Just realized I forgot the disclaimer and all that header jazz, so adding those.

Title: The Fast Learner.

Rating: K+

Disclaimer: Obviously, they aren't mine. If they were, things would be a lot different.

A/N: Written because I've always actually liked Lucas - not with Cuddy, granted, but as a character on his own. At least, I liked him until his blabbermouth monologue during that awful conversation over the table. But still think he's a good guy under it all, and I thought he actually was quite nice with House during the "fake drunk" scene; lots of men with that (perceived) opportunity would have handled it far differently. It's Cuddy who needs to be smacked, not Lucas. I still can't believe she told Lucas so much detail about House's hallucination, and I really couldn't believe her trick last night - my first thought during the episode was of potential consequences similar to those in here for House. So I decided to write a Lucas POV one-shot exploring an alternative post Thanksgiving drive encounter. This IS a one shot, but continue it in your imagination as the "slower learners" gradually get it together.

***

Lucas opened the door of his apartment. It wasn't often used anymore, but with Lisa tied up with her family tonight, post Thanksgiving celebration, he needed a place to crash before a stake-out later.

He heard the breathing as soon as he opened the door, and as he reached for the light switch, he mentally prepared himself both for action if needed and, the preferred choice, for nonchalant confrontation of a burglar. Lucas really was not a fighter at heart, although he could. Much easier to use the disarming smile, to downplay everything. It had gotten him out of many tight situations as a PI. He never came across as as intelligent as he was.

The light clicked on, and he saw House sitting in the chair. Lucas felt a twinge of guilt. He had heard about Cuddy's prank, and he actually thought that might be going a little far. He himself had been for being up front and matter of fact with House from the time the older man had returned, but Cuddy had been convinced it should be kept secret. Lucas was trying not to get annoyed at how much House still dominated their relationship, had for months, totally outside of the other man's actions. He was the ever-present ghost listening to any conversation, the silent and unacknowledged fourth member of their household.

Still, Lucas liked House. He really did. He felt sorry for the man, especially knowing how hard the revelation had hit him. He gave an easy smile. "Hey. Look, I'm sorry about the turkey sandwich and all. That really was a bit over the top; I tried to tell her that." He broke off and took a closer look at House. The older man's eyes were open but focused on the other side of the room, slowly returning to Lucas' face as if moving them were an effort. "Are you okay? House?" He walked over to the chair for a closer look. House was pale, and Lucas could see the sweat standing out on his forehead. "House?"

"Fine," House finally replied, but even the one word seemed an effort. His breathing was rapid, too. "I . . . wanted . . . to talk . . . to you."

Lucas reached out toward him, and House weakly batted his hand away. "You look sick. Are you sure you're okay?"

"I said fine. About . . .her. . ." A grimace twisted his features at that moment, and one hand crept toward his thigh. He pulled it back instantly, but Lucas was more observant than most people thought.

Lucas reached out again, for the leg this time, ignoring House trying to cringe away from him. He knew all about House's leg from Cuddy, but he had never actually felt the depression, the hole left by missing muscle, before. Even though pants, it was a shock. More to the point at the moment, Lucas could feel that the entire leg was absolutely locked in spasm, rock hard. House flinched when he touched it. "I'm FINE," he snapped with a bit of the usual snark.

"Yeah, obviously." Lucas gently started working the muscle, staying around the edges, not actually hitting the worst spot yet. "Let me know if I'm hurting you."

The second meaning occurred to both of them at the same time, and a weak grin passed across House's face. "Not . . . your fault. Hers. . . kept secrets."

"I know. That wasn't my idea." Lucas knew that House was quite capable of play-acting, but there was no way he was making this up. The leg was cramped so tightly it was hurting Lucas' fingers as he gently kneaded. He took one hand off for a minute to reach for House's neck, wanting to check his pulse, and of course, he missed the appropriate spot. House rolled pained eyes and reached up to move his hand a little bit, and Lucas counted out the beats against his watch. "150. You want me to call somebody. 911? Wilson? Lisa?"

House shook his head slightly. "They would . . . give me something. Can't risk it. . . maxed out on ibuprofen." He closed his eyes.

Lucas felt a surge of admiration. The man seriously was trying to stay off drugs. Lucas thought that anybody medical would have made a temporary exception right now, but House was even more stubborn than he was in pain. "Why'd you come here, anyway?"

"Wanted to talk." House grimaced as Lucas hit a particularly sharp point. "It . . . wasn't quite this bad until I got here."

"What set it off?" Lucas didn't doubt, feeling that cavity, that House's chronic pain was real, but surely it wasn't like this all the time. The man would be unable to walk or function at all. House didn't answer, and after a minute Lucas answered his question. "6 hours, round trip."

House nodded slightly. "Usually . . . I stop on trips . . . about every hour. Stretch it out. . . anticipating too much going there . . . too mad coming back."

Lucas shook his head. "I'm sorry. That wasn't my idea. She was convinced you'd do something in front of her family."

"Probably would have." House cringed again, tightening up.

"Look, man, this isn't working," Lucas said. "You're going to have a stroke or pass out or something. Let me call somebody."

"NO!" That was the most energy he'd found to put into any word so far. "Hospital . . . would stare. Wilson would . . . hover. Cuddy would . . ." He trailed off, and Lucas completed the sentence.

"Feel sorry for you?" House didn't respond. He might play off people's feelings and guilt to his advantage, but when he genuinely had a problem, he hated their compassion, always interpreted it as pity. "I don't feel sorry for you. Just trying to help. If you won't let me call somebody, tell me what to do. What works besides massage?"

A ghost of a smile haunted his lips. "Vicodin, morphine . . . no." House hesitated, thinking, and Lucas marveled at how the wheels could keep obviously spinning even in extreme physical stress. "Hot water sometimes."

"You mean like a hot soak? I've got a tub." House sighed. "Come on, you need to do something." Finally, House nodded very slightly, and Lucas stood. "Back in a minute. Hang on." He quickly trotted to the bathroom and started a tub of hot water, then returned to House. "Can you stand up?"

House gave it his best shot and nearly fell over, unable to suppress a slight whimper of pain, raw and desperate, like a wounded animal. Lucas grabbed him, holding him up, working House's right arm across his shoulders. "Okay, come on. I've got you." Slowly and painfully, they staggered down the hall together and turned into the bathroom. House more or less collapsed on the toilet seat, and Lucas knelt, untying his shoes and taking them off. He didn't ask if House needed help - that was more than obvious, and voicing it would just humiliate the other man. House was silent, hunched up in pain and shame as Lucas undressed him, then gently helped him over into the tub. House settled down into the hot water with a sigh.

Lucas stayed there because he was afraid to leave House alone just yet. The older man really did look on the verge of a stroke or heart attack. Lucas didn't try to talk just now, though, merely sat quietly, and finally the doctor's features began to relax a little bit. Lucas reached out to test his pulse again, getting the location right this time. He always had been a fast learner. "120," he said. "That's still high, isn't it?"

House nodded. "But better."

Lucas studied him. "Why didn't you go home and collapse there? Wilson would have helped you."

House looked almost sheepish. "I didn't really mean to collapse. I was going to pull a trick on you in return. Pretend to be drunk. Make you feel guilty. But the leg totally locked up almost as soon as I got in your door." He closed his eyes again. "So the master plan failed."

"After a 6-hour drive, your leg was hurting you before you got here."

"I was trying not to notice. More important things to do."

So he had pushed the pain away until it became overwhelming. Lucas had no doubt that if he had arrived at his apartment a little later, House would have been passed out - not through alcohol but through sheer agony. That was assuming he hadn't had a heart attack or a stroke. Lisa had said he'd had multiple heart attacks in the past. Lucas sighed mentally. "She really means that much to you." It was a statement, not a question.

House opened his eyes again and met Lucas' look squarely, for once not deflecting. "I love her," he said with heartbreaking simple sincerity.

Lucas nodded. "You okay for the moment? You aren't going to pass out on me, are you?"

"Not right now," House replied. "Maybe a while ago. Might be a good thing you got here when you did." He hesitated, awkward. "Thanks."

"No problem." Lucas stood up. "I'm going to go get some fresh towels out of the dryer. I'd just done laundry." The last time he was here, that is. He hadn't been here as much lately. "Back in a minute." House nodded, closing his eyes again, one hand working his leg under the water, less frantically now.

Lucas left the bathroom and headed down the hall into the far room, soundlessly closing the door behind him. He then pulled out his cell phone. "Lisa?" he said softly. "Look . . . this isn't going to work. . . no, House didn't threaten me or con me . . .it's my own conclusion. I've just been thinking. This just isn't going to work. You were right; it wasn't supposed to last this long. I'm sorry." He hung up, then went to the dryer, pulling out towels and thinking that sometimes the raw, painful truth was much more effective than any prank or trick or mind game.

That was a lesson that House and Cuddy both needed work on, but Lucas himself at least had finally realized it. They would get there. He always had been a fast learner.