Cuddy had left her laptop on in the main room after checking her e-mail, so she supposed she should have known it was going to sound off again when she heard its cheery ping. Especially when she was in the bathroom, getting ready for the evening. She tried to ignore it while she put on her underwear and applied her evening makeup, but it didn't shut off.
With a long-suffering groan, she exited the bathroom, wearing a fluffy hotel bathrobe and still toweling her hair dry. When she reached the laptop on the desk, she saw that it was a request for a video connection. Raising an eyebrow, she wondered who would be trying to contact her at ten at night. The hospital administrators conference, held in Portland, Oregon this year, had ended for the day. She was on her way to an after-hours meeting with Doug. He would use his cell phone to contact her, so who--?
She probably should have realized who it was, when she opened the connection and saw House's gleeful grin at the other end.
"House." She sighed an exasperated sigh. "What do you want?"
"Why hello, Dr. Cuddy," he said cheerfully, ignoring her annoyance. "You're looking very fine this evening."
She saw from the background that House was at home, sitting on his couch, cane leaning against the armrest. There was a glow of lamps behind him; the light from his laptop screen cast a bluish tint onto his face. "What are you doing? It's one in the morning in Princeton. Shouldn't you be asleep?"
He raised a shot glass of bourbon and downed it in one. "Just thought I'd see how your conference is going."
"It's going just fine, thank you," she replied curtly.
"Will you be back tomorrow?"
"Day after. Look, can you make this quick? I have to head out in a few minutes." She eyed the little black sleeveless dress laid out on her bed.
"Heading out?" House raised his eyebrows. "This late at night when you should be in bed?"
"It's only ten here. Plenty of time to go out and enjoy some of the night life." She picked up a pair of gold drop earrings from the desk and fastened them on.
"That's lame," House retorted. "I know you, and I know Portland. Portland's boring. You're getting ready to hit the hotel lounge downstairs and meet someone."
"I'm going down to the bar for a drink," Cuddy replied, trying to hide her impatience. "Just. A. Drink."
"You only wear that shade of red lipstick when you're out to catch some poor prey in your claws," he continued. "I bet you're wearing your black thong and bra set under that virginal white robe."
Cuddy blushed furiously, turning away and mouthing, "Shit."
House's voice became more insistent. "Come on, Cuddy! Are you so interested in Phil the drug rep from Boston that you'll have a one-night stand with him?"
"His name's Doug, and he's very nice," she said automatically. She then cringed when she realized House had nailed everything but the name.
"Whatever. Either way, you'll end up regretting it in the morning."
"My regrets, and my sex life, are none of your business, House!"
His face took on a stern expression. "Look, this guy is trying to sleep his way to an exclusive supply contract with my hospital's administrator. As a concerned department head, it is my business."
"Why, how magnanimous of you, House! My knight in shining armor!"
"You should see my sword."
"If only you showed such dedication to your position all the time."
House simply shrugged.
"Look, I'm a big girl," Cuddy continued. "I don't need your protection. I can handle this myself."
"Stay in tonight and I'll make it worth your while."
Cuddy raised a skeptical eyebrow. "How do you plan to do that?"
House leered and gestured at the screen. "It's a two-way video connection."
"Like phone sex, but with visuals."
"Leaving out the part where you record everything and the whole world sees it on YouTube tomorrow? No!"
"Cuddy. Don't go. It's safer to get off with a fr--with someone you know rather than a stranger with an agenda."
Cuddy blinked, clearly filling in the cut off word. "Someone you're connected to," she replied quietly, and smiled fondly as House stared at the floor, his mouth twisting in that familiar downturned grin. House, you have the strangest ways of showing you care for someone, she thought. Aloud she said, "Your own agenda notwithstanding, of course."
He looked up, gazing directly at her. "At least you know mine."
Even through the distortion of the LCD screen, she could easily read that odd mix of raw vulnerability and utter certainty that made it so hard to resist his requests. She rubbed a twinge in her temple, wondering if House was that aware of his facial expressions. She felt her own resolve waver.
"House, it's inappropriate."
"And sleeping with drug reps isn't?"
"I never said I'd sleep--"
"At the very least it'll generate a conflict of interest. If the Board gets wind of this--"
"Enough!" The twinge flared, and her neck tensed. "God, House! I'm three thousand miles away. On my own time." Still, her stomach sunk. The number of hospital administrators in the States was small enough that word would get back to the Board. She hated when House was right.
"Even if I cancel my date with Doug, it doesn't mean I'll give you a tits and ass show," she continued. "It's already ten o'clock, I'll just go to bed."
"You want sex, Cuddy. I'll bet you're ovulating." She winced at his observation. "You need it. You're not just satisfied with your fingers or your vibrator when you ovulate. You want someone with you when you come."
Despite herself, she felt a flutter in the pit of her stomach at the barely restrained roughness in his voice. "And that person should be you? Even if I said yes, you're not here, you're across the country."
"I can still be with you by video uplink. I can talk you through. Totally safe," he repeated.
She doubted that. "I can just turn off my laptop," she pointed out. "Totally ignoring you."
"But you won't. You don't really want to sleep with Phil--"
"--But you want sex. I'm offering the next best thing. Long distance, and you don't even have to sleep with me. No STDs, no drugs. No drug reps."
Cuddy closed her eyes in frustration. She knew she was about to let House walk all over her. Worse, her body wanted her to, as the flutter climbed to a thrill. "Dammit, House," she finally said in defeat. "I hate you."
"Love you too. May as well make yourself comfortable."
She looked around, then moved the laptop to the ottoman. She pulled both in front of the armchair in the corner of the room. She got up again to set the security bolts on the door and close the curtains. Finally, she sat down. "Ready," she called.
"This is not a good angle," House said, pouting. "Raise the laptop so I can see you."
She groaned, but went to fetch two thick phone books from the hotel desk, setting them on the ottoman. Piling the laptop on top, she couldn't hide her annoyance. "Better?"
Sinking back into the chair, she pressed back, leaning against the headrest and closing her eyes. "Where to, House?"
"Open your robe."
She untied the terrycloth belt and slid the robe open, revealing the black lace bra and thong set that House predicted she was wearing.
House wolf-whistled in appreciation. Cuddy smiled at that despite herself. "Your girls are looking especially perky tonight. Too bad I can't see them in person. Unfasten your bra."
Her eyes still closed, she unhooked the eyes at the front and pulled the cups apart, revealing her breasts. Despite House's distance, she could still feel his hungry stare, and she shivered, the goosebumps rising on her skin.
Of course House would notice. "You cold?"
"The air conditioning is on."
"You'll warm up soon. Play with your nipples."
Cuddy shook her head. House had always been the consummate breast man. She decided to play it up a bit. Licking her thumbs and fingers, she drew them down her skin from her collarbone to each breast, leaving a glistening trail of saliva. She lazily circled each areola, then teased each nipple into erect buds. She heard the strangled sigh from the other end of the connection and smiled in satisfaction.
"Do you want to suck these, House?"
"God, yes," he groaned, his breathing heavier. She imagined his face pressing against them, taking each one in his mouth, the rasp of three-day-old stubble on her sensitive skin. She shivered again, feeling the beginnings of wetness between her thighs.
She kept flicking her thumbs over her nipples, gently squeezing and pushing her breasts together, enjoying hearing House's reaction. She may as well make him feel it too, she thought; make him want to jerk off so badly he would join her, as disgusting as it sounded. As he said, it was a two-way video connection.
"Start heading south, slowly," House directed. Cuddy grinned at the effort House was needing to keep his voice steady.
Her fingers splayed over the underside of her breasts, she began to slide them down each side of her stomach. She took her time, drawing it out as she brushed her navel.
"Turned on yet, House?" she called playfully.
Cuddy heard a sound between a grunt and a moan, so oh yes, he was. She licked her lips as her fingers caressed the black lace at the top of her thong.
"Spread your legs," House murmured.
At that, Cuddy felt her cheeks burn. Playing with her breasts and stomach was one thing, but this felt like exposing all of herself to him. She hesitated.
"It's all right," he added. "I won't stare."
She snorted at that. "You'll just drool," she countered. His quick chuckle at her comment calmed her down. She splayed her legs, her feet resting on the carpet, feeling the cool air hit her heated groin.
"You're soaked through," House whispered. "God, that's hot."
She slid two fingers beneath the silk of the thong without being asked. When she withdrew them, she brought her middle finger to her mouth and sucked it, opening her eyes to catch his reaction.
House groaned a long, low "Fuck," and she watched gleefully as he closed his eyes, his lips trembling.
"You want it too," she said. "Admit it."
House licked his lips. "Take that thong off."
She obediently hooked her fingers into the elastic at either side, lifted her buttocks, and slid the thong off, her hair falling into her face. She grinned wickedly as she sat back down, spreading her legs again to give House a full view. She thought she heard an unzipping noise at the other end of the connection. Just what she expected. Nevertheless, she dipped her fingers down again to that wet softness, rubbing her finger in small circles, her hips rocking back and forth in the chair.
She felt the pleasure building down low between her legs, trying to fight its way up and out. She couldn't help but let a small gasp escape. This was good. This was almost too good, knowing that House was so far away and couldn't touch. And sad, too, that he was so far away--it didn't seem fair. But he wanted it, so this is what he got. House was at her mercy.
Until his next request. "Use your fingers, Cuddy."
Her breath catching at the roughness of his voice, she slowly slid one finger, then two, into her slick heat, her muscles contracting. It wasn't enough though, she needed more fullness inside; she added a third finger, arching her hips forward in the chair. She leaned back in the chair as far as she could, her fingers working, her muscles clenching, her breathless moans reaching her ears. She heard House's voice, distant and low like a caress.
"Now remember the last time."
She concentrated, and suddenly she was back to eighteen years ago: back to the days when they were Greg and Lisa instead of House and Cuddy. Back to that sultry June afternoon in House's studio apartment; the day before House was to set off for Baltimore and his fellowship at Johns Hopkins. In the small, cramped room that had no air conditioning, stacks of books piled on the desk, music scores scattered on the floor by his guitar leaning against the wall; back to what turned out to be the last time.
She couldn't see him off the next day; she had been scheduled for a twenty-four hour rotation starting at seven that evening. She had been there supposedly to help him pack. Instead, they had tumbled into bed not ten minutes after she arrived. Indeed, Greg had pulled her to him even before the door had closed, his fingers already tangling in her hair, pulling to unknot her loose bun. She remembered his mouth, hard against hers, their tongues entwining; his lips sliding up and down her neck while he untied the straps of her halter top; her hands skating up and down his sides as she ground against his pelvis.
He pulled her shorts and panties down in one smooth motion, dropping to his knees, and pressed his nose against her, his tongue flicking at her lightly. She clutched his head, arching against his mouth while he sucked and kissed up and down, until she groaned and shuddered against his face. When he pulled back, he grinned wickedly and licked his lips.
He took her hands and pulled himself back up, then drew her back to his single bed. Lisa pulled his shorts down and off, laughing at Greg's erection springing to attention. He laughed too, and sat down on the edge of the mattress, his legs spreading. She knelt between them and took him into her mouth.
Looking up at him, his head thrown back and teeth clenched, she burned his figure into her memory: the sight of his heaving chest and well-muscled arms, the sound of his gritted curses, the feel of him, rough and silk under her hands and mouth--Greg at the mercy of her touch. She swirled her tongue, her lips sliding up and down, bringing him almost to the brink--until he drew her head back, making his penis pop out of her mouth with a wet plop. They laughed again--who said sex had to be serious?--and he pulled her up to him, until she lay on top.
He swung their legs onto the bed proper, before reaching over to the desk beside him for the condom. She straddled his hips, he handed the condom to her, and she slowly unwrapped and slid it on, her hand working him. Another memory burned, of Greg thrusting up, the sweat already beading on his body hair. She rose up, and brushed against his erection once, twice, teasing him until he grabbed her hips and gently, gently guided her down.
They both moaned as he arched up and she bore down, her hips rolling slightly. They began a slow rhythm, each thrust winding her up tighter and tighter, a spring of pleasure coiling in her pelvis. Greg's hands squeezed her breasts, her arms, her buttocks, roaming everywhere, and hers searched too, cupping his face, smoothing his hair. She leaned down to kiss him, up his neck, his forehead, his cheek, feeling a desperate need to remember all of this. Her eyes squeezed shut, committing whatever she could, each gasp and moan, each press of his fingers. Their rhythm sped up, the bedsprings beginning to creak under the weight of their rocking bodies. She rose up again, eyes still closed, her body arching back while Greg rolled his hips with his thrusts.
"Look at me, Lisa."
Her eyes snapped open, and she gazed through the curtain of her hair: up the long line of his body glowing with sweat, to his head on the pillow; past the angle of his clean-shaven jaw, his parted lips, the damp curls plastered to his forehead, to his eyes, their brilliant blue almost obliterated by the storm-gray of need. Her sight shimmered, wetness beading her lashes. It didn't matter that no breeze blew in from the wide open window, no relief from the butter-thick humidity of the summer air; all that mattered was Greg beneath her, inside her and around her, holding her firm and steady as they rocked together. She bit her lower lip, her hands bracing herself against his chest. She was so close, so very close--
Then Greg reached down between them, rubbing her gently with his thumb.
"Greg--" she whimpered.
And the pleasure uncoiled with his touch, rushing down and out. She bucked with it, gasping with each spasm. She barely heard Greg's "That's it, Lisa, that's it,"--all she could feel was the flow of her orgasm overwhelming her.
Eighteen years later--in an overstuffed arm chair in an anonymous hotel room three thousand miles away--Cuddy bucked again, feeling her muscles roll in waves against her fingers. Somewhere far away from her, she heard House murmuring, "That's it, Cuddy, that's it," his voice a low caress.
She thrust and rubbed herself furiously, not wanting the release to end. As it subsided, she felt her whole body trembling with exertion. She collapsed back into the chair, shakily pushing her hair out of her face.
When her breaths finally approached normal, she opened her eyes, pulled her bathrobe back around her, and leaned forward to the laptop screen. House was studying her with the same mix of certainty and vulnerability that he'd had before this started, and something twisted in her stomach. When he noticed her, he quickly readjusted his features to their usual half-mocking expression, but not fast enough. Cuddy felt a warm glow of affection at seeing him look so raw.
Even odder, was that House did not look nearly as disheveled as she felt. She'd expected him to jerk off along with her, being the ass he normally was--but he didn't look as if he'd undressed at all, much less exerted himself. She filed that observation away to mull over later. Meanwhile, House had plastered a smirk on his face.
"Was it good for you?" he asked solicitously.
"Oh--oh yeah," Cuddy admitted, her voice still a little shaky. "How about you?"
"You were a sight to behold," House said admiringly. "Any guy who couldn't get off watching that needs his head examined." She smiled at his careful evasion.
"So, no Phil tonight?"
She grinned and shook her head, her hair falling into her face. "God, no. That was enough."
House's grin grew wider and self-satisfying. "I told you it'd be worth your while."
"Yes it was," Cuddy agreed, her affection growing deeper. "Now I'm ready for bed."
"For a repeat performance?"
At that she rolled her eyes. "Is that all you think about?"
House shrugged. "It's all about sex."
"With you, yes it is." She fixed him with a friendly but steely glare. "Oh, and House? I'm warning you. I will be checking YouTube tomorrow morning."
"Yes, mistress," he said mock-contrite. His face softened. "Good night, Cuddy. Sweet dreams."
"Good night, House," she replied fondly. She reached over and closed the video connection on her laptop.
House stared at the blank video window for several minutes, sipping his bourbon thoughtfully. He couldn't believe she'd let him get away with this. Trusting him to watch, after all the years of heartache he'd inflicted on her, purposely and not--when she knew very well he'd recorded the whole show.
And she'd been right, he had been aroused, watching her--to the point that he was ready to pull down his own pants and join her after she'd tasted herself. Not that he could see much--her hand obscured most of the view. But then the amount of pleasure he'd seen on her face had been overwhelmingly greater. He focused on that, ignoring his own. Eighteen years later, Cuddy was still just as breathtaking in the throes of passion as she had been then. Eighteen years later, he could still do that for her. They'd been good together, once.
That ship had already sailed. But maybe, after Cuddy's willingness to trust him tonight--maybe there was a possibility that a lifeboat had been left after all.
He closed off the video window, looking at the mpeg file it had generated on his desktop display. It was unnamed--it sat there, waiting for him to decide what to do. He downed the rest of his bourbon, and dragged the file into the Trash. He used the Secure Delete option to delete it. Then he powered down his laptop, still pondering.
After a few more minutes of staring at the blank screen, he grabbed his cane and heaved himself up. There were still too many hours until dawn, and his leg wasn't going to let him sleep much. But he felt relaxed enough, that he could try, anyway. He switched off the light on his way out, not looking back at the darkened and silent computer.