What the hell was he doing here? This was so not him. This was such a major mistake. But here he was, sitting on lawn furniture, for God's sake, on a deck in suburbia with a beer in one hand and a hot dog and hamburger on a plate in the other.
There'd been a parade that morning and there were fireworks planned for that evening.
Kill me now, House thought.
How did he get here?
Well, he knew how he got here.
There was a weekend in Philadelphia that was supposed to be a birthday trip, but he'd spent it alone.
There was a beautiful woman chaperoning teenaged boys.
There was Edgar Allan Poe, cheese steaks, Kelly Drive, Fairmount Park, Captain Picard, brunch and a Gay Pride parade.
There was hot afternoon sex in his hotel room.
And there was a woman who left to change her life.
That should have been the end of it.
But then there was a telephone call late on a Friday night.
He remembered sitting at the piano with his drink at hand when his cell phone rang. Of course he didn't answer it. Greg House may have changed since Mayfield, but he didn't change that much to interrupt his piano playing. But then, he got a feeling that maybe he should. If it was Cuddy or his team, they would only keep bothering him until he did anyway.
He pulled it out of his pocket. "House's House of …Houses."
There was silence on the other end. "Hello? He said. "Anyone there?"
"Um," a woman's voice said, "Is this Greg?"
"Who wants to know?"
"I don't know if you remember me. We met last June in Philadelphia…"
He sat up straight. "Karen?"
There was a relieved sigh. "You do remember."
"Of course I do. How are you?"
"Uh, how long do you have? Listen, I'm on the road right now. I'm, uh, actually, on the turnpike heading east. If you're interested, I'd like to come and see you."
"What's your address?"
He gave it to her and offered directions, but she stopped him.
"I'll mapquest it. I have my laptop. Are you sure this is alright?"
"Okay, I should be there in about forty-five minutes."
When he heard the knock, he went as fast as his leg would allow him to open it. She looked different. She'd gained some weight, and there were stress lines on her face and circles under her eyes. But when she saw him, she smiled and her face lit up. There she was!
"Hello, Greg." She said, as he opened the door wider and allowed her to come in.
"Hi." He replied, almost shyly, not sure what to say to her, since he wasn't entirely sure why she was there.
"Thanks for letting me visit you."
She looked around his apartment. It wasn't as messy as she would expect from a single man. Oh, there was the normal amount of clutter, but it was pretty well contained.
"So, how's it going?" he asked her.
"It's … crazy! But my divorce was final on Wednesday and the kids are with Frank this weekend and I decided I didn't want to be alone."
Now he was interested. "Really? Don't you have any girlfriends to commiserate with you over the divorce?"
"No. Most of the women I know think I'm an idiot for divorcing Frank."
"Do you think I am?"
"Why the hell would I think that? Wasn't I the one who told you to dump him?"
"Yes, you were."
They were sitting on his sofa and his blue eyes were intense when he asked, "So, tell me what's really been happening."
She sighed and leaned her head back against the sofa. "Well, when I went home, I talked to Frank. At first he tried to avoid talking about it. I think we both didn't want to upset the status quo. But eventually we talked it out. I asked him if there was any chance of repairing our relationship. There wasn't."
"Did you really think you could?"
She smiled wryly. "No. But I had to try. Once we realized that it was over, then we had to figure out how to end it. We have a mortgage on the house, loans and credit cards to deal with. That's just the financial responsibilities. But most important, we have our children. Telling them was not easy."
"How'd they take it?"
"Not well. We told them and then Frank moved out and we put the house up for sale. They could see all the security in their world falling apart. It was really important for me to be there for them. But I also had to go back to work, so they were facing the fact that I wouldn't be around as much either."
"Did you find a job?"
"Not really. I work for a temp agency and fill in at offices when I get called. I had one long term – ten week – assignment for a woman on maternity leave. Otherwise, I just wait for them to call. Lancaster isn't exactly a metropolis and in this economy, the jobs just aren't there."
"Anyway, the house still hasn't sold, so at least I'm still living there. As part of our divorce settlement, Frank continues to pay the mortgage until the house sells and pays child support for the kids. We've split up the other bills to keep them going. Once the house is sold, we can use the profit to pay them and then we can start fresh. I'm trying to help with the expenses myself, even though I don't make very much."
He looked at her. "Been pretty stressful, huh?"
"To say the least." She looked down at herself. "Which explains the extra twenty pounds."
"And the worry lines and dark circles." He added.
She touched her face. "Damn! I thought I managed to cover those up. But it was a two hour drive."
"It's okay." He leaned over then and kissed her softly. "You still look great."
She smiled. "Thanks."
She leaned into him then and kissed him. His lips felt as nice as they had the first time and she closed her eyes, starting to get into the kiss, when suddenly he moved away.
She looked at him, then quickly looked away. "I'm sorry. Maybe I shouldn't have come. It's been six months, maybe you're involved with someone-"
"No, of course that's not, no. I just, damn, I didn't want you to think that the only reason I gave you my phone number was for sex." He shook his head. "I can't believe I just said that."
She smiled at him. "Greg, can I tell you something?"
"When we … were together in June, that was the first time for me in over a year. And it had been very seldom even before that. So that afternoon meant quite a lot to me."
She looked away, a little embarrassed. "Can I say that I thought about it quite a lot since then?"
He reached out then and took her hand. She looked up at his blue eyes as they pierced her brown ones.
"I thought about it too." He told her. Then he pulled her into her arms and kissed her. She responded eagerly and before long they were in his bed.
He kissed her slowly and tenderly, taking his time and enjoying the feel of her lips beneath his. She responded with closed eyes. Before long, slowly was replaced with eager, closely followed by frantic. Clothes were thrown off and hands explored bodies.
There was only a pause for him to grab a condom from the nightstand
Then their joining was completed with all the passion both of them had been holding in.
As they lay afterwards, they talked quietly about inconsequential things that were on their minds. It was comfortable, relaxed. Almost as if they'd been together for a long time.
They spent the rest of the weekend either in bed or on the sofa, alternating in both places between sex and talking. It was a good time to get to know each other, physically and emotionally.
In fact, they were still in his bed on Sunday afternoon, when they heard knocking on his front door.
"Are you expecting someone?" Karen asked.
"No." House said, then, "Oh, shit, it's almost four."
He got out of bed and limped to the front door where Wilson was waiting with a six-pack of beer.
"What took you so long?" He asked as he walked in.
"Listen, we can't do this today."
"What are you talking about? The Eagles game is about to start."
"Yeah, well, maybe next week."
"The Eagles probably won't make it until next week. What's going on?"
"I'm, uh, busy."
"Busy? What-?" he broke off when Karen walked out of the bedroom, wearing jeans and a sweatshirt and carrying her bag.
"Hi." She said with a bright smile.
"Uh, hello." Wilson stammered.
House sighed. "Wilson, Karen. Karen, Wilson."
"Uh, actually, it's James."
"Hi, then, James."
"So, if you don't mind…" House said to Wilson.
"Greg, please, you guys had plans and I need to go anyway."
"Please, don't leave because of me." Wilson told her.
"It's not because of you. I have a two hour drive home and I really need to leave." She gave House a look that said, please, understand.
He nodded, then stared pointedly at Wilson.
"Well, it was really nice to meet you, Karen. I'm going to the restroom. So, I'll see you." He quickly headed to the bathroom.
Once he was out of sight, Karen put her arms around House's neck. "I had a really nice time this weekend."
"Me too." He said quietly.
She bit her lip, hesitating to speak. "Do you want me to come back again?"
"Do you want to?"
He smiled. "Then come back."
She kissed him and he returned it with passion.
"I'll see you in two weeks."
She picked up her overnight case and with one more look at him, walked out the door. He stood there with the door open watching where she had walked.
"Someone has it bad."
House turned quickly and closed the door at the sound of Wilson's voice. "What are you talking about?"
Wilson just smiled and went to the sofa and plopped down. "She just left and you already miss her."
"You're full of shit." House popped the cap on a beer and took a swig.
"So who is she?"
House was silent at first, wondering if he should tell Wilson. But like a teenaged girl, he really wanted to talk about it.
"Remember last June when I went to Philly while you held a dying patient's hand?"
House told him briefly about meeting her then and how she called him this weekend.
"And you haven't seen her since then until this weekend?"
"She had to lose her husband."
"Not anymore. Divorce was final last week."
"Wow. So are you going to see her again?"
"She said she's coming back in two weeks."
"That's it? Wow is it?"
"You're actually starting a relationship with someone. That's terrific."
House shrugged. "Don't know what it is yet. We'll see if she actually comes back."