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Isn’t this nice?

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It’s not that great in the end. After the finagling and manipulation for a night to himself, here his morose ass sits, missing her.

He really thought he had needed this. Thought she needed it, even if she didn’t know it. They were both people who coveted their own space. Time for themselves to recharge. Problem is, now that he has it, it isn’t living up to his expectations.

He wonders what she’ll be doing with a night free of him. House knows he can be intense. He is not for mere mortals. Lucky for him Lisa Cuddy is no such thing.

He takes a sip of his second scotch. Holding up the tumbler he considers that if he has much more he’ll no longer have the option of driving over to her place.

Will she think he’s a selfish dick if he moves the goalpost suddenly and intrudes on her night to her self. A night he imposed upon her in the first place.

His cell beeps a text alert, ‘Has Wilson forgiven your latest drugging offence?’

She’s fun. Always has been, even with all the screeching and the ‘shut up House’s. It was up there amongst the top reasons he fell in love with her. ‘Why is he still drinking from any open receptacle I give him? He’s asking for it really.’

He can hear her little snort laugh at his reply, thinks about how if he were there she would tuck herself in to his side as they watch TV. Her head against his shoulder. How she rolls her head and grins up at him when they find something funny. He suddenly aches for her.

What kind of idiot would he be if he stayed put because he can’t admit his old single life has been well and truly trumped by his 43 year old soulmate - he’s disgusted at himself for even entertaining the term - and her 3 year old shadow, who with the confidence of a child who has never been made to feel unwelcome or unsafe, accepts him in to her tiny little world with glee.

He checks the time. She’ll probably be putting Rachel to bed. As babies go she’s pretty low maintenance. It’s her mother who’s a total whack job. Cuddy has a whole rainbow of issues, thrumming just below the surface. Some he’s been aware of for years, and some she’s hidden very very well, it seems. He was practically giddy to uncover all the crazy, see she is just as screwed up as he is. He loves her all the more for it, for loving him enough to stop hiding.

Grabbing his jacket he heads out the door.

He uses his key to let himself in, finds her on the sofa tapping at her laptop, she looks so genuinely happy to see him he feels a wave of guilt for his earlier lie.

Cuddy never wastes a smile. House is never not a little knocked off kilter every time one is aimed entirely at him.

She stretches her neck to meet him as he leans down and gives her a very promising kiss. He stays in her space, “Hi.”

Her hand comes up to caress his cheek, “Hi yourself. Did you abandon Wilson at the bowling alley?” She watches closely as he drops down next to her, “You realise this is the exact opposite of bros before hoes?”

His smile reaches his eyes, “About that,”

She rolls her eyes, but there’s affection in every one of her features. “Let me guess. Couch, underwear, scotch, Real Housewives of New Jersey?”

He reaches out towards her left hand resting on the now closed laptop, touches her bare ring finger with a gentleness that immediately creates a duality within her; she wants everyone in their world to know he’s capable of this, whilst feeling fiercely protective of this secret part of him, a part of him that’s only for her, for them.

“You’ve broken my brain” - it’s just shy of a whine - “you’re always in there now.” He watches her eyebrow arc and the corner of her mouth rise, “And it’s not just the dirty stuff either.”

Cuddy laughs. “It’s okay for us to miss each other House” - she is wrestling the laptop back in to her briefcase - “ I wasn’t particularly looking forward to sleeping alone tonight for the first time in months.”

She looks a little startled at her own words, like she may have revealed more than is safe.

He gives her an exaggerated grimace. “That is pretty pathetic.”

She chooses to ignore him. Instead, just as he’d known she would, she lifts his arm and adjusts herself against him to her liking.

Stretching her legs out on to the coffee table alongside his, she wonders if the ‘modern woman’ is still permitted to delight in being so much tinier than her tall, handsome, snarky boyfriend.

House senses that something has shifted tonight. He knows what he has with Cuddy isn’t the same as what he had with Stacy. ‘Which time?’ he asks himself, because he never passes up an opportunity for self-flagellation.

Stacy had moved in to his apartment within two weeks of their second date. Lisa in her twenties and even thirties may have been just reckless enough (under all that administrative, youngest female Dean of Medicine bravado) to be persuaded to do the same, but with Rachel to consider now it is a much bigger question, with much bigger implications.

She had once told him that being introduced to her daughter and spending time with them was a commitment, one that he couldn’t take lightly. They are a package deal. They are a family.

She had been brave then, embracing a truth they had purposefully avoided. It had moved them forward, now he wants to do the same. “Would it be okay if I brought some things over here? Clothes, books, a few instruments?”

Cuddy wants to live with House, is embarrassingly thrilled at the idea.

In her mind an image flashes; them in the hallway outside his office, the hurt pounding in her chest, her tear stained cheeks in direct contrast to his bold, hopeful expression. - ‘I was wondering if we should move in together’ - neither of them understanding what was happening, how their lives were about to shift completely off course.

When they make eye contact she knows he is remembering too. “Testing the waters of co-habitation?” she asks.

Their smiles are both a little sad. How much time they lost. Cuddy thinks about how hard she fought against wanting this man, how she woke up every day for a year and told herself settling wasn’t so terrible.

The Lisa Cuddy who walked in to a destroyed bathroom and told a broken Greg House she loved him could never go back to playing it safe. That’s the Lisa she’s determined to remain.

Standing she holds her hand out to him, “If we plan on having sex on your piano we should really do that while it’s still at your apartment.”

He goes perfectly still, eyes wide, mouth set, “Do not play with me Cuddy.”

She’s laughing as he eventually takes her hand and let’s her hoist him to his feet, which only encourages him, “We could make it over there and back before Rachel even notices we’re gone, right?”

Her hand still in his she turns to face him, walks backwards, leads him towards her - their - bedroom, and how can he not still question that this is all real, that he didn’t take the Vicodin that night.

She’s on fire inside, concedes to what she’s suspected all along - probably as far back as Michigan; maybe, just maybe, this is it.