A/N: Well, this is it - the last chapter! Of course, the road goes ever on, as Tolkien wrote (I believe). Naughtybookworm is hard at work writing new stories in this verse, and I will probably write a few more, too, once I finish up my other WIP. Hope everyone enjoyed. I know I enjoyed writing this story and borrowing the characters for a while.
Dr. Wardner took a minute to observe David's "grumpy dad." Until this particular period in their lives, Dr. Wardner had not had very many opportunities to interact with the man. Usually it was Dr. Wilson who brought their son in to therapy, and on days that Wilson couldn't make it, Dr. House tended to make himself scarce. At one point Dr. Wardner had thought that Dr. House was a bit of an asshole. Now, she had spoken to him several times, and had found that he actually had a deep sensitivity, although he covered it up very well.
There was something about Dr. House that was so lonely. Dr. Wardner wasn't sure whether that had always been there, or whether splitting up from Wilson had caused it. Either way, it seemed clear that for a long time, Wilson had been a good influence on House. It would be a shame if they couldn't find a way to make it back together. However – there was some work that needed to be done first.
"I have a question for you, Dr. House," Dr. Wardner began. House looked at her with those big, blue eyes, as if to say, You have my complete attention.
"Why didn't you fight back when Dr. Wilson accused you of being selfish?"
House didn't answer at first. Dr. Wardner tried another tactic.
"Did you agree with him?"
House reluctantly nodded. Dr. Wardner pushed on, obviously sure of where she wanted the conversation to go, although House was clueless.
"Okay, so it's selfish to want your partner to respect your level of comfort in a relationship?"
House thought back to the conversation with Wilson. "No...not that part. It was selfish of me to deny David the family he's gotten used to."
"But the family hasn't been the same for over a month now," Dr. Wardner clarified. House nodded.
"Yeah. Because I kept messing up."
"No...because Wilson cheated on you."
"And I made him move out."
Ah hah! Now they were at the crux of the matter. "So it was selfish of you to make Wilson move out?"
House was becoming confused. "N-no..."
"Okay, so clue me in. What actions on your part were selfish?"
"When I ignored David for so long," House answered, as if it were the most obvious answer in the world. Dr. Wardner let a short silence descend.
"Let's just be clear. Let's not pussyfoot around the issue – you neglected David. That's what you're trying to say, right?"
"Yes," House answered miserably.
"Okay, good. Because that's not a minor issue at all. It's a huge deal, and there was behavior on your part that was verging on illegal. I just want to make sure you understand that."
House nodded, feeling his throat close up. Dr. Wardner eased off, as if that had been her plan all along.
"So this neglect, was it something you did on purpose? Did you mean to neglect David?"
House's head snapped up. "No, of course not!"
"How did it happen, then?"
House sighed. "I guess I was just really depressed, and I didn't...notice things."
"Okay. So because you weren't in your right mind – not because of any premeditated plan or intention on your part – you neglected your son. Am I getting this correctly?" Dr. Wardner feigned ignorance.
House nodded again. Dr. Wardner moved in for the kill.
"Then if you didn't know what you were doing, how was it selfish?"
House could feel his head spinning. She had a very good point. "I'm...not sure."
"Then why are you letting Dr. Wilson tell you that your actions were selfish?"
House thought about it. "He...usually knows about these things."
Dr. Wardner shook her head. "No he doesn't. He was manipulating you. He was hoping that if you got distracted by thinking about your own actions, then he could make you acquiesce to something you weren't actually ready for. You have your own thoughts and feelings, Dr. House. Don't let Dr. Wilson tell you what you think and feel. Got it?"
House nodded feebly. Dr. Wardner smiled. "Good. Now, that being said, let's talk about what you feel. What do you see as the next steps with Wilson."
House looked down and fiddled with his cane for a minute. Then he finally admitted, "I want him to move back in just as much as he does. I just..."
"Just what?" Dr. Wardner gently prodded.
"I just want to make sure he – I guess I just want to stall long enough for him to work out whatever it was that lead him to cheat in the first place," House finally blurted out.
Dr. Warnder nodded. That made a lot of sense. "I may have some good news, then. Dr. Wilson had a bit of a breakthrough today – try talking to him. See what he says. What you're feeling makes sense. And you should trust what you're feeling. If you think things are moving too fast, then they are."
House nodded again. "So...do you think it's a good idea for us to just date for a while?"
"I do. And I think, although it will be rough in the short run, in the long run it will be much better for David. You two will have a stronger relationship if you really work on it now, rather than just jumping back in to what wasn't working before."
House thought about that. "It wasn't all bad before. In fact, most of it was pretty...pretty damn good, before. Except for the affair."
Dr. Wardner laughed. "Yeah. Well, something like an affair is not just a minor character flaw. It's symptomatic of something hugely wrong. I think you're very wise to ask Wilson to work through those issues before trying to pretend to return to normalcy."
House nodded, looking at his watch. His time was up. "Thanks, Dr. Wardner. This has been...really helpful. I'll go get David."
Dr. Wardner knew that was just House's way of ending their conversation – David was prone to very similar behavior. But she figured the man had enough to think about already, and let him go.
The two men took David shopping that weekend. As David roamed the shelves of Staples, looking happier than a kid in a candy store, House decided to put the moves on Wilson.
He came up behind the younger man and wrapped his arm around Wilson's pudgy waist. "We should do something together tomorrow night. Just the two of us."
Wilson shivered. House had a way of being completely seductive, just by using his naturally sexy voice. "What about David?" Wilson protested feebly.
"I called Liz last night. Sammy's back and he wants to have David sleep over at their house. It's the perfect chance for us to get a little alone time."
Wilson grinned. "What exactly did you have in mind?"
House grinned to match Wilson. "Well," he began, "I thought we'd start with dinner at Burger King, progress to the latest Disney movie, and end the evening by attending a church sermon. I believe this week's topic is 'Finding Jesus in Billy Joel: Would You Rather Laugh With The Sinners Or Cry With The Saints?'"
Wilson laughed at House's absurd parody of a bad date night. "Sounds like a blast. I'll have to ask my mom if it's okay to borrow the car. And we have to be home by 11 – I have a Biology test the next day!"
House's eyes twinkled. "No problem. Biology, huh? I'll help you study."
Wilson was about to make a retort when David returned, carrying what appeared to be a lifetime supply of Post-It notes.
"Do you really need all of those?" House asked.
David nodded. "This size is for bookmarking things that you're reading, but that you still want to read. See? They're see-through. Then these two sizes are for writing notes to yourself on papers that you don't want to mark up. Then this size is for bookmarking when you just need to find the page, not the paragraph –"
House held up his hands. "Okay, okay! Get them all. What else do you need?"
"Highlighters!" David replied, his eyes gleaming as if he were about the win the lottery. "And can I get more than one color?"
House and Wilson both laughed. "Next year we're doing this on the internet," House declared. David looked crestfallen. House rolled his eyes and gestured toward the highlighter aisle. "Go crazy."
The two men followed their son in his search for highlighters, walking amicably side by side.
Three stores and several hundred dollars later, Wilson followed House and David home. House rummaged around in the kitchen, looking for something quick and easy to make for dinner. In the living room, David had already curled up with Wilson, and the two were unpacking school supplies and talking excitedly. House just wanted to get back out there and join the two most important people in his life.
House set a pot of water to boiling, and got the box of spaghetti ready. He thought ironically that this had also been David's meal of choice. It was a good choice, too – quick, easy, and cheap. He let the water heat up and went to join David and Wilson.
"And he learned how to ride a horse," David was telling Wilson as he uncapped three highlighters and tested them out on fresh notebook paper. House assumed they were talking about Sammy.
"So what are you two going to do tomorrow night?" Wilson asked, patiently capping one of the highlighters that David had been playing with.
"We're going to watch all three 'Back To The Future' movies," David replied, his eyes wide. "Sammy thinks his mom will let us stay up all night long this time."
Wilson nodded knowingly. He wasn't really worried – he was sure the boys would fall asleep well before then. Well, at least Sammy would. David had been getting far too much experience with insomnia than Wilson was happy with this summer.
"I love 'Back To The Future,'" said House. "Doc Brown is totally awesome. A crazy scientist who lives alone and has wild hair. Who wouldn't love to be that guy?"
"But he didn't stay alone. He found his match," Wilson reminded House. "Remember? In the third movie? He and the school teacher got married and traveled through time together for the rest of...well, eternity."
"Oh yeah," House mused. He was certain there was some profound epiphany he was supposed to have right now; that he should suddenly realize that he, too, wasn't mean to be alone – if Doc Brown could find a lifelong partner, then so could he, and that partner was Wilson.
He didn't have that epiphany. He knew it was just Wilson doing what he did best – manipulating, putting a spin on things. He knew it, and he recognized it, and that's what made him smile at Wilson; nothing else. Wilson was his lifelong partner, no matter what the younger man managed to do to screw things up. Wilson smiled back, and House squeezed Wilson's hand briefly. It wouldn't be tomorrow, or the next day, or the next week. But House was certain they would manage to work things out somehow. He reluctantly let go of Wilson's hand, then got up to cook the spaghetti.