COMFORT, Pt 4 PAIN & RECOVERY
Installment number 4 in this series. Dr. Gregory House and Dr. Lauren Sheridan, a neurosurgeon at PPTH are established in a stable relationship after she helps him when everyone else had turned their backs and abandoned him.
House gets upset with Lauren and flies off the handle, and does some damage. No sex or smut in this one, but rated M/Adult for language and mature theme as Lauren relives something bad that happened to her in the past.
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…
COMFORT, Pt 4 "PAIN & RECOVERY"
House MD fanfic by NiteJasmine
He was fuming. He had inadvertently found out that Lauren had bribed her way into pulling his complete medical records. Everything. She knew everything. And he was absolutely furious with her. True, it was way before she had helped him, when she was still in her so-called 'stalking' phase. Before they had gotten to know each other. Before they started dating. And their relationship had grown in leaps and bounds fairly quickly but comfortably since he had found her, they had been seeing each other pretty regularly for a few months, and had easily become lovers barely a week after their first date. Everything had been wonderful. He had his Angel. But this was the first time he had ever gotten angry with her, and he was royally pissed off. He had begun to trust her, and knew he was developing much deeper feelings for her than even he wanted to admit. And then he finds this out. She still had not had any right. She should have told him. He stormed out of the records office, went to track her down. He found her in the lab, in front of a microscope, a pile of samples stacked on one side, and a pile of patient files stacked up on the edge of the table. He was glad to see that she was alone, there was nobody else around. He popped 2 Vicodin and burst into room, yelling right off the bat. His entrance scared the bejesus out of her, she jumped about 4 feet off her chair, she always startled so easily, and this was no exception. Her violent scare knocked her chair out from under her as she jumped up, sending it clattering to the floor, and she was staring at him like a deer in the headlights, her heart pounding.
"How dare you!" he growled. "You pulled my medical files! What the hell gave you the right to do that?" he demanded.
She started to regain her composure, and answered him as calmly as possible, "Oh, is that what you're upset about… That was a long time ago, Greg. God, that's going way back. I didn't know anything about you at the time. And yeah, it was probably a stupid thing to do. So if it makes you feel any better, I'm sorry."
And she turned back to her work, standing there, not bothering to pick up the fallen chair. Like she was dismissing him. She was trying to diffuse him, but it only fueled him. His medical history was the one area that he was most sensitive about, and he was enraged with her for intruding… It just reminded him of the whole experience, Stacy, the woman he had loved and trusted betraying him, the surgery, the pain, the rehab, the scarring, all of it, and all too vividly. And with Lauren, he had wanted to forget it all, to finally try and tuck the past away and live in the present. This just brought it all crashing back to the forefront, knowing that she knew. No wonder she had never asked him for any details about his leg. He had told her the basics - infarction, misdiagnosis, muscle death, surgery, nerve damage, chronic pain. But she had already known way more than that. She already knew all about it. And he felt hurt by that, which channeled itself into being furious. No way he was going to settle down. He was rolling full speed ahead and building up a full head of steam. He started yelling louder.
"No! That does not make me feel any better! I trusted you…"
"You didn't even know me then…" she interrupted.
"But I know you now! You should have fucking told me!" he railed.
"And you shouldn't be getting this worked up over it. You're just pissed because I did the exact same thing that you would have done," she replied, "you still pull medical and personnel files on people all the time." He heard the strain creeping into in her voice, she was trying to stay calm.
"That's different and you know it!" he spat. "If you want to know something about me, you come and ask me! How do I know you haven't been using that information to manipulate me?!"
"I would never do anything like that to you, and you know it." She answered, almost quietly, she had never seen him so angry. Stop, stop, stop… please… just stop it… her mind was pleading. But Greg was showing no signs of cooling off or backing down. She felt herself starting to panic. No, just stay calm. Breathe. Don't freeze up. It'll be OK.
"How do I know?!" he bellowed, "How do I know you're not lying to me? Or using me? How the hell am I supposed to keep trusting you? Lauren, turn around and answer me!"
He was ranting, and he knew it, but she still stubbornly refused to turn around and have it out face to face with him. House felt his anger click up a notch higher. He was doing all the yelling, she was coolly answering him over her shoulder, her attention seemingly focused on the microscope in front of her.
Then, she slowly pushed back away from the table, and put both of her hands flat on the table top, on either side of the work she had in progress. She lowered her head and took a deep breath.
"Greg, you are being completely unreasonable…" she started to say.
Finally, he had had enough.
"Dammit, Lauren, turn around and look at me!" He reached out and grabbed her right arm and pulled hard, and spun her around to face him. But he pulled her a little harder than he actually meant to. In his furious state, he forgot his own strength. Lauren had spun around, but the force of his pull caused her to momentarily lose her balance. She stumbled backwards just a couple steps, and her heel caught on the fallen chair. She fell backwards, slamming her back harshly against the solid white tile wall, which would have not been too bad, but that particular wall had a heavy duty 2" polished stainless steel grab rail running along it's length. The rail crushed itself across the middle of her back when she hit the wall, full force.
She made a sharp half scream, half yelp at the impact. Instantly, white hot lightning bolts of scorching pain raced along her spine, right up to the base of her skull. She saw white speckles of fireworks behind her closed eyes. Blinding pain. Then, the room was spinning, the floor was tilting, and everything faded to black.
House saw her stumble and hit the wall… It was like it happened in slow motion. When she hit the wall with her back, he saw her face scrunch into a mask of pure intense pain. The sickening scream-yelp he heard her make forced his stomach to do a flip and made his heart drop down to his feet. Then he saw her body go completely slack, and begin to slide sideways down the wall. He dropped his cane and lunged for her, hoping to catch her and stop her from falling. But the weight and motion of both of their bodies was too much for his one good leg to handle, and then he was toppling to the floor with her, wrapped in his arms.
He half twisted on the way down, turning so he would not fall on top of her and crush her, but pulling her close to him so she landed more or less on top of him. He hit the floor on his left side, his shoulder taking most of the blow, but the impact was not too bad. His mind immediately shifted into medical overdrive. His only focus was Lauren, and how badly she was hurt and how he could make it better. Her back. Her back could be broken. He didn't allow himself the time to think that this was all his fault. No, that would come later…
He carefully rolled Lauren over onto her back, laying her carefully out on the floor, straightening her limbs very gently.
"Lauren?" he said, but she was unconscious and unresponsive.
He checked her pulse, it was strong and steady, a bit fast, but stable. Respiration, good. Two nurses came rushing into the room, having heard the crash.
"Some help here," he barked, "need a gurney, a back board and some Morphine, Stat!"
The nurses sprang into action, and within minutes, Lauren was strapped to a backboard on a bed, and had arm full of Morphine coursing through her veins. He limped along grimly beside her, keeping pace, as they quickly wheeled her off towards Radiology. They called ahead to clear space and get set up for an emergency X-Ray.
Once they reached their destination, they told House he would have to wait outside. He protested loudly, but rather than delay Lauren getting in there, he finally stepped back and watched the big doors close after them. Then he heard the identifiable click of a set of high heels coming quickly towards him, unmistakably Cuddy.
"House," she said, stopping in front of him, serious concern clouding her face, "House, I just got a call that Dr. Sheridan was being rushed in here, unconscious, some kind of emergency? What the hell happened?"
The expression she saw on his face nearly broke her heart. He looked absolutely lost. Like someone had just run over his new puppy, then backed up and did it again. He was clenching his cane so hard his knuckles were nearly white.
"I hurt her," he said, and Cuddy was barely able to hear him.
"House, you… you what?" she couldn't believe her ears.
"I hurt her. I… I didn't… mean to. But… I hurt her." She saw him start visibly shaking.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Come here," she said and firmly guided him over to one of the waiting area chairs, "Come here and sit down." He did what she told him. He sat down heavily, looking despondent, staring at the floor.
"Now just… tell me what happened." She said, adopting her best soft, maternal tone.
He leaned forward and rested his forehead on the handle of his cane. He told her about finding out she had pulled his medical records, and he was so mad at her, and he had been yelling at her in the lab, and she wouldn't turn around look at him, and he grabbed her to turn her around, and she tripped and fell over the chair, and she slammed her back into that into that goddamn steel rail on the wall, and had passed out almost immediately from the pain, and then the nurses came…. It all spilled out of him in nearly one sentence.
"God. House, so it was an accident," Cuddy said, trying to sound soothing without sounding condescending, "It was just an accident," Cuddy reached over and put her hand on his arm. But she knew him well enough to know that he definitely blamed himself for it completely. He slowly shook his head.
"My fault...." He looked defeated. He wondered how Lauren would ever be able to forgive him. How their relationship would be able to recover from this.
Cuddy had been so glad that he had finally found someone to have a relationship with. And Lauren was so good for him. Cuddy had been holding her breath when she first found out that House and Lauren had started dating, given the disaster that Cameron had turned out to be. And then a month went by and the relationship looked like it was on solid ground. House was still House, an arrogant ass, childish tyrant, and brilliant doctor, but he seemed to finally have some measure of comfort in his life. The torturous sadness and loneliness that she had always seen in his eyes was missing. And it had been replaced with a much different look, a rare softness, on the occasions when she caught him looking at Lauren. But now this. Shit, the guy just can't catch a break…
"Dr. House?" the tech came bursting out of the twin swinging doors, 3 X-Ray films in her hands. "These are Dr. Sheridan's. Thought you would want see them right away. Viewer's over there," she said, pointing to an open room that had all four walls lined with while light boxes.
House bolted to his feet, ignoring the vicious stab of pain from his leg. He snatched the films up with his good hand while charging towards the viewer room, Cuddy nearly having to run to keep up.
He clicked on the light and slapped the films up onto the viewer. It took him a couple seconds to register what he was seeing. There was massive damage to her spinal column. But it was all old, healed, scarred damage. There were no fresh breaks or fractures showing on any of them, which he was very relieved to see. But 2 of her lower vertebrae had been fused at some point, from the looks of it, he guessed about 5 or 6 years ago. And there were traces of old, healed fractures along 3 other vertebrae. There had been a least one back surgery also, maybe more, he could clearly see 2 titanium pins just above the fused bones. He remembered seeing the scars on her back, but had never asked her about them. He had certainly never guessed there was this much major damage underneath them.
Cuddy was seeing the same thing. "Oh my God," she said, standing next to him, "House, obviously, a trip & fall didn't do all of this." She turned to look at him. "This happened a long time ago. She just spiked an old injury. Not your fault," but his eyes never left the X-Rays in front of him. He mind wrestling with what he saw. What could have possibly done this kind of damage? Was she in a car accident? Plane crash? Get run over by a fleet of buses? He remembered noticing that she did favor a sore back on occasion, like when she was on her feet a lot, or after a long surgery, but nothing too out of the ordinary. And he never saw her take anything more than a couple of Motrin. She had traveled a very long road to recovery from whatever had done this.
A nurse poked her head into the room, "Dr. Sheridan is stable. Dr. Laramie is the attending in Ortho, he has her case. All her initial tests have come back clear, so she's being moved to Recovery until we can get her into a room upstairs. You can go see her now," and she left the room.
"Go stay with her," Cuddy said as she started to leave. "She's going to want to see you when she wakes up."
"Yeah, right. Not so sure about that," he said flatly, "I want to do an MRI on her after she's awake. Just to make sure there's no new damage from today." It wasn't meant as a question, but Cuddy said, "Sure. Do whatever you think she needs, just clear it with Laramie, OK?" and she walked out of the room, relieved that things looked good for Sheridan.
He took the films down and put them on the table. He briefly considered bolting for the door and running off somewhere, but managed to battle his normal 'flight' tendencies down. He mentally chided himself to just man-up and go be with her. He sighed heavily and limped off towards Recovery. He spoke briefly with Dr. Laramie there, the young Ortho doctor agreed completely with the MRI and would set everything up for when Lauren would be awake.
It was only about a half hour later she was moved into a private room, House still glued to her side. When the transfer staff had finally finished settling her in, he stood next to her for a moment, then softly brushed a few loose strands of hair off of her face, and gently traced two fingertips across her cheek. He was bone tired. He pulled a guest chair up close next to her bed, and finally allowed himself to sit down, with a jaw-clenching grimace. He wondered again how she had gotten hurt so badly. The long recovery from all that damage, that's where she gets her uncanny understanding of pain. How she always seemed to know what he was feeling. She had developed her own intimate relationship with the old pain monster. She always said she would never do anything to hurt him. He believed that. But now he was the one who had done the hurting. How could he have gotten so angry with her? How much damage had he done? He hated himself for it. She was the best thing that had ever happened to him and he had just about broken her in half. She was right, he did pull records on other people. Actually, he had been down in records, planning to pull her file, to satisfy his insatiable curiosity, about those damn scars of hers. But when he bribed the twerpy on-duty clerk there, he had mentioned her name, and the stupid moron had freely offered that she had done the same exact thing quite a while ago, with his file. Said they would both save a lot of money if they just talked to each other. That's when he had gone ballistic… He had to admit to himself that he had really been more angry with himself than with her. He was such an ass.
He looked up and just gazed at her lovely sleeping face. She was still out, and would be for a while yet. When he had given her the Morphine injection back in the Lab, he didn't know how badly she was hurt, and he wanted to make sure she stayed unconscious and immobilized until the extent of her injuries could be determined, minimizing the risks to her as much as possible. So he had given her enough of the happy wonder drug to knock down an elephant. She was in a deep, heavily sedated sleep, the monitors blinking and beeping softly with her heart beat, her chest gently rising and falling. He popped 2 more Vicodin, and settled back into the brutally uncomfortable chair. He knew his back and his leg would be howling at him later, but so be it. He deserved it. Please, please, please let her be alright, he thought, already torturing himself with guilt. He closed his eyes, trying to quiet himself down. His left shoulder ached from it's earlier impact on the cold tile floor, and almost equaled the normal daily ache in his strained right shoulder, which consistently bore the abuse of bearing his weight and allowing him to walk. He leaned his head back and clenched his teeth, determined to stay put as long as it took for Lauren to wake up.
She moaned softly, it was barely audible. Slowly her conscious mind started clearing away the heavy fog. With some effort, she fluttered her eyes open. She remembered the hot searing pain when she had hit the wall, but then nothing. She panicked for a minute, a bout of deja-vu reminding her of other wakings such as this one, in a different hospital, unable to move anything from her hips down. The large wide hospital bed she was lying in was up on a slight angle, so she could see her toes. She felt a wave of relief when she wiggled them and she saw the blankets move. She did a quick inventory, toes, fingers, neck, she carefully moved her head back and forth slightly, OK, all good. All the body parts checking in. Her mouth felt like it had been stuffed with cotton. Morphine, she thought, recognizing the after effect of the drug. She laid there for a few minutes, listening to the sound of the monitors and allowing her brain come back on-line.
She finally looked off to her right, and saw Greg. And her heart went out to him. He was asleep, scrunched up in the big blue leather chair next to her bed. His face looked strained, not peaceful at all. His legs were haphazardly propped up on the side rail of her bed, his cane laying across his lap. He looked terribly uncomfortable. She wondered how long he had been folded up in that awful chair. He was going to feel like a mangled pretzel when he woke up.
He was close enough that she could reach out and touch his left arm, but she didn't want to start moving around too much just yet. Not until she knew if she had any new damages to deal with.
She remembered how angry Greg had been with her. She had been such an idiot. She had handled that whole situation all completely wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Why didn't you just turn around and face him? Why did you let it get so far out of control? Your own damn stupid fault you're lying here now. But she knew that her old ghosts were hard to defeat, and old habits die hard. She should have turned around and faced Greg, but she just hadn't been able to. She felt terrible about it all. I'm so sorry Greg. I'll make this all up to you, baby. I promise. I'm so sorry…
His leg was the first malcontent to wake up. It had started howling and had quickly woken up his back, followed quickly by both of his shoulders. His brain hadn't even fully pulled itself out of the fitful, dreamless sleep yet and his whole body was already ringing with pain. He groaned, not sure what, if anything, he should try and move first. Vicodin. Vicodin first. Moving as little as possible, he carefully reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out the bottle before opening his eyes. He got the lid off, spilled 2 pills into his palm, and gently popped them into his mouth. He had just put the lid back on when he looked over and saw Lauren gazing at him, a look of worried sadness pooled in her soft brown eyes.
"Greg." She finally said, and smiled tiredly.
"Hey, 'bout time you woke up," he answered, bleary eyed.
The tiny smile left her face. "Greg, I'm so sorry…" she started, but he interrupted her.
"Lauren, it's OK. Shhhhh," he said, reaching over and putting his hand over hers on the edge of the bed. "You don't have anything to be sorry for. I'm the fucking jerk…" He shifted slightly in the chair, which sent new jolts of pain from a variety of stiff muscles. He tried to hide his grating pain from her, but he couldn't. "Just gimmie a minute, kay?" he asked. She nodded. He gritted his teeth, and used both hands to pull his right leg from it's wedged spot on the bed rail and easing it down onto the floor. His left dropped leg down by itself. The whole brief exercise left him with his head down and eyes scrunched closed for a few minutes, holding his leg, breathing in soft grunts.
Finally, he could feel the Vidocin starting to kick in. He got his breathing under control, opened his eyes and looked up at her.
"How long have you been crammed into that god awful chair?" she asked, "How long have I been out?"
He checked his watch. "About 8 hours."
"Ugh, good God," she said, sighing heavily. "I'm sorry Greg."
"Stop saying that." He said flatly.
"No. Stop it. I'm the one who fucked up. I'm the one who put you here," she could hear the thick self-loathing in his voice, "I'm the one who hurt you. You don't have anything to be sorry for. This is all my fault. So stop it."
She was quiet for a moment before she ventured, "I've been lying here awake for a little while, I don't see any braces or casts. Nothing broken, right?"
He looked at her steadily. "Dr. Laramie is your attending, he says you should be fine, but we're going to do an MRI anyway, just to be sure. You needed to be awake for that. So, right now, no, nothing looks broken. Nothing new anyway."
She looked away from him, focusing instead on her hands, folding them in her lap. "Hmm. You saw my X-Rays. My back."
"Yeah." His pain meds were working, but he was still rubbing his angry leg.
She just sat there, staring at her hands. The room was quiet, except for the steady muted beeps from the monitors.
"Boston." She finally said, breaking the silence. "I was at a conference in Boston. 6 years ago. I was unlocking the door of my rental car in the convention center's parking garage when I was attacked."
House stayed quiet. He could see her struggling to relive whatever it was she had gone through, to put it into words for him.
"He was a big guy, wearing a ski mask. Big oversize long coat. Came out of nowhere. Absolute psychopath. He came up behind me and put this huge knife against my throat. Said he would kill me if I screamed.
I was terrified. I offered him money. My purse, my jewelry, the car keys. But that wasn't what he wanted."
She stopped and took a deep breath, House felt his stomach tighten.
"He held the knife up against my neck and started trying to take my clothes off. I started begging him to stop. He told me to stay quiet and do what I was told or I was dead. When he shoved me against the hood of the car, he moved the knife away from my throat, and I saw what I thought might be my only chance. I turned around and started fighting. That's when things got really ugly."
House didn't move.
"I screamed my head off, and started swinging and kicking with everything I had. I got lucky, I landed a solid kick on one of his knees. He didn't go down, but it stunned him enough that he dropped the knife. It went clattering under the car. I turned around and tried to run. I didn't get very far. He chased me down and tackled me. He slapped me around a little, then he got up to finish what he had started. I managed to land another lucky kick, nailed him right in the balls, apparently hard enough that rape was no longer an option for him. Cause that's when he got angry. Really angry. He started screaming and swearing and cursing at me. I don't know where he came up with the baseball bat. But the next thing I knew, he was wailing away on me with it. I curled myself up into a ball to try and protect myself, so the only thing he could hit was my back. He just kept yelling and swearing and crushing my spine. I don't know how many times he hit me, or for how long. I passed out. I woke up in the ER at Boston General. Couldn't move my legs. Scared the hell out of me. But fortunately, the paralysis ended up being only temporary, just swelling from the spinal trauma. All the doctors there told me it was a good thing it was winter time when it happened. I was wearing a thick, heavy coat, which is why I'm not in a wheelchair or dead. Couple months of traction & surgery, then a couple years of rehab therapy and pain killers, and I was finally able to recover."
House was quietly absorbing and processing everything she was telling him.
"That's why you're always so jumpy," he said finally.
She nodded. "And why I have such a difficult time dealing with angry, shouting men. I freeze up."
He closed his eyes and sighed at the realization.
"This is not your fault Greg. You didn't do this to me. You didn't hurt me. Some psycho with a baseball bat in Boston put the scars on my back. Not you."
"Well, I certainly didn't help," he muttered. "Lauren, I never want to hurt you again. Nobody is ever going to hurt you again."
Her back was starting to ache. "You know, I've been off any heavy duty pain meds for the last couple years, but I'm pretty sure I won't be turning any down for the next few weeks."
She looked at House and saw how much he was hurting too.
"You really need to get the hell out of that horrible chair," she said. Then gently and cautiously eased herself further over on the extra-wide orthopedic hospital bed. "Come on, work your way up here. Plenty of room and you can stretch out."
He shook his head, "No, you don't need to have me climbing in there with you…"
"Please," she cut him off, "Please Greg? I want to be close to you. And I hate seeing you in so much pain. I'm gonna ring the nurse in a minute to bring me some nice pain meds. Would you please just come up here with me?"
He sighed. "OK." It took him a bit of effort, but he finally managed to slowly get himself up onto the bed next to her. There was plenty of room, and it did feel wonderful to stretch himself out and show some mercy to his aching body.
She rang the nurse, but it was the good Dr. Laramie who came in and delivered them. He raised an eyebrow at seeing House sprawled in the bed alongside his patient, but he didn't protest. He checked Lauren over, insuring that everything was fine and that she was comfortable. He told her that her tests had all come back clean, that she would have a nasty bruise and be pretty sore for a week or two, but she should be fine. They were going run an MRI just to be absolutely sure. Lauren was relieved. He said that the MRI wasn't scheduled until much later that afternoon, so she should get some sleep. Then added that they should both get some sleep. He scribbled on her chart, then pulled the blinds shut before leaving the room, closing the door behind him.
They lay there, side by side. Lauren gently snuggled in next to him, careful not to put too much weight or strain on herself or any of his sore limbs. She sighed sleepily, content to just feel him next to her. House swallowed an extra Vicodin and laid back, relaxing into the mattress. He reached over and covered Lauren's right hand with his left. She turned her hand up and laced her fingers into his, and they both fell asleep, well on the road to recovery.