House and the Dog Walker

Chapter 1

"I don't get it. Why does the fur ball have to stay with me again?"

James Wilson sighed. He had been through this already with his best friend Greg House. "I told you. My ex-wife Bonnie is going on vacation. I can't keep the dog where I live because they don't allow pets. Hector is too old to go to a kennel. It would be too hard on him. You are the only alternate."

The two friends continued their conversation while strolling down the sidewalk; walking the aforementioned dog, Hector.

House snarked: "Bonnie could just not go on vacation and say home with her precious wittle doggie."

Wilson sighed again: "House, it's only for a week. You're doing Bonnie a big favor. You're doing me a big favor. I'll spring for dinner and beer every night this week."

"Yeah, all that, plus you can buy me a couple bottles of single malt scotch cuz I'll be doing a lot of drinking with that mutt here. And if he chews up any of my stuff this time, I'm kicking his ass all the way to Philly. And you are coming over to walk him every time. Don't expect me with my crippled leg to walk the mutt."

Wilson threw his hands up in exasperation. But before he could get any words out, Hector took this opportunity to lunge after a squirrel. With Wilson's hands in the air, Hector easily pulled the leash out of Wilson's hand and took off after the squirrel.

House exclaimed: "See, that's what I'm talking about. I can't chase him with my bad leg."

Just then, around the corner came a woman walking with 6 dogs on leashes. Hector ran straight towards them. The squirrel dodged at the last minute and ran up a telephone pole.

The woman saw the runaway dog with trailing leash heading straight for her. In a loud voice, she called: "Sit!" Amazingly, all 7 dogs sat at once. It was impressive.

Wilson was shocked. He didn't know that Hector knew that command.

The woman glared at Hector who sat there contritely. Wilson was able to run up and grab his leash before he bolted again.

"Hey. Thanks. I really appreciate this."

She smiled: "No problem. He's a terrier and he is going to chase prey. You need to keep a tight hold on him. Cute little guy, what's his name?"

"This is Hector and I'm James. James Wilson." Wilson shifted the leash to his left hand and stuck out his right hand. The woman shifted all the leashes to her left hand and shook his hand.

"I'm Miranda Carter."

"Are these all your dogs?"

Miranda laughed: "No. These aren't mine. I just walk them."

"You're a dog walker?"

She nodded. "I walk 'em, sit 'em, and do a little training."

At this point, House caught up to them and heard the part about dog sitting. "See Wilson, she dog-sits. She could take care of Hector instead of me. I'm sure Hector would be a lot happier with this nice lady than with me."

"Well, usually I take care of the dog in the client's home. The dog rarely comes to my home unless he has met my dogs first and they all get along."

House snarked: "Well, we can arrange a meet."

"And you are,,,,"

Wilson sighed: "This is my friend, House. Greg House." Miranda stuck her hand out and House just stared at it. After a moment, Miranda dropped her hand and transferred 3 of the leashes back into her right hand.

House looked her up and down. He couldn't tell what type of figure she had as she was wearing baggy denim overalls over a faded red t-shirt. She wasn't fat, but he couldn't make out her breast size or anything else. Her hair was hidden under a baseball cap.

Suddenly House asked: "Where are you from?"

Miranda said: "Excuse me?"

"It was a simple question. I said where are you from? I noticed your lovely Southern accent and I'm trying to place exactly which geographic location your mother spawned you."

She looked at him suspiciously: "North Carolina. And no Southern jokes. I've heard them all since I moved up here."

Wilson tried to smooth things over: "When did you move up here?"

Miranda glanced back and forth between the two of them. "You guys ask a lot of questions. Mr. Wilson, I'm glad I could catch your dog for you.

I gotta walk these guys and get them home. So if you'll excuse me?"

In his most sincere voice, Wilson asked: "Do you have a card? I may want to call you for dog-sitting, really."

She shrugged and shifted the leashes to her left hand again. Reaching into her fanny pack, she pulled out a business card and handed it to him. Wilson looked at it and commented: "Dog portraits?"

She shrugged: "I take photographs too."

"Here, let me give you my card and I'll write my cell number on the back."

Wilson pulled out his card and proceeded to do just that. He handed it to Miranda. She glanced at it: "Oh, it's Dr. Wilson. Sorry about that. Oncology, huh? Tough field." She slipped the card into her fanny pack and then she frowned.

Miranda looked at House and asked: "Are you a doctor as well?"

Wilson answered: "Yes, he's Dr. Greg House."

Miranda's eyes narrowed as she looked at House. "Dr. Greg House? The world renowned diagnostician?"

House smirked: "Yeah, that's me. Heard of me down South, have you?"

Suddenly she hauled off and slapped his face hard.

House's hand immediately went to his face, his cheek already reddening.

"Ow, what the hell did you do that for?"

"You killed my brother, you asshole!"

House was bewildered: "Who's your brother?"

"Andrew Carter. You refused to take his case on consult 2 years ago and he died. You wouldn't even consult on the case."

Miranda turned and snatched her business card from a bewildered Wilson's hand. "You're friends with him. Don't call me," she snarled at him.

"Walkies!" she cried to the dogs and they started off.

House called after her: "Wait! I don't even remember seeing his file."

Miranda didn't bother answering him; she merely flipped him a bird and kept going.

Wilson smirked: "Well, as usual, you made a great first impression. And, of course, you don't remember the file. You never remember the patients' names."

Rubbing his cheek, House grumbled: "Crazy woman. I should have her arrested for assault."

"Forget about it. And forget using her as a dog-sitter, you blew that. Let's take Hector home and go get some lunch before we have to get back. I've got a full afternoon of patients starting at 2PM.

"Well, that's your problem, boy wonder. You're overscheduled. I, on the other hand, have only one very important appointment."

Wilson chimed in: "Yeah, I know. General Hospital comes on at 3PM. You gotta meet Coma Guy and watch it with him."

"Right. Between that and dodging Cuddy and clinic duty, that will take care of my afternoon. Let's dump the dust mop and get a burger."

After lunch, House returned to his office. His three fellows were in the conference room. They had no case to focus on, so they tried to stay busy with other things. Robert Chase was doing a crossword puzzle. Eric Foreman was reading the latest issue of JAMA. And Allison Cameron was going through House's huge pile of mail. She had taken on his mail as her personal responsibility. She hated to see requests for consults lying around unanswered for weeks. So she sifted through the mail and gave the ones to him that she thought would interest or challenge him. Cameron told a lot of people 'no'.

Cameron was the person that House focused on when he walked in.

Pointing his cane at her, he said: "You have a mission. You must find a file. Andrew Carter, from 2 years ago."

Cameron looked up with a puzzled look on her face: "Was he a patient? That name is not familiar to me." She looked at the other two fellows, but they, too, were shaking their heads.

House tapped his cane on the floor: "No, he was not a patient. He was a consult that we turned down. I need his file."

"Why do you need his file now?"

Anger rising, he shouted: "I just need his file. Find it."

Cameron was getting agitated also: "Since he was never a patient, those consult requests are filed in the basement by date of request. If you don't know the date, it could take me hours to find it."

He snarled: "Well, you better get started. Andrew Carter, approximately 2 years ago."

With that, he turned and stormed into his office. He sat down at his desk and switched on the computer.

The 3 fellows stared at him. Cameron whined: "Why is he sending me on this wild goose chase? We never saw the patient. Why would he need the file now?"

Foreman shrugged: "There's no telling with House. You won't get a reason out of him. If he wants it, he wants it." He stood up. "I'll help you. It's either that or the clinic and I've had my fill of snotty kids this week."

Chase tossed down his crossword puzzle. "I'll help you too. Maybe with the 3 of us looking for it, it won't take all night."

They fortified themselves with another cup of coffee and headed to the door. As they were leaving, they heard House shout: "Hey! He died April 5, 2005 so that gives you a starting point."

Cameron looked incredulous: "You want us to find a file on a guy who's dead? What for?"

Angrily, House replied: "Like Nike says, just do it." With that he turned back to his computer.

Foreman shrugged and said to the others: "Let's go. We'll never hear the end of it. At least we have a date. We'll start there and work out way back until we find him."

They headed off to the elevators to go down to the basement.

House kept himself busy until 3PM. He googled 'Andrew Carter, North Carolina' and quickly found his obituary. That's how he was able to give the date of death so quickly to his fellows. Carter had been the sole owner of Carter Roofing after inheriting the business from his late father. Apparently his mother was also dead as the obituary listed his sister Miranda and a few aunts and uncles as the surviving relatives. Most of the relatives, including Miranda were listed as living in Raleigh, NC except for one aunt who was listed as living in Princeton, NJ. House pondered that fact. Miranda moved up here from NC probably because of her aunt, but why? Maybe the dog walking business wasn't so good in Raleigh.

In the obituary, Andrew Carter's cause of death was listed as a sudden illness. House looked forward to seeing the file. He enjoyed a good puzzle and he hadn't had a good case in a while. This one would be particularly entertaining since the guy was long dead and no further tests could be performed. He wondered which specialists Andrew had seen. The Raleigh-Durham area had several fine medical centers and universities. Surely he had gone to Duke for treatment. He hoped Cameron found the file quickly.

The other part of the puzzle was Miranda. Why had she moved up here? Surely she had a life in Raleigh and her brother had had a business. He wondered why she didn't take over that. Why would she come up here to be a dog walker? House googled 'Miranda Carter' and was unable to find anything on her. He double-checked the obituary again for the aunt's name, the one that lived in Princeton. He found it: Lucille Carter. House pulled out the Princeton phone book. He found a listing for L. Carter on Snowden Lane. He googled her to see if he could find her in the tax rolls. House found her home; the address on Snowden Lane belonged to her. He frowned at another listing. It was her obituary. Lucille Carter had died just 3 months ago.

Did Miranda move up here to care for her dying aunt? If so, why had she remained here? House went back to the tax rolls. After a few clicks, he discovered that the title of the property was in the process of being transferred to Miranda Carter as an inheritance. So that explains why she's staying; her aunt left the house to her.

House leaned back in the chair and tossed his tennis ball in the air while he pondered all the known facts. He didn't have enough information yet. He needed that file. Glancing at the clock, he saw it was nearly three. He'd go to Coma Guy's room and watch GH. If the kids weren't back by then, he would go to the basement himself and urge them on with his cane.

At 4:15PM, House hobbled back into his office. Chase and Foreman were sitting around the conference table while Cameron was at the sink scrubbing at her skirt. A dusty blue folder lay on the table between the two men.

Cameron looked up, exasperated, when House walked in.

"We found it. Got covered with dust and dirt while we were looking. My black skirt is just filthy now".

House put a sad puppy-dog look on his face and moaned: "AWWWWW."

Then he snarked: "Gimme the file. It's almost 5. You can all go home. I don't need you any more today."

Hurriedly, before House could change his mind, the 3 fellows grabbed their belongings and fled for the elevator.

House blew the dust off of the file and took it to his desk. He drained the last dregs of coffee from his mug and pulled the bottle of scotch out of the bottom drawer. He poured a shot into the mug and sipped it while he perused the file.

Andrew Carter presented at the emergency room at Duke University Medical Center on March 26, 2005 with the following symptoms: headache, fever, dysphagia and alteration of consciousness. He had been in good health until 3 days prior to admission. At that time, he developed a headache and fever. He had pruritis in his right hand, but no cause could be determined. Thinking it was just the flu; he stayed home from work. He got worse. The next day, he had difficulty swallowing and was periodically confused. He refused to eat or drink complaining of a very sore throat. Fearing dehydration, his sister brought him to the emergency room after 2 days of no oral intake.

Upon admission, he was conscious and cooperative. He had a fever and his respirations were shallow. There was crepitus on the left side of his neck without sides of inflammation. His palatopharyngeal muscle functions were intact, but his gag reflex was hyperactive. Aero- and hydrophobic spasms could not be induced. Indirect laryngoscopic examination showed no abnormality. His white count and neutrophils were highly elevated; his serum amylase level was also elevated. CT of his brain and lumbar puncture showed no abnormalities.

An X-ray of his neck revealed air in the retropharyngeal space and an X-ray of his chest showed evidence of pneumomediastinum. House found that symptom to be particularly troubling. Free air in the thoracic cavity is usually found in association with severe asthma, vomiting, excessive coughing or shouting, none of which pertained to this patient. He had no underlying respiratory disease like asthma, bronchitis or COPD.

Exploratory surgery was performed but the findings were unremarkable. There was no evidence of perforation in the upper esophagus and oropharynx. He required assisted ventilation post-op but was able to move his limbs voluntarily. On April 1, he developed seizures and was started on Dilantin IV. House noted that was when his file was sent to PPTH for a consult. He had died on April 5. Cameron had reviewed his file on April 3 and sent a return letter on April 5 refusing the consult. Ironic that the letter was sent on the same day that he died.

House wondered what had happened between April 1 when the file was sent and April 5 when the patient died. They were missing important symptoms that could help with the diagnosis. He made a mental note to see if Cameron could get the rest of the file from Duke tomorrow.

House closed the file. He picked up his tennis ball and tossed it against the wall as he thought about the case.

There were many unasked questions: had the patient recently traveled outside the country? Did he have any exposure to any animals? The file mentioned a dog with up-to-date vaccinations, but no other animal contacts. He was a roofer. He could have been exposed to some type of toxin in the roofing materials or when tearing off the old shingles. Perhaps there had been a leak and he had been exposed to some sort of toxic mold. House didn't know how he was going to get the answers to some of these questions without talking to Miranda. If there were no new patients in the morning, he would have a whiteboard meeting with his fellows about Andrew Carter.

He wondered briefly why he cared about finding the answer. The guy was dead after all. He supposed it was the slap in the face and the passion in her eyes that did it, well and the puzzle of it too. House had been punched in the face before by patients, but he couldn't remember the last time someone slapped him.

As he poured himself another shot of scotch, he realized he had nothing else to do. He was bored. They hadn't had a new patient in a week. Andrew Carter and his sister were something new to play with, something new to take his mind off of his pain. As he slugged back the scotch, he decided that he would ride down her street on his way home. Maybe he would see her outside by chance. He wondered what she looked like under those overalls.

It was late spring and the weather had improved enough for House to ride his motorcycle again. He really missed riding it during the winter months. After the debilitating surgery on his leg, he was no longer able to participate in any type of athletic activity. He could barely walk without his trusty cane. Riding his Honda Repsol 1000RR was the closest he came to any type of sport these days. He loved the speed and the feel of the wind on his face. He mounted the bike and attached his cane to his special holder. House zipped out of the parking garage and headed over to Witherspoon Street. From there he would take a left on Nassau Street and another left on Snowden Lane. With traffic, he was there in 15 minutes.

He rode slowly down the block looking for the number. It turned out to be a lovely brick 2-story town home with attached garage. There were window boxes on all of the lower windows. An assortment of flowers was growing in them. House didn't know what they were, but they added to beauty of the home.

No one was lingering outside so House headed off. He wasn't ready to be caught snooping yet. He headed for home, wondering if Wilson would be cooking or ordering take-out. Either way was OK, as long as Wilson was paying.

Chapter 2

Cameron was able to get the rest of the file faxed to PPTH the next afternoon. The only other details it contained were that Andrew Carter had slipped into a coma on April 3, had an unremarkable lumbar puncture on April 4 and died on April 5.

The team worked on the case for the next 2 days. They failed to come up with a diagnosis that made sense. Of course, without autopsy results, it would be hard to know if they found the correct diagnosis. No autopsy had been performed at his sister's request. She was quoted in the file as saying: "He's already dead. What difference will it make now?"

House thought that was a stupid thing to say. Of course, it made a difference; it would solve the puzzle.

House couldn't get the case off of his mind. His team had no new cases to work on. His usual distractions of porn, pro-wrestling, General Hospital and monster trucks were just not cutting it this time. He wanted answers and there was only one way to get them. He had to talk to Miranda Carter.

He rode over after work and parked across the street from her town house. He couldn't tell if anyone was home or not, which meant he was forced to limp up the 10 steps to her front door. It took him several minutes to achieve the summit. Before he rang the bell, he paused to swallow two Vicodins. Hoping she wouldn't come to the door with a shotgun, he rang the bell.

To House's surprise, a man answered the door. The man gave House the once-over and said in an exaggerated Southern accent: "Well, hello there."

House said: "I'm looking for Miranda Carter. Is this her place?"

"Well, maybe. But I don't think you're her type, sugar. However, I like that scruffy look you got going and those blue eyes of yours, umm, yum."

House gave this man the once-over himself. The guy was about 6-foot tall, spiky blond hair wearing tight blue jeans and a tight black tee.

House snarked: "Sorry, I'm not into blondes. Is Miranda here?"

"Well, she's a blonde so you must not be into her either. Got any weapons? Any drugs? Gay porn?"

House simply shook his head.

"Ump, you're no fun. Come on in, I think she's out back."

House followed the guy into the house. Facing the front door was a long set of stairs to the second floor. House was hoping he would not have to negotiate those. To the left was the living room. As they quickly walked by, House noticed several bookcases and a grand piano. The guy led him down a hallway next to the stairs. The hallway was lined with photographs. House would have liked to stop and examine them but he needed to follow this guy.

From the dark hallway, they stepped into a bright room with lots of windows.

House's tour guide announced: "This is the sun room, of course. It was Aunt Lucille's bedroom during her last months. She wanted to be able to see outside and watch the birds and see her flowers."

He opened the back door and they stepped outside. House saw Miranda sitting on the edge of the deck tossing tennis balls to 3 dogs that were madly running after them. He announced their presence. "Randi, there's a tall handsome blue-eyed man to see you and when you're finished, can I play with him?"

Miranda turned and saw House. Her jaw dropped in surprise. "What the hell are you doing here? Charlie, why did you let him in?"

Charlie held his hands up in defense: "Sugar, I didn't know I wasn't supposed to. Who is this handsome scumbag?"

She snarled: "This is DOCTOR Gregory House, the one who refused to consult on Andrew's case."

Miranda stood up and walked towards House. He couldn't help but notice how pretty she was. She was wearing a faded Lynyrd Skynyrd tee shirt and tight faded black jeans and her feet were bare. Her hair was the color of wheat and hung loosely on her shoulders. Her big blue eyes and pouting red lips complemented her porcelain skin. She was tall, probably 5'8" and slim with round breasts.

It took him a minute to get the words out: "I wanted to talk to you about your brother's case."

She spit out: "What for? He's dead. Where were you two years ago?"

"I didn't know about the consult. I would have taken it. One of my fellows sorts through my mail; she's the one who rejected it."

"You never saw his file?"

House shook his head: "No."

Miranda lost some of her steam: "Well, shit. I guess I can't be mad at you when you didn't even see it."

She turned away and sat back down on the edge of the deck and resumed throwing the balls for the dogs.

Charlie knelt down beside her and put his hand on her shoulder. "Sugar, you want me to get rid of him?"

She shook her head: "Doesn't matter. He seems the persistent type. Maybe if I answer his dumb questions now, he'll go away and leave me alone."

Charlie stood up and walked over to House. "I'm Charlie Powell. I'm Miranda's roommate and bodyguard. Don't you mess with her. But you can mess with me later, sugar. I'll be in the living room if y'all need me."

House watched him walk back inside. "Your roommate?"

She nodded without turning around: "He's a old friend from Raleigh. He came up to help me with Aunt Lucille and just stayed. He helps me out with the bills and with some work around here. He's an excellent carpenter."

She looked over her shoulder and smirked at him: "He likes you. Is he your type?"

House chuckled: "No, I don't swing that way."

"Too bad for Charlie. He's as flaming as your cane, but he's a sweetie. He's been my friend since high school. Well, I guess we should get down to business, huh?"

Miranda got up and grabbed an Adirondack chair and hauled it over. She placed it near the edge of the deck and motioned towards it. "Have a seat, Dr House. What do you want to know?"

House sat in the chair and Miranda plopped back down on the edge of the deck. One of the dogs, a brindle colored pit bull with one ragged ear came over and licked her cheek. She petted his head and murmured: "Good boy."

"Are all of these yours?"

"Yes, these are my boys. The black lab over there is Cody. The big white goofy mutt is Casper. And this is Harley. He was Andrew's dog. He's the old man of the bunch."

"He looks like a pit bull."

"He is. But he's very sweet to most people. Just don't raise your cane like a weapon. He was beat before my brother rescued him and he doesn't take kindly to a raised stick of any type."

"Thanks for the warning."

Harley walked over and sniffed at House's pants. House stiffened at the dog's closeness. The gesture was not lost on Miranda.

"You haven't been around dogs much, have you?"

House shook his head: "We moved too much when I was a kid to have pets."

"Army brat?"

"Marines, but you know. Same thing."

Miranda nodded. "Camp LeJeune isn't that far away from where I grew up. Knew lots of camp brats. You want to make friends with him? Just hold out your fist like this and let him sniff you." She held a loose fist out in front of her, palm down.

House imitated her and Harley sniffed his fist. Then he licked it.

Miranda smiled: "Well, he likes you."

House cracked a small smile: "Better than the alternative." He reached up and scratched the dog behind the ears.

"Harley, huh? Did your brother ride one?"

"Yup. He loved that bike. He even had a sidecar for the dog. Harley had his own set of goggles. They looked so cool going down the road together. They were a big hit at the road rallies."

"Did you keep the bike too?"

"Naw, I don't know how to ride and I just couldn't bear to keep it. I sold it to his best friend. Andrew used to take me for rides all the time and he tried to teach me, but I just couldn't get the hang of it. Maybe I should have tried to learn on a smaller bike. Anyway, that's not what you came here for. What do you want to know?"

House asked: "Why didn't you want an autopsy? Didn't you want to know what killed him?"

Miranda shrugged: "What was the point? He was gone. It wouldn't have brought him back."

"Yeah, but at least you would have known."

"It doesn't matter. I don't understand why you want to know. You never met him: you never saw his file until 2 days ago. What difference does it make to you?"

House hung his head: "I don't like to leave things unfinished."

"Well, I appreciate your efforts but I don't see how you can figure it out now without being able to do lab work and all that."

"Had your brother traveled outside of the country before he fell ill?"

Miranda shook her head: "No. He hadn't been anywhere in 3 years since he took over the roofing business after Daddy died"

House nodded: "And this is the dog your brother had at the time? And he wasn't exposed to any other animals?"

"I know you're thinking rabies exposure but they ruled that out. There were no focal neurological signs and his mental status was clear, no sign of aggression. Aero- and hydrophobic spasms could not be induced."

House was stunned at her medical jargon, but recovered quickly. "And there is no chance he was bitten by a stray dog or disturbed a bat during a roofing job?"

"If it happened, he never mentioned it."

"Could he have been exposed to toxic mold or some other toxins on the job?"

She just shrugged: "I don't know."

House was quiet for several minutes as he thought about the answers she had given him.

"Look, you're not going to figure it out tonight. It's getting dark. Why don't you come in and I'll fix you some dinner?"

House snarked: "FIX some dinner? Is it broken?"

"Ha, ha. Sometimes I forget that I'm in Yankee land now. That's how we talk back home. It means to prepare dinner. Duh. I'm sure you could have figured that out, smart man that you are."

"You think I'm smart?"

"Why do you think I pushed for the consult? I knew if anyone could figure it out, it would be you."

House was flattered. "How did you hear of me?"

She chuckled: "You're world famous, Dr. House. They even write about you in lowly nursing journals."

House leaned back in his chair: "So you're a nurse. No wonder you tossed around that medical jargon so well."

"Yep, a burnt out one, but still a nurse."

"So, why are you walking dogs for a living?"

Miranda puffed out her cheeks and then let the air out slowly. She frowned and said: "Long story. You really want to know?"

"I wouldn't ask if I didn't. I'm easily bored so if I ask, it's because I want to know."

Miranda shrugged: "OK. I'll fill you in over dinner if you want. Come on, let's go in and see what's in the refrigerator."

She whistled to the dogs and they ran inside ahead of us. Miranda led House back down the hallway. She poked her head in the living room and then yelled up the stairs: "Charlie! I'm fixing dinner. Want some?"

Charlie came trotting down the stairs. He had changed into a nice set of slacks and a button-down shirt. "No, sugar. Barry just called and I'm going out with him. Unless, handsome here, has some other ideas,,,," He looked pointedly at House.

House shook his head and waved him off: "Nope, go have fun."

Charlie stage-whispered to Miranda: "He told me that he doesn't like blondes, so I guess it's safe to leave you two alone."

Miranda laughed: "Don't worry, sweetie, I've got the dogs in case he tries anything."

Charlie kissed her on the cheek and said: "Don't wait up." Turning to House, he said: "Nice meeting you, handsome. Hope to see you again." Without waiting for an answer, Charlie grabbed his keys and headed out the door.

House chuckled and Miranda smiled back at him.

"I'm going to feed the dogs first if you don't mind. Otherwise they will annoy us while we eat."

House said: "No problem."

Miranda walked into the kitchen and House could hear her bustling around. He looked at the photos lining the hallway and wondered if Miranda had taken the shots. He stared for a while at the last photo, the one hanging closest to the kitchen. Miranda was standing next to a tall blonde man; their arms were around each other. He wondered if it was her brother; he could see some resemblance.

Miranda poked her head around the corner: "You have a choice of leftovers; chicken and dumplings or beef stew. Pick your poison."

"Whatever you're having is fine."

"I'll heat them both up and you can pick then. Want a beer or ice tea?"

"A beer, thanks. Is this your brother in this photo?"

She smiled sadly and nodded: "Yeah, that's him."

"I can see the resemblance. Was he older or younger?"

"He was older by 5 minutes and he always lorded it over me."

House was surprised: "He was your twin?"

Miranda just nodded and headed back into the kitchen.

House stared at the photo for a few more minutes, and then followed Miranda into the kitchen. The dogs had finished eating; their food bowls were scattered about. They sat at attention watching Miranda at the stove, hoping for more. The kitchen table had been set for two and there was a bottle of beer at each seat. House eased himself into one of the chairs and took a swallow of beer.

Miranda looked over her shoulder, and asked: "Did you want a glass?"

House shook his head: "No, this is fine." He felt a vibration in his pants and pulled out his cell phone. The caller ID said 'Boy Wonder' so House excused himself to Miranda and took Wilson's call.

"What's up? Can't live without me?"

"Where are you? I was going to pick up cheesesteak sandwiches for dinner."

"I won't be home for dinner."

"Oh, yeah, where are you?"

"Got a blonde making me dinner."

Wilson snickered: "You're at your hooker's place? Excellent! You da man, House. Fill me in later."

"Later." House closed the phone and turned it off. He didn't want to be disturbed again.

Still facing the stove, Miranda asked: "So how are you and Hector getting along?"

"He hasn't destroyed anything of value yet, so that's an improvement over the last time he was at my place."

"Well, you could tell Dr Wilson if he wants to call me for next time, I'll see about dog-sitting for him."

House nodded. He was amazed that she was no longer angry with him about her brother's death. He shook his head in wonderment.

Miranda set a large bowl of beef stew and another bowl of chicken and dumplings on the table. Then she set down a smaller bowl of mashed potatoes and a plate of biscuits. "I made the biscuits this morning, so they are still fresh. The rest is just leftovers, but I hope there's something you like to eat. Please help yourself."

She sat down and waited for House to spoon some stew on his plate and then she served herself.

House took a bite of the stew and moaned. He was slightly embarrassed that he did it out loud, but Miranda just smiled and kept eating. The stew was really good and House wolfed down his first serving. He tried the chicken and dumplings next and they were equally as good as the beef stew. Mimicking a Southern accent, he said: "Well, they really teach y'all how to cook down South."

She smiled and said: "Yes, they do, Sweetpea. It's important for a woman to know how to cook. How you gonna get a man otherwise?" She winked at him.

"Well if this is any indication of your qualifications for wedlock, I'm surprised that you weren't married a long time ago."

She laughed: "Mama tried to make me a match or two, but it didn't stick. The ones I picked out weren't much better. I don't hold with runnin' around on your woman and they just didn't get it when I dumped 'em for cheatin' on me."

"That happen to you more than once?"

"A couple of times. The last one was the worst. He cheated on me with my best friend, the little slut. And it was right when Andrew was sick. They were screwing right under my nose and I was so worried about Andrew that I didn't see it going on. Worst damn time of my life."

House frowned: "That was really mean. Did you shoot them?"

"I should have. I was so wore out from everything it was all I could do to just put one foot in front of the other and keep going. Thank God for Charlie. He helped me so much."

House grabbed another biscuit and sopped up the gravy on his plate with it. "So how did you end up here? Why did you get burnt out on nursing?"

"Two words: Pediatric oncology."

House winced in understanding.

"Yeah, that will do it, right? I spent 10 years doing that and I was fine. Then one day, this pretty little 4 year old was crying. Her long blonde hair was falling out in handfuls from the chemo. She had all these mouth sores and couldn't eat. She was so miserable. Her parents couldn't handle being around her pain, which happens more frequently than you want to know. So she was alone a lot. I picked her up and sat her in my lap to try to comfort her. And she said to me: "Miss Randi, I just wanna die. I don't wanna be like this."

House could see the tears swelling up in Miranda's eyes. He didn't know what to do with such a display of emotion, so he sat quietly listening.

"That really got me. I've seen and heard a lot, but to hear a 4 year old say she wants to die, just totally got me. It was all I could do to not cry in front of her. I comforted her as best I could, got her a Popsicle for her mouth and then went in the linen closet and had a good cry. I called in sick the next day. I just couldn't face going back. Two days later, I was taking Andrew to the ER. I took time off from work to be with him and I just never went back to that job."

A couple of tears had fallen and she quietly brushed them away.

"Excuse me, I didn't mean to get so emotional on you."

She took a long swallow of beer and continued: "So in the span of two weeks, my life fell completely apart. My beloved brother gets sick and dies of unknown causes. My boyfriend was screwing around with my best friend, so I lost both of them too. I couldn't face going back to my job. I had to take care of Andrew's affairs; I sold the roofing business and his Harley. Finally I tried to go back to work, and I was just so sad. I couldn't handle the sick little kids like I used to. So I took a little vacation and came up here to visit Aunt Lucille. I always loved visiting with her when I was a kid. Andrew and I thought it was so much fun to be able to walk down to the corner store for candy and soda. We grew up out in the country; town was 5 miles away. So being in the city was a fun treat for us.

While I was visiting, she had a minor stroke. She asked me if I wanted to move up here and live with her for a bit while she rehabbed. I didn't think twice. I went back to Raleigh and started packing up my stuff.

While I was down there, she had another stroke, a big more serious one. I decided I would just come to live up here. I packed up a U-Haul; Charlie drove it up for me while I followed with my car and the dogs. Charlie stayed for a bit to help out; decided he liked it, went home, packed up and came back. I got my NJ nursing license and a part-time job; Charlie found some work. When Aunt Lucille had another stroke, this one left her paralyzed on the left side. We moved her bed downstairs into the sunroom. Charlie made over the downstairs bath to be more handicapped accessible. I found it hard to work and take care of her. So I quit my job. Since I was home all day, one of the neighbors asked me if I would walk her dog at noon while she was at work. That was how my dog-walking business got started. I felt comfortable leaving Aunt Lucille for a short while to walk the dogs. And it was much more relaxing than nursing. After she died, I just kept doing it and added pet sitting and training. It doesn't pay a lot, but I'm pretty frugal. I'm in the nurse pool at PPTH and Princeton General, so they call me when they need me. I work a couple of shifts a month for some extra money. And that's it. Have I bored you to tears yet?"

House smirked: "No, not yet. I'll let you know when you do."

She smiled and stood up. Miranda started clearing the table and stacking the dirty dishes in the sink. House made a move as if to help, and she waved him away, telling him he was a guest and he could just sit. When that task was finished, Miranda wiped her hands on a dishtowel and turned to House.

"I don't have much for dessert but I made cookies today. Do you like peanut butter or oatmeal raisin?"

House's mouth watered. "Home made cookies? You bet. Both kinds."

She laughed. "Let's go have them in the living room with an after-dinner drink. Go on in and I'll be right there."

House headed into the living room and looked around. It was a nice spacious room. There were 4 large bookcases crammed full of books. The furniture looked old, but in a classic style of leather and dark wood. Between two of the bookcases was a wood-burning fireplace. And in one corner stood a baby grand piano.

As Miranda walked in with a plate of cookies, House pointed to the piano and asked: "Do you play?"

Miranda set the plate down on the coffee table and said: "Not very well. I had lessons when I was a kid. I tinker a little bit. Aunt Lucille was a music teacher at the local high school and she gave piano lessons on the side." She walked over to the bar and poked around, taking out 2 glasses. "Hmm, hope you like bourbon cuz it looks like Charlie finished the scotch. Ice?"

House replied: "One, please."

Miranda placed one ice cube in each glass and poured the bourbon over them. She emptied the bottle on the second glass. "Ah, the end of my Maker's Mark. Back to the Jim Beam now."

"Hey, I don't want to drink the last of your Maker's."

"Nonsense, it's a special occasion. I ended my huge mad at you tonight. So it deserves a special drink."

"What do you mean?"

Miranda handed him a glass and said: "I was mad at you for 2 years for not taking Andrew's case. I found out tonight I had no reason to be angry, cuz you never saw the file. It was misdirected anger. It's finished now. I'm not carrying that anger around anymore, so it seems a reason for a special drink."

She clinked her glass against his: "To no more House anger."

He smiled and said: "I'll drink to that."

They both took a sip and sat down on the couch. They drank and ate cookies and talked for a while. They talked about music, discovering a mutual love of the blues, while House also enjoyed jazz and Miranda liked old country music. House's love for music was quite evident in his voice, so eventually Miranda asked him if he played any instruments. He admitted to playing the piano and guitar.

"Cool. Do you have a piano at home?"

"I have an old Baldwin spinet."

Miranda nodded: "You're welcome to play this one if you want. Please help yourself."

House looked away and said quietly: "I don't usually play in front of people."

"Oh, OK. No problem. If you ever want to play it, the invitation is open."

"Thank you," he said quietly.

They sat quietly for a while, sipping their drinks and nibbling on cookies. Miranda got up to refill their glasses and asked if it was OK if she put on some music. He nodded in agreement. She put on a CD of John Lee Hooker.

He smiled his approval. "This is a good one."

"Yeah, I like it. I really like 'One bourbon, one scotch and one beer.' Sounds liked the start to a fun night, huh?"

House laughed. It sounded a bit rusty to his ears from lack of use, but Miranda didn't notice. She merely joined in.

They sat listening to the music, feet propped up on the coffee table, sipping their bourbon. Miranda's bare toes keeping time to the music amused House. He also liked the hot red nail polish on her toes.

When the CD ended, House checked his watch and was surprised that it was almost 10PM.

"I guess I should take off."

Miranda nodded and walked him to the door.

House turned and faced her: "Thanks for dinner."

"You're very welcome. It was the least I could do, considering I slapped you like that."

"It's OK. If I had been you, I would have punched me out, and then sicced all the dogs on me." He looked down at his feet and then asked: "Look, if I have any other questions about your brother, is it OK if I call?"

Miranda shrugged: "If you want to, sure. But I'm OK with you leaving it alone. It doesn't matter now, you know."

House nodded: "I know, but just in case, I think of something."

She smiled at him. Fishing in her bag, she pulled out a couple of business cards: "Here. Please give one to Dr. Wilson in case he wants me to dog-sit. And call me if you want."

She handed the cards to House. Their fingers grazed for one brief moment and it was over. He felt the warmth tingling on his fingertips as he pocketed the cards.

He gave her a small smile: "Good night Miranda."

"Good night, Dr. House."

"Just House, call me House."

She smiled at him: "OK. Good night House."

He heard her close the door behind him. Relieved that she would not be watching him limp down the stairs, he popped the top to his Vicodin vial and swallowed two tablets. Slowly he made his way down the stairs and over to his bike. He climbs on and secures his cane. Looking wistfully back at the town home, he revved the engine and headed for home.

Chapter 3

Spring turned into summer. Between new cases and clinic duty, House stayed fairly busy. When he had some free time, he still thought about Andrew's case. He tried to find cases with similar symptoms, but nothing was really matching up. He had not called Miranda, as he had not thought of any new questions to ask her.

It was Friday night and he was finally leaving for the weekend. He got caught up with a clinic patient who actually was seriously ill and had to be admitted. Thus, it was 6:45 before House made his way to his bike. Just as he was about to put on his helmet, he heard a female voice with a Southern accent say: "Hey stranger."

He turned and looked in the direction of the voice. It was Miranda walking towards him. She was wearing nursing scrubs and her hair was pulled back into a ponytail. She had a backpack slung across one shoulder.

He smiled when he saw her and affected a Southern accent: "Howdy sugar. Long time no see."

He was rewarded with a broad smile as she said: "Nice to see that you've learned to talk properly, sir."

He chuckled, as he looked her over: "Coming or going?"

"Just coming in. Doing the night shift for the whole weekend. It sucks, but it pays the big bucks."

She glances at the helmet and at the motorcycle. "Is this your bike? You didn't mention that you ride when we were talking before."

He shrugged: "Well, it's not a Harley."

"Looks like a pretty cool bike to me. Bet it's fast."

House nodded: "Yeah, it is."

Miranda walked around the bike looking it over. "Nice. Maybe I can talk you into giving me a ride one day."

"Stranger things have happened."

Miranda laughed: "Yeah, I'm sure. I have to get to work. It was nice seeing you again, House." She put her hand on his forearm and gave it a little squeeze as she spoke. Then she turned and walked towards the entrance.

He stared after her, wondering what that little squeeze was all about. It almost seemed like she was flirting with him, asking for a ride and complementing his bike. He shook his head to clear his brain and convince himself that she wasn't really flirting. It was just his tired mind playing tricks on him. He put on his helmet, revved the engine and headed for home.

It was the following weekend when House found the article. The symptoms were incredibly similar to Andrew's. House read the article twice. The case had been an 18-year-old male from Bangkok. He had presented with fever and dysphagia. He had a pneumomediastinum and needed surgery. He also developed seizures post-op, went into a coma and died within 12 days of admission. House could have substituted Andrew's name for the patient's in this article; the symptoms were practically identical. And the source of his illness was never found. The patient had died of paralytic rabies.

House was sure that this was the answer. The big question was: how did Andrew get infected? A bite wound was never found on his body; he never told his sister that he had been bit. House reasoned that someone must know more details, perhaps one of Andrew's employees. He would question Miranda some more; perhaps she could phone one of the old employees.

He glanced at his watch. It was only 8PM. It wasn't too late to just pop over there. Maybe she had some more of those cookies. He stuffed the article into his backpack, grabbed his helmet, and headed out.

He found a parking space right in front of her town home this time. After another agonizing climb up those stairs, he rang the doorbell. After a minute's wait, Charlie answered the door. "Hey, handsome. Come on in. Changed your mind about me?"

House entered the foyer and said: "No, sorry. I'm here to see Miranda."

"Well, you've missed her, hon. She's off nursing again."

House frowned. "She worked last weekend. I thought she only worked one weekend a month."

Charlie frowned: "Well, usually that what she does. But she needs some extra money right now."

There was something in the way he said it that made House ask: "What's wrong?"

He sighed: "Harley's sick. The vet says he needs to do an MRI and it costs a thousand bucks. Then if Harley needs surgery, it's another 2000 bucks. Randi is just beside herself. She would do anything for that dog, you know. It's like the last part of Andrew she has left."

"Shit. Look, I really need to talk to her. Which hospital is she working at tonight?"

"She's at PPTH tonight on the pediatric floor. If it can wait until tomorrow, she'll be home about 8AM. She'll nap until noon, then go walk dogs and be back again around 1PM. Then she'll nap again and get up for dinner. Today's Sunday, so this is the last of her work shifts."

House nodded: "Thanks, Charlie. I'll see if I can find her at the hospital first."

After arriving at PPTH, House headed up to the pediatric floor. It was almost 9PM and it was fairly quiet. He found Miranda just as she was leaving a patient's room.

She was surprised to see him: "Hi, what are you doing here? Do you have a patient on this floor?"

House shook his head: "I came to see you. I think I figured it out."

Miranda frowned: "You mean, you think you know what was wrong with Andrew?"

House nodded.

Miranda looked stunned. After a moment, she composed herself and said: "Let me see if I can take a break. Then we could go somewhere and talk."

Miranda went to the desk and spoke to the nurse sitting behind it. That nurse nodded her head and Miranda walked back to House.

"It's really quiet tonight, so my charge nurse told me to go ahead and take my 30 minute break."

Grabbing her arm, House said: "Come on. Let's go down to my office." They hurried over to the elevator and went down to the 4th floor.

House unlocked his office and motioned Miranda to sit on the couch. He sat down next to her.

Pulling the article out of his backpack, he hands it to her. She quickly scans it and looks up at him: "Rabies? You think Andrew had rabies?"

"The symptoms are almost identical. Read the article and you'll see."

Miranda shook her head in disbelief: "I can't believe you never stopped thinking about him. You never even met him. He's dead and you're still trying to solve his case."

House shrugged his shoulders and stared down at the floor. His eyes closed when he felt her hand on his shoulder and her voice saying: "Thank you for caring so much."

Her touch felt good, but he did his best to ignore it. "I'm just trying to solve the puzzle. Look, do you think he could have been bitten and not told you?"

"Well, that must have happened, right? Some stray animal or bat must have bitten him. I'm just surprised that he never told me."

"Do you think maybe he told one of his employees or his best friend? Maybe one of them saw something and it didn't register at the time."

Miranda looked thoughtful: "I could call Tommy tomorrow. He was Andrew's best friend and they worked together. If anyone would know, it would be Tommy. I'll call him and I'll let you know."

"OK. Let me give you my cell phone number. Call me after you speak to Tommy."

She nodded and started to stand up.

"Wait a sec."

Miranda sat back down.

"Why are you working again this weekend? I thought you only worked one weekend a month."

Miranda looked down at her feet and sighed. "Yes, usually. But I need some extra money right now so I took on another weekend."

She looked up at House and then back down again. "I'm sure you'll think I'm a big softie, but Harley is sick. The vet wants to do an MRI and it costs a thousand bucks. And then he'll probably need surgery and that costs two thousands bucks. So, I'm working."

House noticed how tired she looked. Since she worked last weekend and walked dogs in between, she had not had a day off in over a week.

"Look, if you need money, I could loan you some."

Miranda shook her head: "That's very kind of you, but I couldn't do that. You hardly know me. That wouldn't be right."

"It's just a small loan. I trust you to pay me back. I know where you live after all." He smiled, hoping a little joke would lighten her mood.

She gave him a tight smile: "Thank you, but I just can't. I wouldn't feel right imposing on you that way."

House started to argue some more, but he could tell by the set of her jaw that it was pointless. "OK. I understand. But if you need help, you know where to find me."

She gave him a sincere smile this time: "Yes, I do, and thank you. You're very kind." Miranda gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and stood up.

"I better get back now. I'll call you tomorrow after I talk to Tommy. Good night, House and thanks again."

With that, she quickly left his office.

House sat there for a moment. His cheek still felt warm from her kiss. He cupped his hand over it to hold in the warmth for a bit longer. He leaned his head back against the couch, closed his eyes and sighed. He felt a stirring in his jeans and he looked down as he snarled to himself: "I thought you didn't like blondes. Down, boy!"

House felt restless on Monday. He wondered when Miranda would talk to Tommy and when she would call him about it. The team did not have a patient, so he tried to distract himself with his Gameboy. After winning 3 games in a row, he tossed it aside and paced the halls for a bit. As he limped past X-ray, he had an epiphany. Now, how to pull it off? And would Miranda agree to it?

He remembered Charlie saying she would be home from walking the dogs around 1:00. Glancing at his watch, he saw that it was already 12:30. He decided to head over to her town home.

He pulled up to her place a few minutes before 1PM. As he dismounted the bike, he could see her walking up the street. She looked fatigued, but smiled when she saw him.

"Hey, what are you doing here? I haven't called Tommy yet. I slept when I got home from work, and then I had to get up and walk the dogs."

"It's OK. You look tired, sugar. You need some more sleep."

She chuckled: "I've corrupted you. Now you're talking like a Southerner, calling me sugar."

"That's cuz you're sweet."

Miranda looked surprised at his comment. She blushed slightly, which made House smile. She stammered: "Why don't you come in and I'll call Tommy now?"

He nodded and motioned her up the steps. He climbed up slowly behind her.

Miranda noticed his exertion, but did not comment. She didn't want to embarrass him. She merely walked in the door, leaving it ajar for House.

He paused at the top to catch his breath, and then he entered the foyer. Miranda was rummaging through her bag for her cell phone. Glancing up at House while she searched, she asked: "Can I get you a drink, water, beer or something?"

"Got any ice tea?"

Miranda looked at him, surprised by his request. "Of course. Let me get you a glass." She walked into the kitchen and returned in a moment with his glass.

As she handed it to him, their fingers brushed together. They both felt a tingling sensation at the contact. House lingered longer than necessary as he took the glass from her, looking deeply into her eyes. Miranda blushed again and quickly looked away.

She stammered: "Let me see if I can get Tommy on the phone." She flipped the phone open and dialed the number.

House wandered into the living room while she talked on the phone. Part of him wanted to hear the results of the phone call right now, and part of him wanted to tell her about his plan. Since she was already on the phone, he sipped his tea and waited. He could hear her side of the conversation and he surmised that Tommy had known a few facts that might have helped the case.

After a few minutes, Miranda walked slowly into the living room, still clutching the cell phone. Her facial expression was blank as if she were in a state of shock.

House stood up, concerned about her demeanor. He gently guided her to the couch and she sat down.

Very gently, House asked: "What did Tommy say?"

Miranda just sat there for a moment. She was holding the cell phone so tightly that her hand started to tremble. House gently peeled her fingers away from the phone and set it down on the coffee table. He took both of her small hands and held them in his own large ones. After staring off into space for a few minutes, Miranda turned and looked at House. Her lower lip and chin were trembling as if she were about to cry.

She licked her lips and began: "Tommy said that about a month or so before Andrew got sick there was a stray dog hanging around the site. He seemed friendly, though, not aggressive. Andrew started feeding him bits of his sandwich or whatever he had. First he was tossing them to the dog, as the dog was initially rather shy. Later on, the dog started eating out of his hand. Tommy is sure that the dog never bit him, but he does remember the dog licking him. The saliva must have got into a cut on his hand or something, right? That could be how he got it."

"Did Tommy say what happened to the dog?"

"He doesn't know. They finished that job and moved on to the next one. He did say that Andrew went back once looking for the dog, but he couldn't find him. He thought that maybe Andrew was going to adopt him or find him a home. He seemed like a nice dog, like a dog that just got dumped in the country by someone who didn't want him anymore. Tommy said the dog didn't seem sick at all."

"If this happened about a month before Andrew got sick, it fits in with the incubation period for rabies."

Miranda nodded: "I know. I can't believe it. I can't believe my poor brother had rabies and no one could figure it out." Tears starting leaking from her eyes and she turned her head in shame. She didn't want House to see her crying.

Her voice shook as she said: "And you never even examined him and you figured it out. Oh my god. Even if you had seen the consult, it was already too late for any treatment." She started sobbing.

House put his arm around her and pulled her closer to him. Gently he whispered: "Come here."

She scooted closer, wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her face in his shoulder while she sobbed. House wrapped both arms around her, drew her onto his good leg and held her while she cried. He stroked her back and murmured comforting sounds until her cries subsided.

She wiped her face with her hands and said: "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to cry all over you."

Noticing that she was now sitting on House's lap, her face grew red and she quickly shifted over to the couch.

"It's alright. It's my fault anyway."

"How do you figure that?"

"If I hadn't been so determined to solve the puzzle, you would have never known what happened. And like you said, what difference does it make now? So, in the end, all I did was make a girl cry."

Miranda shrugged: "You had to solve it. Your brain wouldn't let you stop. It's what you do."

House marveled at her understanding. Before he could think of anything to say, Miranda turned to him as she wiped away the last of her tears.

"Thanks for figuring it out. It does give me closure in a strange kind of way. Um, I don't mean to be rude, but I really need to take a nap. I only got 3 hours of sleep this morning and I'm pretty zonked."

House nodded: "Of course. But just give me another minute. I want to help you with the dog."

"No, House, that's not necessary. Thank you for offering, but I'll be OK."

"I'm not talking about the money; I have another idea. I need you and Harley to be ready to go at 10:00 tonight. Wear some scrubs. Oh, and if Charlie can possibly help out, that would make things a lot easier. And I need your vet's name and number."

"What are you talking about?"

House chuckled: "An evil plan I have. Don't ask; just be ready. Let me have the number."

Reluctantly she agreed, writing down the vet's name and number on a scrap piece of paper. House pocketed it, and headed to the door. Miranda was right behind him, still trying to question him about tonight's plan.

At the door, he turned and shushed her. "Shh, no more questions." He gently laid his hand on her cheek and she unconsciously leaned into it. That gesture did not go unnoticed by House. He stroked her cheek very gently with his thumb. "Get some sleep. I know you're tired. It will all make sense later." He bent down and gave her a quick peck on the lips and walked out the door. Miranda stared after him, stunned, her fingers touching her tingling lips. She watched him limp down the stairs and climb on his bike. Finally she shut the door and walked slowly upstairs for her nap.

Back in his office, House called Harley's vet and got the exact information he needed. There was only one chance to do this and he wanted to get it right. House wrote down all the instructions from the vet and pocketed them. He thought about what else he will need tonight. He wandered over to the supply closet and stuffed a few things into his backpack.

Then he headed to the main security desk to chat with Frank for a bit. A long time ago, House made a point to make friends with the head of security. With just some friendly conversation, an occasional cigar and a nice Christmas gift every year, Frank proved to be a vital source of information. While House stood there chatting with Frank, he read the duty roster for tonight. Fortunately House was able to easily read the upside-down roster and he was happy to note which security guard was watching the side entrance tonight. It was Crazy Carlos. That guy spent most of his shift either napping or sneaking off for a smoke. It would be easy to time their arrival tonight when Carlos was off doing one of those things. Satisfied with his acquired information, he wound down the conversation with Frank and headed back to his office.

House left the hospital around 5:30PM. He managed to avoid Cuddy and Wilson for the entire afternoon, a most unusual occurrence. Remembering that he had missed lunch to visit with Miranda, he swung through the McDonald's drive-thru on his way home. Once home, he gobbled down his Big Mac and fries and slurped on his chocolate shake. Belly full, he set his cell phone alarm for 9PM and stretched out on the couch for a nap.

At 9PM, House awoke and started getting ready. He would take his old car instead of his bike, as the one thing he forgot to do was to find out what type of car Miranda drove. The car needed to be big enough for this job, and he knew that his old Dodge Dynasty would do the trick. He grabbed his backpack and a lab coat and headed out to his car.

House arrived at Miranda's just before 10PM. He paused at the bottom of the steps wishing there were an easier way in. He took a deep breath and started the laborious climb. After catching his breath at the top, he rang the doorbell. Charlie answered right away. "Hey handsome. So what's up? You got Randi on pins and needles here wondering about your plan."

Charlie stepped aside so House could enter. He caught sight of Miranda. She was wearing a fresh pair of scrubs as he requested.

House said: "Where's Harley? Let's get the show on the road."

Miranda said: "House, wait. What exactly are we doing?"

"We're taking Harley to PPTH for an MRI. Can he walk or do we need to carry him?"

Miranda looked stunned: "Yeah, he can walk, but what are you thinking? We can't MRI the dog at the hospital. They wouldn't allow that."

"Of course not. That's why we're doing it late at night when no one is around."

"House, why are you doing this?"

He smirked: "I love playing with the big MRI machine. It's so much fun."

Miranda walked over to him and grabbed his arm: "No, really. Why are you doing this for me?"

He shrugged: "You won't take my money. This will save you a thousand bucks. And this is one consult that I can help with."

She shook her head: "You could get in so much trouble."

House chucked: "Naw, I've done a lot worse things than this. Come on, we need to get going."

House pulled a set of scrubs out of his backpack and tossed them to Charlie.

"We'll have to sedate Harley to get him to lie still. I need you to help lift the dog in and out of the machine. I got you some scrubs so that you'll look like a tech. Hope they fit."

Charlie caught the scrubs and said: "I'll go put them on."

House looked at Miranda and asked: "What type of car do you have?"

"Subaru outback wagon."

House nodded: "Perfect for transporting an unconscious dog. Are you parked nearby?"

Miranda pointed to her left: "Garage."

"Excellent. Get a couple of blankets or sheets for carrying him."

Miranda returned with the blankets in just a few minutes. Charlie was right behind her.

House let out a puff of air and said: "OK, let's get the party rolling. Where's the guest of honor?"

Miranda called Harley and he slowly walked over to her. She snapped a leash on him and they headed out to the garage. Charlie lifted Harley into the back and they all piled in. House directed Miranda to drive to the side entrance of PPTH. They parked in a handicapped spot near the entrance. House pulled out his handicapped placard and attached it to her rear view mirror.

They sat for a few minutes watching Carlos the security guard. House explained: "He will sneak off for a smoke or a nap in a few minutes. I parked a gurney near the door earlier. With any luck, it's still there. We'll put the dog on the gurney and cover him up with sheets. Then it's just a short walk down the hallway to MRI and we're in business."

They waited about 15 minutes before Carlos finally snuck off for his nap. He walked across the small parking lot to his car and settled in. When it looked like he had dozed off, they got out of the car.

House said: "I'll go roll the gurney towards the door. When the coast is clear, I'll wave you in. Walk the dog in and then we'll put him on the gurney."

Miranda and Charlie stood anxiously waiting for House's signal. After about 5 minutes, he waved them in. They entered cautiously, leading Harley.

House had the gurney sitting right by the door. Charlie lifted Harley onto it and covered him with a sheet. Harley moved around a bit trying to dislodge the sheet.

Miranda whispered: "Harley, down, stay." The dog lay still at her command.

House was impressed: "Does he obey that well all the time? Maybe we won't need a sedative."

Miranda shrugged: "Usually he does, but he's nervous right now. This is a very strange place for him, so he may break command. Let's just get into the room and see."

House walked on ahead and pushed open the door to the MRI dept. Miranda and Charlie pushed the gurney; Miranda spoke soothingly to Harley as they rolled him. Once inside, House locked the door behind them. He pointed to the MRI machine and they rolled the gurney closer to it. Miranda pulled the sheet off; Harley immediately sat up and looked around.

Miranda said: "I think we'll have to sedate him. He might lie still for a while, but I don't think he will for the whole time. And the noise from the machine might make him anxious."

House pulled some Benadryl tablets and a jar of peanut butter out of his backpack. "Gawd, I forgot to ask you if he likes peanut butter or this won't work."

Miranda laughed: "Oh, don't worry about that. He loves peanut butter, but I can do it faster. I need 75 mg of the Benadryl."

House shook out 3 tablets and handed them to her. One at a time, Miranda popped them into Harley's mouth, shut his jaws and stroked his throat until he swallowed.

House was impressed. "That was good. I didn't realize you could do that. Your vet said to disguise the pills in peanut butter."

"Yeah, that works and cream cheese is even better. I'll do that if I have time, but it seems speed is a good idea here."

House nodded: "OK. Let's keep him on the gurney for now until he starts to get sleepy. I'll go set up the machine in the mean time."

It took House about 20 minutes to set the calibrations on the machine for the dog's anatomy. By then, Harley was starting to get drowsy. Charlie lifted him onto the MRI machine and then Miranda and House positioned him properly. House secured 2 straps across his body and hoped it would keep him secure. Harley looked pretty dopey, but House didn't want him moving around during the test.

Finally all the preparations were finished.

"Ready?" House asked looking at the other two. They nodded and House punched the button. The bed holding Harley slid into the machine.

House peered into the machine; Harley seemed to be snoozing now.

Blowing out a puff of air, he said: "OK. Everyone into the booth."

The three of them filed into the operating booth and sat down. House started the machine and they all watch the images appear on the screen. Everything was being downloaded onto a disc for Harley's vet. They just had to wait for all the cuts and sections to be finished.

Thirty minutes later, they were finished. House popped the disc out of the machine and slipped it into his backpack. A very groggy Harley was lifted out of the machine and placed back on the gurney. Again he was covered with the sheet.

House went to the door and unlocked it: "Now comes the tricky part, getting him out of here."

He stuck his head out of the door and looked both ways. Shutting the door again, he said: "Coast is clear for now. I'm going to distract Carlos, walk him away from the door. Give me 5 minutes and push the gurney out. When you get to the door, Charlie, pick up the dog and carry him out. If you roll out the gurney, I think even a slacker like Carlos will notice that."

House walked out of the door. Charlie and Miranda watched the clock. It seemed to take forever for 5 minutes to go by.

"You know, Randi, this was really nice of him to do this."

"Yeah, Charlie, I know. I don't understand why he's doing it."

Charlie singsonged: "I think he likes you."

She smirked: "I thought you said he doesn't like blondes."

"Maybe he's changed his mind. Or maybe it's just blonde boys he doesn't like."

Miranda grinned and shook her head: "How could he not like you, Charlie? You're so cute and funny."

"Yeah, but you've got the boobies, sugar. Not me."

They both laughed at that and checked the clock. Their 5 minutes was up. Miranda poked her head out into the corridor. The coast was clear. As quietly as possible, they rolled the gurney down the hall towards the exit door.

Once they reached the door, Miranda glanced outside. She saw House several yards away with the security guard. House was facing the door and the security guard had his back towards the door. They were smoking cigars and laughing.

Miranda ducked back in. "OK. Pick Harley up and let's go."

Charlie lifted the dog and Miranda held the door open for him. Then she hurried ahead of him to the car and quietly opened the back door. Charlie slid the dog in and climbed in after him. Miranda went around to the driver's side and got in. she wondered how House was going to get away from Carlos, but after a few minutes, she saw House slap him on the back and walk towards the car. House got in on the passenger side and quickly said: "Charlie, duck down. Miranda, start 'er up and let's get out of here."

They both did as instructed.

House chuckled: "I told him that I was waiting for a sexy nurse to pick me up, so I couldn't let him see you in the car, Charlie."

As they exited the parking lot of PPTH, and turned onto Witherspoon St., Miranda started laughing. Charlie sat up and said: "What's so funny, girl?"

Miranda snorted: "I can't believe we pulled this off. We just snuck my dog into the hospital for an MRI and didn't get caught."

The guys joined in with her and they laughed until they got back to the town home.

Miranda pulled into the garage and turned off the engine. They got out of the car and Charlie carried Harley inside. He laid him on the couch; Harley was snoring softly. He was really out of it.

Charlie asked House if he needed the scrubs back.

House said: "No. Keep 'em. I swiped them anyway."

Charlie laughed: "Well, handsome, it was fun sneaking around with you. But it's late, and I gotta work in the morning. Night-night." He gave Miranda a kiss on the cheek and headed upstairs

House pulled the MRI disc out of his backpack and handed it to Miranda. "Here you go. Let me know what the vet says. You can call me on my cell or text me if you want."

Miranda accepted the disc from him. She was feeling a bit emotional. She still couldn't figure how why he had helped her like this.

Miranda stepped closer to him and placed her hand on his arm. "Thank you so much for helping me out with this. I really appreciate it."

House covered her small hand with his. Her warmth felt really nice against his skin. He looked into her eyes and smiled: "Anything for a lady."

He picked up her hand and brought it to his lips. He left a slow lingering kiss on the back of her hand. House heard a sharp intake of breath from Miranda and he smiled inwardly.

He squeezed her hand gently and said: "Good night, Miranda."

He opened the door and headed out.

Chapter 4

The next morning, Miranda took Harley and the disc to the vet's office. Dr Hamilton looked at the disc and examined Harley. The disc confirmed Dr. Hamilton's suspicions. Harley had a tumor on his adrenal gland and it needed to be removed. Dr. Hamilton had an opening on his schedule for the very next day and Miranda agreed to the surgery. He told her not to feed Harley after 10PM and to bring him in by 7AM. She arranged with the office staff to pay half now and the other half next week when she got paid from the hospital.

Miranda felt like a big load had been lifted. Finally she knew what was wrong with Harley and it seemed curable. Dr. Hamilton explained that it really looked like a solid tumor on the MRI, but wouldn't know positively until the biopsy. So as long as it wasn't cancer, this would take care of Harley's problem.

She took Harley home and left immediately to walk the dogs. It was an uneventful afternoon and she relaxed in the backyard, tossing balls for the dogs.

Around 4PM, she remembered that she had not called House. She hated to bother him at work, so she decided to send him a text.

MRI showed solid tumor.

Surgery scheduled for tomorrow.

Vet thinks he will be fine.

Thank you again!


House had just left Coma Guy's room after watching General Hospital with him, when he heard the beep on his phone. He read Miranda's message and felt strangely relieved. He didn't know why he seemed to care about this woman and her dog, but the feelings were there. He pondered the mystery of it. He tried not to have feelings for people. His past experiences have shown him time and time again that people will just hurt you if you care about them. It was best to keep them at arms' length. But there was something about Miranda. He thought back to the passionate look on her face when she slapped him. He realized he wanted to see that passionate look again but under different, more pleasurable circumstances. He wondered if it would be worth the effort. It had been a very long time for him. Stacy had left him 6 years earlier and he had been a broken man, physically and emotionally when she left. He had trusted her with his medical decisions and he ended up a cripple. That incident further cemented his lack of trust in others.

House decided not to make any rash decisions about Miranda and simply texted her back.

Glad to hear the news.

Text me post-op.


He would wait and see if he heard from her again. He punched the elevator button with his cane and waited for the doors to open.

On Wednesday, Miranda was up very early. She took Harley to the vet by 7AM and tearfully left him there. They told her it would be a long procedure and there was no need for her to wait there. They would call her when he was finished. So Miranda went home and made breakfast. She did some house cleaning until it was time to walk the dogs. When she returned from walking the dogs, she continued cleaning. She had so much nervous energy that she didn't know what to do with it, so she just kept moving.

Finally at 3PM, they called. Harley was doing just fine. The tumor didn't look like cancer, but they were sending it off for biopsy anyway. He was still dopey from the anesthesia, but she could come see him later if she wanted. The vet wanted to keep him for 2 days, and depending on his post-op recovery; he could go home on Friday.

Miranda was so relieved to get that call. She called Charlie on his cell phone and he was overjoyed at the news.

She wanted to call House, but didn't know if she should bother him or not. His text message had been brief yesterday; maybe he didn't really care that much. He confused her. He had been so nice about helping with the MRI and sometimes he seemed like he was flirting with her. But he seemed rather brusque with that text message. Miranda felt like she was getting mixed signals.

Then she reasoned that it was just a text message after all. Maybe he was busy, so he had to be quick. She thought it would be best not to read too much into one encounter. After all, their first meeting had been quite unpleasant. Things had certainly improved since then.

She liked him in a way, but she had been hurt so many times that she wasn't sure it was worth it to try again. And House had a bad reputation around PPTH. She had heard the nurses talking about him and it was not favorable. Several of them were downright scared of him.

Miranda decided she just wasn't going to think about it any more. House had helped her so much with obtaining the MRI; she certainly owed him the courtesy of a reply. And he had asked her to text him post-op. She decided to send him a brief message. If he wanted to know more, he would contact her. This way, the ball would be in his court.


Surgery went well.

Doesn't look like cancer

Sending it off for biopsy

Thanks again.


Miranda stuck her cell in her pocket and continued her housework. About 30 minutes later, the phone beeped. She checked it and found a new text message. It was from House.


Really busy with patient.

Later, GH

She smiled as she read the message. He did seem to care and this time he told her he was busy. Well, maybe she would hear from him later. Miranda wondered what she could do to thank him. After all, he had saved her one thousand dollars. Maybe she could bake him some cookies or invite him over for dinner. She smiled at the thought. She would wait a few days and see if she heard from him again. Then she would take the initiative and invite him over for dinner.

It was almost 7PM by the time the last test results came back. It was still inconclusive, so House instructed Chase to remain with the patient overnight and sent the others home. He sat in his office for a while poring over the file. Finally he tossed it aside. He was too tired for any new theories. It was time for food and sleep. He stood up and started gathering his things. He checked his phone for new messages and scrolled through the incoming calls. He deleted several and then came across Miranda's text message. Smiling, he wondered if she had had dinner yet. He threw the rest of his things into his backpack and headed out.

There was an empty spot right across the street from her town home. House limped slowly up the stairs and knocked on the door.

After a minute, Charlie opened the door. His face lit up upon seeing House on the doorstep.

"Oh, handsome, thank Gawd you are here. Maybe you can make her stop watching that shit."

"What shit?"

"You'll see. Come with me."

They walked down the hall to the sunroom. Miranda was sitting on the sofa, feet propped up on the coffee table with a bowl of popcorn in her lap.

Charlie announced: "Miranda, Handsome is here. Now stop watching that shit and entertain him."

Miranda turned to face him: "I'll watch it if I want to, Charlie. My TV, my tape. Watch your own TV in your room if you don't like it."

She threw a piece of popcorn at him.

House was surprised to see what she was watching. It was a monster truck rally. He could see Phantom and Shockwave thundering across the screen.

He looked at Miranda and said: "Monster trucks? You like monster trucks?"

Miranda looked at him a bit sheepish. "Yeah, I know. Go ahead, make cracks about it. But I think it's fun."

House says: "You know what they say: Grave Digger never disappoints. Can I join you?"

She looked surprised and then pats the couch next to her: "Sure."

Charlie threw his hands up in disgust: "Great. Now she's found someone to watch this shit with. I'm going to my room." He turned on his heel and stalked off.

Miranda giggled: "Charlie hates monster trucks. He could never understand why Andrew and I enjoyed them."

House smiled at her as he carefully sat down next to her. Miranda shoved the bowl of popcorn at him and he helped himself. They sat in companionable silence, occasionally shouting approval or dismay at the TV screen.

They watched for a while until there was a loud growl from House's stomach.

Miranda giggled: "Hungry? Want more popcorn?"

Pointing at the almost empty bowl of popcorn, House asked: "Was that your dinner?"

Miranda shrugged: "Probably. I didn't feel like fixing anything."

"Why don't you pause the tape and let's go get something. You said you wanted to go for a ride on my bike, right? You got a helmet?"

She nodded, eyes wide.

He nudged her: "Come on, get some shoes on and let's go."

"OK. I'll be right back."

Miranda ran up stairs. She dug in the closet for her boots and helmet. She changed into a fresh pair of jeans and pulled the boots on. She poked her head into Charlie's room and said: "House is taking me for a ride on his motorcycle. Don't wait up." She heard his laughter as she ran back down the stairs and went to the closet by the front door. She rifled through the hangars until she found her leather jacket. Shrugging it on, she headed back to the sunroom where House was still sitting on the couch watching TV.

"OK. I'm ready."

He spun his head around and looked at her. She looked good, really sexy. She had on a tight red t-shirt, which accentuated her pert breasts. Her curvy hips were encased in tight blue jeans, which were shoved into calf-high boots. A well-worn leather jacket topped off her outfit.

House smiled with approval: "Helmet?"

From behind her back, Miranda brought out her black and red helmet.

His smile grew larger. He stood up and walked over to her. When he was mere inches away from her, he stopped and pointedly looked her up and down. Then holding out his hand to her, he said: "Let's ride."

Miranda took his hand and they walked out together.

House climbed on his bike and showed Miranda how his cane clipped on. Then she climbed on behind him. She tentatively put her hands on his belt to hold on. Smiling, he grabbed her hands and securely wrapped them around his waist. Racing the engine, he roared off.

It was a nice night for a ride. It was early June and not too hot yet. House headed out of Princeton into the countryside. There was a special spot he wanted to take her; one that he had discovered a few months ago. He had never taken anyone there before. They couldn't really talk while they were riding but he was enjoying the feel of her body pressed up against him. He liked her arms wrapped around him and when they were stopped at traffic lights, he would place his left hand atop hers. At those moments, she would press just a bit closer to him.

Miranda was enjoying the ride also. She had felt a bit shy at first, but once he grabbed her hands and pulled her arms around him, she lost her shyness. It felt good pressing her chest into his back and her legs around his hips. He felt so masculine and it had been a long time since she had been this close to a man. She found her desire for him growing, pooling in the pit of her belly.

After about 30 minutes, House pulled over. They had reached his special spot. He had Miranda dismount first, and then he unclasped his cane. Lifting his right leg over the bike, he carefully stood up. He took off his helmet and turned around to see Miranda doing the same thing, shaking her hair back into place.

Miranda looked at him expectantly.

"Where are we?" she asked.

He smiled: "Come with me and you'll see." He held out his left hand and she placed her right hand in it. He gently guided her down a grassy path for a few yards. They emerged between the trees to an unbelievable sight. This spot overlooked the city of Princeton. It was all lit up below them.

They gazed at it for a few minutes, and then Miranda said: "Wow. This is beautiful. What a nice view."

"Yeah, isn't it? I discovered it a few months back. I was heading home after a long afternoon ride and I needed to pull over and find a tree. And I found this."

She giggled: "You found this place making a pit stop?"

"Yeah, is that funny or something?"

Miranda giggled louder: "Yes, it is."

"Is it now?" With that comment, House reached under her jacket and started tickling her ribs. She laughed harder and that only encouraged him. She was laughing and gasping 'stop!' at him. Finally he stopped and let her catch her breath. But he left his hand under her jacket sitting on her right hip. When her breathing had regulated again, he pulled her closer.

He looked in her eyes. He didn't know what he would find, but he was always afraid of finding the one thing he didn't want: pity. When House looked into Miranda's eyes, he liked what he saw. A warm feeling enveloped his body. It felt tender and sweet. So he leaned down and brushed his lips on hers. He pulled back to look at her. Miranda smiled and placed her hand on the back of his neck, gently encouraging him to do it again. He obliged with a deeper kiss this time and delighted in her response. Her arms snaked around his neck and they leaned into each other.

They stood kissing until it was almost dark. By then House's thigh was protesting the abuse of standing in one spot for so long.

House reluctantly pulled back. Her lips looked swollen from the long necking session. He wanted to stay right there and kiss her some more, but his leg had other ideas.

"Um, I know this pizza joint if you're hungry."

She tenderly caressed his cheek: "That sounds great."

They slowly negotiated the path back to the bike. They mounted the bike and headed back to Princeton. House stopped at a small restaurant called Gino's. It was definitely a local place with the classic Italian restaurant look: red and white checkered table cloths, straw bottomed wine bottles holding dripping candles and a juke box in the corner singing Sinatra.

Miranda smiled as they walked in: "Nice."

House knew Gino and he steered the couple to a quiet table in the back.

They ordered a 2 Heinekens and a large pie with sausage and mushrooms.

They sat quietly for a few minutes, sipping their beers. House was never good at small time and he floundered around trying to come up with something to say.

Miranda spoke up first: "So motorcycles and monster trucks. What else do you like to do?"

"Well, there's General Hospital and Internet porn." He paused to gauge her response. He was pleased when she laughed.

"Do you really watch General Hospital?"

House nodded: "Every day in Coma Guy's room, hiding out from the Dean of Medicine."

Miranda laughed: "I watch it too. Can you believe Jason got arrested for Alcazar's murder? I didn't see that coming."

They spent a pleasant time discussing the intricacies of General Hospital until the pizza arrived. They dug in immediately and finished it off. House was amused to see that she could eat almost as much as he could. He didn't like hanging out with women who were so worried about watching their weight that they would not enjoy the food.

Completely full, House paid the bill and they headed back to Miranda's place. This time she didn't need any encouragement to wrap her arms around House's waist. She immediately snaked her arms around him as soon as she climbed on.

Her home was quiet when they returned. Apparently Charlie took her advice and decided not to wait up. They took off their jackets and Miranda hung them up in the coat closet.

They strolled into the living room.

Miranda asked: "House, would you care for a drink?"

"Sure, I'll have whatever you're having."

"Well, I'm having a shot of Jim Beam."

"That's fine."

House sat down on the sofa and watched Miranda pour them each a shot of bourbon over a single ice cube. She walked over to the couch, and after handing him his glass, sat down next to him.

She clinked her glass against his and said: "Thank you for the lovely evening. And thank you again for helping me with Harley."

House shrugged: "Sneaking the dog into the hospital was fun. I wouldn't have missed that for the world. And as for this evening." He paused, unsure of what to say. He looked into her eyes and, with his free hand, gently touched her cheek. He swallowed the rest of the bourbon and set his glass down. Gently he cupped her face in his hands and said: "I enjoyed it too."

He looked into her eyes and saw what he hoped for: desire. He bent and placed his lips on hers. It was a slow gentle kiss. She moaned softly and it made him smile against her mouth. His jeans were starting to feel a bit snug. He felt her hand on his cheek, and then she pulled back and looked at him.

"Just a sec. I want to have both hands free." She smiled and slugged back the rest of her bourbon.

House grinned. He liked a woman who could hold her liquor.

Setting her glass on the table, Miranda turned back to House and placed one hand on his cheek. Her thumb stroked his scruffy beard.

"I like your beard."

House bent closer to her and whispered: "I'm glad. I like your lips."

He brushed a small kiss on her lips.

"And your cheek," planting another soft kiss on her left cheek.

"And this one too," moving to the right side and slowly kissing that cheek.

"And your neck," as he nibbled his way down her neck. Miranda sighed and tilted her head back to give him more access.

Eyes closed, Miranda's hands toyed with his hair while enjoying the sensations of House kissing her neck. His hands slid down her arms to her waist and he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her closer to him. His jeans were getting uncomfortably tight. He pulled on her shirt, slowly easing it out of her jeans. After a few minutes, his fingers found bare skin and they both moaned softly. The warmth of her skin against his hands was incredible.

As House was sliding his hand up her back towards her bra, his phone went off. He groaned.

She whispered against his mouth: "Do you have to answer it?"

He nodded: "Yeah, my patient is unstable. Excuse me."

He flipped open the phone and growled: "This had better been life or death."

House listened for a few minutes, then snapped: "Well, get an EKG, you moron. I'll be there shortly."

He closed the phone and sighed: "I have to go in."

"That's too bad."

House looked at her. Miranda's skin was flushed with excitement. She looked so pretty; he hated to leave. He would have liked to see where this was going.

House cupped her cheek again: "Rain check?"

Miranda nodded: "Yes. If you don't already have plans, would you like to come over for dinner on Saturday?"

House chucked: "You want to 'fix' dinner for me?"

"No, this time I'm going to 'cook' dinner for you."

Stroking her cheek, he asked: "What's the difference?"

"'Fixing' dinner is just throwing something together; 'cooking' dinner is preparing something nice."

"You want to make me something nice?"

She nodded, her eyes never leaving his.

House brushed his lips on her and slowly kissed his way across her cheek. As he nibbled on her earlobe, he whispered: "What are you going to cook for me?"

She moaned softly: "I was thinking pot roast and mashed potatoes unless you have another request?"

He started nibbling his way down her neck: "That sounds good. I like pot roast. Mashed potatoes from scratch?"

"Of course, is there any other way?"

He pulled back, breathing heavily. "I hope not."

Reluctantly he stood and pulled her up with him. "I really have to go."

"I know."

They embraced and she could feel his desire pressing into her. She smiled and pressed her lips against his for one last kiss. It was a deep and passionate kiss as they pressed their bodies against each other. Finally House pulled away. He needed to get to the hospital despite his desire to stay with Miranda.

She walked him to the door and retrieved his jacket from the closet. She held it out for him and he shrugged into it.

Miranda reached up and cupped his cheek. "Dinner at 7PM on Saturday, OK?"

House smiled and nodded. He bent and gave her one last kiss before he headed out.

He ended up staying at the hospital until 2AM. The patient coded twice and ended up back in ICU on a ventilator. House added the new symptoms to the whiteboard in the conference room, but was no closer to a diagnosis that he had been earlier. He decided to go home and sleep on it, leaving Chase to monitor the patient for the rest of the night.

House came back in around 11AM. The patient was stable on the ventilator and had exhibited no new symptoms. He sent Chase home to get some sleep and he ran the DDX with Cameron and Foreman. He shot down most of the theories they threw at him. But there were 1 or 2 possibles so he sent them off to run some more tests.

At 3PM, he went up to watch General Hospital in Coma Guy's room as usual. He briefly wondered if Miranda was watching and then put that thought aside. He had really enjoyed being with her the previous night, but relationships were always disastrous for him. He didn't have any hope for this one either. Best he could hope for was dinner and, if he was really lucky, some sex.

Around 5PM, House received a text message from Miranda.

Went to see Harley

He's doing well.

I can take him home tomorrow.

Thanks again for last night


House smiled to himself as he read it. After a few moments, he sent a return text.

Glad to hear

Wish my patient were

Doing as well as Harley

Enjoyed last night


He pressed send just as his fellows walked back into his office. They looked discouraged. It was going to be another long night.

Finally on Friday afternoon things fell into place. The patient's wife suddenly remembered his South American trip last month and that little fact helped diagnose the patient. House couldn't understand why she would forget to mention something like that. It just confirmed his opinion that most people were idiots. The patient was started on the necessary treatment right away.

House was pleased that the case was solved before the weekend. He hated having to work on weekends. He was tossing his stuff into his backpack when Wilson wandered into his office.

Wilson said: "Hey, heard you solved your case?"

"Yeah, and just in time for the weekend."

"Perfect timing. Hey, that new Bruce Willis movie is out. Want to go see it tomorrow night?"

"No can do. Got plans."

Wilson looked surprised. "Plans? You? Thought I was your only friend?"

House pretended to look offended. "Hey, that hurt my feelings. Sometimes I have plans just like any other human being."

Wilson snorted: "Yeah, your plans usually involve scotch and porn. Sometimes it's beer and monster trucks. So which is it this time?"

House snickered: "Neither."

Wilson stared at him, waiting for more of an answer. When it seemed not forthcoming, he asked again: "Give it up. What plans do you have that you are foregoing the latest Bruce Willis movie?"

Smugly, House said: "I have a date."

Wilson's jaw dropped in astonishment: "A date? With a woman? A woman who is not a hooker? You're kidding, right?"

House raised his right hand: "Boy Scout swear."

Wilson snorted again: "You were never a Boy Scout."

He plopped down in one of the chairs. "Give it up. I'm not leaving until you tell me who she is."

House snickered again. Part of him wanted to keep Wilson on tether hooks about it, the other part wanted to brag. After a moment of deliberation, the bragging side of him won.

"Remember the dog walker? The one who slapped me?"

Wilson said slowly: "Yeah.You don't mean,,,,her?"

House nodded.

Wilson was astonished: "How did you pull that one off? She slapped you, accused you of killing her brother. How the hell did you pull this one out of your hat?"

House grinned: "I solved her brother's case and I helped her with another problem. So she's cooking dinner for me tomorrow night. Therefore, I can't go to the movies with you."

"You solved her brother's case? But he's been dead for 2 years! How did you manage that?"

House tapped his temple: "The little gray cells, Jimmy. It's a simple matter of asking the right questions and then a bit of research and the power of deductive reasoning. The guy had rabies, believe it or not, and they couldn't figure it out. He had a very strange presentation of symptoms. By the time the consult was sent up here, it was too late anyway. Even if I had figured it out, there was nothing that could have been done at that point."

"So you impressed her by solving this 2 year old mystery".

House winced inwardly, remembering Miranda's reaction to the news: "Actually, I made her cry."

Wilson looked skeptical: "You made her cry and now she's making you dinner? That's just unbelievable. How do you do that?"

"I helped her with another problem, but I can't tell you about that. It's a secret. I think the dinner is in appreciation of that little problem getting solved."

Wilson shook his head: "I just don't know how you do it."

"I told you. Chicks dig the bike. You gotta get one."

"No, thanks. There are easier ways to commit suicide. And I have other ways of attracting the babes. Did you hear about that new redheaded nurse up in Ortho? The one with the D-cups?"

House leaned forward, interestedly: "Oh, yeah. I've seen her. Nice rack."

Wilson stood up and made a show of checking his watch: "Well, I gotta go, cuz I'm picking her up at 7PM." He wiggled his eyebrows at House.

House chuckled: "Ah ha, the panty peeler of PPTH strikes again. You and Little Jimmy have fun tonight."

The two men laughed as they walked towards the elevator together.

House emptied his backpack and his pockets when he arrived at home. He discovered a new text message on his phone. It must have come while he was on the bike. He could never hear the little beep over the roar of his engine.

Harley's home!

Got a huge incision

Down his abdomen

Belly all shaved

Looks funny

See you tomorrow



He smiled at the message. Miranda seemed very happy that her dog was home and he was pleased that he had been able to help her out.

House spent a quiet evening at home alone. He ordered Chinese food to be delivered and settled on the couch to eat and watch a monster truck rally. He started out with beer and then as the night went on changed over to scotch. As he watched the rally, he occasionally thought of her. She would enjoy watching it. Twice he picked up his cell phone to call her, but each time he set it back down on the coffee table. He finally stumbled off to bed around 1AM.

Chapter 5

House woke up around noon. He would have preferred to sleep longer, but his thigh was screaming for Vicodin. He sat up long enough to dry-swallow 2 tablets and then plopped back down. Thirty minutes later, the pills had kicked in enough for him to attempt to get out of bed. He slowly sat up and swung his legs off the bed. After he rubbed his aching thigh for a few minutes, he grabbed his cane and slowly, carefully stood up. He balanced for a minute, and then slowly limped off to the bathroom.

Every morning was like this for House. His thigh was extremely painful first thing in the morning. It usually took Vicodin, a hot shower and some walking to calm it down.

After using the bathroom, he headed down the hall to the kitchen. He started the coffeepot and rummaged in the cabinet for some cereal. He found a half empty box of Coco Puffs and took it out. The milk still smelled OK, so he had a bowl of cereal while standing up at the kitchen counter.

He took his mug of coffee into the living room and turned on the TV. Luckily there was another monster truck rally going on, so he watched that for a while.

He dozed off sometime during the program and woke up around 4PM. He was really stiff from the position he had slept in. Groaning, he got up and limped down the hall to retrieve his Vicodin from the nightstand. He swallowed two more tablets and paced the long hallway for a while.

It was around 6PM when he decided he should shower and dress if he was going to get to Miranda's by 7. He washed his hair and body and then stood in the hot shower as long as he could. When the hot water started to run out, he finally turned it off and got out.

He was feeling almost human by now. He toweled dry and went into the bedroom to get dressed. Staring into the closet, he decided on a sky-blue button-down shirt, white band Tee and some jeans.

After dressing, he headed back into the living room and started grabbing his keys, wallet and cell phone. As he picked up his cell, he noticed that he had a new message. It was from Miranda.

"Hey, I just wanted to tell you that there's a party going on down the street and there's not a lot of parking. So I'm going to leave the garage door open so you can park in there."

House smiled at her consideration. He was also happy that he would not have to climb those steps tonight. His leg had been particularly touchy today. Shoving all his necessary items into his pockets and grabbing his helmet and the paper bag containing the item he had bought yesterday, he headed out the door.

House pulled up to her place just after 7PM. Just as she said, the garage was open so he pulled in. He parked the bike next to her Subaru, and then knocked on the door. He thought that this was a heck of a lot easier than climbing all those stairs.

Miranda answered the door right away. She was wearing a tight V-necked red blouse and black jeans.

She smiled when she saw him. "Hey. I'm glad you could make it."

He smirked: "I make it a point not to turn down a home-cooked meal. This is for you." He held out a paper bag.

Miranda opened it and pulled out a bottle of Maker's Mark. Surprise flashed across her face. Turning to House, she said: "Thank you. You didn't have to do that, but it will sure make a nice after dinner drink."

She set the bottle on the kitchen counter and said: "Make yourself at home. Dinner will be ready in a few minutes. Can I get you something to drink?"

"Whatever you're having."

"I'm working on a Beck's at the moment."

"That would be fine."

Miranda pulls a Beck's out of the refrigerator and handed it to him.

House accepted the bottle from her and asked: "So where's the patient?"

"He's hanging out in the sunroom. Wanna come see him?"

Without waiting for an answer, Miranda headed down the hall and House followed her. Harley was lying on a dog bed next to the sofa. He wagged his tail as they approached, but didn't get up. The other 2 dogs jumped off the couch and greeted the humans enthusiastically.

Miranda spoke soothingly to all the dogs and then knelt down next to Harley. House bent over and took a good look at the dog's incision. The black stitches ran all the way down the dog's shaved abdomen. Miranda patted his tummy around the stitches and Harley wagged his tail happily.

"He doesn't have a lot of energy yet, but I think he doing pretty good. The tumor was on his right adrenal gland, so the vet took out the tumor and that adrenal gland. And because it can reoccur on the other one, he took out most of the left one too. He left just a little bit of it. Hopefully it will make enough of the necessary hormones so that Harley won't need to be on Florinef for the rest of his life. We'll just have to wait and see."

House said: "Well, the stitches look good." House gave Harley a pat: "Poor old guy, it sucks recovering from surgery, doesn't it?"

Harley wagged his tail even harder as if agreeing with House.

Miranda stood up and said: "Let me get back to the kitchen. You can hang out here with the dogs and the TV if you want. Dinner will be just about 5 minutes." Miranda turned and headed down the hall back to the kitchen.

House took a few minutes to wander around the room. He checked out her DVD collection noting that she seemed to have a fondness for Hitchcock and comedies. He snooped around a bit more. The bathroom was next door to the sunroom. Miranda had mentioned that Charlie had made it over to be handicapped accessible for her aunt. House was amazed; if Charlie had done all of this work, he was truly a gifted carpenter. The floor and the walls were tiled with sunny yellow tiles. The floor sloped gradually towards a drain in the floor. You could easily push someone in a wheelchair into the shower area without having to lift them over a ledge or tub. The shower curtains hung from a track in the ceiling. It took 2 curtains to cover the entire shower area indicating the space was certainly large enough to accommodate a wheelchair bound person and another person caring for her. House thought this would be great for him when he's having one of his bad days, the kind where he could barely manage to lift his damaged leg over the edge of the tub.

House was tore from his ruminations by Miranda's announcement that dinner was ready. He limped down the hallway to the kitchen.

She looked up as he walked into the room. "Do you mind if we eat in the kitchen? The dining room always seems too big for only 2 people. But we could eat in there if you would like."

He shook his head: "No, this is fine."

She smiled: "Please sit down."

The table was set and looked lovely. House's mouth was watering from all the delicious smells emanating from the food. He stared in amazement at the quantity of food on the table; there was enough to feed an army, way too much for only 2 people.

He asked: "So, who else is coming to dinner?"

Miranda laughed: "No one. Why do you ask that?"

"Cuz there's enough food here for at least 6 people."

Miranda shrugged: "Well, that's how I learned to cook back home. You always make extra in case you get unexpected folks dropping in."

To House's eyes, there was an unbelievable feast on the table. There was pot roast, mashed potatoes, green beans, a sliced tomato and avocado salad, and biscuits. There was another delicious smell emanating from the oven and when asked about it, Miranda said it was a peach cobbler. His stomach growled loudly and Miranda heard it.

She laughed and said: "Don't be shy. Dig in." She passed him the bowl of mashed potatoes and he helped himself. That broke the ice and he eagerly helped himself to some of everything. It was absolutely delicious and he complemented her profusely.

She gave him a small smile and said: "I'm glad you like it. It's always nice to see a man enjoy his food."

They ate in silence for a short while. House was never good at small talk and he certainly didn't want to talk about work. Harley's surgery and prognosis was covered in a few sentences.

Miranda broke the silence by asking House if he had ever been to a monster truck rally.

House nodded: "Yeah, I've been to a couple of them. They are a lot of fun."

Miranda nodded: "Andrew and I went to several of them. I haven't been to one since then. Most of my friends think they are stupid."

House snarked: "Morons. They don't know what they are missing."

Miranda grinned: "That's right."

There was a bit more silence while they continued to eat and then Miranda asked: "So, you moved a lot as a kid, huh?"

House nodded, mouth full. When he swallowed, he said: "Yeah, we moved almost every year. Dad is a Marine colonel, retired now. They live in San Diego."

"What places did you like the best?"

"Egypt was really cool. I was 12 at the time and really into searching for mummies. Japan was also interesting. We lived in Italy several times. That's where I was born."

"Can you speak the languages?"

"I'm fluent in Italian and Spanish, and I can get by in a few others."

"Did you bother you, moving all the time?"

"Yes. It's hard making friends and then having to leave them. And once girls came into the picture, it was even worse."

"Yeah, I'll bet."

House floundered for a different topic. He really didn't like talking about his childhood. So he turned the tables and asked about hers.

She grew up on a small farm outside of Raleigh. It was only 5 acres as the property had been subdivided after her great-grandfather died and each child got a portion of the farm. Then Miranda's grandfather further divided the property to each of his children giving each of them 5 acres. Her family grew vegetables for home use and sold some of the surplus at a roadside stand. She lived there for her entire childhood until she went off to college. The property was left to Andrew and then it passed on to Miranda when he died.

House asked: "There were only the 2 of you. So why did your dad leave the property just to your brother?"

"Oh, you know. Southern male kinda of thing. It was just assumed I would eventually get married and have my husband's place. So the house and business went to Andrew, which was fine. Sadly, I ended up with them anyway. I sold the business and one of my cousins is renting the house from me. That way, someone is living in it and keeping it up while I'm living up here."

House frowned; that sounded like she didn't plan to stay in Princeton.

"You plan on going back someday?"

"I don't know. I just couldn't sell off the family home, ya know. I miss it in a lot of ways. I miss the quiet of the country and walking in the fields. I miss the nights that are so clear that you see all the stars. I miss sleeping out under the stars. But everyone's gone. My parents, my brother, they're gone. So the house has a lot of sad memories for me. I needed a fresh start after losing so much so quickly and Aunt Lucille really needed me. So I came up here. And I really like it here. I certainly couldn't make a living down there walking dogs. You have to be in a city for that. And I'm not ready to go back to nursing full-time. I don't know if I'll ever be. So this is where I am for now. I have 2 homes. I like them both for different reasons."

She shrugged and smiled at him. Noticing that House had stopped eating, she asked: "Would you like some more?"

He patted his stomach: "I'm stuffed at the moment. I need to save a little room for that cobbler." He reached across the table and took her hand. He looked piercingly into her eyes. "Thank you for dinner. You are an excellent cook."

Miranda squeezed his hand: "You're welcome. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Let me just clear the table and then we can have dessert."

Miranda made quick work of wrapping and putting away the leftovers. Then she took the cobbler out of the oven and served it warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

House moaned after one bite: "Oh, my Gawd. This is so good. I can't believe no one has married you for your cooking. Where do I go to apply?"

She laughed so hard at that remark that tears ran down her face. Finally she was able to choke out an answer: "Applications are accepted on the first and third Friday nights of every month." She laughed some more and House laughed with her.

They finally calmed down enough to finish eating their dessert. House requested a second portion, which Miranda delighted in serving to him.

When they finished eating, Miranda suggested that they go into the living room for after-dinner drinks. She grabbed the bottle of Maker's Mark from its spot on the kitchen counter as they headed in there.

Miranda motioned to the couch and said: "Why don't you sit down and I'll put on some music and then pour us a drink."

House sat on the sofa. He watched her walk over to the stereo and admired her ass in those tight jeans.

Miranda inserted several CD's into the player and put it on shuffle. Then she headed over to the bar and dropped an ice cube into each glass pouring a shot of bourbon on top. She sat on his left side and handed him one of the glasses. He accepted it with his right hand while he stretched his left arm across the back of the couch. When Miranda leaned back, she leaned right into his arm. With his hand on her shoulder, he prodded her a bit closer to him.

Clinking his glass against hers, he said in a faux Southern accent: "Here's to you, my little steel magnolia."

They both took a sip and then Miranda said: "So what's with the nickname, sugar?"

"It's a complement. All that toughness wrapped up in such a pretty package. I bet you were homecoming queen, weren't you?"

She sputtered: "Me? You have to be kidding. I wasn't in that kind of league."

"Oh, come on. You're gorgeous: tall, blonde, terrific figure. You must have been homecoming queen or voted 'most beautiful' or something."

Miranda shook her head. "Nope. I was the photographer for the yearbook and I ran track. I ran the one-mile and the three-mile. The pretty girls were the homecoming court and the cheerleaders and majorettes and stuff like that."

House was stunned: "You're trying to tell me that YOU were not considered one of the pretty girls."

She shook her head: "There's lots of pretty blondes where I come from and I was considered to be too tomboyish. My mother tried to drum that out of me, but it didn't work. Besides, I really didn't grow boobs until I was 17. I was a late bloomer."

House shook his head, surprised at her response. He asked: "So what was your best time in the mile?"

She took another sip and answered: "I wasn't that good, but I enjoyed it. My best time was 5:15."

House nodded: "Not too shabby." He carelessly stroked her arm as he spoke and she leaned infinitesimally closer to him. His lips brushed her temple. Miranda let out such a soft sigh he wasn't sure that he hadn't imagined it.

They sat in companionable silence for a while, sipping their drinks and listening to the music. When their glasses were empty, Miranda took House's from his hand and went over to the bar. She poured them each another shot. As she turned back towards the couch, another song began on the stereo. It was Percy Sledge singing: "When a Man Loves a Woman."

House stood up and walked over to Miranda. He took the glasses from her and set them on the coffee table. Looking deeply into her eyes, he said: "I can't dance, but I can sway a bit."

Mesmerized by his eyes, she whispered: "I like to sway."

House took her in his arms and they begin to sway to the song. He bent down and gently, tentatively brushed his lips on hers. Her arms tightened around his neck, giving him the encouragement to kiss her again, a little longer this time. He could feel her fingers tangling in his hair and he pulled back to look in her eyes. House could see her desire and he smiled. His hand cupped her cheek and stroked it with his thumb. He bent down for another kiss and she tiptoed up and met him halfway. This time her lips parted and his tongue slipped in. Slowly, their tongues began a dance, tangling and pulling away. Arms wrapped around her back, House pulled her even closer, his desire rising. Miranda smiled against his mouth at the hardness pressing against her and she slowly rubbed her hips against him. House groaned at the sensation.

With his bad leg, House could sway for just so long. By the time the song had ended, his thigh had reached its limit and was screaming for him to sit down. House pressed his lips to Miranda's forehead and said softly: "Couch." Taking her hand, he led her back to the couch. House sat and looked questioningly at Miranda, as she remained standing next to him. Gently she stroked his cheek and then she straddled him, taking care to put all her weight on the couch and none on his leg. She saw the surprised look flash across his face for an instant and then it was gone. All she saw when she looked in his eyes was desire.

House was truly surprised by her boldness, but he hid it quickly. He saw the desire in her eyes and he pressed his lips to hers. They kissed deeply and passionately, tongues dancing in each other's mouths. House eased her shirt out of her pants and slipped his hands underneath the fabric. Her skin was so warm and soft. They both moaned at that first contact. He slowly caressed his way up her back until he encountered her bra. He expertly unclasped it and stroked the entire length of her back.

Miranda purred at the sensation. Her hands were busy caressing House's cheek and playing with his hair.

Slowly House slid his hands around until they were cupping her bare breasts. Miranda moaned loudly against his mouth and pressed her core against his erection. He squeezed her breasts and gently pinched her nipples. Miranda moaned again. House badly wanted to see her breasts. Encouraged by her moans, House slid her blouse up until he was looking right at two perfect C-cup breasts with pink perky nipples.

He moaned: "Oh, so beautiful." He nuzzled the valley between her breasts and then took one pink nipple in his mouth. He licked and sucked gently at first, then harder as he felt the pressure of her hand on the back of his head.

House was getting more and more excited. He started to pull her shirt off over her head and felt Miranda's hand restrain him.

"Oh, Gawd. You know I don't live alone; Charlie could come home any time. We should take this to my room, OK?"

"OK", gasped House.

Miranda pulled her shirt back down to cover her breasts and climbed off of House's lap. She picked up one glass of bourbon and the bottle, and tilting her head towards the hall, said: "C'mon."

House stood up carefully and followed her out of the room. She was waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs.

House looked up at the long flight of stairs. He pointed and said: "Up there?"

Miranda nodded.

House's ego took a nosedive. It would probably take him 10 minutes to limp up those stairs and would cause him considerable pain. He felt his erection start to shrink immediately. He couldn't do this. Once he made it up the stairs, he would be in no shape for sex. He cursed his leg for making him feel so damaged.

He tried to come up with some excuse, but before he could open his mouth, he heard Miranda say: "Wanna take the elevator?"

House slowly turned his head to face her: "You have an elevator?"

She shrugged: "Kind of."

Miranda walked over to the banister and started fiddling with something. House heard a whirring sound and a chair started gliding down the banister. He followed its descent with his eyes until it stopped at the bottom.

Miranda bit her lip and said: "It's a lift. Charlie installed it so Aunt Lucille could still go upstairs. Sometimes I use it when I'm really tired. Or really drunk." She said this with an embarrassed grin. "It's just a really small elevator with a seat."

Miranda glanced at House, wondering how he was taking this. She knew the stairs would be hard to him to manage. He was a strong-willed man and he didn't like to feel weak. This was the type of thing that would throw his weakness right in his face if not handled carefully. She didn't want to hurt him or be condescending in any way. She just wanted him upstairs in her bedroom.

She gave me a very sultry smile. "Come on. Have a seat. Let's go upstairs and I'll show you my,,,,assets."

That put a smile on his face. "I'd like to see your assets, sugar."

House looked at the chair and said: "Cool ride, sugar, but you ought to pimp it up a bit. Needs some racing stripes or something."

She rewarded him with another very sultry smile: "Well, I'll work on that. Now sit your ass down and hold on for your ride. There'll be another ride waiting for you when you reach the top."

House chucked and sat. Miranda showed him how to work the controls.

He nodded and said: "Go on up ahead of me. I'll be right behind you. I want to watch your sexy ass walk up those stairs".

Miranda leaned over and gently kissed his cheek. "You got it, darlin'."

And with that, she turned and started up the stairs.

House stared at her until she was halfway up, and then flicked the controls and started his ascent.

At the top of the stairs, Miranda turned to the left and headed into her bedroom. She placed the glass and bottle on the nightstand and turned on one of the bedside lamps. It gave a soft glow to the room. Then she pulled the sheet down. As she finished that, she heard the distinctive step-thump of House's gait. He took a few steps into the room and stopped.

House's eyes flitted around the room taking it all in. He was pleased that it was not an overly girly type of room. The walls were painted a soft blue. The furniture was a dark wood, probably walnut and it complemented the shades of blues and browns in the room.

After scanning the room, his eyes fell on Miranda. She flushed an attractive shade of pink under his gaze. He leaned his cane against the footboard of the bed and walked slowly towards her. When he reached her, he cupped her face with both of his hands and tilted her chin up. Slowly he bent down and brushed his lips across hers. Miranda let out a small sigh and wrapped her arms around his neck. They started kissing slowly. It grew deeper and tongues started dancing.

House pivoted and sat down on the bed, pulling Miranda down onto his good leg. He ran his hands under her shirt and caressed her bare back. Then he grabbed the hem of her shirt again and this time he succeeded in pulling it over her head. The bra went along for the ride.

House leaned back to take a good look. She was gorgeous. As far as he was concerned, she could be a Playboy model. He wanted to get the rest of her clothes off fast so he could see all of her.

House stared at her for so long, that Miranda started to feel a bit nervous. She stroked his face and his eyes refocused on hers. He smiled as he said: "You're beautiful."

She teased him: "Thought you didn't like blondes."

"That was just to discourage Charlie. You, on the other hand,,,," He waggled his eyebrows and let out a growl. She giggled as he pulled her closer, his hands cupping her ass. His mouth found the closer nipple and he suckled gently at first, then harder as his desire grew. His fingers started fumbling with the button on her jeans.

Meanwhile, Miranda was busy unbuttoning his shirt. Once she succeeded with that task, she pushed it off his shoulders and managed to maneuver it off of his arms. Then she pulled his t-shirt out of his jeans and slid her hands up his back.

Not wanting to play favorites, House switched to the other nipple, laving it with his tongue and gently suckling it.

Miranda slid his t-shirt up and managed to maneuver his arms out of it. She couldn't pull it over his head as he was still suckling her breast. Finally she managed to pull away for a brief moment, but long enough to pull the shirt over his head and toss it on the floor.

Their upper bodies were finally both naked. House wrapped his strong arms around her and held her close to his chest. He could feel Miranda's hand on the back of his head and he shifted so he could kiss her.

Their lips were locked; their tongues were dancing in each other's mouths.

House managed to unbutton her jeans and started pulling the zipper down. He tugged at her jeans, but her position on his lap prevented him from pulling them down.

Miranda smiled against his mouth; she knew what he wanted. She slowly eased off of his lap and stood in between his legs. Their lips broke apart slowly. House put his hands on her hips and slowly pushed her jeans down. They fell around her ankles and Miranda stepped out of them, kicking them to the side. She stood in front of him clad only in leopard skin print bikini panties.

She looked incredibly sexy. House was very aroused and his jeans were way too tight. They needed to be removed. He was glad that the lighting in the room was very soft. He was embarrassed about the huge scar on his thigh and he really hated for anyone to see it. He had never told Miranda about his injury and his scar and now she was going to see it, up close and personal. House started to grow a bit nervous about that. What if she was repulsed by it? He actually felt his erection start to shrink again. Gawd, maybe it wasn't worth it to reach out to someone. Pain and rejection could only follow.

While he was lost in his thoughts, Miranda had knelt between his spread knees. She was peppering his chest with little kisses while fumbling with the button and zipper on his jeans.

She got him completely unzipped and ran her fingers under the waistband of his boxers. Her hand felt incredible and he sensed his erection returning.

He needed to tell her before she saw it. He stilled her hand and she looked up at him. His mouth was dry and it was hard to speak. Finally he managed to croak out: "I have this big scar on my leg. I had muscle death and they removed a large chunk of my thigh."

Miranda nodded: "Will it hurt if I touch it?"

He whispered: "Only if you bump it or hit it. But I don't want you to touch it or look at it. It's ugly."

Miranda could hear the anguish in his voice as he spoke. She wanted to put him at ease again. She leaned up and, with her hand on the back of his head, pulled his face closer to her. As her lips drew closer to his, she said: "There is a certain part of your anatomy that I do want to see and touch." She gently licked his lips and then brushed her lips against his.

His eyes were closed; he seemed to be enjoying the sensation. She slid her hand a bit further into the boxers and gently touched the head of his cock.

He moaned and his cock twitched against her hand.

Miranda slid her hand further down into his boxers until she was able to grasp his shaft. She slowly stroked him, her movements hampered by his tight jeans.

House seemed more relaxed than a few minutes ago. The tension that had been in his body from the need to tell her about his scar has dissipated as soon as she touched his cock.

Gauging his reaction, Miranda put her other hand on his chest and gently pushed him back until he was lying on the bed. Then she tugged on his jeans. House lifted his hips and Miranda slowly pulled them down. She untied his Nikes and removed them and his socks. Finally she pulled his jeans completely off and tossed them aside.

She stroked his calves and kissed his knee. He was watching her a bit apprehensively from his half-lying position on the bed. She started kissing her way up his left leg. She kissed his left inner thigh while gently caressing the right with her fingertips. Then she moved over to the right thigh and planted gentle little kisses along the sensitive inner side.

Boldly, she rose up on her knees and looked right at his scar. She could feel the tension in his body as she bent over it. She planted a kiss right in the middle of it and House hissed. She tongued the rough contours of the scar and kissed her way up his scar until she was back to the smooth skin near his hip. She treated the scar as if it were just another part of his body needing to be kissed.

House was taken aback by her actions but was pleased that the horrible disfigurement didn't repulse her. He couldn't believe her way of showing him that it didn't matter. She was a truly amazing woman.

She continued to move up his body and mouthed his shaft through his boxers. He moaned and bucked his hips. Delighted with his reaction, she continued to mouth and nuzzle his cock. She could feel his hands running through her hair and then he tugged on her arm.

Miranda looked up at him and said saucily: "Something you'd like?"

He grinned lasciviously at her: "Yes. Your hot bod right up here."

Mouthing his cock one last time, she climbed up on the bed and straddled his hips. Her body hovered about his, nipples just brushing against his chest. She had one forearm on either side of his head and she started kissing his face.

One of his hands reached up and cupped her breast and the other hand cupped her mound through her panties. He was delighted to find that the panties were saturated.

He growled and pulled her body down on top of him and he rolled them over. Their positions were now reversed. He kneed her legs apart and pushed against her core. She ground her hips up against him.

House slowly kissed his way down her body until he reached her panties. Slipping one finger under the band, he slowly pulled them down.

House smiled to see that Miranda was a true blonde. He nuzzled her soft hair and flicked his tongue against her clit. She gasped at the pleasurable sensation. He lapped again, pleased with her response.

House pulled her panties completely off and gazed at her. She was absolutely luscious. He couldn't believe he had this beautiful woman in his bed. He ran his hand up her leg and then lightly caressed her inner thigh. Slowly he kissed his way to her core and started lapping. She moaned and bucked against his mouth. He thrust his tongue inside her; she tasted delicious.

While he licked and kissed her core, Miranda twisted her body around so that she could reach his cock with her hand. She slipped her hand inside his boxers and stroked his erection. It wasn't enough for her; she wanted to see and to taste. She maneuvered a bit more and was able to slide his boxers part way down. Finally she was able to see his cock and she was impressed by his size. A bit more squirming and she was able to reach him with her mouth.

House moaned loudly at the first contact of her lips on his cock. She circled the head with her tongue and licked up his pre-cum. Then she slowly slid her mouth down his length as deeply as she could go. House moaned at the pleasurable sensations and he couldn't help thrusting a little bit into her mouth. With each down-stroke, she seemed to take him in a bit deeper. Her hands were on his ass, encouraging his thrusts.

As enjoyable as this was, House didn't want to come like this for his first time with her. He wanted to watch her face as she came. With one last delicious lick on her core, he put a finger to her throat to stop her.

Miranda looked up at him; a gorgeous sight with his cock still in her mouth.

He said huskily: "Come up here, sugar."

Miranda slowly slid his cock from her mouth, her tongue swirling the underside as she went.

House scooped her up and cradled her in his arms, and then he gently laid her so that her head was on the pillows. He lay between her legs, supporting himself mostly on his left elbow while he caressed her face with his right hand. She reached down and slowly stroked his cock.

He kissed her gently and whispered: "Got condoms?"

She replied: "Yes. Top drawer." She pointed to the nightstand.

House reached over and opened the drawer. He pulled out the box of condoms and removed one from the box.

Miranda took it from him and tore it open. She reached down and dressed his penis while he nibbled on her neck. Once he was dressed, House rubbed his cock against her entrance. Miranda moaned at the sensations and bucked against him. He slowly entered her to his entire length. Miranda cried out and pushed against him. He pumped into her slowly, wanting to take his time and watch her reactions. His hand and mouth stayed busy too, kissing, nibbling and caressing her body.

Miranda put her hand on the back of his head and steered him to her lips. They kissed deeply and passionately, tongues dancing together in a now familiar rhythm.

House felt that familiar ache in his thigh, the one that threatens to become a full-blow spasm. Knowing he couldn't keep thrusting this way, he gripped her body and rolled them over so that now Miranda was on top.

He smiled and said: "Oh, I like this view."

She smirked: "You do, do you?"

Miranda slid up and down his cock. She would slowly slide all the way up so that he would almost fall out, and then quickly slam back down. She continued this slow-up and fast-down for a few minutes, until House couldn't take it any more. He grabbed her hips and guided her into a steadier rhythm. As she continued the new rhythm, House reached up and cupped her breast, squeezing and teasing her nipple. He leaned up and suckled at the other nipple.

He was getting close but he wanted her to come first. He licked his thumb and applied it to her clit, eliciting cries of delight from her.

He said huskily: "Miranda, open your eyes. I want to see your eyes when you come."

Miranda's eyes fluttered open and locked on his. He saw her passion, that look he had wanted to recapture from the time she had slapped him. He had put that look there again, this time in a much more pleasurable manner. He rubbed her clit harder and sent her over the edge. She came with a loud cry, clutching tightly on his arm. He saw it all in her eyes and it sent him over the edge.

Grasping her hips tightly, he pumped up into her 3 or 4 times and he came hard, deep within her.

They thrust against each other a few more times, riding out their orgasms. Then Miranda slowly collapsed onto his chest. They lay like that for a few minutes waiting for their breathing and heart rates to return to normal.

Miranda murmured: "House, that was incredible. Wow. You are amazing."

He smiled and hugged her closer. It had been a long time since he had felt like this, felt such a connection with a woman. The last time ended with serious pain, physically and emotionally. Somehow this felt different. Perhaps it was just the newness, or perhaps it really felt right. He didn't know for sure. But he decided that he was finally willing to take the chance.

A door creaked open in the iron wall around his heart.

Kissing her cheek tenderly, he whispered: "Greg. Call me Greg."

Author's Note: This is a story I submitted for the House/OC fan fic contest on the Fox board. Hope you enjoy it.