House watched as Wilson methodically ironed the infamous blue shirt. House had tried ironing on his own, but after struggling several minutes with his technique, he had been pushed aside in frustration by Wilson, who grabbed the iron out of his hand. House was perfectly happy to let Wilson do all the work.
It had taken House four days after their brief meeting at speed dating to work up the nerve to call Erica. They had only spoken long enough for House to determine that she was a financial analyst, forty-five years old, and liked Oscar Peterson. But she was petite, brunette, and had a great smile. She also had seemed like she could take whatever House dished out. It wasn't easy finding a woman who could not only put up with House's crap, but draw a line and set limits for him. He would never admit it, but he loved it when someone could handle him like that. When speed dating had come to its inevitable end, and Chase ended up with a stack of numbers as thick as Moby Dick, Erica's was the only card House got. He figured there was no sense in wasting a potential lay, so he called to ask her out on a date. Somewhat to his surprise, she readily agreed.
Now all he had to do was iron his shirt and try not to say anything too rude. It had been a long time since he'd had a successful date. He wasn't sure if he would be able to do it.
"All set," Wilson called, shaking the shirt as if to release the last of the wrinkles. House pulled off his t-shirt and threw it on the ground, reaching for the dress shirt. Wilson tried not to look at House's bare chest, thinking that it might be inappropriate to "check out" his best friend, who just happened to be going out on a date with someone else. As House buttoned up the shirt, he looked up to Wilson with an unsure stare.
"Do I look alright?" he asked, hoping Wilson wouldn't notice the tremor in his right hand.
Wilson smoothed down the shirt with his right hand, not noticing how House's gaze followed the hand as it gently brushed House's chest. "You look great," he said confidently.
House nodded and unbuckled his belt. As he unzipped his fly and tucked the shirt into his pants, Wilson blushed.
"You gonna wear a tie?" Wilson asked, as much to distract himself from House's pants as to begin a conversation about ties. House thought about it, unsure.
"Do you think I should?" he asked, sounding like he might actually listen to Wilson's opinion on the matter. He had worn a tie for his date with Cameron, but hated them with a passion. He wondered if he could get away with going tie-less on his first date with Erica.
"You look really handsome with a tie on," Wilson ventured.
Resigned, House hobbled to his bedroom to find a tie.
"So, you play the piano?" Erica asked.
House nodded. "And the guitar, and harmonica, and a few other instruments here and there."
"Wow, you must be incredibly talented!"
House fidgeted. Erica was almost gushing, and House had no idea why. This was not something he was used to, or able to deal with.
"I'm okay, I guess," he said softly. He tried to change the subject. "So what do you do when you're not analyzing the stock market?"
"Oh, I like to go to the symphony, go to my book club, do some volunteer work...."
Although she wasn't saying anything he outright disagreed with, House was becoming a bit bored by Erica's mundane list of activities. He knew he shouldn't say what came to his head, but couldn't help himself. "So do you find that volunteering helps to balance the scales between you and the downtrodden? Why not just donate your salary to the poor? Then you can live on nothing and not have to deal with the guilt brought about by your excessive lifestyle."
House inwardly cringed. He had said it. This date was over before it really began. Why couldn't he learn to just keep his mouth shut? At least once in a while?
Erica just smiled. "Actually, the people I work with would probably not be all that interested in money. What they need, money can't buy."
House was speechless. Had she just...responded to his attack? Without batting an eye?
"Who...uh, who do you work with?" he stammered out, thinking that maybe he could save this after all.
"I work with children who have been removed from their homes by CPS."
"So basically abused children?"
"Huh." House had no witty reply. He tried to keep it a secret from friends and coworkers, but House had a soft spot for kids, especially kids with no other advocate.
"What sort of things do you do with the kids?"
"Well, it depends. Right now I've been working with the kids in this one particular foster home, taking them on outings and the like. There are five of them, so it really helps the foster parents. They need the break. Last weekend we all went bowling. It was a lot of fun."
House didn't think bowling would be all that much fun with five kids and no beer, but he kept that particular thought to himself. He flagged down the waiter as he walked by. "Can we get the check?"
Erica smiled. "Do you bowl?"
House smiled back, waggling his eyebrows. "Come back to my place and I'll show you my bowling shoes."
House unlocked the door and held it open for Erica. He led her through the dark living room, hesitant to flip any lights on the chance that it might wake Wilson. However, he wasn't expecting to trip halfway across the room.
"Shit!" he whispered. Whatever he had tripped over made a loud clanging noise.
"Oops," giggled Erica. "I guess your roommate probably heard that."
"Shhhh, maybe he slept through it." House held his finger up to his lips, even though neither person could see very well in the dark.
That issue was soon resolved when a light flooded the living room, burning House's eyes. Wilson had, indeed, awoken.
"Hi, House!" he exclaimed.
"Wilson," House nodded. Erica looked mortified.
Since House was not saying anything, Wilson took the initiative. "You must be Erica," he said politely, extending his hand. "I'm House's roommate, James Wilson." She shook his hand firmly, then glanced back at House.
"It's nice to meet you, James. Greg and I were just...um...."
"Oh, I'll put on a pot of coffee. We can get to know each other! Come have a seat." Wilson's enthusiasm was not contagious.
"You know what?" Erica began, "I was actually just about to leave. Just wanted to make sure Greg made it home alright."
House's eyebrows rose. That had certainly not been his plan.
"Call me, Greg?" Erica asked, as she sauntered past House and out the door. House nodded. As soon as she was gone, he exploded on Wilson.
"What the hell was that?" he yelled.
Wilson feigned ignorance. "What are you talking about?"
"You just killed my mojo, that's what. She was all set to come meet Little Greg."
"Oh no, I'm sorry, House. I didn't realize I was interrupting anything. After all, you guys woke me up...."
House just glared at Wilson. Wilson went back to his bedroom, apologizing once more. "I'm really sorry about that, House. Next time I won't say anything." He closed the door behind him softly. What House didn't see was the smirk on Wilson's face.
House shook his head at Wilson's antics, then looked down at what had tripped him. It was their entire set of copper cooking pots, stacked into each other. How on earth had those moved from the kitchen to the living room floor? House picked them up, dropped them onto the kitchen counter, then hobbled off to bed.
House was amazed when Erica agreed to a second date. This time the two decided to go to her place, where there were no strange roommates to interrupt anything that might start. Erica had dusted off her turn table and found her 33 RPM Art Tatum record. The two settled close together on the couch, eyes closed, listening and enjoying. House slowly opened his eyes and stared at Erica. Her head was laid back against the couch, fanning her hair out. She was beautiful. And she was feisty. How had he lucked out and found someone with just the right combination of looks, ability, and attitude? He reached out to gently brush a hair out of her face, and her eyes snapped open.
House smiled at Erica, and she smiled back. His hand never leaving the side of her face, the two leaned in for a kiss.
And then his pager went off.
House threw his head back with a groan. Fumbling for his pager, he flicked it off as he read the message. EMERGENCY. NEED YOU AT HOSPITAL ASAP. -WILSON
If Cuddy had paged him, he might have ignored it. But Wilson would never page him without a damn good reason.
Sighing, House looked at Erica sadly. "I have to go to work."
Trying to hide her exasperation, Erica quickly pecked his cheek. "Well, you are an important doctor. Wouldn't want to keep the sick people waiting."
House paused, trying to determine the level of facetiousness. "I really am sorry."
"I know you are, babe. It's okay. We will get this right eventually. Third time will have to be the charm, I guess."
House smiled, grabbed his cane, and paused again at the door. "I'll call you tomorrow so we can talk about that third time."
House walked in through the automatic doors of PPTH, heading straight toward the intake desk. "I was paged, what's the emergency?"
The nurse at the desk looked at him quizzically. "We didn't page anybody, Doctor House. It's been a pretty slow night, actually."
"Yeah, Wilson paged me. Where is he?"
"Dr. Wilson? I don't think he's here tonight."
House rolled his eyes and ambled to the elevator doors. Obviously this nurse was too much of an idiot to even keep track of what doctors were at work when. He rode the elevator up, then quickly made his way down to Wilson's office. The door was locked.
Stymied, House fished around in his pockets for his cell phone. He dialed Wilson and listened to the chords of Springsteen's "Gypsy Biker" – Wilson's ringtone for House. Finally, Wilson answered. "What's up?"
"Where are you?"
"I'm home, where are you?"
Home? What was Wilson doing there? "I'm at the hospital, you moron."
"Oh, I didn't realize you had a case."
House was rapidly losing patience. "I don't. You paged me."
"I did?" Wilson asked, sounding surprised. House said nothing. "Oh, I bet I know what happened! I was testing out this new app on my phone that lets me send pages, and I must have accidentally sent it. I was just testing it out. I just wanted to figure out how to create one. I didn't mean to send it. I'm so sorry, House."
Wilson didn't actually sound all that sorry, but there wasn't much House could do at this point. His date was ruined, he was at work instead of in the comfort of his bed at home, and Wilson was apparently just an idiot. House sighed.
"It's okay. If there's no emergency, I'm coming home now."
"Good idea. I'll make you a cup of hot cocoa when you get here."
"Sounds great." House hung up, then turned around and began making his slow way back to the elevators. His brain was whirling with thoughts. Twice in a row now Wilson had inadvertently interrupted his dates with Erica. If House didn't know better, he would think Wilson was doing it on purpose. He just couldn't figure out what possible reason Wilson had to ruin his dates.