Okay, last chapter for this one. Thanks for all your lovely reviews along the way, and thanks for sticking with it. I don't own House or Wilson.
# # #
"So let me get this right." Wilson intoned. "You're willingly going all the way to Cleveland to meet a couple of people that you've only ever talked to online?"
"Not just online." House answered as he packed a suitcase. "I've talked to them on the phone, too."
"Whatever." Wilson shook his head. "This is just so...not like you. What's changed?"
House shrugged as he finished packing and zipped the suitcase closed. "I guess you could say we took a page out of your book, only Brandon isn't an insufferable jerk like.."
"Tucker. Right." Wilson rolled his eyes. "So why Cleveland?"
"It's almost halfway between here and there and...hello, ever hear of something called the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?" House answered with a slightly incredulous expression. "Just seemed like the right way to celebrate a year of sobriety."
Wilson looked briefly confused. "Are you working with a different calendar than I am? Seems like it's been longer than a year."
"Not just for me." House responded. "For him, too."
"Oh." Wilson answered. "I didn't know that he...had his own issues."
House smiled slightly and left the bedroom, rolling his suitcase behind him. "You never asked."
"Right." Wilson let out a resigned sigh as he followed House out of his bedroom. "How did you meet this guy, anyway?"
"Online medical forum." House explained. "He posted a case, I responded, he e-mailed me. Turns out we have a lot of things in common. He's a pretty cool guy."
"Huh." Wilson nodded thoughtfully. "So he's...a friend."
House gave Wilson a sharp look. "Yes, he's a friend. Figured you'd be happy that you weren't the only one."
"Believe me, I am." Wilson told him. "I'm just surprised, that's all. In a good way."
House did one final check of the apartment before leaving, Wilson following close behind as they climbed into Wilson's car for the trip to Newark.
Wilson couldn't help but notice his friend's increasing tension as they drove closer and closer to Newark. "Everything okay, House?"
"Fine." House answered shortly, playing with his bottom lip as he stared out the car window.
The pair continued to drive in silence until Wilson broke it again. "You know, there's a difference between chatting with someone online and meeting them in person. I'd probably be nervous, too."
"I said I was fine." House replied with a tone that warned Wilson to back off.
"Didn't say you weren't." Wilson answered calmly.
They pulled into the airport, and Wilson started to find a parking space. House simply shook his head. "Don't bother. Just drop me off."
"Are you sure?" Wilson wrinkled his brows in concern.
House merely rolled his eyes. "I'm a big boy, Wilson. Pretty sure I can find my way around an airport."
Wilson chuckled slightly as he hit the trunk release button on his key chain. "Then you should have no problem dragging your own suitcase out of the trunk."
House fixed him with a brief glare before he nodded slightly. "See you Sunday."
Wilson nodded in return as he watched House climb out of the car and disappear, rolling his suitcase behind him. It was good to see him building connections, even if it was just online. As House had told him before, baby steps. It seemed that both he and House were making those baby steps in their own way.
# # #
House blew out a long sigh as he left Wilson behind to make his way through the airport. Wilson had been half right when he had made that little comment about nerves.
He wasn't nervous about meeting Brandon face to face. On the contrary, House was looking forward to that. It was the idea of meeting Rosalie that had House twisted in knots. The two of them had been e-mailing and instant messaging for the better part of a year now, thanks to Brandon's interference. They had even managed a couple of conversations over webcam, full of teasing, flirting, and laughter on both their parts.
House found himself enamored of her, and if Brandon's messages were any indication, Rosalie felt similarly. That was all well and good while House still had an online relationship with both of them, but now things were about to change in a big way.
As he boarded the plane and settled himself into his seat, the doubts that had started to creep up on him during the drive to Newark took root. There were so many ways this could all go wrong, and House found himself debating the wisdom of getting on this plane to start with.
He huffed irritably and stuck in his earbuds, cranking up his I Pod to discourage any conversation with his seatmates. The time passed quickly, and soon the flight attendant announced their landing in Cleveland.
House eased himself out of his seat, the I Pod earbuds still firmly stuck in his ears as he deplaned and made his way through security. He tried to squelch down the flash of fear that coursed through him.
Brandon would be here, House told himself. Of course he would be here. He wouldn't leave House in a strange airport by himself, would he?
House scanned the waiting area, looking for someone that fit Brandon's description. Finally he spotted a man that was slightly taller than Taub, with graying hair and a large bald spot. A shorter, dark skinned woman accompanied him.
House's heart nearly stopped. That damn Brandon had brought Rosalie with him. House had sort of hoped he and Brandon would get a chance to talk a little before bringing Rosalie into the mix, but it looked like that wasn't going to happen. Just as well, House decided. Might as well get all the inevitable awkwardness over with at once.
He took a deep breath and strode over to the pair, speaking with a bravado he most certainly didn't feel. "Thought you were coming alone."
Brandon turned to face House, his face lighting up at the sight of him. "Greg! You made it!"
"Well, yeah." House rolled his eyes slightly as Brandon clapped him on the shoulder. He reached out to squeeze the other man's shoulder in return. "It's...good to see you."
"Same." Brandon fixed House with a warm smile before turning to Rosalie. House could see Brandon nudging Rosalie slightly.
She stepped forward, barely coming up to his chest. A few fine lines around her eyes and mouth, along with the gray that streaked through her otherwise jet black hair were the only clues to her age. Her deep chocolate brown eyes matched her skin tone, and House let his own eyes roam over her softly rounded figure.
Brandon had done good, House had to admit that. He just hoped Rosalie wasn't disappointed in what she saw.
"Greg." She flashed him a wide smile, showing bright white teeth that were a sharp contrast to her dark skin. "About damn time we got to meet face to face." Rosalie moved a little closer and held out her hand.
House reached out to take it, alternately startled and comforted by its warmth and softness. He allowed a slight smile to curve his lips. About damn time indeed.
A throat clearing sound jerked House out of his reverie, and he looked up to see Brandon smirking at him. House felt suddenly awkward, quickly releasing Rosalie's hand.
"So." Brandon spoke. "Anyone up for lunch?"
"You two go ahead." Rosalie answered as she gave Brandon a quick squeeze. "My sister and I were going to do some shopping. I'll catch up later." She flashed House a quick smile. "Especially with you."
House could feel the heat rushing to his cheeks as Brandon chuckled beside him. "Well, that went well." Brandon teased him.
"I guess." House was still a little skeptical.
Brandon threw him a slightly disgusted look. "Seriously? Every other sentence that has come out of that woman's mouth lately has started with your name. She's been looking forward to meeting you for a very long time."
House was silent for a long moment as he and Brandon strode through the airport and out to the parking area. Brandon gave him a concerned look. "You want me to bring the car around?"
"Nah, I'll walk." House answered. "Been sitting for too long."
The two men crossed the parking area, finally arriving at Brandon's car, an old Camaro, clearly lovingly restored. House let out a low whistle. "This thing yours?"
"Sure is." Brandon grinned as he tossed House's suitcase in the trunk and climbed in. "It's been one of my long time projects. Finally finished it up this spring."
"Nice." House admired the vehicle as he climbed in, thrilling to the sound of the engine as Brandon fired it up.
They cruised around for a while, chatting and catching up. House marveled at the way their easy online friendship translated into a real life thing. He finally felt himself relax a bit as Brandon found a local burger place and pulled in.
The two of them settled into a booth and placed their orders while House launched into a story about his most recent case. As was often the case, the story encompassed far more than just the medicine. It almost always provided House with a little opportunity to talk about his team members, especially the growing closeness between Chase and Thirteen.
Brandon arched an eyebrow as they ate. "Sounds like the two of them are getting pretty serious."
House shrugged. "Who knows? Maybe they're just having killer sex. Either way, it seems to be working for them." He popped a French fry into his mouth. "Did I tell you that his wife finally sent the divorce papers?"
"Yeah, you did." Brandon nodded. "So Chase is about to be a free man, then."
"Looks that way." House answered. "Free to screw around with Thirteen all over the damn hospital...and anywhere else, for that matter."
"That's good...I guess." Brandon laughed.
House nodded in agreement. "Actually...it kind of is. They both seem happy. Guess that's all that really matters." He glanced up at Brandon. "So what about you? You mentioned something about this guy you've been seeing?"
Brandon's face lit up. "Steven, yeah. Met him when that pregnant car accident victim came in. He was the EMT." He shrugged a little as he sipped his Sprite. "He and Rosalie got to chatting, and she kind of encouraged him to chase after me. Glad she did. He's one hell of a guy."
House nodded in response. "I was going to say that. Seemed like a pretty good guy when I talked to him."
Brandon's face fell a little bit. "Yeah. I don't even know how he knew to call you. You could say I was pretty out of it." He looked thoughtful as he took a bite of his burger. "I can't believe he stuck with me through all that. I'm not sure I could have done the same."
House shrugged. "Everybody falls down, Brandon. You know that. The only question is if you can pick yourself up and keep moving." He gave Brandon a slight smile. "Looks like you did."
"With a lot of help." Brandon answered.
"No shit, Sherlock." House rolled his eyes. "I keep telling you that you can't do this shit alone. So quit trying already. You're practically surrounded by people that give a damn whether you live or die. Use them."
"I'm trying, Greg." Brandon snorted. "It's not easy."
"You're telling me." House chuckled in response. "I've spent my entire life trying to go it alone. I don't recommend it."
"You'd think I'd know better by now." An almost pensive expression seemed to cross Brandon's face. "I'm really glad you suggested this. It wasn't enough to completely keep me on the straight and narrow, but it went a long way."
"Nobody ever said this shit was going to be easy." House pointed out. "Don't think it's all been sunshine and puppies for me, either."
"I know it hasn't." Brandon dared to reach across the table and cover House's hand with his own. "I think that's why I keep running to you. You get it. A lot of people don't. So...thanks for sticking with me."
House would normally shy away from any sort of physical contact. Coming from Brandon, though, it felt oddly right. In their own way, they were kindred spirits, traveling a long, hard road, keeping each other moving down that road. Instead of instinctively pulling away, House turned over his hand and clumsily grabbed it in his own. "Us addicts and drunks have to stick together. It's the only way to get through it."
"Right." Brandon grinned as he released House's hand. "What say we get out of here? I'm sure you'd like to get to your hotel room before we meet up with Rosalie."
"Sounds like a plan." House started to pull out his wallet when Brandon shook his head.
"Uh-uh." Brandon told him firmly. "This one's on me. You can cover dinner."
"Thanks." House snorted and shook his head.
"Hey, what are friends for?" Brandon chuckled as he handed the waitress his debit card.
They soon left the restaurant, heading towards the hotel where the three of them were staying, and House soon found himself stretched out across the bed, closing his eyes, drifting in and out of sleep.
He was just about to fall asleep again when he heard a knock on the door. House sighed heavily and heaved himself off the bed to answer.
House flung the door open and was pleasantly surprised to see Rosalie standing there. "Fancy meeting you here."
Rosalie flashed him a quick, nervous smile. "Brandon told me you were back. Thought I'd drop in...if that's okay with you."
House nodded, stepping aside to let her in. "I wasn't really doing anything. Just...you know, taking a nap." He smirked slightly at her. "You could join me."
Rosalie laughed a little. "Just sleeping, right?"
House's heart started pounding in his chest. "If that's all you want..."
"For now." Rosalie answered, stepping closer to House. "No sense rushing things."
House eased himself onto the bed, laying down on his back with one arm stretched out to the side. Rosalie took the silent invitation, toeing out of her shoes and laying on her side, instinctively curling up to House as he slipped his arm around her shoulders.
He almost instantly relaxed as he reveled in the feel of Rosalie's body pressed against him, soft and warm, her arm wrapping around his waist. After only having contact with her online, House wasn't sure how things would go once they met face to face.
He dared to brush a light kiss to the top of her head as he pulled her closer, listening to the soft sigh she emitted in response. So far, things seemed to be going just fine. House only hoped he could keep from screwing this part of his weekend up.
# # #
Brandon called Greg a couple hours later after trying to get hold of Rosalie and failing. Secretly, he kind of hoped they were together right now. After all, that was the main reason he had let Rosalie know that he and Greg had returned.
It had been a pleasure playing Cupid for Rosalie and Greg. The two of them made quite a pair, trading quips and barbs as well as having more serious discussions. Rosalie had been a welcome addition to their online chats, often joining he and Greg when time allowed. There were many times when Brandon had simply set his status to 'away', doing other things online while occasionally checking in on Greg and Rosalie's continued conversations.
Yes, he was eavesdropping, and he knew it. Steven would often chide him for it, but he almost couldn't help himself. Watching Greg and Rosalie build their connection over this time tickled him to no end, and both of them would often share little bits of stories with Brandon.
Greg's voice mail picked up, and Brandon smiled broadly as he left a message and snapped his phone closed. Steven fixed him with a curious look. "Get a hold of them?"
"Nope." Brandon was still grinning. "I can't get hold of either one of them. I'm thinking they're together."
"Oh." Steven's eyebrows shot upward. "You don't suppose they're...you know."
"Well...their online chats have gotten kind of on the hot and heavy side lately." Brandon answered. "They very well could be."
"Good for them." Steven stretched out on the bed and closed his eyes.
"That's kind of what I'm thinking." Brandon agreed as he stretched out next to Steven.
Brandon had no sooner closed his eyes than his phone started chiming. He groaned and reached for it, flipping it open. "Fisher."
"So Rosalie and I have done our thing..." Greg intoned. "We're ready for dinner whenever you and Steven are."
Brandon laughed as he pushed himself in a sitting position. "Right. Don't need to know details." He checked his watch. "Meet you downstairs in about half an hour?"
"Sounds good." Greg agreed. "Oh, and by the way..." His voice dropped to a low whisper. "Thanks for hooking us up. She's one hell of a woman."
Brandon smiled widely in response. "Told you you needed someone in your life."
"Yeah, yeah." Brandon could almost hear Greg roll his eyes through the phone. "See you in a little while."
The four of them soon met up down in the lobby, and from there they proceeded to a nearby restaurant. Throughout the meal, Brandon couldn't help but observe the interaction between Greg and Rosalie. The two of them exchanged looks and glances, subtly touching each other. Rosalie almost seemed to glow in Greg's presence. Brandon was sure he had never seen her this way. It was beautiful to see.
"So, you two lovebirds going to be up for touring the Hall of Fame tomorrow?" Brandon teased them.
"Well, yeah." Greg responded, sliding an arm along the back of Rosalie's chair. "You don't think I came all the way here just for the company, do you?" He turned briefly to Rosalie. "Not that...you know..."
"It's fine." Rosalie answered warmly, lightly squeezing Greg's hand. "I get what you're trying to say."
"Good." Brandon heard Greg murmur, and he could see just a hint of color rise on Greg's face. "I'll be right back."
Greg left the table, and Rosalie immediately turned to Brandon. "Even if I don't go to the Hall of Fame...I'm glad I came down."
"So you like him, then?" Brandon teased her.
Rosalie nodded. "Just as much as I did online. We had...a good afternoon."
"Oooh..." Brandon kept ribbing her. "You don't have to share details, you know. We get the idea."
"Boy, please." Rosalie snorted. "Nothing happened. We just...laid around in bed and talked. Napped a little, too. We're old. You need to give us a break."
"Right." Brandon returned to his meal, and the three of them fell into casual chat as Greg returned to the table.
The meal soon ended, and the four of them returned to the hotel and went their separate ways. Steven nudged Brandon as they moved toward the elevators. "Check that out."
Brandon turned to see Greg and Rosalie lean toward each other for a brief kiss, wrapping their arms around each other as they stood chatting in the lobby. He guided Steven toward the elevator, chastising him. "Come on, leave them alone. We'll check in with them in the morning."
# # #
The next morning House opened his eyes to the sound of what sounded like two phones going off. He groaned and reached out for his own, somewhat surprised to find he wasn't alone.
"Answer that damn thing already, would you?" Rosalie muttered as she rolled over, pulling the covers over her head.
"I'm on it." House grumbled, even as he was amused by Rosalie's actions. Clearly she wasn't a morning person. That suited House just fine. He pushed himself to a sitting position and flipped open the phone. "House."
"Morning." Brandon's voice boomed in his ear. "Is Rosalie with you?"
"That, my friend, is none of your damn business." House snapped.
Brandon chuckled in response. "Well...if you see here, tell her that we're meeting for breakfast down in the lobby before we go to the Hall of Fame."
"Right." House rolled his eyes. "You might want to call her. You know, just in case I don't see her."
"Mm-hm." Brandon's voice took on a skeptical tone. "See you two in about an hour."
"Asshole." House muttered to Brandon's obvious amusement as he snapped his phone shut. He shifted so that he lay next to Rosalie, wrapping his arm around her and pressing a kiss to her neck. "Hey, Sleeping Beauty. We've got a breakfast date with the emergency boys."
Rosalie groaned and stretched, turning to face House. "How long have we got?"
"Supposed to be meeting them in about an hour." House answered, dropping a kiss on the tip of her nose.
"Good." Rosalie murmured. "Means I can sleep a little longer."
House snorted and curled closer to her. "What's the matter? Can't keep up with a younger man?"
Rosalie laughed heartily. "Of course I can! You just kept this old lady up way past her bedtime."
"That's saying something, Night Owl." House pressed a gentle kiss to her lips, deepening it as he pushed Rosalie over onto her back.
"Hmmm..." Rosalie murmured before pushing him away. "Plenty of time for that later. You keep that up and you're going to make us late."
"Pretty sure they'll understand." House answered, continuing the line of kisses down her neck.
"Come on, now!" Rosalie exclaimed. "I've got to get ready."
"Dammit." House harrumphed and rolled over on his back. "Fine, I'll take a rain check. I expect to cash it in later."
"Don't worry, I'll make good on it." Rosalie answered as she rolled out of bed and padded toward the bathroom. House watched her move around while she gathered up clothes and toiletries.
She would soon be turning fifty-five, and was already talking about retiring from nursing. One would never guess that to look at her. Rosalie had obviously taken excellent care of herself, a few fine lines and some gray hair the only clues as to her real age.
Her physical beauty only added to House's attraction. Ever since they had started e-mailing and instant messaging each other, her intelligence and sharp sense of humor had captured him. Now that he had a chance to evaluate the whole package, he was completely enamored of Rosalie. It was going to be difficult to say goodbye to her tomorrow. Maybe, just maybe, they could find a way to get together. They had already discussed the possibility of her moving to Princeton once she retired, since House was still a number of years away form retirement, if he ever did retire.
But that could wait for another time. Right now, for a change, House was focused on the present. He had the Hall of Fame to look forward to, as well as hanging out with two people who had become close friends, with the possibility of one of them becoming much more.
House pushed himself out of bed and started the small coffeemaker that was in his room. He didn't want to reveal it to Rosalie, but he was feeling a little rough himself after the short night. Not that it hadn't been worth it. It had been worth every minute.
Rosalie soon emerged, and House took his turn, inhaling the scent that Rosalie left behind before taking his own shower. She greeted him with a wide smile upon seeing him.
"Don't you look nice?" Rosalie gave him an approving once over.
House shrugged. It was just his standard jeans, t-shirt, and button down shirt. Perhaps he had tidied up a bit, but still, it wasn't that much different from his everyday wear. "I wear this all the time."
Rosalie tilted her head, studying him. "I think it's the shirt. Brings out those baby blues." She glanced down at the black jeans. "And the jeans fit you just like they should." She reached up on tiptoe to give him a brief kiss. "You look good. Deal with it."
House snorted as he returned the kiss and guided her out of the hotel room. He admired Rosalie's blunt way with words. It served as yet another reality check he could always use. No wonder Brandon liked her so much.
"Hey, look who made it!" Brandon called out as the two of them entered the lobby. "Good thing you ran into her. I never did get a chance to call."
"Right." House glared briefly at Brandon as he placed a hand on Rosalie's waist. "Let's eat already. I'm starving."
Brandon and Steven each barely managed to hold back a snort, and Rosalie reached out to smack Brandon hard on the arm.
After a long breakfast, the four of them piled into Brandon's car for the drive to the Hall of Fame. House and Brandon grinned at each other as they approached. "There it is, man."
"Yep." House answered. "Mecca."
The four of them spent the day touring the Hall of Fame, discussing their various musical interests and debating the merits of different artists' Hall of Fame worthiness.
The end of the day found Brandon and House leaning over a railing, talking music, as they often did online. House had to admit that it was a hell of a lot better to do it in person.
"You know what, Greg?" Brandon finally asked him.
Brandon fixed him with a warm smile. "This was a brilliant idea. I can't believe I haven't been here before." He tilted his head at House. "So...any ideas for next year?"
"Next year?" House was puzzled.
"Sure." Brandon shrugged casually. "I wouldn't mind doing something like this every year. You know, just to remind myself of how far we've come."
House nodded. "Yeah, I can see that. It'd give us a good excuse to get together, too."
"I'd like that." Brandon answered, glancing down at his folded hands. "I'm really glad I sent you that e-mail. I might still be mired in my own bullshit if I hadn't." He paused thoughtfully. "Hell, I might be dead right now."
"You would have gotten your head out of your ass eventually." House told him. "No way you could have gone down that road forever."
"Glad I didn't." Brandon turned to look at House. "You were a big part of this. Don't try to deny that." He reached out to touch House on the shoulder. "You saved my ass. Thank you."
House glanced at the hand on his shoulder, shifting slightly. "You saved your own ass. I just busted your chops from time to time."
"Which I clearly needed." Brandon told him firmly. "I still say I wouldn't be here without you."
House simply shrugged, glancing down. "Did I tell you I quit the booze, too?"
"No, you didn't." Brandon gave him a questioning look. "How long ago?"
"Not long after your last tumble off the wagon." House answered. "I kind of felt like a hypocrite telling you to get your shit together while I was working my way through a bottle of bourbon."
"So you've been almost a year without anything." Brandon gave him a wide smile. "That's fantastic, man. Way to go."
"Thanks." House was a little embarrassed, but pleased, too. He certainly hadn't gotten that reaction from anyone else he knew.
Before he knew it, Brandon had pulled him into a tight hug. "I'm proud of you, Greg."
House slowly responded in kind, swallowing a lump that had mysteriously appeared in his throat. "Same to you, Brandon."
Brandon released House and stepped away, briefly brushing at his eyes. "Whew. So...about next year...I'm kind of thinking New York. It's a little closer to your neighborhood."
House nodded. "Could be fun. You're not going to force me to go to a musical, are you?"
"Maybe Avenue Q if it's still playing." Brandon answered. "I think you'd like that one."
A slow smile crept over House's face at the idea. "So...we're making future plans again."
"Feels pretty good, huh?" Brandon asked. "Kind of cool knowing that there might be a future."
House turned to see Rosalie and Steven walking toward them. His heart almost literally skipped a beat at the sight of her. If she could be a part of this future...no, he didn't dare think about that.
"Hey." She smiled warmly and wrapped an arm around House's waist. "What are you guys talking about?"
"New York." Brandon replied. "We're already starting to plan out next year's commemorative trip."
"Excellent." Rosalie's eyes lit up at the idea. "I love New York."
"Then it's settled." Brandon nodded firmly. "Same time, next year, in New York."
House smiled to himself as he placed an arm around Rosalie's shoulders. Future plans suddenly sounded like a great thing, and he hoped that both Brandon and Rosalie would be a part of that future. Who would have thought so much would have come out a simple medical case posted online by some guy in Detroit? Certainly not House.
"All right, all right, enough of the future plans." Rosalie announced. "The only future I'm interested in right now involves what we're doing for dinner. I'm about to drop from hunger."
"And no one wants that." House intoned, leaning down to whisper to her, "You need your energy to make good on that rain check."
Rosalie shouted in laughter at House's remark, and House couldn't help but grin. The future suddenly looked damn good, and House couldn't wait to move forward, hopefully with this bundle of fun at his side.
# # #
Thanks for reading, as always. Now be so kind as to leave a review on your way out.