I hadn't changed this to completed because I knew I wanted to do this epilogue. But I wasn't able to do it, because I was working on the new story. Then our Fox Friday night challenge was "House admits he's happy" and I thought it fit with what I wanted to do here. So this is now the final end to this story. Thanks to everyone who read it! If you have the time and inclination, check out my story Come In From the Rain.
What I Did For Love – Final Epilogue
House knew it was morning. Even with his eyes and the curtains closed, he could sense the sunlight peeking through. And it was later morning too. Subtle clues told him that. For one, Casey was not in bed with him. She was usually up between eight and eight-thirty on weekends, though he knew she'd be up earlier today. There were also the small family noises. They all knew to let him sleep in on Saturday, so they were usually quiet, but by nine, they'd start moving around a little more.
If he kept his eyes closed, he could pretend it was way too early to get up. And he really wasn't in any hurry to start THIS day. The sooner it started, the sooner it would be over. No thanks.
But if it was going on ten, he wouldn't be able to avoid it. If he wasn't in the kitchen for coffee by ten-thirty, Casey would come in and wake him up. Especially today.
Uh-oh, he thought, it was ten o'clock. Stephen was under strict orders not to start working on the jalopy until ten. Not just for his father's sake, but for peace with the neighbors as well.
But if he was playing with the engine now, it had to be ten. Actually, the car was pretty sweet, though he'd never admit it to his sons. A 1970 Mustang, one of the original muscle cars. How Stephen had found it, House would never know. The kid had a knack. He and Charlie had pooled their money to buy it and Stephen promised to have it running by the time they got their driver's licenses. House had been skeptical, because the kid had never touched an engine, but he also knew when one of his boys wanted something, they usually found a way to do it.
So Stephen perused the internet and searched libraries and book stores for everything he could learn about the car. And to everyone's amazement, it was actually running. There were a few more things he needed to do, but in a few weeks, when the boys could get their licenses (God help us all!), the car would be ready.
It was weird how the kid got up early every weekend, working on that car. Why didn't he sleep in, like his brother? He knew that Charlie was still sound asleep. Of course, Casey would be waking him up soon as well. And stopping Stephen from working on the car.
She had the day planned down to the minute. She had told him that numerous time. She had even recited the schedule, thought he hadn't listened. Why bother? She would tell him where she wanted him to be at any given moment anyway.
He turned over and snuggled into his pillow for what was surely the last time this morning. He was right.
"Greg?" he heard her call in a moderate voice. "Are you awake?"
Ignore the voice, he told himself, and sleep a little more.
But soon the voice was beside the bed.
"Come on, Greg, you need to get up. It's ten o'clock and there are million things to do."
"Not for me to do." He grumbled.
"That's not exactly true, but in any case, I need to get this bedroom cleaned up and I want to do it now. You know the schedule."
Exasperated, she asked, "Greg, did you ever listen to me when I told you the schedule?"
"Were you talking?"
She narrowed her eyes at him and said, "You have ten minutes to be out of this bed and in the kitchen."
"Hey, I need more time. I'm a cripple."
"That's why I gave you ten. Charlie's getting five.
She left the bedroom and he heard her walk across the hall and call out, "Charlie, get your ass out of bed now! You have five minutes."
He heard a groan from the other room. Charlie hated to be awakened like that. He could get up early when he had a football game or basketball practice, but when he wanted to sleep, he wanted to be left alone.
Charlie was a star athlete, very popular, president of any club he joined. He had also dated all the cheerleaders and most popular girls in school. And there was always a different one. Last night, he'd taken the little redhead to the dinner, but he was bringing the blonde today.
House knew the kid had lost his virginity at age thirteen, when he was already pursued by girls. So House had sat both boys down, given them each a box of condoms and told them to be smart and stay healthy, alive and child-free. Charlie had gone quickly through the box and several others. House always asked if he needed more. He didn't' want the kid riding bareback because he didn't have money for rubbers.
But House doubted Stephen had even opened his box. Or maybe he sold it to his brother. Stephen was the serious, intense kid. He ran track because that was a solitary sport, which suited Stephen better than team sports. But he'd also inherited his mother's theatrical streak and always had a lead role in the school shows.
And it wasn't that Stephen didn't like girls, he was just more discriminating than Charlie. He was almost fifteen before he went on his first date. He stayed away from the popular girls, preferring the quiet, studious girls instead. And he would date the same girl for weeks or months. In fact, he'd been with the little brunette for almost three months. Nice girl, though she was scared of House.
He finally dragged himself out of bed and limped to the bathroom. He took his time even though he could hear Casey calling to him to hurry up.
He looked at his reflection in the mirror. God, when had he gotten so old? The gray had overpowered whatever hair was left. Bags under the eyes and wrinkles. The sixties were not a good decade for him. Not that he anticipated his seventies to be any better.
And this was going to be an especially bad day.
Casey breezed into the bathroom. "Come on, Greg, let's go. Lots to do. This is going to be a wonderful day!"
"Says who?" he mumbled.
"Oh, stop being a gloomy Gus. It's a wonderful, happy day. And the weather is perfect."
"What's so perfect about it?"
"The sun is shining, the sky is blue, not a cloud in sight."
"It'll probably be a hundred degrees by noon and the humidity will suffocate us until it causes a thunderstorm."
Casey sighed and he cast a glance at her.
"Of, course the day could get better if you'd like to return to bed with me for a few minutes. That would definitely improve the day."
"Greg, as exciting as a quickie with you sounds, you know I don't have time."
"Not on the schedule, huh?"
"Nope, sorry. I can pencil you in for later, will that work?"
He glared at her and returned to examining his face in the mirror. She just shook her head. She was used to her husband's moods and had learned to ignore them.
She kissed him on the cheek as she went past. "I love you, too. Come on, your coffee's getting cold.
An hour later, House was still sitting on the deck with his coffee and was still wearing his t-shirt and sleep pants when he heard a rustle of activity from inside. He turned and saw the four of them laughing and grabbing water bottles and food.
He was even more depressed when he realized this was probably the last time they would be spending time in his house. No matter how much he had complained about them over the years, he knew that now he would miss them.
She spotted him on the deck and came outside to sit beside him.
"Uncle Greg, come on inside. The girls want to say hi."
"I've said hi before. No need to do it today."
"Well, you'd better get moving anyway. Aunt Casey is going to blast you if you don't keep to her schedule."
"Screw the schedule. Sit down, K."
Tiffany smiled at the use of the nickname he'd given her when she was eleven. He always continued to use it.
He looked at her intently. "Are you sure you want to do this?"
She laughed. "Uncle Greg, you've been asking me that for the past six months, everyday for the last six weeks."
"I know. But you haven't given me the right answer."
"I've given you the only answer I can. Yes, I'm sure I want to do this."
"But are you really sure?"
"Uncle Greg, come on, you've known Mike almost as long as I have. You like him."
"Just because I like him doesn't mean I want him marrying you."
Tiffany sighed. "We've been through this before. I've known Mike since college. I'm twenty-nine years old. I think I know what I'm doing."
"Yeah, everyone says they know what they're doing, right up until divorce court."
She rolled her eyes. "We're not going to end up in divorce court."
"You don't know that."
"Neither do you."
"Do you know how many marriages end in divorce?"
"I'm sure you do, but you still married Aunt Casey."
"It always is when it refers to you."
He glared at her, but didn't answer.
"Uncle Greg, I have to get ready. The girls are waiting for me. Please, be happy for me."
She went back into the house and took her friends to her bedroom to get ready for her wedding.
"How can I be happy for you?" House asked to the empty deck. "When I don't even know how to be happy for me?"
Three o'clock came much faster than House wanted. Everyone was bustling around, laughing, greeting each other and having a wonderful time. House really wanted a drink, but he'd promised Tiffany he wouldn't drink until after the ceremony. Luckily, the reception was right after the ceremony and in the same place, so he wouldn't have to wait long.
The house where the wedding was being held was really very lovely. Michael Evans came from a well-to-do family. Their home, about an hour from House and Casey's, was large and had a beautiful garden with a lovely rose trellis. The justice of the peace was waiting in front of it. To the right stood the groom.
Michael really was a terrific guy who would make a great husband for anyone who wasn't his niece. He was tall and strong, with an athlete's build. Considering that he was a hockey player, that made sense. He'd studied Sports Medicine at Penn with Tiffany – that's where they'd met. He'd also played hockey in college. After graduating, he'd played for a few farm teams, but he'd just been signed by the Philadelphia Flyers. That's when he'd asked Tiffany to marry him so that they could start their lives together in Philly.
After graduating from Penn, Tiffany had landed a job as an athletic trainer with the US Olympic team and spent three years traveling with them, so her relationship with Mike had been mostly long distance. But when Mike had proposed, she had left the Olympic team and come home. She and Mike had gotten an apartment in Philadelphia which, of course, was in visiting distance to Princeton.
And recently, Tiffany had gotten a job as a trainer for Villanova University, which was located just outside of the city. She and Mike were buying a house in the Philadelphia suburbs, in close proximity to both of their careers.
Tiffany had always loved sports and she'd turned that love into a career that she also loved. She had considered becoming an athlete, but her uncle's influence had made her want to consider medicine. But she didn't relish the idea of the years of medical school and internship. Sports Medicine was the better choice for her. As an Athletic Trainer, she was trained in the care and prevention of illness and injury related to sports and exercise. It only required an undergraduate degree and taking the NATA test (National Athletic Trainers Association).
And now, thanks to Mike, House and Wilson were guaranteed season tickets – box seats too – for all the Flyers games. Which was sweet.
And he had 'ins' on the other sports teams in Philly and New York, so he got them tickets to those as well. And he was an easygoing guy that enjoyed watching games with them. He'd even joined their poker game on occasion.
Everyone agreed he was terrific. House thought so too. He wished the guy really good luck and wanted him to be happily married. Just not to HIS niece.
As House stood by the French doors of the house, he took a good look at the crowd. The men of the bridal party stood there, Michael, with his best man, his brother Kevin. Next to them were the two young House men, both ushers.
Both boys were as tall as their father, with his beautiful blue eyes. But, thankfully -- in his mind -- the rest of their looks came from their mother. Their fine features and killer smiles were all Casey. They looked devastating standing there, a matched set in their navy blue suits.
Casey was sitting on one of the lawn chairs set up for the guests. She was still so lovely. Fifty-six looked good on her. She had turned around to say something to Wilson. Damn him! Why did gray hair on him look distinguished while House just looked old. And the damn guy still had a full head of hair! He also still had the barracuda beside him. How he had managed to spend all of these years with Janice, House would never know. But they seemed okay together, so who was he to judge?
Casey was watching him and she smiled and winked when she saw him staring. He smiled slightly and turned his head. He was surrounded by three lovely young women. Tiffany's friends had stayed that throughout the years.
Judy, the maid of honor, had just gotten married a few months ago. She was a staff accountant for a local bank.
Terry was a nurse. Wilson had recommended her for a job and PPTH. She'd gotten married three years earlier and had given birth to her son a year before.
Nicole, the barracuda's daughter, had become a lawyer. She worked for a New York law firm and was too involved in her career to worry about men. But thanks to Wilson's influence over the past fifteen years, she wasn't as disillusioned about men as her mother had been.
Despite their very different lives and locations, they remaining close and in contact with each other. They were lining up, getting ready to march up to the gazebo.
But where was the bride?
Just as that question came to him, he felt a hand on his arm. He turned and saw her.
She was a vision. The simple, strapless white dress, fell just below her knees. Her brown hair was pulled back from her face with a white band rimmed with little white silk flowers and the rest of her hair hung in loose curls down her back. She was smiling nervously at him, but her eyes were sparkling.
"How do I look?" she asked him.
He couldn't find his voice for several moments. Finally, he croaked out, "You look beautiful."
She gave him a radiant smile.
"Just remember, you can still change your mind," he told her, "Don't worry about the money or all these people. Fuck them."
She stared at him. "Why aren't you happy for me?"
"It's not that I'm not happy for you."
"Well, it's seems as though that's what it is."
He stared at the floor and twirled his cane for bit, then whispered, "You don't need me to be happy for you."
She was amazed at his words. "Of course I do, I wouldn't be who I am without you."
"Nah, your aunt…"
"Aunt Casey was wonderful. She still is. But you gave me what I needed. You were a father. You never tried to take my own dad's place, but you always let me know that you supported me and cared about me. I would never have made it through life without you."
He looked like he didn't quite believe her.
"Uncle Greg, you are the most important person in my life. I want you to be happy for me, because I am so happy and I never would have been without you. Now, how about you walk me through this garden so that I can get married?"
He nodded, again unable to speak. She linked her arm in his and slowly, taking care due to his leg, they walked through the garden and past the guests to the gazebo. When they got there, he kissed her on the cheek and put her hand in Mike's. Then he made his way to the chair beside Casey.
As the Justice of the Peace spoke the words of the simple, non-denominational ceremony, he thought about her words.
She wanted him to be happy for her. He looked around at the people who were his friends. He actually had more than one friend. He looked at Mike's parents, nice people who thought he was very smart and interesting. And didn't mind his sarcasm at all.
His eyes landed on his handsome sons, young men who had the world ahead of them. They were bright, wonderful boys whom he adored. Casey reached over and took his hand and he marveled at the fact that he had somehow managed to stay married to this amazing women for all of these years.
Then he looked at the young woman standing there and reciting vows with her very soon-to-be husband. For all intents and purposes, she was his daughter. And she was leaving him today.
The justice of the peace pronounced them married. They kissed and turned to the assembled guest, who clapped and cheered.
As soon as Tiffany turned, she caught House's eye, smiled and winked at him. They started down the aisle, followed by their wedding party.
A thought occurred to him then. His family, his life made him happy. Really happy. He knew that was true, not that he dwelled on it. But he did know it.
So why couldn't he be happy for Tiffany beginning her marriage, her own family, her life? He knew why.
The bride and groom had just finished their first dance and D.J. was making another announcement.
"The bride will now dance with her uncle."
House groaned. He had not wanted to do this and had complained that he couldn't dance anyway. But both Tiffany and Casey had overruled him, pointing out that he could dance a slow dance. Then Tiffany had pleaded and he had relented.
He stood up and Tiffany came and took his arm, leading him onto the dance floor. The music started.
Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy at play?
I don't remember getting older, when did they?
House had to smile, even though he had known what song it would be. Of course, Casey's niece would pick 'Sunrise, Sunset' from Fiddler on the Roof for them to dance to. But he got solemn again when he remembered why they were here.
"Uncle Greg, please be happy." She whispered into his ear as they danced. "This is one of the best days of my life. I love Mike so much and we are going to have a good marriage. There is no reason for you be worried about me."
"I'm not worried about you."
"Then what are you worried about?"
"I'm worried about me?"
"Why?" she looked alarmed.
"Because you don't need me anymore. You have him." He avoided her eyes as he spoke.
A soft smile came to lips. "Uncle Greg, that's not true. I will always need you. You saved my childhood, my life. I can't imagine my world without you in it."
"But you've got a husband now."
"But you're my…father. I love you and I need you. I always will."
"You don't need an old man like me."
"You're not old. You're…timeless. And I wouldn't have anything that I have today if you hadn't come into my life."
He saw the truth in her lovely eyes.
"So can you please be happy for me?" she pleaded.
He nodded. "Yeah, I guess I can. I'm happy for you."
She smiled at him.
"But he'd better treat you good. And keep the season tickets coming."
One season following another…laden with happiness and tears.
Sunrise, sunset. Sunrise, sunset….