Title: My Boys
Pairing: House/Cameron – but mostly it's Daddy!House
Rating: PG-13 (for language)
Prompts: Penguin Photo & Gibson Flying V Photo (House Fox Forum Challenge)
Warnings: Um…for once, no.
House covered his face with his hands to hide his frustration. He held them there for the count of ten, breathing deeply twice. He lowered his hands to the kitchen table slowly and laid them down palms flat. He looked at the other occupant of the kitchen table and summed up every bit of patience he could muster.
"No," House said slowly, if a little forced. "Let's try again."
The little boy sighed, but he recognized the look on his father's face and knew he wouldn't be leaving the table just yet. He picked up the book again from the table and took a deep breath.
"One. of. the. most. uh-uh-mass …no uh-mayz … amazing. sig-sig-sigth?"
"Sights," House interjected.
"Sights. Okay, sights. in. the. Arc-Art-African?"
"African?" House asked. "Do you see an 'f' anywhere in that word?"
"Ahem," a clearing of the throat came from the doorway behind House and he sighed.
"Sorry," he mumbled to the boy. "Want some help?"
The boy nodded somberly.
"Arctic," the boy repeated. He cleared his own throat and continued. "is. the. nort-north-northern. lights." He heaved a huge sigh. "The. sw-swil-sirwul-swirrul…"
"Swirl," House hissed out through clenched teeth.
"Swirl," the boy repeated quickly, his own mounting frustration exacerbated by his father's dwindling patience. "Of. lights. is. casted…"
"Caused," House corrected with obvious irritation.
"Caused. by. elec-electic-electical?"
"Particles, Evan, particles," House asserted.
Evan took a deep breath but before he could begin again his mother intervened.
"I think that's enough for today," she said from the kitchen doorway. She still hadn't entered, not wanting to completely intrude on their lesson. She had been listening in, if only to avoid the situation she could see brewing.
"He hasn't finished his chapter yet," House said harshly, unable to stop himself from hating her a little for interrupting.
"Greg," she said softly.
House looked at Evan and sighed and winced together. The boy was on the verge of tears. His face was bright red with pent up frustration and his bottom lip was clamped tightly in his teeth to bite back the tears. House's shoulders slumped. He knew that look. It was a look he remembered all too vividly from his own formative years. It was a heart-breaking combination of frustration, love, hate, longing, disappointment, fear and failure. He hated that look, because he hated knowing he was the cause of it.
"Mom's right, Champ. That's enough for today. You can go play," House said.
Evan's chair scraped over the ceramic tile floor loudly as he shoved it back from the table in his haste to escape. He brushed by his mother as he ran toward his room.
"Greg," she said reproachfully as she sat in Evan's abandoned chair.
"You don't have to 'Greg' me," House snapped at her. She just looked back at him calmly, waiting for him to be ready to stop sniping and just talk.
House rubbed a hand over his face tiredly and looked at his wife. Age had only now begun to march its ruthless campaign across her lovely countenance. He didn't know how she managed it; nearly ten years married to him was cause enough for worry lines and stress-induced gray hair. Paradoxically, despite his impending senior citizen status, which Wilson never failed to point out, he'd never felt younger. Until very recently.
"Maybe I'm too old for this," he said bitterly.
"Teaching?" his wife asked in confusion. "Greg, you teach every day at the hospital. Your methods might be a little …"
"Not teaching. This … fatherhood, parenting." He looked at the book on the table, taking it up and rifling through the pages to avoid looking at her.
"It's a little late to be thinking that way, Greg," she said wryly, laying her hands over his to stop his nervous page flipping and get him to look at her. "Evan will be eight next month."
"Allison," he said as he finally met her eyes. "Listen to what you just said. He'll be eight next month. This book is his grade level. He shouldn't be struggling this much. Dammit, by the time I was eight I was reading Dickens and Shakespeare and …"
"And he's not you."
"Yeah," he whispered.
"Greg," she began, but he held up a hand.
"Look, just save the psycho babble. I screwed up, I know it. I don't need any Freudian theories about it." The pair sat, staring at each other quietly. "I just assumed that he'd be …"
"What? Smart?" Allison said harshly. "Here's some theory that's got nothing to do with Freud. You're an ass."
She too pushed back the chair with a violent scrape and turned to storm out of the room. House caught her arm.
"Cameron," he said. She stopped pulling against him. He rarely called her that now. It was reserved for those occasions when he wanted to say something sincere. "I don't know how to deal with this … with him."
Allison turned and looked at him. "So he's a not a brilliant student. Maybe he never will be. But Greg, when he finds his…his thing, his bliss, his opus … then he'll be brilliant. Just like his father." She shrugged. "Maybe instead of focusing on the things he struggles with, you could help him find it."
"His thing," House said uncertainly.
"Yeah, you big ass, his thing."
Allison squeezed his forearm. He squeezed her back and then let her go. He listened as she walked down the hall and into their bedroom. He grabbed his cane from the back of his chair and limped down the hall, pausing in front of his son's bedroom door. He thumped his cane on the floor a few times, and then tapped the door with the handle.
"Hey kid," House said as he opened the door. He cast his eyes around the room and realized with something like guilt that it had probably been a month since he'd been in his son's room. Allison handled bed time and he'd had a few cases lately that had kept him at the hospital until the wee hours, causing him to sleep in later than normal and miss seeing Evan off to school.
It was a pretty typical eight year old boy's room. Or so House assumed, not having another eight year old boy's room to check out for comparative purposes. Trucks, dinosaurs and a few stray socks were strewn about the floor, creating a virtual mine field for a guy with a cane. House picked his way across the floor carefully and sat on the bed.
He looked at Evan hunched over his desk, a litter of papers scattered over its top and spread on the floor in the surrounding space.
"What are you doing?"
"Just drawin'" Evan said. "It's nothin' important."
"If you're doing it then it's important," House said slowly. "Can I see?"
Evan picked up a few of the papers, including the one he'd been working on when House came in and shuffled over to the bed. He sat beside his father, his petite frame, so like his mother's, dwarfed in his father's shadow. He handed the papers to him and sat quietly, nervously while House shuffled through them.
House looked at the papers in awe. The first was a simple sketch, just an object, drawn in the middle of the page. It was his guitar, the Gibson he'd bought years ago. It was hanging on the wall in the den; he preferred his acoustic guitar lately. What was amazing about the picture wasn't that Evan had chosen to draw the guitar, but the detail he'd achieved. If House hadn't known better, he might have thought it was a digital image.
"You drew this?" House asked.
"Yeah," Evan said with a shrug.
"You didn't trace it, from a picture in a book?" House pursued.
House flipped through the other pictures. A drawing of Grave Digger, this one in full color, red lights flashing and smoke curling from the exhaust. One of Allison making pancakes.
"I'm not so good at drawin' people," Evan said when House looked at that one. He sounded apologetic, like he expected criticism. House tilted his head and glanced at him, but said nothing.
Instead he flipped to the last picture. He smiled. A line of penguins, five or six of them on a rock ledge, rendered in painstaking and minute detail. But it wasn't just the detail that made him smile. He knew this picture.
"Where have I seen this before?"
"It's a picture we took, the day we went to the aquarium," Evan said.
"With Uncle Wilson," House said, as he remembered their trip.
"Yeah," Evan said quietly. "That's my favorite picture."
"It's pretty good," House said hesitantly. "You should be proud of it."
"Yeah?" Evan asked, twisting around and looking up at his father.
"Yeah." House looked at him and narrowed his eyes. "But that's not why it's your favorite."
"No," Evan said and dropped his head, looking at his knees.
House waited, but Evan didn't seem to want to say anything more. He decided to let it drop for now; he'd pushed the kid enough for one night. He handed the pictures back to Evan, who returned them to the desk and sat back down.
"You know, maybe instead of soccer this spring, you could take that art class at the rec center," House said slowly. It was yet another thing he and Evan had struggled with. House had insisted Evan be involved in sports, despite Evan's obvious lack of interest. They'd already tried baseball and hockey.
"Really?" Evan asked hopefully, turning around to look at House with a look of such little boy glee it hurt House's chest.
"Really," House said. He stood up and limped the couple steps to the desk. He leaned down and dropped a kiss on Evan's head, ruffling his hair for good measure. Then he limped to the door.
"You were fun that day," Evan said softly. House stopped in the doorway and lowered his head so that his chin nearly touched his chest.
"That's why you like the picture," he said in return.
"Yeah," Evan said. He sounded guilty and a little afraid, like admitting his father was fun that day automatically meant he wasn't fun the rest of the time.
"That's why I like it too," House said. He didn't turn around, but he could feel Evan's relief and he knew he'd said the right thing. "Night kid."
"Night…old man," Evan said and House grinned. Allison called him that, but Evan had never dared. Until just now.
House closed the door softly as he exited, knowing Allison would be checking up on him in a few minutes and making sure he was ready for bed. House went to the bathroom and looked at himself in the mirror for a long time before brushing his teeth and leaving an offering for the porcelain god.
He limped into his bedroom and found it empty. He changed out of his jeans and t-shirt into a pair of soft flannel pants and climbed into bed. He sat with his back leaning against the upholstered headboard and waited. It was only a few minutes before Allison entered the room, already wearing a pair of silken pajamas and her robe.
He watched her quietly as she shrugged the robe off and hung it on the hook on the back of the door. She climbed into bed beside him and turned off the light on her bedside table, plunging the room into near perfect darkness.
"You knew he'd be drawing," House said.
"And you knew he was good."
"So why didn't you just tell me that?"
"Because you're Greg House, and you need to find things out on your own for them to be real," Allison said.
"And?" House prompted. He knew her, and he knew that wasn't the only reason.
"And you two needed to do a little mending," Allison said. "It may not have been what you wanted for him, but it's what he has. It's his and no one else's. You two needed to acknowledge that, even if it wasn't in so many words."
"You've been talking to Wilson again," House accused her.
"No, just reading up on my Freud," Allison replied dryly. Even after all these years, he still hated 'all that emotional crap'. She knew that he and Evan would probably never come right out and talk about it, but she also knew that in his own way, he could make it right.
"He's going to take art lessons in the spring instead of soccer," House said, waiting for the 'I told you so'.
"Good," Allison replied.
"Good," House repeated.
She rolled over and pulled the covers up tightly to her chin, snuggling into her pillow and making herself comfortable. House slid down the headboard until his head rested on his own pillow. The covers were pulled up to his waist and he laid his hands on his bare chest.
"Cameron," he said after a few minutes.
"Yeah," Allison answered a little sleepily.
"What's your thing?"
"Mmmm … my boys."
Author's Note: Normally I wouldn't put this at the bottom, but I felt like putting it up top would ruin the effect of the story. The book Evan is trying to read from is Polar Bears Past Bedtime, #12 in the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osbourne. It's a nice, fun series for kids around the 3rd grade/8 years old group.
The pronunciations are accurate for a child trying to read above their comfort level. I gave this book to my six year old son and wrote down his pronunciations as best I could phonetically to get the effect. Hope it worked!