Disclaimer: House, Cuddy, et al are not my property. Thomas Thornton, Jensen, Abby, Patterson, Belle, and anybody else you didn't see on your TV screen during the series are my property.
Series: This story follows the Hopes and Fears of All the Years in the Pranks series. See the listing in my profile for all of them starting from the first, When Pranks Go Wrong - and for other non Pranks stories for variety if you'd like. Each Pranks story does have its own plot arc, but you'll miss an awful lot of background in the current Thornton sequence if you haven't read at least Verdict, Legacy, and Hopes and Fears before tackling this one. The next story after this one will have a strong case focus and a lot of work and team going on, just in case you're starting to get tired of Thomas. However, we're not to that one for a while yet, and Father's Day (naturally) continues to focus mainly on the relationship between House and his biological father.
Reminder: The Pranks series diverged from the TV show in the middle of the Greater Good. Nothing after that from TV happened in this universe, and no information given later (including father details, etc.) applies to Pranks. However, it might have been a later episode that first gave me the idea for this story. :) I won't tell you now which episode, but you should be able to guess once we get there. :) :) I go completely different directions with that seed idea than Shore did, though.
Enjoy Father's Day. Short first chapter as an appetizer, but it gains speed fairly quickly, and this story has a lot of meat on its bones. It is a full meal, not a fluffy dessert. Thank you to all the loyal readers out there.
"Go. Treat." House capped the marker with a flourish, another case completed, and the team stood from their seats around the table and headed for the elevator. He could feel the antennae still pointed backwards even as they left the room. The problem with training diagnosticians was that they sometimes widened the focus beyond just the current patient and started analyzing other irrelevant things. Such as why he was on edge today.
Not that he was especially on edge today, he insisted to himself. He limped into his office and picked up his ball, starting a bounce pattern against the wall. This weekend didn't matter that much, and even with an epic fail, he would still have his family, and nothing that mattered would have changed. He was just . . . he debated words for a minute, rejecting the first several to come to mind before selecting curious. Nice, bland term, could apply to anything.
The return to Lexington at the end of January had gone smoothly, so smoothly that he had spent the month since analyzing it from every possible direction, inspecting for anything he had missed. Thornton and Cuddy grew closer all the time. He knew that she called him a few times a week now just to talk, and watching them together that weekend had been a wonder. Of course, she lacked the Everest of background that he was laboriously summiting himself, but still, she hadn't had that much time with Thornton, and she was already closer to him than to her own father.
As for the girls, Rachel was a fan for life. House had already resigned himself to an eventual pony once she was a little older; she would never let the subject drop at this point. Even Abby, while still watching, was warming up to the old man. Thornton was so good with the girls. Given only a little more time, he would have both granddaughters wrapped around his little finger - or vice versa.
That was the issue that House kept coming down to in differential the last month, Thornton and the girls. He no longer thought the old man was an actual danger to them, although he still would be watching like a hawk, of course. As he should. As any parent should. But seeing how much Thornton enjoyed the girls and Cuddy's company, House couldn't help wondering again where he stood himself. Even in the phone conversations and emails between them since that visit, the girls were often mentioned. Was it the girls after all who were the real attraction? What would happen on further exposure to himself, once the old man knew him better? Would he turn away then? He was slowly worming his way into granddaughters; maybe at that point, he would have what he was after.
Jensen had given him that quietly amused look when he finally, awkwardly wondered that aloud. "He does like you, too," the psychiatrist had assured him.
"It isn't a question of liking; I'm just wondering what his real goal is," House had countered. "He doesn't even know me. You can't like somebody you don't know. No data to go on."
"He wants to know you better, but the fact isn't going to change once he does. He is interested in you, Dr. House, not just the girls, and you aren't going to fade with him on closer acquaintance. People who really get to know you like you better the closer you let them get."
As often as Jensen said something like that, the thought was still hard to accept. House bounced the ball rhythmically, trying to settle his thoughts. Tomorrow loomed. A test, he had called it mentally. One day with no girls or even Cuddy as a buffer, one undiluted, raw dose of him to see if the old man would have had enough and be getting tired of him by the end of it. Lab results could assist a differential, after all. Yes, this was a lab test. Nothing more. The results didn't really matter, whichever answer was delivered, and would just be another piece of data to add to the whiteboard of his mind. He wasn't aware of how hard the ball was striking the wall until Wilson spoke from the doorway.
"You're going to knock that wall down at this rate."
House immediately changed the direction of his next bounce. His aim was faultless, but Wilson dodged, and the ball sailed out the door, slicing through a passing group of two nurses and a doctor. They pulled up sharply, glanced toward the office, and then walked on without comment other than a roll of the eyes. Wilson grinned. "Missed."
"Oh, shut up. And go get that ball."
"Get it yourself," Wilson replied. "You threw it."
House started to get up, but Wilson went after the ball before he was fully balanced on his feet. "All right, if you're going to go all dramatic, I'll get it. Can't have you losing your balls." That last sentence was loud enough to be overhead through the hall. "Here you are." He reentered with the ball, then hesitated, looking at his friend, who was now standing up. "You're not - not totally - being dramatic, are you? Is your leg hurting worse today?"
House limped over to him and snatched the ball before Wilson could annoyingly assign psychosomatic reasons to that fact. "Mind your own business, Wilson."
Wilson glanced out the window. Not bad weather for the beginning of March, certainly not warm yet, but the month was choosing the lamb over the lion. The oncologist walked over to one of the seats in front of the desk, sitting down so that House hopefully would himself. "This weekend is going to go all right," he stated. "For you, at least."
"So now you're an oracle. I . . . wait a minute. For me, at least? You're worried about your weekend?"
Wilson took a deep breath and reached into a pocket, pulling out the small box. He handed it across the desk silently.
"Sorry, Wilson, but you're too late. I'm already married." House already was breaking into a smile even as he tossed the irresistible quip across the desk. He picked up the box and opened it, studying the ring. "It's about time."
"I wanted to be sure I was ready. I don't want to do this again; four times is more than enough." Wilson smoothed his tie with restless fingers. "Do you think she'll say yes?"
"Yes, I think she'll say yes. Congratulations. When are you going to pop the question?"
"I thought maybe tomorrow afternoon, once Daniel is down for his nap. She's had a rough week this week at work; two patients died. We'll just have a family night tonight and let her unwind some." House looked at his watch, and Wilson noticed. "What time does Thornton's plane get in?"
"3:00. Cuddy should be here any minute, right on . . . schedule," he finished as Cuddy appeared in the doorway.
"We need to get going, Greg." She suddenly spotted the ring and came over for a closer inspection, and House handed her the box. "Nice. When are you going to ask her?"
"Tomorrow afternoon, hopefully," Wilson replied. "If that isn't the moment, I'll definitely do it some time this weekend. Do you think she'll say yes?"
"Yes," Cuddy agreed. "Congratulations, Wilson." She returned the ring to him, then turned to face her husband, her posture full of schedule mania crossed with sympathetic understanding. "We ought to be heading for Newark."
"Too early," he grumbled, though he promptly started to stand up. She, too, seemed to detect some extra tension in his leg; he saw her eyes narrow and quickly pushed on. "We don't really have to work in a traffic buffer today. If he lands before we get there, he'll just wait for us. Not like we could get rid of him if we tried."
Cuddy closed in next to him as they started to the door, not too close to crowd him but close enough that he felt her presence. "Good luck this weekend, House," Wilson called after them.
"You, too. Not that you'll need it."
Wilson watched them leave, then gave the ring one final inspection before pocketing it. Finally, he stood up and turned out the lights in House's office on his way out. He hadn't said, not now at least, that his friend's courage this weekend had been what made him pick this weekend for himself. He had no doubts at all about Sandra and had intended to do this anyway, had had the ring for two weeks, but he had been waiting for the perfect moment, and none so far had presented. Either she had had a bad day, or he had, or Daniel was fussy, or something. This weekend. He would do it this weekend. He hoped House would give Thornton a chance himself tomorrow instead of challenging from the start, but he was still amazed that his friend had suggested the day at all. No safety net, no buffers, just the two of them alone. Extendedly alone. It was precisely the sort of pinned-down situation House usually avoided. "Good luck, House," he repeated, and he added after a moment, "Good luck, Thornton."
Thomas almost had his nose pressed to the window next to his first class seat on the plane as he watched the landscape whip by underneath them. The plane was descending now and had dropped below the clouds, and he could see the ground clearly, even if not the airport yet. One word resonated throughout his soul. Invited. He wasn't creeping into New Jersey the back way this time and hiding or attempting to, at least, in the rear of the crowd. This time, he was invited. He would be met at the airport, would be going to their house tonight instead of a hotel, and they would all have an evening as a family, even if one not fully acknowledged yet.
Then tomorrow. As much as he was looking forward to tonight, he was looking forward even more to tomorrow. Just he and his son, finally, spending a day together. He would have to be careful not to be too eager with Greg; he knew he could still spook his son by coming on too strong. Still, the taming after the example of the Little Prince was working, and the fox was coming up right beside him now, even if not fully pettable yet. In the privacy of the plane, Thomas didn't try to hide his feelings. He pushed even closer to the window and watched the ground, willing it to pass even faster, cutting away the distance left between, bringing them together.