Christmas Countdown: December 15
“Are you out of your mind?”
House was used to that kind of comment, but usually it was being made about him. This time, Cuddy was confronting Wilson. While he preferred tormenting the administrator himself, House couldn’t deny that he found the concept of Wilson taking a go at it appealing. In a decidedly better frame of mind than he’d been in a few minutes ago, he settled against the doorframe to watch. Too bad there wasn’t time to make popcorn.
“You did say that you were shorthanded in staffing the annual Pediatrics Department Christmas Party,” Wilson chided her. “In fact, you were begging at the staff meeting just this morning.”
“Yes, but I meant I needed people who were willing to help,” she fumed. “Not him. These children are scarred and traumatized enough as it is just from being in the hospital over the holiday, they don’t need House utterly destroying Christmas for them too.”
Wilson pulled out the big guns - those big, brown eyes. They ought to be registered as a lethal weapon, because it was humanly impossible to withstand them. House should know; it was how his lover managed to drag him to Pediatrics in the first place.
“He’ll be on his best behavior,” Wilson assured her, wrapping an arm around Cuddy’s shoulders and leading her away. “Greg’s just going to man the punch bowl. Even he can handle that.”
As Wilson walked away, he made a shooing gesture behind his back at House. Rolling his eyes, House limped over to the proper station. Wilson was so going to owe him for this; it would serve the other doctor right if House called in his debt of three blowjobs all that night.
House got himself into place and started stirring the punch, which was an obnoxiously festive shade of red. He was just contemplating the benefits of spiking it with Vicodin when the first kiddie showed up, parent in tow. He shoved the thought aside for later; it would certainly make handling a roomful of hyper children easier. Most of the parents and all of the hospital staff would probably thank him for it.
Remembering his promise to Wilson, and the likelihood of the number of blowjobs being reduced if he misbehaved, House plastered a sickly smile on his face. “Would you like to have a glass of colored sugar water?”
The little girl eyed him suspiciously. Her arm was in a cast, but otherwise, she looked fairly healthy. “I thought it was punch?”
“Oh, it is, honey, the man was just teasing,” the mother glared at House over her daughter’s head.
“You caught me,” House smirked. “It’s actually carbonated tomato juice, very good for flushing out the ol’ digestive track, if you know what I mean.” When the little girl screwed up her face and looked like she was going to cry, House relented. “No, it’s really colored sugar water. Try it, it’s nummy.”
He handed a glass to the child and her disapproving mother. The girl took a cautious sip and giggled, clearly pleased.
“Mommy, I like colored sugar water,” she announced. “Can we have some more when we get home?”
“Sure you can, kid,” House assured her. “It’s called soda pop. In solid form, it’s called breakfast cereal. Knock yourself out.”
With a huff of disapproval, the mother ushered her daughter away. House watched as she made a beeline for Cuddy. Before the administrator could descend on him, however, Wilson grabbed House by the arm and steered him away.
“Let’s find something else for you to do,” the other doctor suggested. He all but dragged House over to where an elaborate chair was set up next to a large pile of presents. Even in his pique, though, Wilson was careful not to walk too fast for House’s bum leg to keep up with. “This will actually play to your strengths. All you have to do is keep the kids out of the presents. You’re not to resort to pushing them away with your cane and try not to make anyone cry. Other than that, you’ve pretty much got free rein.”
House limped over to the chair, grateful to have the opportunity to sit down. “That doesn’t sound too taxing.”
Wilson put a hand under House’s elbow, keeping him from flopping down in the seat. “You don’t want to do that.”
“I don’t?” House asked. “Hmmm. . . stand here on the hard floor or lavish in the comfort of a cushy chair? When you put it like that, of course I’ll stand.”
“The chair is for Santa,” Wilson explained. “If you sit in it, you’ll have every child in this room on your lap in less than five minutes.” He waited a beat. “And not all of them are potty trained.”
House considered. “On second thought, I’ll stand.”
Wilson patted him on the arm. “Good choice. Best to leave the Santa routine to the professionals. The man Cuddy hired for the evening should be here before too long.”
For a long while, House was left alone. He leaned on his cane and watched the proceedings, making pithy comments to himself that he hoped he remembered to share with Wilson later. It was really too bad that he hadn’t thought to bring his ducklings with him. Well, the male ducklings anyway. Cameron would have been in heaven, having a roomful of wounded children to coo over. \ Unfortunately, House’s respite didn’t last. A very young boy made his way over to him, evidently having slipped the parental leash, at least temporarily. He wasn’t dressed in hospital garb, indicating the he was probably a sibling of a hospitalized kid. The child eyed the pile of presents, but his gaze was mainly focused on House.
“Your beard’s not long enough,” the boy eventually commented. “An’ it’s supposed to be white. You’re not fat either; you’re not a very good Santa.”
“I’m not Santa,” House corrected him. Even he was appalled at the notion, but then he got a good idea. “Who is this Santa you speak of anyway?”
“You don’t know who Santa Claus is?” The boy asked. “He lives in the North Pole and spends all year making toys.”
House tilted his head. “Why?”
His question threw the youngster for a loop. “So on Christmas Eve night, he can deliver them to children all over the world.”
“Why?” House bit back a grin. The way he figured it, he was striking back for parents of toddlers everywhere. Children had been oppressing adults with the ‘why’ question for centuries, it was about time one adult struck back.
“So you’ll be good for goodness’ sake,” the little boy stated in a tone that clearly indicated that it should be obvious.
House thought about it for a minute and then grinned. “Why?”
The little boy stuttered before answering. “Because, that’s why.”
“Timmy, there you are,” a harried father came out of the crowd and picked the child up. “We’ve been looking for you everywhere.”
Thankfully, Santa made his appearance, accompanied by several hospital staff acting as an entourage. As the children surged forward to receive their gifts, House shambled off to the buffet table. While the kiddies ooohed and aaahed over their presents, House stuffed his face with free food. That’s where he still was some time later when Wilson came looking for him.
“Ah, there you are,” the other man commented. He shook his head fondly as he took in the sight of House sitting on a child-sized plastic chair, feet up on a table, and a pile of empty plates littering the area around him. “I see you helped yourself.”
“You know, these parties aren’t too bad,” House stated as he accepted a hand up from Wilson. “At least the chow’s free.”
“And I hear you didn’t send any child screaming from the room,” Wilson said. “Congratulations.”
“It is the season,” House said loftily.
“Come on, let’s go home,” Wilson looked around quickly and, seeing that everyone was too busy to notice them, kissed House quickly. “I do believe you get a reward for being a good boy.”
“I’m not a good boy,” House leered at him. “You wouldn’t want me if I was.”
”I beg your pardon,” Wilson protested. “I happen to like good boys.”
“No you don’t,” House argued. “You like me because I’m naughty. You want the bad guy, with the two days’ worth of stubble, a motorcycle, and a leather jacket. You’re bored with good; you always were.”
Wilson looked at him for a long minute and eventually sighed. “You’re probably right.”
“I always am,” House said smugly. He pinched Wilson on the ass and chuckled when his lover yelped. “Now, I believe you said something about going home?”
”I believe I did,” Wilson replied, leading the way towards the door.
House followed happily. “Look what I bought from the Rent-A-Santa.”
When Wilson obediently turned to look, House brandished a red Santa hat at him.
“What are you going to do with that?” He asked, the expression on his face making it clear that he was almost afraid to know the answer.
“When we get home, little boy, you’re going to sit on Santa’s lap and tell me what you want for Christmas,” House waggled his eyebrows. “And we’ll talk about the first thing that comes up.” He pretended to think about it for a minute. “Hmmm. . . maybe that’ll end up being a discussion about what I want for Christmas.”
Wilson rolled his eyes, but his footsteps as he headed for the exit, were a little faster. “You’re incorrigible.”
House grinned; that was exactly his point. Finally in the Christmas frame of mind, he hurried as much as he was capable as he followed Wilson. As he did, House couldn’t resist one last quip.
“Is that a reindeer in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?”
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