Summary: House meets a woman who may or may not have a deadly secret, whose life may or may not be in danger, and who may or may not let him help her. But he will fall in love. House/OC romance and drama.
A/N: Mostly AU, but take it as an early season 5 version of House. However instead of the inevitable descent towards Mayfield, in this story House takes a different path. Rated T for now, with some bad words.
If you really loved me . . . you'd let me kill you
It was all over in a split second. Less.
One moment she was standing on the curb, reflecting on the several hundred dollars she'd just spent in her favorite lingerie shop, the small, understated pink bag in her hand belying the outrageously expensive – and just plain outrageous – contents inside. Then she took a step.
And the world turned upside down. Well, sideways, at least.
Something hard hit her calf, something else collected her elbow. She felt the road surface bite into the hand she thrust out to break her fall.
Time slowed to the thickness of treacle, giving her the space to realize she'd been watching the traffic signals, not the pedestrian ones. She'd seen a green light and unthinkingly stepped out. Her wrist jarred and the pain speared up her arm as she swore at herself. The lights had turned the other way. She'd just stepped out right in front of oncoming traffic.
That'd be right.
Just what she needed to mark the day – as if it wasn't special enough already.
"Are you okay?" A few worried voices echoed similar sentiments. But for a moment, only a few seconds she told herself, she just wanted to lie there, eyes closed, and pretend this wasn't her life. Surely it wasn't. Her Royal Highness, Princess Alexandra Maria Feliciana Di Giorgio would never do anything as gauche as be hit by a car.
But it seemed just plain Alex George would.
And actually, she revised mentally, it was a motorbike, not a car – she'd seen it from the corner of her eye just before it had hit.
"Do you have some freakin' death wish?" An angry voice split through the murmur of concerned ones. A nice voice, she thought, deep and almost melodious, even if right now it held barely contained rage. "What the hell were you thinking?"
I wasn't really, she thought, but the words didn't make it to her mouth.
"I think she's unconscious," the worried voice from earlier said. "Has someone called nine-one-one?"
"Oh for fuck's sake." Still angry, the nice deep voice now held a trace of concern. "Get out of the way."
Hands gently circled her left ankle and probed their way up her leg. Then they were on her left arm, gingerly pressing around her elbow and what felt like a fairly impressive bruise. Then her hair.
Fingers running through her hair like a lover.
Fingers running over her scalp like a doctor looking for a head wound.
But the brief thought flashing through her mind made her realize that she couldn't just lie there and pretend it was all happening to someone else. What if she really did have a concussion?
Worse, what if someone recognized her?
"Hey, what's your name? Come on, wakey, wakey."
Her eyes opened suddenly, blinking a couple of times in the brightness. The owner of the voice and the hands was kneeling next to her, the late afternoon sun behind him. His head blocked the orb of the sun itself so the rays of sunshine shone behind him like a halo. Alex honestly wasn't sure whether to laugh or genuflect at the sight.
"Mon Dieu," she whispered, just in case.
"Un Dieu n'existe pas," he corrected.
So not an angel then. Angels probably didn't go around saying that God did not exist.
He shifted and his hands came to her face. He tilted her head up to meet his gaze and now that the sun wasn't blinding her Alex found herself staring into a pair of the bluest eyes she'd ever seen. They left little room for any other thought.
"Should you do that? What if she has a spinal injury?"
He glanced away from her briefly to deliver a withering look to the concerned bystander. "She fell over. I doubt she'll be paralysed."
"What, are you the poster child for sarcasm awareness month?" the bystander snapped. "Don't you think you should be a little nicer given that you nearly killed—"
"Shut up." It was said without malice and yet with a steely enough undercurrent that the bystander did, in fact, shut up.
"The paramedics are on the way," someone else said.
And at that Alex really did come back to her senses. There was no way she was going with paramedics. No way she was going to hospital. They'd want to see identification, they'd want official paperwork and it only took one nurse with a big mouth and suddenly she'd no longer be an anonymous, mousy student with a funny accent that barely anyone noticed, let alone talked to. Which was just how she liked it. Mostly.
She shook his hands off her face. "I am fine," she said, struggling to sit up. She expected blue-eyes to resist, to push her back down again, but all he said was "gently" and he put a hand behind her shoulder to help her up.
Taking in her surroundings, Alex was hit by an almost overwhelming embarrassment. A small crowd of people stood around, some looking concerned, others frankly staring as if she was the day's entertainment. She desperately wanted the ground to open up and swallow her, and it took every ounce of her training and breeding to paste a calm, regal smile on her face and give everyone a gracious look. "I appreciate your concern, but I'm fine. I am sorry to have caused a fuss."
She knelt and then tried to stand, feeling a little shaky, stumbling as she got to her feet. Her almost-angel stood with her and caught her, his arm around her shoulders briefly. "Steady."
It took her a moment to realize that the heel on one of her shoes had broken when she fell. It was the reason she was so unbalanced. "My shoe," she said to no one in particular. She reached down and took both her black leather pumps off, looking sadly at the three-inch heel that now hung uselessly from its sole. A siren sounded in the distance.
"I have to go." She smiled at her blue-eyed fallen angel, still not taking in much more than his piercing gaze. She did notice that he was tall – she had to look up to see his face. At that moment he was frowning.
"You should wait and get checked over."
"Yes, and don't you want to wait and speak to the police?" The concerned bystander from earlier interrupted again, seeming outraged on her behalf.
The other man's frown of concern turned into one edged by panic and anger. "The police? There's no need for police! It was her fault, she—"
She shook her head, holding up a hand to interrupt. "I will be fine. Really. There is no need to involve the police or an ambulance. Thank you for your concern."
The bystander gave an annoyed harrumph before walking away. Blue eyes reached out and grabbed her arm. "I'm glad you don't want to sue me, but are you sure that brain of yours is okay? It's a little weird that you're so unconcerned by the fact that I nearly killed you."
If only. It would solve so many of her problems, she thought. But then she'd be dead and her problems being solved wouldn't be of any use to her. She shook her head. "It doesn't matter, you were right, it was my fault." She shrugged to dislodge his grip – even though his hand was warm around her arm, comforting.
"You weren't trying to kill yourself or anything that pathetically annoying were you?"
She managed a small smile and a quick glance at the motorcycle he'd parked a few feet away. "If I was, I doubt throwing myself in front of your little plastic Japanese toy would be of much use."
He looked angry for a split second, but then his eyes lit up. It was a strange expression but Alex had seen it before. Like her father just before he walked into parliament, or her brother before he led the horses off in their country's annual steeple chase. The thrill of battle.
Alex contained the urge to roll her eyes.
She didn't have time for it. Correction: she had plenty of time. She simply didn't have the patience for it. Her ankle ached now that it held her weight and her arm felt heavy with the promise of pain to come. It was her palm that really troubled her though, burning hotly with gravel rash from breaking her fall. The sting was enough to bring tears to her eyes.
She turned away and lowered her head, not wanting him – or anyone – to see her cry.
She paused, her stockinged feet already starting to feel the chill of the cold pavement. He was teasing now, and she wondered how many shades and emotions one voice could hold. It really was a very nice voice. How lovely it would be, she thought, to close her eyes and just let him talk. Let him talk and the words flow over her and she'd listen and learn about him and she'd never have to say anything at all.
She probably did have a concussion, she thought. Her brain certainly didn't seem to be working properly if it was given over to flights of fancy like that.
"Don't forget this."
She turned and, if she'd thought she'd been embarrassed earlier? That had nothing. Nothing in comparison to turning around and seeing her well-and-truly-fallen angel, one eyebrow arched in surprise and lustful curiosity, holding a scrap of black and green lace hooked over one finger. Her shopping bag was in his other hand, the side of it torn and the tissue paper spilling out revealing more of the lacy items inside.
Her tears seemed to well instantly, joined by a swollen lump in her throat that she could barely swallow around.
He didn't move, leaving her no choice but to reach out and grab the offending items from him. She stuffed the thong back into the bag, arranging the tissue as best she could to cover her purchases.
Her shoes in one hand, her shopping bag in the other, and her purse hitched firmly over her shoulder where it had stayed throughout the ordeal, Alex turned and strode away as gracefully as she could manage. Her ankle protested sharply, but she bit the inside of her lip until she could taste blood. It was enough distraction to take her focus from her ankle and stop herself from limping.
"I can give you a lift," he called out after her, but he made no move to stop her.
There was a bus stop just around the corner. She could make it that far, she told herself. One tear rolled down her cheek.
She always allowed only one. Even today.
House stood still for a moment and watched his victim walk away. The crowd that had gathered began to disperse now that the drama was over. He gave his bike a quick once over; no damage. He didn't really expect there to be. It had been a glancing blow – lucky for her, he'd only just been accelerating from a standing start. Lucky for him too, he'd been able to control the bike and stop just a few feet on. If he'd hit her even a couple of seconds later, once his speed had racked up, she wouldn't have been walking away. Probably, neither would he.
She was trying not to limp, he could tell.
He was glad she didn't want to involve the police – even if it was entirely her own fault – but why wouldn't she wait for the ambulance? He knew in some cases people wanted to avoid the cost associated with paramedics and a hospital visit. But the shoes she'd held up, the ones with the broken heel, had those trademark red soles. He couldn't remember the name of the brand but he knew Cuddy harbored an unhealthy obsession for them. Which meant they were anything but affordable.
No, money wasn't it.
And he doubted she was suicidal. Suicidal people didn't usually make the purchase of lingerie one of their last dying acts.
He watched her until she rounded the corner, wondering why he felt an urge to go after her. She was attractive, he figured. The kind of curvy that could run to fat if she wasn't careful, but also the kind of curvy that looked fantastic in the lacy confections he'd just picked up out of the gutter. Her dark brown hair was pulled back in a complicated-looking knot, but he suspected it was quite long. Her eyes were the same brown as Wilson's which was a slightly disturbing comparison given he was thinking how warm and soft and sexy they were. Scared too, he thought. But then she had just been hit by a motorbike.
French. She spoke French. Her "mon dieu", wasn't just an affectation: she'd understood when he'd answered her. And that accent – for once he couldn't place it, and House prided himself on his ability to locate accents. Something European, definitely. A strong hint of English too. Some American influence in there though, he thought, with the way she said her Rs.
House pulled his bike off the road and parked it on the sidewalk, feigning ignorance when a paramedic asked him if he'd seen an MVA they'd been called to attend. A store with a sign that matched the torn bag he'd rescued from the road was a few doors up. Without thinking too much further he headed straight for it. It was a good escape from the angry paramedics, anyway.
Once inside, his eyes widened in surprise. It was a cross between a high-end department store lingerie section – the kind he'd shopped at before for Stacy – and the adult shop he went to for DVDs every now and then. Expensive lace vied for his attention with riding crops and nipple pasties.
"Can I help you sir?"
What was he doing? House opened his mouth and waited to see what would come out. Sure enough, his brain didn't let him down. "My girlfriend was in here a moment ago. She bought . . ." He glanced around until he found the green and black lace he'd picked up from the road. "She bought that one." He pointed.
"Oh, yes, I helped her." The salesgirl nodded. "That's our Maryanne range. Your girlfriend was quite taken with it. It's one of our most popular styles for adventurous ladies."
Adventurous ladies, huh? Nice. "I want to buy her a gift. Something to match."
The salesgirl gave him a smile. "Of course. She bought the bra and thong and suspenders. Maybe you'd like to get the slip? Or perhaps the basque?"
He had no idea what that meant. "Show me."
A few moments later, he was standing at the counter with a dizzying array of lace and ribbons in front of him. Some pieces were such complicated arrangements of fabric and straps he found it difficult to work out how they could be worn. But in response to his request that she model for him, the salesgirl had given a tight smile and pulled out a catalogue to demonstrate the fittings for him.
The afternoon had turned out quite swimmingly really, he thought, as he perused photos that he generally only saw in his . . . cough . . . gentlemen's magazines. For a while there he had wondered if it might be very quickly going to hell in a hand basket. If the police had arrived, if he'd had to do a blood alcohol test . . . Just as well the little princess he'd hit had hoisted herself up and off. It was all good for him.
And now he was being shown free porn by a passably attractive blonde.
For an afternoon that had started out the way it had, things were not too shabby.
"What about the brief, sir?"
She held up a sheaf of lace that seemed pretty enough to him, although far more demure than most of the other stuff he was looking at. Then she turned it around and he discovered that the back was little more than a few ribbons holding the lace at the sides together. Backless panties. Who would have guessed?
"I'll take those."
"And the slip sir? It will go nicely with the thong she already bought. She did admire it when she was in here earlier."
Oh yeah, his fictional girlfriend. That was why he was in here after all. "Sure. And that basque thing." It looked a little like a corset from the olden days. Only better. "And can I have an extra copy of the catalogue to take with me? We might want to order more later." And Wilson would certainly enjoy having a copy to himself.
"Of course." She packaged everything up carefully in tissue paper and a glossy pink bag, just like the one the woman he'd hit had carried. "That'll be six hundred and forty-three dollars."
House choked. "What?" he spluttered. For three items that he could scrunch up into a single handful?
"Well, the basque is on sale, so it was fifty dollars off the original price."
It was cheaper than a traffic violation, House reasoned. A lot cheaper than jail and all its attendant hassle and lecturing. And possibly even worth it for the distraction it had given him for the past half hour or so. He handed over his credit card with a shrug. "A bargain's a bargain."
"Would you like me to add it on to her original transaction, so she'll receive loyalty points to go towards her next purchase?"
Then it clicked in House's brain. That was why he was there. "Yes, please."
He casually leaned over as the sales assistant brought up the details on the computer. Alexandra George, was all he could see. "Did Alex update her address while she was here?" he asked, pleased with sounding all casual-like.
"Ah, let me check. Is it still apartment twelve, fifty-two Post Street?"
House pretended to nod thoughtfully. "That's right. I should have realized she'd have it up to date. She's the one who takes care of all that in our house." He gave her a goofy grin. "Me, I'm as forgetful as Mister Magoo. Don't know why she puts up with me."
"Well, at least you remembered her birthday."
"Whe—" House opened his mouth to ask, but shut it again fast as what she'd said sunk in. Not fast enough.
The salesgirl barely contained her sneer of dislike. "I hope you're at least taking her out to dinner tonight." A distinct disgust had crept into her obsequious tone.
"Whatever." House grabbed his costly and unnecessary purchases and headed for the door.
What now? he thought as he tucked the underwear bag into his backpack and climbed on his bike. No doubt she'd gone and bought herself some sexy underwear for special birthday cha-cha-ing with whoever was in her life. What was the point of chasing after her?
And yet when he accelerated down the road he found himself planning a route home that included a drive-by along Post Street. It wasn't very far away after all, just a few blocks from his own apartment. What could that hurt?