House sat with his arms folded across his chest, glowering out the passenger window of Wilson’s car.
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!”
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.”
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.
them suddenly and gave a little wave, her face lighting up with a cheerful and rather relieved smile.
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
“Yeah, and it was your idea to listen to her. Christ.”
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.
he said, taking the seat next to his mother, who leaned over and kissed his stubbled cheek in greeting.
we’re late,” said Wilson, seating himself beside Cameron and across from House.
about it,” said House’s father. “It’s good to see you, Wilson.” He nodded to House. “Greg.”
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."
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.”
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,” 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.”
House, actually,” said House’s father. “But just John is fine.”
House’s mother, taking Cuddy’s hand. “And don’t worry. We haven’t even ordered yet.”
smiled and sat down. “Oh, good. And please, call me Lisa.”
House rolled his eyes again.
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.
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.”
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?”
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.
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
He shrugged. "There's a rumor going around."
"There better not be," hissed Cuddy through clenched
"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?"
rolled his eyes. "Everyone completely over-reacted. Kid wasn't even hurt. It's not like I broke the skin."
the boy in front of him in chorus was being insufferably annoying and wouldn't stop talking," continued Blythe.
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!'"
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.
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
“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
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.
I say I was unhappy?” he asked nastily, though it sounded weaker than he had intended.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
glanced behind her at his dad and dropped the smile, giving a curt nod.
“Bye, son,” said John.
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.