No excuse for horrible delays other than real life... and the horrors of Precalculus. Thanks to all of you who stuck with the story anyway...
Jacob nervously ran his hand through his newly shortened, styled hair, glancing out the car window.
"Your hair looks fine, Jake," Wilson reassured him. They'd dropped House off at the apartment before running to get Jacob's haircut.
Jacob made a noise that could have been interpreted as a "yep".
"You don't need to be so worried," Wilson continued. "Just be yourself."
"But…what if she doesn't like 'me'?" he questioned, his countenance suggesting that that was a very likely possibility.
"Then she's not worth your time," he said firmly, thinking of his ex-wives. "If they don't love you, for you… there's no point."
Jacob looked less than convinced. "Who'd love me for me?" he demanded, crossing his arms over his chest. He looked a lot like House in that moment.
Wilson swallowed. "House and I do, and you know it. And there will be other people that you meet. Just give it time. You don't have to get married in a day, alright?"
When they arrived home, House was in the bathroom, soaking his leg in the tub. Wilson knew this because the radio was playing from the counter in there. He tried to keep the worry from his face.
He lingered by the bathroom door, glancing at Jacob. The kid looked as worried as he felt. He motioned Wilson away from the door with his finger.
"Did he strain it or something?"
Wilson sighed. "Just worked it too hard today," he answered, choosing not to mention the emotional turmoil House was also going through. "Bathes help it."
Jacob knew this. Over the past few months, he'd watched House in his own carful way. When House was in a lot of pain and his leg was stiff, he'd always soak it in the hot water for a few hours. These were also the times when Wilson would be tense and trying so hard to look normal that Jacob could see the worry in his face like a neon sign at night.
Jacob nodded. He hated it when House was in pain. The man had saved him from so much pain and hardship… but Jacob could do nothing for him in return. For the moment, House's pain was eclipsing his worry about the dance.
He let Wilson pull him into a tight hug. He wouldn't admit it, but Wilson's embrace felt like one of the safest, securest, warmest places in the world. "He's okay, Jake. He just needs some time."
"Why don't you go heat up some leftovers? That casserole from last night is still good. I'll be there in a little bit."
Jacob drifted off, and Wilson waited for a moment until he heard the fridge open. He knocked lightly on the bathroom door.
"Yeah?" House's voice said, not quite yelling over the music.
"I'm not up for friction," he half joked, though honestly he wasn't. His leg was working hard to stand, let alone… other activities.
Wilson rolled his eyes. "Can I come in?"
House sat up straighter, stretching. Not that he minded Wilson seeing him naked, but it was still nice that he'd thought to put bubbles in the tub. Maybe it was childish, but he liked them. They were relaxing.
"I can't very well hop up and lock the door," House finally responded.
Wilson let out a sigh of relief, opening the door and pushing it shut behind him. He couldn't help an amused quirk of his lips when he saw House neck deep in a tub of bubbles.
House grinned, though tiredly. "I said no friction."
Wilson took a seat on the toilet. "House, saying no to sex? Will the wonders ever cease," Wilson teased, though very, very lightly. He didn't want to stumble into a bear trap. Some nights, House wasn't up to it, and that was perfectly fine with Wilson.
Wilson slid down off the toilet seat, choosing instead to rest his back on the tub. He leaned his head back on the side and sighed.
"Wanna give me a rating?"
House gave him an irritated sigh that clearly said no, I do not, and you know it.
"Is it better, at least?" Wilson rephrased.
House frowned into the bubbles. He didn't like that Wilson knew when he was hurting, even when he tried to keep it on the DL. "Yeah. The water helps."
An easy silence followed. House carefully cupped a handful of bubbles and set them on Wilson's hair. He didn't notice.
"The first time I dated," House mused, "It didn't go very well."
Wilson angled his head so that he could make eye contact with House. "I gathered, from your reaction with Jacob. What happened?"
For a moment, the only sound was the faint popping of the bubbles. "I wasn't the most popular kid at my school. At any school. I was always the new kid, always kind of awkward. Shitty clothes, military haircut, social issues. If we hadn't have moved around so much, I would have been moved up a few grades, and that might have been easier. But, as it was, I was stuck with people that were way below me intellectually."
Wilson snorted, but not because he thought House was bragging. "I think that's probably true no matter where you go, House."
House flicked him lightly in the ear. "I'll remember that next time you're calling me a moron," he said lightly, then continued on.
"Anyway. By some stroke of what I thought was luck, a popular – nay, a hot chick – ended up asking me on a date. Mary Callis. I went home and made the mistake of telling Mom where he could hear me."
Wilson's stomach started to hurt.
"He…" House sighed. "He kind of poisoned my brain. Told me all sorts of things. You aren't good enough, she pities you, she's just using you. Thing was, he said it so much, and with so much… pain… accompanying it… that I started to believe him."
Wilson closed his eyes.
"So, eventually of course, a dance comes up. And she wants me to ask her to it, obviously. Only, I didn't. I thought she'd just flat out laugh at me. So I avoided it, pretended like I had no thoughts about that dance what-so-ever."
House flicked some bubbles off the side of the tub.
"Mary Callis was not used to having fidgety, flighty, nervous boyfriends that were afraid to dance. So she dumped me. Brutally."
House winced, the memory still painful after all these years. "In front of pretty much the entire lunchroom."
Wilson turned to House completely.
"The worst part was, I didn't blame her. I just accepted it, walked away and stopped talking to her, and I think that made her angrier. She was defiantly used to having the boys chase her, and not the other way around. So she proceeded to make my social life hell for the rest of the year, till we moved away. His words were truth."
Wilson leaned over the side of the tub and pulled House into a deep, loving kiss. "Mary Callis," he breathed, in between pecks, "Made the worst… mistake… of her life… that day."
He stopped kissing, but didn't move away from House's face as he spoke, totally ignoring the bubbles all over his work shirt. "She doesn't know what she's missing."
House smirked, the sadness in his eyes fading a bit. "Mary Callis was as dumb as a box of rocks. Though damn did she have an ass."
Wilson would have responded, but House kissed him again. His preference was clear.
Twenty minutes later, Wilson sat down at the kitchen table in his undershirt and pants. Jacob looked up, and, chewing his casserole, calmly said, "You have bubbles in your hair."
It was Friday evening. The night of the dance.
House had been elected to be the chauffeur for the evening, as Wilson was on an overnight trip for an oncology conference. This particular scheduling accident had come as quite a shock to Wilson. He'd been horrified.
House had already snapped a picture or two of Jacob with his phone. As silly as he felt doing it, he knew Wilson would never forgive him if he didn't get a picture.
"We are not taking the bike," Jacob said firmly as they walked together into the driveway. "We have to pick her up, and we won't fit."
House rolled his eyes. "Please. Get in, we're taking my car."
Jacob looked relieved, and slid in next to House.
House was unusually quiet, and had been all day. He was thinking about what he could possibly say to Jacob, what advice he could give him. Wasn't that what guardians were supposed to do? Give advice?
Jacob seemed as nervous as House felt. He continually worried at his tie on the drive over, fidgeting and squirming in the passenger seat.
"Relax," House said firmly. "You're getting all worked up for no reason."
He knew it was the right thing to say, even if he was still having doubts himself.
"I'm fine," Jacob insisted, impetuous. He sounded a lot like House, and the doctor winced. Was this how Wilson felt when he was being stubborn?
"You're terrified," House rebutted shortly. Jacob closed his mouth, looking away.
"Listen, kid. It may work out, and it may not. You may find that she's a shallow moron, and she may find that she doesn't like having a genius boyfriend. Girls don't seem to like it when you're smarter than them."
"Eleanor is in the top ten of our class," Jacob defended her, missing the point entirely.
House sighed. "Academically, maybe she's okay. But I don't mean academically. I mean logically, mentally. You may find that you don't like her, after getting to know her better."
Jacob looked almost as if he was pouting. This was the closest the two had come to fighting since Jacob had come to the apartment two months ago. "I like her. I don't know if she'll like me."
House shrugged. "You can't force it."
"Well, how do you and Wilson work?" Jacob demanded, latching on to the only stable, truly loving relationship he'd ever experienced.
House laughed. "How do we work?" he repeated, thinking it over. It was kind of a funny question. "We've been friends for the better part of twenty five years, Jacob. We have history."
"I know that. But how… how do you even start?"
House shrugged, his eyes on the road. "I don't really have a lot of experience in the girlfriend department," he said smoothly, though on the inside, a pang went through him at the thought of Stacey. Even now, as happy as he was with Wilson, he wondered how it might have worked out with her. She, for a long time, had been the love of his life.
"Just do what you feel is right. I don't have a magical diagnosis for you. If she likes you and you like her, sometimes it's that simple. Don't over think it. Go with your instincts."
By that time, they were pulling up in front of Eleanor's house. House could sense Jacob looking up at it in fear. The place was practically a mini mansion.
"Figures," House snorted. "With a pretentious ass name like Eleanor, she was bound to be rich."
Jacob swallowed. Suddenly, he felt even more out of his element than before. He slid out of the car, feeling like his feet weighed a thousand pounds each.
House sighed, kneading his forehead. He had no idea what he was doing. He wasn't a parent! He wasn't the example that this kid should be following! Doubts plagued him like an attack from a bee hive.
Before he had a chance to fly into a full blown panic attack, Jacob got back to the car. House turned around, watching silently as the girl followed him in.
His blue eyes studied her carefully. She was in a dark blue dress, sleeveless. Her hair was in an updo, the light brown curls pinned in place. She was smiling at him.
Jacob cleared his throat. "Eleanor, this is…" he began, and then trailed off. He realized he had no idea how to introduce House to other people.
House took over. "House. Dr. House."
Eleanor looked slightly confused, but she smiled through it. House thought distantly that her parents had certainly taught her social etiquette. "Nice to meet you, Dr. House. Eleanor Dicarlo."
House did not smile. He nodded once and then turned around.
The silence in the car soon became awkward. Jacob leaned forward from the back seat and turned on the radio, if only to break the tension.
Eleanor smiled. "I love this song," she commented, drumming her fingers on the armrest. Jacob smiled at her. If anything, mentioning around House that she liked ACDC would improve her standings with him.
House narrowed his eyes, glancing back. "You play drums," he observed, tone flat.
Eleanor looked startled, her hands stilling. "How did you know that?"
"You're tapping on the armrest. I can hear it."
Jacob blinked. He didn't know that she played the drums. He didn't even know that she liked music other than bad pop tunes.
"Jake plays guitar," House said, almost boasting.
Eleanor looked eager. "You do?" she asked, turning to him excitedly. "Can you sing?"
Jacob blushed. "Uh… I haven't really tried," he stuttered, embarrassed. He could carry a tune, but even around House he'd never audibly sang.
House was starting to relax. "Maybe you two should start a band," he joked, grinning. Wilson would hate it. Guitars, he could handle, but a drum set would drive him up the wall.
He could see that Jacob was relaxing too. Music was a topic they could easily converse about, without the pressure of getting to know each other's back stories. By the time they pulled up to the school, Jacob was smiling and relaxed.
"I'll pick you up at eleven?" House asked, knowing that was when the dance ended. Neither of them had a license or a car, so the after party was a no go.
Jacob nodded. He slipped out of the car, loitering after shutting the door.
Eleanor leaned forward in the seat. "Nice to meet you, Dr. House," she said pleasantly. "Thanks for the ride."
House observed her for half a moment. "Hurt him, and I will destroy you," he replied flatly, ignoring her attempt at peace. He didn't have an issue being rude to get his point across.
The girl nodded solemnly. "I get the feeling that he kind of had a bad life up until a few months ago," she mused, "and I wouldn't want to hurt him anyway."
House stared at her a moment longer, then nodded. She slid out of the car and joined Jacob, slipping her arm through his and leading him to the entrance.
House watched them go until they walked inside. Then, he slumped in his seat. He really, really wished Wilson were here to tell him he was stupid for worrying. What a terrible time to be gone at a conference.
He shook his head, driving back to the apartment. Since when did he need Wilson to get through something tough?
Since always, a little voice in the back of his mind answered, and he couldn't help but agree. Wilson had been his rock for so long. From the infarction to today, he'd been there, aside from a few gaps in-between. He really did love the man.
And Jacob. God, Jacob! That kid had latched onto him since the day he'd walked into that exam room. He loved him like a… like he supposed a son should be loved by a parent. Not that he'd admit that to anyone. It'd only take two months for the kid to become… a part of him.
When he was safely inside the apartment, sitting on the couch, he pulled out his phone and stared at it for a moment.
He wanted to call Wilson. The man was perfect at calming him down. But he was bound to be busy, giving speeches and running around. He was always a social butterfly at those conventions. No, he couldn't call him. Though he did send him the photo of Jacob while he was thinking about it.
But… he did need to talk to someone. The bottle of scotch that they kept in the cabinet for special occasions was calling to him, much more loudly than he was comfortable with. He couldn't just… get drunk. Though he might have in the past, he had a responsibility to Jacob now. He winced just thinking about what the kid's reaction would be if he found House wasted.
He stared at the phone for a moment longer, then gave in. He pulled up the contact and pressed the green button.
"Hey, Cuddy," House said after a moment. "Want to come over?"
Buckets of thanks to Taylor1991, nickythehippi, Amber SanGiovanni, De-em2, and for ideas. Large, chocolate filled buckets.