annoyed him. It
meant many things, all of them
irritating to a man
who walked with a cane. No riding the bike to work for
one—aside from the
added risk that wet pavement and puddles created there was
the hassle of
wet seats and poor visibility.
also meant more
accidents, which in turn meant more
stupid cases in
the clinic. More falls, more head colds, more general whining
on every level,
from patients to nurses and staff. Rain meant everyone would be
cooped up in
the hospital, cranky and getting on each other’s nerves. Very
also left him
feeling . . . melancholy. Rain was just
depressing. It had
ruined perfectly good days back when he could walk normally;
Lacrosse games, cut into runs, given him chills. Now rain made his
leg ache more, adding an underlying grind to the ongoing throb, a
extra hurt that the Vicodin never could touch.
reminded him of the
day Stacy left.
day she left
just in general,
a pisser. The only good thing
about it at the moment
was that he wasn’t out IN it. Instead he was home warm
and dry, about to
suck down some chowder from a can of soup and scope out the
per View offerings while sprawled out on the couch. His kind of
rang the bell;
House looked at his front door
suspiciously. If it was
Wilson or any of the Brady Bunch they would have
trained them well. No, a ringing bell meant someone else.
in the secret signals. House yelled. “Who is it?”
answer. After a few
seconds, the bell rang again, an
demanding a reply. House hated the sound of his own doorbell,
fighting the Pavlovian response welling up in him. He scowled more
reluctantly leaving his microwaved soup on the kitchen counter and
Jehovah’s Witness I’m a devout Pagan, and if
you’re a Girl Scout
I’m a cannibal—“ he shouted more loudly
reply. Feeling his
annoyance rise, House made it to the
door and checked
the spy hole, seeing no one. Unfortunately, the door to the
hallway was open,
and rain was gusting into the building foyer. House gritted
his teeth, his ire increasing exponentially. Clearly the asshole had
outer door open, and
now House would have to go close it. Normally he wouldn’t
care, but the cold seeping in was annoying, and the danger posed by the
on the foyer hall
was bad enough for folks with two good working legs, never
mind a man with liabilities in that department.
unlocked his door
and cautiously stepped out, a low
ongoing string of profanity leaking out of him as he did so. The chill
in did nothing to
improve his temper, and he hastily reached for the knob of
the door. Just as
he began to pull it shut, a small streak of wet grey fur shot
in and through his
feet, startling the hell out of him. He wobbled a little,
catching himself on the doorjamb and peered back in time to see the
through the gap he’d
left in the door to his place.
slammed the building
door and turned, stalking back to
his apartment and carefully looking around, but the little thing had
out of sight, and in
any case the room was dim. House flicked the switches next
to the wall, filling
the living room with light. He winced a little at the
invader, let’s dance—“ he groused.
systematic search, moving left around the bookcases. Nothing. Under
writing table. Nothing. Over and under the piano and bench. Nothing.
frustrated, House glanced along the sofa and towards the
froze. The kitten was
on the table, front paws on the
edge of his soup mug, daintily lapping at his chowder.
Get away from
my FOOD!” he yelled. The kitten shot him
a wary look
and turned back to the chowder. She managed three more quick licks
before prudently skittering off the table as House wrathfully lumbered
When he’d reached the kitchen and his defiled soup, he
picked it up.
the mistake of thinking I’m some kind-hearted
SOB, cat. This is
MY soup and MY house. When I catch you, I’m going to throw
your fuzzy little
butt back out into the rain,” he announced loudly before
slurping a mouthful of
expect one, but part of him was amused at
the kitten’s sheer audacity. Carrying the mug out to the
dropped himself onto
the sofa and picked up the remote. He was determined to
ignore the kitten; lull
her into a sense of false security. It had worked with
every other female he’d
ever known, and he had no reason to doubt it would work
House clicked the television on and looked over the selections
his viewing pleasure.
passed up BarebackMountain
and V for
Vagina for the more promising
18 Blondes. As the action began
build on the screen, House surreptitiously checked out of the corner of
to see if his little squatter would make an appearance.
a while; nearly
three orgies before she wandered
into view, circling
around one of the piano bench legs. House let his attention
flick back and
forth between the screen and the kitten for a while, trying not
to alert her to
the fact he was studying her. After several minutes she moved
fireplace and sat down, giving her front paw a wash.
had dried out
now, and House noted she was a
striped tabby. Since she was roughly the size of two peanut
laid end to end, House assumed she couldn’t be very
eight weeks at most. Just over weaning and still small enough to have
rough textured kitten fur on her. As for her sex---House managed a
smirk, knowing he had an instinct about such things. Any animal
enough to scoot into HIS home and eat HIS food could only BE female.
kitten looked up at
him in a coolly appraising way, all
big ears and eyes; unafraid, but wary. House snorted at her.
ME the eye, Mooch. Looking for a handout, are
you? Well too bad.
I had the entire can of soup and I feel JUST fine about it.”
kitten returned to
washing her paw, supremely
unimpressed, and House overlaid a memory of Cuddy just that morning,
to writing a report,
equally bland. He glared at the little cat.
like . . .
never mind. You’ll be hungry soon enough,
and then I’ll have
you. So go ahead and work on your tongue bath while I get
back to the
blondes—“ But looking up he noticed the movie was
rolling. Annoyed afresh, House clicked the TV off and tossed the remote
kitten looked up at him and ventured a little bit closer, padding over
was only a foot or so from his left sneaker. House eyed her again.
dumped you out in the rain. Somebody who
thought I’d be
sucker enough to take you in. But it didn’t quite work out,
it? I’m not
interested in a pet. I have no TIME for a
wild, you know. And I hate cats—“ House bent down
and untied his
shoelace, tugging it through the eyelets until it was free of the
Temptingly he dangled it; the kitten watched the white cotton string
big, interested eyes. House gave it a twitch and the little cat dropped
wiggly crouch, eyes locked on the shoelace.
right, go with your scatterbrained instincts. Chase
a stupid piece of
string you can’t eat—“ he taunted her,
little needle claws
pinning the shoelace onto the hardwood floor. House slowly
reeled it in,
tugging it free of her grip only to toss the end out again. The
once more, her entire concentration on the moving dancing
House toyed with her for several minutes, noting how quick
she was, how
nimble despite some clutzy moves.
kitten was closer
now, and the gray of her fur reminded
him of the slate
blue of Cuddy’s eyes. Carefully House reached out a finger
batted it, her paw soft, claws retracted.
his will he
smiled, and realizing it, House scowled
once more. He sat
up again and leaned back against his couch, thinking hard
about what exactly
his door open in hopes she’d wander out;
it would take too
long and the cold would leak in. He wouldn’t call anyone to
help; not even
Especially not Wilson, who would try and talk him into keeping
little furball. No, the best bet was to lure her into a small space,
bathroom, and trap her there. Once caught, he could drop her off at
give her away to someone. Cameron maybe, or Cuddy—
thought of handing a
kitten to Cuddy left House feeling
a pang deep in his stomach. He could picture Cuddy’s graceful
the kitten, her
fingers stroking the little head, could easily visualize her
cooing into the tiny
reminded him of Cuddy. Independent.
Sudden sharp pain made House yelp; the kitten had leaped to
hang on the
shin of his jeans and was industriously clawing her way up his good
House tensed, moving to bat the cat away.
thanks! Like the other one’s not shredded
enough as it IS!” he
yelled at her. The kitten blinked at him, and twisted away
to land next to him
on the sofa. Her tail twitched and she glared at him with
bland resentment for
his tone of voice. House sneered back at her, feeling the
sting of her claw
holes along his shin.
OUT of here, “ he snapped, “Cattus non
He waved his hand at the kitten. She promptly lay down on the
tail flicking once more, her small side rising with each breath.
up the shoelace and threw it at her; she snagged it and jumped
carrying it away proudly, her back end swaying a little.
ass---although fuzzier and smaller, House
rose up and headed for the kitchen, looking for bait.
first victory was
hers, House sourly conceded as he hung
up his phone;
the conversation with his grocery delivery service had NOT gone
so you want
three cans of cat food, a litter box and
cat litter delivered
tonight. Get a cat, Doctor House?”
trying to get rid of one.”
You’re ditching a cat, but you still need food
and a litter box?”
her to crap under my bed or on my bathroom rug
getting rid of her okay? And I need the food for bait so the sooner
you get it
here the happier we’ll all be, Roy.
Can we get with the program?”
okay. Do you
need any cat toys?”
would I need
cat toys for? I’m getting RID of her!”
be going away presents?”
point House had
been tempted to throw the phone at
the kitten and let
HER finish the call, but he’d fought the urge and managed to
get through the
rest of the order, which now included a few six packs, just for
headed for the
bathroom with the last beer in the fridge,
figuring he had
just enough time for a soak before Roy
first time in a
long time, House was acutely
self-conscious of his every action; aware that he was being watched. He
the bathroom and
dropped the plug into the tub then ran the water, adjusting it
to a nice level of
heat. He looked around, and spotted the kitten peering
around the doorsill,
her ears flicking forward in curiosity. House took a step
towards her and she retreated. He began unbuttoning his shirt.
‘fraidy’, eh?” came his mocking tone.
me, I am the
alpha male of this domain.”
kitten plonked her
little butt down to watch, and
suddenly House fought
the urge to smile once again; she had chutzpah, he’d give
her that. With exaggeratedly blatant maneuvers, he stripped down,
the bathroom rug. “Normally I get a few twenties for these
I can see you’ve left your wallet at
home—“ he told
House accused, and grabbed the safety bar along
stepping into the scalding water with a wince. He settled himself in,
open the beer and gave a gusty sigh, resting his arms along the sides
tub. The heat felt blissfully good, countering the strain in his thigh.
his beer and scratched under his chin, wondering if it was time to
The steam rose up, and he closed his eyes for a moment.
Showers were fine, but there was
something far more
primitive about a bath. The combination of weightlessness
and heat did a lot
to take the stress out of a day, and lazily he wondered if
Cuddy took long
bubble baths. The imagery intrigued him and House indulged his
imagination for a moment, picturing her sliding her naked self into a
His grin widened
a bit in appreciation.
would be sleek and
curvy, most assuredly lickable--
opened one eye; the
kitten was on the edge of the tub,
scraping across the edge of his hand. He glared at her. She turned
her minute ass to him and licked again. Sorely tempted as he was to
her into the water, House thought better of it and instead slowly
hand, still clutching his beer. The kitten followed his move with
eyes, keeping perfect balance on the narrow ledge of the tub edge.
are getting on
kitten paced forward,
and stared down at the water.
draping a washcloth over himself. “You HAD your chance to see
Too late now.”
kitten was far
more interested in dabbing a paw at a
patch of beaded
water on the tub edge, poking it playfully. House sipped more
by her concentration. She circled the water carefully,
jabbing, finally sticking
her nose into it and wetting her whiskers. Annoyed,
she shook her face, trying
to clean the drops off, and House finally brushed
her off the tub edge and
down onto the fluffy bath rug. She stalked off in a
huff and he laughed.
was so like
sloshed back into
the bath and thought for a while. By
the time he got
out and had climbed into a teeshirt and drawstring pants,
he called out, moving cheerfully into the
living room. “A perfectly recombined name for a stuck-up,
bit of pussy. What do
in sight. House glanced around his
living room, gaze
moving from low to high, and finally he spotted her on the
very top of the
bookcase, tail flicking in agitation.
Lucy—“ he chided, not moving any closer.
fuzzball. Now what are you going to do?”
glanced down at him,
then paced along the top of the
eyeing the picture frames on the other side. House wondered for
how she’d managed to get up in the first place, then realized
coat rack and he was impressed against his will. As he reached for
doorbell rang; House left her and went to open it.
in a poncho,
holding two huge
plastic bags, knotted against the
rain. “Doctor House?”
ask that every
time, and the answer is still the same,”
but absently. He shuffled to let the boy in. Roy
set the wet bags on the
as House counted out the money. He spotted the kitten and
one you’re trying to get rid of?”
she’s avoided all the more obvious deathtraps.
I’m hoping to goad
her into jumping.”
always land on their feet,” Roy
murmured, taking the money and
away in a zippered bag. House glanced up at Lucy and shook his
might land on
their feet, but they still end up bloody
little coasters if the
drop is high enough.”
left, House ignored the kitten and began unpacking the bags,
zeroing in on the
six packs first.
medicine—“ he announced, setting it down
to the job of the litter box. It took only a few minutes, and as
he poured the
last trickles in, he heard a rustling and thudding behind him.
House grinned knowingly.
fails, the call of nature succeeds—“
carried the box into
the bathroom, setting it off to the
side of the toilet, and
Lucy darted to it, definitely interested. She dug,
squatted and buried in dainty
little actions that House watched with no shame
whatsoever. Finished, she sauntered up to him and circled one leg,
against his sweats. House
arched an eyebrow.
hasn’t worked, so now you’re resorting to
wiles in hopes that I’ll spring for dinner.” He
towards the kitchen.
“Let’s see what Roy
fished through the
remaining bag, pulling out the three
examining them closely. His expression soured. “Good GOD what
are they dredging up for pets these days? Liver Lumps? Sounds like a
not a dinner—“ House checked another can.
Okay, that’s just
wrong—any tuna that has toes has been swimming too close to
Bikini Atoll, if
you get my drift. What monstrosity of alliteration is on this last
Chunks. Okay, some semblance of normality. Chicken Chunks it
opened the can and
found a bowl to dump the contents
into, then moved
to set it on the floor. Lucy skittered over to it, sniffed,
looked at him and then
settled into eating. House stepped around her and went
back to his sofa,
thinking hard again.
her; he knew that. It simply wasn’t practical
for him to keep a
pet. House had enough trouble remembering to do his laundry
and fill his gas
tank; the added nuisance of cleaning a littler box and opening
cans left him
wary. At the same time, he barely wanted to admit it, but
evening interesting—more so than the movie had—and
what she would choose to do next.
reached for the latest copy of the CDC
opened it. He was halfway through a report on Lyme disease when he
small feet walking across his chest. He lifted the report to see Lucy
on his sternum. She seemed to be over her wariness, and stared down at
him. House noted the delicacy of her long white whiskers; the pinkness
insides of her big ears. She circled around and settled down onto his
like you own
the place—“ he grumbled, but softly.
House lowered his
journal went back to reading, very aware of a small patch of
hadn’t been there before.