"Out of the Ashes"

Chapter Twelve - "Heaven"

It was a short trip to House's apartment. As he pulled down the street, he saw a spot behind his car; it was occupying his handicapped space near the entrance of his building. He motioned for Lydia to park in the open space right behind his car; he made a U-turn, and headed for an empty slot directly opposite her. He turned off his bike, glanced across the street and saw Lydia having a very animated conversation with… no one. At least that's what it would look like to an uninformed passerby; House guessed she was still talking to Annie on speaker phone. He took off his helmet and removed his cane from the bike. Making his way across the street, he could pick up on the conversation.

“That's wonderful. When is the concert?” Lydia asked.

“A week from Thursday. We're all familiar with the pieces, so we won't need much rehearsal. I am so thrilled for this opportunity.” House recognized Annie's voice. Even though he had not heard her speak much after she came out of her catatonic state, he could still hear her voice the first time she greeted Lydia with a simple, "Hi, sweetie," after being aphasic for so long. He could also never forget the look of pure joy on Lydia's face.

“I'm so happy for you, Annie. And what time did the realtor say we should come by?”

“Eleven-thirty. Let's hope that this one will work out. It sounds ideal for us,” Annie said. Lydia looked up at House and smiled. She pointed at him and then at the phone. House realized she was asking if he wanted to talk to Annie. He hesitated for a moment, but figured he might as well get used to this. Lydia's kids and Annie were part of the package deal. He nodded yes.

“Sweetie, there's someone here who wants to talk to you,” Lydia said.

“I guess now that you've found your voice, we're going to have a hard time getting you to shut up,” House said. There was no answer.

“House?” Annie's voice was small and quiet.

“Yeah, or as my new girlfriend calls me, Greg.” Lydia smiled.

“I… I mean Greg. I’m just used to what everyone at Mayfield called you. How are you?”

“Better now than when I woke up this morning,” he said as he winked at Lydia.

“Yes, I hear things have been going well,” Annie said. House rolled his eyes.

“Oh, great; I didn't know you were the type to kiss and tell,” he said addressing Lydia sarcastically.

“I've heard all the gory details,” said Annie with a teasing tone to her voice. “You had chicken wings and beer at lunch; you left your phone in her car… ”

“Did she tell you I kiss like a gagging goldfish?” House asked.

“No, she left that part out,” Annie said through her laughter. “I'd better let you two go eat while your food is hot. I'll let Lydia fill you in on what's happening.”

“Sounds good,” said House. “I know I'm starving.”

“Me too,” Lydia said. “I'll meet you at Gateway's office between 11:15 and 11:30.”

“OK, sweetie. Oh… Greg?”

“That’s my name for as long as I feel like answering to it.”

“I never got the chance to thank you for what you did for me. You… you gave me back my life.” There was silence for a moment.

“Yes, you did,” said House. “You brought this one back to me," he said as he touched Lydia's cheek with the back of his hand. “You’ve given me a chance at a life.” Annie sighed.

“The pleasure was all mine; I've never seen her so happy.” Lydia and House both smiled. “Well, you two have a good night.”

“We will,” they said at the same time. They could hear Annie laughing as she ended the call. House stepped away from the car as Lydia put up the window and opened the door. As she stood up, she came face to face with House who leaned in to give her a kiss.

“You should've seen the look on your face when Annie and I were talking.” House said. Lydia closed the door and started to walk to the rear of the car.

“And what kind of look was that?” she asked opening up the trunk.

“Like a kid who just found out that there really is a Santa Claus.”

“Well, of course, there's really a Santa Claus,” she said as she reached into the trunk and pulled out a large tote bag. She turned to House who stood to her right on the sidewalk. “Why is that even a question?” she said with an indignant tone in her voice. House gave Lydia a look as she stepped up next to him. He let out a sigh.

“I forgot,” he said. “You have kids who are young enough to still believe in that stuff.” He started walking and then stopped. “I hope you're not thinking that I'm going to play the part of the obviously cholesterol laden, slave labor endorsing, misanthrope, are you? I'll grant you there are similarities, but Ho cubed is not in my vocabulary.” Lydia was laughing so hard, she could hardly talk. She opened the passenger door and retrieved the food.

“Don't worry; you're safe. Unless you can think of a reason Santa walks with a cane.” She closed the door and turned to smile at him. House smiled for a moment, then cringed.

“Damn!” he exclaimed. Lydia looked at him curiously. “Kris Kringle used one in ‘Miracle on 34th Street.’” Lydia laughed as they started walking.

“I’m surprised you are even aware of that movie,” she said. House shrugged.

“My mother was a Christmas fanatic. Used to watch all the holiday movies. I watched them with her when I was still young and naïve.” They arrived at the door to House's apartment building. “Wait,” House said as he fiddled with his keys. “Isn't your son too old to believe in the mascot for an all-you-can-eat buffet?” He opened the door to the building and let Lydia pass by him. “Apartment B,” he said.

“Ben is at that in-between age; young enough for Santa and old enough for monster trucks.” House was about to put the key into the lock on his apartment door when Lydia spoke.

“Did you say monster trucks?” Lydia nodded. “Your son is into monster trucks?”

“With a passion. His favorite is something called Graveyard, I think… ”

“Grave Digger,” said House cutting her off. “Oh, snap. This is… weirdly cool. Your kid and I both like monster trucks.” Lydia looked concerned, but figured she would deal with the subject when it presented itself. One monster truck fan was difficult enough to deal with; two… ? House opened the door to his apartment and reached over to turn the light on. Lydia stepped in and took a quick look around; it was very apparent House wasn't expecting a guest. “Sorry for the mess, but I usually don't have to think about visitors.” Lydia smiled.

“That's OK. Unexpected company gets what it deserves.” She walked in and placed her tote bag on the couch.

“You don’t have a dining table?”

“Never had to worry about serving more than a party of two. That does the job just as well,” said House, pointing to the coffee table. Lydia walked over, and placed the food on the table. She removed the linen blazer she had been wearing, and laid it on the back of the sofa. House hung up his cane in its usual spot; he took off his suit jacket and tossed it on top of Lydia’s blazer. He looked over at her while she was standing by the table, unpacking the food from the bag. He hadn't really taken note of what she had been wearing; but now with the blazer off, it had his full attention. It was a silky wrap dress in a beautiful plum color which just made her all the more stunning, clinging appropriately to the curves of her body. With the blazer on, it gave a more conservative look to the outfit; with it off, it was an open invitation for lust. Of course, House wasn't aware of why she looked good; he just knew that she did.

“Greg?” House shook his head; he hadn't realized that Lydia had been talking to him.

“Sorry, what did you say?”

“I was wondering if you wanted to just eat right out of the take-out containers or if you have any other plates that don’t need washing,” she said carrying some soiled items to the kitchen sink. As she came out of the kitchen, House saw that she suddenly broke out into a smile and walked over to where the piano and House's other various musical toys were. “Why am I not surprised to find all of this here?” House shrugged.

“It's one of my more acceptable hobbies.” He was enjoying watching her run her hands gently over the piano. It reminded him of their first meeting at Mayfield; so much had happened since then, but somehow, it all led to this. “Why don't we just dive in and eat a la containers?” House asked.

“Good idea,” Lydia said as she walked back to the couch. They sat down and removed the lids on the foil take out trays. “It looks like I have yours.”

“Doesn't matter. I only ordered mine in self-defense,” said House. Lydia looked puzzled. “When two people plan on practicing mouth to mouth resuscitation in the course of an evening, it's a good idea that if one of the people orders garlic bread, that the other one does the same thing.” House tilted his head to the side and gave Lydia a phony smile. She put her hand up to her mouth and squeezed her eyes shut.

“Oh, I'm so sorry! I wasn't thinking; it just sounded so good and I'm so hungry that… ” She didn't get the chance to finish what she was saying because House leaned over and kissed her.

“I'm kidding; it's my favorite thing from Otto's besides the wings. Only I really do prefer the bovine.” House switched the trays so that each had what they ordered. Picking up their sandwiches, they ate for a while in silence, a sure indication of just how hungry they were.

“I could use something to drink with this. Want anything?” House asked as he made his way to the kitchen.

“Yes, thank you. Do you have iced tea?” House opened the refrigerator door.

“Wilson and my team came and raided my fridge while I was knocked out. They emptied everything out and bought fresh so I didn’t have to worry about food shopping when I got out.”

“That was awfully nice of them. They must really care about you.” House returned to the kitchen doorway and looked at Lydia.

“Wilson maybe, the rest of them fear me.” House looked at the bottle in his hand. “Looks like I’ve got peach-flavored iced tea,” he said crinkling up his nose in distaste.

“That's fine. Oh… wait a minute.” Lydia leaned over and fished around in her tote bag. House walked back to the table with Lydia's tea and a Samuel Adams beer for himself.

“I got a couple of things for tonight,” she said with a gleam in her eyes. “I hope you don't mind.”

“So I had to cancel the Bavarian cooking class, but you get to bring in some props. That's just not fair.”

“Hush,” Lydia said. “First, this is already cold, but I think we might want to keep it that way until we're ready for it” She pulled a bottle of champagne out of the tote and handed it to House. “Next, we have these.” She offered House a small rectangular box. He opened it and found chocolate dipped strawberries inside.

“I guess these should stay cold, too,” House said. He walked into the kitchen and placed both items in the fridge.

“I also bought some mood lighting,” she said holding up two pillar candles in glass holders. House walked over to her smiling.

“You went for every cliché in the book, didn't you?” he said. He took the candles from her and placed them on the bookshelf for now.

“Is that so? Are you complain… Greg!” House was startled by her sudden outburst.

“What's the matter?” Lydia put her hand to her head.

“I am so out of it… I just noticed; you're walking without your cane.” House shook his head.

“Here I thought something was really wrong; like they discovered that Lady Gaga is the love child of Madonna and Richard Simmons. I walk around my apartment without my cane most of the time. Gives my hand and arm a rest. Actually, I surprised myself today. Walked across my conference room without cheating.” Lydia's eyes opened wide.

“How did you do that?”

“Don't know. I was talking to Wilson, started to walk and the next thing I know, he's pointing out to me that I'm missing my trusty companion.” House paused for a second. “That's not true. I do know why I was able to do it. I was talking to him about you.” Lydia stood up and walked over to him.

“And what were you saying?” House looked down.

“That if to ensure your happiness I'd have to walk away from this, I would. That I don't want to hurt you… I'll do anything to make sure I don't do that. I'll stand on my right leg and balance that thing,” he said, gesturing toward his cane. “On my nose if it would do the trick. After everything you've been through, I just want you to be happy.” House looked at Lydia and saw the tears in her eyes. “I love you.” Lydia moved toward House and gently wrapped her arms around him. He returned the gesture and kissed the top of her head several times. She rested her head on his shoulder and held on to him tightly. They stood like that for a few moments before Lydia picked her head up and looked at House.

“Deep down, I know you keep questioning why I fell in love with you. It's because you've given me all I've ever wanted; to mean so much to someone that all they want is for me to be happy. No one's ever loved me that much before.” House smiled. “But, I knew from the start when we first met, that you were the one man who would love me like that. You were intense and passionate, and gentle and caring. I could see past the pain and the hurt, and I saw that special man in your eyes.” Lydia stroked the side of House's face and brushed his lips with her fingertips. “I want you to be happy… because I love you, too.” Maybe it was the fact that they were finally alone or maybe it was because he had dreamed so often of this actually happening, but House couldn't help himself as he ran his hands along the sides of her body and moved his mouth down to kiss her neck. She let go a few deep breaths that reminded House so much of her reaction to him at Mayfield. He reached between them and began to undo the tie on her wrap dress. “Greg, why don't I put the food away while you open the champagne?” Lydia said. She moved back slightly, but House kept his hands on her, running them up and down her back and around her hips.

“I really don't care about the food right now,” he said, pulling her back in and kissing her neck again. She reached up and put her hands on his shoulders.

“I'm hungry for something else right now, too. But I plan on both of us working up an appetite, so I want the food to be available to re-nourish us for round two, three, four… whatever.” House took a deep breath.

“You have high expectations for tonight. You do know my name isn't Harry Reems?” She looked at him quizzically.

“Who?” House shook his head.

“Porn star from years ago; had certain… equipment and a certain reputation.” Lydia nodded in understanding.

“I'm quite happy with what I remember. Of course, you'll have to refresh my memory.” House smiled. “Come, work on the champagne while I put this away,” Lydia said, picking up the two foil trays and heading toward the kitchen. House had finished his sandwich, but left some frings; Lydia had eaten half of her food.

“I thought you were starving,” said House bringing in his beer bottle and Lydia's iced tea glass.

“I was, but I fill up quickly. I'm one of those people who's better off eating several smaller meals. It's a good way to watch my figure.” House put the bottle and glass on the counter and came up behind her.

“You don't need to watch your figure; I'm taking care of that for you.” He wrapped his arms around her waist and started to kiss her neck again.

“Gregory House! You are supposed to be taking care of the champagne,” she said wriggling out from his grasp and turning around to face him.

“That's Doctor Gregory House to you, young lady.” She put her hands on her hips.

“Just get the bottle open… please. I want to make a toast to us.” She gave him a quick kiss and ducked out from under his arm. House took the champagne and strawberries out and was fiddling with the bottle. He looked over and saw what Lydia was doing.

“Why are you bothering with those? I'll deal with them tomorrow,” he said referring to the dishes she had removed from the living room earlier. She glanced over her shoulder at him as she continued to rinse them.

“And how many tomorrows have gone by since you used these? I'm going to let them soak overnight.” She squirted some dish detergent onto the dishes as she ran water to fill the sink. Lydia suddenly realized that House was opening various cabinet doors, obviously looking for something.

“What's the matter?” House looked frustrated.

“Champagne glasses are not something I've needed to keep around. Right now our choices are this,” he said holding up a coffee mug. “And this.” He showed Lydia a small juice glass. She smiled as she dried her hands, walked back to the living room, and headed toward her tote bag on the couch. House watched her curiously. “If you pull champagne glasses out of that bag, I'm going to start calling you Mary Poppins,” he warned. He watched her rummage for a second and then turned to him with a lump of tissue paper in each hand.

“Super-cali-fragalistic... ” she began to sing. House winced and looked at her in disbelief.

“I'm dating the female version of Wilson,” he said shaking his head. “Prior to this, he'd be the only one to think of this kind of… detail.” Lydia smiled.

“I'll take being compared to James as a compliment.”

“Yeah, you would.”

"Tell the green-eyed monster to go away. You know you have nothing to worry about from him.” House gave her a look. “Or anyone else for that matter.” She gave him a kiss as she continued to the sink. “I just want to rinse these before we use them.” House nodded.

“Why don't I take the candles and strawberries to my workshop while you're doing that?” he asked.

“Good idea.” House picked up the fruit and went to retrieve the candles from the bookshelf.

“Annie sounded good on the phone,” he said. Lydia didn't answer. He thought perhaps she didn't hear him, so he took a step back and looked through the kitchen doorway. House saw Lydia with her hands resting on the kitchen counter and her head bent down. He debated with himself whether to give her a moment alone or to go in and check on her. Maybe she just needs a sec, he thought; after all, this has been one hell of a day. As quickly as he could, House went down the hallway to his bedroom. He placed one candle and its holder on his night stand along with the strawberries. The other candle and holder he put on the other night stand. House began rummaging through the drawers for a lighter; he knew he had one somewhere. One finally turned up and he lit the candles. Realizing, he didn't make the bed that morning, something he never did anyway, he pulled up the sheets and coverlet and tried to make them look neat. House knew they would be getting messed up shortly, but he wanted everything to look as good as it could for Lydia. He sat down on the bed and set his i-Home to shuffle and lowered the volume to a less than ear-splitting level like he usually kept it. As he stood up, House looked down at his feet; might as well take the sneakers off now, one less thing to get in the way later. He sat down and removed his shoes and after a second look, took off his socks as well. Why not? His final destination for the night was going to be right here. Walking toward the doorway, House paused and took a moment to survey the room. If anyone had told him this morning that his night would end here with Lydia, he would have lobbied for their instant commitment.

“My workshop is all set up,” House called out. “Now I just need someone who can handle my equipment.” House walked back down the hallway to the living room and found Lydia sitting on the couch, in much the same position as he had left her in the kitchen. She wasn't crying, but she didn't look happy. He moved toward the couch and sat down next to her. She picked her head up and turned it in House's direction.

“Greg, I have to tell you something… I wasn't completely honest with you back at Mayfield. I knew… somewhat… why Annie stopped talking. I don't know why I didn't tell you. I knew, especially as a doctor you would understand; but it was just something I didn't want spread all over the place. It was hard enough to deal with.” House reached over and took her hand.

“There's nothing that says that just because a guy can play a piano without being too heavy on the right foot, you have to spill your guts to him.” Lydia looked at him gratefully. She took a deep breath and began speaking.

“Annie was savagely attacked, raped… gang raped… and beaten by the man she was seeing and two of his friends. She came home early from rehearsal and caught them robbing her apartment. I never liked him; he always seemed to be on something, but always oh, so charming about things. How little we knew. They stayed there and assaulted her for hours. In the evening, we were supposed to meet for dinner and when she didn't show up and didn't answer her phone, I went to her apartment to check on her. I had a key and let myself in… and I found her.” House squeezed her hand gently and brought the other up to his head. He felt a flood of emotions; anger at the SOB's who committed the crime, sympathy for Annie for what she endured and deep admiration for Lydia. How much more could life dump on this woman and yet, she's stays so strong. Maybe she can handle me, House thought selfishly.

“Keep going when you're ready,” he said. Lydia picked up a glass of water she had brought into the room with her, took a sip and continued speaking.

“She had five broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder, a broken leg, her spleen had to be removed, a concussion and a broken jaw. Due to swelling on the brain, she was in a coma for eight weeks. There was no brain damage, thank God. They ran DNA tests and were able to identify her attackers. I couldn't believe it when I heard that they tried to claim it was consensual, that she asked to be treated roughly and things got a little out of hand.” She took her hand away from House and held both of hers in clenched fists. “Those bastards were out on bail from a prior assault case a few months before. Of course Annie didn't know that when she began seeing the guy. When she woke from the coma, she couldn't talk because her jaw was still wired shut. The police tried to get her to write down answers to questions, but she refused, she just kept shaking her head no. They opened up her jaw about two weeks before she went completely aphasic and catatonic, but she still wouldn't talk about what happened. Then she stopped talking about… everything.” She reached over for the water again.

“So, I take it the case never went to trial because she wouldn't talk and the scumbags were let go to roam the streets again,” House said. Lydia nodded as she took a drink.

“Yes, except fate stepped in. A few months after Annie went to Mayfield, the boyfriend and his two friends were in a car accident and killed. Single car accident, didn't hurt or harm anyone else.” She put the glass down on the table.

“What goes around comes around,” said House. He moved in closer to Lydia and put his arm around her. “She was at Mayfield all those years, not responding to anything. I can only imagine how traumatic the incident was to her, but over a decade of playing Harpo Marx? There's something else that she's not telling you.”

“Actually she did tell me when she was in therapy out in Arizona. She found the most wonderful doctor who made tremendous strides with her. She has come so far, it's amazing.” She paused and let out a sigh. “She didn't talk to protect me.” House looked puzzled. “When Annie thought the men had left, she tried to crawl to the phone. It turned out that the boyfriend came back in for something, and when he saw what she was doing, he became enraged. He ripped the phone out of the wall and smashed her on the side of her head and face with it. That's when she suffered the broken jaw and concussion. He told her to keep her mouth shut about who did this to her or he would do the same thing to ‘That little German… ’ He used a word that's not normally in my vocabulary.” Lydia was clasping and unclasping her hands and shaking her head. “She stayed mute all those years for me. I told her when they were killed in the car accident… that they were gone, that they would never be able to hurt anyone again, but it didn't seem to matter.”

“Of course not,” said House. “After hours of being abused, she's in horrifying physical and mental condition; and tries to process how to handle the threat against her best friend. She's in a coma for weeks, and when she finally wakes up, her lips are zipped. Someone has made sure she can’t squeal. And even though logically it was a medically necessary thing to do, in her fragile mind, it was the only way to stop the creep from carrying out his threat. By the time the wires came off, she was too far gone to be reached.” He looked at Lydia and saw she was teary-eyed. “I'm sorry; I didn't mean to be so clinical about this. I guess I'm just a bit shocked at how much you two have gone through.” He reached over to her face and brushed away a tear. “There's one thing I'm still not entirely sure about. What was the deal with the music box? Why did Freedom Master call it her ‘voice’?” For the first time during the discussion, Lydia smiled.

“Annie was painfully shy as a child and on through her early teens. She was and still is a brilliant cellist and vocalist. One of her teachers gave her the opportunity to do a solo recital at the local community theater. At the end, she received a standing ovation and was approached to perform with a larger orchestra; that was the start of her career. It changed her, made her more able to be… social, to be open. Years later when we met, she told me the story. On the night she was making her debut with the Philadelphia Philharmonic, I wanted to give her something special, so I had the music box made for her. When I gave it to her, I told her it was in honor of her finding her voice.” House smiled.

“I'm going to say the song that the box plays has something to do with the recital from her teenage years.”

“Yes, it was her finale piece. Well, part of it.”

“You would think of something like that. What I don't get is how did Freedom Master make the connection?" Lydia smiled.

“I told him.” House looked surprised. “Freedom Master… Steve… had actually been in and out of Mayfield a number of times over the years. His delusions were getting worse and worse. When I first thought to bring the box to try and provoke a reaction, he was there. At first, she wouldn't hold the box; she wouldn't touch it, no acknowledgement that it was even there. He came over and asked me what I was doing. I said I'm trying to give her back her voice. He took the box from me and I swore as he offered it to her, there was a slight reaction. But then another patient came by and grabbed the box out of his hands. The nurses suggested I leave the box up on the shelf to keep it safe and yet, where Annie could still see it. The day after that Freedom Master left and he didn't come back for a while. When returned a few months later, you were new as were some of the other people there, except for Annie. I guess when he saw her staring at the box on the nurses' shelf, he remembered what I told him and he tried to save her and well…you know what happened from there.” House shook his head, took his arm out from around Lydia and leaned forward.

“Idiots!” he said angrily. “All of us! The nurses, Nolan as her attending, and me. She stood there day after day, hour after hour looking at that shelf. And no one could figure out what she wanted.”

"You can't blame yourself. They all knew her case; they knew what the music box meant to her. If anyone is to blame, it's them and me for not being more insistent,” said Lydia, “But after trying so many times to get her to respond, I stopped. But you… ”

“I work in Diagnostics.” House jumped up off the couch. “The world famous Dr. Gregory House… and I couldn't see that she was begging for that box the only way she knew how.”

“But you saw what Freedom Master needed; someone to believe in him... not his delusions, but him as a person. You tried to bring him a little bit of happiness; and in response to doing that, he was able to reach Annie.” House hung his head down and sat back on the couch. He knew Lydia was right; he just felt that there was so much more he could have done. He looked over at Lydia and saw the look in her eyes that he most loved to see: happiness. He moved over close to her and pulled her into his arms. She snuggled in tight to him. “I'm sorry I waited until now to tell you about Annie. I was trying to find the right time all day, but it just never worked out.” She looked up at him. “I'm just afraid now that I've ruined the mood for you for the evening.” House looked at her incredulously.

“I don't know how you're able to talk so openly about all of this… everything we've discussed today. If it were me, I'd be hiding behind acerbic comments and just walking away.”

“No, you wouldn't. Look at how much of yourself you told me about today. You talked about things that I know were very painful for you; you didn't hide.” House sighed.

“That's because I was talking to you. I said some things to you I don’t think I’ve ever discussed with Wilson. But, what you've been through in your life… most people would say game, set, and match… I’m done.” Lydia sat up straight.

“What was I supposed to do? Sit with my head in my hands and cry? The only thing you get from that is wrinkly fingers.” House thought for a moment.

“Isn't wrinkly the opposite of irony?” Lydia's eyes opened wide as she gave House a playful little tap on the shoulder.

“You would say something like that,” she said as she laughed.

“Yeah, I wouldn't be me if I didn't.” He smiled and gave her a kiss. “And as far as ruining the mood for tonight… no way. If anything, I fell more in love with you; you are amazing.” He kissed her once, twice and again and again until she moved back a bit. She had a twinkle in her eyes and smile that spelled mischievous.

“Why don't you finish opening the champagne? I put it back in the refrigerator to keep it cold while we talked.”

“Beautiful, amazing and smart; boy do I know how to pick 'em. Except for that whole Felix Unger thing about cleaning things up all the time.” House rose from the couch and went into the kitchen to get the bottle. Lydia got up and stood with her hands on her hips.

“From the looks of those dishes, they had been sitting there a while. I just didn't want anything to come crawling in on me while I was… doing things.” House smiled as he emerged from the kitchen with the bottle and the glasses.

“I've been home from the hospital less than a week. I'm not back into the swing of things yet. I do keep things a little neater than this.” Lydia looked at him quizzically.

“Less than a week? Are sure you're up to this?” House put the glasses down on the coffee table, took Lydia's hand and placed it on his groin. She let out a gasp in surprise. “You do believe in clinical proof, don't you?” House smiled, picked up the glasses and started whistling as he walked down the hall. He stopped, turned and motioned for her to follow him.

“Step into my laboratory and I'll give you clinical and empirical proof.” She took a few steps toward him.

“Just one question: where is the bathroom?”

“Down at the end of the hall. The bedroom's down there, too. Come on,” House said gesturing with his head. Lydia walked beside him down the hall.

“You seem nervous,” Lydia said as they reached the end of the hall.

“Me? Nervous? Why would I be nervous? I've done this at least… ” House quickly caught himself; any number remotely near the truth would definitely make Lydia uncomfortable at this point. “…At least once or twice before.” She smiled and headed into the bathroom. House quickly went into the bedroom. The candles were good, the music sounded great and the strawberries looked delicious. Great. He began working on getting the rest of the wrapping off the champagne and popping the cork. He was certainly not going to use a sword on this. He did know how to do it and was in fact good at it, but he was taking no chances at this moment. He worked the cork and the familiar POP sound coordinated with the opening of the bathroom door. House quickly poured some of the bubbly into the two glasses.

“Here we go,” he said as he turned toward Lydia. What he saw standing before him, made his words catch in his throat. She had undone the belt on her wrap dress, and opened it to reveal a silky, black lace teddy. As she walked toward him, she slipped the dress the rest of the way off her shoulders and let it fall to the ground.

“I did some shopping before we met up this evening; I mean for more than just that,” she said pointing to the champagne and the other goodies. “I wanted to look special for tonight. One, because this seemed like the perfect time to start working on my bad girl persona and two, because I'm looking forward to celebrating something very special; the beginning of us.” House was stunned at how beautiful and sexy she was. He had an idea from their time at Mayfield, but never imagined anything like this. Offering one of the glasses, he smiled and could not stop running his eyes over her.

“To us,” House said.

“To us.” answered Lydia. They clinked their glasses and each took a drink. House set his down on the night stand and moving closer to Lydia, let his hands travel the same route his eyes had. He kissed her gently on the lips.

“Damn… you look incredible,” House said huskily as his hands continued to move. “I’m… I’m just so damned afraid that I’m dreaming or it’s an illusion of some kind.” He looked at Lydia. “I just can’t help but wonder whether you’re real or if my mind has stepped out on me again.” Lydia shook her head. She placed her drink next to House's on the bed table. Reaching up, she took his face in her hands, and kissed him. Taking her right hand away from his face, she searched with it for his left hand and upon finding it, placed it on her shoulder. Guiding his hand, she had him slip the strap off her; the move dropped the rest of the fabric down, exposing her breast. She then guided his hand to it, closing her eyes upon contact, and letting out a little gasp as he began to lightly massage her skin. Lydia opened her eyes, and saw his were closed with a huge smile on his face. She reached up to his ear, kissed it and whispered,

“Does that feel real to you?" House opened his eyes and nodded.

"Does it ever." As much as he hated to move his hand, he took it and wrapped it around Lydia's shoulders; with his other hand, he reached down and scooped her up at the knees. Turning, he handled the two or so steps to the bed and placed her gently on it. House started to climb on to the bed, when he stopped and said, "Wait. This isn't fair."

“What isn't?” House smiled.

“I've got too many clothes on.” Lydia laughed.

“I think I know to fix that.” She reached up and helped House take off his t-shirt. She began to run her hands over his torso, clearly enjoying what she felt. Her hand wander down further, which made House start to breath heavily.

“I’ve got to get these pants off; someone’s getting smothered.” Lydia watched as House stood up, unzipped his pants, and pulled them off his legs. He sat back down on the edge of the bed, slightly turned away from Lydia; he wasn’t moving.

“Greg, what’s wrong?” Lydia asked, running her hands gently over his shoulders. House kept his head turned away as he answered.

"Very few people have ever seen my scar. Certainly not too many people that I care about. It’s bad enough that I have to look at it every day; I hate to torture anyone else with it.”

“You know, we missed out on you being my ‘first,’ but maybe can I be the first person you weren't afraid to show your leg to?” She kissed his cheek and ran her fingers slowly down his chest. House didn't want her to see him lose it, but as he nodded his head yes, and silently turned so she could see the scar, he felt tears welling up in his eyes. He watched as Lydia looked at the scar.

“Will it hurt if I touch it?” she asked.

“Only if you have Freddy Kruger hands,” he said, trying to make light of the moment. Lydia’s fingers slowly traced the edges of the scar, then moved to the middle. She took her hand away and looked at House.

"I think it's beautiful," she said. House swallowed hard and shook his head.

“You’re crazy,” he said, turning his head away from her.

“It’s beautiful because on the off chance that you were wrong, and others were right… this is what had to happen to keep you alive. And for that, I am forever grateful.” Lydia placed her hand back on the scar. “To be honest with you, it’s a lot smaller than I imagined it in my mind. Of course, there’s also the fact that the rest of you MORE than makes up for it,” she said with a smile. House was so amazed at her response, that he couldn't help himself; he grabbed Lydia and hugged her tightly. She could feel a shudder go through his body as he tried to contain his tears. Her reaction to his scar was not what he expected; love and sympathy, instead of revulsion. Lydia stroked the back of his head, and whispered "It's OK." repeatedly in his ear. He pulled back to look at her face. There was no great epiphany; he had not suddenly become a religious man. But if heaven did exist, House was sure this was it.

“Ich liebe dich, Fraulein.”

“Ich liebe dich, auch, mein Liebester,” replied Lydia. She lay back on the bed and pulled House to her. He gladly moved toward her to start what he was sure would be many nights like this. And he also made a mental note; the philosopher Jagger was wrong.

Sometimes you can get what you want AND what you need…..

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