Member No.: 287
Joined: 5-March 06
Title: House Party
Category: Drama, Angst, some Humor (hopefully)
Summary: Cameron had Wilson invite "a few more people" the dinner he and House were planning for Thursday night, meaning Cameron, Cuddy, and House's parents. House's parents had an early flight and ended up just eating with House in the cafeteria. But what if the original plans had gone through?
Spoilers: Episode 2.05. Daddy’s Boy
I posted this in the WIP section a few days ago, but now I've decided it's finished. This version isn't all that different from the one there, but I figured it'd be helpful to RTlemurs to have all the finished fics together, in sorting stuff out to put on the website. So. If you already commented on this, no need to do it again. Heh. Anyway, here's the fic:
House sat with his arms folded across his chest, glowering out the passenger window of Wilson’s car.
“Are you planning on sulking the entire evening?” Wilson asked mildly.
House turned his head slowly to send the glower in Wilson’s direction.
“You know,” Wilson continued, watching the road and pointedly ignoring House’s indignant glare, “if you’re determined to have a horrible time, you will. But you never know. If you let yourself, you just might enjoy it. It’s only dinner. It might be... nice.”
House raised an eyebrow, blinked slowly in irritated disbelief, and turned back to the window.
“Yeah. You’re right,” he said, voice dripping with sarcasm. “All I need is the right mindset and I’ll have a great time! Next thing you know, I’ll be discovering the profound joy I never knew could be had in the act of repeatedly beating oneself over the head with a stapler!”
“Exactly,” Wilson deadpanned. “Positive attitude.”
House’s lips quirked into a tiny smile, but it faded quickly as he realized that they were pulling into the parking lot of the restaurant. He sighed as the car came to a stop and reached for his Vicodin.
“Might as well get this over with.”
A teenager greeted them at the restaurant’s entrance, hastily grabbing a couple of menus. “Two?” she asked.
“Uh, we have a reservation, actually,” said Wilson. “The House party?”
The girl looked at him in confusion.
“It’s under the name House,” Wilson clarified. “There are six of us? Some of them might already be here.”
“Oh,” she said. “Ok. Let me check, then.”
“How come you make reservations under my name?” asked House, as the girl searched a notebook.
“Oh, you know,” said Wilson with a shrug. “I just like the way your name confuses people.”
A moment later, they were following her to a table near the corner of the room, where House’s parents sat with their backs toward the entrance. Across from them sat Cameron, sipping at a glass of water and glancing about the room awkwardly.
“They haven’t seen us yet,” House muttered conspiratorially. “There’s still time to escape.”
Wilson gave him a look and shook his head.
Cameron spotted them suddenly and gave a little wave, her face lighting up with a cheerful and rather relieved smile.
“Too late,” grumbled House, bracing himself. He grabbed Wilson’s arm for a moment and leaned in close to whisper harshly, “This is the worst idea you’ve ever had, you know that?”
Wilson shrugged. “Actually, it was Cameron’s idea.”
“Yeah, and it was your idea to listen to her. Christ.”
House’s parents had turned around in their chairs by this point, following Cameron’s gaze and smiling when they saw the two men. House abruptly let go of Wilson’s arm and smiled uncomfortably, finally walking over to the table.
“Hi,” he said, taking the seat next to his mother, who leaned over and kissed his stubbled cheek in greeting.
“Sorry we’re late,” said Wilson, seating himself beside Cameron and across from House.
“Don’t worry about it,” said House’s father. “It’s good to see you, Wilson.” He nodded to House. “Greg.”
House returned the nod. He glanced at Cameron, then at his parents, and back at Cameron again. “Who is this random girl and why is she sitting with us?”
Cameron’s mouth dropped open for a moment in surprise, before she narrowed her eyes and scowled at him. She answered sweetly, “Dr. Wilson was kind enough to invite me."
House snorted, holding back a remark about how actually she had invited herself.
“Allison was just telling us about your latest patient,” his mother informed him. “That sounds horrible... The radiation poisoning, I mean.”
“Oh,” said House. “Yeah.”
“At least it looks like we will be able to save the father,” said Cameron. “It’s… really very unusual for us to not be able to help someone. This job has been an amazing experience. The variety of cases we’ve had to handle…” House rolled his eyes and tried to distract himself with his menu as she launched into an explanation of how much she had wanted to get the fellowship with House, and even began telling his parents about her experiences as a medical student and the steps she’d taken getting her specialty in immunology.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,” House broke in suddenly. “We get it.”
“Greg,” said his mother, disapprovingly. “There’s no need to interrupt. I was interested--”
“No you weren’t. And I know I certainly wasn’t. I had to read her application, remember? I already know this story.”
At that moment, Cuddy arrived. “I’m sorry I’m so late,” she said, draping her coat over the back of the remaining empty chair, at the head of the table, across from House’s father.
“Hi, I’m Dr. Cuddy,” she said, offering her hand to House’s parents. “You must be Mr. and Mrs. House. I'm very pleased to meet you.”
“Colonel House, actually,” said House’s father. “But just John is fine.”
“Blythe,” said House’s mother, taking Cuddy’s hand. “And don’t worry. We haven’t even ordered yet.”
Cuddy smiled and sat down. “Oh, good. And please, call me Lisa.”
House rolled his eyes again.
A waitress came over then and took orders for drinks, leaving a moment later to give them more time to decide on the rest of their orders.
“So, Lisa,” said John. “Do you work for Greg too, with Allison?”
“Ah, no,” Cuddy answered with a laugh. “Actually, he works for me. I’m the Dean of Medicine at the teaching hospital. Of course, when I got the position, I didn’t realize that a such a big part of the job would be making sure Greg House didn’t go doing anything too insane and getting the hospital shut down.”
“Huh.” John smiled slightly, but shot House a quick look and said, “I hope he doesn’t cause you too much trouble.”
“Me?” said House, mock indignant. “Why, I do nothing of the sort. Isn’t that right, Cuddy?”
She smiled wryly at him and took a sip of her water.
“Have we met before, Lisa?” asked Blythe. “I’m sure I’ve seen you somewhere. Perhaps on one of our past visits?”
“I,” Cuddy started. “Yes, we have met, briefly. I took over as House-- Greg’s attending, when…” She trailed off, biting her lip, and glancing at House, who was apparently engrossed in his menu.
“Oh,” breathed Blythe, nodding. “Yes, of course.”
The table fell into silence for a few minutes as everyone considered their meal options, occasionally inquiring about what others were thinking of ordering, and asking Wilson for suggestions.
A short time later, the waitress returned with drinks and a basket of rolls, and the group gave their orders.
“Dr. House said you were going to Europe,” said Cameron, after she had left. “Where in Europe are you headed?”
“Paris,” Blythe answered.
“Oh, how nice! I’ve always wanted to go.”
“I went once as a kid with my family,” said Cuddy. “It was amazing.”
The conversation focused on Paris for the next few minutes - House wondered vaguely what it was with women and Paris - until Cameron asked, “So do you two do a lot of traveling?”
“Actually, yes, we’ve started to,” said Blythe. “At first, we didn’t think we would, when John retired from the marines. After all those years of traveling, you’d think we’d have had enough. Why, I don’t think we stayed anywhere much longer than a year, when Greg was growing up!”
The mention of House as a child inevitably led to questions from Cameron, as well as Cuddy, who both seemed to find the nomadic nature of his youth a fascinating revelation; his mother was only too happy to answer their questions. House tried valiantly to tune them all out, snatching Wilson’s roll off his plate in an effort to cause a distraction. Unfortunately, nearly everyone remained oblivious. If Wilson noticed, he gave no sign of it, keeping his face a mask of polite attention. House’s father, however, shot him a sharp look, shaking his head and sighing. In response, House violently bit off a piece of the roll and chewed it obnoxiously.
He turned his attention back to the conversation just in time to hear his mother launch into a story about his days as a kindergartener and his "first school assignment."
“So their teacher tells all of them to find and bring in some flowers for the next day so they can learn about them,” his mother was saying. “And of course, all of the other children come in the next day with fistfuls of broken dandelions and things like that... But Greg had had me take him on a long walk, gathering quite the collection of different flowers, and afterward, we had to go to the library, of course, to look up their scientific names and any interesting information about them.” She laughed and looked at Greg fondly. “Do you still remember any floral trivia, dear?”
Cuddy was grinning widely, and Cameron and Wilson both looked as if they were stifling laughter.
“Aw, baby House,” said Cuddy. “It sounds like you used to be such a sweet little boy! What went wrong?”
“Funny, I was thinking the exact same thing about you,” House quipped.
Cuddy stopped laughing and rolled her eyes, as everyone else in the table looked at House curiously.
He shrugged. "There's a rumor going around."
"There better not be," hissed Cuddy through clenched teeth.
"Well, you know," said Blythe, after a pause. "He wasn't always so sweet as a little boy. I remember one time, I believe you were in second grade, Greg?" House shrugged. "I got this call from the principal, saying that he had bitten another child."
"You were in second grade?" said Wilson. "Isn't that a little old for biting?"
House rolled his eyes. "Everyone completely over-reacted. Kid wasn't even hurt. It's not like I broke the skin."
"Apparently the boy in front of him in chorus was being insufferably annoying and wouldn't stop talking," continued Blythe.
"I told him to shut up very nicely," said House. "Several times."
"I still remember him explaining to me what happened. He looked up at me, very serious, and said, 'I opened my mouth to tell him to be quiet... and... closed it on his shoulder!'"
Everyone laughed and House smiled despite himself. "Well, it was the truth."
Just then, the food arrived, and House sent a silent little thank you to God for answering his prayers, despite not existing--an impressive feat. The table mercifully fell quiet as everyone began eating.
“James, I meant to ask,” Blythe began, after a few minutes had passed. “How are things with Julie? I hope she’s feeling well.”
“Oh,” said Wilson, swallowing his food and taking a sip of wine before answering. “Yes, she’s perfectly fine, don’t worry. Things are going... going well.” House smirked and Wilson dabbed at his mouth with his napkin. "She would have loved to have been able to come tonight and meet you both… Ah, and Lisa and Allison too, of course. Uh, but tonight’s the night her book group meets. It’s her turn to host, so she couldn’t really back out so last minute.” He gave an apologetic smile and began cutting another piece off his steak.
“That’s quite alright, dear,” said Blythe, returning his smile. House suspected that she didn’t believe a word of Wilson’s answer, but knew she was too polite to say anything about it.
“We really appreciate your putting this thing together,” added John. “After all, it’s not everyday we get a chance to get together and have a nice meal with our son and meet such nice people.” He winked at Cameron and Cuddy. “It was very good of you to organize this, Wilson.” He paused, taking a sip of his rum and coke. “But you know, it really shouldn’t be your responsibility.” He cast a meaningful look in his son’s direction.
House clenched his jaw and poked at his food with his fork.
Wilson smiled uncomfortably and waved his hand. “It’s really no trouble, sir.”
John chuckled. “No, of course you wouldn’t say so. You’re a good man, Wilson. A good friend.” He turned his gaze to House. “I hope you appreciate what a good friend you’ve got, son.”
House looked up from his meal, a wide-eyed, almost helpless look on his face. He stared at Wilson for a moment and gave a barely perceptible nod, quickly looking down at his plate again.
“Sure,” he said then, allowing some sarcasm to creep back into his voice, reminding himself that it was Wilson who had forced him into this situation.
John snorted. “I don’t think you do appreciate it, Greg. Look around you. You’ve got three great friends here, whom, I might add, you’ve been nothing but rude to this entire evening. You’ve got a great job, which it sounds like you don’t take a bit seriously. And your mother and I have come all this way and taken the time to see you... Frankly, I don’t see what you’ve got to be unhappy about.”
As his father spoke, House sank into his chair and began wishing with his all his being that he could disappear. He was acutely aware of the fact that the entire table was staring at him, including Cuddy and Cameron, observing as his father gave him a talking-to like he was a child. He lowered his fork slowly, unsure as to how to react, caught between his family and work personas: the son, and the son-of-a-bitch. Breathing in deeply, he pulled himself together.
“Did I say I was unhappy?” he asked nastily, though it sounded weaker than he had intended.
John's eyebrows rose in disbelief. “Greg, you’ve done nothing but wallow and feel sorry for yourself for years. So you had some bad luck. So you’ve got a cane. Last I checked, you still had two legs. If you ask me, I say it’s about time you got your act together and stopped with this childish, self-pitying nonsense.”
Rage flared in House’s chest, and died just as quickly, giving way to a hot shame, which seemed to burn over his skin in waves. He stared intently at the surface of the table, unable to respond, feeling as though a spotlight had been cast on him where he sat, paralyzed.
“Excuse me, Colonel House...” To House’s horror, Cameron had apparently decided to respond for him. “This is really none of my business, but...” House shot her a murderous look which she ignored, continuing boldly. “You should know that your son deals with an immense amount of pain on a daily basis, and he handles it, I think, quite admirably.”
Blythe’s eyes widened and she turned a questioning, concerned gaze to her son, who covered his eyes with one hand, mortified at the idea of needing Cameron to stick up for him. This was a nightmare.
“Allison,” said John, slowly. “You seem like a very nice young lady, but I think I know my son just a little better than you.”
Cameron looked for a moment like she wanted to say more, but as John continued to look at her expectantly, she bit her lip and lowered her eyes. John nodded to himself and turned his attention to his meal.
House felt Cameron watching him sadly and refused to acknowledge her. He chanced a glance at Cuddy instead and saw that she seemed to be concentrating very hard on her food. Wilson was exchanging awkward, worried glances with Blythe, as if they were trying to silently figure out a way to smooth things over, but they came up with nothing, and the group endured a long, uncomfortable silence.
Suddenly the silence was broken by the cheerful, musical ring of a cell-phone. Cuddy rummaged frantically through her purse and produced her phone, excusing herself from the table.
Silence fell again, until Wilson spotted the waitress, called her over and asked for the check. When she came back with it a minute later, he attemped to take it, but John objected. “You’ve done more than enough, Wilson.” He took the check himself and made a show of slowly clicking the pen and staring at the paper for a minute. House rolled his eyes, leaned over and grabbed it himself, filling it out quickly, unaware of the slight smile that formed on his father’s face.
Cameron announced that she had to be going, thanked House for dinner and offered a polite goodbye to both his parents, albeit a rather stiff one for John.
“Why don’t I walk you to your car?” offered Wilson.
“Traitor,” House muttered. Wilson ignored him and walked out with Cameron.
Cuddy returned a moment later to stow her cell phone away in her purse and put on her jacket. “It was very nice meeting you both,” she said, shaking the two elder Houses’ hands once again. “I hope your trip goes well.” She glanced at House awkwardly. “I'll see you at work tomorrow.”
He grunted and finished off the last of his drink as she left.
“Well,” said Blythe, after a moment. “We really should be on our way.”
John stood and shrugged his coat on. “Tell Wilson goodbye for us.” House nodded absently and rose as well, turning to face his mother.
Blythe stood looking up at him for a moment, before pulling him into a hug. He returned the embrace, gave her a peck on the cheek, and began to pull away, but stopped as he felt her suddenly tighten her hold. Her chin gently resting on his shoulder, she said softly, “Take care of yourself, Greg.”
He squeezed her shoulders briefly in return, then lowered his arms and leaned back to look at her. “I’m fine, Mom." He offered a small smile.
He glanced behind her at his dad and dropped the smile, giving a curt nod.
“Bye, son,” said John.
House stood watching as they walked away, until they had left the restaurant. Then he sat back down at the now empty table, slowly tapping his cane against the floor, staring at nothing. The shame was still there, but it was fading, cooling, leaving behind a dull, igneous shell and a familiar weariness.
Some time passed and he became aware of Wilson standing next to him, but didn’t look up.
“Ready to go?” Wilson asked.
House nodded. He stood and followed Wilson into the parking lot in silence.
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