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HOUSE M.D. FIC: A Valiant Woman (2/6)

For notes, please see Chapter 1.

Chapter 2: The Success of Her Dealings
“Why are we still together?”

Like so many idealistic little girls, she had gone through a brief phase of wanting to become a nun, secular Judaism notwithstanding. She hadn’t realized that pursuing her career ambitions would entail the same demands of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Now that she had climbed to the top of the ladder, she had escaped the second and, to some extent, the third, but the first was as heavy a cross to bear as ever.

She’d tried every online dating service imaginable: Match, Chemistry, eHarmony, OK Cupid. But even J-date, suggested in whispers by more than one of her aunts, had failed her. Oh, she received matches, was bombarded with a flurry of messages every time she posted her profile, even managed to make it far enough to face a tense stranger across a table multiple times.

But there was never any second date. House, in his juvenile jealousy or impeccably poor timing, had seen to this in some cases. However, the decision usually had nothing to do with him, at least not directly. A couple of men had actually been forthright enough to confront her courteously at the end of dinner, saying that they just hadn’t gotten the impression that she was all that interested in them. And she’d shaken herself, startled, realizing that she’d been half-asleep even while thinking that the evening had been going rather well. Nice enough guys, most of them, decent-looking and reasonably bright. The trouble was that nice, decent, and reasonable were proving not to be the primary characteristics that kept her attention.

She had once asked her mother why she had decided to marry her father. Her mother had looked away, then back, and said simply, “I knew that I would never be bored.” When Lisa had related this to various friends, they had almost unanimously responded that there were worse things than being bored (Stacy being the notable exception). But she had never been able to bring herself to agree; she honestly couldn’t think of anything sadder than realizing that your spouse was going to be stuck pretending not to be bored by you for the rest of your lives together.

Greg House was many things, but he was never boring.

What with one thing and another, she weathered five long years of drought, the closest thing to a kiss taking place on the filthy floor of a bus after House crumpled in physostigmine-induced cardiac arrest. One hand tilting his head back, she counted and breathed into his mouth, the bristly stubble burning her lips. Every few seconds his whole body jerked from the force of Wilson’s fist pounding on his otherwise stone-still chest. In retrospect, she wouldn’t be certain exactly how they had arrived at that particular distribution of labor after House collapsed, but in the moment, she had no other thought but breathe you bastard, breathe. She was sure her own heart would stop from sheer terror before he finally gasped for breath, blue eyes blinking open, blank with unwanted revelation.

She had already stayed one night on the chaise lounge in House’s apartment to keep him from limping for the border with a herniated brain, and after he acceded to the request that couldn’t save Amber and suffered a DBS-induced seizure, she spent another watching over him in the ICU. She dozed fitfully, curled in a chair, or slumped at his bedside, clasping his bruised hand to her heart. Every time she was jolted into anxious consciousness, her gaze jumped to his pallid face, his shuttered eyes, measured the rise and fall of his labored breaths.

When he woke, he looked right past her in search of Wilson.

Anyway, given that track record, she had eventually decided that open adoption might be the best way to go. It wasn’t likely to be a short way – even the stable, successful couples she knew had waited a couple of years, with numerous (and expensive) false alarms, before bringing a baby home, and not many mothers-to-be were going to look twice at a single woman. But Becca had seen too many women in her family dragged down by the men in her lives and didn’t want her daughter to be raised by a loser.

House was even more of an ass than usual the day she arranged to meet the birth mother and ended up admitting her to the hospital. Stunts like spilling “baby barf” on her shoulder and breaking her office lamp weren’t half so obnoxious as the crap that came out of his mouth about her unsuitability for motherhood. The worst was when she was tying herself into knots to appease her conscience and he nastily informed her that trying to do the right thing by Becca just meant that some part of her didn’t want this baby.

She advised Becca to wait a week or two, to give her daughter’s lungs time to develop, but the girl didn’t want to make any more sacrifices for a baby that wasn’t hers to keep. In the OR, Lisa clenched her fists hard enough to draw blood, waiting for the first wail that would signal some hope of success. She could have beaten House to death with his own cane when he poked his head into the surgical suite to demand her administrative services in the middle of the C-section. His case would have waited; he just didn’t want her to be here.

Although, in the end, it probably would have been much, much, easier if she hadn’t been.

She didn’t know how long she’d been in the nursery, leaning against the wall she’d painted a fertile, nurturing green, when House’s knock roused her from her stupor. Lisa let him in, even though she was certain that he’d come to gloat, but his actual words were much worse. Other babies in the sea… but she was just quitting, again… and it was too bad, because she would have been a great mother.

And the anger she’d felt towards him earlier in the day was dwarfed by the rage that gripped her now. How dare that son of a bitch jerk her around like this? Who did he think he was, fueling her self-doubt right up until the moment that the decision was taken out of her hands, then turning around to damn her with praise once it was too late? “Why do you need to negate everything?” she demanded, getting up into his face, her fingers itching to wrap themselves around his fucking throat.

“I don’t know,” House whispered, those three little words shocking in their rarity. They stared at each other. He loomed over Lisa, but with the sad, scared look of a lost little boy. Then he lurched forward and covered her mouth with his. Her hands flew up of their own accord, but instead of striking or strangling him, they clutched convulsively at the tender skin above his collar, helping to hold her up as she rose on tiptoe to meet him.

There was nothing remotely arousing or romantic about this kiss; House’s lips were stiff and awkward, and he tasted like remorse and desperation. It occurred to her that for once, he didn’t have a plan; wit and words had failed him, and he was simply reacting instinctively, like a toddler who’d accidentally blacked his mother’s eye with a stray fist and hoped that he could kiss it and make it better. He was only sticking his tongue in her mouth because he had no idea what the hell else to do.

And yet, her traitorous body responded, crushing her against the leather of his motorcycle jacket that stank of stale sweat, loosening her thighs, starting the flow of secretions that would ease his entry if he stayed. She felt like she was drowning, struggling just under the surface, but on the verge of breaking through onto a new and terrifying shore.

When he stopped and pulled back almost imperceptibly, it tore the breath from her lungs and left her stranded, staring up at him in stunned disbelief. His flushed face had clamped closed, pale eyes unreadable.

“Good night,” he muttered, and fled as fast as his crippled leg would carry him.


They needed to talk about this, but after spending more than two years acting like a lovestruck schoolboy, House had, to all appearances at least, abruptly lost all interest in pursuing her. To her knowledge, he had not returned after that evening, although a couple of times the sound of a motorcycle on the street caused her to tense up and busy herself in another part of the house. She was perfectly willing to chalk up their kiss to an attempt at comfort in an emotional moment, but either he wasn’t satisfied with that explanation or it scared him more than he wanted to admit. Either way, it made working with him incredibly awkward.

Perhaps out of a perverse desire to force the issue, Lisa took advantage of her office being renovated after the hostage crisis by commandeering House’s. She figured that he could hardly continue to avoid her if they were sharing the same room. Plus it had the added bonus of allowing her to play with his balls and taunt him about it afterwards.

When Wilson warned her that sitting near House and hoping wasn’t going to get it done, she decided that an escalation was in order. The hellish stink of hydrogen sulfide should get his attention. She also had all of his office furniture removed and wore one of her most alluring ensembles the following morning.

It worked. House rose to the bait and accused her of denying his requests, not for medical reasons, but because she had the hots for him. She countered that he was still there because he had the hots for her.

“Evidenced by the fact that I’m the one who moved into your office,” he riposted.

“It’s the biggest office, and I’m the one who’s-“

“Why are you dressed like that?” he interrupted. “Why do you try so hard to get my attention?” When she didn’t answer immediately, he moved forward to invade her space, blue eyes glinting with suspicion. “Are you screwing with me?”

Seeing her opening, she stepped closer too, with a provocative smile. “Are you screwing with me?”

“Depends on your answer.”

“Everybody knows this is going somewhere,” she said softly. House’s eyes darted from side to side, looking less aroused than perturbed, but he didn’t pull away, so she pushed harder. “I think we’re supposed to kiss now.”

He gave a quick shake of his head, whether in negation or in an attempt to clear it, she wasn’t sure. “We already did that.” Then, his face an unreadable mask, he reached out and placed his hand, crudely and deliberately, on her breast. Unapologetic in the face of her obvious annoyance, he shrugged, “It seemed like the logical next step.”

“Really,” she responded in disgust. “I’m an idiot for being surprised.” She started to stalk away, but the son of a bitch refused to relinquish his hold on her.

“Can you leave these?” It was the last straw. She turned to give him one look full of wounded dignity and disappointment, and his hand dropped to his side.

Entering her own office later with Wilson, she declared bitterly, “House is an unemotional child, incapable of intimacy or romance. Trust me, it’s done.” Then the perfection of the redone room took her breath away and crowded out all thoughts of House.

She didn’t even notice the desk until Wilson pointed out how much character it had. It wasn’t the one she had ordered, but her own old desk from med school, and she hadn’t told her mother about the renovations. Then she realized who was responsible, and felt a big, rueful smile break out on her face.

She dropped by House’s office, spirits soaring, to thank him for the surprisingly sweet gesture, but stopped short when she saw that he was overtly flirting with a patent prostitute. This final blow to her ego and insult to her authority was too much to bear. As she slunk away to lick her wounds, she was certain that anything they might once have been to each other, any hope of a future together, was finally over.


After the first failed adoption, she had meant it when she told House that she was done, that she couldn’t stand to go through that again – the experience of watching a sweet young woman take hold of the thing with feathers and pitilessly wring its neck right in front of her. But as the weeks went by, the pain faded enough to be eclipsed by the memories of cradling the newborn baby in her inexperienced arms, of holding those fragile fingers in hers. She found herself drawn irresistibly to pedes patients – a four year old with an iron overdose, an emancipated incest victim – most of all, to the overweight girl who reminded her of her own awkward teenage years of waiting for her baby fat to melt away, her hair to unfrizz, and the rest of her face to catch up with her nose.

She didn’t know what instinct carried her into the condemned building in search of Natalie’s abandoned baby; perhaps she was still riding the wave of self-confidence that had surged in her with the eclampsia epiphany. After picking her way gingerly through the litter and rubble, she found herself stepping into a squatter’s den. The spoons and needles littering the coffee table told her all that she needed to know. Her voice was quiet but authoritative when she told the ragged woman who had saved the infant’s life, “Now you have to let her go.”

House found her later in the ICU, gazing down at the tiny girl whose teenage mother was dying of multiple organ failure and whose grandparents wanted nothing to do with her. The joy that suffused Lisa at finally getting what she wanted left no room for tears over the terrible tragedy that had resulted in this incredible gift. She had already spoken to her lawyer; she would become a foster parent, and if all went well, she would adopt. She thought she heard House wish her a merry Christmas. She didn’t hear him leave.


Read Chapter 3: Her Children Rise Up and Praise Her




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