Chapter Seven - "Hooking Up the Safety Ropes"
“You'll have to tell me which way to go,” said Lydia as she pulled away from the curb. “I’ve only ever approached the hospital from a different direction. And being in labor at the time, I wasn’t paying much attention to the route taken.”
“Go straight, turn right at the second light,” said House. He looked over at Lydia as his mind tried to grasp what was happening. This beautiful, wonderful woman loved him. How the hell did this happen? His previous relationships had never been a rousing success, except for one that had potential, then ended badly. Then came Stacy which also went down in flames; finally, years of an off and on relationship with Cuddy that really never amounted to anything except in his delusional mind. Now here was someone real who was willing to put up with his crap. What was wrong with this picture? House looked around and took note of the fact that this wasn't the car Lydia was driving when they met.
“What happened to the convertible?”
“I gave it up as part of our property settlement. This is a rental. I am going to have the kids and be driving them around; a convertible didn't seem to be very practical.”
“Gee, Mom, you're no fun,” said House as he folded his arms.
“Now, now; Mother knows best. I couldn't have you teaching the little ones any tricks, like how to fly.” House unfolded his arms, shook his head and smiled. “What's wrong?” Lydia asked.
“Nothing. That's the problem. Make a left at the second light.” He leaned his head back against the seat. “I was expecting you to fold like a house of cards. I thought a few nasty words from me and you'd decide you couldn't put up with me and leave.” He put his head down. “I'm glad you didn't.”
“If I couldn't put up with you, I wouldn't have wasted my time coming back here.” She could sense that House was looking at her. “I didn't come here on an impulse; I thought things over very carefully. I had many things to consider, especially my kids.” House raised his eyebrows.
“And that didn't stop you cold?” he asked. “I really don't have any kind of parental instinct. Trust me. I encourage kids to go play in traffic. Turn right at the next light.”
“Yet, when you had your dreams while in the coma, you saw yourself several times with Dr. Cuddy's daughter. You even imagined her snuggling up to you.” Lydia smiled. “Since you said all of those things were from your subconscious mind, I'd say your thoughts betray your words.” House looked out the window as Lydia made the right turn.
“Go straight for about five miles and you'll see the signs for the hospital.” Lydia looked puzzled.
“The hospital is a bit of a distance away from Otto's,” she said. “How did you get to the bar?” House shrugged.
“Same way I usually get around,” he said casually. Lydia was confused for a moment.
“You mean your motorcycle?” House nodded “Where… where is your motorcycle now?”
“Back at Otto’s.” Lydia quickly looked over her right shoulder, saw that the lane was clear and pulled over to an empty spot by the curb. House looked around, startled. “Why are we pulling over? You were doing fine.” Lydia put the car in park. She turned to House with one hand on her hip and the other over the seatback.
“If you had your bike at Otto’s, why am I driving you back to work?” she asked strumming her fingers on the top of the seat. House gestured with wide open hands.
“Because I didn't want to seem rude refusing such a kind and generous offer,” House said sarcastically. “Besides, I figured it might give us a few extra minutes to get reacquainted.” He had unbuckled his seat belt as he was talking and moved in to kiss her, but with his eyes closed he couldn't see that she had put up her hand to stop him.
“How do you intend to get your motorcycle back?” House opened his eyes.
“You. Since one and a half chicken wings is a mere snack in even the most economically depressed of countries, I still owe you a decent meal.”
“And what if I'm busy later?” Lydia inquired. House sighed.
“Then I'll be forced to go through a task more arduous than a Lady Gaga costume change: a car ride with Wilson asking questions the entire way.” She tried to hide it, but Lydia couldn't help smiling.
“I have an interview at four and Annie and I are seeing some apartments with the realtor at five. I don't know what time we'll be done, but I suppose I can call you later.” She took her hand off his shoulder and leaned in to meet his lips for a kiss. A few seconds later, she pulled back and shook her head. “How does he do it?”
“How does Wilson put up with me?” House asked. “He does it by remembering I've got just as much dirt on him as he has on me. Plus, I'm cuter than he is.”
“I'll be the judge of that," said Lydia as she drove back into the flow of traffic. She reached over and turned on the radio. “I found a really great jazz station the other day, but I think Annie may have changed the station when she had the car. We're sharing it for now. Could you find 91.3, please?”
“WXJZ,” said House as he leaned over to play with the buttons on the tuner. “I know this one well.” He pushed the search button a few times and suddenly the sweet sounds of jazz were coming from the speakers. Lydia smiled.
“‘Straight, No Chaser’ by Thelonious Monk,” she said. House looked over at her, absolutely amazed.
“How does a nice Fraulein like you know who Thelonious Monk is, never mind the name of the song?” he asked. Lydia pretended to be wounded by the question.
“There is much more to me than just oompa bands and lederhosen, you know.” She reached into the middle console and pulled out a pair of sun glasses. “I am a very hip chick.” She put the glasses on and gave her head a slight toss. House laughed. He really hated to admit it, but he was actually having fun. But that was definitely something House was not used to and so it was time to break up the frivolity.
“Just want you to know I'm not back on Vicodin. I haven't had any since I've gotten out of Mayfield. Not that I didn't want it, especially in the past few weeks.” House looked over at Lydia. He was trying judge her reaction, but she sat expressionless.
“There's nothing hidden in the wall behind the medicine cabinet?”
“Nothing hidden anywhere in your apartment, your car, your motorcycle?”
“Nope, nope, and nope.”
“At work?” House rolled his head in her direction.
“Boy, you don't give up. I don't have a hidden supply anywhere. In fact if I want any kind of drug, I have to go groveling to Wilson. I'd rather be beaten to death by a wagging puppy dog's tail; it's actually close to the same thing.” Now Lydia was smiling.
“I'm very proud of you. I haven't had much experience with addicts and addiction, but I have heard it's very difficult not to relapse. Sometimes it's not even the physical craving, but the mental and emotional cravings that drive people back.” She glanced over at him. “I'm very glad that you've been strong, especially given what you've just been through.” She slowed down at the light as it turned red. “I see the blue H sign; I turn right at the next block.” Lydia looked at House; he was staring out the window refusing to return her look. She reached over to take his hand. “If you ever slip up, please, just be honest and tell me so we can deal with it.” She took her hand back and started to drive, making the turn as the sign directed. House sat in stunned silence. So we can deal with it. The thought of him relapsing didn't seem to faze her. She would be there for him. She wouldn't walk away. She… “You're very quiet. You're thinking about the fact that Dr. Cuddy broke up with you in your hallucination when you took just one Vicodin. Well, let's get this straight right now,” Lydia said as she put on her left turn indicator to pull into the hospital parking lot. “This is not a dream or a hallucination. This,” she said pointing to herself. “Is real. And I am Lydia Marie Strohman, not Dr. Lisa Cuddy. Please,” she said shaking her head, “Don't ever confuse us. I'm not her and I'm not even Stacy. And I can say that even though I know very little about them. Now, where should I drop you off?”
“My handicap parking spot by the front door.” House was really confused now. He was not used to someone telling him how to think; at least not anyone he would listen to or gave a damn about. He didn't know whether to be pissed or glad that she felt comfortable enough to talk to him bluntly. He became aware of the fact that Lydia was looking at him.
“You're mad at me,” she said. House put his hands up to his face and rubbed his eyes.
“I'm not sure what I am right now. But you sure know how to keep me thinking.” He turned to look at her. “No, I'm not mad. I'm just going to need some time to get used to the Lydia Marie Strohman way of doing things.” Lydia pulled into his parking spot, and put the car in park. She turned to House.
“I know that you experienced a very deep hurt with both Stacy and Dr. Cuddy and I’m not looking to lay blame on anyone; I don’t know enough about the situations. I'm just fighting for the right to be judged for who I am, and not be compared to someone else all the time. I want to have the right to get mad at you and not be afraid that you're going to shut me out. We're allowed to be annoyed with each other, angry, even. It's no reflection on our relationship to have negative feelings or emotions once in a while.” House smirked.
“Negative emotions are something I'm very good at.”
“Yes… yes you are,” Lydia said, “But you also were just smiling and laughing, too.” Lydia turned her head away. “I feel like I'm better being with you. I am happier, right now, in just the past ninety minutes or so that we've been together, than I have been… in years. And it's all your fault.” House turned and looked into her eyes. “I just hope I make you feel the same way,” she said. House reached up, brushed her cheek gently until his fingers rested under her chin.
“You make me feel better about myself than I have in my entire life.” They both were smiling as House leaned forward to give her a kiss; then suddenly, he pulled back. “Oh, damn,” he said.
“What's the matter?” Lydia asked.
“It's Wilson. He lives his romantic life vicariously through me. He's going to want all the gory details.” Sure enough, Wilson was walking toward them, tilting his head from side to side to see who was in the car.
“You don't want to introduce me to your best friend? That's not fair. You know my best friend.” House started to open the car door.
“That was a little hard to avoid. C'mon, shut off the car. Might as well get this over with.” He stood up and immediately made eye contact with Wilson; the Death Stare was in full force.
“House, what the hell took you so long?” Lydia stood up from the car and looked at Wilson.
“It's not Greg’s fault, Dr. Wilson; it's mine. I kept pulling over so we could make out a little bit more and a little bit more and well, you know how those things usually go… or don't you?” As far as House was concerned, at that moment Lydia had sealed the deal with him. Wilson standing there with his mouth agape, and his eyes bugging out was priceless. He closed the door and moved to the front of the car until he was standing next to Lydia.
“Dr. James Wilson, Lydia Strohman. Lydia Strohman, Dr. James Wilson. Best Friend, meet Girlfriend.” Wilson extended his hand to Lydia, still dazed by what she had said. Lydia could see that Wilson wasn't going to initiate a conversation, so she took the lead.
“I'm sorry if I shocked you, Dr. Wilson. I'm a bit tired and there's just been far too much going on today. I'm a little glibber than perhaps I should be.” She smiled and glanced shyly at House. Wilson shook his head.
“No, well, actually… nice to meet you,” he finally said as he shook her hand. “I'm afraid you really caught me off-guard. I didn't expect to meet someone with House's warped sense of humor. Especially coming from such a lovely lady.”
“You know, Greg told me he was cuter than you; but I think I'm going to need a little more time to decide that,” Lydia said playfully as she looked at House.
“OK, enough of the charming small talk. How's the patient?” asked House.
“She's off the Neurontin and the Vicodin. The fever, vomiting and hallucinations have stopped. But she's back to being in horrible pain. Her family is losing it. The husband is just sitting by her bedside begging her to hang in there; he's crying most of the time. Taub and Chase are taking turns keeping the son occupied with some video game challenge. Thirteen is just hovering around the patient trying to come up with an idea,” Wilson said.
“Thirteen's a waste right now,” muttered House. Wilson looked at him quizzically. House shook his head. “Internal issue within the team. Where's Forman?”
“Dealing with a problem in the clinic. It seems some mother couldn't understand why we wanted to isolate her kid immediately when he came strolling in with a fever and rash.”
“Chicken pox?” asked Lydia. House turned to her.
“Quick diagnosis, Dr. Strohman. Got any ideas about what's wrong with the patient?” House's tone was bordering on snarky. He knew she was just trying to be helpful, but after dealing with the husband, he didn't want to hear anything from yet another amateur.
“What are the clinical results showing?” House and Wilson turned to look at Lydia. “Her labs, CAT scan, whatever tests you've done; what are they showing?” House looked around, trying to control his annoyance.
“Look, it's a sweet thought, but two dozen or so episodes of ‘ER’ do not a doctor make.” Now it was Lydia's turn to be annoyed.
“I have never seen a single second of ‘ER’; I can't stand those T.V. medical dramas. For your information, I was studying to be a doctor. I had to leave my studies when my parents were in a horrible car accident. So, no, I don't have a fraction of your knowledge, but I do know what you're talking about.” House was floored.
“Why didn't you tell me? Either now or back at Mayfield?” Lydia shrugged.
“It wasn't as important as the other things we were discussing.” House nodded.
“I want to hear all the details later. Right now, I have to get upstairs.” Lydia looked at her watch.
“And I have to leave for my interview. I was going to step inside to use the ladies room.” House stood there for a moment looking around. He was struggling with the words he wanted to say.
“This is my first day back after the accident. I've been handed one hell of a case and I'm questioning everything I'm doing and thinking. About everything,” he said as he finally looked at her. “I'm sorry if I was out of line.”
“It's OK; you're allowed.” House became aware that Wilson was still standing there.
“We'd better get inside,” he said. House reached over, put his arm around Lydia and guided her to the hospital entrance with Wilson following. House could feel Wilson's eyes burning into the back of his head, wanting to ask a million questions, but they were going have to wait. The patient and Lydia came first. House stopped just past the reception desk.
“Make a right down this hallway. The bathrooms are a couple of doors down on the right.” Lydia nodded.
“I'm going to let you two get upstairs to the patient. I just want to splash some water on my face to refresh me, and then I'll be off.”
“Are you OK?” asked Wilson.
“Yes, it's just that I woke up earlier than I had planned. The neighbors across the street from where I'm staying are having a new roof put on and they dropped off the shingles and other roofing supplies around 6:30 this morning. I had hoped to sleep in a little while longer. But thank you for asking Dr. Wilson.”
“Please, call me James.” At Wilson’s comment, House rolled his eyes.
“Sorry to interrupt this lovely social interlude, but … ” House stopped and stared at the wall behind Lydia's head.
“Greg, are you all right?” asked Lydia. She could see the strange look on his face.
“House?” asked Wilson.
“Chicken pox. Shingles.” The epiphany had arrived. House turned to look at Wilson.
“Are you talking about the patient, Mrs. James? House, she doesn't have shingles, there's no rash.” House was vigorously shaking his head before Wilson could even finish speaking.
“Herpes zoster is the reactivation of varicella zoster virus,” began House.
“Shingles from Chicken pox. Right, I get that,” said Wilson. House shook his head.
“What you don't get, Dr. Watson, is zoster sine herpete.”
“All the symptoms of shingles, but no vesicular rash?” questioned Lydia “That's extremely unusual.” House looked at her and smiled.
“At least someone around here understands me. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. And a nasty mother hiding in my patient at her C-3 vertabrae.”
“House,” said Wilson as he looked at his pager. “She's coding.” House started moving toward the elevator, then turned to Lydia.
“Call me later. Good luck with the interview.” He went toward the elevators with Wilson following right behind. House quickly turned back to Lydia. “Ich liebe dich.”
“It was nice to meet you,” said Wilson. “I'm sure I'll see you again.”
“I think we'll be seeing lots of each other, James.” House scowled as he entered the elevator.
“Not if I can help it,” he said. Lydia smiled.
"”Ich liebe dich, auch," she said as the elevator doors closed. Wilson turned to say something to House, but was startled when House started to repeatedly pound his fist into the elevator wall.
“I can't deal with this,” House said looking at the floor.
“Wait…what are you talking about the patient? Or Lydia?” asked Wilson.
“Both.” Wilson shook his head.
“No… no, House, you are not doing this. I know what you're thinking. I know what you told me about the dream in the coma. That being in love with Cuddy made you a worse doctor and that you would always chose her. But this woman is definitely not Lisa Cuddy. This woman is warm and playful and caring and… amazing. And it is so obvious she loves you, that… I'm jealous. I'm also extremely happy for you. Just don't be stupid. Don't try and push her away.”
“I already did. I basically called her a bitch and a slut for cheating on her husband and it didn't matter; she still loves me.” House said with a frown. Wilson looked amazed.
“She's married? House, I hope you know what you're getting into.”
“She was married. The divorce is final; now she's just brokering a deal for the kids.”
“Yeah, you know, pygmy versions of adults.” Wilson let out a long whistle.
“Boy, you have a lot to think about.”
“Maybe if I had been here thinking about the patient instead of chasing an illusion, I could’ve helped her more,” he said. The elevator doors opened and House began walking to the patient's room. As he rounded the nurse's station, Wilson grabbed his arm.
“She is not an illusion. Nor is the emotion I just saw between you two. Nothing huge or overly dramatic; just very, very real. You're overwhelmed right now and I get that. Don't blow this. But… if you do, I'm going to get her phone number from you.” House gave him a sharp look.
“The hell you will."
“I'm kidding,” said Wilson as he started walking, “But does she have a sister?”
“Nope; Just her best friend, Annie.”
“The one who was a patient at Mayfield,” said Wilson.
“Right, the psych patient.” House sized up Wilson. “Probably the one type of woman you haven't yet tried.” He looked to his left. “Time to go play doctor.”
Wilson smiled and shook his head as House left for Bonnie James' room.