Author's Note: I do not own House. There - got that out of the way. This is the first chapter of the sequel to my story "Neighbors" and I'm going to say right now that if you haven't read "Neighbors" you should close this story and go do that first. Done? Good, now I hope you will enjoy the continuation of House's and Sarah's relationship struggles. Now, for a warning. "Neighbors" pretty much showed up fully formed in my head one day and then it wouldn't leave me alone so I had to write it down. I was able to post at least one chapter every day. This one is proving more work so I don't expect I'll be able to update as rapidly as last time. I appreciate your patience, and your reviews (I continue to be Pathetic Review Junkie). A HUGE thanks to Brighid45 for serving as my beta this time. Here we go and I hope you'll enjoy!
When Sarah left her office on Monday, she felt like a week should've passed instead of just one day. First, her desk had been buried in work that she needed to catch up on after her absence the previous week. Second, the secretary that worked in the office with her had been in a foul mood. She was angry about Sarah's disappearance and resentful that the department chair had allowed her to return, apparently with no consequences. Sarah could either tell her what had happened, or put up with her bad attitude. For the time being, Sarah had chosen to tolerate the attitude. She'd told enough people she barely knew about her stalker.
Sarah tried not to think too much about the events from the first part of the previous week. Coming face to face with Todd had been terrifying. Knowing that he had attacked Greg had horrified her. She hadn't thought she could face Greg again, but two of his fellows had convinced her that she needed to see him. To her amazement, Greg had been nothing short of wonderful. He hadn't been angry with her at all. She tried to concentrate on those memories instead.
She entered the hospital parking lot and drove toward the entrance. When she didn't see Greg waiting outside, she pulled into his spot and went inside. She felt nervous as she entered the lobby. She did not want to encounter Greg's boss, Dr. Lisa Cuddy. Dr. Cuddy had stayed in Greg's room while Sarah had told him about Todd. The woman had apologized later but the apology hadn't seemed sincere. She had seemed resentful, jealous even, and Sarah just wanted to avoid her.
Sarah made it to the elevator without encountering Dr. Cuddy and took the car to the Greg's floor. When she stepped off the elevator, she nearly ran in to his friend, James Wilson.
"Sorry!" she exclaimed, stepping back quickly to avoid hitting him. She plastered a polite smile on her face, trying to repress the resentment she felt toward this man.
"No problem," he replied. "If you're looking for House, he's in Cuddy's office. They have to work out how his clinic hours are getting covered while he's recovering."
"Oh. Ok. I'll just wait in his office. Do you think he'll be long?"
"I wouldn't think they'd be much longer; he's been down there for almost half-an-hour."
"Ok. Thanks for letting me know. Have a good evening."
"Yeah, you too," Wilson said, smiling. It didn't reach his eyes.
Sarah nodded and started down the hall. I don't understand how Greg could forgive you, she thought.
House shifted in his chair for the third time in ten minutes, trying to find a comfortable position. Cuddy looked up from her computer screen.
"Hurting?" she asked gently.
"I have a broken collar-bone, cracked ribs, and a big chunk of thigh missing," House retorted. "What do you think?"
"I think we're done," Cuddy said, clicking her mouse one last time. "We've got your clinic hours covered while you're recovering."
"Thank God for that," House said. Cuddy rolled her eyes at his sarcasm, but she was smiling.
"Do you need a ride home?" she asked.
"My neighbor's picking me up," House replied, getting carefully out of the chair.
"How is she?" Cuddy asked as she rose with him.
"She's fine," House replied, starting for the door. He did not want to discuss Sarah; her privacy had been invaded enough last week. Cuddy moved past him to open the door.
"Good," she said. "I'm glad she's doing alright." House was too winded to make a reply but he gave her his most skeptical stare and she flushed. "I am glad."
"Hmph," he managed, moving past her. He felt her watching him as he made his slow way out of her reception area.
Thirteen looked up as the door to the conference room opened and smiled when she saw Sarah coming in. She'd been very pleased to see the other woman drop House off that morning. Thirteen had seen a side of House that she'd suspected existed but never thought he'd actually reveal last week as he'd comforted Sarah. They were good for each other.
"Hi," she said. "How are you?"
"Hi," Sarah answered. "I'm alright. You?"
"Tired, but good. I was in the clinic most of the day. House is downstairs with Cuddy."
"I know. I ran into Dr. Wilson at the elevator." Sarah moved forward to take the chair at the end of the cluttered conference table. Thirteen wondered when Sarah had met Wilson; she'd been surprised to find him bringing House lunch when she'd returned to the office at noon. Wilson had ignored House for two weeks after he asked him to move out. He hadn't even visited House while he was a patient.
"It looks like they were catching up on paperwork up here," Thirteen said, gesturing at the file-strewn table. "Cuddy's let House out of clinic duty while his arm is in the sling."
"That's good. Moving around hurts, not that he wants to admit it." Sarah looked away and Thirteen could see guilt on her face. She didn't know what she should say. She knew House wouldn't appreciate it if she got involved here; he'd only tolerated it last week because he'd been trapped in a hospital bed.
The conference room door opened and Thirteen looked up to see House entering. He came to a stop when he saw Sarah was with her.
"What are you still doing here?" he demanded.
"Just wrapping up," Thirteen said, getting up from her chair. "Nice to see you again, Sarah." She made her way out of the conference room and headed for the doctor's locker-room. House seemed particularly testy this evening; she hoped he didn't take it out on Sarah.
Greg was quiet on the way home. Sarah tried to avoid the bumps and potholes popping up everywhere but she still saw him wince several times. He was due for another dose of pain medication soon; he just needed to have something to eat first. She had a pot roast in her crock pot and planned to serve it as soon as she finished taking Maggie for her evening walk.
When they got to Baker Street, Greg went straight to her apartment. Sarah set his back-pack down just inside the door and helped him get his coat off while Maggie jumped at the baby-gate, barking joyfully. Greg moved carefully to the couch and Sarah scooped up the dog to prevent her from jumping on him.
"I'm just going to take her out for her walk and then we can eat and you can take your pills," Sarah said. Greg nodded. Sarah wheeled over one of her two ottomans for him and helped him get his feet up onto it. "We'll hurry."
"Ok." Greg leaned back against the couch and closed his eyes. Sarah got Maggie into her harness and hurried out, grateful for once for her dog's habit of almost running to get to the park.
House was hurting. For once he barely noticed the pain in his leg; the pains in his shoulder and side were commanding his attention instead. He also felt exhausted, and that was after a day of charting. Or, rather, watching his team do charting. All he'd had to do was sign in the appropriate places. How was he going to handle it if he had an actual case to work on? Everything exhausted him right now.
House was dozing, only half-awake, when the phone rang. He started, gasping at a sharp pain in his side, and fumbled for the phone, which sat on the sofa table right behind his head.
"Hello," he growled.
"Who is this?" demanded the woman on the other end.
"Who is this?" House retorted before it occurred to him that he was in Sarah's apartment, not his own. There was a click as the person on the other end of the phone hung up. House turned off the phone and set it on the couch beside him. A minute later it rang again. He picked it up.
"Hello," he said.
"I am looking for Sarah Kelly." It was the same woman he'd spoken to a moment ago. Her voice grew more shrill as she continued. "If you don't tell me who you are and what you're doing in her apartment this minute, I'm hanging up and calling the police."
"Sarah's taken Maggie out for a walk," House said. "I'm her neighbor. Can I tell her who called?"
"This is her mother. Who are you and how do you know my daughter?"
"I live across the hall from her," House said, trying to be polite. He wanted to tell this woman to go to hell. He reminded himself of all that Sarah had been through. It was only natural that her mother would be protective of her.
"What are you doing in her apartment?"
"We're going to eat dinner together when she gets back from walking the dog," House said. It was getting harder to hold on to his patience. He needed to get off of this call before he said something harsh. "I'll let her know that you called." He hung up before she could respond.
Sarah returned a few minutes later, her cheeks pink from the cold. Maggie charged toward him and he braced himself, but the dog didn't try to climb into his lap. She sat beside him on the couch and he reached out to pet her.
"Your mother called," he said as Sarah hung up her coat.
"You talked to her?" Sarah sounded alarmed.
"Yeah." House watched her closely, checking her reaction. Sarah was still for a second and then she shrugged.
"I'll talk to her later. Our dinner is ready. C'mon, Maggie, dinner." The dog jumped down and hurried into the kitchen. House levered himself up off of the couch and slowly followed Sarah. He made his way to the kitchen table, pulling his medicine out of his pocket. Sarah got plates down from the cabinet and loaded one with a portion of pot roast. She took milk out of the refrigerator and poured a glass, then brought both things over to House before returning to the crock pot. He frowned at the glass. Sarah had served him milk with every meal since Saturday.
"I'm not five you know," he said testily.
"Increasing your calcium intake should help your bones heal faster," Sarah said calmly.
"I am a doctor," he snapped. "I know that."
Sarah froze, the crock-pot lid just lifted. She set it down carefully and put the spoon back on its rest.
"I'm going to go call my mother," she said quietly, turning so that House couldn't see her face. She left the kitchen and a moment later House heard her bedroom door close quietly.
"I'm not five you know." Greg sounded irritated.
"Increasing your calcium intake should help your bones heal faster," Sarah said, keeping her voice calm even as she felt tears prickling behind her eyes. She started to lift the crock-pot lid to get her own dinner but froze at Greg's harsh tone.
"I am a doctor. I know that." The tears increased, too many for her to hold back, and she put the lid back down carefully.
"I'm going to go call my mother," she said, turning away so that Greg couldn't see the first few tears slide down her cheeks. She went to the living room and collected her cell phone from her purse before retreating to her bedroom.
Once the door was shut, she leaned back against it and let the tears fall. Part of her knew that she was over-reacting. It had been a long, miserable day and her nerves were raw. She wiped away her tears. Ok, she told herself. Get a grip. You might as well get this over with. She lifted her phone and dialed her mother's number, moving to sit on the bed.
"Hi, Mom," she said when her mother answered.
"Sarah, who is that man in your apartment?"
"He's my neighbor. We eat dinner together sometimes." Okay, it was every night, but she wasn't going to tell her mother that.
"When did you meet him?"
"A few weeks ago, when we were both doing laundry."
"Is this why you aren't coming home? You're staying there for this guy that you barely know. Sarah…"
"Mom, that's not why I'm staying here. I told you. I can't just leave – I have a job here, and a lease."
"Well, we can discuss it more when you come home for Christmas." Sarah braced herself.
"I… I'm not going to make it home for Christmas this year, Mom."
"I don't have any vacation time to use at the University and we only get Christmas Eve off. I looked at flights but there's no way I can afford one. I'm sorry, Mom." Sarah closed her eyes as her mother began to lecture her on how much more expensive living in New Jersey was than in Indiana, how foolish going there had been in the first place, and how short-sighted Sarah had been to use up her vacation time. Sarah let her go for several minutes before she couldn't take any more. "Mom, I need to go. I'm sorry I can't come home. I'll talk to you later." She ended the call and put the phone down on her bed. The tears were back and she took in big gulps of air, trying to steady herself.
House sat at Sarah's table, picking at the food on his plate. He could hear her voice from the bedroom but he couldn't make out the words. He looked at the glass of milk, sitting by his plate on the table. She was just trying to help, he thought. Why did you have to act like such a jerk? You have to do better than this.
He forced himself to eat more of the pot roast on his plate. The beef had slow-cooked all day and he could've cut it with a spoon. Once he'd eaten about half of the portion Sarah had served him, he shook out his pills and took them, following them with the milk. He drained the glass.
He heard the bedroom door open and then water running in the bathroom. Sarah came back into the kitchen a few minutes later. She went back to the crock-pot and scooped out a small portion of the roast. When she sat down at the table, House could see that her eyes were puffy and red-rimmed.
"Was it any good?" she asked, gesturing toward his plate.
"Yeah," he said, unsure what to say to her. She'd obviously been crying but was that due to him or her mother?
"Good." She nodded, using her fork to shred the meat on her plate.
"Sarah…" House started to speak but his cell-phone started to ring. "Dancing Queen" by Abba meant it was Wilson calling. He pulled the phone out of his pocket to answer it. "What's up, Wilson?"
"I was wondering if you had dinner plans this evening? I'm going by that Thai place you like – I could bring you something."
"Thanks, but I just finished eating."
"Oh. Ok. Maybe some other time." House looked up as Sarah rose from her seat. She collected his plate and glass and then reached for her own. It didn't look like she'd eaten anything.
"Yeah. I gotta go, Wilson." He ended the call and watched as Sarah continued to clean up.
"You don't have to spend every evening with me," she said quietly.
"I like it here," House said, watching her closely. Did she want him to leave? "Did you get to talk to your mother?"
"Yes," Sarah said. She put the last of the dishes into the dishwasher and closed it up. She fussed about the sink; House only had her in profile. He wished she would come and sit at the table so that he could see her whole face. "She's not very happy with me at the moment."
"Still wants you to move back home?"
"Yeah." Sarah finished wiping down the counters and looked over at House. "Did you… Never mind."
Sarah didn't feel hungry. She shredded her pot roast on her plate while Greg talked to Dr. Wilson on the phone. After a minute, she got up from the table and collected the dirty dishes. The milk glass was empty she noted. She could feel Greg watching her as she disposed of her uneaten food and started to put the dishes into the dishwasher.
"I gotta go, Wilson," he said, ending the call.
"You don't have to spend every evening with me," she said, not turning to look at him.
"I like it here. Did you get to talk to your mother?"
"Yes," Sarah said, closing the dishwasher. She started to wipe down the sink, just to have something to do. "She's not very happy with me at the moment." That was an understatement.
"Still wants you to move back home?"
"Yeah." Sarah wiped down the counters and looked over at Greg. "Did you… Never mind." She stopped herself before asking him if he'd taken his medication. He didn't need her to remind him.
"I took my pills," he said and she nodded.
"That's good." She leaned back against the counter, keeping her distance. She still felt on the verge of tears. Maggie barked from the living room and Sarah went to see what the dog was doing.
They wound up watching a movie, Greg on one end of the couch and Sarah at the other. He left when the film was over, saying that he was tired. Sarah went to bed shortly afterwards. She lay in the darkness, thinking over the evening. Greg was tired and hurting. It was only natural that he would be short-tempered. She'd probably seemed like a patronizing idiot, shoving the milk at him all the time. Of course he knew what he needed to do to heal his arm.
"I'm just the idiot who got him hurt in the first place," she muttered to herself.