Meet the Parents

House got home late. He had to sit in an interminable Department Heads meeting. He wanted to lay in bed and watch cartoons. If he could eat a bowl of cereal while doing it, so much the better.

He grabbed a bowl of raisin bran and headed back into the bedroom. He expected her to be in bed, reading a magazine or doing one of her many solitary activities. It had been established early on that she needed her 'alone time.'

He saw that she was on the phone, so he slid next to her and crunched while she talked.

Sister. She mouthed to him. "Yes. He just got home. No, I'll tell him in a minute. So what did Meemaw say?" She laughed. "I'll bet. So what's the hurry then?" She listened and House could hear a female voice on the other end.

"Annie?" He asked.

She shook her head, "Next weekend? That should be okay. What's she wearing?"

More talking from the handset. "Amy?"

Again, she shook her head, "So they're just wearing what they wore for Andie's wedding? How mad are they?" More laughter. "And Andie is wearing Mandy's dress? I'll pay money to see that."

"By the process of elimination I deduce that you are talking with Abby." He put his spoon in the bowl and was about to set it down on the nightstand."

Cameron pointed and whispered, "Kitchen." He sighed and took the bowl into the kitchen. She turned her attention to the phone, "Can we get our own chalet? I don't know how he's going to be." She paused for the response, "You can't blame me; you remember how they were with Bobby. So Meemaw, Granny and Cookie are going to make supper then? I'm starting a diet now. Okay, let me break it to him. I love you too. I'm excited!" She squeed as House returned.

"Oh dear God, now what?" He slid out of his clothes and got under the covers.

"My niece Mandy is getting married and we're invited." She waited for the explosion.

"How did she escape the curse of the 'A' name?" He scooted in close to her.

"Amanda. I'm going and I want you to come with me. Meet the family." She said, catching his roaming hand.

"They don't want to meet me. You know how I am."

"That's why you're going to be on your best behavior." She kissed his hand and moved towards him, kissing his forehead, "It's next weekend. Oh, boss, I need some time off. Do you think that'll be a problem?" She kissed him again.

"I suppose I can leave Foreman in charge." He shrugged, "It had to happen one day."

"You'll love them, they'll love you. It'll be fine."

xxx

House rubbed the patient's glands as he complained to Wilson. "I'm meeting her family this weekend."

"Great, so is this a special trip or is there an occasion?"

The patient looked at House, "What's he doing here?"

"He's consulting." House explained, tapping on his back.

"Am I that sick?" The patient grew concerned.

"No. You have a cold. I'm the one he's consulting on. Go home, stay in bed and drink plenty of liquids." He noted the chart as the patient swung down off the exam table. "Close the door on your way out." He turned back to Wilson, "It's a wedding. Her niece. Shotgun we think, but you never know with the Country Bear Jamboree."

Wilson laughed, "You can't call them that to their faces." He saw the look on House's face, "You can't. They might actually have shotguns. So where is this shindig?"

House rolled his eyes, "Gatlinburg, Tennessee."

"Where?" Wilson had never heard of the place.

"It's somewhere between Knoxville and Deliverance. If I hear banjos, I'm hauling ass out of there."

Wilson held the door open for him, "It's not going to be that bad."

"You're saying that because you don't have to go. We're staying in a chalet." He fixed Wilson with a disgusted look. "A chalet."

"Sounds…homey. Greg, people have families. I'm sure even you have one somewhere. If you blow this, you might blow everything you have with her. She's very close to them."

"I know. No pressure." He looked to his friend for help, "So what do I do? You've been through this a few times."

"It's a wedding? Easy, they'll all be distracted with the event. You'll want to bond with the brothers-in-law. Give a generous gift, money is best. Oh, and be very solicitous of Allison. They need to see that you're taking care of her."

"There's the age thing…" He said, worried.

"All the more reason to fit in with them. Relax, they want to like you." Wilson tried to sound encouraging, "As bizarre as that seems."

"Thanks. I feel much better."

xxx

Allison had everything folded in stacks on the bed. She checked things off of her list. "Keds, jeans, dress, sandals. Where's my purse?" She moved a pile aside and located the handbag, "Okay, I think this is it."

House stood in the doorway. "You know that I'm not good with suitcases."

"Don't worry, mine has wheels." The clothes started to disappear into the bag.

"What will your family say; me letting you lug the bags around?" He grew thoughtful.

She stopped for a moment and put her hand on his shoulder. "Greg, you are going to have to get over it. You are a wonderful, caring man, and if you could carry my suitcase, you would. So you can't. Big deal."

"But…" he started.

"If you're trying to drag me into some argument about something neither of us can control, I'm much too busy." She pushed him aside, "I've got to get something from the other room." She stopped and ruffled his hair, "Stop worrying. They'll love you. Even worse, you'll love them."

xxx

The flight to Atlanta was short and uneventful. The walk from the gate to baggage claim was interminable. House stuck his cane up in the air and flagged down one of the courtesy carts. "Come on, I might not be able to carry you around like a princess, but with me, you'll always have a place on the golf cart."

Once they had the bags they stood out on the curb and waited. She rooted around in her bag and found her cell phone. She dialed, "Yup, we're here. Okay, wait is that you?" She waved, and an enormous SUV pulled up.

A slightly older version of Allison jumped out of the passenger seat, "Ali!" "Abby!" They squealed and hugged each other.

House waved in the direction of the driver, who waved back and shrugged in embarrassment. "Hey Greg, you got that okay?"

The women got the bags heaved into the tailgate while House figured out how to get up into the back seat. He felt a gentle push on his posterior and found himself riding high as they sped up I-85. Allison held his hand as she chatted with her sister and her brother-in-law.

"So what are the kids doing?" Allison asked her sister, who had turned around in the front seat.

"Alana just got back from cheer camp, she's varsity this year. Simon drove all the counselors crazy in Vacation Bible School" Abby rattled on, "Wait until you see Alana in her uniform."

"She looks like a Hooters waitress." Ben, Abby's husband grumbled. "They had a bikini car-wash to pay for them."

House chuckled, "Keeping a daughter in clothes isn't just a matter of finances."

"You aren't kidding; don't ask about her prom dress." He zipped across the lane to avoid plowing into a Toyota. "What is that guy doing in the HOV lane? The idea is to go fast, moron!" He maneuvered back into the lane. "If we don't get out of downtown before five, we'll get hung up in traffic."

House looked out the window. It was bumper to bumper, but everyone was doing seventy. "This isn't traffic?"

"No, this is light. I'm glad you got an early flight. Getting across town any later is murder." He zoomed across five lanes and took the exit. "Great, we're only a few minutes away."

They drove down a tree lined road. The turned into a subdivision filled with large, older homes. They pulled up to a three-car garage and everyone piled out of the SUV. Ben and Allison moved to the back of the truck and quickly got the luggage into the front door.

Alana and Simon held up a homemade banner that said 'Welcome Aunt Ali and Dr. Greg'. "Oh, you guys!" Allison said, running to give them a big hug. "It's good to see you." Alana, who had just turned sixteen, had the same dark hair and light eyes as her mother and aunt. She wore a short ruffled skirt and a small T-shirt. She had the same build, tall and thin, but curvaceous as well. No wonder her father worried. Her brother, Simon, had the dark hair and deep, brown eyes, like his father. He was thirteen and gawky, but he had a very sweet face.

House looked around the entry way. The house was large and comfortable. They all went into the kitchen/family room. Ben reached into to the fridge and came out with a beer, "Greg, Ali, you guys want one?"

House reached out his hand, "You are a lifesaver."

"Do you have water?" Allison asked.

Ben gave her a look. "No. Fresh out. Tequila do?" He threw her a bottle of Publix water. He got one out for Abby and cracked the top for her.

Allison gulped down nearly half the bottle, "So what's for dinner? If you haven't planned anything, Greg and I want to take you out."

Abby looked at Ben, "Well, we could barbecue, usually we go out. What do you want to do?"

House watched as they decided.

Allison thought for a moment, "It doesn't make sense to make a mess. Let's go out. Outback's good, or we can get a pizza. I can go either way." She looked to House, "Do you have any preference?"

"None whatsoever. I'm here to see and be seen. Anything else is incidental." He sipped his beer and waited for a decision to be made.

"I've got a ton of stuff to do before we take off tomorrow," Abby said, "Mellow Mushroom and Brusters, then back here so I can run around like a chicken with my head cut off. How's that sound?" She shouldered her purse and called upstairs, "Kids! We're going to dinner!" Two faces peeked over the railing. Alana was on the phone and Simon held a Game Boy. "Let's go. Now!" They trundled down the stairs.

Everyone piled into the SUV for the short ride to the pizza place. They snagged a table and reviewed logistics. Abby took a sip of her tea and explained the arrangements. "I figure if we can get on the road by ten that we can be up there by around two or three, depending on what we do for lunch. "We can check in to the cabins then go on to Meemaw's for the dinner. I think that they're doing the rehearsal the following day, but there's nothing formal."

"Are we going to the rehearsal?" Allison asked, nibbling a salad.

"Alana's in the wedding…" Abby started.

"In that stupid dress. I was going to wear it for Halloween. I was going to go as a prom zombie." Alana complained.

Abby gave her a look and continued, "Alana's got to go to the rehearsal. She might go with the other girls. But you don't have to go."

Alana sighed, "I don't know why we have to rehearse. I've been in four weddings already, it's fairly straightforward. Is Uncle Dave doing this one?"

"No, he's her father; he's walking her down the aisle. I think he got the youth minister to do it." Abby pushed some hair out of her daughter's face. "It'll probably be the same ceremony though. I think he's got a sentimental attachment."

Alana giggled, "These rings are a symbol of your love, they are forged in fire and they have no beginning and no end."

Abby sipped again, "Okay, very funny, so he hasn't changed it in twenty years. It's fine."

House smiled, "Are we taking any action on this?"

Ben laughed, "Five bucks says it's the same ceremony."

"I'm the newcomer, and I'm naturally contrary. I'm guessing that it will be a new and improved version." He held out his hand and they shook on it.

Allison perked up, "So we've got a day just to mess around. Let's go to Cherokee!"

Ben toasted her with his beer, "That's a great idea. We'll dump the kids on Scott and Amy and we'll hit the tables. Greg do you like blackjack?"

"Sure, but I hardly ever get to play." He admitted. Ben topped off his glass.

"No fair!" Alana protested. "I'll get stuck with all the kids."

Abby just looked at her., "It sucks to be you."

Alana sulked and House marveled at how a behavior could travel within a family. "So what's the drive like?" He said, changing the subject.

After dinner and a trip to the ice cream stand, they returned to the house. They were billeted in the guest room. A picture hung over the bed of a young girl feeding rabbits leaves of lettuce. Another Watership Down. House looked up at it, "That is incredibly sweet."

Allison smiled, "Do not dog the bunny print House," she threatened, "I love that picture. It hung over my bed for most of my childhood." She kissed her hand and touched each of the rabbits. "Good night bunnies."

House pretended to wretch, "I was so hoping you weren't going to regress."

"Oh, this is nothing. Wait until we get to Meemaw's. Oh, and Mommy and Daddy. It's going to get worse before it gets better." She slid next to him and gave him a kiss.

"Get away from me. I'm no pedophile." He was finding it hard to stick to his resolve.

"I'm no child. Do I have to prove it to you all over again?" Her hands were making it hard for him concentrate.

He kissed her, allowing his hands to do things to distract her, "What was I saying?"