A/N: Not that it's new, but remember that in scenes purely from Thomas' perspective, which applies for this whole chapter, he views House and Cuddy by their first names. Thanks for reading!
Thomas unlocked the front door to Blythe's house and stepped inside.
Time seemed paused on late Tuesday afternoon. The will had been taken, but everything else in the living room looked exactly as it had at the moment Greg found that letter. The boxes Thomas had been starting to tape up were untouched, the roll of packing tape still on top of one and attached in the middle of being pulled across it, the piece of tape uncut. Thomas had been the first to leave that memorable evening, but obviously, nobody else had accomplished anything further other than worrying about Greg themselves.
Thomas took a deep breath and let it out, releasing some of the tension, moving on past that moment of feeling absolutely trapped and helpless, seeing his son hurtling toward disaster and not only unable to prevent it but forced to contribute. Whatever had happened to those letters (buried at the cemetery?), things with Greg were much better now than they had been then. He even had a promise of another visit, not only with Greg but with his granddaughters. It would be on neutral ground, but Thomas understood that that was the best his son could manage right now. But Lisa could have come alone; Greg had volunteered himself into that weekend, and the addition of the girls had been entirely his move. They could have left them back in Princeton with that admirably efficient nanny. His son wanted to see him. Slowly but definitely, there was progress, and the potential disaster looming Tuesday night had been averted. Thomas was willing to wait, wishing for more but grateful for as much as he had.
Greg knew the truth about the cemetery, too. Plus the defense lawyer, and Thomas had no idea how he had gotten that information. Pride in his son surged through him. He would never ask what Greg had done at the cemetery on his own visit; that, like Thomas' words to John that night, had been private. He would respect that, but it would make a great final resting point for the letters if they were now underground there. What had fascinated Thomas during breakfast was Jensen. Since Greg had returned to the cemetery yesterday, Jensen obviously had, too. Thomas was sure Jensen had kept a very close eye on his son all day; Jensen had been as worried Wednesday morning setting out as any of them. So Jensen knew about his own visit, too, but there wasn't even a flicker of change in attitude, not a hint of extra data now in the way he had looked at Thomas and spoken to him during breakfast. The man truly had confidentiality down to an art form.
Better get to work. Thomas walked over to that half-taped box and finished the arrested process first of all, jolting the room out of Tuesday's mood. After he had cut the tape, he set the roll aside and then allowed himself a stroll around. He had never actually explored Blythe and John's house completely, had always been just a guest of a few hours, and even Tuesday, he had been more focused on Greg than anything and staying close to him, not moving much past the living room and trips to the bathroom. Now, a little more at peace about his son, he felt his usual curiosity waking up, and the opportunity during these few minutes in private really was irresistible.
He started with the piano, giving it a proprietary stroke now, hitting a key at random. He might even start taking lessons. He knew he was totally without musical talent, but he would be willing now to work a little even at learning to roughly pick through tunes. His father had been almost too careful not to put musical pressure on his children, leaving the choice entirely up to them. Now, Thomas' choice would be different than it had as a young boy. Leaving the piano for the moment, he explored the whole house quickly but thoroughly. John's personal things were completely gone, and he felt a surge of gratitude toward Blythe for that. He spent a bittersweet minute eying her romance novels and mysteries. To the end, she had lived partly in a fantasy world. At least she and her son had had a few years of the truth. There would have been even more unfinished, dangling threads of the past had she died years ago.
Thomas finished his tour of the house. A nice, quiet life but with a few little personal points in it now like that desk Lisa wanted and like that shelf of fiction, greatly expanded since John's day, he was sure. Her car was in the garage; probably Patsy had driven her to the airport for her final flight to avoid long-term parking. It was a medium model, nondescript sedan, doing the job but rather boring. He smiled, remembering her.
The doorbell shook him out of reverie, and he looked at his watch. Not time for Greg and the others yet, and they would hardly ring anyway. This must be Patsy or another neighbor who had noticed his rental car. He walked back through the house from the garage and opened the front door.
Sure enough, it was Patsy. "Good morning, Thomas," she greeted him brightly.
"Good morning." He stepped back, silently inviting her in. She looked around the living room. "Greg and Lisa will be here in a few minutes with the others," he stated, answering the unspoken question. "They had one errand first."
"Good. I don't want to pester her, but we need to get some details ironed out. I was going to call her if she didn't show up by noon. What time this afternoon do they . . . do you . . . ?" She paused, suddenly confused.
He smiled. "Their plane leaves at 3:35 for New Jersey. Mine leaves at 2:58, heading back to St. Louis. Lisa mentioned over breakfast at the hotel that she wanted to be at the airport by 1:30, so it will be tight, but she wants to talk to you."
Patsy nodded. "You're a good friend, Thomas. I'm sure you've been a support to them this last week."
"I hope so."
She walked slowly around the living room, surveying it now with a half-proprietary eye, mentally making the changes that she never would have suggested when Blythe was alive. "Did Lisa mention what she was going to do with the furniture?"
"She said that Blythe had made several gifts of it. She did find the will, by the way."
"Oh, good. Greg does get the house, of course."
"Yes, he does. There shouldn't be any problems on the title. There's probate first, of course, but after that . . ."
Patsy dismissed probate with a brush of her hand. "We can wait. Or Brian can rent it for a while, like that other friend suggested." She smiled. "I can just imagine Blythe making out a list of gifts in her will, trying to make sure she hit all the people who matter."
"So can I," Thomas agreed. "She obviously had made a lot of friends here the last few years. About the rest of the furniture, the part that isn't a bequest, Lisa mentioned selling it, but they do have to go through probate first legally. She suggested this morning maybe coming back in a few weekends to hire a company to clear it all out to a storage area."
Patsy gave a soft sigh of relief. "That sounds wonderful. I'd be willing to supervise it myself, but I'd much rather she did and Greg, too, if he can. They need to see it piece by piece to make sure there's nothing they want for themselves." She stopped in her tour of the living room at the piano and touched it gently. "She loved this instrument. She really couldn't play well at all, but she had fun with it, and she was always talking about Greg. Did Lisa mention if anybody gets the piano? Greg already has one. Blythe showed me a picture of him at it once, and she was talking about it."
Thomas hesitated, then plunged on. "Actually, I'm going to wind up with the piano myself." She would find that out anyway on the last weekend in January when he turned back up to see it off and help the others. Let her mind fill in whatever back story she wished; Blythe's will was a convenient context if she chose that, and he hadn't technically lied.
"Oh, how wonderful. So you play?"
"Not really." He gave her a sheepish grin. "But it's never too late to learn. My father played extremely well, and I've always loved music. I wouldn't mind trying to pick it up, even on a very amateur level."
"How like Blythe to remember you talking about that," Patsy said. She gave a half-curious, half-worried look around the house. "Did she leave me something?"
"I'm sure she did, but I don't know what. I haven't seen the will myself, just heard a few comments at the hotel from Lisa."
At that moment, the van pulled up in the driveway, and Thomas was fighting back a smile a few seconds later. Lisa even closed car doors efficiently, a nice, crisp sound, not close to a slam but nothing wasted. He opened the front door and stepped outside, as did Patsy. Here came Lisa, briskly efficient and on a mission, obviously hearing each tick of the clock, but she looked more relaxed than she had earlier, and so did Greg. She spotted Patsy and came straight up, leaving the others to unload the girls. "Oh, good. Perfect timing. We need to get some details tied up before I leave this afternoon." She herded Patsy on into the house, already deep into her organized points, and Thomas walked over to the van.
"Greg," he said, and his son, having just opened the sliding door, looked at him suspiciously but stepped without hesitation to one side, leaving Wilson to climb through and take Abby once Marina had her unbuckled. Thomas closed the distance between them. "Patsy knows that I'm getting the piano," he said very softly. "She turned up and was asking about the furniture, and I mentioned Blythe's will. She asked me specifically if anybody got the piano. She would have found that out for herself in a few weeks."
Greg studied him with those shielded eyes. They were his father's eyes, but it was the difference, the defensive woundedness, that stabbed Thomas when he looked at them. "But she thinks Mom left it to you as part of that list?"
"If she does, that's her mistake. I didn't technically say so."
A moment, and then there was a brief flash of respect. "But you misled her on it."
Thomas shrugged. "I can't help what we were talking about when she asked me that."
Greg relaxed. "Okay."
Abby ran up to him at that moment, having insisted to Wilson that she could walk herself. Now, of course, only seconds later, she tugged at her father's good leg. "Up, Dada."
He picked her up. "I'm supposed to make you say please first."
Abby gave him a smile and then leaned against him. "Won't tell."
Thomas laughed. "Abby, you have the mind of a lawyer already at two. Wonder what you're going to be like once you're older."
"You aren't the first to wonder that," Wilson noted as he came up behind them. He looked from one man to the other, obviously curious about the private conversation and obviously knowing he didn't stand a chance of getting a straight answer if he asked. "We'd better get in there before Cuddy has an efficiency fit and realizes some of the ranks are slacking."
Together, they trooped into the house, where Patsy and Lisa were seated on the couch and both studying a paper which obviously was Blythe's list of bequests, recopied in Lisa's efficient handwriting. "The couch," Patsy was just saying as they entered. "I did really admire it when they bought it a few years before John died, but I've already got a couch."
"Sell it," Greg suggested. He gravitated to the piano as if pulled by a magnet. "Or give it to your brother. Does he have a couch? That would save moving it at all."
Patsy considered. "I think their couch is quite old. That's a good idea, Greg. I'll ask them."
"You can keep this copy," Lisa said, thrusting it at her. "If you get a chance and run into these people, let them know. Anybody who doesn't want theirs can sell it, of course, once we get through probate. And we'll be back the fourth weekend of January to have everything cleared out. I'm sorry it can't be sooner, but that's the best we can do. This month has already had the schedule turned crazy."
Patsy gave her a sympathetic squeeze on the arm. "It doesn't matter. They can stay with me for a few weeks, and we can even look over anything not on this list and see if they want that." Greg had started playing at Abby's quiet insistence, and she looked over at the instrument. "You forgot to put down that Thomas gets the piano. So kind of Blythe." She pulled out a pen from her purse and jotted that on the end herself.
Lisa looked over at him, and Thomas gave her an innocent look. Her next quick glance was at her husband, who hadn't even reacted to that line, and then she smiled. "I guess I did leave that one off. Oh, and the little desk in the kitchen. That's going to Princeton." Patsy drooped slightly, then firmly caught herself. Obviously, she would have chosen the desk herself rather than the couch. She wrote the desk down below the piano.
"No. That should be it. Of course, I'll pay you for what you're. . ."
Patsy brushed the offer away. "I'm happy to help out, Lisa, and you're doing us a big favor here. Just call whatever I do this month a gift in memory of Blythe." She looked at her watch and stood up. "I'll go back home and call Brian's wife now and tell her about details, but I'm sure all this will be fine. Oh, things are going to be perfect." She whisked out the door, and they saw her through the front window pausing for a half-proprietary look at the bushes and the front of the house, then heading for her own home with purpose.
"She reminds me of Blythe in a few ways," Wilson noted. Jensen nodded.
Lisa sighed and stood up. "Well, at least that much is down. Now, we have to . . . Greg!" He had switched pieces in the middle of her speech from soft jazz to the opening of the William Tell Overture. The others laughed. Rolling her eyes, she pressed on, insulted agenda still flying proudly from its flagpole. "It's already 10:15. We need to get these boxes ready, make a last run through the house, get them to the shipping store, grab lunch, load the van, check out . . ."
"And breathe," Jensen reminded her. "We're already packed, and I'm sure you and Marina have everything as near ready as you could get it this morning with the girls. We'll make the airport just fine."
"I'll hit the shipping store," Thomas offered. "Just pile the boxes in my rental car as we get them labeled and taped."
"Thanks, Thomas." She paused. "Cars. I didn't actually go in the garage Tuesday." She looked at Jensen, who had searched it and come up with the shovel to dig the bush. "Is Blythe's car there? If not, it must be at the airport, and we need to . . ."
"It's there," Jensen reassured her. "It can stay there for a few weeks until next trip, and you can take it out then for a run just to keep it working and the battery charged. The car will be easy to sell once you can legally. That won't be a problem."
"Maybe Patsy's brother needs a car, too," Wilson suggested. "Nice and convenient."
Lisa looked at her husband, then away, and Thomas wondered what sort of car Greg had at home. Obviously, she considered that it needed an upgrade, although she wasn't quite ready to push his mother's on him. The efficient, recent model he had seen back during the trial must have been Lisa's car.
He heard the thought. "There is nothing wrong with my car, Lisa," he insisted, never missing a note. "It runs fine." And he definitely didn't want Blythe's.
She yielded and looked at Thomas. "Do you happen to need a car, Thomas?"
"No, I'm quite happy with the one I've got, and it has a lot of life left."
Greg stopped playing and turned around on the piano bench, careful of his leg as always. "What do you drive?" he asked.
"It's a BMW," Thomas answered.
"Now what you ought to do if you really want to be helpful," his son said, "is to give me yours, and you take Mom's yourself."
Thomas smiled at him, no hard feelings in the rock-solid answer but no leeway, either. "No. Buy your own."
Wilson chuckled, and Greg turned away with a dramatically exaggerated droop to his shoulders. "And the limit is found. I knew there had to be one somewhere. Oil runs thicker than blood, obviously."
"What?" Rachel looked around the group, feeling like she was missing something.
"Nothing," her father told her. He resumed playing with a flashy run clear down the keyboard, and Rachel, distracted, came over to stand beside the piano bench.
Fighting back her own smile, Lisa walked over to the boxes against the wall. "Let's get to work."