Hi! This is my first fic in the House fandom, which is super exciting. I'm probably a little late - a lot of my favourite House fics were last updated years ago - but I was pretty young when House first aired so I only discovered the series recently, and I couldn't help falling in love with House and Cuddy's dynamics (at least before season 7). Anyway, one of my favourite episodes is "Airborne", and that's sort of where the idea for this originated? It's also vaguely influenced by the plane crash in season 7 of Grey's Anatomy. I know some things may not seem like they make sense right now, but hopefully as the story progresses, they will. Enjoy!
Chapter One: Gone With the Wind
A gust of wind batters against the side of the plane, which swerves alarmingly.
Cameron jumps, grabbing Chase's shoulder. "I don't like this."
He smiles reassuringly, patting her hand. "It's fine. If this guy's as important as they say he is, they'll do everything they can to get us to him in one piece."
"If this guy's as important as House says he is, how come the plane's in such bad shape?"
"It's not in bad shape," Chase denies, but his eyes wander to the ugly stains on the plastic seats, to the patches of rust gathering on the walls. Isn't this what a typical economy flight looks like?
Another worrying thump.
He peers out of the window, but between the darkness and the torrential downpour, it's impossible to make anything out.
"We're going to be fine," Chase repeats, this time even less convincing – like he's trying to persuade himself too.
As if the nauseating rocking and turning of the plane isn't enough, House feels the need to bang on the wall with his cane and shout over the noise of the wind. "Hey, us cripples don't like being thrown around like this, you know!"
The plane is small enough to have an open cockpit, so the pilot can hear him. He's wearing an irritated expression that Cuddy's all too familiar with. "Listen, Sir, this isn't exactly fun for the rest of us, either. There's nothing I can do about the turbulence."
Turbulence is somewhat of an understatement at this point.
"Clearly you're not well-acquainted with Dr. Cuddy," House continues loudly. It's nice to know that even several thousand feet into the air, in the middle of a storm, supposedly suffering from being thrown around so much, House remains his usual annoying self. "She enjoys being thrown around some, whenever there's somebody there that's strong enough to lift that giant ass of hers."
She ignores him, takes a deep breath. She's not in the mood for witty repertoire.
Her silence must intrigue House, because he stops bullying the pilot to turn and look at her. "What, your conversation with Foreman is too enthralling for you to bother disagreeing with me?" He casts a disparaging look at Foreman, who's asleep – she got sat next to him by default, everyone else being coupled off. "Or – gee, Cuddy – are you just that kinky? Please, tell me it's the latter."
"I feel sick," she tells him finally, hoping it'll shut him up rather than provoke more mocking.
No such luck.
He widens his eyes and pretends to look scared. "It's not meningitis, is it?"
The reminder makes her groan. Between that flight and this one, she's seriously losing her enthusiasm for air travel. Especially air travel in close quarters with House.
"If I puke," she warns him, "I'm going to make sure I puke on you."
"But Cuddy! This kind of luxury flight offers these cute little bags especially for that purpose." He waves one of the paper bags in front of her as a demonstration.
She looks determinedly in the opposite direction – the waving motion isn't doing her any favours.
"Shut up, House," Wilson – poor man – grumbles. He's been trying to catch up on lost sleep since take-off, having been woken up at three am the previous day by House's sudden arrival on his doorstep with a suitcase, but he's not faring as well as Foreman. "You being bored isn't an excuse for making everybody else on this plane miserable."
"Ain't that the truth," the stewardess says.
And then the plane dives downwards suddenly.
It's all a blur.
First they're plummeting, then the plane – buffeted by the wind – begins to spin, changing direction quicker than Cuddy changes lovers.
He chokes on air, thrust backwards in his seat. He spares Wilson a glance, sees that his friend is red in the face and similarly speechless. He wants to make a quip, but then the plane is upside-down, all the blood is rushing to his head, and he can't remember how to form words.
There's a distinctly mechanic groan and a screech of metal against metal.
Somebody throws up. Cuddy? House thinks, but it's not – Cameron has unbuckled her seatbelt and is heaving into the aisle, knuckles white where she grips onto Chase.
With a grimace, he watches the vomit slide around between seats.
"What's happening?" Wilson shouts desperately, but there's no reply from the pilot or stewardess.
"We're going to crash," House announces, with an unexpected surge of clarity.
And then he takes off his seatbelt.
"What-" Wilson paws at him, trying to grab the seatbelt. "House, this is not the time for your suicidal tendencies!"
The plane shudders.
House casts Wilson aside, holds him down with one arm and undoes his seatbelt too with the other. "We're going to crash," House repeats firmly, ignoring Wilson's squirming to stare him in the eyes. "And when we do, that seatbelt is going to kill you. It'll choke you, or slice you in half. Do you understand?"
Wilson freezes, but doesn't even hint at understanding.
"Do you understand?" House repeats.
Finally, Wilson responds with a tiny, frightened nod.
House lets go, Wilson sagging in his seat at the loss of pressure, and turns around to get started on the rest of the plane, ignoring the discomfort in his leg. Better to be uncomfortable than dead.
The plane makes sounds of protest again. This time, House could swear that the ceiling actually bends a little.
She's pale, visibly frightened in a way she doesn't usually let him witness, as she tugs at Foreman's shoulder in a pathetic attempt to wake him up. He's reminded momentarily of that flight from Singapore – not the aftermath he likes to tease her about, but those two hours when he was convinced she was going to die.
House is almost tempted to let Foreman stay asleep. If he can manage it at this speed, amidst all this chaos… Well, kudos.
"Foreman!" He bellows in the other man's face with a ferocity that sends spit flying onto him and Cuddy.
Foreman jolts awake with a cry, flailing, seemingly unable to comprehend any of what's happening around him. No different than usual, then.
"Didn't want you to miss all the excitement," he tells his fellow, although he doubts Foreman is listening.
Heroic task completed, he returns his attention to Cuddy.
"House, if we die," she begins, but he stops her.
"We won't. Take off your seatbelt."
He fully expects her to argue, to call him an idiot. He's already half-prepared to clamber over the seat to undo it himself. But she follows his order without hesitation.
If he needed any confirmation that this was serious, this is it.
There's more to be done, but he allows himself a few seconds to look her in the eyes.
They've known each other twenty years. He knows every line and freckle of her face. He could probably guess the number of eye-lashes she has and get a near-exact answer.
There's a lot he could say. That he should have called her back, all those years ago. That she's a good boss, even if he's always trying to convince her otherwise. That if she'd asked, he would have agreed to be her sperm donor. That in other circumstances, he could have happily spent a lifetime with her.
But there's a reason he stopped her from talking. And a part of him is certain she'll just know all this, that eye contact is all she needs in order to understand.
So he nods to his panicked employee and says, "Help Foreman," before beginning the awkward shuffle over to Cameron and Chase.
He never reaches them.
There's an ear-splitting whine as a whole wing of the plane is ripped away.
Cuddy yelps, tries to hurry her shaking hands as they assist in the fight against Foreman's seatbelt, which is jammed.
She glances around, hoping somebody else might be around to provide assistance, but knowing they probably won't be. House is slowly making his way to Chase and Cameron, slipping in vomit, and Wilson is trembling as he checks over the stewardess, who's unconscious.
Is the pilot conscious? She wonders for a moment, but it doesn't matter anyway. There's not going to be much of the plane left to fly at this rate.
There's a sucking sound from the hole where the right wing used to be. Papers flutter, a bag tumbles out of its compartment and is immediately pulled out into the open air.
They're way too close to the ground. She can see the treetops.
The wind drags at her hair. She feels the tug of the hole, digs her heels into the floor to avoid being wrenched away like that bag.
"Take off your seatbelt," she mutters derisively, glaring at House's stumbling form - he's yelling something at Chase and Cameron. What an idiot.
She abandons Foreman's seatbelt. Considering the hole, he'll most likely be better off with it after all.
Cuddy can tell he's purposefully ignoring her, and her hand itches to slap him. In the hospital, fine, he can ignore her - he's lowered her standards for him as an employee over the years. But now, when they're dying, when these could be her last words for all she knows, when she could be trying to get his attention to pass him a parachute for all he knows…
"Sit back down! You're going to get pulled out of the plane!"
It's like he wants to die.
The end of his cane is hooked around a seat, tethering him down even as the storm tears at his shirt, but Cuddy sees the moment when he slips, when his grip loosens and uncharacteristic fear flashes across his face-
She climbs out of her seat out of pure instinct, grabs him by the sleeve, provides the extra few seconds he needs to pull himself upright.
And then they're hit by another strong gust, the plane veers to the left abruptly, she's lifted into the air – one of her heels is ripped away – and he grabs her hand, but it's not enough.
There are several resounding crashes, a flash of heat, thick plumes of smoke…
And then darkness.