A/N: Okay, here's the new story. This is set in naughtybookworm's Desperado series, so if you haven't read that, you should! She has also at long last started updating again! The stories are posted at her livejournal. The main necessary background is that House and Wilson have adopted an abused boy named David. This IS a kid!fic, so if you aren't into that, don't read. This is set the summer after David's 4th grade year.
It was David's last day of fourth grade, and he waited for Sammy to shove his last two pencils into his backpack. David looked around the classroom, amazed that the school year had been so good. He had always done well in school, but this was the first time he actually felt good about coming to school every day. He had a best friend, and the other kids talked to him all the time, even though he really didn't think he had anything all that interesting to say. Now it was over, and next year he'd be in fifth grade – he had even signed up to be an older "buddy" for a student in third grade. He would act as their mentor to show them the ropes. He couldn't believe it. It seemed like just yesterday that David had been in third grade himself.
Sammy swung his backpack around and expertly looped his arm through one of the straps. David followed suit, and the two went to wait for their rides outside the front of the school.
"When do you leave for sleepover camp?" David asked.
"Next week," Sammy answered, looking a little nervous. His parents had decided that Sammy was old enough to go away for camp this year, and were sending him to an exciting sounding place in upstate New York. There would be swimming, sports, arts and crafts, and amateur music – almost the opposite of the school year. After seeing how Sammy behaved at home, David had a feeling that Sammy's parents were a little glad to get rid of him for a few weeks.
"You could still go, too. Ask your dads," Sammy pleaded. He didn't want to go to a strange new place alone.
David shook his head. He and House had been through a long discussion about summer plans. He had gone to a music camp last summer and loved it, but he had never had a happy, carefree summer. David really just wanted to spend the summer at home with his Daddy and Wilson. Although he knew he could manage away from home and on his own, he didn't want to. House seemed to understand, and convinced Wilson that David didn't need to go to camp, or classes, or any other summer program. Wilson would have preferred to see David socialize with other kids his age, but also agreed that David needed a calm summer for once in his life.
"I don't want to go to camp this year, Sammy," David said softly.
"Neither do I!" Sammy exclaimed. But then he stopped to think about it. "But maybe the lake sounds kind of cool. And I heard they have archery there. And I've never ridden horseback..."
Both boys smiled at each other. Then they saw Sammy's mom pull up. Sammy picked up his backpack, and waved goodbye. "I'll send you e-mail! See ya!"
David waved back, and waited for Wilson to get there. He could not remember ever feeling this relaxed. He didn't have to come back to school next week. He could spend his time doing whatever he pleased. As relaxed as he was, something still felt empty, and he thought he might miss school – just a bit. He put the feeling aside as he saw Wilson pulling up to the curb. It was summer vacation and he was bound and determined to enjoy it. He was so lost in his own thoughts that he didn't notice Wilson was unusually subdued.
He walked in the entrance way after school, hoping she would be back. His mother had not been there this morning, but she had been gone before, sometimes for over a day. He felt around for his key, and realized that he didn't have it! He must have left it inside this morning. He knocked tentatively on the door, not wanting to interrupt if his mother was with a 'client.' There was no answer. He knocked louder, but was met with silence. He slunk down to the floor, looking at his watch. Three-thirty. Maybe she was just out somewhere. He took his math homework out of his bag, and tried to concentrate; anything to take his mind off of the thoughts that were getting louder and louder. An hour passed, then two. If she was just out running an errand, she would have been back by now, even if she had left right before he got home. The knowledge slowly sunk in. She wasn't coming back. His heart started pounding as he tried to think of what to do. He had to get inside. He stood up and started pounding on the door, shoving it in case he could get it open without the key. He pounded and pounded and –
David woke up when he accidentally whacked his arm on the headboard. His heart was pounding so fast that he could barely breathe. Just a nightmare. Usually when they happened, before too long he would start making noises, or in the very worst cases, scream, and House or Wilson would come and wake him up, then sit with him until he calmed down and fell back to sleep. This time he had woken himself up.
Should he wake up one of his dads? David listened to the blood pounding in his ears, thinking. He would be okay. He didn't need somebody to sit with him. He knew from experience that eventually he would relax again and be fine. But right now he felt so alone – he wanted House to lay on his bed with him. He wanted that comfort; that security. House would also probably know why he had dreamed about that particular incident again now. He threw back the covers and got out of bed. He walked into the Great Room, toward House and Wilson's bedroom. He stopped when he heard angry murmurs from House's bedroom.
"Did you think I wouldn't find out?" House asked, his voice low and dangerous sounding.
"Did I think you would listen in on my phone calls and read my e-mail? No, I thought I would get a modicum of respect for my privacy from you, you asshole!"
"WHY?" House outright yelled. "So you could run around on me while I stayed home, clueless?"
"I was going to tell you, House. I swear. And it was only three times –"
"Why did it happen at all? Why wasn't I good enough for you?"
David wasn't sure what they were arguing about, but he had never heard them fight this passionately, or loudly. This was bad. David's heart continued to pound quickly. He backed away and went back to his own room, shakily getting back into bed. He pulled the blanket up loosely over his head and curled in on himself, covering his ears to block out the ugly sounds of his dads fighting. He knew he should go back to sleep, but couldn't manage to close his eyes. Long after the voices from the other side of the wall had faded, he stared straight ahead, wide awake.
At breakfast the next morning, David watched his dads warily, trying to determine whether they had resolved their fight or were still mad at each other. Neither man noticed David, and it was clear that whatever it was had not been resolved.
David gulped his coffee, exhausted. He had pretty much been up all night long, and wished he could go back to bed. But this was the first "real" day of his summer vacation – the first Monday since school had let out. He was going to be allowed to spend all day with his Daddy at the hospital, and he was looking forward to it. He pushed his cereal around in the bowl, not eating any of it. Eventually House grabbed the bowl from him and chucked it in the sink.
"Come on, we're going to be late," he almost growled.
David was surprised. Usually when he ate so little, House or Wilson would cajole him into eating more – even if just a few bites. Today neither man seemed to notice at all. Warily, David went to his room to grab his bag, which he had packed the night before. Not wanting to displease House by making him late, David ran back into the living room. House grabbed his own backpack and the two made their way down to House's car. David saw Wilson leave the house, too, but House drove off without waiting for him.
That was odd. They were all going to the same place, and they were leaving at the same time – why wasn't Wilson driving with them? Did Daddy just forget Wilson? David wasn't sure whether to bring it up or not, as House did not seem like he was in a good mood. He remained silent. After all, he guessed that Wilson could just drive his own car.
They got to the hospital without exchanging a word. Normally this wouldn't worry David, because they could both be very quiet people on occasion. Today, though, David spent the whole ride watching his Daddy grip the steering wheel, white-knuckled. Something was going on, and David was sure it was bad.
David settled in at House's desk, setting up his laptop and unpacking his bag. He kept one eye on House in the other room, talking to his team. He wondered if House was going to go say hi to Wilson at some point. David thought about just going out to the balcony and seeing Wilson himself, but he didn't want to make Daddy mad. It was cozy in House's inner office, and David thought that he just might put his head down for a few minutes and catch a few winks. He had nothing better to do, anyway.
House caught David napping and smiled to himself. David was his rock amidst the Storm of Wilson. Whatever ended up happening with Wilson, House knew that David would still love him unconditionally. He looked adorable with the desk chair ratcheted up to the highest level, his head down on the desk, and a tiny line of drool inching down his cheek. House moved quietly, so as not to wake him up, but David popped awake anyway.
"Hi, Daddy," he whispered, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
"Mornin' sunshine!" House loved teasing David. "Did you have a nice nap?"
David nodded. He looked through the window into the conference room, and saw that the team was all gone, so he must have been asleep for some time.
"Finding anything exciting to do back here on your own?"
"Not yet, but I will."
"Well, napping is kind of exciting. In fact, I might join you in a while if the team doesn't need me."
"It's okay, I'm awake now."
"Oh good, well then you can watch me sleep and wake me up when it's time for lunch," House teased.
David shrugged. "Okay," he said, completely serious.
House sighed. With all that was going on with Wilson, he hadn't realized that something was apparently not right with David today. He made a note to keep an eye on David, and see if he could find any clues to the problem. In the meantime, David needed something to do if he was going to be spending any significant amount of time at the hospital.
"Is your laptop hooked up to the internet?" House asked.
David nodded. House and Wilson had decided that he could have a laptop after they realized that all of the other kids at school had access to a computer at home. Although Wilson objected for a while, arguing that they didn't want to spoil David with fancy electronics that he didn't need, House pointed out that he didn't want David using either of their computers, so he needed one of his own. And it might as well be a laptop. House had shown him how to find a wireless network to connect to the internet, so David was able to connect at the hospital, at home, and any place with an unsecured network. Up to this point, David had not explored very much because he had heard a lot of horror stories about the dangers of the internet. He did know how to use e-mail, but it downloaded right to his desktop, and he only remembered to check about once a week anyway. A couple of times his class had gone to the computer lab at school to play some math games, and he had once, with Wilson's help, used Google to research for his report on Thomas Jefferson. Since then he had stuck to the music composing software that House had installed for him. He was more interested in that than whatever was on the internet, anyway.
"Let me see for a minute," House demanded. He pulled the laptop toward him and started typing and clicking. David couldn't see what he was doing. Finally, House pushed the computer back to David.
"It's a chat room," he pronounced excitedly. David looked at House quizzically.
"You type in what you want to say, and people all around the world and country will talk back to you."
David made no move to type. "I don't know anybody from around the world."
"I know, that's the point. You'll meet new people, and you never even have to leave New Jersey. Just pick a name."
David's eyes narrowed. "I have a name," he pointed out.
"Yeah, but this will be your chat user name. 'David' is probably already taken."
David continued to sit quietly, making no move to join the chat room. House sighed. "Maybe you could try David1998 – the year you were born."
David didn't really have any interest, but to make House happy, he typed in "David1998" as the username, and the chat accepted it and logged him in. "Now what?"
"Now wait for a minute and see what they're talking about." House had found a kid-friendly chat, advertised as being for 18 and under. He had joined the "Reading" chat room – nerdy for most kids, but perfect for David. They both watched as typing scrolled across the screen. Then David realized something.
"Hey, they're talking about Diary of A Wimpy Kid. I read that book last month!"
House smiled. "What did you think about it?"
"I thought it was cool how it was in cartoons. I bet that made it easier for some kids to read."
House gestured to the keyboard. "So that's what you write."
David looked at the screen again and began thoughtfully typing. After a few minutes, House could tell that David was totally focused on the chat. He quietly backed away and went into the conference room to think about his case, leaving David to his new-found activity.
David found he actually had an appetite for dinner. House had pulled him away from his chat at lunch time, but David had rushed right back to it as soon as he could. At the end of the day, as House was packing up his things to leave, David was surprised to realize he had been in the chat room for hours. It had started out as a conversation about books, but then he and the other chatters had answered questions about each other. David found out that one guy was from California, and one girl lived in Idaho. He had asked all sorts of questions about the weather, their schools, what they did for fun, and had in turn answered a whole slew of questions. Jake, the boy in California, who was eleven (David was very excited to have made an older friend) told David that they could talk through e-mail, and the two had exchanged information so they could stay in touch. He was excited to fill House and Wilson in on all of this. The only problem was that neither House nor Wilson seemed to be speaking at the moment.
David watched Wilson reach right past House for another roll without asking. "Wilson, wanna know what happened to me today?"
Wilson looked up, as if brought out of a stupor. It wasn't often that David initiated the dinner conversation. He usually had to be gently guided into talking about his day. Wilson had not been paying attention to David at all recently, and he immediately felt bad. "Of course, baby. How was your day?"
David smiled, somewhat reassured by the question he had come to expect. "I met a new friend. His name is Jake and he's eleven!"
"At the hospital?" Wilson asked as he buttered his roll.
"No, on the internet. He lives in California!"
At this Wilson dropped his roll and glared at House. House shrugged. Wilson was furious.
"You let him play around on the internet unsupervised?" he asked through gritted teeth.
"It was a kids' chat room. What's the big deal?"
"What's the big deal? Anybody could go on there and pretend to be a kid. He could have been talking to a pedophile all day long!"
"Oh, for the love of – you've got to relax, Wilson. Nothing happened. He made a friend. There's no problem. And I notice you didn't even bother to check in all day long."
David's eyes had become as wide as saucers as he looked back and forth between House and Wilson. "Please don't fight," he said softly. "I won't go on the internet anymore, Wilson."
Neither House nor Wilson appeared to have heard David at all. Wilson slammed his hand on the table and got up. David flinched.
"You told me you needed your space, that's why I didn't go visit you in your office. Besides, I knew I'd be seeing you at home, where we could continue this shit ad nauseam."
David had been trying to remain calm, but ran from the kitchen when he heard Wilson swear. In the almost two years he had known Wilson, he had never heard him swear, and it scared him to death. David closed the door to his room and for the first time ever, locked it. He didn't know what was going on, but he did know two things: first, in his experience with angry people, the next step for arguments like the one currently taking place in the kitchen was hitting. Second, he had caused this one by telling Wilson about the chat room.
David willed himself to stay calm, trying to breathe slowly. He reminded himself that he had never seen House or Wilson hit anybody, so there was no reason to think that they would tonight. Just in case, though, he slid under his comforter, covering his whole body up to the top of his head, and curled up tightly. He found himself shivering, even though he knew he wasn't cold. He would stay just like this for hours, if he had to, and ride out the storm raging in the kitchen.