Word count: 1,073
Summary: She could lie to him, tell him it was about the baby, tell him it was because they'd fallen madly in love, tell him that they aren't sleeping together at all. But it's really all so much simpler than that.
Notes: Many thanks to savemoony for the suggestions and the willing ear.
He pours her coffee in the morning and presses a kiss to her temple. Sunlight pours in through the window, reflecting off the kitchen tile. Good morning, he says.
Good morning, she replies, shaking the sleep from her mind.
It's still surprisingly cold, winter sun, so she sits down at the table and wraps her hands around the cup, letting its heat warm her palms and fingers. He slides into the chair opposite hers, smile faint and vaguely old. She likes the way he fills up the space. She's too used to seeing an empty chair.
He places one of his hands around one of hers and runs a thumb across her knuckles. The touch is oddly intimate and familiar. He doesn't say anything, but it's better like that, easier for both of them. She closes her eyes, lets herself sink into this moment, even though it's dangerous, even though she might not be able to pull herself out of it again.
The coffee is still hot when she drinks it, scalding and bitter. But she smiles. She likes it that way.
Right before lunch, House barges into her office with his usual fervor. She braces herself for impact.
"So I hear you're fucking Wilson," he says, and she can tell that he's trying to be casual, though he really isn't.
"Not any of your business," she replies, calmer and smoother than she expected from herself.
House sits down on the couch and makes himself comfortable. "It's not the baby thing again, is it? Because there are far easier ways of getting sperm." He pauses for a moment. "Actually, wait. No, there aren't." There's an actual sharpness to his words that she's not used to hearing. House makes fun of Wilson all the time, but not like this, not with this sort of bitterness. It makes her wonder whether or not they've already had this conversation.
She smiles, with some effort, but that's okay, she's used to it. "Still not any of your business."
House snorts. "Like that's ever stopped me before."
"You don't have any claim on me," she says, raising an eyebrow. "Or him, for that matter."
House looks away for a moment. "True," he admits grudgingly, "but that doesn't explain why you're screwing like bunnies."
She could lie to him, tell him it was about the baby, tell him it was because they'd fallen madly in love, tell him that they aren't sleeping together at all. But it's really all so much simpler than that, and she thinks that even lying to him would give away too much. "I'm busy, House. Go bother someone else," she says instead.
She's somewhat surprised when he actually listens.
They meet, later, for lunch at the deli down the street. They take a table by the window, with a good view of the sidewalk. The bright sunlight makes his skin look paler, and his eyes look darker. A cup of tea this time, paper instead of ceramic between her hands.
Got the lecture, too? he asks. His smile is lopsided and charming. She almost wishes she were in love with him. Maybe it would make this whole thing easier.
The tea is mild and soothing. Yes, she replies.
We knew it was going to come, he says, and even though they haven't talked about it before this moment, it's true.
Outside, a couple passes by, holding hands. An SUV rolls down the street. She watches from behind the glass, tea in hand, eyes unfocused, mind thinking. He's House, she says. Her tea has cooled down, and her hands are cold again. She rubs them together, absently.
She hears his soft laugh, catches a glimpse of its reflection in the window. The sound is sweet and honest and kind of pained. She realizes that she likes him.
She also realizes that if she wanted to, she could count down the days until the end.
House ambushes her outside the clinic. "Why?" he says, and it almost doesn't sound like a question, but she knows it is.
There's an answer to this question that she could give, the truth about the fact that Wilson had kissed her one day and she had kissed back, and maybe it won't last, and maybe it's not good for her, and maybe she doesn't really care. But she doesn't give him that answer. "Why not?" she replies.
House plunges ahead anyway. "Are you in love with him?" he asks, without pausing.
"No," she says without even thinking about it, and she curses herself for letting him use surprise to gain the upper hand.
House looks vaguely relieved. "Well, it's nice knowing that you haven't lost your mind completely."
It feels like too much of a slight for her to let it go. "He doesn't love me either," she reminds him, and it might be giving to much away, but she doesn't care.
The words that come out of House are sarcastic, but she can hear the truth of them underneath. "Yeah," he says. "I know."
That night, he cooks dinner in her kitchen, so that it smells like heat and herbs and spices, and when she sits at the table, he pours her a glass of wine.
The window is ink black with night, and the kitchen lights are bright and warm. How was your day? he asks, turning away from the stove for a moment. He looks relaxed, at ease with himself and this space. It surprises her, because this whole thing felt newer than that, more unsure and unsteady. Maybe it really is, and this is just the way he fakes it.
She thinks that this might be what it's like to be married to him.
My day was good, she says, and she almost wishes that the response wasn't automatic. Yours?
He sits down and tells her about a prank House pulled, something to do with the balcony and snow, his face lighting up with amusement, and it's comfortable, and it's nice, and it's not enough. She thinks that maybe, once, she could have loved him. She thinks that maybe he could have loved her back.
In the soft light, his face looks older, his expression warmer.
She smiles and takes a sip of her wine. The glass is cold between her fingers.