COMFORT, Pt 2

Second installment of this story line. House discovers the identity of his Angel, but when he learns her true motives, can he handle the truth? Rated M/Adult for strong language and (finally) let the **smut** begin… You've been warned!

I added a summary of this story line up to now.

All the usual and applicable disclaimers and warnings apply, such as don't like - don't read; I don't own House or any other characters, or anything or anybody else, blah, blah, blah…

Story Summary: In Comfort, Pt 1, House has his life turned upside down by Tritter. He is suspended from the hospital, and all of his friends turned their backs on him and abandoned him. He runs out of drugs, and is holed up in his apartment, detoxing and in hellacious pain, all alone. A strange woman with long pretty hair (that smells like pears and ginger) appears in his bedroom in the middle of the night, injects him with a syringe of morphine, comforts him, and he wakes up much later with a big fat bottle of Vicodin in his hand. He never saw her face in the dark room, and he has no idea who she is or why she helped him. He recovers, solves the Tritter problem, and is now determined to find his "Angel of Comfort."

Unbeknownst to him, this mystery woman had been 'stalking' House for some time, watching him, gathering information about him… Which brings us all up to date and current. Now read on!

I rewrote this 3 times… time to kick it out of the nest and let it fly. Again, hopefully I kept the babble and rambling to a minimum. So, review away, this story line is far from over, there's more coming soon…

NITEJASMINE

COMFORT, Pt 2

House MD fanfic by NiteJasmine

*****

House had finished scrutinizing all the females in Radiology. That department had struck out. His Angel of Comfort was still eluding him. It was getting late, and he thought about heading home, but figured, what the hell, keep the search going. It entertained him and gave his easily bored brain something to play with. Next up, Neurology, good time to catch the night shift. He walked out of the elevators and headed to the nurse's station. He got the usual number of cautious glances as he approached, he could see a couple of the girls there mentally bracing themselves for some kind of battle. His reputation preceded him once again and he mentally smiled to himself. He stopped and hooked his cane on the edge of the counter in front of a seated nurse. He reached into his pocket, pulled out his pills and popped a Vicodin. The nurse looked up at him with a mix of annoyance and caution. "May I help you?" she asked. "Good evening, nurse…" House said as he leaned in and read her name tag "…Nurse Cartwright. I am Dr. House. I was wondering if you could answer a few questions for me." She did not stand up. This was his usual methodology. He began asking inane questions about the department, staffing numbers, recovery statistics, any kind of bullshit he could come up with, while his eyes systematically went around the floor checking off the female staff members. It was pretty quick work, actually. His brain quickly checked off each woman as he babbled out his line of pointless questioning. Nope, not her, curly hair. Nope, short hair. That one's too overweight. One over there, no, not tall enough. Nope, not her either, yikes! she's built like a linebacker. Two more nurses came out of a patient's room, nope, nope. Another department struck out. He was just about to wrap it up and leave when another woman walked up beside him and stopped. He looked over at her, still spouting off yet another meaningless question. She reached behind the counter and picked up a neon orange clipboard. She had no makeup on but was still very pretty. He admired her for a moment. She was wearing full blue surgery scrubs, and looked tired.

*****

She was tired. It was late in the day. The late afternoon surgery had gone much longer than anticipated, and her patient had begun hemorrhaging in 4 unexpected places. It had taken just over 3 extra hours, but she had skillfully found all the ruptured vessels in his brain, and finally the patient had stabilized and was now in ICU recovery, and his wife had given her a spine crushing hug. She sighed and rubbed her eyes as she wandered back towards her office, still in her full dark blue scrubs. She removed her surgeon's booties, but left her hair net on. Her arms were just too tired to deal with it. She wanted to just go crash on the sofa in her office, but she knew she still had her final rounds to do, plus she didn't think her aching back would take kindly to being folded up on a hospital-grade sofa for the night. So she headed towards the nurse's station to pick up her neon orange clipboard. Coffee. Need some coffee, she thought as she rounded the corner and walked out onto the main floor of Neurology. She looked up and nearly froze. House. Standing right there. What's he doing here? But she already knew. He was standing with his back to her, leaning on the counter, talking to a bored looking nurse. It had been about 2 weeks since he had come back to work and everything had gotten somewhat back to normal. But she had noticed him systematically going through every department in the hospital, shift by shift. She guessed he was looking for the mystery woman who had broken into his apartment and stabbed him with a needle, and he was pretty determined to find her. He's looking for you. She thought. But she still wasn't quite ready to show her cards just yet. She needed to keep him at bay for a just a little while longer. Besides, she was sure there was no way he could ever identify her. He had been in a pain clouded haze and then had gone to sleep after she had given him the shot of morphine. No way he could track her down by sight. So how does he expect to find me? She would have to worry about that later. Right now she had to get him out of here so she could finish her rounds and go get some sleep.

She took a deep breath, regained her composure and walked up to the station and stood right next to him.

*****

"Kelly, would you get me come coffee please?" she asked the nurse he had been questioning, and Nurse Kelly Cartwright was only too happy to go bounding off, delighted to escape Dr. House's badgering. That left just the two of them standing there. Keep your cool, she thought as she turned to face him, a look of tired annoyance on her face. "Do you have a specific reason to be up here harassing my nurses?"

"I was bored," he quipped. "Besides I wanted to get caught up with all the giggles and gossip up here in Neurology., Ya know, just be one of the girls. So which way to the proverbial water cooler, Dr….?" He leaned forward a bit to read her name on the ID card clipped to her collar. "…Dr. Sheridan." At that instant, the faint scent of pears and ginger drifted to him and he stopped dead still. He inhaled again, yes, there is was. He locked his eyes onto hers, intently staring at her. He couldn't see her hair, but that scent was unmistakable. She held his gaze evenly, but questioningly. After what felt like an eternity, he broke the spell. "You," he said quietly, "It was you."

*****

Good Jesus Lord God, I'm going to have a stroke. Her mind raced. How does he know? How the fuck does he know? She held his piercing stare, and tried to maintain a casual and annoyed look. She was not sure if she was pulling it off. Damn, the guy was so fucking intense. God, she was too tired for this. Not now.

"Me? What was me? Are you delusional?" she asked as flippantly as she could. He didn't move. "Dr. House, go play with your fantasies someplace else, some of us have work to do." It was a weak exit, but it was all she could come up with. She turned to walk away. He reached out with his left hand and gently but firmly grabbed her right elbow. She turned and faced those glacial blue eyes again. She tried to keep any hint of her thoughts deeply hidden. To reveal nothing. He held here there for what seemed like forever, his eyes locked onto her, scanning her soul.

"It was you," he said finally, and a tiny grin curled one corner of his mouth. His eyes actually sparkled. "I have no idea what you're talking about," she said as she pulled her arm from his grasp. She shook her head, walking away. "I have rounds to do," she said tiredly. She needed to get away from him. She walked quickly into the first patient's room and shut the door behind her. The blinds were drawn, so she was out of his sight. She tried to compose herself. Her heart was pounding, her mind was racing. How the hell did he figure it out? But, of course that is the guy's specialty. He figures things out. So now for the sixty million dollar question… Now What?

She quickly checked on the patient in front of her. All good. Just finish your rounds and get the hell home. She stood for a moment with her hand on the door, steeling herself before she opened it. She needn't have bothered, when she stepped out onto the floor, House was nowhere in sight. Katie showed up with her coffee, but she really didn't want it anymore. An hour later, she had finally finished her rounds and headed back to her office to change and go home.

*****

House rode the elevator down to the hospital lobby, relieved but still more puzzled than ever. He had finally found her. He found his Angel. He had thought that once he found her, he would recognize her and it would all make sense. He had to admit that he was still not 100% sure that it really was Dr. L. Sheridan from Neurology. But all his instincts said that it was her. And he had absolutely no idea who she was. He had never met her. And no idea why she had helped him. He stopped halfway across the lobby, turned around and walked back, and punched the elevator button with his cane. He found her office easily enough. Dr. Lauren Sheridan, Neurosurgery in pretty silver letters on the glass door. He looked inside and noticed the various certificates hanging on the wall. The closest one was her Medical School Certificate, Harvard. There were a variety of other paper credentials with scrolled, colored edges and her name in curved script along the wall. Impressive. Beautiful and smart. Dangerous combination. But the puzzle still wasn't solved, it was only deepening…

*****

She left the overhead lights off in her office as she walked in, the desk light was on and it was a soft warm glow. She dropped her neon orange clipboard onto her desk, and sighed heavily. She reached up and pulled her surgical hair net off, and released the large clip holding her hair up. She shook her head and her long dark hair cascaded down her back. She heard a soft noise behind her and spun around to see what it was. But she already knew who she expected to see before her eyes focused on him. Yep, it was House. He was sitting in a chair in the far corner of her office, leaning against the large file cabinet. I'm too tired for this, she thought. But there was no escaping the inevitable. This was obviously going to happen here and now. She steadied herself as she waited for him to say something.

His voice was low but crystal clear.

"Startling, isn't it?" He asked, "Having a complete stranger show up in your personal space in the dark." He paused. "You just don't know what their intentions are." He went quiet again, just sitting there, studying her. She leaned back on the front edge of her desk.

"So what are your intentions, Dr. House? What is it you want from me exactly?" she asked him.

"I think you already know the answer to that," he replied. "I want to know if it was you."

She looked down and sighed heavily again. Oh, fuck it.

"Yes," she said finally. Her back was killing her. She moved around the desk and sat down in her big chair. The fact that she winced a bit in pain did not go unnoticed by the doctor in the corner. He did not move. She leaned down and opened a bottom drawer of her desk, and came up with 2 prescription strength Motrin. She popped them in her mouth and washed them down with a mouthful of cold coffee, making a horrid face.

"Bleah," she said, grimacing, "that should be illegal."

"Why," came the question from the corner.

"Because cold coffee is one of the nastiest tasting things on the planet," she answered, knowing full well that wasn't the question he was posing.

He got up slowly, and made his way across the office, closing the distance between them. He sat down in a chair across the desk from her. The soft lamp light illuminated his features. His beautiful blue eyes were soft and questioning, but always with that undercurrent of intensity.

"No, why did you help me? I don't even know you. I want to know why." He leaned back in the chair and focused his gaze on her face, waiting for her answer.

She just sat there for a minute and stared down at her desk, thrumming her fingers lightly on top of a couple of patient files.

"Someone had to." She finally said quietly, and looked up at him. "How did you get in here anyway, my office was locked."

"So was my front door." He said evenly.

She rolled her eyes. "Oh, please. If you're going to keep a key over your door, why bother to lock it at all?"

"You still haven't answered my question," he said, keeping that cool gaze locked on her.

"Yes, I did. I said someone had to." She said as she leaned forward and returned his even stare. "And I certainly didn't trip over any of your other so-called friends coming or going," she said, and felt a surge of anger at the thought of their abusive abandonment. He saw the anger flash in her eyes. "They all bailed on you. Wilson, your team, even Cuddy. They left you out there all alone. Completely at the mercy of that power hungry little prick cop. Someone had to step in and do something to help you."

House was a little stunned by her candor. How does she know so much about me? he wondered. His eyes narrowed as he leaned forward, getting even closer to her. "Have you been stalking me?" he asked. He wasn't sure if he liked the idea of yet another person snooping around in his life. He felt mildly annoyed at the prospect.

He saw a smile slowly spread across her face.

"Sort of," she answered. Again, he was briefly at a loss, he had not expected her to be so blatantly honest. What happened to Everybody Lies?

She kept her gaze on him, but could see she had surprised him. She saw that subtle reaction and decided to go ahead and take the plunge. Here goes nothing, she thought.

"I've actually been interested in you for quite some time," she continued, "You're an attractive, intelligent, and very intriguing man. My intentions are purely romantic. I just hadn't gotten around to figuring a way past all the concrete barricades and barbed wire that you've surrounded yourself with. Find some way that you might be willing to let someone in, just a little." she paused, he didn't respond. She should have stopped right there, but she kept going.

"I'm also not an idiot. I have no misguided expectations. You're arrogant, rude, selfish and insensitive, but you get away with it because you're also brilliant. You suffer chronic pain, so you eat Vicodin like candy. I don't have a problem with that. You brood, you whine, you lash out. You've been deeply hurt, you're intensely sad and brutally lonely, but you hide it all behind a thick coat of armor and mountains of harsh words. You say your don't care, but you consistently go out of bounds and over the top for your patients. You solve the puzzles and ultimately you save lives. I know all that. I think under all your monumental defenses, you're quite an incredible man. A man who does need friendship and love, even though you vehemently shun them both and try to keep them as far way as possible. Anyone trying to get close to you scares the hell out of you. So you isolate yourself. You believe that life sucks, everybody lies, nobody cares, and there's nothing better out here for you. But there is. And you deserve it. You may not think so, but I do. And I am still very interested in you, and I'm willing to accept you just the way you are." She leaned back in her chair.

"And that's why I helped you. Because I care very much about you."

He had absolutely no idea what to say. When was the last time he had been rendered completely speechless? While she had been calmly delivering her analysis of him, he struggled to keep his expression blank. Reveal nothing. But inside, his thoughts and some emotions that he had long forgotten about were swinging wildly all over the place. He hadn't seen any of this coming. She had been stalking him, well, sort of. How could he have never noticed her? But her only motivation was because she was romantically interested in him? Because she cared about him? He suddenly felt like the room was getting smaller.

She waited for his reaction, but he was impossible to read. He just sat there silently across from her, then he started to look nervous. Fuck. She silently cursed herself. She was sure she had blown it. Too much too fast. I knew I was too tired for this…He's gonna bolt for the door any second… Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

She put one hand up to her forehead and rubbed her temples, closing here eyes.

"Look," she said tiredly, dropping her hand and looking at him again, "I'm exhausted. You got your answer. Now could we please finish this conversation some other time? I want to go home."

He had to admit, she did look wiped out. But she was still radiantly beautiful. For a split second, his mind had a vision of her waking up next to him in his bed, that gorgeous hair spilling across naked skin… Stop it. He snapped his brain back to reality.

"This is not over," he said as he got up to leave. Actually, he was glad to have an exit. He wanted some time to be able to process all this new information.

"I hope not," she said as she watched him go. She heard the step-thump of his gait grow fainter as he limped down the hall. She waited a few more minutes before turning off her desk light and heading home, her mind whirling. So now he knows. She had been wondering about this moment since that night in his apartment, actually even way before then. This is not how she had planned things. Not at all. But, so much for the best laid plans of mice & men, or something like that… She felt excited about the prospects on the horizon, but more than a little apprehensive too. What if she had just scared him off, before anything even had a chance to get started? What if, what if, what if… Her thoughts tumbled around her head during the entire drive home. Well, we'll just have to take this whole thing one step at a time. She thought. Just please tell me I haven't blown it.

*****

House lay stretched out on his sofa in his quiet apartment, staring blankly off into the distance. A half empty glass of scotch on the table in front of him. Lauren Sheridan was tumbling through his thoughts. He replayed the evening's events in his head, trying to process everything that had happened, and wondering what was going to happen next. The thought that he was being romantically pursued by a stranger had absolutely never occurred to him. And not some underling/mentor crush like Cameron. No, this was entirely different. But who would want him? What would a bitter old drug-addicted cripple with the emotional stability of a train wreck have to offer anyone? He just didn't do relationships. He did the opposite, he alienated people. And he was very, very good at it. After Stacey had completely torn him to pieces, he had convinced himself that he just didn't want or need anyone in his life. Ever. He had his job and his Vicodin. That was enough. Safe and uncomplicated. He would just have to set Lauren straight. Say thanks for the help, but get the hell out of my life and stay out. He did feel that he owed her something for that one night. Maybe just take her to dinner, and call it even. Spell it out for her. Yeah, that would work.

But that nagging little voice in the back of his mind started whispering to him. Reminded him of all the things she had said to him. What she saw when she looked at him. What if…? What if he did actually give this a shot? He's not getting any younger. How many more opportunities will there be? Especially ones being literally dropped in his lap? How long had it been since a woman touched him, really touched him? Too goddamn long. There were times he ached to be touched. He remembered how she had caressed him and comforted him that night. Could there be a chance that he could allow someone to care for him, without all the pain and misery he usually caused people who opened themselves up to him? Could he actually learn to trust a woman again? Could his Angel of Comfort actually heal his heart, cure his devastating loneliness? Could he ever hope to…

Bullshit. He thought, angrily shaking his head. Forget it, you're pathetic and hopeless. He downed the rest of scotch, silencing the annoying little voice. He got up, shut off the lights and limped off to bed.

*****

He skipped going into the hospital the next day, but the day after that he caught a case. He was glad to have something to work on, to settle into and distract himself like he always did. He worked obsessively over the next 4 days, racing diagnoses against the clock to solve the puzzle and save the patient. And he didn't venture anywhere near Neurology.

*****

She stayed away from him for the week. She knew he had a case, and was working long hours on it. She knew enough about him to know that it's exactly what he needed right now. So she did her job, made her rounds, kept to herself, and waited. Then, she came up with an idea. It just might work…

*****

True to form, House solved the case, just in the nick of time. The treatment had been slow to take hold at first, but the patient finally responded and was now stabilized and would be making a full recovery. He headed home feeling quite satisfied with himself. He played the piano for a bit, before settling onto the sofa, maneuvering his legs up onto the coffee table, and clicking on the TV. He had been putting in some long hours on the case, so it was no surprise that he fell asleep within 10 minutes.

The feel of a soft hand stroking his hair roused him and he snapped his eyes open. Lauren. She was sitting on the edge of his coffee table, smiling at him, her warm hands touching his hair and his face. He jumped up to a sitting position, startled, and dropping his legs to the floor too quickly. A stab of pain from his right leg brought a muttered "son-of-a-bitch" from him. He massaged a hand over the offending thigh and looked at her. She looked absolutely radiant, her hair all loose and inviting. She was just sitting there, still smiling at him.

"Breaking and entering again?' he asked her. But she didn't answer him. She stepped across and over him, mindful of his bad leg, and settled herself down, straddling his good thigh, pushing him back into the sofa with her body. She put her arms around his neck and kissed him. Slowly, gently, sensually. He didn't respond immediately, but his body did. He felt himself getting aroused. Then in spite of himself, he kissed her back. He wrapped his arms around her, her hair brushing his arms. He breathed in her scent, it was intoxicating. Their kisses became more insistent, more passionate. He finally pulled back, somewhat breathless, and put his hands on her shoulders. "Lauren, stop." She pulled back too, her pretty face in a delightfully exaggerated pout.

"Oh, Greg, I don't want to stop, and neither do you…" She said as she pushed her leg against the growing bulge in his jeans, he closed his eyes and moaned, but only briefly. He opened his eyes and got serious.

"No. Stop. I mean it." He leveled a stern stare at her, and pushed his hands against her shoulders, holding her away from him.

She leaned back a little, and sighed, looking at him coyly. He was going to be difficult.

"I need to tell you something," she said softly. Her eyes were soft and full of desire.

"Well, you currently have my undivided attention," he said, trying to sound flippant. The effect was lost on her. She took his hands from her shoulders and placed them on her hips. Then moved closer to him, winding one hand around his neck again, the other touching his face, running her slender fingers across his scruffy cheek, across his lips.

"You need me," she said, and softly kissed him again. "It's OK Greg," she said. She was speaking between her soft kisses, lulling him. "It's OK. You can let yourself feel…" She moved her kisses to his neck. He was slowly surrendering. He closed his eyes and leaned his head back and softy moaned. "You can let yourself need me." Her hands were caressing his neck, his face, he had completely lost his resolute willpower. This all felt so good, he didn't want it to ever end…

She suddenly stopped her kisses, and leaned back onto his left leg again. She cupped his face in her two warm hands and leveled his face with hers.

"Listen to me, Greg," she said quietly, "I will never do anything to hurt you. Never. And I will never abandon you. I don't expect you to just open up and trust me right away. I will be patient with you. I will love you just the way you are, you don't need to change anything for me. I just want to love you. Do you understand?"

He couldn't believe his ears. He looked deep into her lovely brown eyes and nodded.

"All you have to do is try, Greg. Just try. Just let me in, I can make you feel so good. I can bring you so much comfort and love. You just have to let me. You don't have to be alone any more…"

She leaned into him and kissed him again, her tongue exploring his lips and mouth. He gave in. He wrapped his arms around her, hugging her fiercely to him. Any resistance completely gone.

"I will try," he whispered, "I will, just… please, don't stop…"

She pulled back just a little to let him see her smile, then lifted herself up and plunged her tongue back into his mouth, eagerly exploring. His hands traveled from her hips, up her back, and then settled on her hips again, pulling her closer to him. His hand traveled under the back edge of her blouse, needing to feel the warm soft skin against his hands. She ran one of her hands down his chest, feeling the muscles hidden under his light T shirt. Her hand wandered down to his throbbing erection. She gently kneaded him through the thick denim of his jeans, he moaned loudly, and thought he would explode right then and there. God, he did need this. He did need her. Touching him, loving him. He ached for her. It had been so long, so very long… He wanted to wrap himself around her and never let go. Taste her, breathe her, drown in her. Lauren broke their kiss just long enough to push him down onto the sofa, before their mouths joined voraciously again. She straddled him, keeping her hips high on his, avoiding putting any of her weight on his bad thigh. It put her own hot center directly over his growing bulge, which was threatening to pop his zipper. Without any clothes in the way, she could have slid him right into her. She ground her hips into his, and he gasped and shuddered. He could feel the scorching heat radiating from her. Imagining how slick and wet she would be. He ran his hands up under her blouse, roaming everywhere across her soft skin. She unbuttoned her top, and let it fall open, revealing a barely there lace bra covering her luscious tits. She leaned forward, offering them to him. He pushed the lace out of the way with his thumbs and gently licked and nibbled each hardened nipple, hearing her make soft whimpering sounds and making her hips squirm on top of him. She pulled up slightly, and began working her way down his body. She slid her hands under his T shirt, and lifted it up to his neck, then leaned down and planted hot wet kisses down his chest and stomach. She returned the favor of his earlier attentions by sucking on his dark pink nipples, making him groan even louder. She tugged and pulled, and then his belt was undone and his jeans were open. She slid her hand inside and finally skin touched skin as she wrapped her hand around him inside his shorts. "God, Lauren…" he moaned. She moved her body lower down the sofa, until she was between his legs, then managed to free his delightfully large cock from the restraints of his shorts. He looked down at her through half-closed, lust-filled eyes and watched her as she leaned down and ran her tongue up and down the length of him, holding his gaze, her own eyes dark with passion. She flicked her tongue across the tip, lapping up the few drops of his salty liquid there, humming her approval. He jumped and groaned, then reached up and wrapped both hands in her long hair. He felt her moan softly, then, gripping the base of his dick in one hand, she took him deep into her mouth, her head moving up and down, slowly sucking and stroking him until he thought he pass out. She paused for just a second, shifted her weight slightly, and he felt her guiding him deeper into her warm wet mouth, then he felt himself slide down her throat. The waves of pleasure were so intense, her tight throat wrapped around him, lightly pulsing. She reached her free hand up on his chest and grazed her nails lightly across his nipples. Oh God… Yes… Please…. He was breathing hard, mumbling her name, pleading. She pulled back up to breathe, but never slowed her ravenous oral assault. She was rhythmically pumping her mouth up and down on him, sucking and licking and deep throating him, his hands both wrapped tightly in her hair. He was right on the edge, ready to fall over the cliff, but God, he didn't want this to end…

Suddenly he heard a shrill screeching noise. And Lauren was abruptly pulling away from him. He could feel her warmth leaving him. No, no, no, no, don't go…please… But she didn't answer him… She just… disappeared. He opened his eyes and awoke to a screaming banshee on some live news report. Apparently the screamer had just won some state lottery. He looked around and blinked. He was still stretched out on his sofa, remote in hand, fully clothed, and alone. And, he noted, hard as a rock.

*****

Her idea was to get House out of the hospital. She thought that maybe if he were out of that environment, and it was just the two of them, he might relax a little. It would have to be something or somewhere that he was completely comfortable. She had heard that he was a monster truck fan, but there wasn't a show coming around the area for another month or so. She didn't want to wait that long. Classic rock concert? No, too noisy and crowded. Nice dinner at Andiamos? She didn't know if he liked 5 star poshy restaurants, but she guessed not, and besides, she didn't care for them herself. Too stuffy and formal. So that's out. Someone had told her about a little piano jazz bar that was out on the west side of Plainsboro. RJ's or something like that. Heard it was classy and nice, but not too over the top. It was supposed to be one of those out-of-the-way smokey havens with great music. That might be perfect. She decided she should go check it out and see if it would suit her purposes. Then all she had to do was get him to agree to go there with her. That would be the hard part. But she was not about to give up. She was going to see this through all the way to whatever end it was going to come to. Because the more she thought about him, the more she wanted him. She knew she could bring so much to him, but the big question was, would he ever let her?

*****

His dream stayed with him all day. He didn't have a case, so his little ducklings were off doing his clinic duty or assisting elsewhere in the hospital. He was at his desk, about to reach a new personal best on his Gameboy when he heard a soft knock on the glass door to his office, which was already open. He looked up. Lauren. She was leaning against the doorway, wearing a pink blouse and grey skirt under her white lab coat. Her hair was held up on a soft looped-over ponytail. He turned the game off and set it aside.

"Hey," she said, with a warm smile.

"Well if it isn't my stalker," he quipped. Just because he had experienced a hot dream about her didn't mean he was going to get all soft and mushy. He was still House.

"Got a minute?" she asked, ignoring his comment.

He motioned to the chair on the other side of his desk. She walked over and sat down.

"Wouldn't you rather sit across the hall hiding behind a newspaper or something and just watching me?" he sniped.

"Would you feel better if I did?" she flipped right back.

"No." he answered.

"You know, if I had not been 'stalking you,' as so eloquently put it, I never would have been able to help you," she leveled a steady gaze at him, "so let's just call it even and drop the 'stalker' label, shall we?"

His piercing blue eyes seemed to look right though her.

"Fine," he said finally.

"Okay then." She paused, and looked around his office. There was all kinds of interesting stuff. He leaned back in his chair, still studying her.

"Heard you solved another case last week, congrats." She said as she reached out and tipped the edge of a chrome perpetual-motion toy on his desk, watching it swirl back and forth.

"It's what I do." he answered.

"And you do it very well." She was looking at him again, the disarming smile was back on her face.

"Yeah. And now you're what, the president of my fan club?" He asked, sounding amused.

"Something like that, I guess," she bantered back. She picked up a purple Duncan Pro yo-yo off his desk, looked at it, then looked at him and raised an eyebrow questioningly.

"Helps my process," he said. She put it back down.

"Do you like jazz?" she asked, like she was discussing the weather. She didn't look right at him. Instead she picked up a scrambled Rubiks cube from his desk and started twisting the panels. Good grief, this guy had more toys in here than a 3rd grade classroom. Kinda neat though… It was very House, very him.

He studied her as she toyed with the items on his desk. She was fascinating to watch. And he already saw exactly where this conversation was going. She was working up to asking him out on a date. Normally, this is the point where he would throw up his best defenses and completely squash the whole thing… But his dream had been nagging at him. It had to mean something didn't it? His subconscious trying to tell him something? He had said he would try… So try, goddamn it. What the hell do you have to lose? He reigned in the sharp retort he had been about to deliver, and instead he just answered her.

"Yeah, actually I do."

She looked up from her game, surprised at his calmly honest answer. She put the game back down on his desk. OK, so far so good.

"There's a little jazz place called RJs, out off route 4 in Plainsboro. Cool place. Good music. Tomorrow's Friday, would you like to join me for a couple of drinks there tomorrow night?" she asked, not knowing what to kind of reply to expect from him.

"I've heard of it," he answered, "Sure. I'll meet you there. What time?"

She was surprised. This was going way too easy.

"Um, how about 7?"

"That works." He said, and nodded.

"Great, see you there." She said as she got up and walked out of his office.

He watched her go, a million different thoughts playing in his mind, churning up emotions he had long thought dead and buried. He saw that he had surprised her. Good. He had to try and keep some measure of control, that was just his nature. Just try not to screw this up… he thought to himself. Could he dare to even let himself think that even a miserable bastard like him could have a chance with someone like Lauren? Could it actually work? He couldn't let himself dwell on those kinds of thoughts for very long though, it started scaring the living crap out of him. One step at a time, he chided himself, and don't go and do anything stupid…

*****

TBC…