Night of the dripping tap


It wasn't true what they said about men and multi-tasking. House was sure now that he was successfully, and simultaneously, having a conversation with his Aunt and checking out the fine feminine form of his twelfth cousin three-times removed, or something.

He was pretty sure that whatever it was that they were talking about wasn't all that important seeing as his Aunt's attention was also distracted. In another feat of man-bility, House switched his attention away from the glorious ass toward the focus of his Aunt's gaze; his damn uncle.

The expression on his Aunt's face was one of pained acceptance. His Uncle was busy bending the ear off another House relative of uncertain name and heritage. The head attached to the ear in question seemed to be doing his best to catch House's eye perhaps in some elaborate rouse designed to break the dreadful drone of his Uncle's monologue. Knowing his leg wouldn't thank him, House stood quickly and marched off in the direction of the kitchen for another beer. No way was he getting sucked into either option - his uncle noticing him, or the un-known House and one of those mind-boggling exchanges of painful small talk.

There was a glimmer of regret at leaving his aunt all alone in the yard surrounded by Houses of varying degree. House actually had somewhat of a soft-spot for his Dad's sister and there had been that one time when she'd had bailed him out whilst his parents were away – and hadn't told them on their return. Reaching into the fridge for another insipid domestic excuse for alcohol, House rubbed at his belly and the annoying itch that had been bugging him all day. The tie round his neck was starting to feel like it was getting tighter by the second and he pulled at that too in an effort to liberate himself.

The wedding had been one of startling hypocrisy if the barely-there swell of his cousin's stomach was anything to go by. Why bother with the pretence of a full-blown church wedding if there was not even a sniff of pre-marriage abstinence? Really, the only reason he had travelled this far was to check up on his mother; and for the fact that his aunt was calling in his debt to her. The words 'you owe me' had always held some sort of celestial power over him.

The bride and groom had gazed sickeningly at each other while they promised to honour each other under God's watchful eye or some other crap and House had sat sweating gently in the pew next to his mother. He had spent much of the ceremony dreading the moment when the hymn book came out. For a half-way decent piano player, his mother wasn't troubled by tuneful singing. He had thought back to the funeral of some great uncle and had fought back a fresh wave of hysterical laughter as he'd remembered her trying her very best to sing out her grief along with the rest of the congregation. Her voice had wobbled every which-way over each and every note but she had looked so, so solemn. That's what had killed him. He couldn't really be to blame for the half-stifled guffaws that had escaped as his mother had glared at him to behave and then given him the 'Mom Death-Grip' all the while maintaining that horrendous attempt at singing. He supposed his father was away in Vietnam or somewhere.

Replacing the memory back in the filing cabinet that was his mind, House fought back the urge to run screaming from the whole thing and strip down to his boxers in an effort to escape the suffocating heat that had been slowly getting the better of him through the day.

He glugged down nearly half the bottle of cool, wet, bubbling beer, took a breath and then gulped down the rest. Opening the fridge once more, he grabbed another bottle and put out a blind hand for the opener.

'Ooops big guy! Steady as she goes!'

Damnit. He'd been cornered.

'Hey Bob, the proud father huh?' he offered lamely.

'Oh, I sure am Gregs. There is no prouder moment in a father's life than the wed…'

House raised his eyes to the sky and suffered through yet another monologue requiring nothing more than an occasional nod or grunt in the right place. He had lost count of the seemingly never-ending one-sided conversations he had suffered through in the last twenty-four hours.

He very much regretted, down to his very bones, the promise he had made to his Aunt to 'behave-himself-and-act-like-a-normal-person-for-once-in-your-life-Greg'.

He was lost in the process of trying to keep his expression neutral yet appropriate when the kitchen door squeaked open and House saw his chance to make a limp for it.

'Hey Bob, good to talk to you. The head's calling.' Suppressing a smirk, House rushed past Great Aunt Grizelda or whomever and then realised he actually suddenly did need to visit the bathroom; and quickly.

Sitting on the toilet, House perched uncomfortably on the edge of the seat as wave after wave of cramps rolled over his belly. He knew he needed to just relax and let the contents go but the pain held him in some sort of weird paradox whereby it would hurt more to do that than to sit and wait it out.

Arched over his knees, with arms clamped tightly over his abdomen he ran through the food he had eaten over the course of his hellish stay. Summarizing that pretty much everything had been provided by caterers made him worry. No one else was showing signs of poisoning so that ruled the prawns out.

A knock on the door brought him back to the here and now and with it came a rush of foul smelling diarrhoea that splashed as it hit the bowl.

A groan of utter relief swept over House as he cleaned himself up and flushed. He pulled up his pants, washed and dried his hands and then opened the door.

The horrified expression on the face of the one and only Uncle Bob gave House a satisfied grin that stayed with him right the way through his struggle up the four flights of stairs and into the guest room he had been staying in. The stench he had left behind was beyond hideous and he knew it. In all his years serving the great unwashed, there were few more terrible olfactory insults worse than the stink of a man who was sick to his gut.

As he stripped off his damn jacket and tie, he unbuttoned the top few buttons of his shirt and lay back on the bed. The air conditioning was running but still the beads of sweat on his forehead continued to dribble back into his hair. He put it down to the terrible toilet explosion and let himself close his eyes.

He had paid back his debt, he'd behaved all day despite his uncle, despite the wedding and despite the awful, unbearable heat. The cramping had eased and the last Vicodin was kicking in nicely. He drifted off to sleep; smile still firmly in place.