COMFORT, Pt 6 CONFRONTATION

Installment number 6 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. Their relationship has grown and deepened, surviving some painful moments. Lauren has been harboring a strong grudge against Cuddy for all the hurt she has caused to House, and she finally lashes out at the Dean of Medicine…

No sex or smut in this one, but rated M/Adult for language. Hey, I had to do this. Cuddy has some guilty responsibility to own up to…

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…

NITEJASMINE

COMFORT, Pt 6 "CONFRONTATION"

House MD fanfic by NiteJasmine

*****

House leaned back against the wall in the darkened room. In the next room was Dr. Lauren Sheridan, the lovely neurosurgeon who had quickly become the center of his universe. They had been together for months now and he still couldn't believe how lucky he was to have such an incredible woman in his life. However, at this moment, he was hiding in the shadows of the adjoining room, specifically to avoid Cuddy and her incessant pestering about his clinic hours. He could see Lauren sitting at the computer table talking to Cuddy, and he was waiting for Cuddy to leave so he could sneak in and have a quick visit with his lady and make some plans for the upcoming weekend. He could see and hear the conversation in the next room clearly. Cuddy was questioning some tests on one of Lauren's patient files, but Lauren made a solid argument, advocating for the best interest of her patient, and Cuddy had agreed. Nicely done, the thought. House pushed himself away from the wall as he heard Cuddy heading for the door, ready to step into the room. But then Cuddy had stopped, and was talking to Lauren again...

*****

Lauren was sitting alone in the computer lab, reviewing an MRI. Several other image films were lit up on viewers around her. She had been playing catch-up with her workload at the hospital for a few weeks now, since her return back to work. But she was finally getting handle on it again. She had been out of commission for a while, but her back had fully recovered from the harsh collision it had suffered with the lab wall. She had been on some pretty heavy duty pain killers for about the first week, but after that, the bruising had gone down and the stiffness and any residual pain had drastically waned. Greg had insisted that she stay at his place to recover, and she had. She had been pretty much incapacitated, unable to do hardly anything but sleep a lot, and mired in a thick, drugged-up haze for a full week. But he had taken excellent care of her while she had recuperated. Cooking delicious meals for her, giving her all her meds, and waiting on her hand a foot, caring for her every need. And she had been able to return to work fairly quickly, feeling 100%. And now, some weeks later, the whole injury had begun to fade into the background. She was focused on the work in front of her, but smiled to herself as she thought about Greg. Being with him was so comfortable, so easy. And she loved him completely and unconditionally. And she had told him so, many times over. Sure, he was still the same arrogant, flippant, sarcastic Dr. Gregory House that he had always been. But when they were alone together there was a softer side to him. More open and vulnerable. It was a side that he only let her see. He had taken to calling her 'his Angel,' when they were alone together, and she loved hearing that. It made her heart swell and her eyes sparkle, sharing something that intimate and secret. He trusted her and she treasured and cherished that trust. He cared for her. And even though she was sure he would never actually say it back to her, she knew that he loved her too. He didn't have to say it out loud, he showed her, in his own way. And she was more than contented with that. He was an incredible man. And he was such a wonderful lover. True, he had been so overly cautious and gentle with her their first few times immediately after her recovery, wanting to be absolutely sure he didn't hurt her in any way. But now, with her prompting and repeated reassurance, he was once again an energetic participant. Whether it was a hot quickie on the sofa or a long, smoldering love making session that romped through three rooms and took all afternoon, he was so responsive, so amazing… She loved and adored his tenderness, and his passion. And she had also seen that there was so much more of him waiting to be discovered, waiting to be unleashed. There was an adventurous side to him, original, inventive and open-minded. She couldn't wait to thoroughly explore all those avenues with him…

Her warm, happy daydream was interrupted as Dr. Cuddy had come walking in to discuss a complicated patient file. They reviewed the long list of tests the Lauren had requested, which were warranted, given the extreme nature of the patient's brain injuries. The tests would narrow down the affected areas and greatly reduce the surgical risks. Lauren had to concentrate on keeping her tone even. True, quite some time had passed since the Tritter nightmare, and it had all blown over, but Lauren remembered. All of House's so-called friends had turned their backs on him. And since then, every time she saw Dr. Cuddy, she had to fight to keep her anger from showing. It was Lauren's opinion that it was Lisa Cuddy, more than anyone else, who had really done the most hurt to House. She could've done the most to help, so her abandonment was the worst. Lauren calmly reviewed the file and explained why the tests were justified. Cuddy agreed. Lauren nodded, and then re-focused her attention back to the MRI images on the computer screen in front of her as Cuddy turned to leave the room. But Cuddy stopped with her hand on the door and looked back at the neurosurgeon. Neither woman was aware of the tall doctor just beyond the doorway in next room, who was leaning on his cane, listening to every word.

*****

"Dr. Sheridan, do you… have a problem with me?" Cuddy asked, slightly smiling and trying to keep a friendly note in her voice.

Lauren looked up from her work, a very serious look on her face, not a hint of a smile. "Not professionally, no." she answered flatly, and went back to her work.

Cuddy took a few steps back towards her. "Personal?" Cuddy asked her incredulously. "What kind of personal problem could you possibly have with me?" Her face was furrowed in genuine confusion.

Lauren didn't look up. "House," was all she said. She could feel her anger rising into her throat, but fought it back, keeping her attitude cool and detached.

Now Cuddy was even more confused. "What about House?" she asked, shaking her head.

"You know full goddamn well what. You abandoned him. You threw him to the wolves and turned your back." She looked up, her voice lowering, full of malice.

Cuddy was momentarily stunned. "Abandoned? What? When?" Cuddy demanded. But Lauren just maintained her icy glare. Cuddy continued. "Well, obviously, you think I've mistreated him in some way. Is that it? I mean, I do care about the guy, but House is House, and he can be absolutely infuriating, not to mention exhausting. We argue about his patients because it's his job to want the impossible and my job to rein him in. It's my job to say no." Cuddy stepped a little closer. "Actually," she continued, trying to sound softer. "I'm really glad he finally found someone that he can have a real relationship with. I am very happy for the two of you." Cuddy thought that would make Lauren feel better, and she finished the last sentence with a bright maternal smile.

Lauren looked up at the Dean of Medicine, then leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms.

"Oh, really." She asked, her voice bitterly cold. "You care about him, do you? Well you sure have a seriously fucked up way of showing it."

Cuddy's smile disappeared. She was once again stunned. "What the hell are you talking about?" Cuddy asked.

"Okay, Dr. Cuddy. Let's review shall we?" Lauren narrowed her eyes, her voice hard and icy. "Who lied to him and then subjected him to a surgery that he did not want? Oh, and right now, let's forget about your little pal Stacy. Or your other partner in crime, Wilson. Let's just talk about you. Do you normally wait for your patients to fall asleep and then attack them with a scalpel?"

"We saved his life…" Cuddy retorted sharply.

"Oh, good for yooooou," Lauren said, thick with sarcasm. "Is that how you help yourself sleep at night? Because you know, I'm gonna just bet that you don't have to swallow a couple of painkillers to get to sleep, do you? Or a couple more to get out of bed in the morning? Or have to pop a handful of the damn things just to get through a normal day. Do you?" Lauren's volume was steadily increasing, her eyes locked onto Cuddy like laser guided missiles, her words virtually dripping with venom. "Oh, and speaking of pain killers, do you enjoy fucking with his Vicodin supply? Get your kicks by cutting him off his meds on a whim and watching him suffer? You've done it to him more than once, so you can't tell me it was a mistake…"

Lauren was really rolling now. Cuddy had backed up, mouth slightly open, blinking in disbelief at the verbal onslaught she was receiving. Lauren stood up and kept going.

"Oh, and then, you let some sawed-off, twisted little power hungry cop with a vendetta complex turn his entire life upside down. And then you bailed on him. You left him to deal with it all totally on his own. You abandoned him. And that time it wasn't just you, but you were the worst. You cut him off and shut him out…"

Cuddy interrupted her, her voice getting cold and edgy. "Now that is not fair… you don't understand…"

"Fair?!" Lauren nearly screeched back at her. "You wanna talk about fair?!Hah! OK, hey, here's an idea. Let's find a way to park you at say, oh, about a 7 on the pain scale. And just fucking leave you there, permanently! Oh, and then, let's start fucking around with your pain meds, just to screw with you. Some weeks we'll give them to you, some weeks we won't. Whadda think? Sound fun? I wonder how long you would last? How well you would cope! Now how fair does that sound?!" Lauren practically spat the last words out, seething with all her pent up anger.

Cuddy had recovered from her initial shock, and was now getting quite angry herself.

Cuddy's voice was low and controlled. "That. Is enough. Out of you." She said, her eyes glittering cold.

Lauren sat down, crossed her arms, and glared at her. Cuddy squared her shoulders and glared right back.

"OK, Dr. Sheridan. My turn. You don't know him. Not like I do, not like any of us who have been around him for any length of time do. I'm not saying everything I ever did was right, but you don't understand. You don't know the capacity that man has… to hurt people. He manipulates everyone. Watches them, catalogues their weaknesses. So when he decides to lash out, he knows right where to go to cut the deepest. To inflict the maximum amount of damage and the greatest amount of pain. And he doesn't give it a second thought. Hell, I think he actually enjoys it. He is a brilliant doctor, but he is also a selfish bastard. Because he wants to be. He likes it. He is cruel and self-destructive. And if you let him, he will destroy you too. He will shred you into tiny little pieces, and it won't matter at all to him. You've already been at the receiving end of just one of his little tirades. The people who care about him the most are the ones he targets the hardest. Especially if you make the mistake of actually trusting him. And whether you believe me or not, I do still care about him, and I still try to protect him, when I can. But I have to keep my distance. I've worked too hard to be where I am. It's self-preservation. So you be very careful with him, because you just don't know how absolutely brutal he can be." Both women went quiet for a moment.

"You done?" asked Lauren evenly, her arms still crossed.

"Yes." Cuddy answered just as coolly.

"Good. Then why don't you run along. I'm sure you have a very busy schedule."

Lauren unfolded her arms and leaned forward, her palms flat on the table. "And as far as Greg House is concerned, maybe you're the one who doesn't know him. Because if you want to talk about someone getting hurt, you've done way more than your fair share of damage. So just go on and do what you have apparently learned to do very well. You keep your distance. Leave him alone. Leave both of us alone. And quit fucking with his Vicodin."

"I hope you know what you're doing," Cuddy said, finally pushing the door open and walking out.

Lauren watched the door close, then picked up a pen and threw it violently across the table. "Me and my big mouth…" she muttered to herself, sighing heavily.

*****

"Quite a speech," came a low voice from the darkened doorway at the opposite corner of the room, startling her and making her nearly jump out of her skin. But she recognized it immediately. It was Greg. She took a deep breath, trying to drain away her tension and anger.

"Dammit Greg, how many times have we covered the whole 'don't sneak up on me' thing?" she asked, holding her hands out like goalposts, her face showing the frustration and stress she was still struggling with.

"Sorry," came the quiet reply as he limped slowly into the room.

"Oh, it's OK..." Lauren said, putting her hands to her temples, rubbing item, then leaning on them, pushing her hair back and sinking her head down. "Ahhh, Jesus. I can't believe I just told off my boss."

He didn't answer her right away.

"She's right." He said finally.

Lauren quickly picked up her head, dropped her hands on the table, and shot him and incredulous look. "About what?!" she demanded, a little too loudly.

"About me…"

"Oh the fuck she is… Greg, she is a…" But he cut her off.

"Lauren… I am a selfish bastard. I do hurt the people who care about me. And she is right. I've already hurt you once," he leaned heavily on his cane and looked down at the floor. "And… it is only a matter of time before I end up hurting you again…" He actually looked both hurt and frightened. The room went quiet for a minute.

"I know," she answered him, matter-of-factly. A small smile coming to her face.

"You know?" He looked up at her. "You know I'm going to hurt you?" he was confused.

"You can't help it Greg. It's your nature. It's who you are," she said, shrugging her shoulders. She stood up with a heavy sigh, looking at him with a knowing smile just starting to work it's way across her face. "No matter how hard you try, you will eventually say something insensitive, or do something stupid, or screw something up, and it will hurt me."

But then she walked over to him, slipping her arms around his waist and smiling fully, gazing up into his incredibly deep blue eyes. He looked back down at her questioningly, and she continued, still smiling. "But then, you'll make it up to me, and then, I'll forgive you, and then… we'll go home and get naked. And I'm OK with that."

He couldn't help but chuckle softly at her, shaking his head. She reached up and held his face in both of her hands, their eyes locked into each other.

"I love you Greg. God, you can be such a handful. But I'm never going to hurt you, and I'm never going to leave you. You're stuck with me. And eventually, hopefully, that will start to sink in to that incredibly thick head of yours."

He smiled at her. How the hell did I get so incredibly lucky? He thought to himself.

"Oh, but my dear little Angel," he growled, leaning towards her, his smile turning predatory, "I am so much more than a handful…"

He was delighted to see her return his sly grin, and the low sultry chuckle, as she leaned in and whispered to him, "Oh, really?" she asked coyly, "I think I'm gonna have to make you prove that…"

*****

TBC…