Words: Approx 1700
Contains: Canon typical levels of incompetent child-minding and disparagement of a small child.
Summary: Written for the Career Day Challenge at house_wilson . An AU where House is a manny and Wilson is a gardener.
House watched with approval as Rachel picked up the star and, after a brief detour to her mouth, managed to put it through the star shaped hole in the shape sorter. He clicked the dog clicker and threw a Cheeto in her direction. Cuddy had promised him a fat bonus if her spawn managed to get into The Academy of the Snobby People, and even though it would be a feat equal to getting a sixty year old man with no legs into the one hundred metres Olympics final, he wasn't going to give up without a fight.
"Hows! Look! A moose!" The brat had predictably missed the Cheeto and had maneuvered herself over to the window, presumably to hunt it down. She was now staring out at the front lawn, her mouth hanging open in an expression of befuddlement that would not impress the school selection committee.
"I told you before, kid. It's House not Hows."
"Hows! A moose!" She jumped up and down in what he supposed was excitement. He wondered if he could talk Cuddy into sending her spawn somewhere less challenging. Like, a special needs school maybe.
The kid showed no sign of coming away from the window and getting back to her training so he slowly lumbered to his feet, feeling for his cane. The leg was giving him hell today. If he didn't need the money, and Cuddy's patronage for his failing musical career, he'd tell her where she could stuff this overblown babysitting job.
"Whatever is out there, kid, it's not gonna be a moose. Not in this neighbourhood. A beagle maybe, a ferret on a lead, a poodle with a fancy haircut, but nothing with antlers."
"Moose! Moose! Moose!" Rachel continued to chant. He looked out the window and confirmed, to his total lack of surprise, that there was a complete lack of animals of the moose persuasion out there. He was about to try and lead his reluctant student back to her toys when he saw him.
Not a moose, but a man.
A man who wasn't wearing a shirt. Instead he was stripped to the waist, displaying a nicely proportioned body and a more than acceptable set of abs, as he pushed a lawn mower up and down Cuddy's lawn, cutting it in the precise pattern, and to the exact depth, as prescribed by the Neighbourhood Association mafia.
Huh. Well that was definitely more interesting than a moose.
"Hows!" He felt a small sticky hand tugging at his sleeve and quickly pulled away.
" House ," he corrected futilely. "Look, kid, that's not a moose. I know it's difficult for you to understand. Moose, man - not easy to tell the difference between those two."
"Moose!" Rachel insisted, her face starting to screw up in that peculiar expression that House knew from bitter experience heralded the beginning of a complete meltdown. A diversion was called for.
"Hey, kid. Wanna watch Brownbeard?"
Rachel immediately turned away from the window, the elusive moose instantly forgotten. Her face lit up.
"Yes, you bloody scallywag!"
Well it was better than 'Hows' anyway. He grabbed the DVD from its hiding place, shoved it into the player and put the bowl containing the rest of the Cheetos into Rachel's eager hands. That should hold her for a while.
He went back to the window and peered out. Garden boy was still pushing the lawn mower and as he came towards the window House could see that he wasn't so much a boy as a man only a little younger than himself. Sweat was trickling down his tanned torso, disappearing tantalizing into the waistband of his jeans. As he watched the gardener stopped and straightened up, running a hand through his hair.
He was clearly a man in need of a cold drink. Normally House wouldn't play drinks waiter but for shirtless hot gardeners he'd make an exception. Besides, Cuddy always said he should try and be more sociable. It wouldn't hurt to be friendly.
"Hey, kid! I'm going outside for a minute; just keep watching the cartoon, okay?"
"Yes, you bloody scallywag!" Rachel replied, then immediately howled with laughter at her great wit. House just hoped that she wouldn't repeat it to her Mom over dinner. Cuddy's view of appropriate viewing material for four year olds probably wasn't the same as House's.
He detoured into the kitchen, picked up a bottle of Cuddy's ridiculously expensive 'organic' bottled water from the refrigerator and headed out into the garden to meet the moose.
James Wilson switched the mower off, enjoying the sudden quiet as the roar of the engine stopped. He straightened up with a sigh of relief and wiped a hand over his brow. It was hot, and this was his third lawn for the day. This wasn't how he had seen his life going when he started his college degree all those years ago. He'd had plans to get into pre-med and become a doctor. Then Danny had gotten worse. His Dad had let their insurance lapse the year before and the money for Danny's care had to come from somewhere. He'd quit school, planning to return when things settled down and they never really had. The GFC had wiped out his white collar job and, thrown onto the ailing job market with thousands of others, he made cash however he could.
He started packing up the mower, ready to move on to the next place when he became aware of a man watching him from the front door of the house. The guy was quite a bit older than himself, tall and grizzled, and leaning heavily on a cane in his right hand. In his left he bore a bottle of water. He was staring intently at Wilson, or rather, Wilson noticed with amusement, at Wilson's shirtless chest.
"Aren't you a little old to be a pool boy?" The man didn't move towards Wilson. His message was clear, if Wilson wanted the water he'd have to go over there and get it.
Wilson looked down at the mower. "You must be confused. This is a lawn mower not a beach ball."
The man shrugged. "Either way you're here for the enjoyment of the bored housewife brigade. Why else would you take your shirt off?"
"Because it's hot?"
"No, I don't think so."
"Whatever you say. You gonna bring me that drink or do we have to banter a little bit more first?"
The man waved his cane and stayed where he was. "Cripple."
Wilson conceded that round and went over to him.
"House," the man said as he handed over the bottle, not without first taking a long gulp of it himself.
Wilson looked at the Cuddy residence. "Yes, it is."
The man rolled his eyes and bounced his cane on the step a couple of times. "My name is House. Greg House."
"James Wilson." He would have offered his hand but somehow he got the impression that Greg House wouldn't be the handshaking type even if he wasn't encumbered by a cane. "So, if I'm the pool boy, you're what? The manny?"
House scowled at him. "I'm Rachel's tutor. I'm trying to get her into the Wally World Academy."
"I think that's the Waldenwood Academy ," Wilson corrected. Half his clients sent their young children there. Cuddy had privately expressed her doubts to him that Rachel would be admitted. Having met and talked with Rachel Wilson was inclined to share them.
"So how many of these women are you doing?" House said in a casual tone of voice. Wilson wasn't fooled. House had barely taken his eyes off him since he had appeared.
He took a slow sip of the water, and then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, aware of House's stare boring into him.
"Back to that again?" He was beginning to get a certain vibe off Rachel's manny. "What about you and Cuddy?"
"The human barracuda?" House shuddered. "More than my balls are worth to tangle with that. Even if I rolled that way."
"Which you don't."
"Which I don't." House looked him up and down deliberately. "So, not the bored housewives, then? Their husbands?"
"I don't sleep with married men."
"I'm not married."
Their eyes met, and there was a clear invitation in House's. Wilson found himself smiling.
Both men turned around to see Rachel standing in the doorway. Her clothes, body and hair were soaking wet. She was grinning.
"Hows! You bloody scallywag! I'm a pirate! I walk the plank!" She giggled and did a little pirate dance on the spot.
"Oh, for the love of.... " House groaned. "If you've gotten water everywhere Cuddy will kill me." He turned to Wilson hopefully. "I could use some help with the munchkin, pool boy."
Wilson laughed. "Oh no, I've got other clients waiting. Those lawns don't mow themselves. I'm sure you can handle one small child. I don't intend to be here when Cuddy gets home and you have to explain you were neglecting her child because you were busy flirting with the 'pool boy'." He ignored the betrayed look on House's face and waved to Rachel. "Bye, Rachel."
"Bye bye, moosey." Rachel waved back and put her hands up to her head to form antlers before again collapsing into giggles.
"So you'll be here next week?" House asked as Wilson resumed packing up his lawn mower.
"As long as the grass keeps growing."
"Good." Without another word House turned and went back into the house with Rachel. The front door closed firmly behind them, although Wilson did catch a glimpse of a face looking out at him from the window, and it wasn't Rachel's.
He smiled again and reached for his shirt. He'd had a feeling that attracting Rachel's attention from outside the window would pay dividends. Taking off his shirt probably hadn't hurt either.
Cuddy had told him that Rachel's new tutor was 'interesting' and she hadn't been wrong.
House's old car was parked haphazardly on the street and as he passed it Wilson slipped his business card under the wipers.
Next week was a long time away after all.