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Disclaimer: The Pretender is the property of Steve & Craig and NBC; House is the property of FOX. No infringement is intended and no profit is being made.
Time Line: The Pretender, post-Island of the Haunted (way, way past) and House, post-season four.
Note: Uh, this is for cuddy_fest, 2007. Also for fanfic100, #017: brown.
Author's Note: This is some kind of rambling, stream-of-consciousness thing. It's odd. It ended up being more of a character study of Lyle than anything else, but Cuddy is in here. Besides, I always thought Lyle was more human than the show gave him credit for. (That could just be my obsession with him talking, though.)
Dedication: This is all hihoplastic's fault, and she has waited so patiently for the last year for this. This is the sixth time I've attempted writing this and it's not so fucked up I can't finish it, but I think it's still pretty...fucked up. No one dies in this version, at least. I hope you like it, hun!
Summary: He's passed out on his desk by eight thirty. Another successful day.
The first time he sees her is on the wrong side of a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label. He has an IV hooked up to his arm, his throat aches from the tube that had been shoved down it and his mouth feels like it's packed with cotton, and he notices her hair. It's almost the exact same shade of brown as Miss Parker's, and he wonders what it looks like straight, if she can flip the ends out and look like she's stepped out of a black and white film.
She notices him staring, notices his rumpled suit, notices the IV. She's on the other side of the room, glancing over at him occasionally while listening to the blond (not natural, it's just a little too bright and there's nothing he hates more than dyed hair) who has been talking her ear off for the better part of ten minutes.
She leaves after the blond has finished her one-sided discussion, and glances his way once more before breezing through the doors. The blond comes to check on him, and he not-so-subtly inquires after the "feisty brunette." He learns she's the hospital administrator, among other things (important things, like there's a bit of a budget crisis since one of the investors pulled out, and she's already overworked and this really isn't helping anyone).
He mentions he's the head of a corporation that might be interested in investing, since he's received such top-notch care. The blond beams and promises to mention it to the brunette. He clumsily fishes for a card, his fingertips feeling numb until they prick the edge (not all of the Johnnie is out of his system and he really just needs to sleep it off) and offers it to her.
She quirks an eyebrow at it, at the pretentiousness it embodies. "Mr. Lyle." Black words, upper case, small print, stark contrast to the white of the card. She flips it over and reads the back. "The Centre. Blue Cove, Delaware."
He smiles charmingly, already feeling sleep tugging at the edges of his vision. The blond promises to pass the word and takes her leave. He's asleep almost instantly.
The second time he sees her is while under duress, Miss Parker's long nails digging into his arm as she guides him out of the hospital. She's pissed at him, but that's nothing new. They pass the clinic and she's standing there, tight skirt and tight jacket and low-cut blouse and that perfect shade of brown hair. She notices him and waves, he waves back, Parker snorts and makes a crude remark about her ethnicity (he only likes the Asian women for dinner, he reminds her with a smirk, and her fingers tighten their hold on his arm), and they're out the doors before he can try to stop and attempt to charm the skirt right off of her.
He settles for staring at Miss Parker's hair, imagining his fingers in it while she pants beneath him (from lust or fear, it doesn't much matter to him). She snaps her fingers in front of his face and he realizes they're at the car and she's somehow even more pissed off than she was before.
He thinks she's beautiful when she's angry. He doesn't tell her this, not anymore, not after everything that's happened. They climb in and she doesn't mention his newfound alcoholism and he doesn't mention the hickeys on her neck. They both have their ways of dealing with their problems. Sometimes it is very evident to him that they are brother and sister, but that doesn't stop him from fantasizing.
Today, though, he isn't thinking about his sister, not really. He tries to think up a convincing reason to give to the Tower for why they should invest in Princeton-Plainsboro, and he wonders if Miss Parker will let him stop at a liquor store.
One glance at her tense figure and he decides to push his luck.
He still hasn't come up with a valid reason for the Tower, and he doesn't really care at all. He's taken to seeing just how drunk he can get before nine in the morning now because, fuck it, the world as he knew it no longer exists. He just doesn't care, can't be bothered to worry about his sister sneaking off to fuck Jarod in some remote location, about scrolls and missing uncles pretending to be fathers and wheezing bastards that are fathers and, Christ, is this really his life?
He knocks back another shot of Johnnie (Red Label this time), feels it burn down his throat and it's only seven thirty. He wonders when she'll call, because there's no doubt that she'll call (The Centre looks almost perfect on paper, never mind all the dealings that aren't shown to the government; he's a big believer in bribery) but it's a matter of when and he's sick of waiting. He's spent his whole life waiting.
Sydney ambles in, and he wants to remind the fatherly Belgian that it's rude not to knock, but there's no point because it's been like that for years and damn it, he needs a drink. Sydney reminds him that he should really cut back, it isn't good for him, and he wants to tell him off for playing daddy, but doesn't because he never really had a father and it's nice to pretend. He's jealous of Jarod on so many levels, but he tries not to think about it. He pours himself another drink, offers Sydney one and he accepts. They drink in silence.
He's passed out on his desk by eight thirty. Another successful day.
His secretary breezes in after him at seven in the morning, and he notices that she's new. He tries to remember when he was sober enough to perform his ritual of torture and then eating the last one, but he can't so he deduces she probably just quit. He can't remember the last time he's kept a secretary around long enough for her to get bored and quit. He abandons the line of thought in favor of the liquor cabinet, which he instantly notices is utterly empty. Before he can even say a word, his secretary tells him that Sydney took all the liquor and that he said to return this one phone call before he can have it back. He snatches the piece of paper out of her hand and glares at her until she slinks out the door, pale skin flushing underneath her tight-fitting dress.
Dr. Lisa Cuddy, Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital.
Re: investment opportunities.
He smirks and picks up the phone. He'll make Sydney come up with some bullshit reason to justify the exorbitant amount of money he's going to throw at that hospital. Her secretary answers and sounds overworked and angry, but passes him along and suddenly he realizes he needs to carry on a conversation while sober (well, mostly--he did have three shots for breakfast) and he tries to remember the man he once was. Too quickly her voice is on the line and his mind blanks, but only for a second. He thinks he's awkward but has a feeling she finds it endearing, and they agree to dinner to hash out the details.
He calls Sydney and demands his liquor back. He's behind schedule.
The restaurant is average, the customers are average, the staff is average and for a minute he almost feels normal when he steps through the door. Then he notices the dull, persistent ache in his hand where his thumb used to be and the illusion is shattered. He really misses his thumb, and he really wishes he hadn't given the stolen thumb back to his wheezing bastard of a father.
She's already seated, waiting for him, and her hair is straight with just a hint of curl on the ends and he briefly considers dragging her back to The Centre to test for latent telepathic abilities. Instead, he sits across from her and orders the most expensive bottle of wine on the list because he's paying whether she likes it or not. Plus, he hasn't had a drink in two hours and he can feel sobriety and the knowledge of the fucked up world he's found himself in creeping into his brain.
She starts to make a presentation but he just waves it off, not caring in the slightest what she has to say about her hospital and handing over the check the Tower has granted him (Sydney worked his magic, and he finds it hilarious that he's become the only ally he has in the whole damn corporation). She's surprised but not about to argue with him, and the conversation falls to more mundane things. She does most of the talking, and thankfully doesn't ask about his thumb. He doesn't have anything to say, anyway.
They finish the bottle of wine and he orders another bottle to go, and she's drunk enough to agree to bring him and the wine home. The instant they're through her door his hands are in her hair (the perfect shade of brown and straight and he thinks he has unbelievable luck) and her lips are welcoming his and when he closes his eyes he can see his sister and he moans into her mouth.
They never make it to the bedroom, and it takes two tries before they even make it to the couch. He has rug burns in awkward spots and she can't sit down without wincing slightly.
They have nothing in common except the check and his fetish with her hair, so he doesn't call her and she doesn't call him. He sets a new goal for eight in the morning and studiously works at it and tries to forget that he's over forty and his life and ambitions have been reduced to nothing, and all because of some fucking scrolls.
He sends a check ever year, and she thanks him with dinner and an open invitation and hair that is the perfect shade of brown.
It's the most normal relationship he's ever had, but he covers that thought with another shot. He's annoyed by the little bit of liquid that remains in the bottom, and focuses on that and only that. There's nothing else left in his life.
End note: If I lived in the universe of Island of the Haunted, I'd be an alcoholic, too.