reaction.  Allison had simply become a sort of palliative therapy for you, something that helped you cope with your pain so that you could function better as a doctor.  

On this night, the pain eats at your thigh like a vulture, picking over your mangled flesh with sharp talons.  Nothing seems to help.  Not Vicodin, not alcohol, not music.  Restless, you're thinking about the little box on the top shelf and trying to decide if it's bad enough to resort to that, your emergency supply of morphine.  You think of Allison as the heel of your hand carves a path in your leg and you decide to take a walk and work out the cramps.  Maybe seek out a distraction.  You can always come back to your old friend morphine later.  

The streets are damp from a recent rain, the glow of the streetlights reflecting off of them.  Traffic at this time of night is at a minimum, but you hear the swoosh of tires on wet pavement in the distance.  A few people stumble out of the little restaurant on the corner, meandering down the sidewalk ahead of you.  Their laughter carries on the breeze, drunken and joyful at once.  You carry on, past the trendy little shops and boutiques, the old record store you like to peruse at times, the bank, the bus stop.  All are closed at the moment, except the restaurant and your favorite coffee shop two blocks further down.  Caffeine probably won't help you sleep, but then neither will pain, so you don't care at the moment.  You stride on, guided by a sudden urge for something warm as the autumn night air chills you and your breath becomes an almost imperceptible mist in front of your face.

A little bell jingles and the few patrons inside look up as you enter.  An eager woman at the register gives you a smile and takes your order, writing it on the side of a cup and passing it along to the barista, whose back is turned to you.  Though you can't see her face, you recognize her stunning little ass immediately, even in faded jeans that fray at the ends, and worn-out sneakers.  As you step to the end of the bar to wait, you see her in profile, head bent forward as she concentrates, hands moving with quiet efficiency.  Little tendrils of hair escape her ponytail as she works, falling around her cheeks.  When she turns to pass you your drink, she nearly drops it at the sight of you.  

"Long time no see," you say, rescuing your beverage and taking note of her pale face, the way her mouth falls open in speechless amazement.

"Hi," she squeaks, a delicate blush staining her cheeks as she glances around the shop nervously.  

"We should catch up." Sipping your coffee, you raise your eyebrows as you wait for her to respond.

"Uh... sure.  I can't right now... but...."

"How 'bout after your shift ends?"

"I don't get off until eleven," she answers, biting on her lower lip in that nervous way that you find endearing.

"I'll wait," you say, winking at her and moving off to find a seat at one of the little tables in the shop.  Snatching a newspaper from another table, you keep yourself occupied by pretending to read it while you watch her work, your heart beating out a strangely happy rhythm which you attribute to the caffeine.

Less than an hour later, she is cleaning up after her shift, helping her manager close up shop. You wait outside for her, and when she emerges, she has a gray, hooded sweatshirt on and a large bag slung across her body.  She pauses at the sight of you waiting, leaning against the wall nonchalantly.

"Need a ride home?"

"No thanks, I usually just take the bus," she says, and your everybody lies radar starts pinging like mad.

"Good, 'cause I don't have my car." You fall into stride beside her, looking down at her to study her profile, hoping to find answers there. "So... you quit."

"Yes, I quit," she answers, offering nothing more.

"Quite a surprise when you didn't show up," you continue. "They sent Barbie instead, but I don't play with dolls. What happened?"

"Nothing.  I just... couldn't do it anymore," she says with a shrug, her face screwed up in a grimace as she adjusts the strap of her bag.  

As she walks, you realize how different she looks, how much younger.  Anyone without your mad observation skills might have mistaken her for a student from the university and not a prostitute. Or former prostitute, you remind yourself. The bag she carries weighs down her body; she keeps adjusting it to shift the weight, and you wonder....

"So which bus do you take?"

"Uh... the 11:45," she mutters.  

"There is no 11:45. The buses stop running at 10:30. What's going on, Allison?"

"Nothing's going on," she insists, turning toward you and crossing her arms over her chest in a failed attempt to look defiant. "Maybe I just don't want you to know where I live.  Maybe it's none of your business."

"You don't want me to know where you live because you're living at the bus station."  

Her mouth falls open again and then snaps shut as you continue. "Your hair has a nice oily buildup and you're carrying a great deal of your possessions in that bag, which you wouldn't do if you had a safe place to keep them."

She bites her lip again, her gaze cast down to the sidewalk beneath her feet. Shame colors her cheeks as she fidgets for a moment.  "It's only temporary," she says, looking up again, directly into your eyes.  

"Right, only temporary" you answer, rolling your eyes with annoyance and an unfamiliar concern for this woman who has rocked your world on more than one occasion.  "Why?"

"I just haven't had a chance to find a place yet," she lies, her gaze darting away as a motorcycle whizzes past and roars off down the street.   

"You're lying.  Oh, don't look so guilty.  Everybody does it.  Most people are just better at it than you are."

"What do you care where I live?" she asks, and her eyes are looking directly into yours as if she can see right into them to what lies inside of you.  

"Normally I wouldn't, but...  it seems you've ruined me for all other hookers," you admit with a little laugh of self-mockery.

"Well, I'm not doing that anymore, so you're out of luck."  She starts to walk again, two, three steps.

"Look," you say, gently taking her arm to turn her toward you. "I'm a bastard, but even I don't like the thought of you living in a bus station. You could come stay with me."

Struck mute, she just blinks at you for a moment, her mouth opening and closing as if she can't get words past her larynx. "I... can't.  I don't... really have any extra money...."

"Who asked you for money? I'm offering you a place to stay, which I'd like to think is a few steps up from the bus station. It's not like we're strangers. What's the problem?"

There are those teeth again working at her lower lip, her arms crossed over her chest as she contemplates your question.

"You don't want to be obligated to anyone. I get it," you say. "But I'm not asking for anything." When you still get nothing but silence, you add, "Look, if you're really worried about it, we could... work out an arrangement."

"I'm not doing that anymore," she all but shouts, then glances around as if embarrassed by her outburst.

"Yeah, I got that. You didn't let me finish. I'm offering to let you stay at my place, no strings attached.  But as I recall, you seemed to enjoy yourself when you were with me and I sure as hell enjoyed myself, so all I'm saying is if you happen to feel frisky on occasion, I won't object to satisfying any desires you might have.  If you don't, that's okay too.  No pressure."

Still she hesitates, a stubborn set to her shoulders that you find both admirable and annoying at the same time. "It's a good offer, Allison. Take it."

Finally she nods with a reluctance that amuses you; she very nearly chose sleeping on a bench in a bus station and sponging herself clean in a grungy public bathroom over sharing a space with you. Wilson would say she has good sense, you think.

"Good choice." You turn and head back toward the coffee shop, pausing only to make sure she follows.  

She is silent all the way home, and your mind is busy trying to work her out. This beautiful slip of a woman is homeless at 27. How is that possible? She could wink and smile and men would fall at her feet to give her anything, yet she chooses not to use her beauty that way. It intrigues you. You let her into your apartment and tell her, "You know where everything is. Make yourself at home."

"Could I take a shower?" she asks, pulling her bag carefully over her head.

"Sure. Like I said, make yourself at home."

As she shuts herself into the bathroom, you lock up, shutting off lights on your way to the bedroom. You change into pajama bottoms and a clean t-shirt, then flop on the bed and wait for her, feeling a new sense of rightness now that you've found her.  The anticipation of getting laid again certainly helps, though you know it won't happen on this night; you'll have to warm her up first. You are certain though that she'll be putty in your hands before too many nights have passed, and you smile, smug and satisfied at the thought.

When she emerges from the bathroom, her hair is wrapped in a towel and she wears an oversized man's button down shirt in a pale shade of green and a pair of plaid cotton pajama pants.  She still has her bag with her, as if it is an extra appendage, and she looks around the room with an uncertainty that amuses you.  

"Nice shirt. Boyfriend's?"

"Husband's," she replies, and your eyes open wide in shock.  

"Seriously?"

"Yes. He's dead. So... should I sleep on the couch?" she asks, adroitly changing the subject, you note.

"Nope," you say, pulling back the covers for her. "We've seen each other naked. No need to be shy."

Nodding, she puts her bag on the chair and pulls the towel from her head, using it to try and wring some of the moisture out of her hair.  "I probably shouldn't have washed it," she says on a yawn. "I hate sleeping with a wet head."

"There's a hair dryer under the sink," you offer, as she yawns again.

"You use a hair dryer?" she asks, as if the idea is preposterous.  She's not wrong.  

"No, but my friend Wilson does. He left it here last time his wife kicked him out."

"Ah."  With a shrug, she stifles another yawn and says, "I'm too tired to worry about it now," and climbs into bed, turns to face away from you, and pulls the covers up to her neck with a little shiver.

You stare for a moment, trying to decide which question you want to ask her first. There are so many. What did your husband die of? Why did you quit? Why are you homeless? How did you get a job without a home address? Where's all that money you made as a call girl?  But before you can get the first one out, she is already asleep.

Chapter Text

It's been three quiet, uneventful, frustrating days since Allison reappeared in your life. She leaves for work long before you're done for the day at the hospital, taking that damned bag of hers with her. You've come to realize that she leaves absolutely no imprint on your apartment whatsoever and it is starting to annoy the hell out of you. She hasn't touched a single dish in the cabinets or even opened the refrigerator as far as you can tell, and you've begun to wonder if she's ceased eating altogether. You still haven't gotten the answers to your questions, because she seems determined to be as invisible as possible, coming in from her shift at the coffee shop and quietly crawling into bed. When you wake in the morning, she stays in bed until after you've gone to work and then she showers (her towel being the only evidence of her presence) and after that, you have no idea how she spends her time until her shift starts at three pm.

It occurs to you that if she disappeared off the planet completely, there might not be anyone out there to even notice or care, besides you. You don't really know for sure, but you assume that if she had anyone close to her she'd be staying with them. It seems unfair that this gorgeous, caring young woman has no one, and you, misanthropic bastard extraordinaire have Wilson and Cuddy and hell, even Foreman and Chase, though they are not your biggest fans. It seems wrong that you appear to be the only one she can rely on, especially when you've never been the reliable type. But then, life has never been fair and sometimes good people get crapped on. The question you can't answer for yourself is why it bothers you so much.

You order a pizza and wait for your beautiful stranger. When she knocks on your door, you roll your eyes and get up to let her in.

"You know you can just open the door and come in, right?"

"Oh... okay. Thank you," she says, ever polite, stepping in with her bag draped across her body as always.

"Sit. Have some pizza." You open the box and slide it toward her in invitation, watching as she eyes it with what looks like pepperoni-induced lust, but doesn't move.

"Allison, sit and eat. You do eat, right? If you don't have some, I'm going to shove the leftovers in the fridge and then I'll forget they exist until... well, until Wilson comes over and cleans out my fridge. You'd be doing him a big favor."

"Alright," she agrees, removing her bag and perching delicately on the edge of the chair as she reaches for a slice.

"I've got food in there," you point toward the kitchen, "most of the time. Feel free to eat it. You don't have to starve yourself."

"I'm not starving myself," she snaps. "I'm fine." Her eyes are narrowed at you and you imagine the little gold flecks in them are sparks ignited by her anger.

"Sure you are. I bet those free samples at the coffee shop are really filling."

"That's not all I eat," she replies, and you know she's lying because she can't look at you.

"Oh, really? What do you eat then?"

"Stuff," she answers, with a sudden focus on her faded sneakers.

"Right. Stuff. My favorite," you mock. "All I'm saying is, you're welcome to eat what's here. In fact, I'd prefer you did. You like to cook? Knock yourself out."

She doesn't respond and you shake your head at the stubborn independent streak that makes her reluctant to take anything she feels she hasn't earned.

"How about this? I hate shopping. I'll leave you money and you do my shopping for me. In return, you can buy yourself whatever you need."

Silence. You can tell she is mulling it over, and you think it almost laughable, and pathetic, that she has to put so much consideration into taking something that is freely offered.

"Forget it," you say, bringing out one of your best weapons: manipulation. "You'd rather eat the fruit and stale sandwiches your store is going to throw away at the end of the night, be my guest. I hear the emaciated look is all the rage these days."

"Why do you care?" She punctuates her words by slapping her pizza down on the box and looking at you so intently you think she can see right through you.

"I don't know," you all but shout. "It's like living with a ghost. I'd prefer you not actually become one by starving yourself."

"Fine," she says, with a resigned sigh, as if she is doing you a big favor, and you smile inside, knowing you've won the battle. Picking up her pizza again, she resumes eating, taking delicate bites and wiping the corners of her mouth with the tips of her fingers.

"You thirsty?"

"Yes."

"Good" you mutter, waving toward the kitchen again. "Get me a beer while you're up."

She pauses, a breathy little laugh escaping her lips, and then rises and goes to the kitchen, returning with a glass of tap water and your beer.

You like that little laugh of hers, and how easy she goes from anger to acceptance. So few people put up with your antics and still want to spend time with you voluntarily. Allison is an anomaly that way. You want to understand her, perform a mental exploratory surgery and see what makes her tick.

"So how's the barista business?" you ask, easing into your interrogation. "Hard to believe they hired you when you didn't have a home address."

"I... used your address," she confesses, a sheepish look on her face. "I didn't even realize it was yours at first. It was the first thing that popped into my head."

Interesting, you think. If you adhered to Freudian philosophy, you could make something of that.

"Guess that explains all that junk mail I keep getting in your name," you joke, smiling at her look of dismay. When she opens her mouth to apologize, you cut her off with, "That was a joke. Why the coffee shop? Can't imagine slinging coffee pays as well as... your previous career."

"You'd be surprised," she says, but doesn't elaborate.

You drop your own slice of pizza in the box, frustrated, and say, "Seriously? My tips alone added up to thousands of dollars. And that doesn't account for the money charged to my credit card for all those consulting fees."

"You were very generous," she replies, setting down her half-eaten slice and sighing. "Most clients don't tip. In fact, you're one of only a few that ever tipped me. And only a small percentage of the money charged to your credit card is given to the girls. The rest goes for... overhead."

"What overhead?" you ask, an inexplicable anger rising within you.

She shrugs and says, "Clothing, food and shelter, security. Tara provided everything for us."

Swigging down the rest of her water, she stands and takes her glass back to the kitchen. Passing you on the way back, she says, "Thanks for the pizza. I think I'll head to bed."

Rubbing your forehead, you watch her go, knowing you'll get no more answers at the moment. You've never met anyone so closely guarded with their personal life, except for maybe the guy you see in the mirror every morning. You have a sudden understanding of why Wilson gets so annoyed with your misdirections and outright lies. Not that it'll change the way you respond to him, you think, smirking as you finish your beer.

Chapter Text

Her dead husband's shirt is like her security blanket. She wears it every night, nearly buttoned to the top, along with her pajama bottoms. While on the one hand she looks totally hot in it, on the other hand it is her dead husband's shirt. There is something sort of weird and off-putting about lusting after a woman wearing a dead man's shirt. But then... weird works for you. As she lays with her back to you, you know she isn't asleep. The way she is squirming, trying to get comfortable, you figure she won't fall asleep any time soon. You scoot closer, laying one hand on her hip and sliding it over her abdomen, ignoring her little jolt of surprise.

"Can't sleep?" you ask, pleased when she rolls over to face you, which puts your hand firmly on her gorgeous ass.

She shakes her head no, her gaze shifting down toward your half-stiff prick and then back to your face with a knowing smile, and you smile back because you know you're about to get laid.

Giving her ass a little squeeze, you say, "I bet a good strong orgasm will put you right out. It's what all the doctors are prescribing these days."

In answer, she slides her hand down, palming you through your pajama bottoms as you close your eyes and moan. One touch and she has complete control over you, until...

"What did you have in mind, Doctor?" she asks, her voice low and breathy.

"You got any of that red lipstick in that bag of yours?"

"No, but... I don't think you'll miss it." With that, she's on her knees, tugging you free from your pajamas and boxer briefs and taking you in her mouth, while you thrust your hand between her legs and begin stroking her.

"You know... oh god," you moan, almost forgetting what you started to say as her tongue does wicked things to your cock. "... what my favorite number is?"

With immediate understanding, she pulls off her pajama bottoms and panties and straddles your face. The view is decadent and dirty and hotter than the surface of the sun. Already, you're about half a second from blowing your load. The buttons of her shirt press into the skin of your abdomen when she lowers her mouth to your stiff prick. As she begins to suck and lick you into bliss again, her fingertips rub over the ridges of your balls, stroking you in just the right places. You return the favor, your fingers and tongue delving into her pretty pink folds, one hand pushing the tail of that damn shirt out of the way so you can squeeze and caress her ass. In what seems like only seconds, she is coming hard and long, pulsing rapidly around your fingers. The heat of her surrounds your tongue, flooding your taste buds with her sweet and salty flavor.

Her hot mouth on your cock, the way she rolls her own tongue on you in ways that seem physically impossible... it's too much. She presses her fingers to the base of your erection with just the right amount of pressure, and you come, sparks firing off behind your eyelids as you grunt and moan incoherently.

Moving off you, she crawls to her portion of the bed and flops on her left side, pushing her pajama bottoms and panties off onto the floor with her foot. She pulls the covers up to her shoulder and says with a sleepy murmur, "You were right. Goodnight, House."

You fall asleep with a satisfied grin on your face, thanking random chance for your caffeine craving of the other night. The hottest, most beautiful woman you've ever known has just blown you away, literally and figuratively, and now she is asleep beside you wearing nothing but a button-down shirt. Life is good, you think, as you too drift off to sleep.

mdmdmdmdmdmd

The next morning she gets up with you and makes coffee while you shower. The smell draws you into the kitchen, where you find her standing at the counter eating toast, still wearing nothing but that button-down. Nice, you think, as you pause to take in the view. If you can keep her around, you'll be getting laid regularly, for free, and you'd probably be able to coerce her into cleaning up the place and doing laundry while you're at it. The fact that she is quiet and unobtrusive makes her all the more desirable to have around, and you decide right then and there that you'd do just about anything to make her stay. It's that thought that prevents you from snatching her toast out of her hand and eating it yourself. But just barely.

You pour yourself a cup of coffee, take one sip and spit it into the sink. "What the hell is this?"

"Coffee," she says as if it is obvious.

"Tastes like old gym socks," you reply, screwing up your face in horror. "Worn by sewer rats. You work at a coffee shop. That makes you a professional. How in hell could you screw this up?"

With an amused shrug, she says, "I only drink tea. The coffee shop has a different machine, which they trained me to use."

"Unbelievable," you mutter, dumping the sludge down the drain. "You are hereby forbidden from making coffee here ever again."

"Okay," she says, a sparkle of laughter in her eyes.

"Oh, you think it's funny do you?" With that, you snatch what is left of her toast and pop it into your mouth, amused at her stunned expression.

"Nice. First you invite me to eat your food and then you steal it from me."

With her hands on her hips, that damned shirt of hers rises up her thighs, drawing your eyes down to where her legs meet, and you move closer, backing her into the counter.

"I'll make you some more," you lie, "after I've had my fill." You latch onto her neck with your lips, your hands sliding up beneath her shirt to the curve of her waist. Lifting her onto the counter, you spread her legs and step between them, all the while kissing and licking at her neck, her jawline and her earlobe.

Moaning, she reaches down and rubs you through your jeans, then unzips them, her toes brushing against your ribcage as she pushes them down with her feet. "Condom," she murmurs.

You yank open the nearest drawer and pull out a strip of wrapped condoms, ripping one off and passing it to her, then pull your shirt off and toss it aside.

"Convenient," she says, one eyebrow raised in amusement as she tears the condom open, but you shut her up by sliding your hands up her thighs, your thumbs brushing against her moist pink flesh.

You move back to her neck, placing open-mouthed kisses all the way up, working toward her mouth. You've never kissed her on the mouth before and oh how you want to taste her lovely lips and thrust your tongue in and meet hers. But she turns her head away at the last minute and you give up, content for the moment to work your way back down toward her collar bone, until you get to the buttons of her shirt.

"Take this off," you command, with a little jerk of the fabric.

Instead she merely unbuttons it, leaving it hanging open at the front. Without a word, she reaches down to roll the condom on, wrapping a hand around you to guide you inside, and locking her ankles behind your back. It's a distraction tactic, you realize, but at the moment, it's working.

You grab her hips, setting a steady rhythm, your eyes on her breasts and the column of her neck as she throws her head back and meets your thrusts with her own. With measured movements, you slide your hands up from her hips under her shirt, wanting to caress her naked back and press her to you, but she grabs your hands and brings them to her breasts, holding them there.

Frustrated, you think about breaking free and tearing that shirt off of her, but just then she does something with her inner muscles that makes you forget about everything but the feel of her tight heat squeezing your cock. She does it again and then again, and suddenly you are nearly convulsing with your orgasm, grunting and gripping the edge of the counter for dear life with one hand as you come, just managing to bring your other hand to her clit and rub until she is coming with you.

As you catch your breath and brain function begins to return, your mind works out the problem of her shirt, yet again. Your bodies still joined, you look up at her pulling it back together over her chest and suddenly all the clues fall into place: Allison sleeping only on her side or her stomach, perching on the edge of a chair whenever she sits, gingerly adjusting her bag whenever she has it slung over her body. This is the mystery. You've seen her entirely naked before, have taken her from behind on several occasions when she was working for the escort service. But since she has come to stay with you, she's never once let you see or touch her naked back.

You pull out of her and wad up the condom in a paper towel, tossing it across the room and into the trash can. While you jerk up your pants, she drops down from the counter.

"Let me see it," you say, moving back to where she stands and staring her down.

"See what?"

"Your back."

Her head droops, her chin nearly touching her chest, but not before you see such raw fear in her eyes that your heart drops down into your stomach.

"C'mon," you urge quietly, lifting her chin to look into her eyes. "Let's see." And you reach up gently and drew the shirt down her shoulders.

She turns, displaying her back to you and what you see turns the blood in your veins to ice and then a fire of rage. What was once flawless skin is now a crisscrossed mess of angry red welts and thick white scar tissue, like a bloody display of tic tac toe boards across her flesh.

There are so many words and yet not enough at the same time, but those foremost in your mind are what the hell, with a side of I'd like to kill whoever did this to you.

Some of the wounds are deep and raw, while some are more superficial, leaving only pale thin scars that stand out against the slightly darker tone of her skin. A few of the lashes have healed completely, leaving raised lines in their place. None of them look to be infected; you have no idea how she managed to keep the cuts clean or treat them in any way.

"Come with me," you say, turning her and steering her toward the bedroom. "Lay down on the bed. I'll be right back."

You go into the bathroom and come back with some first aid supplies, finding her lying on her stomach on the bed, just as you ordered. Sitting down beside her, you glance at her face, finding her eyes are glassy but not a single tear has escaped.

"You going to tell me who did this?" you ask, as you begin examining her, careful not to press too hard as you clean and spread ointment over the wounds.

"Does it matter?" she mumbles into the duvet.

What to say to that? You don't know at first, but then your innate sarcasm kicks in. "It matters if someone is after you. I'd hate to get caught in the crossfire. Someone gonna pop a cap in my ass?"

"No one's after me," she replies simply. "You're safe."

Her reticence angers you almost as much as the thought of someone lashing her with what you can only presume was a whip of some sort. "What the hell happened, Allison? One of your clients do this? Is that why you quit?"

"No," she snaps, "it wasn't one of my clients." Then she takes a deep breath like a sigh of surrender and continues, "It's the price you pay if you want to quit."

"What?"

"There are rules. You can't just run away from... the business. They'll hunt you down and when they find you, it'll cost you a lot more than a few scars. But if you want to quit, you're allowed to. You just have to be willing to pay the price."

You stay quiet, waiting for further explanation, a cold knot of nausea forming in the pit of your stomach.

"It's a competitive business. They don't want you to go work for another service, or steal clients from them. If you're marked, no one wants you. It's their way of insuring you're really going to stay out of it for good."

That is so beyond screwed up, you think you might vomit. There is a reason you've always chosen a high-class escort service over the years, and it goes beyond the fact that the girls are usually more attractive than your average street corner hooker. You stupidly thought they were treated well and that while they might have gone into the business out of some sense of desperation, they were well-compensated. You thought it was a mutually beneficial arrangement. To find out otherwise, to find out you've been supporting some sadistic assholes who were only slightly better than cracked-out street pimps makes you want to punch someone.

"So you chose this? You willingly subjected yourself to a beating? Why? Was it really that bad?"

"I told you they take care of everything for you. They provide you with living arrangements, clothing, lingerie, makeup, transportation, food... everything. It's not cheap stuff either. It's another way of controlling you. Of getting you so dependent on them, and the luxuries you grow accustomed to, that you can't get out. They arrange your schedule with the clients, they tell you what to wear, how to act, everything. Yes, you make better money than... working at a coffee shop, but not that much better when you consider how much they take for themselves and how much they spend on all the stuff they provide for you. If you choose to leave, you're only allowed to take the stuff you had when you signed on with them. If you started with nothing, you leave with nothing."

"And what if you went to the cops?"

She snorts at this, turning her head just slightly to look at you. "Tara has an extensive client list. Judges, lawyers, politicians, cops... doctors," she adds with a pointed glance at your face. "No girl would dare go to the cops."

You tend her cuts as you listen, trying not to take your anger out on her as you work. The idea that she has given up everything, subjected herself to a painful whipping that will leave her scarred for life, made herself homeless... just to regain control over her own life. That you can actually understand. There is nothing more important than control over your own fate and nothing worse than having it snatched from you. You've had firsthand experience with that yourself. Her stubborn refusal to accept help or become dependent on anyone is suddenly a lot more clear, if no less annoying.

There are a hundred more questions you want to ask, but your phone begins ringing and she turns her face away as if she is finished spilling her guts. "You're done," you tell her as you go to answer it, "but I want to check you again tonight."

She nods, murmurs "Thank you," and pulls her shirt back on, her face flushed pink with a shame she hasn't earned. In fact, you are half-tempted to tell her you are proud of her, but there is Cuddy on the line blabbing about how you are late and something about a patient and you just "Yes Mom" her and hang up.

"I have to go to work. What are you going to do?"

"What do you mean?"

"I'm just curious what you do with yourself before you have to turn up for barista duty."

"Oh. I go to the library to read and use the computers. I've been looking for a part-time job for in the mornings, but... most places only have night or weekend hours available. Sometimes I go to the laundromat," she finishes with a shrug.

"Ah. Well you're in luck. I've got a washer and dryer right here," you say, pointing toward the nook in the hallway. "Also got a computer and... lots of books, though those might not be to your liking. But if you need to do your laundry, have at it. There's this thing here," you add, nudging it with your cane, "called a hamper. It's full of dirty clothes too. Feel free to add them to yours. Computer's out there on the desk. Help yourself. Just don't delete my porn," you finish with a wink.

The expression on her face is almost hopeful as you speak, which is a vast improvement over that sad, ashamed look she wore only moments before.

"You'd let me read some of your books?"

"Sure. Though I'm fresh out of romance novels. Wilson steals them from me," you joke, as you sit on the bed and pull on your shoes. "But help yourself."

You rise and grab your jacket and cane, fight the urge to kiss her goodbye and say, "I'll see you later."

Chapter Text

A few more weeks have passed and her wounds are healing nicely, though the scars will never fade. It still angers you, the fact that such perfect skin has been marred so cruelly, that someone turned it into a topographical map of shame. You hate that she has a permanent reminder of what she considers her deepest sin, that in trying to move on, she is marked by the very thing she wants to leave behind.

She is still fairly quiet and unobtrusive, but has finally begun to make herself more at home. You notice that she eats the fruit and yogurt that's in the fridge, there is a dent in the pile of tea bags you put in a bowl on the counter, and you are sure she is reading some of your books even though she puts them carefully away before you can discover which ones she borrowed. And in the corner chair where she leaves her bag at night, she has left a little pile of folded clothes.

She still carries the bag with her everywhere she goes though, all of her other belongings stuffed inside. It is almost insulting how much you trust her with your things and how little she trusts you with hers. But then, she has her secrets, you are sure, and her need to guard them. You have your own secrets, so it isn't as if you don't understand. That won't stop you from trying to pry her apart and get the answers you need though. With her it will take a gentle prying, and so you employ a bit of patience, even if patience is something you've never been good at.

For those first few weeks, you'd kept her a secret from Wilson, and you liked it that way. But then she began to do your laundry, along with her own. The sudden appearance of an unwrinkled shirt on your person and Wilson is like a hound dog with a fresh scent trail.

"What's with the shirt?" he says. "It's distinctly lacking in wrinkles."

"I ironed it," you lie, and Wilson snorts in disbelief.

"You'd throw a shirt away before you'd iron it," he says, hands on his hips.

"I send my laundry out now."

"You know, if that had been your first excuse, I almost might have believed it."

"Right. I forgot that rule: always lead with the most believable lie." You plop yourself down in your Eames lounge chair, lifting your leg to the footstool, and say, "I... met someone. She's staying with me."

"Seriously? Since when?" Wilson asks, the volume of his voice rising with an excitement that makes you cringe.

"Few weeks ago," you mutter, as you look longingly around the room for an excuse to end the conversation.

"Well... that's good. A few weeks ago you were moaning about your favorite hooker bailing on you, so this is a nice change." He pauses, taking in what you hope is a carefully neutral expression, and then continues. "Wait... It's not... It's not the hooker, is it?"

Shit. There is his disapproval stance, one hand on his hip, one going to the back of his neck.

"No," you say, your voice a barely restrained shout. "She's not a hooker."

"House!"

"She's not a hooker," you repeat to Wilson's disbelieving expression. "Not anymore," you mumble.

"Oh god. Do you even know what you're doing? Are you out of your mind?"

"Yes and yes," you say, raising your cane to press the end of it into Wilson's chest . "And so help me, if you tell anyone about this, I'll make a Wilson-kebab out of you. Capiche?"

"Fine," Wilson says, raising his hands in surrender and backing out of the room.

It is too much to hope that that will be the end of it, you know. A sense of impending doom lingers behind as Wilson leaves your office.

mdmdmdmdmdmd

"Wilson!" you call out, as the elevator doors slide open. It's past lunchtime and you've been looking for him for what seems like hours.

Your best friend barely glances in your direction as he lets himself into his office and shuts the door. He has the stink of I screwed up all over him, which you'd normally chalk up to infidelity, but his refusal to acknowledge you makes you suspect it has nothing to do with his wife.

"What'd you do?" you ask, squinting your eyes at him as the door of his office bangs against the wall.

He opens and closes his mouth several times, but has the decency to forego whatever lie he's attempting to cook up, one hand gaining a death grip on the chair in front of his desk.

"I stopped by your place," he finally admits, trying very hard to sound casual.

"What. Did. You. Do?" you repeat, moving in until the back of his knees hit the couch and he is forced to sit.

"Okay, first of all, calm down. I didn't do anything. I just... I saw your girlfriend taking some of your books, shoving them into her bag and so... "

"And so what?"

"So I might have accused her of stealing," Wilson says, scooting to the other end of the couch, out of your line of fire. "You leave her there alone all day. Do you even know what she does? She could be robbing you blind."

"You idiot!" you all but roar. "She's not robbing me blind. I told her she could borrow my books. She's the most pathetically trustworthy person I've ever met. Good going Genius, you probably scared her off for good."

You hold out your hand, wiggling your fingers expectantly while Wilson just stares, his face practically in the shape of a question mark. "I'm revoking your spare key privileges. Give me!"

With a beleaguered sigh, Wilson stands and hands over the key, saying, "Are you sure about her? She was a hooker; how honest can she be?"

"Because hookers are all lying, thieving, drug-addicted whores, right? Unlike doctors, who are always faithful to their wives. Not to mention drug-free," you add, as you pop a Vicodin in your mouth.

Wilson has the decency to look chagrined for a moment and then he gets defensive again. "I was only trying to look out for you."

"Who asked you to?" You move to leave Wilson's office, pausing at the door to say, "If I can't fix this, I'll be putting out applications for a new best friend. Starting with Carl from bookkeeping."

"It's Kevin," Wilson calls out as you slam the door.

You limp out of the hospital to your car and drive straight home. Just as you suspect, her little pile of clothes is gone, all your books are back in their place, her towel no longer hangs in the bathroom, and it is as if she's wiped all evidence of herself, what little of it there was, from the apartment. You get back in your car and drive to the coffee shop, intent on making things right.

Inside, she is working with her back to you, the steam wand emitting a hiss as she heats up milk for the drink she is making. You order a latte and wait for her to notice you and when she does, her eyebrows raise in surprise.

"Got a minute?" you ask, and she nods and replies, "I go on break soon."

You get your latte, take a seat and wait, and moments later she is taking the seat across from you.

"You forgot this," you say, holding out your spare key. "Wouldn't want you to get locked out."

She just blinks and stares at you for a moment and when she finally opens her mouth to speak, you cut her off with, "Wilson's an idiot. I know you're not stealing from me. I trust you. So take the damn key and tonight you can actually put your stuff in the dresser drawers I emptied and stop lugging it around before you become a hunchback."

"I don't want to come between you and your friend," she says, leaning back in her chair as if the key in your hand is a ticking time bomb. "He obviously doesn't trust me."

"Wilson suffers from a rare condition called mother-itis. Symptoms include butting into my life, lecturing me endlessly, and marrying needy women. I'm afraid it's incurable. You shouldn't let it affect you though."

Her expression is thoughtful, reluctant, and you know she is weighing her options. You also know they are crappy options and so you push.

"Take the damn key, Allison."

She reaches out and plucks the key from your hand and you let your fingers purposely linger against hers, never taking your eyes from her face. There are a million emotions in her eyes as they hold your gaze, but you'll be damned if you'll ever figure her out, she with an expert knowledge of carnal activities and the innocence of angels all mixed into one beautiful woman-girl.

Chapter Text


Things are going swimmingly, you think, which surely means all hell is about to break loose in one form or another. You've convinced Allison to put her stuff in the two drawers you'd given her, and you even got a chance to snoop when she wasn't home. Your snooping yielded a framed wedding picture, which gave you a strange feeling in your stomach not unlike the time you ate bad sushi. In her white gown, she looks so very young and hopeful, the fairy-tale bride with her fairy-tale groom. He's a handsome dark-haired guy looking down on her with utter adoration as she leans into him. Another guy, the best man, you presume, stands beside her, a step removed from the happy couple. He wears a goofy grin to match his goofy tie, but his eyes are on her, Allison. Though he looks like a frat boy ready to ditch his suit and head for the nearest keg party, there is also something deeper lurking in the depths of his gaze. You can't help but conclude that he too got caught up in her spell.

You still have no idea what happened to the groom, beyond the fact that his life was cut short. He looks like the picture of good health. Your keen observational skills detect nothing medically wrong. But as a doctor you know that things can change in a heartbeat, life can turn to death so very easily. Hell, you don't even have to be a doctor to know that. You've experienced it yourself.

Other than her clothes and a printout of her bank account with a pathetically low balance -her full name is Allison Renee Cameron, you note with interest- there is a pink porcelain figurine of a woman in Victorian dress, a little mirrored jewelry box that holds a gold wedding band, a pair of earrings and a delicate silver necklace. There is nothing else of interest and you are disappointed; you aren't sure if it's because you found so little or because her entire life has been boiled down to this small handful of possessions.

Though she uses the spare key and has consented to leave her things in the drawer, she is still mostly quiet and a little skittish about accepting help of any kind. But you still have incredible sex on a regular basis still, and as long as that keeps up, you are mostly content to let her be. Mostly.

You are just escaping clinic duty in exchange for substitute-teaching a class in diagnostics, a bargain you made with Cuddy, when...

"Hi Greg."

Turning at the sound of the voice that you haven't heard in five years, you find your past standing before you, looking very much the way she did when she walked out of your life. This is hell, breaking loose, you think.

"Stacy," you say, rubbing your brow to ease the sudden headache pulsing behind your eyes.

"How are you doing?"

"How am I doing? Well, the last five years have been like... you ever see those Girls Gone Wild videos?"

"Your life's been like that, or your life's been spent watching them?"

You almost laugh at that. If only she knew.

"I have missed you," she admits, sidling up beside you at the nurse's station, her arm brushing against yours.

"Is that why you're here?"

She shakes her head and passes you a file and a set of X-rays. "I need your help."

"Who am I looking at?" you ask as you hold the films up to the light.

"My husband."

"Who is suffering from abdominal pain and fainting spells. No sign of tumors, no vasculitis. Could be indigestion, or maybe a kidney stone. A little one can pack a lot of wallop."

"Did you think I wasn't going to get married?"

Leave it to her to get right to the heart of the matter. "Not to someone so poorly endowed," you quip. "This guy's pancreas is pathetic."

You pass back her husband's file and walk off, eager to put some distance between the past and the present, but as expected, she follows, persistent as ever.

"There is no kidney stone, no indigestion. Three hospitals, five doctors, not one of them found anything."

"Well maybe there's nothing to be found."

"Right! You suddenly trust doctors, love puppies and long walks in the rain."

"The walks are out," you snap, angry that she can waltz in and act like she knows anything about your current life.

Grabbing your arm, she jerks you around to face her. "I was around you long enough to know when something's not right. Mark's had personality changes. He's acting strange, disconnected...

"Interesting. It means there's either a neurological component or he's having an affair." A small part of you is hoping for the latter, just to see her suffer a betrayal like you did five years ago.

"No affair, no nothing! He's sick! I know you're not too busy; you avoid work like the plague. Unless it actually is the plague. I'm asking you a favor."

A favor. You almost snort at the irony that she wants you to do her a favor after she cast aside your wishes and had a chunk of your thigh cut out against your will. You don't owe her anything and you are in no mood for passing out favors.

"I'm not too busy," you admit, as you enter the elevator, "but I'm not sure I want him to live. It's good seeing you again."

Now you are home after a long day of teaching America's future doctors (idiots, all of them) the art of diagnosing leg pain. At the end of the class, you left a quick message on Stacy's voice mail, following it up with the company of Jack Daniels in the dark of your office for more than a few hours. You will take on her husband's case, though you're not sure why. Maybe you'll get lucky and he'll have something incurable.

Half-drunk, you stare at the paper from class slightly crumpled in your hand, scribbles of red, yellow, and brown that blur together before your eyes. Shapes emerge, like some sort of Rorschach inkblot: a snake, a rabid dog, the familiar face of a woman you once loved and maybe still do, destruction and betrayal in the form of a Crayola tornado.

The future is looking dim, you think, pinning your tea-colored blob to the wall above your desk. The fact that none of the students got the correct diagnosis awakens within you a renewed impatience with humanity at large. That, and Stacy's return. Your little art project will serve as a reminder of why letting Stacy back in your life in any capacity is a bad idea. You are going to keep it there as long as necessary.

"Got some new art?" Allison asks, emerging from the kitchen in her pajamas, a mug of tea in her hands. She moves closer to get a better look, and you stare too, lost in the inkblot past.

"That," you say, pointing toward the paper, "is the color of a man's urine after suffering from severe undiagnosed leg pain. His kidney's began to shut down and he almost died. Actually, he was dead for over a minute. And no one knew what the hell was going on."

"Sounds like muscle death," she says, and your head snaps around so fast you hear a popping sound.

"What did you say?"

"Dying muscle leaks myoglobin. It's toxic to the kidneys," she replies, refusing to meet your gaze as heat seeps into her cheeks and turns them pink.

"How in the hell did you know that?" you wonder, a quiet rage rising within you. No one, not any of your doctors, not any of those useless students figured it out. But Allison, barista and former prostitute, has the answer in ten seconds. The Twilight Zone theme sounds somewhere in the back of your head.

"I read about it in a book once," she lies, and you scoff and say, "Try again."

Sighing deeply, she stops studying her mug of tea and finally looks into your eyes. "I went to medical school. Long time ago."

Well hell. You need to sit down before your leg gives out on you, so you move around her and plop down on the couch, elbows on your knees as you take in this new information about the woman you are sleeping with.

"And you didn't think this information was relevant until now?"

She shrugs and sits down in the chair, looking at you through lowered lashes. "I... don't know. I guess not. I didn't finish. Dropped out with less than two years to go."

"Why?"

"Because my husband got sick. Thyroid cancer, metastasized to his brain. I quit to care for him, and... then he died and I was left alone with a pile of medical bills, funeral expenses and student loans I had no way of repaying."

Now she is blinking back tears and you find it hard to look at her, all naked vulnerability and sadness. Damn. "So you took up prostitution to pay the bills."

"I was desperate. I just wanted to pay off my debt and go back to school. I finally did. Pay off the debt, I mean. Now I'm saving up to return to school."

"I wish you would've told me," you mutter, thinking of all the ways you might have been able to help. But then... she wouldn't have accepted it, so it was probably for the best. "Medical school is pricey. Wouldn't it have been faster to save up if you'd stuck with... "

"Yes, but not at the cost of my self-respect. I promised myself that once the debt was paid off, I was done. I need distance between that life and the one I've always dreamed of."

You can only nod at that, weary beyond words. The day has just about drained the life right out of you, and all you want is bed, but at the moment that seems about a hundred miles away.

"Come on," she says, suddenly standing in front of you with her hand outstretched. "Seems like you've had a bad day. I'll give you a massage if you want."

How can you resist? You take her hand and lean on her all the way to the bed, where you collapse and let her work her magic on your aching limbs. And somewhere during the only moment of bliss you've felt all day, you find yourself telling her about Stacy, your leg, her betrayal, and her sudden reappearance in your life.

Chapter Text

Mark Warner has missed several appointments, and Stacy is hovering, appearing in your office out of the blue at times to present some scheme to get her husband examined. You take a sadistic pleasure in the fact that Mark is a stubborn idiot, but you have no delusions that Stacy won't eventually win the battle. She is an expert at inflicting her will on the men in her life, after all.

Pretending nonchalance at her presence is wearing on you, and she... she doesn't help with her declarations of "You're the one, but I can never be with you again." Wilson adds fuel to the fire with his back and forth moralizing and lecturing, half the time discouraging you from pursuing her and the other half declaring you shouldn't push away the "love of your life." The two of them are giving you a bad case of emotional whiplash.

Her latest idea is to buy tickets to the upcoming hospital fundraiser and drag Mark to it on the pretense of doing something charitable. Your presence is compulsory as a department head, and you are under the threat of losing hospital privileges if you don't show up. You gave Cuddy your obligatory excuses and bargained yourself out of four clinic hours, but now that Stacy and Mark are in the picture, you are reconsidering, weighing your patients' need for MRIs and X-rays against your desire to avoid meeting Mark. Of course, you choose your patients over your own comfort. But just barely.

And through all this, there is Allison, who is doing an excellent job of making you forget all of it while you are with her. You can bury yourself inside her and there is no Stacy and no Mark and no Wilson. Just her and her heat and her smooth skin and the little sighs of pleasure she makes when you touch her just right. She makes for an excellent distraction, giving over her body and asking nothing in return.

A week has gone by. One week since Stacy came back into your life and you are conflicted with warring emotions. You love her. You hate her. You want her and you want her gone. Her husband's denial is slowing down the process; you want to fix him just to get her out of your life. And you want Mark to die, just to punish her. Or to set her free to be with you. Maybe both. In short, you are a mess.

As you stretch out on the couch, three fingers of bourbon within reach, Allison comes in from the crisp autumn night, like a leaf caught in the breeze, a gentle quietness to her movements. You watch as she drops her bag and removes her hoodie, smiling that little smile of hers that is neither happy nor sad.

"Hey," she says, by way of greeting.

"Got something for you," you say, tossing some papers onto her chair.

She grabs them up, flicking through them with a furrowed brow. "Scholarship applications?"

"Might get you to your dream faster," you say, feigning nonchalance, which is far from what you feel. You absolutely hate that she is wasting her time in a coffee shop when she is so clearly meant to be a doctor.

"These scholarships are highly competitive. You think I stand a chance?"

"Based on the morons I've seen in med school lately, I think you'll kick ass."

"You... won't influence the scholarship committee, right?"

A little snort of laughter escapes you at her stubborn need to do things all on her own, that and the idea that she thinks you could have any positive sway on the committee or anyone in any position of authority around Princeton. The only way you ever influence anyone is usually through blackmail.

"I have a reputation as an insufferable bastard. Even if you wanted my help, it wouldn't be helpful. You're definitely on your own."

Silently she nods and smiles, the papers secured tight in her grasp and a bright look of hope in her eyes, murmuring, "Thank you,"

You simply nod and look away, because the look on her face is unbearable. Gratitude. You hate it.

"I was thinking," she says, as she sits in the chair, perched on the edge as usual as if she is ever-prepared to flee at a moment's notice. It's one of the other things you hate about her.

"About what?"

"I think maybe I should go. Move out. If there's a chance that you and Stacy might get back together again, I'd only be in the way."

"No," you say, simple and firm. The idea is unthinkable. Out of the question.

She sighs, an impatient little sound, and continues. "It's obvious you still love her, and from the way it sounds, she still has feelings for you."

"She's married," you argue, in the tone you would use if talking to a foolish child. Or a clinic patient.

"I'm just saying, you have a second chance to be with the love of your life. That's pretty rare. If you could be happy again, you should grab that chance. I don't want to interfere with that."

There was that phrase again, love of your life. You wish you could abolish it from the English language so you would never have to hear it again.

"No," you repeat, more firmly than the first time as your stomach twists itself into an intricate knot. Rising from the couch, you grab your cane, and say, "And just so we're clear, if I want you out of here you'll be the first to know. I've never been shy about kicking people out of my life."

There is a long silence, punctuated only by the tapping of your cane as you wait for her to reply, looking down on the part of her glossy brown hair. Finally she looks up and says, "If you're sure."

"I'm sure," you say, limping out of the room to end the conversation. She is a stubbornly persistent little thing, but she usually keeps to her own business, for which you've been immensely grateful. If she starts butting in with Wilson-like advice, you might have to reconsider your arrangement.

She follows you into the bedroom, carrying her bag and sweatshirt, putting them neatly away and pulling out her pajamas.

"You know," she says, an almost shy, sheepish tone in her voice, "if you think of her when... when we have sex, it's okay. I don't mind."

You are horrified. Horrified and speechless. If she had kicked you in the balls you could not have been more shocked and dismayed. Never once had you thought of Stacy while you were with her. Never had it even occurred to you, and now you are afraid that it might happen simply because she has said those terrible words and planted the idea in your head. What kind of woman is she that she could make such an offer, that she could be plagued with such terminal kindness that she would give her body to you as a substitute for the woman she thinks you really want? Suddenly you want to punch someone or something. You want to rage at her that she is the one distraction that keeps you sane from all the Stacy madness, that she, Allison, is the only thing you think about when touching her and losing yourself in her and now her words threaten to take that refuge away.

"I mean..."

"Please just shut up," you growl, moving around her and shutting yourself in the bathroom before you do or say something from which the two of you might never recover.

When you have sufficiently calmed down, you shuffle back out and crawl beneath the covers of your bed, glancing at her as she lays with her back to you, body curled up in a tight little ball. You know she isn't asleep; she is far too clenched for that, but you don't know what to say to break the unbearable silence that hangs heavily between you. With a sudden clarity though, you know that if you don't say something to fix this, she will leave, sacrifice herself for your happiness regardless of your wishes. She would sleep on a bus station bench and eat food meant to be thrown away and wash herself in a public restroom, just to insure that you have your second chance at happiness. God, how you hate her for that.

"I don't want to think of her when I'm with you," you say into the quiet night. "You make a nice distraction, and right now that's just what I need. Okay?"

"Okay," she says, her voice just a tiny speck in the darkness. "I'm sorry."

You roll your eyes at that. Should've known she'd apologize when she'd technically done nothing wrong, but you say nothing more and lay wide awake long into the night.

Chapter Text

Sometimes you wonder how it all went wrong with Stacy. It's not as simple as saying she betrayed you while you were in a coma, though that is a big part of it. She says she was lonely while she was with you, while Mark makes room for her. It's the one thing you didn't see, didn't observe, and it baffles you now that you were so blind to it. Before the infarction you were quite content with your life. It didn't occur to you that Stacy needed more, that while you could easily spend hours solving medical mysteries, she might have wanted your attention. How long would she have put up with your solitude before she ended things, you wonder. Would she want to be with you now, with your leg and the Vicodin, even if you could guarantee that you wouldn't shut her out this time? You're not so sure.

In one week you will have to attend the hospital fundraiser, with Mark and Stacy, Wilson and Julie. Hell, you've heard even Cuddy has a date. For once in your life you don't want to show up alone, the pathetic cripple, while your past parades around with her fully functioning husband.

Setting aside your cane, you take a tentative step and then another, and then you try to put your full weight on your right leg and nearly topple like a Jenga tower. Crying out, you grab the back of the couch and prop yourself up, rubbing your hand over the concave flesh of your damaged thigh as if you can erase the pain. You are pathetic. No wonder she left you.

Downing two Vicodin, you plop down on the couch and lift your leg up and into place on the cushions. You will never be whole again; there is no pretending anymore. She took something from you that you will never get back, and yet here you are pining for her. One way or another, you need to move on.

Later that night Allison sits in bed beside you, reading a medical journal she pulled from your bookshelf, her glasses perched cutely on her nose. You put aside your own journal and turn to look at her.

"There's a hospital fundraiser next Saturday night," you say. "It's black tie."

"O...kay," she replies, an open, questioning look on her face.

"As a department head, I'm required to attend."

"Oh. Well... that sounds nice."

You almost laugh at that, because the way she says those words are the way one might say, "That sounds excruciating and I would rather rip out my body hair with duct tape." You couldn't agree more, but if you are going to convince her to be your date, you will need to make it sound more pleasant than a root canal.

"I want you to come with me."

That gets her attention enough to put down the journal and take off her glasses. Turning toward you, her face all screwed up in uncertainty and what you hope isn't disgust at the very idea, she says, "Like... a date?"

"Exactly. Except for the date part."

She just blinks at that, and you continue. "Stacy will be there. She's bringing her husband."

Her eyes widen and her mouth hangs open for a moment, and then she replies, "And you want to make her jealous?"

"God no," you say, stunned, because that thought hasn't even occurred to you. "There'll be a lot of doctors and lawyers and snobby people there, all with their spouses or their mistresses or lovers or whatever. Wilson's even bringing his wife. I'll look pathetic if I'm the only one alone." Crap, that hadn't come out right at all. It sounds downright, well, pathetic.

"You don't strike me as the kind of man who cares what people think."

"I don't," you answer, an audible puff of breath escaping your lips, because it's a relief that she understands that much about you. "Look, it's just... it'd be nice to have someone there... Like I said before, you're a nice distraction. That's what I need."

Her mouth turns down, conflict all over her face, and she sighs as you wait for the financial ramifications of the situation to register with her. "I work on Saturday nights," she says, and you almost laugh at her predictability. "I mean, I might be able to switch for a Sunday night shift that week, but... I don't have a dress or..."

"I'll buy you a dress, shoes, whatever you need." You hold your breath, preparing to be slapped. It's an insult to her, you know. You might as well have called her a worthless whore, but it's a risk you're willing to take.

"No," she says, nostrils flaring like a fire-breathing dragon. You half-expect flames to come shooting out and burn you to ash.

"You'd be doing me a favor, so let me do you a favor in return."

"No," she repeats, low and dangerous. "I'll figure something out."

Turning away so she can't see your smile of victory, you grab your medical journal again as if the matter is settled. You know it will cost her, both financially and emotionally, to spend even one dime of the money she's saved since she began working at the coffee shop. She'll be taking a chunk out of her dream, postponing the life she wants, in order to do something nice for you. It is exactly that self-sacrificing part of her nature that you're counting on.

mdmdmdmdmdmd

The next day you skip out of work early, just to avoid Stacy and Wilson and a clinic full of hypochondriacs. Your apartment is quiet when you arrive home, the smell of black walnut and ginger lingering in the kitchen. Allison's mug stands on the counter, a bit of her tea still floating in the bottom. Usually she is nearly obsessive about cleaning up after herself, so it is unusual to find the remains of her breakfast left out as if she'd gone off in a hurry.

You pull out the bread, intent on making yourself a sandwich, when she comes through the door, a vinyl garment bag slung over her shoulder.

"You got a dress," you say, startling her as she shuts the door behind her.

She simply nods, a sort of distraught look in her eyes that makes you suddenly lose your appetite.

"Uh oh. What's the problem?" you ask, as she plops herself down in what you've begun to think of as her chair.

Her head hangs low and she begins to speak in the tone of voice one would use in a confession booth. "There's this boutique. Tara has an arrangement there with the owner. We just had to tell her that Tara sent us and we were given whatever we wanted."

She looks up at you then, her eyes so full of regret and self-loathing that you have to look away. You feel sick. She is trying so desperately to remove herself from that life, and for you, she's taken a step back into it, lied to get a dress she can't afford. For you.

"Come on," you say, standing suddenly and grabbing her hand. "You're taking it back."

You drive her back to the shop, the silence broken only by her quiet directions. When you arrive, you park and go in with her, feeling overcome with a sudden protective urge. Hovering in the background, you watch with a mixture of pride in her and regret in yourself as she confesses to the boutique owner that she no longer works for Tara, that she lied. She returns the dress, apologizing with a teary-eyed passion that you would normally mock if you weren't feeling so crappy about the whole situation.

The woman behind the counter is in her sixties at least, with strikingly smooth skin, high cheek bones, and vivid green eyes. Her silver hair is styled to curl beneath her chin just right, and she wears a fashionable suit. You can easily imagine her as a model in her youth. She listens with her mouth hanging open, her hands poised mid-air as she holds the garment bag that Allison has practically thrust upon her. "I'm sorry," Allison repeats one last time, before turning to leave.

You are nearly out the door, when the woman calls out, "Wait!"

You would've kept going, but Allison, ever polite, turns, blinking teary eyes as she waits for retribution.

"Take the dress," the woman says, thrusting it back into Allison's hands. "You bring it back to me when you're through with it. I won't charge it to Tara's account."

"I don't understand," Allison says, scrunching up her face in confusion.

"I used to work for Tara too," the woman says quietly. "She set me up with this shop when... when I reached a certain age. I know what it's like to want to break free. To feel trapped. You take this dress. If you can't pay for it, that's fine. Just bring it back. I have a very lax return policy," she says with a wink and a teary smile.

"That's very kind of you," Allison says, while passing the dress back into the woman's hands. "But... I really can't."

"I understand," the woman replies with a nod. "I wish I'd been as brave as you when I was your age. You take care of yourself."

The two of you leave the shop, you pressing your fingers to your head to suppress an oncoming headache. Reaching into your pocket, you pull out your Vicodin and pop two into your mouth while you hold the car door for Allison.

"Will you please let me buy you a dress now?" you ask, as you slide behind the wheel and start the car.

"No. But I've got a little money. If you can take me to the mall, maybe I can find something on sale at one of the department stores."

And that's how you end up at a shopping center on a Monday afternoon, dodging mothers who seem determined to run over anyone in sight with their strollers, sticky toddlers all hopped up on sugary treats, and senior citizens wearing fanny packs and speed-walking the perimeter as if their bowels are about to explode.

"You could've just dropped me off," Allison says, glancing sideways at you with sympathy in her eyes as she strides toward one of the anchor stores. "This can't be any fun for you."

"It's fine," you say, by which you mean, "I'll suffer through it."

You made it to your destination, finding a chair near the dressing rooms where you can plop yourself down, nearly hidden by racks of poofy gowns. All you need is to hold Allison's purse and you'd be the perfect image of a whipped man. Wilson would have a field day, you think. Probably take pictures and post them all over the hospital.

"Could you hold my purse?" she asks. There is a twinkle in her eye, and she pauses only briefly before adding, "I'm kidding. I saw an arcade just outside the store. If you want to go, I'll meet you there when I'm done. I'll try not to be too long."

"Sounds good," you say, already on your feet and limping off toward the store's exit as if you are fleeing a fire.

You spend about an hour or so, zapping aliens, eating ghosts, and beating a teenage boy at foosball when Allison appears, several bags hanging from her arm. Foosball boy spots her first, his mouth hanging open for a second before he mumbles, "She's hot."

You turn to look and can't disagree. "I'm hitting that," you say with a smug smile.

"No way" Foosball boy scoffs.

"Way!" you reply, as she meanders over and asks if you're ready to go.

"Yup," you say, pressing your hand to the small of her back as you guide her out. Over your shoulder, you throw another smug look at Foosball boy, who stands with his mouth gaping open in disbelief. Hell, you can't blame him; you know she is way out of your league. Sometimes you can hardly believe it yourself.

"So you found something you like, or did you settle for something you found on the clearance rack?" you ask, nodding toward her bags.

"Both," she answers, with a little smile. "I got lucky."

You can't help but think you got lucky too.

"Good," you reply, "I'm starving. Let's go get some food."

Chapter Text


Allison is asleep beside you, lying on her stomach, her hair spilling across her pillow. The clock reads 4:47 am, and your leg is throbbing with a pulse of its own. You down two Vicodin and watch her sleep while you wait for the pain to subside. The blankets have slid down, revealing her naked back, and you can't help but reach out and trace your fingertips down her spine and over the ridges of her scars. She is beautiful, scars and all, and you want her again and again and again.

As she stirs, you lean over her and begin placing gentle kisses on her back, sliding the covers further down, past the slope of her ass. She stretches, cat-like, and lets out a little murmur of approval as your hands and mouth roam over her body.

"This okay?" you ask, trailing your fingers up the back of her thigh and then over her folds, her clit, a breath of a touch, stroking and teasing her.

"Yes," she whispers, spreading her legs to give you better access as she clutches her pillow.

"Don't move," you softly command, as you lean over the bedside table to get a condom, ripping it open and rolling it on. You turn back to her and continue touching, kissing, your mouth moving gently over all her scars as if they are erogenous zones. You aren't thinking, just feeling, acting on instinct. Finally you can wait no longer, and slide inside her, holding yourself up with your arms as much as possible so as not to crush her.

Beneath you, she writhes, moving in just the right way as you establish a slow, steady rhythm, savoring the way her tight heat surrounds your cock and the friction of your hipbones rubbing against her skin. She is making those familiar little sounds of pleasure, and though you can't see her face, you can picture her mouth open, little puffs of breath hitting the pillow, her eyes closed in bliss, and you love that you can do this to her.

You speed up, feeling yourself coming to the edge, when she wedges her hand beneath her body, bringing it to where you are joined, and strokes you and herself.

"Oh yeah, keep doing that," you say with a low rasp, the pleasure building to an almost unbearable level. And then she simultaneously squeezes you with her inner muscles and caresses you with the flat of her hand and you come hard, an almost guttural sound coming from deep within you. She continues stroking until she is also coming, her muscles pulsating around you and a final breathy gasp escaping her lovely mouth.

Sated, your veins flowing with endorphins, you roll off her and smile, pulling off the condom and wrapping it in a tissue to dispose of later. You watch as she turns on her side, facing you, and tugs the blankets back up, a matching smile of satisfaction on her face as she drifts off to sleep again.

Lying there with the soft light of dawn spilling itself over her delicate features, she looks so young and so beautiful. You marvel anew how she can be so incredibly gifted at sex and still look so innocent. Her eyelids, the gentle slope of her nose, the little upturn of her lips, all tempt you to press soft kisses there, to taste and experience every part of her. You renew your vow to kiss her on the mouth one day, and to get her to kiss you in return. She holds that part of herself back, you know, because it is too intimate. But you will get your way eventually. You always do.

mdmdmdmdmdmd

"You gonna be in there all night?" you call out to the closed bathroom door. "Let me in. Sexiness like mine doesn't come easily, you know. I've got some manscaping to do."

"Seriously?" she asks, poking her head out the door.

"No. But I do have to take a piss."

"Oh. Sorry." She emerges, looking like... you don't know, your brain cells have shut down and if breathing weren't an autonomic bodily function, you'd probably pass out from lack of oxygen. Her dress is a pale shade of purple, amethyst Wilson would probably call it, made from some gauzy fabric that falls to her ankles, with a deep slit up one leg. On her feet are strappy heels with little rhinestones across the toe strap. The top of her dress is sleeveless, the high neckline a silver band around her neck that matches the belt around her waist. Her hair is swept up in an elegant little twist, tempting your hands to reach up and release it so you can run your fingers through it. A few curls fall gracefully around her face, and in her ears are the little silver drop earrings you've seen in her jewelry box. The whole picture makes for one incredibly gorgeous woman.

As you stand there, gaping and speechless, she clears her throat and says, "I thought you had to use the bathroom."

"Did I? Oh yeah, I guess I did." You shake yourself out of your stupor and go to answer the call of nature.

When you come out of the bathroom, you stand before the closet mirror, fussing with your bow tie until she comes to your rescue and ties it for you, then holds out your tux jacket so you can slide it on.

"You look very handsome." Her voice is a sweet murmur while she runs her hands down the front of the jacket as if to smooth it out.

"Thank you," you reply, unable to form any other words with her so close and looking so damn kissable.

"I'm ready if you are," she says, breaking the spell as she grabs her little silver clutch off the dresser.

With a nod, you escort her out to the car, opening the door for her and waiting for her to get all of her dress in before shutting it. As you move to your side, you take a moment to ponder why she brings out such chivalrous tendencies in you. You've never been like this with any other woman. Certainly not with Stacy. With her you'd done the minimum you could get by with in order to keep her from losing her temper, which admittedly, hadn't worked well for either of you. There were no favors with Stacy. Everything with her was a negotiation, which was fun at first, but at some point you got tired of feeling like you were hashing out the terms of a legal contract every time one of you wanted something from the other. Allison has done something for you at great sacrifice to herself and asked for nothing in return. You have to admit it's a refreshing change, and maybe it's that that motivates you to act like a gentleman on occasion.

Something occurs to you for the first time as you slide behind the wheel of the car, and your stomach feels as if it has turned to stone at the thought. You're just sitting there thinking it through when she touches your arm.

"Something wrong?" she asks.

"You said Tara's clientele included lawyers, politicians, judges, cops, and doctors. You ever worry someone will recognize you?"

"Not really," she says with a little laugh. "Most clients weren't interested in looking at my face."

"I find that hard to believe," you say, without thought. "Your face is so beautiful."

She blinks and stares and then smiles and softly says, "Thank you."

Uncomfortable with the unintended compliment you've given her, you start the car and drive off. You were just stating a fact, same as if you'd said an adult human skeleton has 206 bones. She is beautiful; she surely must know that, surely must have heard it from hundreds of people before. So why does her reaction make your heart stutter, you wonder, as you zip through traffic, scowling.

The Princeton campus ballroom is teeming with self-important folks milling around with cocktails in their hands, hoping to see and be seen. You hate them all on sight, ignoring everyone as you guide Allison straight to the bar. You don't make it before you are waylaid by Stacy, dragging her reluctant husband behind her.

"Greg, I see the threat of clinic hours actually had an effect. I half expected you to be a no-show."

"Wouldn't miss this for the world," you retort. "It's for charity, and I'm all about doing good."

Beside you, Allison lets out a good-natured chuckle, but otherwise remains quiet.

"Greg, you finally get to meet my husband, Mark. Mark, this is Greg."

Mark reaches out to shake your hand, saying, "I haven't been avoiding you; I just didn't want to waste your time. The other doctors checked me out and they said it was just stress. College season, kids, parents, they're all over me."

"Makes sense to me," you lie, with the same false sincerity that Mark used. You then remember your date and make the introductions. "This is Allison Cameron. Allison, Stacy, Mark."

"It's nice to meet you," Allison says, smiling politely.

"You too," they answer in unison, Stacy eyeing Allison with barely concealed curiosity.

"Oh that's cute," you mock, pointing between Mark and Stacy. "How you both spoke at the same time. I bet you finish each others' sentences too."

"You know," Mark retorts, draping one arm around Stacy, "I thought you'd be all bitter, sarcastic you know, because Stacy married me."

"I checked," Stacy interrupts, "and it seems we're all sitting at the same table. Won't that be nice? You two can continue this pissing contest all night."

"What fantastic luck," you exclaim with faux enthusiasm. "In the meantime, I'll be at the bar."

You rub your forehead, pop a Vicodin, and limp off without a second glance. The bar is at the far end of the room, past a sea of tables and well-dressed people who assuage their guilt for being wealthy with charity functions like this one. Using your cane to maneuver people out of the way, you sidle up to the bar and order yourself a bourbon, and almost as an afterthought, a white wine for Allison.

"Sorry 'bout that," you say, when you feel her presence taking up the spot beside you, her soft fragrance giving her away.

She shrugs and says, "It's fine. I know how hard this must be for you, being around your ex and her husband."

Those words dismay you, though you are at least grateful she hasn't said love of your life. "Yeah, it sucks," you say, tapping your cane impatiently on the floor.

You snag your bourbon and she, her white wine, and you make your way to the table. Wilson is there, already seated with his wife, Julie, who looks about as happy as a freshly-kicked puppy. What the hell ever possessed Wilson to marry her is beyond you, but you give it another six months, tops, before one of them ends it.

You maneuver so that you are sitting between Allison and Wilson, as far from Stacy and Mark as you can reasonably get, which isn't nearly far enough, and contemplate downing your bourbon in one go. But then, that would mean another trip to the bar and it is awfully far away and your leg hurts, so you decide to sip it and make it last.

Stacy sits beside Allison, drawing up her chair and turning toward her like they are old pals ready to catch up. Awkward, you think, as you take a sort of perverse pleasure in watching and comparing the two of them.

"Greg didn't tell me he was seeing anyone. How long have you two been together?" Stacy asks, smiling politely at Allison.

"A few months," Allison answers, giving no more information than is necessary, much to your relief.

"Ah, well... where did you two meet?"

That question piques your interest. Allison is horrible at lying, but you know she'd never tell the truth either. You wait, nearly holding your breath, for her answer.

"He came in to the coffee shop where I work one night. Practically asked me to move in right then and there."

Bourbon nearly shoots out your nose at that, and you feel inordinately proud of her for telling the truth and yet not telling the truth at the same time. Well played, Allison, you think with a grin.

"He always did move fast," Stacy says, oblivious to Mark scowling beside her.

Allison, practically clenching, is not oblivious to Mark, and she leans a bit past Stacy to address him. "Did I hear correctly that you're a teacher, Mark?" she asks, making polite conversation.

"That's right," he says, tone full of mockery and loud enough for the whole table to hear. "And you work at a coffee shop. Quite a step down for Greg, don't you think?"

Everyone within a ten foot radius stops what they are doing to gawk. The tension in the air is nearly suffocating. Allison's mouth hangs open in shock, but she says nothing.

You lean forward and raise your glass to Mark and Stacy, with a snide, "Classy guy you got there, Stacy."

"I'm really sorry... Allison," Mark says, loosening the tie around his neck as his face reddens with shame. "I wasn't thinking; I just wanted to insult Greg."

Allison just waves off the insult and smiles, ever courteous, while Stacy turns it into an argument for her cause.

"This is exactly why I want you to let Greg examine you," she pleads. "You're not yourself. Please, Mark."

"Just drop it, Stacy," he mutters, glancing around uncomfortably at all the unwanted attention directed at them.

With a sigh of exasperation, Stacy stands, pastes on a smile and excuses herself. Mark glances nervously at Allison and slides over into Stacy's unoccupied seat, opening and closing his mouth before finally speaking. "Look, I'm really very sorry about what I said. I feel terrible. This whole thing with Stacy and..." he glances at you and you put on your most innocent look, before he continues, "it's all just been stressful. I hope you'll forgive me."

"Don't worry about it," Allison reassures him, with a kinder smile than Mark deserves. "But maybe Stacy's right. I mean, wouldn't it be easier to stop fighting and just let House examine you?"

"There's nothing wrong with me," he says. "I'd just be wasting everyone's time."

"I was married once," Allison says, and you perk up immediately, thinking, ooh goody, story time!

"My husband got sick, and he kept telling me, it's just a cold, it's just the flu, it's just stress from school and work, even though I knew it was more and I was so worried. By the time he finally admitted something was wrong it was far too late. Cancer had metastasized to his brain and we only got six more months together. And I know he regretted all those months of denial, when he could have been getting treatment. So do I," she says, blinking back tears. "I know the possibilities are frightening, but... all I'm saying is knowing is always better than not knowing."

Mark swallows hard, grabbing Stacy's wine glass and downing what is left in it as if to chase down the lump in his throat. Hell, even you are touched, a little, and you have to give her props for pulling out the dead husband at just the right time.

"Maybe you're right," Mark admits sliding back to his own seat. "I'll think about it."

The next hour drones on, boring people making boring small talk all around you. Julie Wilson is flirting openly with some corporate bigwig, while Wilson pretends not to notice. Make that four months, you think, until their marriage is officially over. Gulping down the rest of your bourbon, you rise and head to the bathroom, leaving Allison chatting with a pharmaceutical rep from Eastbrook about the new ACE inhibitor they're putting out, which you happen to know is the same as the old one except for the addition of an antacid and a higher price tag.

As soon as you open the restroom door to exit, Cuddy is there, in your face. You're surprised she didn't just follow you in.

"Gotta go?" you say. "There's an open urinal."

"Cute," she replies, toying with the pendant at her neck. "I just wanted to say that I appreciate that you were on your best behavior tonight. As a show of appreciation, I'm giving you another four hours off clinic duty."

"Seriously?"

"Yes. I'm hoping to encourage even more good behavior by rewarding you. Imagine the possibilities," she says with a smirk. "You've put in your time for the night. You're free to go if you want."

"Thanks Mom. Do I still have to be in by curfew? 'Cause I really want to go to the drive-in. There's a double feature." You give her your best puppy eyes, and clasp your hands together.

"I saw you brought a date tonight. You should hold on to her. She's probably the only one who can tolerate you," she retorts, giving you a triumphant look before walking away.

You let her have her little victory, moving in the other direction, back to your date. But you should've known you wouldn't break free without at least one more Stacy encounter.

"So Allison seems to have made an impact on Mark," she says, pulling you into a little alcove in the hallway. "He's willing to let you examine him."

"Good. Tell him to be in my office Monday 10 am." You try to maneuver around her, but she steps in front of you again.

"I have to admit, I was surprised when you showed up here with a date. I mean, she seems very nice, and she's certainly beautiful, but she's got to be about half your age. It's a little ridiculous even for you, don't you think?"

"Jealous?"

"I just can't see what you two possibly have in common," she replies, trying very hard to sound matter-of-fact. "The girl from the coffee shop and the world-renowned doctor."

"We're both really good in bed," you retort, side-stepping her so quickly she has no time to stop you.

"I'm serious," she says, grabbing your arm until you spin around to face her again.

"So am I," you snap. "And I don't see how this is any of your business. Go tend to your sick husband."

When you arrive at the table, Allison is sitting there alone, sipping at her wine. Something about the sight of her moves you to do something you haven't done in years. You hold out your hand to her, inclining your head toward the dance floor. "Come on," you say. "I don't have many moves, but I do a mean lopsided shuffle."

She smiles and takes your hand, lets you lead her out to the floor and pull her close. You have a hundred snarky remarks on the tip of your tongue, but you shove them aside and just sway with her for a moment, the scent of her shampoo filling your nostrils, and the reminder of her scars beneath your fingertips and the thin fabric of her dress. If you didn't know that she is more than just a coffee shop girl, that what she was before is her deepest shame and how hard she is working to overcome it, well, you'd let the snarky remarks fly. But you do know, and in that moment you feel more of a kinship with her than you've ever felt with another human being. Drawing your joined hands up, you rest them against your heart, and one thought dominates your mind for a moment.

"You'll make a hell of a doctor," you tell her, and she looks up at you in surprise.

"You think so?"

"You've got good instincts. Plus you care. Maybe a little too much, but you can overcome that. You've just proven, with what you said to Mark, that you can reach patients in a way that I never could. I'd bet a hundred bucks he'll make an appointment with me by the end of the night. And he'll show up this time."

"Thank you," she says, smiling sweetly, "and I hope he will show up."

"He will. And for the record," you continue, murmuring to the top of her head, "you're the classiest person in this joint."

Chapter Text

Mark is now your patient, and has finally admitted that something is wrong. You stand outside his room and watch as Stacy curls up on the bed beside him and they hold each other through the fear. Once upon a time that was you, taking the comfort she gave as you faced an uncertain future. That devotion she now freely offers to her husband was, should be, yours. A resentment bubbles up from deep within you and you have to turn away, seeking refuge in a long forgotten spot.

Stacy finds you there, on the roof, a place you haven't ventured in five years. Seeing her with Mark, knowing the extent of her concern unnerves you. The little green-eyed monster sitting on your shoulder whispers in your ear about the unfairness of it all, how she is supposed to be with you.

Now here she is, crying out her worries in your arms and all you can think is, she still fits. You may have even said it out loud, though you can't be sure. The feel of her in your arms does things to your insides, melts the ice in your veins until it is a warmth tingling through you. Most people would not suspect that you have a romantic side, that you crave affection and touch like any other human. Maybe more so, because you have a tactile need to experience things with all your senses. Holding Stacy is a familiar reminder of things past, some good, some bad, but all things you'd taken for granted at one time.

The mystery of what ails Mark remains unsolved at at the moment, though your mind is far from finished mulling over all the symptoms. But while one portion of your brain whirs and hums with the medical possibilities, another part savors the feel of a woman in your arms, your ego swelling at the thought of her seeking comfort from you, while her husband lies sleeping in another room several floors below.

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That little moment of holding Stacy on the roof has fully awakened your need for affection. It's as if you've detoxed from any kind of caring touch over the years and now you've gotten another hit. You want more, you think, as you sit on the couch with your bourbon in hand and the television flickering in front of you. And if you can't get it from Stacy, you know there is another option in Allison. With just a little prodding, she'd...

The sound of the key turning in the lock interrupts your thoughts, and you turn and watch her come through the door, drop her bag on the chair and remove her hoodie, the way she does every night. Allison is both a mystery and almost entirely predictable at the same time, you think. With a smile and a yawn, she moves off to the bedroom, and you hear her getting ready for bed and realize the sounds of her little routine have become a comfort to you, that you are a lot less lonely in her quiet presence.

Hefting yourself off the couch, you follow her and sit on the bed, watching as she pulls the band out of her hair to release it from its ponytail, wearing nothing but a t-shirt and plain cotton panties, her jeans folded neatly on the chair. Something overcomes you in that moment, and you stand and put your arms around her from behind, pressing kisses to her neck and up her jawline. Turning her as you kiss, you aim for her mouth and when she moves her head away, you drop your hands in frustration and sit heavily on the bed.

"I want to kiss you," you say, "I don't see why that's a problem."

Sighing heavily, she sits beside you but keeps her gaze focused on the floor. "You know the rules," she says, tucking her hair behind her ear.

"Rules are for working girls. You're not that anymore, so the rules no longer apply," you argue, studying her profile, the curve of her nose and the way her long dark lashes brush her skin.

"I know, but... kissing is so intimate."

"So what! We have sex all the time; I'd say that's also pretty intimate." After a pause and a heavy sigh, you add, "Kissing doesn't have to mean anything."

Her face is thoughtful as she contemplates your words, and you can see she is giving in. Finally looking up at you, she says, "I haven't been kissed in a long time. Not since my husband. I'm afraid I'm out of practice."

"It's kind of like riding a bike," you joke, moving in and cupping her face. The truth is, you haven't kissed a woman on the mouth in a long time either. Not since Stacy. And while the sex with Allison is amazing, satisfying, mind-blowing even, you want desperately to know what it is like to feel her soft lips on yours. You lower your face to hers, kissing her tentatively, like taking a first sip of wine, and then deepening the kiss as she responds. The moment she opens her mouth and gives entrance to your tongue, you are lost, unaware of anything but the tantalizing taste of her, the sensation of tongue against tongue.

She breaks away long enough to tug your shirt over your head, followed by her own, and then you are pressing your lips to hers again like she is water in the midst of a desert, while she undoes your jeans and pushes them down your legs. Stepping out of them, you lower her to the bed without ceasing the movement of your mouth, sucking and nibbling on her tongue, her lips.

Pressing her hands to your chest, she pushes against you, until you are looking down on her with confusion, unable to understand why she would stop such a pleasurable activity.

"Get a condom," she pants, and you comply, eager to get back to kissing her.

Taking it from your hands, she tears it open and rolls it on you, the touch of her delicate fingers on your cock making it twitch with anticipation. She pushes you back against the headboard, and straddles you, sinking slowly down as you reclaim her lips, inhaling each gasp and puff of breath as she moves on you. Your hands slide up her back, pressing her so that her breasts touch your bare chest, one hand moving back down to cup her ass and move with the steady undulation of her hips. But all the while you can not stop kissing her, going in for hit after hit after hit until you think you might overdose on the high she gives you.

She begins moving faster and you are right there with her, forced to stop kissing her so frequently lest you suffocate as your heartbeat speeds up and your breath comes in heavy pants. The headboard thumps against the wall like the drumbeat of an ancient ritual and then she is touching herself and you and you cry out and spill yourself into the condom as her tight heat squeezes and pulses around you.

You watch her as she tries to catch her breath, shivering in the cool air of the room, her skin aglow with a light sheen of sweat. And you realize that one thing you love about sex with Allison is that you can make her lose control, she who so carefully controls every aspect of her life from the way she accounts for every dime she makes to the way she refuses just about every offer of help. It bolsters your ego that you can send her over the edge, make her throw her head back with such intense pleasure that she can't disguise it, make her body seize with orgasm and then fall into a nearly comatose bliss from the satisfaction of what you've done to her.

Moving off you, she smiles a sleepy smile and drags the covers up over her naked body and goes to sleep. You pull the condom off and dispose of it before joining her, your mind free for the moment to rest and contemplate this new addiction that is Allison and her sweet kisses. All other mysteries but the woman beside you be damned. They can wait.

Chapter Text

Encephalitis and Alzheimer's have been ruled out; you are sure it's AIP, but testing can only be done during an attack, and those are random and unpredictable. Unless you set one off. Mark, however, is being a stubborn jackass and refusing to consent, while Stacy pleads with him and simultaneously begs you to give Mark the cocktail anyway. You have the syringe and you are willing to override the patient's wishes based on Stacy's say so. The irony does not escape you.

Mark is practically screaming like a girl. Chase runs off like a scared wombat, afraid to take part in disregarding patient consent, and Foreman leaves when you threaten to inject him with the cocktail. Probably heading straight for Cuddy, you guess, but you aren't worried because once you are finished, Mark will get over it. You want even more to set off the attack if for no other reason than to shut Mark up, but he is thrashing around in the bed, hindering your aim. The commotion alerts half the hospital, including one very unexpected guest who halts your raised hand just as you are about to stab the needle into Mark.

"What are you doing?"

You turn at the sound of Allison's familiar voice, though you are not accustomed to hearing such disapproval in it. She moves into the room, her hoodie draped over one arm, and gently pries the syringe from your hands.

"This is none of your business," Stacy says, and she looks like she might strike someone, she's so angry.

"All the screaming has pretty much made it everyone's business. You're trying to perform a procedure without the patient's consent," Allison says. Her voice is calm but there is a fire in her eyes like you've never seen before. "And all the nurses and patients in this ward are now witnesses. Did you really think you could get away with this?"

"He's not going to sue," Stacy snaps, then turns to you with tears in her eyes and says, "Greg, please."

"What do you expect me to do? She's right. The whole damn hospital heard. Not that I care, but they start complaining to Cuddy and I'm screwed. And not in the good way," you joke.

Stacy turns to Mark and says, "You're being a stubborn idiot," before she marches out of the room, turning to add, "Greg, may I see you for a minute."

You follow her to the door, then pause when you hear Allison ask Mark, "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, thanks," he says, having the decency to look embarrassed at his outburst. "But they're just going to try it again, you know. Probably wait until I'm asleep."

Allison sighs heavily, a look of pure sympathy in her eyes, and sits down beside him. "You know you're going to have another attack, right? It's just a question of when. I get that you're scared. I would be too. But I guess I'd rather have an attack in the hospital in the presence of several doctors, than to wait around for days or weeks or months, never knowing when it's going to hit or who will be there to help."

"But they don't know for sure what will happen," Mark argued.

"And neither do you. They just need a fresh urine sample during an attack. That takes about thirty seconds to get, and then they'll sedate you and you can finally start treatment and start getting your life back. Isn't that what you want?"

"Yes, but... I don't trust him," he nods toward you, where you're still paused halfway out the door.

"Well, you should. He knows what he's doing."

"He just wants Stacy back. I think he'd be willing to kill me to make that happen."

Allison smiles a little at that, and counters, "I don't think so. House might cut corners here and there, but he doesn't kill people. If he wanted you to die, he could've just told you there was nothing wrong and sent you home."

"Are you listening to me?" Stacy grabs your arm, pulling you out of the room before you can hear the rest of Mark and Allison's conversation. But in the midst of her tirade about your meddling girlfriend, Allison emerges with a signed consent form. As she hands it over, the cocktail syringe lying on the top of the clipboard, Stacy stops speaking mid-sentence and without so much as a thank you, runs back into the room and into Mark's feeble embrace.

"Nice trick," you say, staring Allison down with narrowed eyes. "How'd you do it?"

"Maybe next time try speaking to him like one human being to another, instead of bullying," she says, moving around you toward the elevators.

"What are you doing here?" you call out after her.

Turning, she pulls an envelope from her pocket and holds it up. She smiles that smile of hers that is merely polite but devoid of any real meaning that you can interpret, and says, "I wanted to tell you I got the Branford scholarship. I came by to see if I could treat you to lunch. But I see you're busy."

"I never turn down free food," you say. "Give me five minutes."

"I'll wait downstairs," she says, and you nod in response.

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Allison would've taken you to the cafeteria, but you are having none of it. If she is really going to splurge some of her well-guarded money on you, you plan to make sure it is worth it. You drive her to your favorite little pub and guide her into a quiet booth, watching with amusement as her eyes widen at the prices on the menu, and smiling to yourself as she tries to disguise her dismay.

"So how's Mark?" she asks, setting the menu aside. "I take it you set off the attack."

"Yup. He'll be fine. Eventually. Probably need months of therapy to learn to walk again."

"Would you really have done it without his consent?"

You can't meet her eyes at first as you contemplate your answer, then simply nod nonchalantly. "Sure. Mark was being a stubborn idiot."

"So you were going to let her do to him what she did to you. I don't understand that." She pauses, her face all scrunched up in concentration, and then says, "He thought you wanted him to die, you know? I don't believe that. But maybe you wanted to make him feel like you did all those years ago, to feel that betrayal. Is that why you were willing to defy his wishes?"

"I wanted to make him better," you argue, your appetite quickly fading under her scrutiny. "If that makes me a bad guy, then so be it."

"It doesn't make you a bad guy," she concedes. "But I think your judgment in this case is a little impaired because of Stacy."

"You're wrong. You barely even know me, so can we quit with the psychoanalysis and just eat. I thought we came here to celebrate," you snap, and you are half-tempted to slide out of the booth and leave her there.

"Okay," she agrees with a little nod like a white flag of surrender. "Sorry."

The food doesn't taste half as good as you'd anticipated after that, because you can't get her words out of your head. If you wanted therapy, you could've gone to lunch with Wilson. Just to spite her, you order an expensive dessert, intending to savor every bite while she watches, even if it tastes like a clump of dirt. But then, as you shove forkfuls of decadent chocolate into your mouth, those wide blue eyes of hers do things to you that make your anger fade. There is a storm in her eyes, the gray-blue waters churning like a wind-whipped sea. You don't like that look, would do anything to make it go away, so you shove the dessert to the middle of the table and bid her share it with you.

She takes up her fork with a smile, carving out a chunk of cake and bringing it to her mouth. Mesmerized, you forget all about your argument as her tongue sweeps out and licks the fork clean. By the time you finish eating, things feel normal between you again and you are relieved.

In an uncharacteristic show of gratitude, you thank her for lunch, congratulate her on the scholarship, and give her a ride to the coffee shop for her shift. When you return to the hospital you find Cuddy in your office, and you brace for a lecture about your attempt to disregard Mark's consent.

"Mark's recovery and therapy is going to take months," she says without preamble. "I've decided to offer Stacy a position on the hospital's legal staff. We could use her help."

You drop down into your desk chair and wait for her to come to some point that is relevant to you.

"She said she won't accept if it makes you uncomfortable. You think you can work with her?"

"Sure, fine, hire her," you say, with as much nonchalance as you can muster.

"Good. And don't think I didn't hear about the stunt you tried to pull earlier," she adds, giving you a pointed look as she leaves your office.

Chapter Text


Working with Stacy does not come without its complications. There is flirting, touching, arguing, and a whole hell of a lot of denial on her part as she continues to assert that things with Mark are fine. You know better, can smell the cigarette smoke on her at times, which you know can only mean she is under a great deal of emotional turmoil. She mentions in passing that she is working things out with her therapist, and you... well you have to know where things really stand, so you lie your way into the therapist's office and make a copy of Stacy's file. You learn two things: Stacy is obsessed with you, and Stacy and Mark have not had sex in months. With that knowledge, your hope of winning her back increases, and you feel even more smug than usual.

Outside the window, snow falls like confetti. Inside, weary travelers meander to and fro like fish in a tank. As you watch, and diagnose, the strangers milling about, you think about home. Foreman and Chase are scrambling, trying to solve the aphasia guy case and prove they're just as good as you. Wilson and Cuddy are probably half-frantic, keeping an eye on your patient and your team. You expect they'll be calling you again very soon. And Allison is just starting her shift at the coffee shop, smiling kindly at the customers as she hands them their drinks, making polite small talk and putting far too much care and consideration into such a menial job.

At home, Allison continues to provide a distraction in the form of frequent and amazing sex, which now includes lots of kissing. Between bouts of sex, you like to perform differentials with her, testing her knowledge with lists of symptoms from past, and even current, patients. You are impressed with how good her instincts are, how often she is on the right track. In other circumstances, you would've hired her as one of your fellows.

Just the night before, you told her about Aphasia Guy, as you've been calling him, and her first guesses were interesting: head trauma, drugs, stroke, Lupus, Bichette's, encephalitis. All things you were considering yourself. She was cute, sitting on the floor, a medical textbook spread open on her lap and her glasses sliding down her nose as she contemplated the list of symptoms.

The thing you find strangely fascinating about Allison is the way she maintains a cool detachment with you, as if she can move on from you at any moment and not be affected. At first it was just what you wanted, sex without strings, but there are times when you want to break through her carefully guarded walls, just to see if you can, just to see what it would take, what she would be like completely open to you. The idea is intriguing. She is intriguing to you with her over-caring heart, the solicitous way she meets your needs, her unassuming beauty and brains, and her determination to get by in the world on her own terms in every way possible.

You feel like you are living two lives: the one at work where you have this thing with Stacy that is tying you up in emotional knots, and the one at home with Allison that is simpler, more comforting. Whichever life you are engrossed in at any given time seems to overshadow the other so that you nearly forget it exists.

Now, sitting in the airport in Baltimore with Stacy, you find your two worlds colliding in your active mind as you ponder Stacy's behavior and her lack of silver cross, and simultaneously wonder about Allison back home in your apartment alone. What is she doing? Does she miss you or wonder where you are? You have this strange compulsion to call her, explain your absence, ask if she'll be okay on her own for the night because you have a feeling you'll be going nowhere until tomorrow. It's a rather pathetic urge, which you attempt to drown out with Vicodin and Lesbian Prison Stories and the mystery of the patient your team is struggling to diagnose back in Princeton.

Over the hum of cranky passengers, the announcement is made that all flights are canceled for the evening due to the weather, and you roll your eyes as the crowd around you collectively groans. Beside you, Stacy gathers up her bag and says, "I booked a room at the airport hotel when I saw how bad the weather was. It was the last one available." She pauses and waits, looking down on you. "Your leg can't handle a night on a cot."

Right, you think. As if you haven't slept on your lumpy couch, your office floor, even slumped across your desk, despite the pain in your leg. That's what Vicodin is for, to numb the pain. But if she needs to justify inviting you up to her room, that's fine by you. You'll gladly let her guilt over your leg overcome her good sense.

Falling into step beside her, you feel strangely conflicted all the way to her room. You know what will happen there; it's just wondering why it will happen that bothers you. Would it mean that Stacy is choosing you over Mark, or is this just a fling because she argued with him? And why do you suddenly feel like you are cheating on Allison? The idea is absurd. You have no commitment to each other, just a mutually beneficial arrangement, and you are sure even she would not consider it infidelity on your part if you slept with Stacy.

You tell Stacy you need to know what is going on, and she gives you a speech about Vindaloo curry, how she is addicted to it but too much can burn your mouth and make you not want it for a long time, but then one day you're thinking how much you'd really love some curry again. Of all the names you've been called, all the things you've been compared to, a fiery Indian spice has to be the most unique and amusing. Taking her chin in your hand, you lean down to kiss her, smiling as she murmurs, "You're a jerk."

The kiss is light, your mouth just meeting hers as her hands slip under your jacket. It's just lips on lips though, without any spark, like the curry has sat too long on the shelf and lost its heat, and so you try again, testing, tasting, looking for the burn. That she is just doing this because she had an argument with Mark is distracting you, making it harder to surrender to the kiss even as you try to clear your mind. You stumble a bit as Stacy tugs you toward the bed, and the heat you're missing turns up in your leg like a jolt of lightning. You think of Allison working out the kinks in your damaged thigh. If you were home in her quiet presence, she'd set you at ease with the warm, gentle pressure of her hands.

With a heavy sigh, you back away from the bed, at a loss for words for once in your life. Stacy's mouth falls open, prepared to blast you with questions for which you have no answers, when her phone rings. She brings it to her ear with an impatient "What?" and then passes it to you with a groan of frustration. You take it, and realize you've never been so relieved to hear from Foreman. Heading for the door, you pause only to tell Stacy you'll take her phone downstairs so as not to disturb her. The rest of the night, you sit on the hard airport floor and try to figure out three things all at once: your patient's illness, your reluctance to sleep with Stacy, and your strange longing to be home with Allison.

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The next morning the storm has cleared enough for you and Stacy to fly back to Jersey. At Cuddy's insistence, you go straight from the airport to the hospital to deal with your patient before your team kills him. Though your body feels like an old deck of cards, dog-eared and worn, shuffled and dealt too many times, you carry on.

It's not until late that evening that your patient is finally diagnosed and you can go home. When you arrive, it's just after ten. The apartment is quiet, a single lamp in the living room providing dim guidance. Allison is not due for more than an hour, and though you are tired, your mind and heart are doing battle and you know you won't sleep for some time.

Sitting down at the piano, you let your mind wander back to Stacy. She still has sway over your heart. You can't deny that if she'd said, "I left Mark," you wouldn't have hesitated in sleeping with her. Hell, even if she hadn't said that, you would've slept with her, so long as you were convinced you could entice her away from her husband. But you can't get the image out of your head: Stacy curled up in Mark's arms. And you can't stop thinking about that day when you woke up in your own hospital bed to find out she'd had a chunk of your leg cut out, or how she left you a short time later, unable to deal with the new version of you that was her own doing. She was Frankenstein, creating the monster and unleashing it on the unsuspecting world.

Music flows out of you like blood from an open wound. You grow almost lightheaded, swept away in the pain and the memories as if it all happened yesterday and a hundred years ago at the same time. Seven notes, eighty-eight keys, and not one of them equals forgiveness.

Allison walks through the door and stops short. An expression of uncertainty crosses her face. Caught between the unforgiving cold outside and the unforgiving cold within, she waits. Guilt makes an appearance, as if she knows she's intruded on something private and painful. Masking your turmoil, you rise and head to the bedroom. You'll let her assuage her guilt with her body.

She follows, dropping her bag on the chair and undressing as you watch, her gaze drifting to you and then away again.

"You didn't wonder where I was last night?" you ask, staring lewdly at her ass as she changes.

"I just... figured you were with Stacy," she says with a shrug, and it irritates you that she is so nonchalant about it, that the idea of you sleeping with someone else doesn't bother her in the least, even though you predicted just this kind of response.

As she heads to the bathroom and begins brushing her teeth, you call out, "Nice to know I could disappear from the planet and you wouldn't care."

Incredulous, she turns around, mouth foamy with toothpaste, and looks at you, frowning. She turns, spits and rinses, and then says, "If you had disappeared from the planet, your boss or Wilson would have called looking for you."

"True," you concede. "I got stuck in Baltimore because of the snowstorm. Spent last night on the airport floor. Then I had to go cure my patient."

"The aphasia guy?"

"Yeah. He was trying to tell us something. Kept saying, 'They took my stain. I couldn't tackle the bear,' whenever his wife wasn't around. Very devoted couple," you mock, "what with the secrets and all."

"People keep secrets from the people they love. Doesn't mean they're not devoted," she replies, crawling into bed beside you. "Did you figure out what it meant?"

"You are the strangest mix of cynicism and naivete," you say, with a confused shake of your head. "Ever hear this one? Build a house, each wall has a southern exposure, big bear comes wandering by. What color is the bear?"

"White. It's a polar bear; you built your house in the North Pole."

Smiling proudly at her, you nod. "Guy was bipolar, but didn't want his wife to know. Had a bilateral cingulotomy."

"That's experimental, and isn't even proven to help mood disorders. That... also shouldn't cause aphasia," she says, her face scrunched up in confusion.

"Nope, but it was another aspect of the lies and secrecy: his drug use, his trips, the ups and downs, the surgery, which he had done in South America. Guy had cerebral malaria. The wife is pissed, left him in the hospital."

"If she's that devoted, she'll be back. She just needs time to miss him."

"He loved her enough to convince himself he could change," you say, suddenly realizing how strangely romantic that is, how strangely close to home it hits with your situation with Stacy. You want to change, want to trust her, to forgive her, to believe the two of you could be happy again. But you aren't sure you're capable of it.

"But he couldn't," Allison says quietly. "People don't change. At least, not in any way that really matters."

"Then how does any relationship survive?" you ask her, intently curious to know her thoughts on the subject.

"Low expectations," she jokes, and you laugh in spite of your desire to know how she would answer the question if she were being serious.

While you've been talking, she's begun forging a path across your damaged thigh with the heel of her hand, applying just the right amount of pressure to ease the ache, offering you sweet relief without a single word. Your thoughts unfold and settle like a blanket spread over the ground and you find your eyes drifting shut as sleep overtakes you.

Chapter Text


You sleep late the next morning, spooning Allison's body against your own and sleeping so peacefully you feel you could easily stay that way forever. But then she wakes, and though it's clear she is trying to be still and not disturb you, she wriggles against you just enough to bring certain body parts to life.

"Morning," you murmur, pressing her ass tighter against your groin and grinding into her. Your right hand wanders up to cup her breasts and you begin kissing her neck and nibbling on her ear lobe.

She smiles and pushes back against you, entwining her fingers with yours as you caress her body. Already throbbing with a desperate need to be inside her, you say, "Hold that thought," and roll over to grab a condom, sliding it on as quickly as you can and then rolling back. She pushes off her panties and tosses them to the floor, followed by her shirt, before resuming her previous position, urging you to touch her. You stroke one hand over her abdomen and down between her legs, over the little thatch of nubby curls and then into her, finding her slick and wet. Little huffs of bliss come from her lips as you finger her and press her clit. Stretching her leg backward over your own, she opens herself up to you, and you slip into her as deep as you can go in that position. Moving in and out in shallow thrusts, you're unable to keep your eyes open when she reaches between her legs and begins touching you and then takes your hand and guides it right where she wants it. Together your bodies undulate as one, your joined hands adding to the friction and pleasure until she is crying out unintelligible sounds of ecstasy and pulsing around your cock.

You aren't done yet, need more, so you roll her onto her stomach and nudge your cock between her cheeks, testing her reaction. In answer, she raises her hips and spreads her legs, looking back over her shoulder to give you a little nod. Your heart threatens to thump right out of your chest as you ease yourself into her little by little, well lubricated from her orgasm. Soon you are in as deep as you feel you can go without hurting her, and damn if she isn't deliciously tight. Your hands on her ass, you move gently in and out, knowing only a few strokes will send you over the edge. Closing your eyes, you savor what few women are willing to give, moving slightly faster, and then opening your eyes again to look at her, ass raised in the air like a gift to you, hands fisting into the pillow, head back so that her hair falls down her neck and over one shoulder. Then she begins moving her hips back to meet your thrusts and it's your undoing. With one final stroke, you nearly convulse with your orgasm, gripping her so intently that you leave imprints on her skin.

Pulling out, you collapse on the bed, pure euphoria flowing through your veins. You are aware of her moving beside you, slipping beneath the covers and curling up like a sleepy little kitten. Words like thank you and god you're amazing and holy hell that was the hottest thing ever are swimming around in your addled brain, but all you can do is smile and roll over to wrap her in your arms and place a kiss on the top of her head.

The next thing you know, you are waking to empty arms and an empty bed. You hear the shower running, and glance at the clock to see it is nearly two in the afternoon. After the last few days of stress and physical discomfort, you didn't expect to feel so completely sated and relaxed so soon. She is better than Vicodin and you begin to think of ways you can repay her.

Stepping out of bed, you pull on your boxer briefs and a t-shirt and limp out to the kitchen to grab something to eat. When she joins you, freshly showered and ready for work, you have a sandwich, yogurt, and a cup of soup ready for her.

"Lunch," you say around a mouthful of your own sandwich, nodding toward the food on the butcher block.

"I should get going," she answers, glancing at the clock.

"Eat. I'll give you a ride." You stuff the rest of your sandwich in your mouth and mumble, "Gonna take a quick shower. You've got time."

You are in and out of the shower in less than ten minutes, coming out to find her straightening up the bedroom. The bed is made and she is gathering up all the dirty clothes from the floor and stuffing them into the hamper.

"You eat?" you ask, yanking clean underwear and jeans from the drawer.

"I had half the sandwich and the soup. I'll save the rest for later. I really need to get going."

"Relax. It takes five minutes to drive there. I won't make you late."

With an impatient sigh, she sits beside you on the bed as you tug your socks on. Her sweatshirt is draped over one arm; her hands fidget with the fabric as she waits.

There is a knock on the door, and you both pause and look toward the hallway. One sock is hanging off your foot, you're bare-chested, and your cane is across the room.

"I'll get it," Allison says, springing from the bed and striding toward the door. When she opens it, you are emerging from the bedroom to see who it is, your t-shirt half on and half off. There stands Stacy, looking gobsmacked at the sight in front of her.

"Hi Stacy," Allison says, polite as ever, opening the door wider to let her in.

"Allison... hi." She looks from Allison to you, her perfectly sculpted eyebrows raised in surprise. "I'm sorry... am I interrupting?"

"No. I was just headed to work," Allison replies, pulling her sweatshirt over her head and grabbing her bag.

Those words jerk you out of your stupor and you limp forward, saying, "I told you I'd drive you."

"It's fine," she answers with a smile. "You two should catch up. I'll see you later." And with that she is out the door, leaving you standing there facing Stacy and feeling irrationally angry.

"I probably shouldn't have come," Stacy says, taking a seat in the chair you've begun to think of as Allison's, her actions in direct contrast to her words. "Is she... living here with you?"

"Yes. Does that surprise you?" you mutter, rubbing your hand over your forehead as your previous state of relaxation flees as fast as Allison had left the apartment.

"I guess it shouldn't. I mean, we moved in together after only a week..." She trails off and you can practically hear her thinking, but I thought that was because we had something special.

"What are you doing here?"

"I thought we should talk after what happened in Baltimore." Standing, she moves to you, placing her hand on your chest and then grasping your t-shirt in her fingers. "I just thought we should clear the air, make sure there are no misunderstandings."

You take her hand in yours and hold it, look down into her eyes, and say, "Are you leaving Mark? Because that's the only thing that needs to be cleared up."

"Are you leaving Allison?" she retorts.

"It's not the same thing."

"Oh, and why is that? Because you're not married to her? Because she's just your little plaything?"

"Jealous? There's an easy way to solve that problem. Leave Mark." As those words leave your mouth, you feel stomach acid churning in your gut like liquid fire. You thought all along that was what you wanted, Stacy would leave Mark and come back to you, and you would be happy again. But then why do you suddenly feel like you've been sucker-punched at the mere mention of it.

"It's not that easy," she says. "He's sick. I can't just abandon him."

"Like you did me, you mean?" Suddenly you can't look at her. You release her hand so you can move around her to collapse on the couch. Guilt hangs between you, an almost tangible presence in the room, as she sits beside you and her shoulders sag in defeat.

"I'll leave him," she murmurs. "I'll leave him and I'll be with you."

With those words, you should feel sweet victory and happiness, but instead you let out a cynical chuckle and look at her, really study her for the first time in years. You see the resignation in her eyes, and you know, she'll accept you for a time but then you'll fall into the same old patterns, ignoring her in favor of a case or your music or something else, and she'll stay out of guilt. But she won't be happy, and once you start to miss the physical things you used to do when you were with her, golf and paintball and lacrosse and jogging, you won't be happy either. There's no going back.

"I'm not going to change," you say, watching the play of emotions on her face.

"Who asked you to?"

"You did. Not in so many words, no, but you said with me you were lonely, while Mark makes room for you in his life. If you came back now, nothing would change. You'd still feel lonely and you'd start to resent me."

"No," she protests, grabbing you by the shirt again. "We can make it work this time. I know it." She leans in and kisses you, pressing her lips to yours in a desperate attempt to connect, but you don't, can't, respond.

All you can think about is Allison and it's as if someone has turned a light on in a room you hadn't even known was dark. Allison. You are in love with her. Holy crap, you think, when did that happen?

"Greg, what's wrong?" Stacy asks, leaning her head against your chest.

"It's not going to work, Stacy. Go home to Mark."

"Why, dammit? Give me one good reason."

"I could give you a thousand reasons. In the end it all comes down to one thing. It's just not going to work."

Chapter Text


After Stacy leaves, you pour yourself a generous serving of bourbon and contemplate this new thing you've discovered about yourself. When exactly Allison had taken center stage in your heart is still unclear to you. The kissing certainly hasn't helped; you've come to realize what a lie your words to her were when you said, "Kissing doesn't have to mean anything." It always means something. At least to you. Maybe if you hadn't kissed her, Stacy's kisses would still move you. But no, looking back you can see the signs even before you kissed her. The attraction to her that went beyond what you'd felt for any other woman in a long time, the concern for her well-being, your desire to keep her with you, your inability to stop thinking about her... All of those should've told you something from the beginning.

Now the dilemma is, what to do about it? Tell her? You dismiss that idea right away and conclude that your best options are to either drive her away by being a complete bastard, which has some appeal because it eliminates all complications and possibilities of rejection, or you can just continue to behave as if nothing has changed. She doesn't seem bothered by your usual bastard-like behavior, so in order to drive her away you'd really have to up your game. She's already been through so much and she asks for so little; the idea of hurting her deliberately makes your stomach clench up like you're about to hurl.

You decide you will just carry on as if things are the same, that way you'll continue to get laid and have clean laundry and a clean apartment. It's the selfish thing to do, you decide, glancing out the window to see that darkness has descended and snow is falling as if in a rush to reach the ground. The clock tells you that it is already nearing the end of her shift, and you think of her walking home in the storm with only that hooded sweatshirt for protection against the cold. You know she doesn't have a coat or gloves, had figured that out from the beginning. The winter has been fairly mild until recently, so you haven't given it a second thought. Now, a strange worry overcomes you, and you rub your hand over your face in frustration. This, you think, is why you hate love. Love makes you feel things like concern and fear. Love makes you want to run out in a snowstorm and give someone a ride home just so you'll know they're safe. Love turns even the most selfish men into uncharacteristic saps.

You are doomed.

Grunting as you lever yourself off the couch, you shrug on your coat and wrap your scarf around your neck, grab your keys and head off to the coffee shop. The lights inside are off and the sign on the door reads "Closed," but your watch tells you there are still fifteen minutes until closing time and you frown. Beneath the sign is a handwritten paper taped to the door that reads, "Closing early due to weather." Well crap!

Getting back into your car, you drive slowly along the streets, looking for Allison, and finally you spot her a few blocks down, the hood of her sweatshirt covering her head and her hands jammed into the pockets. She nearly blends into the atmosphere with her light-colored hoodie and all the snow flying around her. You pull to the side of the street and park, leaning over to open the passenger door for her.

"Allison," you call, "Come on, get in."

Jogging over, she slides in and pulls the door shut behind her, swiping at the snowflakes that cling to her eyelashes. "Thanks," she says breathlessly.

"You could've called for a ride, you know?" you say, cranking the heat up to full blast.

Her mouth opens and closes, but she says nothing and you know then that the thought of calling you would never have occurred to her. Not sweet little Allison who hates to inconvenience anyone.

"Next time, call for a ride."

The rest of the drive home is spent in tense silence; you can feel her gaze on you and you can't imagine what is going through her head. You let her into the apartment and follow her straight to the bedroom, removing your coat and scarf as you go and tossing them on the back of the couch.

Flopping on the bed, you kick off your shoes and watch her get undressed, surprised when she finally breaks the silence.

"Things didn't go well with Stacy I take it."

You roll your eyes and say, "It's over. I told her to go home to her husband."

"Why?" she asks, frowning at you. "I thought you'd jump at a second chance to be with the love of your life."

"Maybe she's not the love of my life," you snap. "Did you ever think of that?"

Taken aback, she just blinks and widens her eyes, her hands frozen in her hair where she'd begun to take down her ponytail.

"Oh," she finally says, pulling the elastic from her hair. "I'm sorry."

"Nothing to be sorry for," you mutter, glancing at her out of the corner of your eye.

She goes into the bathroom, and you stand and take off your jeans and socks, tossing them on the chair and crawling beneath the covers. When she gets in beside you, you switch off the lamp and wrap one arm around her, burying your face in her hair. This is your idea of contentment, you think, except for the fact that you are bound to screw it up at some point. It's that fact that keeps you up late into the night, while she sleeps on, oblivious to your inner turmoil.

Chapter Text

 

"We're going shopping," you announce over breakfast, startling Allison so much she nearly chokes on her tea.

"What?"

"I'm taking you shopping. Go get dressed."

Plunking down her mug, she just looks at you, waiting for some explanation.  

"You need things," you say, narrowing your eyes at her, "starting with a coat and maybe a real cell phone instead of that cheap trac phone."

"No I don't," she replies, giving you that look you both love and loathe. She is immovable: a stone goddess wearing striped pajama pants.

"You're being ridiculous," you mutter, suddenly wishing you'd never brought it up. "You can't keep walking to and from work in nothing but jeans and a sweatshirt."

"Yes I can. And if I need something, I will buy it myself," she snaps, turning and striding out of the kitchen.

You follow her, continuing your argument, "Oh really? How are you going to do that?"

Spinning around, she stops and glares at you, but says nothing because there is nothing she can say. What little money she has will be needed to get through school. Even with the scholarship, she'll have to buy books and supplies, and depending on her course load, will probably have to quit her job, or at least reduce her hours. She is between the proverbial rock and hard place; you know it and you intend to take advantage of it. 

"I get that you don't want help, but you're going to get it whether you want it or not. If I have to go to the mall and pick out the stuff myself, I will," you say, giving her your most determined look. "I have very good taste."

"You can go out and buy whatever the hell you want," she says with deadly calm, "but I'll be damned if I use any of it." With that, she continues into the bedroom, snatching her clothes angrily out of the drawer.  

You sit on the bed as she shuts herself in the bathroom and starts the shower. That didn't go as well as hoped, you think. And so much for acting as if nothing has changed.  Who the hell are you kidding? Everything has changed. You love her and you despise the fact that she would sooner freeze to death than allow you to buy her a coat. But you also respect her resolve; the last thing you want is to make her feel as if you own her, like Tara did. You just want her to stop struggling for every little thing and let you help. And you will find a way to do it, you vow. It'll just take a little creativity.  

When she comes out of the bathroom, she looks as if she's been crying and you sigh heavily, a little flicker of guilt burning in your chest. You can't say anything though, because you don't feel you have anything to apologize for. But the look on her face makes your heart hurt, and you want desperately to wrap her in your arms.  

"Don't you have to go to work?" she asks, her back to you as she pulls a brush through her wet hair.  

"Eventually," you say, rubbing your hand gently over your thigh. "Maybe I'll stay home today. Leg hurts."

She whips around at that, sympathy in her eyes, and you almost smile. If this is the way to get to her, appeal to her sense of compassion, well, you aren't above a little manipulation.  

"More than usual?" she asks, sitting down beside you.

"Yeah. Cold weather's a bitch."

"Take off your pants and I'll give you a massage."  

Nodding, you do as told, trying very hard not to smile in triumph as you lay back on the bed. She kneels beside you, her graceful hands kneading the knots out of you, starting from your feet and working her way up. You can't deny that she is very good with her hands, has a way of relaxing you like you've never felt.  

"Where'd you learn to do that?" you ask, closing your eyes in bliss.

"I used to rub down my husband when he got sick. He was in a lot of pain and it seemed to help. I guess I just got good at it."

"Ah yes, the dearly departed husband. Tell me about him," you say, genuinely curious as you open your eyes and watch her work.

"What do you want to know?" she asks, her voice a quiet murmur.

"Pretty much everything. What was his name? Did you know he was sick when you married him? How old were you? Why did you marry so young?"

"His name was Danny, and no he wasn't sick when I married him. We met in college when I was seventeen and he was eighteen. We were both kind of loners, and somehow we found each other. Like me, he didn't have any family. He grew up in foster care and was working his way through college.  The two of us were... " she stops and let out a soundless little laugh, lost in her memories,  "...really poor compared to most of the other students.  So we created this game where we would challenge each other to find things to do and eat for free. While most of the other kids were partying, we were just finding ways to survive and make what little money we had stretch as far as it could go."

"Danny... "  she smiles, a distant memory in her eyes, "was way better than me at finding ways around paying for things. One time he was reading the school's bylaws--  he was studying law and had this fascination with contracts and stuff like that--  and he discovered some old clause that said married students could get cheaper housing than the dorms.  He proposed to me right then and there.  It was a joke at first, but... we realized it really was a way for both of us to save some money. And we loved each other, so we did it. We got married. I was nineteen by then. He was twenty. Just kids. It was crazy, but it worked."

"Things were tight, financially, but we were surviving and we were happy. And then he got sick, and kept pushing and pushing himself, denying that there was anything wrong." She pauses, and blinks back tears before smiling the saddest smile you have ever seen. "Well, you know the rest. I was twenty-three and I watched my husband die."

You let out a little grunt in answer, having no idea what to say to all of that. Most kids in that situation would've bailed as soon as the big C word was discovered. The fact that she stayed by her husband's side until the end is rather revealing. As she continues to work the kinks out of your mangled flesh, you realize this is her thing, her damage, taking care of others. She is drawn to people just as damaged as she is, though you doubt she is even conscious of it.   

"So who's that other guy in your wedding photo?" At her look of shock, you add, "So I snooped. That surprises you?"

"No, I suppose not," she says with a sigh. "That's Joe. He was Danny's best friend."

"And he was in love with you," you say, watching her face closely for a reaction. Her hands stop their movements for a moment, and then a flash of guilt crosses her expression.

She nods and says, "I didn't know it until Danny got sick. Joe and I would ride to the hospital together and take walks just to talk each other through it. We kind of clung on to each other. And I... I fell in love with him too."

"Your husband was dying. You were young, vulnerable, scared. No one would blame you for falling into bed with another man."

"I would've blamed me," she replies softly.

"You didn't do it. You didn't sleep with him, did you?" 

"I couldn't have lived with myself."

You're astonished, but unsurprised at the same time. Anyone else, you'd say they were lying, but this is Allison who buys your groceries and leaves your change with the receipt on the counter, who won't even give you her employee discount on coffee because it's against company rules. She has an almost pathological need to tell the truth. You wonder if she was raised that way, or if she has a genetic predisposition for honesty, if such a thing exists.

"What about your family?" you ask. "What happened to them?"

Her voice is a breeze that signals the onset of a monsoon. "When I was ten, I was at a sleepover with my best friend. My parents and my brother were at home in bed when the house caught on fire. They never made it out. I was sent to Philadelphia to live with my great aunt, Elisa. She died when I was seventeen, just after I started college. I became an emancipated minor after that."

Her story has planted an idea in your head. You just need some time to work out all the details. Because with her you're not afraid. With her you can go the distance.

Chapter Text

Cuddy is calling nonstop, blatantly ignoring the fact that you are blatantly ignoring her calls. So annoying. Eventually she'll show up and drag you to work, so you figure you'll drop Allison off at the coffee shop and make an appearance at the hospital, if for no other reason than to watch Cuddy's head explode as she tries to track you down.

After your massage, Allison makes you pancakes for lunch and you sit in the living room and watch your soap. Oh, she pretends to be reading her medical book, but you know deep down she is totally engrossed in the drama playing out on your television. Sitting in her chair, with her glasses pushed up on her nose and her hair falling around her cheeks, she looks like a sexy librarian. You think about how she always sits in that chair, never on the couch, and you wonder if you should get rid of it just to bring her closer. Would she snuggle up with you and watch a movie? Would she let you put your head in her lap? Would she even want to be with such a sap, you think with disgust, shaking your head to clear it.

Snapping her book shut, she stands and says, "I should get going."

"I'll give you a ride," you say, hefting yourself off the couch.

"You don't have to do that."

"I know. But I need to go to work, and it's right on the way." You limp over to the closet, grab your long wool coat, and then snatch your pea coat off the hanger as well before pushing the door shut with your cane.

When she comes out of the bedroom with her bag in hand, you drape your pea coat over her shoulders and then wrap your scarf around her neck. "You don't have any compunctions about borrowing things, do you?"

"No," she says, blinking up at you in surprise. "I guess not."

"Good. It's way too big, but at least you won't freeze to death."

Rolling her eyes as she slides her arms into the sleeves, she says, "I really don't think there's any danger of that."

"You never know," you reply, taking note of how small she looks in the pea coat, the way it swallows her petite frame. God she is gorgeous. You reach forward and button the buttons, though the coat drapes off of her so much it hardly matters whether it is buttoned or not. "You look ridiculous, by the way," you add, though you feel she is the most exquisitely beautiful woman you've ever laid eyes on.

"I don't care," she says with a shrug and a small smile. "Thank you."

"Sure," you say, and there is a sudden blockage in your throat. You may have to get that looked at, you think, as you head to the door.

mdmdmdmdmdmd

"Where have you been? I thought Cuddy was going to have a conniption," Wilson says, plopping himself down in the chair in front of your desk.

"Cuddy's always on the verge of a conniption," you reply, dismissing the subject. "I had things to do."

"Things like avoiding Stacy?"

You twist up your face with disdain, and say, "I'm over Stacy."

"Right," Wilson says with a little chuckle. "That's why you've been obsessing over her these last few months. Breaking into her therapist's office and stealing her file. Those are definitely the actions of a man who's over her."

"I'm serious," you reply, looking Wilson right in the eye. "I was confused when she came back. I'm not confused anymore."

"I heard she's leaving. Going back to Short Hills with Mark. You sure you're okay with that? 'Cause I have a feeling she would rather be with you."

"I'm fine, and she'll get over it. But while we're on the subject of infidelity, how's Debbie in Accounting?"

"I'm not cheating on Julie," Wilson says, exasperated. "It was one lunch with a colleague. I love my wife."

"Sure you do. I bet you loved your other wives too, and the women you slept with while you were married to them."

"You're an ass," Wilson retorts, getting to his feet and moving to the door. "Stacy's better off without you."

"Couldn't agree more," you call after him, amused, as he leaves the office. "But Allison's not," you add to yourself, with a smile.

Chapter Text

A few weeks pass and you do your best to carry on as normal with Allison, lulling her into complacency before you spring your idea on her. You want her to feel as if your life together is just as originally intended, a mutually beneficial arrangement. If she suspects you're in love with her you worry she might panic and withdraw, possibly leave altogether. She may be loyal, but she's also stubborn and determined to make it on her own. So you've bided your time until you've settled into a comfortable routine that is no longer disturbed by anything that has to do with Stacy.

You've been mulling it over, weighing the pros and cons, trying to figure out what's different. It's not that you've ever been against the idea of marriage. You even toyed with the idea of marrying Stacy, once upon a time. But back then you felt there was no rush; you were young, still establishing your career, and you already lived with her so marriage wouldn't really have changed anything. Stacy certainly never pressed for it, and now that she is married to Mark, it's something you've wondered about.

Allison is... well, the love of your life. You can admit that now, at least to yourself. You'd be quite content to spend the rest of your life with her. No one could possibly be more surprised about that than you.

Strumming your guitar while you wait for her, a melody flows out from your fingertips, something hopeful, but with an undercurrent of tragedy. The low notes vibrate like thunder from a distant storm, a deep echo beneath the higher notes. And tying it all together is something almost sensual in the combination of chords. You realize that you have no music of your own anymore. It's all hers. Just like your heart.

Patience is a virtue, but you've never been very virtuous. You feel as if you waited long enough. This is the night.

She sweeps in like a wisp of smoke, quiet and unobtrusive, glancing at you with tired eyes and a little smile that seems to require great effort to produce. Her hair is wind-swept, falling out of her lopsided ponytail as if to demonstrate her exhaustion. You think this might work in your favor.

"I think we should get married," you tell her, following her to the bedroom.

"What?"

"I think we should get married," you repeat, as casually as if you've just given her the weather report.

When she doesn't reply, just stands there staring at you with her mouth hanging open, you continue, poring forth your most persuasive arguments as if it really doesn't matter to you one way or the other.

"Turns out marriage really does have its benefits. Lower tax rates, for one thing. Do you know what I could do with the money I wouldn't have to give to Uncle Sam? I could get a bitchin' motorcycle, for starters. There are benefits to you too. I can add you to my health insurance plan. And as my wife, you would inherit everything if something should happen to me. Means you won't be homeless again."

"Is something wrong? Are you sick?" she asks, all wide-eyed with concern as she sits beside you on the bed.

"No, I'm not sick," you say, rolling your eyes. "I'm just all about saving money."

Skeptical, she studies you from her peripheral vision and says, "Since when?"

"Since right now," you say. "What difference does it make? It would benefit me financially, but if you don't care about helping me, then forget I even brought it up."

"It's not that I don't care," she says, chagrined. "I would help you if I could. Are you in some kind of financial trouble?"

"No," you all but laugh. "But I do like saving money where I can, and screwing over the government in the process is just an added bonus. Plus Wilson's bank account would breathe a sigh of relief. I've been known to raid it a time or two. What do you say? Wanna flip Uncle Sam the bird, metaphorically speaking?"

"You're serious?"

"Yes, I'm serious. What's the big deal? We already live together, we have sex together... Making it legal wouldn't change anything except improving both our financial situations."

Glancing away, she studies her hands in her lap, deep in thought, then finally she looks into your face and asks, "What if... you meet someone else and want to be with her? Being married to me would complicate things."

"Yes, 'cause the women are beating down my door," you mock, with a self-deprecating laugh. "I'm not charming. I'm not good looking. I'm not even nice. There's not going to be anyone else." You look at her and hold your breath, waiting. It's true, there will never be anyone else. She's your last chance. And even if she doesn't love you, you know she'll be faithful to you. You are counting on that part of her, that deep loyalty that sets her apart from any other woman you've ever met.

"I guess... okay," she says, "As long as you're sure."

"Great. We'll do it this weekend. I know a judge."

"This weekend?"

"Yeah, unless you wanted to do a big shindig or something, but that would kind of defeat the purpose of marrying to save money."

"No, I don't want a big... It's just sudden."

"That a problem?"

"No, I guess not."

"Good, then Saturday it is."

You have stunned her into speechlessness and it amuses you. If you weren't a cripple, you'd do a victory dance right there on the bed. Instead you act as nonchalant as if you've just planned to spend Saturday playing Scrabble, while inside your heart is leaping with something that feels a lot like happiness.

Chapter Text

You're getting married in four days, and you're only mildly freaked out. Somehow you've managed to keep it a secret from Wilson, mostly by avoiding him. It's not too hard when you arrive at work late and leave early every day. Each minute feels like an hour, and some part of you is afraid Allison will disappear before your wedding day comes. For that reason, you've been spending as much time with her as you can, as if you can prevent her from running away by keeping her in your sight. She doesn't seem to mind.

"So, since we're getting hitched, think we could dispense with the condoms?" you ask, wadding up said item in a tissue and tossing it into the trash can. Your heart is beating a syncopated rhythm that matches the heaving of her chest as she lies beside you, her face flushed with the aftermath of your activities.

"I... guess, sure. I mean, I was tested for STD's regularly. I suppose I could get tested again, just to be safe."

"Good. I'll get tested too. That just leaves the question of birth control."

"I'm on the pill," she replies, pulling the sheets up as she snuggles down into the bed. "I just wanted to..."

"I get it. In your... previous line of work, you wanted a little extra protection. Smart. Come down to the clinic in the morning and I'll do the tests."

She nods a sleepy nod and turns off the lamp. You wrap your arm around her, your soon-to-be wife, and settle in to sleep. If this is the way it's going to be for the rest of your life, it's good. You can handle this. And if at some point she gets tired of you, well, at least you'll have had this, you think. At least you'll have tried.

mdmdmdmdmdmd

"Wilson, I need you at the Princeton Courthouse by ten this morning. It's urgent. Don't be late." After leaving that cryptic message, you snap your phone shut and continue getting dressed, pulling on a crisp white dress shirt and slicking down your hair with your hands. You wrestle your tie into submission and then sit and pull on your smart black loafers.

Your stomach rolls a little as you limp to the kitchen and pull a corsage from the refrigerator. This is lame, you think, but then, Allison seems to like lame.

Pulling your suit jacket off its hanger, you shrug it on and check the mirror to see if you are presentable enough. What you see discourages you. Old, crippled, thinning hair, two days worth of stubble... even your dressy black cane seems to scream "pathetic," and you suddenly can't fathom why she would agree to marry you no matter how desperate or damaged she might be.

"You look nice," she says from behind you, and you spin around to find her standing there looking like an angel.

Her dress is ivory, sleeveless, a modest V exposing her collarbone and neck. The fabric seems to wrap around her like an embrace, falling to her ankles, revealing the same strappy heels she'd worn to the charity fundraiser. Her hair is pulled back into a simple bun, with a few strands framing her face. Her mother's silver earrings dangle from her ears.

You nearly forget to breathe, and feel a sudden compulsion to tell her to run, run, run far away because she is far too good for you. But then, she steps forward and takes your jacket lapel in her hand, pinning a white carnation in place, and you freeze, completely lost in the soft blue waters in her eyes.

"You look good," you murmur, just barely managing to get the words out without stuttering. You mentally chide yourself, because good doesn't even remotely describe how she looks. Talk about an understatement.

"Thank you," she says, smiling nervously and smoothing her hands down the front of her dress, and you wonder how much of her hard-earned money she spent for it.

"Got this for you," you say, feeling ridiculous as you hand her the clear plastic container that holds the corsage.

Pulling it out, she smiles and pins it to her dress, pressing her hand to it gently, and saying, "It's beautiful. Thank you."

You simply nod, incapable of speech, longing to kiss her. But then she turns and pulls your pea coat on over her dress, which looks absurdly out of place and yet makes your heart swell with pride at the same time.

"I'm ready," she says, and you nod again, and lead her out the door.

You drive in silence to the courthouse, arriving just before ten. As you park, you look over at Allison, wondering if she feels as tightly wound as your yo-yo, or if that's just you. You get out and offer her your hand as you open the car door for her, and the two of you walk up the steps somberly.

"House?" Wilson calls out from behind you.

You turn to find Wilson jogging up the steps in his jeans and his McGill sweatshirt, and you smirk at his attire.

"What the hell? You're... you're getting married?"

"Yup. We need a witness. Come on."

"House!"

"You can lecture me later. Right now I'm getting married, with or without you as my witness." You stop and point at a woman at the door, her head lowered as her fingers move over her phone, oblivious to what is happening around her. "I'm sure she'd be happy to do it if you're not up for it."

"Fine," Wilson says, raising his hands in surrender and heaving an exasperated sigh. "Hi Allison," he adds as an afterthought. "You look very beautiful."

"Thank you," she says, almost shyly, and you move into the courthouse, making your way to the judges chambers.

You slip a camera from your pocket and pass it to Wilson, murmuring, "Take a few pictures. Don't go crazy."

Judge Ryerson, in a double-breasted, pin-striped gray suit and spats, looks like someone out of another era, film noir come to life. He begins the ceremony, intoning in an authoritative voice, "Greg, do you take Allison to be your lawfully wedded wife?"

"I do," you answer, finding yourself nearly unable to look into Allison's eyes as you swallow down a ball of nerves. You slip a simple silver band on her finger and then clutch her hand as you glance at her face, wondering what is going through her mind, if she has regrets.

"Allison, do you take Greg to be your lawfully wedded husband?"

"I do," she says after a moment's pause where you are certain she is going to say, "Hell no," and flee the room. She pushes a matching silver band onto your ring finger, and looks up at you with a nervous smile.

"By the power vested in me by the state of New Jersey, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride."

The tension in you eases, like air seeping from a balloon, and you lean in with a little smile and kiss her, your hands moving up to cup her face, thumbs sweeping over the curve of her cheekbones, fingertips nestling in her swept-back hair. It is only the flash of the camera that breaks you away, and you glare at Wilson, who snaps another shot with a cheeky grin.

You sign some papers and you are on your way, Doctor and Mrs. Cameron-House.

"Well, congratulations," Wilson says, his hand at the back of his neck and a dubious look on his face.

"Thanks," you mutter, just managing to refrain from rolling your eyes. "Give me back my camera."

As Wilson hands it over, you add, "This marriage thing is a secret. You think you can keep your big mouth shut?"

"What? Why?" Wilson asks, looking from you to Allison and back again.

Sighing, Allison speaks up. "House has a well-known reputation. I don't want that to overshadow my studies. I want to get by on hard work and..."

"She doesn't want people thinking she slept with me to get ahead," you clarify impatiently. "So we're good?"

"Yeah sure," Wilson says. "I won't say anything."

"Good. See you later." And you pull Allison away, eager to get home and start the honeymoon.

When you arrive home, you immediately pull your pea coat from her and begin kissing her as you back her toward the bedroom. Once there, your hands fumble for her zipper and you lower it, your tongue caught up in an ancient dance with hers. Gently you slide the dress from her shoulders and down her arms, drawing back to watch it fall to the floor, leaving her only in a white lace bra and matching panties. Next, you reach up and pull the pins from her hair, nearly losing your breath when she shakes it loose.

"Damn, you're beautiful," you murmur, unable to take your eyes off her as she loosens your tie and pulls it from you and then pushes your jacket off your shoulders.

"You're not so bad yourself," she replies, working at the buttons of your shirt, which then floats to the floor with the other clothes. Soon she has you naked, and you turn her around and push her onto the bed on her back. You take her foot in your hand and kiss her toes, the ball of her foot, her arch, her heel, her ankle and then begin working your way up her body, sliding her panties down when you reach the apex of her thighs. Licking and sucking her clit, you bring her to the edge as she moans and writhes and grips the blankets beneath her, and then you move up to her breasts. She unclasps her bra and pulls it off and you suckle each breast, working your tongue around her nipples as if they are candy as she inclines her body to meet you.

A light sheen of sweat covers her, and she reaches for you breathlessly. You sit on the bed, cross-legged, and pull her up, urging her to wrap her legs around you, your hands on her ass, and then you enter her, bare for the first time, her body like liquid silk around your cock. With her breasts pressed against your chest, her arms around your shoulders and her feet meeting behind your back, she completely surrounds you. You press kisses to the column of her neck and up to her mouth, where she opens to you and meets your tongue with her own. You take her face in your hands, tilting her head just so and then tangling your fingers in her hair, and she begins moving on you like the swell of ocean waves, a gentle up and down that is nothing short of sheer rapture.

You hold off as long as you can, but the feel of her moving on top of you and working her inner muscles into pulsating velvet around your cock takes over and you come hard, grunting "Ohhhh yes." Just seconds later she is in the throes of ecstasy, throwing her head back and crying out.

For a few moments, you just hold her there, burying your face in her neck and feeling the rapid beat of her pulse in her jugular. As you try to calm your own heart, you are nearly overcome with complete and utter love for her. She kisses you softly beside your ear and then eases off of you, and you stretch your legs out to ease the sudden cramping sensation. Lying down, you say, "Come here," and tug her to you so that she is resting her head against your chest, one arm slung across you.

In that moment you have never felt more at home, her hair falling over your arm and chest, her breath coming in short puffs against your neck, your fingers strumming over her skin as if you are playing your guitar.

She dozes for a while, and you let her sleep, content to just lie there with her in your arms, your wife. Later she wakes, and you are primed and ready for another round, your erection resting against her thigh, your hand sliding down to the dimpled curve where her lower back meets her shapely little ass. Leaning down, you kiss her and she opens for you, her tongue hot and wet as it touches yours, and soon you are inside her and on the verge, a thousand stars exploding behind your eyes when you come.

Untangling herself, she pushes her sweat-dampened hair from her face and smiles at you as she leaves the bed.

"Where are you going?"

"I need to get ready for work," she says, pulling clothes from the drawer and setting them on the top of the bureau.

"What? You're working on our wedding day?"

Lines of confusion cross her forehead and she plops in the chair and looks at you as she reaches down to pluck her wedding dress off the floor. "Of course," she says. "Why wouldn't I?"

Why indeed, you think. This whole marriage idea was presented as a financial arrangement; you organized the wedding in a matter of days. It's no wonder she is planning to carry on as if nothing has really changed. But still, you can't help but resent that she won't take one day off to spend with you, her new husband.

"You can't take one day off?" you ask, a tiny bit of spite in the tone of your voice.

She gives you that look that is a cross between impatience and regret and says, "I need to go to work. I'll still have to buy books and lab equipment when school starts."

"Yeah, here's the thing. I added your name to my bank account, which means you don't have to keep working your stunning little ass off at that pathetic job."

Her mouth drops open and then closes again, and the look on her face changes to disapproval. "I'm not taking your money. And even if I wanted to, which I don't, what would I do with myself until classes start in September? Sit around here all day?"

It's a good point, you acknowledge, but only to yourself. "Fine, but what about when school starts? Will you quit that crappy job then?"

"I don't know. I'll have to think about it," she says, and shuts herself into the bathroom to get ready for work.

Chapter Text

"What the hell is going on with you?" Wilson starts, barely giving you time to get through the hospital doors. You note the presence of a puke green tie around his neck with alternating purple and orange dots down the front, and you wonder at Julie's terrible taste, and why he puts up with it.

"Whatever do you mean?" you ask, blinking innocently as you adjust your backpack on your shoulder.

"I mean the whole wedding thing. When did you decide to get married?" His voice is louder than his tie, and you cringe and glance around at the nurses and clinic patients meandering the hallways.

"Would you lower your voice?" you mutter, scowling at him. Entering the elevator you press the 'door close' button with the end of your cane. "It makes good financial sense, this marriage thing. Why didn't you tell me that earlier?"

"I'm serious, House. What are you doing?"

"I'm serious too. Did you know Uncle Sam takes less money from you if you're married? You should, you've done it enough."

He follows you out of the elevator and into your office, saying, "Since when do you care about tax breaks?"

"I'm all about the math," you retort, dumping your bag in the corner and plopping down into your chair. "Did you know that you can gift your spouse with something valuable, say a large sum of money, and the government can't tax you on it?"

"Did you? Please tell me you didn't do that?"

"I didn't do that," you say, rolling your eyes. "Even if I wanted to, Allison wouldn't accept it. But now she'll have health insurance and financial security. And me, I get regular sex and someone to clean and do the laundry. I figure that alone saves me about $33,000 a year."

Speechless, Wilson just gapes at you for a moment and then says, "But you were already getting that with her living with you. What changed?"

"Nothing changed," you lie. "Marrying her means she'll stay. She's very loyal."

"Oh my god! You love her!"

You can't look at him; you have no response, and so you drum your fingers on the desk and glance around for a distraction.

"Oh my god!" he repeats, dropping into the chair in front of your desk. "How... when did this happen?"

"I don't know," you mutter, rubbing your hand across the furrows of your brow.

"Does... does she know? Does she feel the same way?"

"No, and I don't want her to know, so keep your trap shut."

"Oh... oh boy," he says with a grin. "You're in trouble."

Chapter Text

Now that you're married, nothing has changed and everything has changed. You love Allison more than you thought it possible to love another human being, but you carry on as if your marriage is nothing more than the financial arrangement you convinced her it was. Though she has somewhat relaxed her strict aversion to accepting financial help from you, she is still sort of detached and stubbornly independent and you wonder if she could ever learn to love you. She keeps working at the coffee shop, stocking away every penny she makes into her bank account, and spends her free time taking care of things around the apartment, and studying every medical text and journal she can get her hands on. Your only concession to your newfound feelings is to make sure to pick her up from work every night, because the thought of her walking home alone at nearly midnight is worrying.

It is one of those nights when you arrive at the coffee shop to pick her up that you slip. After a long day at work, you are tired and impatient, and it seems as if every damn resident of Princeton has decided they need caffeine at exactly 10:55 PM. Allison and her boss are rushing around to serve everyone while you sit and scowl and contemplate blocking the door with your cane so no one else can get in. Finally, over an hour later, she is done and ready to leave.

"'Bout damn time," you mutter, escorting her out the door.

"You don't have to do this, you know," she says, equally irritated after the last minute rush of customers. "I'm perfectly capable of walking home."

"I know," you retort, "Let's just go home."

"Then why do you do it every day? You clearly don't want to."

"Just let it go," you say, sighing and rubbing a tired hand over your face.

"I don't want to let it go," she says, her voice a crescendo of annoyance. "Don't pick me up again. Winter is over, it's not like I'm going to freeze. I'll walk from now on."

"Yeah, that's going to happen," you say, your own voice rising in volume to match hers.

"Why? Why are you doing this?"

"Because it's late and it's dark and something could happen to you," you shout, and you want to throttle her for a moment for not getting it. "It's called concern, and it's something that you feel when you love someone."

Crap! That was more than you planned to say, and now the tense silence in the car is nearly oppressive.

"You love me?" she finally says, incredulous.

"Yes," you say on a sigh, defeated.

"You shouldn't," she replies, as if you have any choice in the matter. "You shouldn't. You know what I was..."

"I don't give a shit about that," you snap, hands choking the steering wheel. "I don't. If you think that it makes you somehow less worthy of love, you're wrong."

You chance a look at her. She's all teary-eyed, and it's as if someone punched you in the sternum and messed up the rhythm of your heartbeat. Reaching over, you pull her into an awkward embrace, and murmur, "You deserve to be loved, even if it's just a cranky old bastard who loves you. You don't have to do anything about it, okay? Just let me love you."

"I'm not sure I know how," she says, and those words send a fissure through your heart, like a stone thrown at glass. You don't know whether to laugh or cry.

"Just be yourself," you say, pushing her hair out of her face and looking into her eyes. "We were doing just fine before. Nothing's changed really."

"I'll try," she says with a watery smile. "But no one's really... I mean, I've been on my own for so long..."

"Yeah, I get it. It's okay to let someone else take care of you sometimes, you know? It's even almost... normal," you finish with a little chuckle, because you and Allison are anything but normal. And maybe it feels good to have expressed your feelings for her. It's a release, of sorts, because you've been a bit of a pressure cooker trying to keep everything inside of you.

Alright. I'll try," she repeats, and you smile and kiss her affectionately, and then drive toward home.

Chapter Text

Allison has changed you. Not in any way that the casual observer would notice. You're still the same bastard at work. But for the first time in... well, probably ever, you're thinking more often of someone else and their needs than you are of yourself. Somehow she makes it easy.

The box you've been waiting for has finally arrived. Smiling, you slice through the tape and open it, satisfied that the contents are just as you ordered. You glide your fingers over the fabric inside, tracing over the name embroidered on it with just a slight hint of regret at the omission of "House." But she'll like it; you're sure of that.

Hearing her key in the door, you close the lid of the box and push it to the center of the coffee table.

"Hey," she says, eyeing you and then the box. "What's that?"

"Something came for you," you reply with a casual shrug.

She drops her bag on the chair and opens the flaps of cardboard to peer inside, and you smile when you hear her gasp.

"House," she says, almost breathlessly as she pulls the items out. First comes the pristine white lab coat with her name stitched above the left pocket, Allison Cameron, MD, and then follows the stethoscope. "You shouldn't have."

But as she speaks, she slides her arms into the lab coat and it's a perfect fit. Her eyes are teary and she's smiling at the same time. You pick up the stethoscope and place it around her neck, before moving your hands up to her face and kissing her.

"You shouldn't have," she repeats in a soft murmur against your neck. "Besides, I haven't even started back to school yet. I'm not a doctor."

"Minor technicality," you say. "You will be soon enough. And you'll need those for school anyway."

Smiling, she puts the stethoscope in her ears and places the other end over your heart, listening to the thumping rhythm that is hers alone.

"What you're hearing is a strange arrhythmia caused by the close proximity of a certain gorgeous, soon-to-be immunologist," you tell her gruffly. "Don't think there's any cure for it."

Blinking back tears, she wraps her arms around you again. "You do so much for me. I wish I could do something for you."

"Oh, I'm sure I could think of something. Seeing you in nothing but that lab coat comes to mind," you joke, and smile when she pushes you down on the couch and says, "Wait here."

Moments later, she returns from the bedroom, her hair loose around her shoulders, the stethoscope around her neck falling between her breasts, and the lab coat just barely covering her naked body. On her feet are the strappy little heels she wore to the fundraiser. She's holding a clipboard and pushing her glasses up her nose and you think she's got to be the hottest thing you've ever seen.

"Gregory House," she announces, looking up from the clipboard. "Ready for your exam?" Her voice is low and husky and your cock immediately stands at attention.

"Hell yeah," you reply, nearly jumping to your feet.

"Follow me," she murmurs, leading you to the kitchen and setting aside the clipboard. She pats the butcher block and says, "Hop up."

You do as you're told, watching her every move with eager anticipation.

"We'll have to take this off," she tells you as she begins to unbutton your shirt. As she peels it from you, she continues, "Are you having any problems? Pain or sensitivity anywhere?"

"Yes, I've got a throbbing sensation right here," you answer, pointing to the sizable lump in your jeans. "Should I take my pants off?"

"Yes, let me help you with those." Her nimble fingers begin unsnapping and unzipping you, and you stand and let her lower your jeans.

On her knees, she looks up at you, her hand wrapped around the shaft of your cock, and asks, "Does it hurt when I do this?"

All you can do is grunt, and then her mouth and her tongue are on you, leaving only long enough to ask, "How about this?" before she's nearly swallowing you again.

You nudge her off you after only a minute, and she stands and pushes you back on the butcher block before climbing on top of you. "I think I've got the cure," she murmurs. Her lab coat falls open and you watch as she takes you in, her breasts pushed forward as she arches and lets out a low moan, before rocking up and down and setting off a vibrant display of fireworks behind your eyes as she finishes you off.

"Best exam ever," you tell her. "You do know that every time I see you in that lab coat now, I'll be remembering this?"

She laughs, soft puffs of breath hitting your skin like a caress as she leans into you. Breathing heavily against your neck, she grows serious and says, "Thank you for... all you do for me."

"You have no idea how much you do for me." Your voice is suddenly thick with emotion, and you find yourself grasping her like she's the lifeline thrown into the storm-ravaged waters of your life.

Chapter Text

In your closet hang a lab coat and two dresses: the purple one she wore to the fundraiser, and her wedding dress. They are the only things she owns that are worthy of hangers; everything else is neatly folded in her drawers. Since spring gave way to summer, her hooded sweatshirt has not made an appearance in some time. You hope never to see it again, because it has come to represent that destitute version of Allison, who would sleep in a bus station and walk home in a snowstorm and never think of asking for anything for herself. You want more for her. You want a closet full of feminine things that crowd out your jackets and shirts, and girly footwear lining the floor that you have to trip over to get to your own shoes. Things she doesn't even seem to want for herself, that's what you want for her, because it means she's done suffering and sacrificing.

You want more than just sex too. It's absurd, you realize, because she married you and you have no doubt that she'll remain faithful, even if it's just her insane moral compass that would keep her from cheating. You've got her lovely body at your disposal nearly anytime you want her. But what you really desire most is her heart. There are times you wish you could whisk her away somewhere, maybe a honeymoon, make her forget about her burdens for a while, but she's got her goals and will not be sidetracked from them.

She signed up for as many summer classes as she could get, in order to get a jump on finishing med school. Whenever she's not working, she's studying. You've never met anyone more driven than she is, and you are proud of how hard she works, even if you sometimes resent the time her schooling takes away from you.

Sundays are your favorite day, because she doesn't work on Sundays and you're often able to coerce her into taking a day off from her studies. You get a chance to talk with her, laze about in bed with her, and just enjoy her in a more relaxed state than usual.

On this particular Sunday, you have a plan.

"We're going out for the day," you tell her when she comes out of the bathroom. "Wear something comfortable."

She raises her eyebrows at you, but says nothing, grabbing clothes out of the drawer and dropping the towel that covers her naked body. Her damp hair spills down her back, a water droplet sliding down the curve of her spine. Closing your eyes, you take a deep breath and try to control the desire rushing through you, but it's no use. You move forward and wrap your arms around her, plucking the clothes out of her hand and setting them aside as you begin kissing her neck.

"Thought you said we were going out," she says, her voice low and breathy.

"We will. Eventually."

She laughs and presses back against you, entwines her fingers with your own and moves them over her body, and your erection swells and throbs without mercy. You turn her so that she's facing you, and she lowers your boxers and lifts your t-shirt over your head. Moments later, you are on your back on the bed and she is on top of you, her back turned to you, her hands gripping your ankles as she rides you like a boat on a choppy sea. Sitting up, you press your chest to her and reach around to touch and caress her and cup her breasts. You bury your nose in her still-damp hair, place kisses on the pulse point beneath her ear, tap out a slow sensual rhythm on her ribcage and down until you are rubbing at her clit in time with her movements. Her head falls back over your shoulder and you see pure euphoria on her face and it's enough to undo you. She's in synch with you, coming at the same time, a keening sound of pleasure falling from her lips.

You collapse back on the bed, bringing her with you, and you tell her again, "I love you," as if your brain has lost control of your mouth. She doesn't say anything, just smiles a joyless little smile, and turns to kiss you as if that brief peck is some kind of consolation prize for the words you want to hear. Then she rolls off of you and moves from the bed.

"Are we still going out?" she asks, and you nod and sigh while she takes her clothes to the bathroom to dress.

Everything is fine until you remind her of your feelings, and then the awkwardness sets in and you spend the next however long berating yourself and trying to think of ways to restore things to your previous version of normalcy. You really hate when you do that.

Rising from the bed, you yank on your boxers and jeans and rescue your shirt from the floor. As you're putting on your sneakers, she comes back into the room, dressed except for her bare feet. In a simple denim skirt that hits a few inches above her knees and a body hugging purple t-shirt, she looks way too young to be saddled with a lifetime commitment to you. Sometimes you wonder how long it will be before she comes to her senses and leaves you.

"Where are we going?" she asks, sitting in the chair and sliding on a pair of flip flops. Her toenails are painted lavender, you note.

"You'll see. Got a long ride though, so bring a book if you want."

"I can't read in a moving car," she answers with a shrug. "I'm sure it'll be fine."

The ride is quiet at first, and then she asks you something you never expected.

"Why do you love me?"

"That's a sad question," you say, glancing at her briefly before turning your eyes back to the road. "You're under the delusion that you're somehow unworthy of love. That's not true."

"Okay," she says, as if conceding the point. "But why do you love me?"

You rub one hand over your forehead as you think. Loving someone is far easier than explaining why you love them. Emotions aren't rational. Feelings aren't easily defined. She wants an explanation that you're not sure you can give in any satisfactory manner. But you try.

"I love you because... you're intelligent. You're driven, but you won't take short-cuts. You're beautiful, sexy, interesting, intriguing, warm, loyal, honest to a fault, overly-caring, and somehow you're not scared off by my misanthropic nature. I love you because you're damaged, but you don't let that damage define you or turn you into a miserable person. I love you because you're both cynical and optimistic about people, and I find that fascinating. I love you because you surprise me all the time. Not many people can do that."

Glancing at her again, you notice her mouth is open a little and she's just looking at you like she doesn't know how to respond to all that. Maybe she's sorry she asked.

"Also, you're good in bed," you add, hoping to ease the sudden tension in the car.

She smiles at that and shakes her head at you, and then she asks, "Did you really marry me to better your financial situation?"

"Not exactly," you confess, "though you gotta admit, it was a pretty persuasive argument."

"Why didn't you just tell me the truth?"

"What would you have done if I had? Would you have said yes?"

"I don't know," she admits. "Maybe."

"Well then, there's your answer. I didn't know either, so I gave you a practical reason to marry me, because it guaranteed me the answer I wanted to hear."

When she doesn't respond, just bites down on her bottom lip, you add, "I got the idea from you, you know, after you told me that story about marrying Donny to save money."

"Danny," she corrects, rolling her eyes at you.

"Right. Danny. Point is, you married him to better both your financial situations. I figured odds were in my favor you'd do it again."

"So you married me because you love me?" she asks, face all scrunched up in confusion.

"Yes. That surprises you?"

"You were with Stacy for five years, but you didn't marry her." It's a statement, but also a question, as she looks at you expectantly.

"No, I didn't. I might have, eventually. If things hadn't turned out like they did. I was a lot younger then. Guess I thought things were fine as they were and didn't see any reason to change them. We lived like we were married, so an official marriage certificate wouldn't have made a difference."

"But you and I lived together, and things were fine as they were," she reasons, trying to puzzle out the difference.

"True. But you needed me. And I needed you to stay. Marriage seemed like the best way to give us both what we needed." You wait for her to protest the part about her needing you, but she sits quietly, thinking.

Rolling green hills whizz past the windows as you drive on in silence. You consider turning on the radio, but dismiss the idea. The quiet is a comfortable companion for your thoughts.

"Do you have any brothers or sisters?" she suddenly asks.

"Not that I'm aware of," you say, thinking of the man you suspect is your biological father. "Only child here. Military brat." Looking at her, you wonder where that question came from. "Weird question to ask. Most people start by asking about parents."

"I just assumed they were... dead," she admits, looking at you curiously.

"Nope. They live in Kentucky."

"Seriously?" she asks, as if you just told her you were sired by the devil himself. Most people wouldn't find that so hard to believe, you think.

"Seriously," you answer. "Why?"

"You just never talk about them or to them, as far as I know."

"No, I don't talk to them much. We're not particularly close."

"Do they know you're married?"

Cringing, you shake your head, wishing for the silence again. You really should inform your parents of your marriage, but... that will set your mom off on a constant enquiry about grandchildren and possibly incite an unwanted visit or two.

"I guess that would be a weird conversation to have," Allison says, nonchalant, and you breathe a sigh of relief that she doesn't seem bothered that you've kept her a secret from them. "No one wants their son to marry a... "

"Don't," you say, low and firm. "As far as anyone is concerned, I met you at the coffee shop. And for the record, I had a long history of hiring working girls before you came along. Your sin isn't any greater than my own. I haven't told them about you because I don't want them here, simple as that." You pause, thinking for a moment, and then add, " My mom's okay, but my dad sucks."

"You hate him," she states, looking at you with such honest curiosity that you can't help but open up to her in ways you've never done with anyone else. "Why?"

"I hate him," you confirm, "because he's incapable of lying. It's a great quality for boy scouts and police witnesses. Crappy quality for a dad. Nothing I ever did was good enough. Nothing I ever did was right."

She reaches out and squeezes your thigh in sympathy; you'd roll your eyes if it was anyone else. If she knew the full truth of what your father did to you over the years... well, you can only imagine the depth of her reaction. Little Miss Empathy would wring herself dry weeping over you. It's something about her that you both love and hate at the same time.

"We're almost there," you say, making a turn without using your blinker. The driver behind you honks and gives you a one-fingered salute, and you smile in amusement.

The sign is just ahead, lit up with directions for vendors and exhibitors. Allison spots it and says, "We're going to the State Fair?"

"Yup. You ever been?"

"No," she says, and there is a tinge of excitement in her voice that makes you happy.

"I hope you don't get sick on rides," you say, smiling as you follow the line of cars parking in the grassy meadow just outside the fairgrounds.

The distant, happy screams of people on thrill rides echo across the hills as you park. You pop two Vicodin in your mouth in preparation for the long walk to the ticket booth, and emerge from the car with the anticipation of a kid at Christmas.

Allison looks just as excited as you feel, and your heart gives a little leap when she takes your hand.

"There's a demolition derby here later. You up for that?"

"I'm not sure what it is, but yeah, okay," she says, agreeable as usual.

"People in crappy cars smashing into each other on purpose. You'll love it," you say with a big smile you can't seem to control.

"Are you entering?" she asks with a cheeky grin, and you laugh, because even you can admit your car is pretty crappy. Her little joke makes you want to kiss her desperately, taste her laughter and let it spill into you.

"Very funny. Just for that, I'm putting you on the tilt-a-whirl right after we eat," you retort, and she just laughs in response.

The sky is cloudless and deep blue. The air is stirred only by a warm breeze that carries a mix of scents unique to the fair: something smoky and sweet, mixed with the smell of barnyard animals. It's not altogether unpleasant.

Following the smoke rising from the main strip, you find where most of the food vendors have set up shop and buy yourself a pita sandwich filled with London Broil and sauteed vegetables, a steak salad for Allison, and a massive soda for the two of you to share. Just behind the vendor is a tented picnic area where you find a seat, propping your cane against the end of the table as you dig in to the best meal you've had in a long time.

Ignoring the people around you, you sip your soda and ask, "Anything special you want to do?"

"Everything," Allison says with a wide smile, and you have to look away because you know... she's excited because she's never done anything this fun or frivolous in probably her entire life, and she wants to fit in as much as she can. She wants everything, and that is what you'll strive to give her.

When you're finished eating, you meander through some of the exhibits, holding her hand and watching her more than anything else. You've looked through amateur art and photography and quilts and crafts and you've wandered through the petting zoo and now you're heading to the rides. She's quiet, but smiling, taking everything in. You lead her to the ferris wheel and at the top you put your arm around her, barely resisting the urge to kiss her as she takes in the sights below.

You share a funnel cake with her, powdered sugar spilling down her chin as she bites off a chunk. Smiling, you reach over with your thumb and wipe it off and then kiss her, tasting the sweet doughy goodness of the pastry as she laughs.

"I don't think I've ever eaten this much in one day," she says, popping another bite into her mouth.

"It's good to indulge once in a while," you reply, stuffing a huge hunk of pastry in your mouth as if to illustrate your point.

At the Demolition Derby, she grips your arm, alternating between gasps of shock as the cars smash into one another, and laughter. Occasionally she buries her face in your shoulder after a particularly bad wreck. You can't help smiling through it all, and you realize that this is the most fun you've had in years.

When it's over, you buy a little cloud of cotton candy for her and one for yourself, to eat on the way out of the fairgrounds. You finish yours off before she is even half done, and you ask her if she's going to finish hers. She passes it over to you, and after you take one bite, she snatches it back with a laugh, striding away from you and calling over her shoulder, "Race you to the car."

Smiling, you start after her, moving with a speed you usually reserve for running away from Cuddy. Allison doesn't make it very hard for you to catch up though, and with a little laugh, she passes you her cotton candy again, and slips her arm through yours.

"I had a great time," she says, nudging you gently. Her face is all smiles, but as you arrive at the car it changes into something else, a mix of happiness and dismay all at once, and her eyes are glassy as she looks at you.

"What's wrong?" you ask, fear gaining a choke hold around your heart.

"Nothing," she says, blinking back the tears glittering in her eyes, and smiling. "I just realized something."

You say nothing as you wait for her to elaborate on this sudden epiphany she's had, leaning against the car door and scowling because you're sure by the look on her face that it's nothing good.

"I just... " she trails off, blinking even more rapidly now, as the tears spill out and wander down her cheeks. "I love you."

Those three words stop your heart and then restart it with the force of a defibrillator, and you gasp from the shock of their impact. "You picked a hell of a time to tell me that," you growl, as you grab her and kiss her with such intensity that she has to clutch your arms to hold herself upright. All you want is to strip her and show her what she does to you, but you're in the middle of a grassy field full of parked cars and tired fair-goers. And now you've got a ninety minute ride home, which you'll have to endure with the worst hard-on you've ever experienced.

When you pull back from her, she looks at you with a strange expression and says, "I thought you'd be happy about it."

"I am," you say, letting your thumbs swipe at her tears. "You couldn't tell from that kiss? I'd be happier if we had more privacy, if you know what I mean."

"Oh," she says, glancing down at the bulge in your jeans. "I didn't think of that. I guess I should've waited."

This beautiful, amazing woman loves you. It's more than you deserve, more than you could have hoped for, and it makes you happier than you ever thought possible. With an indulgent little smile, you kiss her again and then let her into the car. And then you break every traffic law known to man driving home.

Chapter Text


Once you arrive home from the fair, the two of you race inside and head straight for the bedroom, peeling off your clothes as you go. Your cane hits the floor somewhere in the middle of the living room and you hop-limp the rest of the way, your pants dragging behind one leg. Stripped down to nothing but white panties and a matching bra, Allison looks at you with a smile you've never seen on her before. It's part happiness, part fear, part desire, and a great deal of vulnerability that makes your heart constrict. For a moment, she grips your upper arms and buries her face in your neck, before bringing her arms all the way around you and clinging.

"Say it again." Your words are a soft command to the top of her head, and then you tilt her chin up so you can look into her eyes as she speaks.

"I love you," she murmurs, a gloss of tears turning her eyes into stained glass.

Your hands are a perfect frame for her beautiful face, angling her just right so you can kiss her, drawing deeply from the sweet nectar of her lips. Moments later, she is spread out on the bed beside you. Her skin is so exquisitely smooth and touchable, that you reach out with your fingertips and drag them gently over every inch of her until she is a creamy canvas of goosebumps and desire. Her reactions, her love, are an anomaly. There is no reason why she should want you. None that you could possibly understand.

"I can't figure you out," you say, and she shushes you with a kiss, pushing you back onto the bed.

Flat on your back, you struggle to catch your breath as she lays on top of you, gripping your cock and guiding it into her body. She grabs the bottom of the headboard for leverage and begins to move, pushing forward with her toes. Her breasts rub against your chest, creating an amazing friction. Her movements are slow and languid and sexy and you're on the verge almost immediately. You grip her ass and help her slide up and down, overcome with sensation. Just before taking your earlobe into her mouth, she murmurs something in your ear that you never expected to hear.

"You're so beautiful."

Those words, combined with her body's slick, hot grip on your cock, make you thrust up against her involuntarily, and you come hard inside her.

If you were capable of speech at the moment, you'd say, "That's absurd." No one thinks you're beautiful. No one. Oh, some might think you're handsome, until you open your mouth and alter their perceptions forever. But the word beautiful implies something beyond outward appearance, and it's unfathomable that someone would apply that word to you. But then, this is Allison, and you believe her. You believe her because she's a terrible liar, and because when she orgasms there are tears in her eyes and she clings to you like ivy to brick.

You hold her to you, tightening your embrace as you realize there are tears in your own eyes as well. You've never been so moved, and you're not entirely sure what to do with all these unfamiliar feelings. There is no such thing as miracles. At least, you've never believed in them. But there is Allison, your wife. She's the exception to the rule, you think, because she's a miracle to you.

There's almost nothing you wouldn't do for her.

Chapter Text

Three days after the fair you're still on an Allison high. You would've skipped work just to stay in bed with her, but she insisted on going to her own job. Her classes start in four weeks; you're sure she'll have to quit that crappy job soon. But then, she'll be busy with school, and some part of you wants to wring every ounce of togetherness you can get out of the remaining time you have before that happens.

As you're thinking on it, you pass by the bike dealership, stopping a moment to admire the sleek, powerful machines parked row after row. You've stopped here before. Even took one for a test drive once, when you learned you didn't need your leg for shifting. But you never went further than that. Now you're starting to wonder why. There's an orange Repsol with a large scrape along one side that attracts your eye. You think maybe the damage means you could talk down the price.

"Interested?" a salesman asks, appearing by your side suddenly. "You know, we could attach a clip to the side to hold your cane. No extra charge."

"Could I take her for a spin?"

"Sure," he says. "Let me get the key."

While you wait, you run one hand over the bike, taking a moment to familiarize yourself with it. In your mind you're already sailing down the road, Allison behind you, her arms around your waist, her thighs pressed against yours.

"Here we are," salesguy says, holding out a key. "Brought you a helmet too. Don't want to forget that."

You plop the helmet on your head and fasten it, then take the key and start the engine. Handing your cane to Salesdude, you lift your right leg over the seat and settle yourself. The motor purrs beneath you like a well-muscled lion, all restrained power and freedom. The open road calls, and you are off.

You sail past Princeton and out into the winding roads of the neighboring countryside, leaning into the curves as the pines fly by in a blur of green. The wind is warm against your skin and you think the only thing that would make this more perfect is if Allison was wrapped around you.

An hour later you are back, pretty much ready to whip out your checkbook, but you restrain yourself.

"How'd she ride?" Salesdude asks, as you exchange the helmet and key for your cane

"Good," you acknowledge, as you lift your leg off the bike. It's the only part of the whole experience you hate, because once you're on you feel like a whole man again.

"Sticker price is nine-eight, but I could let her go for nine-three."

"Little steep," you say, screwing up your face as if you're in pain. "Especially with that big gouge in it."

"That's cosmetic. Nine-three is still a good deal."

"Cosmetic. Meaning it looks like crap," you shoot back. "I'm sure you can do better than that."

"I'll knock another five hundred off," he says, "but that's as low as I can go. We've got zero percent financing right now. Plus I'll throw in a helmet and the cane clip, like I mentioned earlier."

"Make it a thousand. And I'll need a helmet for my wife too," you say, rubbing your thigh. "You do that and I'll write you a check right now."

There's a long pause while Salesdude pretends to think, but you know you've got him.

"Alright," he finally says, reaching out his hand. "You've got a deal. Let's go inside and write up the paperwork."

 

"Let's go for a walk," you say, inclining your head toward the door and tapping your cane impatiently. Draped over your arm is the leather jacket you bought for her, with red stripes on the sleeves to go with the red on the bike. It's a pretty close match to the one you bought for yourself that you're currently wearing.

Allison lowers her book and scrunches up her face in confusion. "You want to go for a walk?"

"Sure. It's good for the leg. C'mon, let's go."

"Alright," she says with a sigh, laying her glasses on the table. She stuffs her feet into her shoes and meets you at the door. "What's with the jackets?"

"They'll keep us warm and cool," you joke, flipping a non-existent lock of hair out of your face. "How do they know?"

She gives you a look like she thinks you've lost your mind, but shrugs on the jacket and follows you out the door.

In your excitement, you plow ahead with a pace that you normally reserve for running away from Cuddy. After nearly a block, you realize Allison is half-jogging, half-stumbling to keep up with you, and so you pause and take her hand, slowing your gait.

"What's the rush?" she says with a breathless laugh.

"No rush. Just gotta pick something up."

"Pick up what?"

"You'll see."

Another few blocks and you've reached your destination. Your bike is parked just outside the door, the cane clip attached as promised. After a moment's hesitation where you give it a quick once over, you march right through the front doors, dragging your wife behind you. Salesdude is there, springing to his feet as soon as you walk in. He comes forward and shakes your hand, saying, "She's all gassed up and ready to go. I just need to go over the final paperwork."

"You bought a motorcycle?" Allison asks, her gaze darting around the showroom.

"Yup. Just have to hand over the check." You point to the helmet display and add, "Go find a helmet that fits you properly."

Sitting down at Salesdude's desk, you pull the cashier's check out of your pocket and smooth it out. From the corner of your eye, you spy another sales guy approach Allison with an offer for help and you take note of how he's checking out her ass. You also note how oblivious she is to his attention, and it amuses you that she's so naive about her physical appeal.

"That your wife?"

"Yes."

"You know, you could've gotten a bike with bigger seats," he says, shuffling papers as he glances over at Allison.

"No way. Smaller seats means I get to have that wrapped around me," you say, with a nod toward your wife.

"You make a good point," Salesdude replies, smiling and stealing another glance at her.

Half an hour later, you're ready to roll. Allison has picked a black helmet with a bit of sparkle to it and a small white flower painted on one side. Yours is plain black. She sets hers on her head and buckles the strap, and when she climbs on behind you it's as if she's done it a thousand times before, wrapping her arms tight around your waist. With a smile on your face, you speed off.

Out on the open road, you feel a freedom like you haven't felt in a long time. You're flying, and for the first time in years, your leg is not an obstacle. The bike is the great equalizer; when you're on it you are physically no different than anyone else while the world whizzes past you in a blur of color and light.

You have no idea how long you've been on the road. Time is irrelevant when you're sailing over the tarmac with the woman of your dreams wrapped around you. But the rumbling of your stomach tells you it must be close to dinner time and you pull off when you find a little roadside diner with a smattering of cars in the parking lot.

Allison eases off the bike first and lifts the helmet off her head. Her cheeks are wind-whipped to a rosy hue, her hair is mussed, and there is a smile in her sun-dappled eyes. You wish you had a camera with you so you could capture her like this, so beautiful and kissable.

"So you like it?" you ask, pulling your cane from its clip.

"I love it," she says, stretching a bit and smoothing her hair. She takes your arm and you head into the restaurant, sliding into a booth and setting the helmets on the vinyl seat beside you.

"You mounted it like a pro. You've ridden before," you observe, as she plucks a menu from behind the napkin dispenser.

With the menu hovering above the table, she freezes and stares at you a moment before replying. "Yes. When Danny was sick, Joe used to give me a ride to the hospital on his bike."

"Ah," you say, a twinge of jealousy briefly short-circuiting your brain. "Joe."

"It wasn't a fun time," she adds, with a conciliatory gleam in her eye. "Not like today. I loved riding with you. You're very sexy on that thing," she continues in a low murmur, taking your hand across the table. "And I'm glad you got something for yourself for once; you're always doing things for me. Just... promise me you'll be careful."

"Sure. I'm all about safety."

"I'm serious," she says with a little laugh, and you take her other hand and smile again, all notions of jealousy forgotten.

"I know. I'll be careful. Don't worry." Though you've said those words, you realize that it's nice to have someone who worries about you. Someone who's not Wilson, that is.

Chapter Text

A/N: Little nod to "Control" in this chapter. Also want to apologize for the long wait on this. I had no idea so much time had passed. Reviews are lovely, thank you.

Coming in late, you drop your keys on the desk and switch off the lamp in the living room as you make your way to the bedroom. Allison is there, asleep on her side, her hand laying across an open book. Something inside you contracts almost painfully, as if your internal organs have rearranged themselves, and you gently pull the book from her grasp and set it on the nightstand. Your love for her is a physical ache sometimes.

Shrugging out of your jacket and button-down, you let them drop to the floor. You unsnap your jeans and let them fall as well, and then you move around the bed, crawl in and wrap yourself around her.

"Hey," she murmurs, stirring awake and looking over her shoulder at you. "You okay?"

"Leg hurts," you mumble, clutching her tighter. "Need some body heat."

She wriggles and turns in your embrace, studying your face with the scrutiny of someone highly trained to pick up on minute details. Laying her hand against your cheek, she smoothes her thumb over the prickles of your unshaven jaw, and you close your eyes as an intense wave of emotion rolls over you.

"What happened?" she murmurs, as you cover her hand with yours and hold it in place.

"My dad called me today. Insisted I come out for a visit. My Aunt Sarah is throwing a big shindig for my parents fiftieth anniversary. Supposed to be a surprise, but they know. Then my mom got on the phone and laid on the guilt. I... told her we were coming."

"We? They know about me?"

You nod, bringing her hand to your lips and placing a kiss on her palm. "I told them a while ago that I'd been seeing someone. Thought I'd ease into the whole marriage thing. So much for that."

"Oh. So, when is this thing?"

"In two weeks. Figure we can go out for the weekend. If you don't want to go, I understand."

Her face is an impressionist's work up close; you can't see what the full picture is at the moment, and then she speaks and it's as if you've stepped back and gotten a clearer view.

"I'll go," she says simply, but there's a whole landscape of uncertainty there.

"They'll like you," you reassure her. "Everybody likes you."

She smiles, and with a teasing glint in her eye, says, "Do you like me?"

"No," you lie, smiling back at her before you lean in to kiss her. You like her, you love her, you want her, you need her.

"So, we're going to Kentucky," she says, when you pull away.

"We're going to Kentucky," you acknowledge with a sigh. You'd rather do clinic hours than spend any time in the presence of your father. But then, Allison will be with you, so maybe it won't be all bad.

"How will we get there?"

"Don't know. We could either drive or fly. Which would you rather do?"

"Either way is fine with me. Flying would get us there quicker. And home quicker," she quietly adds. "How far do your parents live from the airport?"

"Not far," you say with a scowl. "Which means they'd insist on picking us up. So... driving it is."

Laughing, she snuggles into you and says, "A road trip could be fun."

"Yeah," you agree, kissing the top of her head. A road trip could be fun. It's the destination that worries you.

Chapter Text

The bags are packed and you're ready, just waiting for Allison to finish fussing with her hair. It's 6 am and you're tired and cranky, eager to get started and dreading the trip all at once. If you were going anywhere else you'd be fine. But you're going to visit your aunt and uncle and your parents, where you'll have to endure a family shindig full of relatives and acquaintances you'd sooner forget.

Finally Allison comes out of the bathroom, looking about as eager as you feel. You know she's nervous about meeting your family for the first time, and you're not happy about the grilling you're going to get for keeping her a secret for so long. Standing in front of the dresser, she picks up the pink porcelain figurine you found among her possessions months ago and holds it indecisively for a moment. She tucks it carefully into her bag, takes it out again and puts it back on the dresser. You watch, curious and annoyed at the same time.

"Ready?" she finally asks, sliding her palms down the front of her jeans as if to dry them.

"Just waiting for you," you answer irritably, grabbing the suitcase and limping toward the door.

"Sorry," she mumbles, snatching the other bag off the bed and following you.

Your hand on the doorknob, you stop abruptly and drop the suitcase. She bumps into you and then looks into your eyes, another apology on her lips as she steps back. You're not mad at her, and you don't want to start a long road trip with her thinking you are. None of this is her fault.

With your free hand, you tuck a strand of hair behind her ear, your thumb lingering on her skin, and say, "Let's try this again." You lean down and kiss her briefly and then say, "Good morning. You ready to go?"

"Yes," she says with a little smile. "I guess I'm just a little nervous."

"What was that with the figurine?" you ask, tilting your head toward the bedroom.

"I don't know. I've never left it behind before. It belonged to my mom and I wasn't supposed to play with it, but I did anyway. When I was going to that sleepover... I snuck it into my overnight bag when my mom wasn't looking. I guess it's sort of like a security blanket for me."

Limping back to the bedroom, you grab the figurine and carry it out, pressing it gently into her hands.

"We'll get through this," you say, touching your thumb to her upturned lips. "Now let's get going. There's an Egg McMuffin calling my name."

You pop the trunk of the car you rented and stow the luggage. Allison puts a bag of snacks in the backseat, and you're off. Only five hundred fifty miles to go.

mdmdmdmdmdmd

It's four hours later and you need to stop. Your leg is cramping, you need to pee, and you could probably eat again. Allison is dozing beside you when you pull off at the first place you see, a Hardees. You're somewhere in Pennsylvania, past Harrisburg, which was the last glimpse of civilization you've seen for a while aside from the occasional fast food joint.

As Allison awakens, you park and say, "You hungry?"

"Sure," she says, blinking and looking around. "Where are we?"

"Somewhere in the depths of God's country," you say with a bite of sarcasm.

"You don't believe in God," she answers, arching her back as she stretches.

"That's what the sign said," you reply. "Billboards never lie."

"Well then, you'd think God's country would have better eating choices," she says, as you hold the door open for her.

"It's all part of his nefarious plan to keep people fat and dependent on him," you joke, winking at her before heading for the men's room.

When you come out, you go to the counter and study the menu. Despite the fact that you already had an artery-hardening breakfast at McDonald's, you will have to order breakfast again unless you want to wait a half an hour, which you don't. Allison steps up beside you, glancing up at the sign board with her nose crinkled in distaste at the options presented to her.

"There's not a single vegetable on this entire menu," she whispers in your ear.

"Sure there is," you reply. "They have Hash Rounds. I'm pretty sure those are made from potatoes."

"Potatoes fried in grease. I can feel my heart shuddering in fear as we speak," she says with a little shiver. "I think I'll just have an apple from the car."

"Suit yourself," you say, and proceed to order a Fried Bologna Biscuit and some of the afore-mentioned Hash Rounds as her eyes widen in horror.

While you wait for your food, she runs out to the car and returns with a cup of yogurt and her apple. She finds a table while you carry your tray over, setting it across from her.

"They don't have hot tea here," you say, "but I got you a bottle of water."

"Thanks," she says, distracted as you take a monstrous bite out of your sandwich. "I can't believe you're eating that."

"It's good," you mumble, holding it out to her while you swallow. "Try a bite."

"Hon, if I eat any of that, we'll have to make a lot more stops, if you catch my meaning," she replies, her hand over her stomach in protest.

"Did you just call me Hon?" you ask, hand frozen halfway to your mouth.

She blinks, surprised, and says, "I guess I did. Is that weird?"

You're grinning now, because it slipped out of her so naturally and you liked it, but you can't help teasing her. "Yes, it's weird, Darling. Sweetcheeks. Cupcake. Muffin. Babycakes."

She's laughing and shaking her head at you, as you twist up your face comically, trying to think up more absurd terms of endearment. But suddenly you can't think at all, because she's made you feel like a teenager again; you've got a sudden urge to make out with her right in the middle of this fine fast food establishment, and you don't give a damn what anyone thinks.

Scooting your chair over, you lean in and kiss her, and then murmur, "I liked it. You can call me Hon anytime."

Smiling, she kisses you back, her palm against your cheek, and replies, "Okay Hon. I suppose it's no weirder than the fact that I usually call you by your last name."

"I'll answer to pretty much anything you want," you say with a wink, scooting back before you decide to give in to your baser urges after all. You're pretty sure the health department frowns on nudity in fast food joints.

When you're finished eating, Allison offers to drive for a while and you take her up on it. You rest your hand on her thigh and close your eyes for a while, the motion of the car lulling you to sleep.

Chapter Text

After another six hours on the road, you're finally pulling into Aunt Sarah's drive. The split rail fence guides you down the long gravel road, green meadows rolling into the distance just beyond it. You spy a few horses grazing on the sweet grass and the smell of the country seeps through the vents in the car. The place is still as breathtaking as it ever was. Allison makes a little sound of awe as the estate comes into view. You failed to mention that Aunt Sarah married into wealth.

"This is your aunt's place?" she asks, a tone of wonder in her voice. The house is fairly massive, built in the early twentieth century from stone found on the property, and heavy leaded glass windows that overlook the surrounding meadow in front and the wooded area in back.

"Yup. Her husband, Billy, made a small fortune in horse husbandry. Or maybe it was horse betting. I forget," you say, as you park the car under the portico. "Either way, he lets her pretend she's some sort of blue blood, even though she was born in a shack during World War II."

She's taking in the sight of the front entrance with its massive columns as you add, "I lived here during high school."

"You did? Why?"

"My parents were still moving a lot with the military. My mom thought it would be good for me to have some stability during my teen years. Aunt Sarah was happy to take me in. She wanted to learn me some manners and good breeding," you say with an exaggerated southern accent, popping open the trunk as your aunt comes scurrying out to greet you.

Aunt Sarah enfolds you in a big, motherly hug and you spy Uncle Billy at the top of the porch steps, grinning at you with his jovial smile. That old feeling returns to you; the one that says you were cheated, that these people should've been your parents. Billy comes down and slaps you on the back as Sarah releases you, and then you are introducing them to your wife.

Sarah is eyeing Allison critically, and your stomach tightens like a finely tuned harp string. She always had a predisposition for assuming no female was good enough for you, as if you're some prize catch. But then she hugs your wife and waves you both inside, and you let out the breath you've been holding.

Billy offers a shy, "Nice to meet'cha," to Allison and nearly blushes when she smiles back at him. You have a feeling he'd be all over that if he were young and single. You can't say you blame him.

Allison grabs some things from the backseat and Billy hefts one of your bags from the trunk. You take the other and follow Sarah up the porch steps.

"Hope you packed a sweater," Billy murmurs as you pass him by. You have no idea what he means until Sarah pushes the front door open and a blast of frigid air smacks you in the face.

"Sarah's been having hot flashes," he explains, soft and low. "She keeps the A/C set on Subarctic."

"Ah," you say, with a little shiver, as you follow Sarah and Allison to the staircase.

The carpets are thick and immaculate; Allison immediately kicks off her shoes in deference to the carpet gods, picking them up to carry them up the stairs. You roll your eyes, but follow her example. You're sure Aunt Sarah has had the house cleaned more thoroughly than a hospital operating room. She and Billy are wearing house slippers, you notice, so as not to sully the rug.

"Oh, don't worry about your shoes," Sarah says, but the tone of her voice holds gratitude for Allison's thoughtfulness and you imagine the scorecard in Sarah's head now has another point in Allison's favor.

You let everyone else move ahead of you because you don't want them to see you struggle up each step. While their backs are turned, you swallow down two Vicodin and then begin your slow and clumsy ascent up the thickly carpeted stairs. Once you're at the top, you follow the sound of voices to the largest guest room and find Sarah fussing around, pointing out where the linens are kept and smoothing imaginary wrinkles in the duvet.

"It's a beautiful room," Allison says with a smile. "Thank you for letting us stay."

"Oh nonsense," Sarah replies with a pleased gleam in her eye. "This is Greg's home. You're always welcome here." She turns at that and pinches your cheek, much to your dismay, and says, "You two go on and get settled. Dinner will be about an hour."

When the door is closed, Allison drops her shoes and flops back onto the bed, spreading her arms. "This room is gorgeous."

"Yup, this is the best guest room in the house. Check out the bathroom."

She rises and makes her way into the adjoining bathroom, and you can see her running her hands over the marble vanity and eyeing the massive tub. Limping in after her, you put your arms around her and say, "We'll have to take that baby for a test drive after dinner."

"Sounds good," she murmurs, turning in your arms, cupping your face with her hands and kissing you quickly. Then she burrows into you and you hold her close.

A short time later, you're sitting in the dining room, having some dried out pork chops and a massive pile of mashed potatoes. Sarah always had a tendency to overcook meat; you can see that hasn't changed over time.

"So, Greg, are you going to tell us why you deprived us of the pleasure of attending your wedding?" Aunt Sarah starts, shooting you with little guilt bullets from out of her eyes. She never reminds you more of your mother than when she's laying on the guilt.

"Oh, leave the boy alone," Billy says, winking at you. "He's a bit too old for your guilt trips now."

"We didn't want a big fuss," Allison says, apologetically, holding her fork halfway between her plate and her mouth.

"Well that's ridiculous. Every young woman dreams of her wedding day, and it usually doesn't involve a quick trip to the Justice of the Peace," Sarah replies, astonished. As she speaks, Billy saws through his meat like a lumberjack through a Redwood, casting furtive glances at his wife.

Beside you, you notice that Allison's shoulders have drooped in an almost imperceptible slump of defeat. She hates disappointing people, and you are sure she feels as if she has already disappointed your family. Beneath the table you place your hand on her leg.

"I wanted to marry Allison and I wanted to do it quick, before she had a chance to think about it too much and run off," you say with a wink. "I'm sure you'll forgive us for that."

"Sure, we understand," Billy replies, smiling and nudging his wife. "Don't we Sarah?"

There's a pause and then you see acceptance in her smile. "Of course. I'm sure the ceremony was lovely, and I'm very happy for you, Greg."

"We could send you a picture if you like," Allison offers, and Sarah nearly beams with happiness and replies, "I would love that. Thank you."

Sarah then turns the conversation to the anniversary party for your parents, which you mostly tune out in favor of imagining Allison in that giant bathtub upstairs.

Chapter Text

 

The tub is filled with some fruity scented bubbles, but you don't care because Allison is surrounding you, her body all slippery and sweet-smelling as she moves up and down on you in a perfect rhythm. You push her hair back from her face, strands of it sticking to your damp hands, and kiss the column of her neck and up her jaw to her ear, then you bring her mouth to yours. The water rises and falls with her body, heat coming off in a steamy mist that coats the mirrors above the vanity. Her hands grip your shoulders as she lifts off of you and sinks back down again. A few more strokes and you're on the verge. You sneak your hand down to where your bodies are joined and strum her clit and seconds later the two of you are coming together.  

As she catches her breath, she turns around and leans back against you, grabbing your wrists to bring your arms around her. You place little kisses along her temple and hold her as tight as you can.  

"I like it here," she says, as she laces her fingers with yours. "Your aunt and uncle are very nice."

"Yes, they are. I think Uncle Billy is my biological father," you say without preamble. You've never told anyone before, except for John House himself when you were twelve and first realized it. He spent an entire summer not speaking to you, typing up anything he had to say and slipping it under your bedroom door. It was one of the best summers of your life.  

"What? Are you serious?" 

"I figured it out when I was twelve." 

She turns again to face you and asks, "What makes you think that?" 

"John House was deployed on training exercises off Okinawa during the time I had to be conceived. His second toe is longer than his big toe. Mine isn't. And... I have a distinctive red birthmark on my scalp that matches a certain uncle of mine." You lower your head and point to demonstrate and she moves your hair with her fingertips until she finds the birthmark. 

"So you think Billy slept with your mother?" 

"Sure, why not? She was married to a bastard. A bastard who wasn't even around much. Uncle Billy hadn't met Sarah yet. Maybe they were two lonely people who took solace in each others' arms." 

"Do they know you suspect...?" 

"I told my dad... John, I mean, when I was twelve. He spent the entire summer not speaking to me. It was great." 

"Does Uncle Billy know?" 

"Does he know he's my father, or does he know I know he's my father? I don't know and no." 

She seems to be thinking about this, looking blankly at the water, a blob of soap suds clinging to her neck. "Maybe you should ask him about it." 

"Oh sure," you say, adding new little piles of suds to her breasts, like a soap bikini. "I'll bring it up at the party tomorrow. That'll go over well." 

Rolling her eyes, she says, "Since when do you care about social niceties. Besides, you don't have to make a scene. Just wait until the party is over and pull him aside." 

"Maybe," you concede, making a cup with your hands and rinsing the soap from her skin. The water flows down her body in rivulets as you watch mesmerized. And then you push yourself up out of the tub. "Come on, let's get out before we shrivel up and slide down the drain." 

She stands and steps out, reaching a hand out to give you leverage and handing you a towel. You dry off and throw on your pajamas, crawling into bed while you wait for her to perform her nightly routine, brushing out her hair, washing her face, and slathering some kind of cream on her skin that smells of coconuts and vanilla and makes you think of the beach.  

Moments later, she comes out of the bathroom wearing a sleeveless pink nightgown that falls to mid-thigh. It has a little ruffle around the hem and the neckline and four tiny white buttons on the front. The fabric is so thin, it is almost transparent. You love that nightgown on her.  

"Why is it so cold in here?" she asks, scurrying over to the bed, throwing back the covers and crawling beneath with a little shiver. 

"Don't worry," you say with a grin. "I'll keep you warm." You slide lower under the blankets and pull her into your arms as she laughs and snuggles into you. You kiss her, over and over again, not as a prelude to sex, but just because you want to kiss her.

Chapter Text

It's fairly late in the morning when you wake to the sound of the shower running. You swallow down a Vicodin, rub down your thigh for a moment, and then limp off into the bathroom to join Allison. Somewhere below you hear the flurry of preparations for the party and you remember, with a scowl, that today is the day you'll have to deal with your father. You can only hope that with so many guests, you won't have to be alone with him.

Allison opens the shower door and invites you in, immediately stepping out of the spray to make room for you. She runs her soapy hands over you in soothing strokes as you lean against the tile and let the hot water seep into your bones.

"It's one day," she says, pressing a soft kiss to your shoulder blade. "We'll get through it."

Sometimes, you think this is all you need, as you turn and tug her into a slippery embrace, and tell her, "I'm glad you're here."

"Me too," she replies as she looks up into your eyes and smiles, her hands gripping your biceps and her breasts pressed against your chest. You slide your hands down to her ass and push her harder against you, showing her what she does to you, and she stands up on tiptoes to kiss you.

You're good and worked up now, and hell, you could use some tension release before you have to face your parents. Allison seems to agree as she reaches down to stroke you, firm and slow at first and then building up to a pace she knows you like. You should stop her before it's all over, but it feels so good. She's shimmying against you so that you feel not just her hand, but the smooth, slick skin of her abdomen on your cock.

"Go ahead and let go," she murmurs, and you come hard into her hand, a harsh gasp falling from your mouth as you stumble back against the tiles, keeping a grip on her before you collapse.

"Better?" she asks, her smile fit for a temptress.

"Oh yeah. I owe you one," you answer, catching your breath as you smooth back the wet strands of hair from her face.

"You always take care of me. I'm not worried."

Moments later you're out on the bath mat wrapped in a big fluffy towel, watching as she pulls a brush through the mass of tangled wet hair hanging down her neck.

"I suppose we should get dressed," she says with a sigh, and you realize she's just as reluctant as you to start this particular day.

When the two of you finally venture downstairs, you find your parents in the kitchen in the midst of a disagreement with Sarah and Billy, the four of them talking over each other in barely hushed tones as the catering and waitstaff flutter around like a team of well-choreographed butlers.

"Oh what's the big deal?" your father says. "You can't keep something like this secret."

"We just wanted to see Greg and our new daughter-in-law before the guests arrive," your mother interjects. "I promise, we'll act surprised when the time comes."

Sarah looks deflated and Billy looks angry as they stand there huddled together, all of them oblivious to your presence until you clear your throat and say, "Guess the party started early."

"Greg," your mother exclaims, a huge smile on her face as she hugs you tight. "It's been so long. I really wish you'd come home more often."

"Hi mom," you reply, nodding to your father over the top of her head. It's all the greeting you'll give him.

You introduce them to Allison, who is clenched so tight you fear she will snap in half in your mother's enthusiastic embrace. "It's nice to meet you, Mrs. House," you hear her mumble.

"Please call me Blythe."

Your father slaps you on the back like you're old fishing buddies and you've just caught a massive prize-winning trout, and you roll your eyes when he's not looking.

"Allison," he says, reaching out to shake her hand. "Greg's told us all about you."

"Really?" she says, looking mildly horrified at the thought, and you shake your head no behind your father's back.

"No. I'm sorry. I was just making fun of my son, not of you," your dad says, and you grip your cane in a strangle-hold to keep from striking him with it.

"You two haven't had breakfast yet, have you?" your mother asks.

"No," you mutter, glancing at Sarah and noting the crestfallen look on her face as your mother continues.

"Why don't we go out for breakfast," your dad suggests, glancing around at the pre-party chaos. "Get out of Sarah's hair for a while."

His words are more of an order than a request as he turns toward the door with your mom in tow. "Come on," he barks, like some sort of drill sergeant.

"I'll just run upstairs and get my shoes and purse," Allison says, adding, "I'll get your stuff too."

You wait, ignoring your father's impatient sighs and a moment later she's back with your wallet and your shoes. As you're stuffing your feet into your Nike's, you see her speaking to Sarah by the fridge, her voice low and private. And then Sarah pats her cheek and smiles and you notice she's blinking back tears. She gives you a wink as Allison rejoins you and you head out to the driveway.

In the backseat of your parents' car, you stretch your hand out and Allison places hers in yours, her thumb sweeping softly over your knuckles. You stare out the window, avoiding your father's gaze in the rearview mirror. The drive to the diner is mercifully short, and soon you are sitting in a worn vinyl booth ordering coffee and a stack of pancakes and waiting for the interrogation to begin. A triangular shaft of sunlight slants across the table, the end pointing directly at your wife, who shifts nervously in her seat.

"So, you just up and married without telling us. Quite a surprise," your father starts. "Your mother was very disappointed."

"We didn't want a big fuss," you say, sheepish as you look at your mom. "Sorry mom."

"Oh, it's okay. We just want to get to know our new daughter-in-law," your mom says, patting your arm from across the table and then turning to Allison. "Greg said you two met at a coffee shop?"

"Yes. I was working there and he came in for coffee one night," Allison says with a smile. "Things sort of progressed from there."

"I'd say," your father snorts. "Bet you didn't know what you were getting yourself into."

"No, I didn't really. Your son is the most wonderful man I've ever known."

"I agree," your mom says, cutting off your father before he can make a sharp remark. "Are you from the Princeton area? Is your family there?"

"I grew up in Philadelphia," Allison answers. "My family have all passed away."

"Oh dear, I'm so sorry."

"Still working at the coffee shop?" your dad asks abruptly, using the tone of a cop giving an interrogation.

"No, I'm starting back to medical school on Monday."

"Back to school? What does that mean?" John says, plunking his coffee cup down hard on the formica table.

"I had to quit a few years ago because of... some financial setbacks. But now I'm finally able to go back." Allison clears her throat and then takes a delicate sip of water, and you reach beneath the table and squeeze her hand.

"I see," he says, lacing his words with some secret accusation that makes you want to stick your fork in his eye. You'd stick it in his heart if you thought he had one.

The food arrives just as the silence threatens to get awkward, and you dump a load of maple syrup over your pancakes and dig in, hoping to get this breakfast over as soon as you can.

"Anything else new in your life?"

"Got a new bike," you say. "It's got a huge gouge in the side, but it rides like the wind."

"You park it in the handicap spot?" your dad asks, almost derisively. "Last I heard, you've still got two good legs."

"Three actually," you reply, raising your cane to illustrate.

"You know what your problem is? You don't know how good you've got it." He pushes his chair back as he stands and says, "I'm hittin' the head."

A quick glance at Allison and you see her eyes widen and her mouth open in that way she has when she's stunned. It's suddenly clear that she wasn't fully prepared for how much of an ass your father can be.

"Glad we cleared that up," you mutter, snatching a piece of bacon from Allison's plate and popping it into your mouth.

"He's only trying to help," your mom says, her voice smooth as honey like it always is when she's trying to ignore the friction between you and him.

"I don't need any help," you say, and the food in your stomach turns to brick.

"No, you don't," she replies. "You're practically perfect just the way you are."

"I couldn't agree more," Allison adds, clasping your hand and smiling into your eyes, and all you can do is smile at these two women who seem immune to all the flaws your father sees so clearly.

The rest of breakfast is spent in tense silence broken only by occasional attempts at small talk. Allison congratulates your parents on fifty years, and you raise your cup of coffee in salute, and nod your agreement. It is an accomplishment, you think, staying married to John House for fifty years. Your mom deserves a medal for that alone, even if you think she would've been better off without him.

Chapter Text

With breakfast over and your parents headed back home, you take Allison on a tour of the grounds and the stables, stopping to stroke the noses of the two horses Sarah and Billy still keep.

"That wasn't so bad," she says. "I mean... your father is..."

"A self-righteous jerk?" you supply helpfully, studying her face for her response. The sun is lighting up her hair like a halo around her head, bringing out red highlights you'd only seen hints of before.

"Okay. A self-righteous jerk," she agrees. "But your mom seems very nice."

"She is very nice," you concur. "Devoted military wife. Human lie detector. Hates confrontation. But very very nice," you add with a little bite. "What was that earlier with Aunt Sarah?"

"What?" she asks, her head jerking around at your sudden change of subject.

"Before we left for breakfast you said something to Sarah."

"Oh. I just told her that if she needed any help, I'd be happy to lend a hand when we got back. I felt kind of bad, like we were abandoning her."

You chuckle a little because you should've known. No wonder Sarah got all verklempt. Score more points for Allison.

"You ever ride?" Allison asks, as she glances at you from the other side of a sweet-faced mare nuzzling her hand.

"Not really," you say with a grimace. "By the time I came to live here, I preferred man-made horsepower. You?"

"No. Philly isn't exactly conducive to riding horses," she says with a little laugh.

"True," you say, as you watch the small army of catering staff flitting about the grounds behind the house. "Come on, I want to show you something."

You take her behind the stable to a little shed-like building made to look like a miniature house, with flower boxes on the windows and peeling white trim. The door opens with a creak and the smell of dust and neglect wafts toward you. "I used to hang out in here sometimes. Doing things I probably shouldn't have been doing," you tell her, as you lead her into the darkened interior.

"Did you ever bring girls here?" she asks, with a teasing lilt to her voice.

"I plead the fifth," you say, and lead her further back to an old wooden crate sitting upturned in the corner. You tip it on its side and find your old stash of Playboys still resting beneath, moldering on the floorboards. The naked woman on the cover of the top magazine is now dotted with what looks like mouse droppings and mildew.

"That's so unsexy," you quip, poking it with your cane and watching as it nearly falls apart beneath the pressure. You try not to think about how those magazines are as old as your wife. The age difference has never bothered you before. But then, you've never been confronted with it as prominently as you have here with your aunt and uncle and your mom and dad and so many memories from your teen years so close at hand.

"I guess you did bring girls here," Allison jokes. "At least of the paper variety. What else did you do? Smoke a little weed?"

Tipping the crate back over to cover the magazines, you nod and reply, "Smoked a little weed, drank a little hooch. For medicinal purposes only, of course."

"Of course," she says with a little laugh, and you smile in response. You don't care that those magazines are from the year she was born, because... she was born for you.

mdmdmdmdmdmd

You've greeted all your cousins, aunts, uncles, and other obscure relatives and acquaintances, introduced your wife, eaten a plate of overpriced fancy food, toasted your parents and you are now leaning against the bar nursing a glass of bourbon and silently diagnosing everyone who crosses your path. So far you've seen several cases of diabetes, one raging alcoholic, a congenital heart disease sufferer, and a possible case of MS.

Allison has been swept off in a swarm of female relatives. You suppose you should go and see if she's surviving.

You step into the living room and find her seated on the couch, completely surrounded by old biddies, plying her with gossip and stories from your childhood. Though she's wearing a polite smile, you think she'd rather have her teeth drilled without the benefit of anesthesia than endure her current situation much longer. Or maybe you're projecting.

Great Aunt Dahlia is holding court, and you can hear her shrill voice from all the way across the room. You're pretty sure she's drunk. Her memory is always sharpest when she's had a Bloody Mary or two. So is her tongue.

"Oh you should've seen the girls flocking around our Greg when he was a teenager. There was one girl in particular, Marianne was her name. Whicker... no Whitaker. Marianne Whitaker. She was a real beauty and so in love with Greg. She had... much larger bosoms than you, as I recall. Not that there's anything wrong with yours, dear. I'm sure they're lovely. But I really thought that Marianne Whitaker was the girl for Greg. I wonder what ever became of her. I believe she was studying political science."

It's all you can do to keep from snorting your bourbon as you listen to your aunt's delusions. It would be funny if Allison didn't look like a deer caught in Aunt Dahlia's headlights.

You limp over and interrupt with, "Marianne Whitaker stuffed her bra. And she was never my girlfriend."

Sarah gasps, her mouth hanging open to reveal her perfectly aligned dentures. "That's not true," she exclaims. "That girl was always calling you. You took her out nearly every night."

"She called because I paid her to call. And she had about as much interest in political science as Martha Stewart does in toxic waste. She wanted to be the next Meryl Streep. Acting like my girlfriend was good practice."

Outraged, Aunt Sarah turns on you and says, "Gregory Andrew House, what do you mean? You paid her to pretend to be your girlfriend?"

"If I wanted to go out with my friends, you'd give me the third degree and stipulate all sorts of rules. But if I wanted to take my girlfriend on a date, I was free as a bird. So I paid a girl to call me up and act as my alibi whenever necessary. She was very good at it."

"I ought to send you to your room with no dinner," Sarah scolds, an affectionate lilt to her voice that lets you know she's not really angry. She gives you a peck on the cheek and you wink at Allison and hold out your hand.

"You looked like you needed rescuing," you whisper as you lead her out of the room. In a simple sleeveless red shift and the only pair of heels she owns, her hair pulled up in a little twist that exposes her graceful neck, she is a work of art. The swing out on the back patio is empty, and so you take advantage of the quiet and sit, wrapping your arm around her as she sits beside you.

"They're not so bad," she replies. "They're all very proud of you."

All you can do is sort of grunt in reply, as you loosen the knot of your tie. None of them really know you; they're only proud because you're a somewhat famous doctor.

"So... Marianne Whitaker?" she says with a grin. "Should I be jealous?"

"Marianne Whitaker had the clap," you retort. "I diagnosed her when we were in high school. She needed money for treatment, so I paid her to pretend to be my girlfriend."

"How did you..."

"I never slept with her, if that's what you're asking. She had pustules."

"You diagnosed her based on pustules when you were a teenager? That's... amazing!"

"What can I say? It's a gift," you joke, with a teasing smile.

"You are very gifted," she murmurs, laying her hand gently on your leg and giving you a seductive smile. You're suddenly thinking of ditching the party and dragging her back up to the bedroom to share your particular gifts.

"Allison, there you are. Come inside a moment. I want to show you something," your mom interrupts, standing in the open French doors. "You don't mind, do you, Greg?"

Allison is up and moving before you have a chance to answer. You watch her hips sway when she walks away, turning only long enough to wink at you. You figure she's about to be subjected to a slide show or a pile of photo albums from your childhood. Not nearly as fun as sex, you think, but you'll make it up to her later.

In the other room, you hear your father trading war stories with some of his buddies, and you rise to refresh your drink, giving him a wide berth. The crowd has thinned as people filter in and out of what your uncle jokingly calls the ballroom, meandering out to the dining room or the back garden where your aunt has hung a multitude of twinkle lights. As you wait for your drink, your father meets you at the bar.

"So, son," he starts, and you cringe. "Got yourself quite a babe there. And a motorcycle too. You know, most men go through this mid-life crisis thing. But most men aren't fool enough to marry the hot young thing they're sleeping with."

"I'm not most men," you retort, and he jumps on that immediately with a derisive snort.

"No, you're not."

"What's your point? That I'm pathetic? You've made your opinion of me more than clear. She," you say, pointing toward Allison in the other room, "is not part of some mid-life crisis. She is the best thing that ever happened to me. You always tell me I don't know how lucky I am. When it comes to her, I know it. I know how lucky I am."

"Son," he starts, shaking his head as if you are a foolish child, "gals that young, who look like that... they only marry men like you for one thing."

"You're wrong. And I'm not your son. Bet it still burns you up inside, doesn't it? That mom was with someone else. Can't say as I blame her." You barely get those words out when his fist smashes into your jaw and you stumble back into the buffet table. You hear the clinking of fine crystal just before it falls and shatters on the floor, and every eye in the room is watching you and this man you've been forced to call your father for far too long.

Allison is by your side in a flash, all concern and empathy as she pulls you away. You're not really hurt; John's too old to do any real damage now. With a smug smile in his direction, you turn and let her lead you out of the room. You end up in the butler's pantry, rubbing at the slight ache in your jaw as your wife rushes off to get ice that you don't need.

Uncle Billy steps in, a grave look on his face, his mouth hanging open with words he can't seem to force out.

"Got anything you wanna say to me?" you ask him, defiance rising up within you like a sudden wildfire.

"I got a lot of things I want to say to you," he says, looking you directly in the eye like a challenge.

"Name one," you say, meeting the challenge.

"You didn't deserve that. You didn't deserve any of it," he says with such a ring of truth, you have to swallow down the emotions his words stir up. They're too much and not enough at the same time and you turn and go up the back stairs to the guest room, away from... everything. He calls up after you, but you keep going, storing his words away for later.

Allison finds you sitting on the bed, your head resting on your cane. She sits beside you, passes you the ice pack and says, "You okay?"

"Sure," you lie. "What's a family event without a little violence."

"You want to talk about it?"

"No," you murmur, running one hand over your jaw. Telling her would hurt her and there's no way you're going to do that.

"You don't have to protect me," she says, turning your face so she can look at you. "I know what he thinks of me, and I'll admit it's not fun to know your father thinks I'm just some gold-digging bimbo. But I don't care enough to change his mind, even if I could. So if what happened downstairs was about me, please don't let it bother you."

"He only thinks that about you because he thinks no decent woman would ever marry me. It's not a reflection on you so much as it is on me."

"Then he clearly doesn't know you. But that's no surprise."

He ruined me," you tell her suddenly, defiant and bitter, as you drop the ice pack on the floor and stare down at it, watching it blur before your eyes.

"He didn't ruin you," she says, her voice firm with conviction, and you turn to look into her eyes. Her palm caresses your cheek and she continues, "You're damaged, but you're not broken."

"I can't figure out why you love me," you say with a cynical little laugh, pressing your hand over hers to keep it in place. You realize that your words come from that deep place inside where his voice echoes, telling you you're not good enough.

"You're under the delusion that you're somehow unworthy of love. That's not true," she replies with a little smile, and you recognize those words because you said them to her not so long ago. "You're amazing. Handsome, incredibly sexy, intelligent, funny, witty, charming. And I know you don't think so, but you're very unselfish."

There's a glimmer of tears in her eyes that makes your own suddenly watery. She continues, and her words come close to breaking the dam holding your tears at bay. "I love you because from the first time we met, and every time after, you really looked at me. No one had done that in years. You looked at me and you saw more than just a body you could use. You looked at me and you took the time to touch me and bring me pleasure. You made me feel safe, and that was something I hadn't felt in a long time."

"When I started working for Tara, it was awful. I was so ashamed and desperate, and I couldn't think of Danny because I knew he would hate what I was doing. I shut out every thought and feeling just to survive. I figured I'd never have another relationship again. Not that I wanted one, but... what man would ever accept me after... all I'd done. Even if I kept it a secret, it would always be there between us. I never counted on someone like you coming along."

She pauses, bringing her other hand to your face and making you look at her. "You hate your father because he doesn't believe in you, doesn't encourage or support your dreams. I know how much those things mean because you gave them to me at a time I never thought I'd have them again. Every day I tell myself I'm going to give it back to you. I love you and I believe in you," she concludes, her voice a warm murmur in your ear as you clasp her to you and try desperately not to fall apart.

Chapter Text

You have no idea how much time has passed when there's a knock on the door. Allison is half draped over you, dozing, while you stare up at the ceiling fan whirring above your head. She stirs and sits up as you invite whoever it is in.

"Greg, the party has wrapped up. John and Blythe would like to say goodbye to you and Allison."

Unmoved, you just stare at Billy, wondering why he thinks you would go down to say goodbye to the asshole who just punched you in the face in the middle of a party. Or to the mother who has always pretended things like that never happened.

"Come down and say goodbye," he says in a tone that is more command than request, "and then we'll talk. I'll tell you anything you want to know."

Interesting. He's making a deal with you. Rising, you nod, and follow him out, Allison right behind you, smoothing the wrinkles out of her dress and securing the clip in her hair. You let her pass you and she pads down the stairs barefoot, looking so much smaller without her heels. She holds herself rigid, her shoulders squared as if going to battle, and you can't help but smile at the image. She would do battle for you, if necessary. You have no doubt about it.

At the bottom of the steps, your mother is all smiles, as if nothing unusual has taken place. Typical. She embraces Allison first, murmuring niceties about visiting again and calling on the phone, and then she turns and embraces you and tells you she loves you. And it's not as if you don't believe her, it's just that her version of love is not enough. But because you love her too, you leave her to her denial and murmur the words back to her. This is the comfortable pattern of your relationship, the groove that it slipped into at some point in your childhood.

John House nods to Allison and smiles and calls her "young lady," as if it's a term of endearment and a slap at you at the same time. Though you look him dead in the eye, he doesn't meet your gaze. Sometimes he can be such a coward, you think, as you watch him walk out the door with your mother in tow.

"Sarah's got coffee in the kitchen," Billy says, nodding for you to follow. His whole demeanor is somber, and there's a deep sadness in his eyes you've never seen before.

"Maybe I should head upstairs," Allison says, giving your hand a squeeze.

"It's okay. You might as well get the firsthand account," you answer, pulling her with you toward whatever it is you're about to hear.

Sarah has a tray of cookies on the table, as if in direct contrast to the seriousness of the oncoming discussion. Tea and cookies, cheating mothers and illegitimate babies. It's party time, you think, as you plop down into a chair. You suddenly feel like a teenager caught sneaking in past curfew. Funny how Uncle Billy looks like he feels the same way, as he takes a seat across from you.

"So... you slept with my mother then. That must've been fun times," you start, shocking Sarah so much she drops her tea cup and tea sloshes across the wood grain of the table.

"Is that what you've thought all these years?" Billy asks, looking equally shocked and mildly horrified as he passes cocktail napkins to Sarah. "I never... I would never..."

"Greg," Sarah says, reaching out to take your hand. "That's not what happened. You've only figured out half the story."

Then she tells you about getting pregnant at sixteen. About Billy leaving for college before he ever knew. About her father, your grandfather, forbidding her to contact Billy and dragging her off to her older sister, Blythe, who was married and childless. About giving birth and using Blythe and John's name on the birth certificate.

"My father was a harsh man," she says, tears building behind her eyes. "It was his idea to put John and Blythe's name on your birth certificate. I had no choice. I got to hold you for a little while, and then I had to leave you with Blythe because Dad dragged me back home and forbade me to ever speak of it again."

"By the time I found out about any of this, you were four years old and living overseas," Billy adds. "We tried... we tried to get you back, but..."

"Every time we brought it up, John would get angry and then he wouldn't let us see you. Sometimes for years. We even went and saw a lawyer once, but he said with their names on your birth certificate, we had no legal standing to claim you." Sarah is openly crying now, and a mix of anger and resentment builds within you until you're nearly in tears too.

You imagine the life you could've, would've, had if you'd been raised by your rightful parents. The abuse you would've been spared. Your fist raises and comes down hard on the table, upsetting everyone's drink as you lower your head to your fists and hide your face.

"Greg," Sarah says, her hand coming to rest on your head, "there wasn't one second of one day that I didn't think of you and want you. Not one second that I didn't love you. I hated my own sister for a lot of years, but I came to realize it was John who really kept you from me. And I had to play nice or he'd take you away for good." She brings her arms around you and presses her face to the top of your head, holding you tight. "I'm so sorry."

"Why didn't you ever tell me?" you murmur, your words muffled as you refuse to raise your head.

"We wanted to," Billy says, certain and defiant. "I was going to, but John snatched you off to Egypt and told me we'd never see you again if we told you."

"When you came to live with us, it was only on the condition that we didn't tell you," Sarah adds. "And we were so happy to have you here, we gladly complied."

"But what about later. When I grew up."

"By then we thought it would only upset you," Sarah says, smoothing her hand over your back in soothing strokes. "We didn't know that you had figured out John wasn't your father until today."

You look up sharply at that, and Billy murmurs, "I heard what you said to him... before he hit you."

Sarah rushes off to another room and comes back in a flash with a hatbox that she sets beside you on the table. She lifts the lid and begins pulling out pictures of you along with other baby paraphernalia, including a little baby curl resting inside an intricate silver box, and a tiny blue blanket.

"At first, my father let me visit John and Blythe and I'd... well, I'd steal things, pictures of you and things like that. I think Blythe knew, because eventually she started sending me things. I've kept them all."

"Greg, we made some mistakes, but we want you to know that we fought hard for you. And we have always, always been proud of you," Billy adds, gripping Sarah's hand so tightly you know he's holding back tears.

You simply nod and rise, squeezing Allison's hand and then letting go. Pushing your chair back, you head for the back door while all the eyes in the room burn a hole in your back. As you're closing the French doors behind you, you hear Allison offer to help clean up and then the clinking of dishes being gathered and brought to the sink.

Outside, the fireflies are competing with Sarah's twinkle lights and the crickets are warming up for a long symphony. You lean against the railings of the back patio and silently rage at the man you've called your father your entire life. You'll never call him that again, you vow. More than his abuse, the ice baths, the forced outdoor campouts with nothing but the clothes on your back, the food deprivation and everything else... this is the most unforgivable. What would you have been like if you'd been raised by your biological parents, you wonder. Infinitely less bitter, is the only conclusion you come to at the moment.

The idea of Sarah as your mother never occurred to you. You feel rather foolish that you didn't figure it out, but then, Sarah and Blythe look so much alike despite the seven years difference in their ages. They both have the same blue eyes that Allison tells you are so amazing on you. You've never given them a second thought.

You have no idea how much time has passed when Allison slips out and comes to stand beside you.

"You okay?" she asks, as she tucks her arm into yours.

"Just peachy," you reply, bitter and snide. "I just found out that bastard, John, cheated me out of the parents I should have had. On top of all the other crap he pulled."

She takes your hand, toying gently with your fingers and stroking your palm. "But they love you," she says. "You have two sets of parents who loved you and tried to do what's best for you. That's pretty amazing."

Of course she would think that. You can't really blame her, because she only got a hint of what a bastard John House can be. She has no idea about all the other abusive shit he pulled.

"So you're a glass half-full kind of woman?" you retort, watching her face, the graceful sweep of her lashes as they touch her skin.

Smiling, she answers, "I thought you already knew that about me."

"Not exactly. You're still such a mystery," you answer, tugging her into your arms and releasing her hair from its clip.

"If there's something you want to know, all you have to do is ask."

"Ah, but the answers only deepen the mystery," you say, hand smoothing her hair out over her back.

"I was thinking," she says after a moment's pause, "that maybe we should stay a few more days."

Looking down on her, you frown, and say, "You'd miss the first few days of classes."

"I know, but it wouldn't be a big deal. I'll catch up."

But it would be a big deal, you know, because she has waited so long to go back to pursuing her dream. Missing even a few days of classes would be a huge sacrifice for her. And she would do it, willingly and happily, for you if you'd let her, because that's what she does.

"I'm not going to let you miss classes," you tell her, pressing your cheek to her head, your whiskers attracting strands of her hair like velcro.

"Billy and Sarah," she says, voice soft and hesitant, "are in there worrying that you hate them now, or that they made a mistake in telling you."

"And you're out here worrying about them," you conclude, amused.

"I'm more worried about you," she answers, drawing your face down so that you can look in her eyes and see the truth of that statement.

"I don't hate them. I hate him," you say. "I'll talk to them."

You're smiling again, if only a little, because of your wife and her self-sacrificing, optimistic, peacemaking ways. If you're not careful, they just might rub off on you.

Chapter Text

When you open Cuddy's office door, you peek your head in first and look around the room to see if anyone else is there. You have no idea why she's summoned you; it's always good to get the lay of the land before subjecting yourself to whatever she has in store.

From behind her desk Cuddy gives you her patented impatient look and says, "House, get in here."

"Yes Mistress," you say, as you stride forward and stare pointedly at her breasts, which are fairly well covered for once. "I hope you didn't put the funbags away on my account. I'm used to seeing them all out in the open; they fail to distract me anymore."

"Shut up and sit down," she says, waving toward the chair opposite her.

As you sit, she shuffles some papers and says, "Doctor Albright has recommended a student for an internship here. He seems to think your department would be a good fit."

"Albright's an idiot," you reply. You can just imagine the moron he'll send that you'll be required to babysit for several months.

"Disliking you doesn't make him an idiot," Cuddy retorts. "Some might say it makes him the opposite. I'm assigning this student to you whether you like it or not. Need I remind you that this is a teaching hospital?"

"So that's what the T in PPTH stands for," you quip. "I've always wondered about that." You stand and pace around the room, already plotting ways to torture your new minion.

"Whatever you're thinking, stop," Cuddy says, rising from her chair. "If you think you're going to scare this one off, think again. I'll not only cut your privileges, I'll have you up to your elbows swabbing crotches and treating hypochondriacs in the clinic for the rest of your career."

"Fine," you mutter, plopping down in the chair in the far corner of the room. On very rare occasions Cuddy actually exerts her authority over you effectively. She gets that glint in her eye that says, don't mess with me, and you know she means it. This is one of those moments. While you hate the idea of an intern, you actually respect Cuddy more when she stands up to you. You just can't let her know that, lest she decide to use her powers more often.

"Good," she says, sitting back down again. "She'll be here any minute."

"Already," you say, infusing as much whininess in your voice as you can muster.

There's a knock on the door, and you sit quietly in the corner, hoping to go unnoticed while you check out your new idiot.

"Doctor Cuddy?" a familiar voice says, and you barely contain your smile. This is going to be good, you think.

"Yes, come in," Cuddy says, and your wife strides in, her jacket slung over one arm and her bag hanging from her shoulder.

"I'm Allison Cameron. Doctor Albright sent me over." Allison holds her hand out and Cuddy shakes it, all professional-like as she shoots little glares at you from the corner of her eye. Allison hasn't noticed you yet.

"Yes, nice to meet you. Please, have a seat."

As Allison sits in the chair you just vacated, Cuddy continues. "Doctor Albright has nothing but good things to say about you. He seems to think you'd be a good fit for our diagnostics department..."

"What?" Allison interrupts, and you are mentally laughing at the whole situation. "I'm sorry Doctor Cuddy, but there seems to be a misunderstanding. I applied for the internship in the Immunology department, with the ER as my second choice."

"Of course," Cuddy replies, "but Albright doesn't just recommend anyone, and if he thinks you have a lot of potential, then the best place for you to be is diagnostics. You may have heard Doctor House is difficult to work for, and I completely understand any hesitance you might feel, but he really is the best in his field."

"But... what if I don't want the diagnostics internship?" Allison says, fumbling with the strap of her bag. "Would I still have a shot at the other internships?"

"Ms. Cameron," Cuddy says, and you can see she's flummoxed and growing impatient. "Do you know how many students apply to work for Doctor House? We've skipped right over all those applications and offered the position to you. Whatever rumors you've heard about him, I assure you are... well okay they're probably all true, but you'll be learning from the best, and I assume that's what you want, right? To learn from the best?"

"So I won't be offered the immunology internship? This is my only option?"

Dismayed, Cuddy sighs, waves her hand in your direction, and says, "Maybe if you meet Doctor House, you'll see he's not as scary as you might think. Ms. Cameron, this is Doctor House."

With a smug grin, you limp over and plop yourself in the chair next to your wife. "This is fun," you say, glancing between both women. Allison just stares at you with her mouth open for a moment.

"It's not that I'm afraid," she says, looking at you with an expression that says help me out here, will ya, before turning back to Cuddy. "It's just that... there may be a conflict."

Cuddy just blinks at the two of you, and then says, "What do you mean, a conflict?"

Allison looks at you and you stare back, smiling, and you realize Albright's not as much of an idiot as you thought. If you had to pick an intern, she'd be the one you'd want. Of course, she never applied for your department because she doesn't want any ethical or moral conflicts. But you have no such qualms.

"Oh god, please tell me you two haven't slept together?" Cuddy says, giving you a murderous look and rubbing her temples as if to forestall a headache.

"We've totally slept together," you admit with a smile, and you wonder if her head will explode.

"We're married," Allison blurts out, as if to clarify, and you smile wider and rest your chin on the top of your cane, waiting for Cuddy's reaction.

There is a long pause where Cuddy looks confused, her eyes open wider than her blouse, and then she snaps her jaw shut and glares at you some more. "Oh I get it," she says, "this is one of your pranks. Pretty good one too. How exactly did you get Albright to play along though? He hates you."

"Doctor Cuddy, this isn't a joke. I didn't apply for diagnostics because House and I are married," Allison says, looking from you to Cuddy and back again. "I don't think I should be working for my husband. Things could get too... complicated."

"It's not a joke," you repeat, lifting Allison's hand to show Cuddy her wedding band. "Meet my wife."

"There's no way that you're married," Cuddy insists, ignoring the hand you're holding out to her. "Next you'll be telling me that the moon is made of green cheese. Which, by the way, would be a lot more believable."

Beside you, Allison looks dismayed, and you give her hand a little squeeze of encouragement. "What would be the point of joking about this?" you ask Cuddy.

"I don't know. To mess with me. To get out of clinic duty somehow. Or maybe just because it amuses you," she says. Grabbing the phone, she punches in a handful of numbers and slams it back down.

"Why are you paging Wilson?" you ask, as you bask in the glow of stressing out Cuddy, even if it is unintentional.

"Because if anyone would know you got married, it'd be him," she says. "Unless of course, he's in on it. Tell me, what's your wedding date?"

"March 26th," you and Allison say in unison.

"That reminds me," you continue with a wink, "I'd like to request some time off. Our anniversary's coming up."

"Very well-practiced. Nice to know you're corrupting med students now too," Cuddy says, still in disbelief as Wilson pokes his head into the office.

"You paged me?" he says, and then steps in and adds, "Oh... hi Allison."

"Hi Wilson," Allison replies, smiling a wan little smile, and Cuddy's face drops further at the greeting.

"These two are claiming to be married," Cuddy says without preamble, waving her hand at you and raising her eyebrows as she waits for Wilson to respond. "You know anything about that?"

"Ah, yes, that's true. They're married," he says, looking at you as if he's wondering if that was the right answer.

"Really? Since when?" Cuddy persists.

"March 26th, last year," Wilson confirms. "I was the... uh witness."

Allison is clenched tighter than a guitar string, and so you whip out your wallet in hopes of settling this once and for all, pulling out the picture you've carried since shortly after your wedding day. It's you and Allison kissing after you exchanged vows. Your hands are cupping her face, and hers are resting on your biceps, her wedding band clearly visible. You pass the picture to Cuddy, as Allison raises an eyebrow, glancing at it as it goes by. She's seen it; there's a framed copy of it on the dresser in your bedroom, but you never told her you had one in your wallet all this time.

Cuddy is speechless for quite a while as she stares at the picture. Squirming, you want to yank it back out of her hands and put it away, because the way she's looking at it is the way one might stare at the bearded lady at the circus, and it's downright insulting.

"This is absurd," she finally says, thrusting it back at you. "There's no way you would ever get married and if you did, why keep it a secret?"

Allison clears her throat and says, "Keeping it a secret was my idea. I just wanted to get through school without any undue influence brought on by my marriage to House."

Still skeptical, Cuddy starts pecking away at her computer keyboard, and you know exactly what she's doing. She pulls up your personnel file and sees your marital status, which you changed to "married" shortly after your wedding, adding Allison's name to your emergency contact list.

"Well, you've certainly covered all the bases, haven't you?" she says, as if she still believes it's a giant joke at her expense, which is starting to piss you off.

"I'm nothing if not thorough," you say, loading your voice with sarcasm. "Can we move on now? Or would you like us to copulate right here on your desk as further proof?"

Wilson rubs his neck as he tries not to laugh and Allison gives you a look of horror, but you just keep glaring at Cuddy now that you're good and mad. You get that Allison is way out of your league, but Cuddy's reaction is grating on your nerves. It's obvious she thinks no woman would have you.

"Doctor Cuddy," Allison soothes, while putting a consolatory hand on your knee. "I know this is unexpected and that there are... complications with the internship. I'd really still like the immunology position, if possible, and I can assure you that I will behave in a professional manner at all times."

Like a gaping fish, Cuddy stares, at a loss for a moment, and you can see it's starting to sink in that your marriage isn't some colossal joke meant to ruin her day. She rubs her forehead, sighs heavily and says, "I've already filled the immunology and ER internships, because I was assured by Albright that you would take the diagnostics position if offered."

Visibly deflating, Allison drops her head, defeated.

"Well fix it," you tell Cuddy. "Tell those other idiots they're fired or you changed your mind."

"I can't do that," Cuddy says, and Allison is now glaring at you because... you're exerting influence probably, but you don't care.

"You're the damn boss," you say, raising your voice. "The whole point of being boss is having power over people. You can do something about this." You trail off, withering a little under your wife's heated stare, and then you mutter, "Don't punish her because of me."

"Look," Cuddy finally says, after scowling at you and then turning back to Allison. "It's possible you could rotate between the three departments, as needed. That would mean some time spent in Diagnostics, but it can't be helped. I trust you mean it when you say you'll act as a professional," she adds, glowering at you briefly, "because if there are any shenanigans, I will fire both your asses. No favoritism. No playing grab ass under the desk and no quickies in the janitor's closet. "

"You can't fire me; I have tenure," you say, provoking her deliberately.

"You really think I can't convince the board to vote your ass out?" Cuddy threatens, and you gulp, because you know she can; there's enough in your file to justify it.

"I wouldn't jeopardize my career by... " Allison starts, and you interrupt with, "She's very ethical."

"And yet she's married to you," Cuddy retorts. "Imagine that."

"Doctor Cuddy, I'd still like to... well, is it possible to continue to keep our marriage confidential?" Allison asks, casting a quick glance your way.

"It's not only possible, I think it's for the best. I know I wouldn't admit to being married to House."

"I'm not ashamed of my marriage," Allison says, affronted, and you grin at her righteous anger. "I just don't want any special treatment."

"Of course," Cuddy says, chagrined. She stands and comes around her desk, passing Wilson who has been plopped on her couch enjoying the show the whole time. "Come in on Monday morning and we'll get all the paperwork sorted out."

Allison rises and shakes Cuddy's hand again, saying, "Thank you. I really appreciate this opportunity," and you roll your eyes at your brown-nosing wife, even if she is sincere.

Walking to the door with Allison, you tell her, "I'll give you a ride home."

"No you won't," Cuddy interrupts, exasperated. "You have clinic hours."

"But mooom, it's raining," you whine at Cuddy, and Allison shakes her head at you, bemused.

"It's fine. I've got my umbrella," she says, patting her bag.

"Take the car," you reply, pressing your keys into her hand. "Wilson will give me a ride home."

"What?" Wilson says, as if waking from a daydream. "Oh, yeah, sure."

Allison nods and smiles, raising on tiptoe to kiss you and you brush your thumb across her cheek as you meet her lips with yours. And then, remembering where she is, she blushes and apologizes in Cuddy's general direction, gives a little wave to Wilson and leaves.

"It's like the Twilight Zone in here," Cuddy mutters, shooing you out the door with, "Get your ass to the clinic."

 

Chapter Text

Before you leave for the hospital, you have a talk with Allison about what she should expect from you at work. You'll be an ass, you tell her, you won't cut her any slack if she screws up and you'll hardly be her cheering squad if she does well.

She laughs and says she wouldn't have it any other way, and you know her well enough to know it's true. But still, you're a tiny bit worried.

You arrive earlier than usual, cracking open the windows in the conference room and sneaking out onto the balcony where you won't be seen. Allison is down in HR filling out some paperwork; Foreman and Chase should be arriving at any moment. You're eager to witness their reactions to the new intern. In fact, this whole secrecy thing is bound to provide months of entertainment for you. Messing with your team is always fun.

Foreman comes in first, drops a newspaper on the table and begins making coffee, drumming his fingers on the counter while he waits. Chase enters a moment later, with his hair still damp and slicked down like he just stepped out of the shower. Moving over to the counter, he greets Foreman and pours himself a bowl of cereal. The two of them sit there being boring for so long you think you might fall asleep. But then, finally, Allison comes in, and you perk up.

She's wearing her glasses, a minimal amount of makeup, a vest that matches her pants, and her hair is pulled back in a ponytail. You think it's cute how she's trying, unsuccessfully, to downplay her beauty. Upon her entrance, Chase immediately chokes down his mouthful of Cheerios, wipes his chin, and smoothes down the ugly tie he'd slung over his shoulder to avoid spilling milk on it.

"Uh... hi," he squeaks, sounding very much like a geeky kid encountering the prom queen up close for the first time. "Can I help you?"

"I'm Allison Cameron, the new intern" she says. "You must be Doctor Chase." She acknowledges Foreman and adds, "And you must be Doctor Foreman."

"And you must be in the wrong place," Foreman says, smug and superior. "This is the Diagnostics Department, run by Doctor House. He hates interns."

"No, I'm in the right place," she replies, smiling and dropping her bag down on one of the chairs. "I'll be rotating between here, the ER, and Immunology over the next few months."

"Not if Doctor House has anything to say about it," Foreman mumbles, shaking his head as he rises to refill his coffee mug.

"Would you like some coffee?" Chase offers, stumbling up out of his chair and nearly knocking it over in the process.

"No thanks. I'm more of a tea drinker. You guys have a case?"

"Not at the moment," Chase says, seating himself again.

"Oh. Well, what do you do when you don't have a case?" she asks, glancing around the room as if the answer is there.

Chase and Foreman both sort of shrug and look at each other, and finally Foreman answers, "Read medical journals, research, write papers, catch up on charting... "

"And House makes us do his clinic duty," Chase adds, and you notice how he left out "I also sit on my ass a lot and do crossword puzzles."

Allison's gaze lands on the giant pile of mail on the desk in the corner of the conference room, and she moves over to it and snaps it up with purpose. "Maybe there's a case in here," she says, flipping through the envelopes.

Foreman's eyebrow shoots to the top of his forehead and he shakes his head, bemused, and says, "You clearly haven't met House yet, have you? He hates people poking around in his personal business, and he hates brown nosers. Just ask Chase."

Chase takes a moment to look offended and then shrugs it off and says, "That's true. He also won't reward ambition."

"This looks like hospital business," she says, waving the envelopes. "And just because I don't want to sit around doing nothing, doesn't mean I'm brown nosing. I'm here to learn, and if that makes me ambitious, I don't care. I'm not looking to be rewarded for anything."

That's true, you think, but you know she's toying with them just a little as they watch in horror when she slices open the first envelope. Foreman's head is shaking so hard, he'll probably strain a muscle. You're grinning like a mad man now.

"You're making a mistake," Foreman says. "House is going to eat you alive."

"Why, because I opened some hospital mail? What's the big deal? If it was so private, he wouldn't have left it here." She sits down at the little desk and starts reading, while Chase and Foreman watch in both shock and amusement.

Time to make your entrance, you think, as you start to move away from the windows. But then you hear Foreman mutter, "One hundred bucks says she won't last a week," and Chase replies, "I don't know, she seems pretty confident. Maybe she can handle him."

"So it's a bet then?"

Chase pauses and says, "No way. She won't last a week."

You smirk at that and levy yourself over the balcony wall and into Wilson's office, pausing only to nod at him as you pass by his desk, his mouth hanging open at the sight of you. You'd think he'd be used to this kind of stuff by now.

Seconds later, you enter the conference room and say, "Oh goody, the gang's all here. I trust you've all made nice."

"Morning, Doctor House," Allison replies with a bright smile, and you see Foreman roll his eyes.

"Are you opening my mail?" you ask, scowling in her general direction. Chase snorts and then pretends he's sipping his coffee as he tries not to laugh at Allison.

"Yes," she says, unfazed and confident. "I thought there might be a case in here."

"Good thinking," you reply, moving toward the coffee maker. "I like your ambition."

Her smile has the tiniest hint of smugness in it. You can't let her think she can get away with just anything, even if she can get away with just anything. "Do you pick up dry cleaning too?"

"Not as part of my job, no," she answers with a light laugh. "There are places that actually deliver your dry cleaning to you, you know?"

"Yes, but I can never get them to stop and pick up dinner for me on the way. So inconvenient."

A quick glimpse at Foreman and Chase and you see they're completely flummoxed. Mission accomplished. You turn and head to your desk, coffee in hand, trying hard not to smile.

A few hours later, the two of them corner you in the cafeteria, as you scarf down a stolen steak. You figured it wouldn't take them long.

"An intern? Really?" Foreman asks, taking a seat at your table without waiting for an invitation.

"I asked for a stripper, but Cuddy said no. This was the next best thing."

"Cuddy must have something big on you to get you to accept an intern," Chase offers with a knowing smile, reaching for a piece of steak and getting his hand stabbed with your fork instead.

"Oh, you got me," you joke. "I left a flaming bag of poo on her front porch. She was soooo mad."

"Seriously, it's odd, even for you," Foreman says, one eyebrow raised.

"Really? Have you seen her? She's extremely pretty."

"So you hired her because you want to get into her pants?" Chase asks, scoffing.

"I can't believe that would shock you. It's also not what I said. I hired her because she looks good, like having a nice piece of art in the lobby."

"You're gonna let her open your mail because she's hot?" Foreman says, shaking his head at you in disapproval.

"She's not just hot. She's driven. People choose the paths that grant them the greatest rewards for the least amount of effort. That's the law of nature, and she defied it. She could have married rich, could have been a model, she could have just shown up and people would have given her stuff. Lots of stuff. But she didn't. She worked her stunning little ass off."

Chapter Text

 

Allison's first few weeks at the hospital are fairly uneventful. She continues to sift through your piles of neglected mail, and you're happy to let her. She's cute with her little glasses on, studiously reading consult requests and making neat little piles of categorized letters. There are times she makes you think of the stereotypical nerdy librarian who is transformed into a beauty by removing her glasses and letting down her hair, and you start fantasizing about the things you could do to her on that little desk in the corner, or on the conference room table. You avoid these dangerous thoughts by spending quite a bit of time in the clinic, with the door shut, ignoring everyone until your shift is over. Cuddy said you had to get down there; she didn't specify anything about seeing patients. 

That is where Wilson finds you and gives you crap about hiding from Cuddy and letting your team of highly-trained specialists sit idle. It all sounds a lot like blah blah blah to you, but if you let him rant for five minutes, your clinic duty will be officially over for the day and you can leave. 

When you finally try to make your escape, you're confronted by a set of concerned parents claiming their son has an appointment with you. As if you'd ever make appointments to see patients. But then the father thrusts a letter in your face and you realize Allison finally managed to scrounge up a case from your mail. Funny how she didn't bother to tell you about it. It's cute how she didn't even attempt a realistic forgery of your signature. That girly G amuses you.

You page her, scan her beautifully-phrased letter, and begin examining the kid, because the symptoms actually do interest you. At first. Then you hear the part they left out when they wrote their letter seeking your help. 

"What's the differential for writing G's like a junior high school girl?" you ask Allison when she emerges from the elevator. 

She rolls her eyes and says, "It's impossible to get you through normal channels."

First lesson she's going to have to learn is that everybody lies, especially patients and their loved ones, or they leave out pertinent info which amounts to the same thing. Head trauma during a lacrosse game leads to a concussion which leads to night terrors in a sixteen year old. Boring.

"Did you know he got hit in the head?" you ask her, and she looks chastised and says, "No, they didn't mention it."

"Of course they didn't. Why bother with such pesky details," you mock, leading her away from the exam room. "A well-worded letter does not indicate an interesting case."

"But they've been to several...."

"And perseverance does not equally worthiness. There are better ways to get my attention. I know you know what I mean," you add with a wink. A glance back and you notice the boy's leg twitch and you're suddenly a lot less bored. All the other symptoms, plus a myoclonic jerk when the kid is wide awake, equals a very interesting puzzle. 

You can feel Allison trailing behind you as you move back to the patient. A few questions later and you learn the kid's issues began before he hit his head, which means you're fully on board. 

"Admit him," you order, passing her the file. You have the decency to add "good job" because she found a good case, even if it was random luck. She smiles and walks away, and you want to smack yourself for how her smile still makes your heart do little cartwheels.  

As the DDX starts, you mention that someone might need to get an accurate family history and Allison bristles and says, "I took an accurate family history."

"You didn't even take an accurate family," you retort, amused at how cute she looks when she's all affronted. "His father's not his father."

"Why would you say that?" Chase wonders, barely removing the pen from his mouth. 

You pretend not to notice the look on Allison's face when you say, "Thirty percent of all dads don't know they're raising someone else's kid."

"From what I've read false paternity is more like ten percent," Foreman replies, smoothing his tie as he sits and pulls the file toward him.

"That's what our moms would like us to believe. Fifty bucks says daddy's little boy isn't daddy's little boy."  

Allison is the only one who doesn't take you up on your bet. Smart woman. 

mdmdmdmdmdmd 

After going through several wrong diagnoses, you want to go home, crawl into bed with your wife and sleep for ten hours. It's late and your leg is throbbing with a beat that seems to say, "sleep, sleep, sleep."  But Allison decides to stay with Foreman and Chase and monitor the kid. Figures she'd insist on following through on this no special treatment nonsense. 

So you leave, but it's not as if you actually get any sleep. The apartment is too... something without her. Quiet. Empty. Lonely is probably the word. You strip down to your boxers and crawl in bed, but almost immediately you get back out again. It's too weird to be there without her curled up beside you. Grabbing her pillow, you head to the couch, throwing the afghan over your body and closing your eyes, but your thoughts begin to whirl and it's far too long before you actually drift off. It can't be much longer than that when you awaken again, more tired and frustrated than before, and you get up and turn on the television in the hope it will distract you.

When did you become so pathetic that you can only manage a cat nap on the couch when your wife is not with you? This used to be your life, you think, before she came. You spent nearly every night alone, playing your music, watching television, chugging down too much bourbon with too much Vicodin. And you thought that it was enough. You thought you didn't, and wouldn't, ever need anyone. Now you can't imagine going back to that existence. 

It's almost a relief when Foreman calls to tell you the kid is missing because it gives you an excuse to go back to the hospital, even if there's nothing you can do. You really are a sap.

"Check the roof," you tell Foreman when you arrive. "Sometimes the orderlies keep the door propped open so they can grab a smoke."

As he marches off, you mutter bitterly to yourself, "I'll be in my office not sleeping with my wife."

 

Chapter Text

The kid's attempt to swan dive off the hospital roof while conscious, believing he was on the lacrosse field, means it's not MS, so you're back to square one. Everyone is tired and frustrated, including you, but the kid is circling the drain so there's no rest in sight.

"His immune system is working," Chase says, before sticking the end of his pencil in his mouth.

"Right, he has an infection in his brain."

"What about sex?" Allison asks, and your thoughts go south immediately.

"Well, it might get complicated. We work together. I am older, certainly, but maybe you like that." 

"I meant maybe he has neurosyphilis," she replies, but there's a little grin she's trying very hard to restrain. 

"Heh, nice cover," you say, with a smirk, and she has to look away, hiding her smile. Oh, you really can't wait to get her home. Who knew flirting with your secret wife in front of your employees could be so much fun.

"Well, if it's neurosyphilis, the likelihood of a false negative on an RPR test, thirty percent. The likelihood of a sixteen year old having sex, roughly 120 percent." 

"We should start him on IV penicillin," Allison suggests.

"Can't wait for that," you reply. "Inject it right into his brain via the spine."

There's a brief argument about the dangers of your idea, until Foreman remembers that the kid already has a shunt in his brain, and then off they go to do your bidding. For you, it's clinic time again, otherwise known as nap time. Strange how you've never had a problem sleeping in a clinic exam room. You grab a file on the pretense of working, shut yourself in and settle on the exam table, fluffing the flat little pillow beneath your head. Just as you close your eyes, the door flies open and there's Cuddy in all her ire-laden glory. She's immediately followed by a patient, a worried new mom, who thinks vaccinations are an evil plot from greedy pharmaceutical companies. Good times.

That one patient is enough to send you sneaking off to the cafeteria for lunch, which you mooch off of Wilson. It's there your patient's parents spot you and decide you're clearly not doing everything you can for their son, what with the eating and stuff. Obviously if you really cared, you'd forego food until he's cured. You rattle off the kid's stats and then kindly offer to bus their trays for them as if you actually care. Wilson looks positively verklempt at your uncharacteristic generosity, until you reveal you're just stealing their cups for DNA testing, and then he's outraged. But as soon as you offer to double the bet, his outrage fizzles like an open can of soda. Funny how that works.  

With the cups in a plastic bag, you head back up to check on your patient and see if the treatment is working. 

When you arrive in the hallway outside the kid's room, you see Allison bent over, holding the kid still while Chase does the lumbar puncture. You're briefly distracted by the sight of your wife's shapely little backside pushed out that way, but then you hear Chase say, "Hey Dan, isn't Dr. Cameron's necklace a beauty? Something old, I think."

Her necklace is a delicate chain that holds her wedding ring, and a simple antique diamond ring, a family heirloom that Sarah gave you to give to Allison. She wears her rings on a chain because they interfere with the latex gloves needed to treat patients. You can imagine why Chase suddenly noticed them, given that they're likely part of the gorgeous view of cleavage she's displaying while bent over that way. 

"It's antique," she says, drily, and you can picture the look on her face: annoyance that someone is noticing her for one of her many lovely physical attributes and not for her brains. 

"It's a cool necklace," the kid says, while staring directly down your wife's shirt. 

Her breasts might be a nice distraction for the kid, but Chase is getting an eyeful too. He'll be lucky if he doesn't jab the needle into the wrong spot and paralyze the kid. It's definitely not as fun when Chase flirts with your secret wife at work.

When Allison comes out, you're annoyed even though she didn't do anything wrong. Sometimes you wish the rest of the world was as oblivious to her beauty as she is. You hand her the two cups and tell her to run the DNA tests. She rolls her eyes and looks mildly disapproving, but you cut her off, saying, "Wilson already gave me a lecture. Just do what you're told," and she moves off to the lab without a word, glancing back at you once over her shoulder, as if gauging your mood. As she walks away, you think about how a turtleneck would be the perfect work attire for her. Maybe you should buy her one or two or twelve.  

 

MDMDMDMDMDMD

 

You are right; the parents aren't the biological parents. They could've saved you a hell of a lot of time if they'd just told you from the beginning, but then, you've long ago stopped expecting people to be honest and upfront about stuff. The good news is you won the bet. 

"Dave, Don, Dick... whatever the kid's name is has Sub-acute Sclerosing Pan-Encephalitis, which is a fancy way of saying he's got a mutated form of the measles virus all up in his brain. There's only been twenty cases in the United States in the last thirty years. Cool, huh?"

"Can we treat it?" Allison asks, ignoring your glee over such a rare diagnosis.

"Ask the neurologist," you reply, waving toward Foreman.

Foreman suggests Intraventricular Interferon, and you agree and send them off to start the treatment, but not before collecting on your bet. You are up $1000, and you think about taking Allison somewhere special with your winnings. Somewhere where turtlenecks won't be necessary.

You're daydreaming about the possibilities when Cuddy drags you into her office to scold you about the DNA tests. Tests that cost the hospital $3200.

"It's not an actual cost," you say. "I don't know if you know this, but the hospital actually owns the sequencing equipment."

She's not buying your excuses, and she's not going to let you have your week off from clinic duty until you pay for the tests. Spoilsport. You should've upped the ante when you had the chance. You've not only lost your winnings, but another $2200, which puts a damper in your celebratory mood.

When you leave work, you find yourself going to a most unexpected place, drawn by long-buried memories your patient has evoked. It's nostalgia that brings you there and nothing more. The stands are filled with parents cheering on their kids, waving banners and wearing team colors. You feel old and out of place, in your tweed cap and wool coat, with your cane and your gray-flecked whiskers. A grumpy old man with a limp and a bad attitude, that's what you are. 

Soon Allison joins you on the hard bleachers, watching you more than the kids on the lacrosse field. She takes your hand and it's that simple touch that brings you back from the edge of self-pity. You should feel even older with her by your side, like some kind of letch with a trophy wife. But she has the opposite effect on you. On the inside, she's as worn and aged as you are; she just wears it a lot better. It is still such a mystery that you found something you aren't sure you ever really believed in: a kindred spirit, your one true love, your soulmate, or whatever other corny name you could give it that you'd never say out loud. 

The action on the field heats up and you find yourself rooting for the Comets for no good reason except you like the intensity of some of the players. The game is tied and time is running out and you're completely engrossed. 

"Wheels, one-eight! Wheels!" you shout, gripping your cane like it's your own lacrosse stick, like you're a member of the team. Number eighteen makes the goal that wins the game and you smile. 

While the boys celebrate and the crowd begins to disperse, you sit quietly with Allison and wait, the buzz of victory like an electric current in the air around you. 

"That was exciting," she says, scooting closer to you on the bench as the last of the spectators climb down from the higher seats. "I'm glad we came."

You simply nod, happy you led her here, and contemplative all at once. 

"You used to play." It's half question, half statement. There's an understanding in her eyes, a sympathy for the physical things you can no longer do and you look away at the now empty field.

"Briefly," you reply. "When I was a kid. We moved before I could really get into it."

"I bet you were good at it," she says with a smile. 

"What makes you say that?"

"You're good at everything you do." She squeezes your arm and stands, holding out her hand. "Come on, I'll buy you dinner."

"Does that mean I have to put out later?" you joke.

"Absolutely," she says with a wink. 

 

Chapter Text

For the next four or five weeks, Allison divides her time between the Immunology department and the E.R. and so you carry on with just Foreman and Chase. Going back to working without her feels kind of strange, but you find ways to appear in the cafeteria or the clinic at the time you know she'll be there, taking a moment or two to say something flirtatious that you know will make her smile. 

Sometimes, when you're bored, you sneak up to the Labor & Delivery Department's doctor's lounge where for some inexplicable reason, they have comfy lounge chairs and a flat screen TV. It's there that something piques your interest, aside from your soap opera, that is. A sick baby, which you are sure is more serious than Doctors Dumb and Dumber are making it out to be. Your instincts are telling you this is a virus that will spread from one baby to the next until it's stopped. Time to gather the troops.

Convincing Cuddy that there is a legitimate problem is easier said than done. She thinks you're just playing a game or trying to get out of clinic duty, as usual. You wonder if you should stop doing those things so that you'll be taken seriously in the future, and then you chuckle to yourself. As if that's going to happen. Four sick babies does the trick though, and Cuddy is a woman on a mission, inspecting Labor and Delivery for sources of contagion, cutting off med students' neckties and generally behaving like a woman whose baby is sick. And since the hospital is her baby, that's exactly as it should be. 

Meanwhile it's all hands on deck. You've paged Allison from Immunology and Cuddy has sent Wilson to help as well. If the five of you can't figure out what's making these babies sick, no one can. Virus or resistant bacterial infection are the most likely candidates. You tell the team to start the babies on Vancomycin and Aztreonam, and you head off to the clinic to think.  

When you've finished dealing with morons who can't tell a cold from cancer or be bothered to get regular pregnancy tests like their doctor ordered, you head toward the elevators and escape. Foreman's there looking troubled, and you immediately think the babies are worse, maybe even dead. Instead he tells you that he thinks Allison should be pulled from the case, that she couldn't give the parents of one of the babies a straight answer about their kid's chances, that she tried to sugarcoat it. This gives you pause. She's new at this, sure, but she's always had such good instincts. But then, she's also a lot more optimistic than anyone you've ever known. This could be a problem. 

The news gets worse when you reach the conference room. Allison looks particularly morose.

"The Hartig and Chen-Lupino babies. Their kidneys are shutting down," she says.

"And the urine tests show no casts," Chase adds.

"Which means the antibiotics are causing the kidney failure." You rub your forehead, then take out your Vicodin and pop one in your mouth while the team starts a debate about which antibiotic to stop.  "No point arguing about it. Take one kid off the Vancomycin and the other off the Aztreonam."

"They have the same disease. You want to give them different treatment?" Chase says, with only mild surprise in his voice. 

Allison is quiet, resigned. Foreman's already working up a good moral outrage. "What the hell are you doing?" he asks.

"Therapeutic trial to find the cause of the infection."

"So you're condemning one of these kids to die based on random chance." It's a statement meant to make you see the gravity of the situation, as if you don't already get it.

"I guess I am," you say.

After a duel with the hospital lawyer in Cuddy's office, you get approval for the treatment plan. Two more babies have begun to show symptoms. Time is running out. As much as you give off a facade of flippancy, you really don't relish the idea of even one baby dying. You just don't see any other way. On top of all this, Wilson has now informed you that he thinks Allison has a problem, that she gave the Chen-Lupino's false hope instead of preparing them for the possible death of their son. You have no idea what the hell is going on with her, but you'll have to deal with it after you've figured out this case. But there's a tiny part of you that wonders if there's something she hasn't told you.

Back up in the maternity ward, baby Chen-Lupino crashes and there's no bringing him back. One dead baby is more than enough. You're determined he'll be the only casualty. "Aztreonam doesn't work. Double cover all the other babies with Vancomycin," you tell Chase. "Allison, you tell the parents. Tell them their son probably saved five lives."

"But Chase should...." she starts to say, blinking and barely looking you in the eye.

"Chase is busy."

"You're the attending," she says, with a brief glimpse of rebellion in her eyes. What the hell is going on with her, you wonder, frustrated and worried.

"Make sure she does her job," you tell Wilson, sounding more harsh than you actually feel. She can't avoid the hard things. Not if she's going to make it as a doctor. 

You're heading back to your office, hoping you've got the answer with the Vancomycin, when Wilson catches up to you.

"She froze up," he says. "I had to tell the parents. She's got a problem."

"She felt sorry for the parents so she shut up. You felt sorry for her, so you opened your mouth. If you hadn't bailed her out, she would've done her job." You have no idea if that's true, but you're angry and Wilson makes a good target. 

"Maybe she should think about a different specialty. Lab work. Research, maybe."

That is not what you want to hear. Allison is too good for lab work or research. If she can get past this obstacle, she'll be unstoppable. You just don't know if her resistance to giving bad news applies to all patients or just to sick babies, but you're determined to find out. 

Your bad day gets worse when Chase informs you the Hartig baby has just taken a turn for the worse too. The Vancomycin isn't working either. 

"This is our fault," you snap. "Doctors over-prescribing antibiotics. Got a cold? Take some penicillin. Sniffles? No problem. Have some Azithromycin. Is that not working anymore? Well got your Levaquin. Antibacterial soaps in every bathroom. We'll be adding Vancomycin to the water supply soon. We bred these super bugs. They're our babies. Now they're all grown up and they've got body piercings and a lot of anger." You sigh, weary, baffled, and worried. "On the other hand, maybe antibiotics had nothing to do with it. Did you notice how low his BP was at the end? Even with three pressers?"

"Heart Damage?" Wilson asks.

"Go home. There's nothing more you can do tonight." Turning away from all of them, you head to your office, popping a Vicodin and dropping into your chair for a moment. You're going to have to autopsy a dead baby. Good times.

Allison stays, as you knew she would, sitting in the conference room with only the desk lamp for light. She flips through medical books and searches the internet for an answer. It's a good thought, but it won't help. Her hair hangs limp from her ponytail and the shadows beneath her eyes stand out against her pale face. Your worry and frustration increases at the sight of her, sleepless and troubled as she pretends you're not there. 

The Chen-Lupino baby gives you a little insight to present to your team in the morning, and what you all manage to boil it down to after process of elimination and nearly ex-sanguinating several babies, is that you're dealing with an enterovirus, Echovirus 11. The only hope is a new antiviral that has shown promise in lab trials. If that doesn't work, the babies are screwed, and Allison will get another chance or two to practice delivering devastating news. 

In the elevator, Foreman informs you there's been no significant change yet. No news is not necessarily bad news. 

"How's Allison?" you ask him.

"Allison, as in Doctor Cameron?" he asks, one eyebrow rising toward the top of his head.

"Sure, let's start with her, and move on to all the other Allisons we know."

"Sorry, I'm just not used to you asking about someone's well-being," he says.

"I can understand how the question would surprise you. I don't understand how it would confuse you," you reply.

"Why do you want to know?" Foreman asks, and now you're starting to get annoyed.

"Why do you want to know why I want to know?" you retort.

"Just curious," he says.

"Me too."

"You don't get curious," he says, and you openly scoff at him.

"I'm the most curious man in the world."

"Not about trivialities."

"Well then, this must not be trivial. How is she handling everything?" She's my wife, you ass. I'm worried.

"Just fine."

"Great. Glad we talked," you mutter as you exit the elevator. What a waste of time. 

A short while after that you learn the babies are all starting to improve, and you can almost see the black cloud lifting off the hospital. Of course, you still really need to know the source of the virus. If you don't find that, Cuddy will be buying stock in that new antiviral. You head back up to the maternity ward for a little hunting expedition, and you find what you're looking for much quicker than you expected when you see one of the volunteers handing out stuffed bears to the new parents, with a side of snot from her runny nose. Welcome to the world, kids. Have a nasty virus. Cuddy will be relieved. Of course, you won't tell her until she gives you some time off from clinic. Leverage is always a good thing. 

Back in your office, you watch Allison packing up for the day. Days really. She hasn't been home in at least three. Neither have you. 

"You look tired," you say, glancing out into the hall to make sure no one is around.

"Thanks," she mutters, a bite of sarcasm in her tone.

"It's no wonder. You've had a hard time these last days."

"And you haven't," she says, and this time there's an undertone of compassion in her voice. 

"Not like you. I don't think it was just dealing with death. Chase told me about that idea you had to let the parents hold their baby. Where'd you get that? Something you're not telling me? You ever been pregnant? Ever lost a baby?"

She shoots you a harsh glare as she pulls her bag strap over her head and drapes it across her body. The look on her face translates to "You can be a real bastard," and she walks out and heads to the stairs, obviously eager to get away from you. 

Okay, so you probably shouldn't have brought it up at work. But you're definitely getting to the bottom of this. You gather your things and head for home. When you arrive, she's in the kitchen putting something in the oven. You corner her there and say, "You know I'm not going to let this go."

"I've never lost a baby," she says, but there's some hint of untruth in her words despite the fact that she's got her hands on her hips and she's looking at you defiantly.

"Ever been pregnant?"

"No," and she turns away and starts ripping lettuce into shreds, and you think she's probably imagining the lettuce is your head.

"Talk to me," you say, turning her gently so that she has to look at you. "Because if this is just you having a hard time dealing with death, then you're not going to make it as a doctor. I need to know if you can do the job or not."

"I don't have a hard time dealing with death," she snaps. "I've dealt with death my entire life." She tries to move past you, her eyes aglow with tears she's trying to hold back. "I'm going to take a shower. I'll finish dinner when I'm done."

She always does this, you realize. Hides in the shower when she wants to cry, as if you'll think she's weak if you see her break down. You hate it.

"Don't," you command, taking her hand. "Allison, just tell me what's going on. Please."

Looking down at the floor, she starts, her voice a low murmur. "I had a sister. She was six months old. Her name was Amanda. Firefighters were able to get her out of the house, but she inhaled a lot of smoke. She lived for three days and I only got to see her once in that time." The tears are flowing freely now, and she swipes at them with swift, angry movements as she looks up at you. "I wanted her to live so desperately so I wouldn't be alone. I would've taken care of her. I would've done anything. But nobody would tell me anything and I only got to see her for a minute. She was hooked up to all these machines, but she curled her fingers around mine and it gave me hope."

"But she didn't make it," you finish.

"Her lungs were too damaged. She died the next day."

"I'm sorry," you say, tugging her into your arms and pressing her as close as you can, reveling in the way she clings to you. 

"It didn't matter what anyone said to me before she died," she continues, sniffling against your shoulder. "I just wanted some hope."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"It was too painful," she says, pulling back to look up at you. "I know I disappointed you with this case. But I can do the job. I know I can. It was just this case that was hard, but I'll do better next time."

"I was more worried than disappointed," you confess, brushing her hair out of her face.

"Do you believe I can do the job?" she asks, looking into your eyes as if your answer means everything to her.

"Yes," you say. "I know you can."

She smiles through her tears and wraps her arms around you again, and you murmur to the top of her head, "I believe in you." And you do. She's the strongest person you know.

Chapter Text

 

Allison is officially a doctor now. At work you roll your eyes at the fanfare from Foreman, Chase, and Wilson, as if it doesn't matter to you. Foreman gives her an expensive frame for her degree, and a brotherly hug. Chase pats her on the shoulder and makes sure she knows he contributed toward the purchase of the cake. A guy knocks twice on the glass wall and steps in with a huge bouquet of crimson roses. 

"Delivery for Dr. Allison Cameron," he says, almost immediately thrusting the vase into Allison's arms, her being the only woman in the room. 

"Wow," she says, as Chase plucks the card from the midst of the flowers and opens it. Nosy bastard. He reads it aloud:

"Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.

The stairs are your mentor of things

to come, the doors have always been there

to frighten you and invite you,

and the tiny speaker in the phone

is your dream-ladder to divinity."

 

"All my love,

Me"

 

Allison snatches the card back out of his hand with a glare and tucks it into her pocket.

Chase smirks and asks, "So, who's me?"

"None of your business," she retorts, placing her flowers on the desk in the corner and giving you a radiant smile when her back is turned to Foreman and Chase. 

You wink at her in return, steal a piece of cake, and shut yourself in your office as if you don't care. But you've got plans to celebrate later, a little surprise for her. 

Throughout the day you notice her stopping at the desk to run her fingers gently over the petals of her roses. You wonder if she knows that feeling is akin to how her skin feels beneath your fingertips. It's no wonder she can't stop touching them. 

Meanwhile, you've kept yourself busy making your plans. It's taken some time to arrange everything. You had to make a few surreptitious phone calls from your office and you snuck out of clinic duty a time or two to do some shopping, which Cuddy wasn't too happy about until you told her what you were up to.  

"Wear the sky blue shirt," she'd said. "It almost makes you look nice."

You retorted with a crack about her breasts, but she just smiled and walked away. All in a day's work, you think.

Now you've got Wilson delaying Allison with a fake consult, just so you can get home first, shower, and set up a few last minute things in preparation. 

When she comes in you meet her at the door, wearing a freshly pressed sky blue button down (Cuddy's not a total idiot), and your charcoal suit pants. She sets aside her flowers on the table by the door, and removes her bag.

"Thank you for the flowers," she says, leaning in to kiss you and then pulling back to look you up and down. "You look handsome. What's the occasion?"

"I'm taking you to dinner, Doctor House," you answer with a smile. "Think you can be ready in an hour?"

"Sure," she says, eyeing you uncertainly. "But I didn't think we were celebrating."

"Of course we are," you answer. "You've worked your stunning little ass off. You have officially achieved your dream. That calls for a celebration."

In the bedroom she finds the dress you've bought and laid out for her, and she stops short and turns to you with her eyes as wide as they can get. "You certainly are full of surprises."

"If you don't like it, you don't have to wear it," you say, a small pang of worry plaguing you. She so rarely buys anything for herself. If you want her to have something nice, you have to get it for her.  But she's much more accepting of your gifts now, and you know it means she trusts you. It's no small thing to have her trust, to know that she knows you're not trying to control her. 

She lifts the silky fabric, letting it sift through her fingers and says, "It's beautiful," before placing her hands on your face and pulling you in for another kiss. "Thank you."

"You're welcome. Now get yourself ready. Time's a wasting," you joke, swatting her playfully on the ass, and she laughs, grabs the dress, and locks herself in the bathroom.

While she's in there, you reach in the closet and grab the suitcase you packed earlier, setting it out by the front door for the limo driver when he arrives.

Allison emerges from the bathroom half an hour later and you drop the tie you were fumbling with. You're pretty sure your jaw hit the floor too. She is beyond stunning. The dress you chose for her is red and it fits her like it was made for her, hugging her upper body and falling away from her slender waist in a graceful swish. She's left her hair in loose waves around her shoulders and her makeup is subtle, offsetting her kaleidoscope eyes in just the right way. 

"The dress is perfect," she says, spinning around to make the skirt float around her knees. "You have good taste."

"Yeah," you say, as your brain begins to function again. You do have good taste. Especially when it comes to spouses. 

Bending down, you pick up your tie, feeling it slide through your fingers as Allison pulls it from your hands. She drapes it around your neck and begins to knot it like an expert, and you're reminded of when she tied your bow tie the night of the fundraiser shortly after you met her. You remember how she left you breathless, and how much you wanted to kiss her. It's baffling now that you didn't recognize that you were in love with her that night. It's more baffling that you love her even more now; you didn't think that was possible.  

"So, where are we going for dinner?" she asks, pulling you from your thoughts. 

"I made a reservation at Rapscallion's," you tell her, your fingers toying with the ends of her hair while she finishes with your tie.

"In New York City?" she asks, pausing as if frozen. "Isn't that place pretty exclusive? I heard it's impossible to get a table."

"I know a guy," you say, winking as you shrug into your jacket. It's true. You treated a member of the mob, and when you saved his life, his brother offered you certain favors. You've never taken him up on it, except for this one thing. It's probably best if you don't tell Allison though. You don't want to ruin the evening with talk of ethics and morals. "So, you ready?"

"Yes, I am," she says, smiling and grabbing the little purse she uses for special occasions.

As she moves to the door, you rush back toward the bathroom, calling out, "I gotta take a quick piss."  You grab her makeup bag, tucking it into your jacket pocket and hoping she won't notice the extra bulge. The doorbell rings just as your heading down the hall.

"Who could that be?" Allison wonders, pulling open the door.

"That would be our ride," you answer, as the chauffeur greets you both with a "Good evening. I'm Jerry, I'll be your driver tonight."

"We're ready, Jay," you say, guiding Allison out the door. You jerk your head toward the suitcase while she has her back to you, and Jay nods in acknowledgment. You hope you've packed everything she needs. 

"You got us a limo?" she asks, her mouth falling open at the sight of the long, sleek silver Hummer. "A huge limo."

"As you know, I'm not compensating for anything," you joke. "But the bigger, the better, am I right?"

"You're saying size matters?" she says with a laugh. "If that's true, you've got nothing to worry about."

You just smile, smug and satisfied, as Jay opens the door for the two of you, climbing in behind her and observing the luxurious surroundings. 

"You've spared no expense, I see." She's smiling as she takes a seat on the long curved bench facing the bar, and you scoot in beside her, putting one arm around her. 

"We're worth it," you reply, flipping locks of non-existent hair over your shoulder with a dramatic flair, and she laughs again.

There's a flat screen TV above the bar, a state-of-the-art stereo system, rows of twinkle lights above your heads, and thick carpeting beneath your feet. The interior is so spacious, you're thinking of moving your office in there. You could definitely do a DDX from digs like this. 

"This is amazing," Allison says, gazing up at the lights.

Soft music of the canned crap variety is emanating from the stereo. It's totally killing your buzz. You reach forward and fiddle with the knobs until you find some decent jazz. "Told you I was in the mood to celebrate."

As the car begins moving, you lean your head back and close your eyes, and then you say, "I'm proud of you."

When she doesn't respond right away, you look at her and notice her eyes are misty with tears she's trying not to shed.  

"Thank you," she murmurs. "I wouldn't have been able to get here this soon without all your support."

Uncomfortable with her gratitude, you simply nod, pleased when she smiles and kisses you softly, once and then again, soft kisses of affection and appreciation. Of course, your cock doesn't always know the difference between those kisses and foreplay.

"You ever have sex in a limo?"

When she doesn't answer, you study her face. There is something in her eyes that gives you your answer.

"Ah," you say. "Let me rephrase. You ever have sex in a limo with someone you love?"

"No," she says, giving you a little smile. "You?"

"No," you answer, pulling her closer into your embrace and forgetting sex for the moment because the mood is gone.

But Allison lays one hand on your chest and tips her head up to kiss you, a kiss meant to lead to something more. "There's always a first time," she murmurs in your ear. One hand is on your neck, fingertips gently stroking over your throat and jawline. 

The mood has returned. 

You turn and kiss her deeply, exploring her mouth with your tongue, running one hand beneath her dress and up her leg. A few kisses later and she's in your lap, her dress pushed up around her waist as you caress her perfect little ass. Subtle little moans are emanating from her sweet mouth and you manage to unzip her and push the shoulders of her dress down to reveal her breasts, latching on to one as she throws her head back in pleasure. Her eyes are closed, hair swinging behind her with the sway of the vehicle, and she's all exquisite, sensual desire. You push her panties to one side and stroke her where she likes it most and she moans louder than you've ever heard her moan before. 

At some point she manages to undo your zipper and free you. You lift her by the hips and guide her back down, and then she's riding you like you're a wild stallion. It doesn't take long for you to reach the edge of climax, so you tuck your hand beneath her dress again and find her sweet spot, pushing and stroking until she's right there with you. When she comes, she bites her lip and holds your arms in a death grip. Your own eyes close of their own accord as you spill into her, and then she's snuggled into your chest as the two of you try to catch your breath. 

"That's how I like to start a party," you say, as your heart rate begins to slow. As she smiles against your neck, you pull her dress back up and zip it for her.

"It's definitely better with someone you love," she murmurs. "And I do love you. Very much."  

All you can do is look deeply into her eyes, searching for what's behind them. It never fails to astound you that she could love you, and that she not only says it, but shows it to you in a million different ways.  She kisses you again, and you hold her tight for a moment, telling her with your actions what you're too moved to say with words. 

"I know," she says, stroking your cheek before lifting herself off you and settling gingerly back on the bench. 

You grab some napkins from the bar and clean yourself up, passing some to her as well, and moments later you've both got yourselves mostly back together. 

"Think Jerry will know what we did?" she asks, blushing a deep pink as she fusses with her hair.

"Who's Jerry?"

"The driver," she says, with a little sigh of long-suffering for your inability to remember names.

"Sure. He's probably got a camera set up in here. Free porn."

She looks horrified at the very idea, and you chuckle and say, "It's a joke. I'm sure he doesn't know, or else he's used to it. Limos are sex machines."

Barely placated, she looks around as if searching for possible hidden cameras. 

"Relax. If he was secretly filming all his passengers, he would've been caught by now," you say with a shrug, because you don't care whether Jay, Jerry, whoever, knows or not. You're eager to change the subject and get that worried look off her face. "Tell me something, Doctor House...."

She interrupts, shaking her head at you affectionately and saying, "You know you can't call me that at work, right?"

"Right.  So, what made you want to be a doctor in the first place?"

"Aunt Elise's husband died of Lupus. That was before I came to live with her. When she told me about him, it made me so curious. I went to the library and studied everything about Lupus I could find. The idea that it was the body's own immune system attacking healthy tissue was mind-boggling to me. I wanted to know how to treat it or if there was a cure, so I kept studying, and from there I began to research other illnesses. By the time I was twelve I knew I wanted to be a doctor."

Looking up at you with another smile, she takes your hand, toying with your fingers, and asks, "What about you? I can't believe we never talked about this before."

"We've been busy," you offer as an excuse, "what with the earning of medical degrees and the saving of lives."

"You're stalling. Tell me," she says, playful and light.

"Fine, but it'll cost you," you joke, and she rolls her eyes and scoots closer, saying low and breathy, "I think I've already paid."

"True. When I was fourteen, my father was stationed in Japan. I went rock-climbing with this kid from school. He fell, got injured and I had to bring him to the hospital. We came in through the wrong entrance, passed this guy in the hall. It was a janitor. Kid came down with an infection and doctors didn't know what to do. So they brought in the janitor. He was a doctor and a buraku; one of Japan's untouchables. His ancestors had been slaughterers, gravediggers. And this guy knew that he wasn't accepted by the staff, didn't even try, didn't dress well, didn't pretend to be one of them. The people around that place, they didn't think that he had anything they wanted, except when they needed him. Because he was right, which meant that nothing else mattered, they had to listen to him."

"So he cured your friend?"

"No, he cured the kid I went rock-climbing with. We weren't friends. Barely even knew each other. I wasn't exactly a popular guy."

Allison looks troubled at that, studying you with such a sad expression that you have to look away. You don't want her pity. 

"I don't understand how you can think that you're so unlikable. How you can think that you're like that janitor. Do you really believe that if you couldn't cure people, no one would listen to you?"

"Sure," you say, nonchalant. "Why would they? I'm a bastard. People tell me that all the time."

Shaking her head, she says, "You act like a bastard to people because you don't want them too close. But you aren't a bastard. To me you're the most generous, amazing man I've ever known."

"You're a special case," you say, smoothing your thumb over her knuckles. 

"Then I'm honored," she replies, blinking away tears. "I'm so honored."

The very idea that she would be honored to be with you is so absurd, it's beyond explanation. Speechless for a moment, you draw her into your arms, her head against your chest, and then you quietly tell her, "I'm the lucky one."

For the rest of the ride, you stay like that, content to hold and be held. 

The limo finally arrives at the restaurant and Jay opens the door for the two of you, helping Allison out. You pass a hundred to him and ask him if he knows what to do.

"Yes sir. Everything is arranged," he says, smiling wide when he sees the hundred dollar bill in his hand. 

The interior of Rapscallion's is cozy and lit for intimate dining. The place is nearly full, the low buzz of conversation flowing through the small space, with the occasional burst of laughter from some corner or another. As you scan the room, you spy a well-known senator with a woman you're sure is not his wife. 

The host leads you to your table and seats you in soft, upholstered chairs that seem to wrap around your bodies. Each chair is upholstered in a different color and pattern, and each table is different as well, like the owner gathered whatever he could from various flea markets. Allison scoots her chair closer to you and marvels at the surroundings. 

"This place is amazing. I think that's Robert De Niro over against the wall." She gives a subtle nod of her head to indicate which direction, and you turn and glance over briefly. 

It is Robert De Niro. He's no Steve McQueen, but it's still pretty cool. Despite the cool factor, you can't seem to keep your eyes off your wife. There are a lot of beautiful people in the room, but she surpasses them all. 

The waiter brings you champagne and you give a quiet toast to Doctor Allison Cameron-House, and she leans in and kisses you softly. Something about her kissing you in this setting makes you swell with pride. 

"Thank you for this," she says. "You've made me feel so special."

You smile and bring her hand to your lips, happy to have made her feel special, even if it's only a fraction of how special she really is. 

 

Chapter Text

 

After several courses of rich food, a bottle of champagne, and a decadent dessert, you pay the bill and lead Allison out of the restaurant, her hand at home in yours. Outside, the city has quieted a little and the air has cooled to just right for you, though Allison has goosebumps up and down her arms. You take off your jacket and drape it over her shoulders as she smiles her gratitude and pulls it tighter around her body. The breeze carries the scent of pretzels and roasted almonds from the vendor carts on nearly every corner. 

"So... Jerry's late?" she wonders as she glances up and down the city streets.

"Jerry's not coming," you say, guiding her along the sidewalk. "Let's take a walk."

"Oh, okay." Her expression is puzzled, but she says nothing further.

The two of you might be a little tipsy from the champagne. Or maybe it's her heels. All you know is you're both sort of wobbling your way around the people moving about in the city that never sleeps. The alcohol has not numbed the throbbing in your leg, angry from sitting for so long.  Walking helps a little. Vicodin would help more. But your pills are in your jacket pocket, which Allison is now wearing, so you carry on and say nothing. 

You must have walked seven blocks before you realize that the hotel is not as close to the restaurant as you thought. Pain flares up like a newly-lit match, and you grit your teeth and move faster. 

"Are we going to the train station?" Allison asks, "Because we could take a cab. I know your leg is bothering you."

She reads you like a favorite book; you find it comforting and unsettling at the same time. "Nope. I'm fine. We're almost there," you reply, limping on as if nothing is amiss.

"Almost where?"

"There," you point, holding in a grunt of near relief when you spot the hotel. You wanted this night to be perfect, but of course, your damn leg has to interfere. 

"Central Park? We're going to Central Park?"

"Close, but no. We're going here," you say, just as you arrive at the steps leading up to the revolving doors. 

Her eyes are so wide, you think they might pop out of her head. "This is... the Ross Hotel. Why are we at the Ross Hotel?"

"We're staying for the weekend. Surprise," you add dryly. You can see you've rendered her speechless. The Ross is a legendary hotel known for its views of Central Park and the incredible luxury of the rooms, not to mention a hefty price tag for a night's stay. "Come on."

It only takes a minute to check in. While you're at the reception counter, Allison glances around the lobby and its understated opulence. There are intimate seating areas grouped at various intervals, a large stacked stone fireplace, and a stream flowing toward the glass elevators. There's a quiet hush of conversation floating through the large space as people mill about. The concierge hands you your room keys and tells you that your luggage has already been delivered to your room. Jay has earned his tip.

The suite is just as pictured on the website:  a fully stocked kitchen, fireplace surrounded by large, comfortable furniture, bedroom with a king size bed, and a bathroom nearly as big as your entire apartment. There's a balcony off the living room and bedroom that overlooks Central Park. The view is spectacular. Or it would be if you could enjoy it, but pain colors everything at the moment. You see the suitcase you packed has been left just inside the bedroom.

Allison is moving around the rooms, touching and exclaiming over everything. You love that she likes it, but all you want is your Vicodin and some rest. 

"This bathtub is huge," she calls out from the bathroom. "Did you see this?"

You just grunt in response and plop yourself on the bed.

"You okay?" she says, suddenly looming over you all concern and empathy.

"Dandy," you reply. "Just give me a minute." You dig through the pocket of your jacket and find your pills, swallowing down two immediately.

"Tell you what," she says, "I'll start the bath, and while it's filling, I'll give you a massage. Get undressed."

"No," you tell her, sitting up. "This weekend is supposed to be about me pampering you." 

"And I'm not allowed to do anything for you?" she questions, eyebrows raised. "I want to give you a massage, so take off your clothes."

"Yes, ma'am."  As you tug off your tie, you can't help but feel resentment over your leg. You wanted to do so much for her, give her a sort of honeymoon weekend. She deserves better than this, better than a broken down old cripple she has to take care of all the time. 

"Stop," she says, as she comes back into the room, hands on her hips. "You've taken care of me all day. Now it's my turn." 

Gently, she lifts your foot and pulls off first one shoe and then the other, dropping them on the floor. You manage to remove your shirt and undo your pants, which she tugs from the hem until they're sliding down your legs. Once you're in nothing but your boxers, you lay back again, and she starts working her magic with those beautiful hands of hers, putting just the right amount of pressure in just the right places. The Vicodin is buzzing pleasantly through your bloodstream and you find yourself getting sleepy as your body relaxes, but you sit up and fight the urge to fall asleep because you did agree to a bath, sort of.

"Go to sleep," she tells you, with a soft push on your shoulder. "It's okay."

Your body sinks back into the welcoming embrace of the bed, and you close your eyes, surrendering to bliss. She continues to massage your leg, your calf, your feet, her touch growing lighter and lighter until you can't feel anything at all.

The next thing you know, you're waking to find the bright glare of moonlight in your eyes, like a spotlight on your face. Allison is unconscious beside you, the blankets pulled high across her shoulders and neck so that all you can see is the top of her head. The clock on the bedside table reads 4:17 am. You stumble out and draw the curtains closed, shutting out the moon, and then crawl back into bed and slide all the way over until you can feel her body, her skin against yours. 

She's wearing only your sky blue button down, which reminds you of when she first moved in, always wearing her dead husband's shirt. You're glad it's yours she's wearing now. The sight of her in it brings out a possessive sort of pride in you. She's yours; that will never cease to amaze you.

Wrapping one arm around her, you press a kiss to the top of her head. She stirs, turning to face you and murmuring, "How's your leg?"

"Fine," you say, pushing her hair away from her face. "Go back to sleep."

"Okay," she mumbles, snuggling against you until she finds her spot. "Love you."

Her words never fail to raise goosebumps on your flesh. It's a habit she's formed, mumbling words of love when she's half-asleep. You're not sure you'll ever get used to it, the words, the way she moves you. You have never been so thoroughly loved in your entire life. These are the thoughts that warm you as you drift off to sleep again, the most amazing woman you've ever known in your arms.

 

Chapter Text

It's morning. You can't see the clock so you're not sure what time it is exactly, but the sun is definitely trying to peek through the curtains. There are noises coming from the suite's kitchen, and some wonderful smell you can't identify wafting into the bedroom..

Allison sits up, alarmed and whispers, "House, there's someone in here."

"Yup. The hotel's chef is cooking our breakfast."

"What? Really?" She's got the blankets pulled up to her neck, and her eyes are as wide as they can get.

"I arranged it when I booked the suite. We don't have to leave this room for the next 24 hours if we don't want."

"Oh. That sounds nice," she says, planting a kiss in the vicinity of your earlobe and then stepping out of bed, the tail of your shirt just covering her beautiful backside. She pulls open the curtains and steps out onto the balcony. "House, the view is gorgeous. Can we eat out here?"

The view is indeed gorgeous, you think. Would be even better if she lost the shirt. "We can eat anywhere you want," you call out. Maybe you'll eat off her naked body.

Choking down a Vicodin, you head for the bathroom to answer nature's call. It's the first time you're really seeing it and Allison is right, it's pretty impressive. The tub looks very inviting. Definitely big enough for two. After breakfast might be a good time to dive right in and go a few laps, metaphorically speaking.

The chef serves your breakfast on the balcony, and it's indescribably good. Allison is making appreciative sounds with every bite and you're getting more and more eager to hear those sounds in a different context. You've been half-aroused since she got out of bed wearing nothing but your shirt, which she is still wearing while emitting those little moans. You wonder if she knows how sexy she is when she does that.

"So, what do you want to do next?" you ask. Sex, please say sex, your brain repeats like a mantra. But this weekend is hers, so you'll let her decide.

"I think," she says, smiling a sultry smile, "that first we should take a long, hot shower. There's a nice big bench in there."

Score! you think with a grin. "Sounds good. Then what?"

"Then maybe we could go for a walk in the park?"

"All right. You finished? 'Cause I'm ready for that shower now."

She laughs at your eagerness and pushes her plate aside. "Yes, I'm ready," she says, rising and standing between your knees, holding out her hands to help you up.

Instead you pull her down into your lap, running one hand up the smooth skin of her thigh and kissing her thoroughly. After a few kisses, she stands again and breathlessly murmurs, "Let's move this to the shower."

"I'm right behind you," you tell her, grinning your most lecherous grin. Amazing how she makes you feel like a horny teenager.

Once in the bathroom, she starts the water running and then unbuttons your shirt and lets it drop to the floor. You were half out of your boxers before you even left the balcony. Seeing her naked, you kick them completely off, sending them sailing across the floor. She steps beneath one of the many shower heads and jets; the water flows over her naked skin, clinging to it like a lover. You follow, immediately reaching for her, and she laughs as you pull her hard against you.

"Someone's eager," she says, rubbing her palm against your stiff prick.

You moan and kiss her, taking her hand off you lest things end all too soon. You're as horny as a man who hasn't been laid in years, painfully aroused and ready to burst. After more hot, wet kisses, you back toward the bench and sit, bringing her with you. She turns her back to you and you guide her down until you're inside her deep as you can go, moving your hands up her slippery skin to her breasts to caress them, placing kisses all along her neck.

She moves up and down, slow and steady at first, those breathy moans of hers driving you mad. You can't stop sliding your hands over her body to touch her everywhere. When you reach between her legs, she moans louder and starts to move faster, setting a pace that drives you mad with pleasure. Pressing down on her clit, you thrust upward as best you can, closing your eyes against the slick heat of her body around your engorged prick, and she comes hard with a soft gasp. The pulsing grip of her orgasm on your cock brings you to climax right behind her, and you cry out in release, clutching her so hard you're afraid you might have bruised her.

Leaning her head on your shoulder, she looks up at you and says in a breathless alto, "Do you know what you do to me?"

How can you answer that? You don't know, can't even fathom that she'd find you attractive or sexy. Most times you just go on faith that she does, somehow. She's just about the only thing you have faith in. Allison and science.

Chapter Text

Central Park has a life all its own, a slower, more, relaxed pace where New Yorkers seem to escape from the fast pace of the city. It's a paradise in the midst of the hustle and bustle. You feel at home walking with Allison, hand in hand, as passersby move around you without any acknowledgment at all, as if the two of you are mere faces in the crowd. You like that. In Princeton, you're sure people are always wondering what the freak-ish gimp is doing with the beauty queen, but here you're no different than many other couples walking along the streets of the city or the park. Normally you don't care what people think of you, but sometimes the difference in your ages and the fact that she's way out of your league brings all your insecurities to the surface. It's nice to be somewhere where no one even notices. 

You emerge from the park on Fifth Avenue with all its swanky shops, and Allison surprises you when she suggests a little shopping, leading you eagerly into one of the stores. She so rarely wants to spend money on herself, so you willingly follow.

"Sit here," she says, finding a quiet cafe in one end of the shop where you can buy pricey coffee and pastries and read the newspaper. "I won't be too long."

When she returns, you've caught up on the news, drank a rather large caffeinated beverage, and diagnosed a dozen random strangers with various illnesses. In her hands she carries a bag, the contents of which are hidden by a mountain of tissue paper.

"What'd you get?" you ask, curious, as you try to catch a peek.

"Uh uh," she replies, pulling the bag away with a grin. "You'll find out later. Ready to go?"

"Yup. You want to get lunch before we head back to the hotel?"

"Sounds good," she says, taking your hand again and swinging it lightly as you exit out onto the busy sidewalk. She seems rather pleased with herself, which doubles your curiosity, but you will wait because it makes her happy.

mdmdmdmdmdmd

You must have walked several miles through the park and the city, and now you're back in the hotel room with your leg propped up on the couch, flipping through television channels to find something to watch. Allison has hidden her shopping bag somewhere and seems to be biding her time until she reveals whatever it is she purchased. Normally you'd snoop, but the more you act as if you've forgotten all about it, the more she fidgets, which you find amusing. She's nearly bouncing beside you on the couch, as if she's all filled up with nervous energy.

"Something wrong?" you ask, barely glancing her way as you settle on a rerun of the O.C.

"No," she says, drawing the word out. "Have you seen this episode before?"

"I've seen them all before," you reply with a nonchalant shrug.

"Oh. Well... wouldn't you rather do something else?"

You try very hard to hide your smile. She's got something up her sleeve, and you have a feeling you're going to enjoy it immensely. 

"What did you have in mind?" you ask, acting distracted by what's happening on the television screen.

Her jaw hangs open for a minute in disbelief, and then she snatches the remote out of your hand and turns off the TV.  "Didn't you say this weekend was a sort of mini honeymoon?"

"I may have mentioned something like that, yes."

"So let's not watch television. Come with me."  Taking your hand, she all but drags you to the bedroom. Her take-charge attitude is quite a turn on; your body is already prepping for the good times ahead. 

"Sit here," she says, pushing you down on the end of the bed. "I'll be right back."

When she emerges from the bathroom, she's wearing a red bra with matching thong, diaphanous black thigh highs and red high-heeled pumps. God, she is beautiful. She comes to stand between your knees, biting on her lower lip as if she's nervous, and you smile because this little scenario is just like the night you met her for the first time. 

"Nice," you say, tugging her closer and pressing a kiss to her naval, dipping your tongue into her belly button. 

She lets out a little gasp of pleasure, but says nothing. Her head falls back when you reach down and rub her through the silk patch of fabric that covers her, finding it damp with desire. As you work your fingers beneath her thong and into her, she spreads her legs further, and her mouth opens in a little O.

"Take off your bra," you tell her, continuing to stroke her moist, sweet opening. 

Reaching behind her, she unclasps her bra, sliding it slowly down her arms and letting it drop to the floor. You pull her down to the bed, and just as before, you take a moment to study her, all milky white skin begging to be caressed. Lying beside her, you run your hand lightly over her, following every curve, a delicious friction of skin against skin.

You worship her with your hands, your mouth, your tongue, while she lays there breathing erratically and clutching the bedding beneath her like it's an anchor to keep her from flying completely off the bed. She continues to chew on her lower lip as if to stop herself from crying out. That first night, you told her not to talk and you realize now how quiet she still is during sex, as if that message has been ingrained in her since the beginning.

"You can speak, you know," you tell her, stroking her face and kissing her softly all along her jawline and neck. 

"I don't think I can," she says in a breathy whisper. "You leave me speechless."

There is no higher compliment than that, you think, as you look down at her face in amazement. She blinks away a tear and pulls you to her, wrapping one leg around your hip as you slide into her.

"I adore you," you murmur, and begin a rhythm, slow and steady, then building to an almost unbearable peak of pleasure, taking her with you to the heights and back down to earth again. Sex with her has never gotten dull. It's been an addiction from the beginning, an inexplicable, insatiable need. She inspired in you a desire for her right from the start that has only increased with time. 

Just like your love for her. 

mdmdmdmdmdmd

It's your last night in New York City and you are finally making use of the giant bathtub in the hotel room. Allison is relaxed at the other end, her head back, eyes closed, hair pinned to the top of her head. You have her foot in your hands, rubbing the bottom of it with your thumbs as she sighs with contentment. 

"Allison Renee Cameron House," you say, thoughtful and pensive as you stroke the sole of her foot. 

"Yes," she says, raising her eyebrows quizzically, a small amused smile on her face.

"Your initials spell out the word arch."

"I guess they do," she replies, waiting for further explanation. 

"I like it. I like the arch of your feet," you tell her, increasing the pressure of your thumbs and then bringing her foot to your mouth to press a kiss to her toes. "I like the way your back arches when you're in the throes of ecstasy. I like the arch of your eyebrows, the way your lips naturally turn down to form a little arch." 

Confused, she just looks at you, waiting for an explanation for that last part.

"It makes your smiles more meaningful," you say. "Especially when you're smiling at me."

She blinks a few times and gives you one of those meaningful smiles you love so much, tilting her head as she studies you. 

You smile back and continue. "Did you know that arches are used to span large gaps? They're also used for structural support. Humans have been using arches in architecture since at least 2000 BC."

"So what are you saying?" she asks, taking your hands in hers and pulling herself closer to you.  "I'm your support system?"

"An arch to support a House. Makes sense, don't you think?" 

Her eyes are little watery; you don't think it's from the steam of the bath water. Blinking, she moves forward again, wrapping her arms around you as tightly as she can, her skin slippery against your own. "I thought it was the other way around," she murmurs. "You're my support system. What would I do without you?"

"I ask myself that same question every single day," you answer, pressing kisses to her temple. 

She props you up, keeps you going even when the pain threatens to topple you. She's a bridge between yourself and most of the rest of the world, who find you abrasive and rude. She's everything you need and all you thought you'd never have. 

 

Chapter Text

Chase and Foreman think they’re so clever and observant, but in all the years since Allison began working for you, they’re still no wiser to the fact that she’s your wife. You don’t know whether you should feel proud or shamed at being able to keep your marriage a secret for so long.

They’re none the wiser, despite the fact that she’s seen you through a shooting incident, hallucinations and temporary memory loss, a brief detox from Vicodin, an arrest, a motorcycle crash and a host of other stupid things you’ve done over the years. You still have no idea how she puts up with you.

The truth is, you’re tired of hiding your marriage, and now that Allison has moved to the ER, you’re ready to stop pretending she means nothing more to you than any other (former) employee. You’ve been sitting at your desk, thinking of the most dramatic and shocking way to reveal the truth, when life itself steals your thunder.

“Hey,” Wilson says, rushing into your office breathlessly. “It’s Allison. You need to get down to the ER now. A patient went crazy and pulled a knife…”

You’re already halfway out the door before he finishes. When you arrive in the ER, you find absolute chaos. Equipment and medical supplies are strewn everywhere and nurses are trying to soothe frightened patients. One guy, the perp you assume, is being dragged out in cuffs by security.

All you care about is Allison as your eyes scan the mess, but what you find is Chase and Foreman leaning over a gurney and shouting instructions. You move to the other side and there she is, pale as a sheet save for the large contusion forming along her temple. She’s also bleeding profusely from her abdomen, despite the pressure Chase is applying to the wound. But she’s alive and awake to your great relief.

Her gaze finds you and she murmurs your name as you drop your cane and take her hand. “I’m right here,” you say, swallowing down your fear. “I’m here.”

“House, what the hell are you doing? I’ve got to get her to surgery,” Chase says, looking at you like you’ve gone even more insane than usual.

“Don’t go,” Allison croaks out, and you squeeze her hand and tell her you’re not going anywhere, pausing long enough to glare at Chase. And then Wilson is placing your cane beside her on the gurney as he helps wheel her to the OR, kicking things out of the path along the way.

Once they’ve got her in the elevator, Chase asks you if you’re planning to scrub in, and you’re about to say yes, when Wilson interrupts.

“He can’t,” he says, looking worried and exasperated at the same time.

“Like hell I can’t. I should be in there,” you protest. “You heard her. She wants me in there.”

“We don’t have time for this,” Chase says, guiding the gurney out into the hall and toward the OR,and he’s so commanding in that moment, that you actually feel a smidgen of relief that Allison is in his care. “Whatever the hell’s going on with you two is irrelevant. Foreman will assist. You can wait out here.”

You can feel the panic building as her hand slips from yours, but then she looks at you and murmurs, “I’ll be okay, House. See you soon,” and then she gives you a wobbly smile that doesn’t do much to assuage your worry.

“I love you,” you tell her, and then Foreman is giving you a sharp look before wheeling her through the doors where you can’t follow. Seconds later, Wilson is handing you your cane and guiding you toward the observation room.

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As it turns out, she is right, as usual. She’s okay. The knife missed anything vital that couldn’t be repaired, and though her vision is blurry from the head wound, that too will right itself in time.

It takes some convincing to make Foreman believe she isn’t suffering any other neurological damage when she tells him she is married to you. You find it pretty amusing actually, now that she’s out of the woods. It’s especially funny to see the look on his face, and Chase’s for that matter, whenever you’re in her room with her, sharing food and watching soaps and holding her hand, or sleeping on the chair beside her each night.

You can’t really blame them for their disbelief. Sometimes even you can’t believe that she married you, that she could love you so much. That all those years ago your hedonistic tendencies led you to this strong, intelligent, amazing, beautiful woman you would be content to spend the rest of your life with.

And it all began on a Saturday night.