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HOUSE M.D. FIC: A Valiant Woman (5/6)

For notes, please see Chapter 1.

Chapter 5: Entrusting His Heart to Her
“I need someone I can count on every day.”

Lisa and her father had had an ugly fight when she was last home for the holidays. She’d made the mistake of bemoaning her solitary life, and he had told her that she was still alone because she had wasted so much time pining after the wrong men instead of embracing what was right in front of her. “You like a challenge, Lisa,” he’d said. “It’s taken you a long way in your profession, and I’m proud of you for that. But it’s no way to find a good relationship.”

In retrospect, that might have been partly why she agreed to go out with Lucas despite the decided creepiness of their initial encounters. He was available, he was obviously interested, and he could express his admiration in public without causing her to glance nervously over her shoulder in case a colleague or potential donor might be coming around a corner. Plus, and it was a huge plus, he was good with Rachel, easy-going and endearingly goofy when warranted.

She tried not to think about the fact that the months of House being unreachable in rehab might have had something to do with it too.

***

She’d only accepted the offer of a ride from Wilson because he’d assured her that House had thrown a temper tantrum about the conference and was refusing to come along. Thus, she was not pleased to encounter House opening the car door for her, although at least she had Rachel with her to serve as a tiny human shield. As she knew all too well herself, infants could make astonishingly effective anti-aphrodisiacs, especially when loudly making their displeasure known on long car trips.

House found her doing her best imitation of Alex Owens at the 80s party, and she was somehow not surprised to see that he had chosen to go with the Alexander Hamilton look. It would have been really rude to decline his offer of a dance, particularly after he ran off a moron who mistook her for Jane Fonda, but she didn’t at all intend to find herself snuggled up against him for a slow song. God, it had been so long, and of course there was the leg, yet they moved together so naturally that she allowed herself to indulge in nostalgia for a few minutes… right up until he told her that only his expulsion from med school had made their first date a one night stand. Suddenly she realized what had really brought House to this conference, and what a compromising situation she had unwittingly created. She cursed herself silently for willful obliviousness and escaped to her room.

The next morning, Wilson approached her to inquire oh-so-subtly about what had happened at the party. She assured him that House had been nothing but sweet, and admitted (both to him and to herself) that she could see that he really was trying to turn over a new leaf since getting out of rehab. But she was a mother now, and she needed someone whom she could count on every day. That person had never been House.

He found out about Lucas, of course, and the fact that she had concealed the relationship from him made the whole thing ten times as awkward. During the morning break, she somehow found herself in a cozy foursome chatting over coffee. She tried to deny that she had kept her secret to protect House in his fragile state, but Lucas blithely ratted her out with seeming innocence. Horrifyingly, he even managed to reveal that he knew of House’s hallucinations about her, in the context of assuring the other man that it was no big deal. Lisa knew better, and experienced the all-too-familiar feeling of wishing the ground would open up and swallow her from sight, although for once House was not the direct cause.

At least she didn’t have to forgive herself for any perverse satisfaction at this evidence of her power. In her torturous teenage years, her mother’s kinder friends assured her that she might not believe it yet, but she would eventually blossom into a real heartbreaker. She hadn’t understood at the time why that was something to which a girl should aspire, and she still didn’t.

***

Inviting House to join them for Thanksgiving at her sister’s had been Lucas’ idea. Lisa still felt occasional twinges of guilt for her behavior towards House in the early weeks of Rachel and opposed the plan at first, but given the persistence with which he was wangling for an invitation, she finally decided that Lucas was right, and the only way to ensure that House didn’t turn up on her own doorstep and cause a major scene would be to send him someplace else. It also had to be a plausible alternative since House would certainly do some investigating before setting out. With Julia in Hawaii for the week, there was a ready solution at hand.

Their dinner was delicious and thankfully House-free, but she couldn’t help feeling like she’d done something shameful akin to tripping an old lady crossing the street. The six hour round trip would be hell on House’s leg, never mind any disappointment he would experience upon the discovery of her deception. Lucas told her not to worry, that the son of a bitch had just been plotting to put pressure on their relationship, and they’d beaten him at his own game. When he discovered via surveillance that House had turned up at his own home and was waiting for him there, Lucas practically rubbed his hands in anticipation.

Lucas returned late that night, wrapped himself around her, and nuzzled her ear until she roused. He gleefully related his conversation with House, who had obviously been pretending to be in vino veritas so as to let slip his undying declaration of love for Lisa, trigger a jealous confrontation, and break the two of them up. Their next move was to convince him that it had worked.

Lisa had some serious reservations, but agreed to stop by the next morning and tell House that she had been dumped but that he still didn’t have a chance in hell with her. House looked appropriately pathetic when he opened the door, wincing against his faux hangover and sounding convincingly contrite about his drunken outburst last night. For a second she doubted Lucas’ convictions, not to mention her own ability to pull this performance off, but she managed to keep in character and deliver her lines with a fair degree of credibility.

The next time she saw House, he was sporting a fresh shiner courtesy of Chase, whose behavior had been alarmingly erratic ever since Cameron’s departure. Lisa wondered whether she was about to lose yet another employee to a major breakdown, but all House seemed concerned about was asking her out now that she was supposedly available again.

She didn’t have to fake her feelings when she told him that this just wasn’t fun anymore.

***

When Lucas suggested that they move in together, Lisa could have approached half a dozen realtors about a new property, but she knew that using Bonnie would practically guarantee a hotline to House – and if that didn’t work, it would give her an excuse to mention the development directly to Wilson. What she hadn’t anticipated was that they would use their insider information to buy the condo she had her eye on right out from under her. She wasn’t particularly bitter about it – in a way, she considered it karma – and she even attempted to conceal it from Lucas, figuring that he really didn’t need any additional ammunition in his rivalry with House.

When she was called into the Diagnostics conference room one day to hear House’s histrionic imitation of Clouseau (or perhaps Poirot, it was impossible to tell), she realized at once that Lucas had had both motive and opportunity to place the possum and rig the sprinkler system in Wilson’s condo. He denied it that night, but she knew better; despite his trusting face, he was a master manipulator on the same scale as House and Wilson. And herself. He also hadn’t pranked them in retaliation on her behalf, but rather taken advantage of the excuse to demonstrate his superiority over his opponent. It was the 21st century manchild equivalent of dueling for her hand, which she supposed was sweet, in an extremely immature kind of way. Still, no one had been seriously hurt, and House in particular seemed to harbor no hard feelings, so she persuaded herself to let it go.

***

Three months later, Lucas proposed. She tried not to see it as settling, telling herself that nobody was a perfect fit and every relationship entailed charitableness and compromise. Accepting the offer of a loving, stable man and a second parent for her daughter was surely the adult thing to do.

***

Author’s Note: Any interesting insights into Lucas Douglas were doubtless inspired by the recent works of readingrat , particularly “Pyrrhic Victory.”

 ***
 
Read Chapter 6: Laughing at the Days to Come

 

 

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