Yep, another story. Vacation time has been very good to me. :) This one was originally an O/C Babes challenge fic that I've expanded. As usual, don't own House.
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"Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry…when I take you out in the surrey…take you out in the surrey with the fringe on top…"
House glanced toward the source of the deep baritone. A young man with spiky brown hair and earbuds firmly stuck in his ears was checking his mailbox. He spotted House as he closed the box, shifting his mail to his left hand and pulling out the earbuds.
"Looking for somebody?" The young man regarded House curiously.
"I live here." House shot him a brief glare.
The other man's eyebrows shot up over dark brown eyes. "You must be new." He extended his hand to House. "Jason Sanders. I'm in A."
House slowly extended his own hand. "Greg House. And I've probably lived here as long as you've been alive."
"Good to meet you, Greg." Jason tilted his head. "I just moved in here about two months ago. Kind of weird that we've never met."
"I've been…gone for a while." House decided he didn't need to explain further.
"Oh." An awkward silence fell between them. "Well, hey. I've got to go. Got a friend coming over to help me practice for an audition."
House groaned internally. "So you're an actor."
"Only locally." Jason laughed nervously, playing with his earbuds. "Graphic designer by day, song and dance man by night. Community theater, you know. Not exactly good enough for the big time."
House nodded in acknowledgement, gesturing toward his own door with his cane. "I'll just be going. Good luck with your audition thing."
"Thanks." Jason gave House a lopsided smile. "Hey, you know…if you ever want to hang out or something, let me know. I'm home most nights. Not that I don't have a life or anything, it's just…yeah." There was a brief pause. "Just knock on the door, okay?"
House was baffled, but intrigued. "Do you make a habit of inviting strange men into your apartment?"
Jason looked startled, then flustered. "No, of course not. Not all the time." The young man was starting to stumble over his words. "You just seem like kind of a cool guy, that's all. If you don't want to hang out, that's cool, too."
"I probably won't." House answered sharply. "I like my alone time."
"Okay." Jason looked a little like a kicked puppy. "I'll be around if you change your mind."
"Right." House turned and let himself into his apartment. It was quiet now that Alvie had flown the coop and headed for Arizona. Too bad, House thought. He had almost enjoyed having the guy around. At least things weren't boring then.
He sighed a little as he dumped his backpack by the door and hooked his cane over the door frame. His jacket soon followed, and he limped over to the piano, easing himself onto the bench with a wince and pouring himself a glass of bourbon from the bottle that waited for him. At least this was one friend that wouldn't abandon him.
Voices carried through the apartment door from the small hallway outside, and someone started tapping at the door. House ignored it at first, but whoever it was wasn't going away. In fact, the tapping grew louder.
House huffed irritably and pushed himself off the bench to answer. "Don't need any religion, and I'm up to my eyeballs in Thin Mints." He called through the door.
There was silence, followed by a clearing throat. "It's Jason. You know, from across the hall?"
House rolled his eyes and opened the door. "Yeah, I know. We met five minutes ago."
Jason looked a little startled. "Sorry. Just wanted to let you know that we'll be firing things up pretty soon. If it gets too loud, just bang on the door."
"Okay." House was baffled. "Didn't realize you Broadway types were such a rowdy bunch."
"You have no idea." Jason smiled a little. "Obviously you've never been to a wrap party."
House wasn't interested in details. "Well, thanks for the heads up. Bye."
With that House slammed the door and returned to the piano, taking a long drink of the bourbon that sat on top. He hoped this was the last he would hear from Jason tonight. All House really wanted was to be left alone. He didn't need anyone, especially young, dopey, overly friendly neighbors. As long as he had this apartment, his piano, and his bourbon, what else could he possibly need?
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Jason stood in front of House's door for a moment, still slightly shocked that the older man had practically slammed it in his face.
"Nice guy." His friend Miranda muttered and rolled her eyes.
"No matter." His other friend Evan spoke up breezily. "You let him know, and that's all you need to do. Now let's get to work, shall we?"
Jason gave House's door one more glance before nodding firmly and letting his friends into the apartment. Miranda and Evan had taken Jason under their wing when he had first started working backstage crew on a couple of local theater productions a few years before. Jason would often sing along with the performers while working offstage. After Evan had busted him, he had teamed up with Miranda to thoroughly harass Jason until he had screwed up the courage to audition for an upcoming production of 'Oklahoma'.
He was grateful for their support, even as the idea of doing anything onstage completely unnerved him. Jason was far more comfortable out of the limelight, perfectly content to build sets, run the lighting board, and assist the stage manager.
"What have you got to drink around here?" Evan was arranging himself at the small upright piano in Jason's living room.
"Uh…" Jason opened the refrigerator and looked around. "Beer, water, Mountain Dew…"
"Ugh." Evan wrinkled up his nose. "I cannot believe you insist on drinking Mountain Dew. Vile stuff. I'll have a water, sweetie." His voice took on a teasing tone. "Can't come home tipsy, you know. Little Evan might go to sleep, and we all know what that means…"
"Evan, really?" Miranda groaned. "I think that qualifies as TMI."
Jason laughed a little even as he blushed. Evan had a new man in his life, and made no bones about giving Jason and Miranda as much detail as possible.
"I'll take a beer while you're in there." Miranda called out.
Jason took out a beer and a water, grabbing a Mountain Dew for himself before returning to the living room. Evan accepted the water and took a drink before starting some opening chords.
Miranda smiled slightly and took a quick swig of her beer. "Why do they think up stories that link my name with yours?"
Evan followed behind. "Why do the neighbors chatter all day behind their doors?" He glanced over at Jason. "Feel free to jump in anytime."
Miranda went on with her verse, nodding to Jason afterwards. Jason took a deep breath and started. "Some people claim that you're to blame as much as I…"
"Louder, honey." Evan called out over the piano.
Jason cleared his throat and continued. "Why do you take the trouble to bake my favorite pie…"
Evan nodded encouragement as Jason finished his verse, finishing with a flourish and a wide smile. "Fantastic, Jason. You're going to knock them dead tomorrow night."
Miranda murmured agreement, and Jason glanced down at the floor, the heat rising to his cheeks. "Hopefully I don't choke this time."
Evan waved a hand dismissively. "You're much better prepared this time around." He started playing again. "You'll be swell, you'll be great. Got the whole world on a plate…"
Jason couldn't help but laugh at Evan. The man had a knack for easing tension in any situation. "You guys are going to be there, right?"
"Of course." Miranda smiled warmly and gave Jason a quick squeeze.
"I wouldn't miss it, darling." Evan wrapped his arms around Jason for a tight hug.
With that Jason saw both his friends to the outside door, chatting for a few minutes before closing the door on them. All was quiet until Jason heard the sounds of a piano behind him.
He turned, tuning in to the sound. It sounded as if it were coming from his neighbor's place. He carefully stepped toward the door to the neighboring apartment and listened closer.
It wasn't a familiar piece, but it was beautiful all the same, and Jason stood by the door for a moment to listen. He considered knocking on the door, but recalling the man's reaction to his visit earlier, Jason thought better of it. Instead he returned to his apartment, grabbing another Mountain Dew and sitting down at his drafting desk. A new project awaited him, and he was eager to get started.
The quiet space was one of the few good things about living alone. It had taken some getting used to, but he was finally settling in now. Now that he had no roommate to disturb him, he could work on his various projects in peace.
A knock on the door pulled him out of his thoughts. Jason rose from his table and crossed the room, rising up on tiptoe to look through the peephole.
A smile crept onto his face as he saw who was there, and he couldn't resist teasing a little. "Got all the Tagalongs I need, thanks."
"Ha, ha." The gravelly voice answered from the other side.
Jason snickered a little to himself as he opened the door. "Thought you liked your alone time."
"Changed my mind." House answered as he crossed the threshold. "That offer is still open, right?"
"Sure." Jason closed the door. "You want something to drink? I've got beer, water, Mountain Dew…"
"No, thanks. I'm good." House's tone was sharp as he surveyed the room. His eyes landed on the drawing table. "Bringing your work home with you?"
"Sometimes." Jason replied, sitting down at the table again. "Right now I'm working on a side project…doing some art for a comic book a friend of mine is writing."
"Huh." House seemed to be studying the poster art on the walls. "So you're a comic book geek."
"Yeah." Jason never passed up a chance to talk about his other passion. "I started collecting comics when I was a kid. Started with X-Men, Wolverine, Justice League, then started tracking down older stuff. Most of them are in storage, but I've got some of the more valuable ones here."
House's slightly puzzled expression told Jason that he had babbled on long enough. "Sorry. I guess I get kind of excited over this stuff."
"No problem." House was pacing around the room, seemingly unable to settle himself. Finally he nodded firmly. "See you around."
Jason was thoroughly baffled. "Uh…okay. Good of you to stop by." He held his hand out to House. "Don't be a stranger."
House gave Jason an odd look, but reached out to shake Jason's hand. "Right."
With that House was gone, and Jason was left confused, but intrigued. Suddenly he was even more interested in getting to know his enigmatic neighbor. He hoped he would get more opportunity to do so.
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