Title: Universal Forces

Author: cschick

Pairing: House/Cuddy

Rating: R

Author's Note: This story is a slight bit of a continuation of my last story (Actions and Reactions), although there's no need to read that story to understand this story.

But as a continuation of my earlier story-it splits from the House universe after the episode Let Them Eat Cake. It makes use of estimates of Cuddy's age that pre-date her claim to being 38 in this current season. This story is also currently unfinished, and I make no promises of finishing it. It's probably about twenty-five percent written, and seventy-five percent plotted.

Something had either evolved or devolved in their relationship, these past six months.

House sat in the chair in the corner of his bedroom, crushing the tumbled pile of clothing it contained, and stared at the woman sound asleep on his bed. This wasn't the first night that he'd sat here and wondered exactly what they'd gotten themselves into, and he was pretty sure that it wasn't going to be the last.

Six months ago, Cuddy had gained and lost Joy in a single day. Six months ago, he'd gone over to her house-not even sure if he was going to attempt to offer comfort or simply more sarcasm, and he'd followed the instinct and urges he usually strongly suppressed. Five and a half months ago, they'd fought tooth and nail, and she'd come to his house that night to continue the argument. The argument had intensified but rather than her standard retreat-the next morning was the first time he'd woken with her asleep beside him.

It wasn't healthy, their taking the tension and the anger of their arguments and resolving it through an old-fashioned roll in the hay. But he was the master of embracing actions not exactly psychologically healthy.

Cuddy, on the other hand . . . in the past, she'd managed to keep herself on the level. Managed to keep herself from falling into the traps laid by cynicism and bitterness. But not anymore, not with him. He didn't try to pretend to himself that it was anything more-that she wanted to actually be with him for anything more than the sex. That it wasn't purely an indication of the darkness she'd fallen into as well. That it wasn't anything more than an indication that she was falling apart and had given up on holding herself together.

She sighed and rolled over, and her dark hair spread across the pillow. Sleep no longer erased the fine lines drawn on her face by stress and sadness. In fact, as she slept, the masks she presented to others in her life to convince them that she was happy, she was satisfied, she was living the life she wanted to live, fell away. She looked older; she looked sad. She looked lonely.

He didn't want to know how he looked when he was asleep.

Although, one of the things he found curious about the entire situation was that it wasn't just about the sex, as far as he could tell. After each of their tension-fueled sessions, she spent the night. The first time, he'd expected her to up and leave quickly in embarrassment, but she'd curled up beside him and gone to sleep. The next morning, she'd been her standard self, complaining about the lack of food in his kitchen while expertly lobbing away his half-hearted verbal shots, finally taking off for breakfast and home then work before he'd fully woken himself up for the day.

If she had some sort of strange fantasy that was partly fueling this, he wasn't going to try to argue her out of it. Nor did he really want to know about it. It wasn't his issue.

But since the second time she'd spent the night, he'd started keeping some simple breakfast foods in his kitchen-bagels and cream cheese, cereal, milk, coffee. There was no reason that she had to leave hungry. There was no reason she had to leave before sitting down with him for a quick bite to eat.

He limped over to the bed and settled in beside her, not touching, not too close, but not too far away. He didn't understand it, couldn't analyze it, but wasn't going to reject it. Not right now at least.