Notes: This was written for the House Rareathon challenge on
Live Journal. Thanks go to Jacyn and Lenore for beta.
Our interest's on the dangerous edge of things.
The honest thief, the tender murderer,
The superstitious atheist.
- Robert Browning
The conference was one of those events that sapped Cuddy's
spirit and left her feeling forlorn and disoriented, wondering how
she'd gotten from the little girl who longed to be a doctor to the
woman who spent her days looking at files and sitting on panels. She
was surrounded by hospital administrators from all over the country.
All of them so focused on cutting costs and lowering liability and who
had won the most prestigious grants, and somewhere in there weren't
they supposed to be trying to cure the sick and heal the injured?
Wilson was there in his capacity as a board member rather than as an
oncologist, and somehow that had helped to make what happened seem less
wrong. The whole experience had an air of unreality. Like this was a
space apart from their real lives where it wouldn't count if they had
too much wine at dinner, and if she let him walk her back to her room.
There was a moment when Dr. Cuddy could still have wished her colleague
Dr. Wilson a prim and professional goodnight, but instead Lisa invited
James in for a nightcap.
James was good at this. (He'd had plenty of practice her mind
whispered.) He wasn't presumptuous or overly aggressive, but he didn't
make fools of them by pretending he didn't know what was happening
They began with a few kisses, but they were only a gesture, a formality
that had to be fulfilled before they could proceed. She forgot what his
mouth felt like as soon as it was gone.
He was giving in bed, and she was happy to take, losing her self-doubt
in physical sensation, moaning and clenching around the two fingers
inside of her, she came before either of them had even touched his
After they'd finished he stroked her back for a few minutes before he
returned to his room to shower and sleep. The next morning he looked
her in the eye at breakfast, nodded, smiled.
They shared a cab to the airport and sat next to each other on the
plane making small talk until she closed her eyes and pretended to nap.
The closer they got to New Jersey the harder it was to ignore that the
man she'd had sex with last night was both married and a colleague, a
subordinate, even, and she resolved that it would never happen again.
She resolved to forget how good sex with James had felt and was
relieved to discover how quickly she could. They slipped easily back
into their normal lives, and the memories of their night together
became indistinct and detached. As if it really had happened to two
other people. She saw Wilson at board meetings and around the clinic,
and took no more notice of him than she ever did.
Until one night, stuck late at her desk, she looked up to discover
Wilson standing in the open door to her office. He had already removed
his jacket and was holding it slung over one shoulder. His sleeves were
rolled part way up his arms, an unusual baring of skin, and suddenly
she couldn't ignore the fact that she had seen him naked. The shock of
attraction that shot through her was startlingly strong. A spark of
lust fueled by the memory of the dexterity of his hands.
"You're here awfully late," he said.
"You would not believe the
amount of paperwork his latest stunt has generated." House was always
just a pronoun between them, and sometimes she imagined it capitalized,
biblical style. The omniscient, omnipresent being that pervaded their
"The Anderson case?" Wilson's expression looked like a private smile
that he was trying to pretend was a sympathetic wince.
"Yes. Is he still here? I'd like to go throttle him."
Wilson took a deep breath. "No," he said on the exhalation. His left
hand, the hand where his wedding ring would be if he wore one, came up
to rub his eyes. "He went home early. His leg was acting up something
She knew that was Wilson's version of events. If she asked House she'd
probably get some story about a hooker and a hangover. She also knew
that if she checked the clinic records she'd discover that Wilson had
covered for House. Or gotten one of the kids to do it.
"Have you eaten?" he asked. So casual and yet so loaded. She meant to
say that she had and that she was just about to head home. But the
words got caught in her throat, and instead she heard herself accepting
his invitation to go grab a bite. Once they were at the restaurant,
away from the hospital it was like they were those other selves again.
Their actions felt inevitable and slightly detached, as if they were
following a script written for other people.
She jumped him the minute her front door closed. Kissing him hard and
pulling the already loosened tie from his neck.
They were on her bed naked within minutes. She hadn't had sex with
anyone else in the intervening months. She was hungry, and he was
accommodating. He got her off quickly with his mouth, and then again
with his fingers on her clit while he was inside of her.
She rolled away from him, feeling guilty but admitting to herself this
time that she would do it again. When James appeared in her doorway a
few weeks later she didn't hesitate to shut down her computer and
follow him out to his car. The next few times she went looking for him.
Usually instead of her place they would go to a motel a few miles down
the turnpike. The sheets were tinged gray but clean, and the bed had a
headboard that clacked against the wall as he thrust into her. She
liked to close her eyes and pretend she was someone else.
Sometimes Lisa wondered what he was getting out of it, but she
suspected a similar sensation of escape. Certainly she harbored no
illusions about where his affections truly lay. She only had to glance
out her office window on any given day to see the pair of them coming
down the hall together, the floppy eared puppy and the three-legged
cur. Or at least, those were the images they wanted to present to the
world. But puppies have surprisingly sharp teeth, and the cur was more
fragile than his menacing growl would indicate. One sharp kick could
shatter his ribs. Honestly, she was more afraid of him finding out than Julie.
Her friends didn't approve of course. "Married," her best friend
Maureen clucked when she spilled the whole story one night over
margaritas and chocolate. "That's a dead end, you know."
Lisa thought that the dead end was possibly the best part. She'd spent
years going to mixers for "single professionals," going on blind dates
and J dates, and reading the "missed connections" ads in the Princeton Mirror, with nothing to
show for it. For once she wasn't wondering where this was going or why
he never called. She didn't have to hope that he was falling in love
with her or fear that he was falling out of it. For the first time in
her life she was just enjoying the sex without the burden of her
half-confessed dreams of something bigger.
Eventually, they were meeting most nights that he wasn't working late,
or out with House, or making a rare command appearance at Julie's
dinner parties, and she imagined that it must be exhausting for him to
juggle all three of them. Sometimes he would slip up and make reference
to a conversation that he seemed to think he had with her, but really
must have had with one of them, and it would stick with her for days
like a grain of sand in the sheets. Not because it hurt her feelings,
but because it didn't.
This pattern might have continued on indefinitely except that one night
afterwards he looked at her, sighed and said, "Kailee Church's parents
are refusing further treatment." He snapped his mouth shut as if he was
as surprised as she was by this breach of their tacit agreement.
"Sorry," he muttered, but it was too late. The hospital was there
between them. Cuddy reached down and pulled the sheet up to her
"So the intrathecal chemo—" She broke off, closed her eyes, opened them
"They say they want to let her die with dignity."
The words made her remember a recent clash with House when one of his
patients had wanted to stop treatment. "Death is never dignified," he
had snarled. "We need to eradicate this ridiculous notion that giving
up is courageous. Refusing to keep going doesn't mean you're noble; it
means you're tired. What's so brave about that?"
She looked at Wilson propped up in the bed next to her, his hands
folded in his lap. He hadn't taken off his watch, which drew her eyes
to the bones of his wrist, the muscles on his forearms. She felt a
surge of disgust, for him and his multiple sabotaged marriages and for
herself for being a part of it. She had taken advantage of his failings.
"I think we should stop seeing each other."
He agreed with no apparent emotion other than resignation. The thought
occurred to her that resignation was perhaps the defining
characteristic in the way Wilson lived his life.
She let him touch her cheek and kiss her goodbye, knowing he needed it
to play into his fantasy of being the nice guy.
When Cuddy got home that night she called Maureen. "So tell me about
that actuary you wanted to set me up with," she said. "Is he cute?"