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Tempered II - Into the Autumn

Chapter One: Lemon Loaf



There were five messages on the answering machine, and House predicted that at least
two of them would be from Wilson. Of the other three, one would probably be from
Doctor Ortiz, annoyed or angry about the little matter of the nonexistent consultation,
and one was sure to be Cameron because Cameron was Cameron—she worried about
him in a way that left him wincing a little, even now.

The last call was probably from the desk nurse at the clinic about his missing his hours
on Friday.

House debated erasing them all. He was tired, but comfortably so; he had a suitcase
full of dirty laundry and a lot of matters on his mind. He looked forward to an extra
Vicodin and a chance to stretch out on the floor listening to something vintage and loud
for a while. Something to keep the faint hint of panic at bay a while longer.

Twenty minutes later he’d unpacked, changed, wolfed down cold Spaghettios and
begun to clear out the phone messages.

“House? Since you’re not there, I take it you’re not going to be here for the game—
convenient since it’s YOUR turn to bring the food. I’ll catch you on Monday, and you
owe me TWO six-packs next week, you mooching ingrate—“ came Wilson’s grumble.

“Doctor House, this is Raymundo Ortiz, and I need to speak to you about your
impromptu and  . . . unsettling visit to my patient, Damian Cuddy. I understand that you
are on staff with Doctor Cuddy out at Princeton-Plainsboro, so I need to verify that she requested your consultation on this case . . .” came the next message. House sped
through it, catching a soft feminine voice in the next message.

“House, I hope you’re feeling okay. Um, it would be nice if you could leave us a
message next time so we don’t wait around for you—“ Cameron chided softly. House hit fast-forward, making a face at the machine. He stopped at the next message, which was
also in a feminine, albeit mechanical voice.

“Hi, we’re taking a survey and hope you can answer a few questions about your
shopping habits—“

Finally the last message played, and House leaned forward as a softer, slower voice
echoed in the speaker.

“Grrrregory Haus! What on Gott’s green earth did you DO in Bermuda?”

He blanched, reaching quickly for the phone to turn up the volume as the voice
continued. “Emmeline Perry frrrom the bookstore, the vun who reads all those
Rrrromance novels is looking through the social pages of all those newspapers they
carry—the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Miami Herald—and she tells me
there is YOUR NAME in the Rrrrroyal Gazette of Bermuda, and on the Intention to Marry
page of all tings! I tell her this cannot BE, not MY Gregory, who has made it clear to all
oont sundry his is never, never going to marry because if he DID marry he’d be sure to
TELL his Mrs. Farber, oh yess, he would be honest enouff to do that and Emmeline tells
me the woman is NOT named Stacy evun, which thank Gott for small favors is okay but
some Irish girl and then I am left looking like a dunderbeck thank you SO much for the embarrassment . . . “ finally the voice died away.

House rubbed his eyes hard, even as he grinned crookedly. “Breathe, Lena, breathe,
that’s it . . .”

“ . . . and zo I am waiting for your call that you can tell me right so I can let Emmeline
know how WRONG is she in this and hope you packed sunscreen too because you
know how you burn on your nose. Call on Tuesday night if you please, I have choir
practice unt knitting class. I am seri-OUS, Gregory. Goot night.”

After the message bleeped, indicating the end of the recording, House drew in a deep
breath, the unexpected surge of emotions welling up. He gripped his cane and
thumped it on the floor once or twice, the hollow sound loud in the living room as he
closed his eyes and pondered his options.

It was Tuesday night now—if he called, he risked another earful on top of the recording,
and probably rolling on for a good forty minutes. On the other hand, if he claimed he
hadn’t rolled in until Wednesday, he might be able to defuse some of the anger. Then
again, getting it over with would be good. Conversely, facing Marlena Farber on a
headache and no Vicodin—NOT good.

Opting for choosing his battle, House rose and reluctantly erased the message, the Spaghettios suddenly not sitting nearly as well as he’d hoped.

***   ***   ***

“ . . . And so she’s just not keeping up with the ointment, you know? Shame, really,
that girl’s got enough problems without adding a bad complexion to it all,” came the
wafting sigh of Lisa Jane Kraemer, RN as she typed up the patient input. Behind her,
fellow nurse Shaquanna Phillips was trying to unjam the printer.

“I hear that, unhuh. So, what’s going on with the boss and the sweet shrink? Myra says
she saw them talking before the weekend and heard something about lunch but she
turned him down.” Shaquanna murmured in a low voice. Lisa Jane chewed her gum a
little harder.

“Man they’re driving me nuts. You know his number three is gone, right?” Receiving an emphatic nod from Shaquanna, Lisa Jane continued, fingers flying over the keyboard.
“Well not a damn minute too soon, and good riddance. You remember how she kept
leaving all those snotty phone messages and the fights? The number of nights Doctor
James just chose to stay here or at Doctor House’s place instead of going home?”

Shaquanna nodded, managing to extract the crumpled paper from under the roller of
the printer. “Oh yeah. Mitzi used to make sure he had a clean shirt and coffee.”

“Yeah,” Lisa Jane sighed. “Anyway, I think Doctor Emily is holding out. Trying not to be
seen as part of the divorce.”

“Makes sense.”

“Shame, really. They’ve got something between them, that deep flirt thing. Mitch and I
had that.”

“You still DO,” Shaquanna snorted, resetting the fresh paper. “Man, I’ve seen you come
in with hickies, Lisa Jane, and you an old married woman and all!”

Lisa Jane blushed, the flood of color darkening her skin between the freckles on her
broad face, but she smiled too. Shaquanna rolled her eyes.

“Hickies,” she repeated. “Lord, you think Doctor James even knows how to GIVE a
hickey?”

“Suction—“ came Wilson’s quiet voice. Both nurses looked up at him where he stood on
the other side of the front desk, picking up a file. “--Applied to the skin.”

“Uh, Doctor Wilson!“ Lisa Jane blurted out, her fingers freezing on the keyboard and
sending a string of letters through her work. Wilson glanced at her and Shaquanna, and grinned faintly.

“And yes, I’ve both given and received my fair share of hickies in my time. Ladies—“ he
tucked the file under his arm and walked to his office, striving to maintain a straight face, knowing full well both nurses were staring at him. Once behind the door, he tossed the
file on his desk and leaned against the wood, laughing softly to himself.

Hickies, for God’s sake.  Wilson rubbed his eyes with one hand, and reluctantly
wandered to sit at his desk, wondering if his nurses had X-ray vision now. He wouldn’t
put it past them sometimes. Wilson knew he was supposed to be reading the latest
biopsy report on Martha Ryan, but his glance barely registered the page and he let his thoughts drift back to Saturday night, and Emily.

Wilson wondered if she had a hickey. He’d certainly applied enough suction in enough
places; that was sure. He felt a flush wash over him, and a low pang between his thighs
at the thought, and it was impossible to stop his grin from widening. Yeah, a hickey or
two was certainly possible; it might be fun to ask her when she got in.

 She might even show him—strictly from one doctor to another of course—provided he
could give an opportunity to return the favor--

Wilson glanced at his watch, sighed, and reluctantly got down to the business of Mrs.
Ryan’s biopsy, putting aside all sweet and lingering thoughts of his make-out session
with Doctor Mansfield.

***   ***   ***

The three stacks of proposals had been sorted into piles, and Cuddy eyed them happily, delighted in the potential that lay before her. One pile of folders was in green: funding
for staff and personnel. The red pile held plans for various building and facilities
improvements, and the last one, the blue pile, were the various projects for research
and curriculum, everything from stem cell and immunology studies to a new student lab center.

Oh the thrill of it all! Cuddy tried to keep calm and professional, but for the last few
hours, every time her eyes moved over the stacks she felt giddy and light-hearted. So
much potential, so much promise in those folders. Dreams and aspirations, waiting to be fulfilled, waiting to be pursued and achieved . . . all waiting for the mere application of
money.

David Shinuto leaned forward and coughed slightly; Cuddy blinked and smiled back at
him. Taro Hinoshu smiled as well.

“So in terms of prioritizing, Yamahana Corporation feels that the plant and facilities need
to be the first item of business, and groundbreaking can begin as early as November for
the Pediatric wing, if the board approves. We have several architects working on designs
for both the Pediatric wing and the new parking structure.”

“Yes. I don’t think the board will have any serious objections,” Cuddy countered, smiling
at Hinoshu, who gave a nod back. He sat straight, his mustache as thick and long as
before, a grey folder in front of him, looking almost . . . amused. He muttered something
and the translator nodded, turning to Cuddy.

“Mr. Hinoshu suggests we stop for today and allow you time to attend to your hospital.
He hopes to visit the laboratories today after lunch and gather notes from our investment team.”

“Yes, of course,” Cuddy agreed softly, still looking at the documentation before her.
“And the board meeting is tomorrow night, so we have time to write up an overview of
all this before then.”

David translated this to Hinoshu, who nodded. He rose, bowed gravely to Cuddy and
walked out of the office, the translator following him a step or two back; Cuddy watched
them leave with a small smirk of amusement, then looked back at the folders and gave a happy sigh.

So far, so good. Nobody had said anything about her impromptu vacation, although she
did hear a few gripes from the clinic about House leaving them short-handed on Friday.
The thought should have made her scowl, but given the soreness of the muscles along
her inner thighs, she found she couldn’t frown.

In truth, there was nothing short about House.

Pushing this scandalous fact aside, Cuddy grinned briefly to herself and returned to her
files. She picked up two promising ones and carried them out with her, closing her office
door behind her as a soft voice broke into her reverie.

“Excuse me please, I am looking for the office of Doctor Haus?”

Cuddy noted the woman in front of her who stood looking slightly lost. The old lady had ramrod posture, and snowy white braids wrapped along the crown of her head in a style
that Cuddy hadn’t seen outside of an Oktoberfest. She wore silver wire rim glasses on a beaded chain, and although slight, was fairly tall in her green loden jacket, tweed skirt
and support hose. Sensible shoes and a thick cane rounded out the image, along with
a mesh shopping bag.

“Doctor House?” Cuddy wondered when Geriatrics had become a part of his specialty.

“Ja, yes.” The woman replied, looking down at a paper in her hand; Cuddy saw hastily scribbled directions on it, the handwriting vaguely familiar.

“His office is down the hall, this way.” She offered, definitely curious now. The woman
smiled, and Cuddy smiled back into the warm brown eyes magnified owlishly by the
thick lenses. The woman smelled of cinnamon and soap, and her skin had the
translucent clarity of elderly women. Cuddy slowed her pace.

“Did you come by bus?”

“J-yes. Not a bad trip, now that the rain has stopped.”

They walked on, and rounded the corner together. Cuddy looked up in time to see
through the glass walls that House was in the middle of a diagnosis, standing at the whiteboard. He looked up at her. He then dropped his marker. Cuddy tried not to grin.
The woman next to her caught sight of House and gave a little sigh.

“Yes, I see him now, trying to pretend I am not here. The very same. Thank you for
showing me the way.”

“My pleasure. I’m Doctor Cuddy by the way, and you are--?” Cuddy asked softly,
escorting the woman to the glass doors of House’s office. In the adjoining room House
was hurriedly ushering his team out the door, his gestures urgent and somewhat jerky.
The woman shot her a surprised glance, both suspicious and delighted.

“Marlena Farber, how do you do?”

Cuddy nodded, shaking hands and looking a little behind the woman where Foreman,
Chase and Cameron were reluctantly heading off down the hall. “Very well thank you.
And here’s Doctor House—“

With a wave Cuddy gestured to the door, opening it slightly, She refused to even look
towards House, preferring to nod to Marlena Farber and step away. Five long steps
down the hall to the corner, a turn and—

She leaned against the wall as her chuckles caught up with her in one big swell of uncontrollable hilarity. God! So THAT was Mrs. Farber, she of the Sauerbraten recipe. Definitely a determined woman by the look of her, and not a day under seventy. Cuddy wondered what the old woman was doing here, and hoped it wasn’t bad news; for a
moment she debated going back, but checked herself. The woman had wanted to see
House, and whatever their business it wasn’t any of hers. With a last little grin, Cuddy
pushed herself off of the wall and hugged her files a little closer, heading off to lunch.

***   ***   ***

The silence in the office was deafening. House stood his ground, trapped between his
desk and the door adjoining the diagnostic office, caught dead to rights. He looked at
the woman standing just inside the door.

She looked back at him, peering a little uncertainly through her glasses. Something
about his appearance made her sigh gruffly, and she began to move forward, her cane thumping the carpet.

“So. The Great Magnificent Amazing I gott my name on mein big fancy office door
Doctor Gregory House is SO busy now he cannot pick the telephone anymore and
make a simple phone call. They gott cards you know, cost hardly any money even in
the daytime hours, Gregory.”

The silence stretched out, embarrassing and awkward. Finally House sighed and
lumbered forward, scooping the old woman in his arms, hugging her tightly and praying
that nobody would walk by the glass wall and see him do so. She gave a happy sigh
and hugged back, patting his spine and squeezing him; for a moment House closed his
eyes and savored the familiar hug. He let go, and received a soft swat on his good leg
from her cane.

“Ow!”

“That’s for not call-ing, Hasi. You might have a bigger cane but I gott mein first. I know
how to use it.” Mrs. Faber grumbled through a smile. House scowled.

“Oh, the beatings, the beatings, they’re all coming back to me,” he shot back, but
without malice. Mrs. Farber looked pointedly at the chair in front of the desk and with a
noisy sigh House pulled it out for her to sit down.

“Gah, manners TOO? I thought I got an exemption from those years ago.”

“Not from me, boychick. I brought lemon loaf.”

House’s attention focused on the mesh bag and his pointed nose twitched a little. He
tried to speak casually, but it was slightly strained. “Lemon loaf?”

“Ja.” Mrs. Farber nodded sagely. She set the bag on the desk and rested a heavily
veined hand on it gently, then looked up at House. “So, Gregory . . . tell me.”

House reluctantly shifted around his desk and dropped himself in his chair, toying for a moment with his cane. He tried to figure out how best to explain the situation, and
recover a little from the shocks to his system that started with seeing Cuddy escorting
Mrs. Farber around the corner. He looked up; Mrs. Farber was looking back at him,
deep brown eyes shaded with compassion and a little dry humor.

“I haff ways of making you talk—“ she pointed out. House fought his snicker at that and
leaned forward, reaching for the mesh bag. She shook her head and waggled a finger
at him, the chain on her glasses clinking a little. “Ahh-ahh. First the real story about this Intention. I rode three hours on a bus and I’m not going until you tell me the truth.”

“Everybody lies,” he responded automatically, and for a moment the old woman’s face tightened as memories washed over her. House felt a surge of shame and dropped his
gaze. “But . . . not this time. Sort of. It’s . . . complicated.”

“So . . . uncomplicate it, if you please.” She sniffed. House sighed and slouched back.

“It has to do with money. A while ago, I cost this hospital a very large amount of it.
Details are unimportant—“

“—Which means it was because you pissed someone off, ja, ja—“ Mrs. Farber sighed.
House shot her a supremely annoyed look but continued on.

“Other people just assume the worst about me—you on the other hand, Mrs. F, have
KNOWN it all along.  All right. Another opportunity came up to . . . make amends. The investors are willing to put up ten times the money of the first scenario, which would go
a long way in smoothing over the little unpleasantness of the past. Unfortunately the
chief investor had an eye towards nailing our Dean of Medicine, and that just wasn’t an acceptable merger in any shape or form.”

Mrs. Farber frowned a little, shaking her head. “Ooooo. Shtupping? To seal the deal?”

House nodded. “Jawohl. The most tactful way to discourage all his ass-pinching and
leering was to whip up a fictitious fiancé for our Dean.”

“You. YOU gott chosen to play this role to save the money for the hospital?” Mrs.
Farber’s voice sounded properly disbelieving, and under her brown-eyed stare House managed an annoyed scowl.

She broke into laughter; her thin shoulders shaking, mirthful cackles echoing in the
office.

 House closed his eyes, waiting for her hilarity to die down. Deep inside he supposed
he should have expected this; after nearly forty years Marlena Farber knew him better
than anyone. He suddenly felt the grasp of cool knobby fingers on his hand and looked
down as she reached across the desk to squeeze his fingers.

“S-Sorry Hasi. I am just remembering . . . the other time . . .”

House felt the heat flood his face, and although he was far too old to squirm, the acute embarrassment writhed deep in his stomach as the memory lanced through his mind.
Quickly he pulled his hand from Mrs. Farber’s.

“Yes, well what happens in Kindergarten STAYS in Kindergarten. And if you want to
live, that little incident will never be brought to the light of day, lest I’m forced to do
unpleasant things to you.”

Mrs. Farber was wiping her eyes under her glasses with a Kleenex, looking supremely unthreatened. She tucked the tissue up the sleeve of her Loden coat and gazed at
House.

“Ja well it never would have worked out. I don’t think your father would have let you
marry the class bunny anyway.”

“Did I mention how much I hate old people?” House muttered. Mrs. Farber smirked a
little.

“And young people and babies and sick people and dead people too ja. Thank Gott you
went into a selfless profession like medicine, nu?”

They smiled at each other.

***   ***   ***

“Any idea who she is?” Chase asked the others in a sotto voice. Foreman shook his
head and Cameron frowned. They were peering around the corner at House’s office,
watching the two figures inside.

“He seems to know her pretty well—“ Foreman observed, “The man’s actually making
eye contact.”

“Well she can’t be his mother.” Cameron offered. The other two glanced at her and she elaborated. “Both his parents are dead.”

“And you know this HOW?” Chase queried. Cameron kept staring around the corner, concentrating.

“When he renewed his passport last year I got stuck with the paperwork. His mother
died back in seventy-one, and his dad died in ninety-two.”

“Bet the differential diagnosis was acute sarcasm poisoning,” Chase muttered, making Foreman snicker. Cameron rolled her eyes.

“Maybe she’s his aunt or something,”

“Parole officer more likely—“Chase suggested hopefully. They watched a moment
longer as both House and the woman got to their feet, limping in synchronicity and
headed out the door. One glance of agreement among the three of them did it and they stepped out around the corner, smiling brightly.

House looked up at the three of them, his expression a look of dark glee. Next to him,
Mrs. Farber glanced at Chase, Cameron and Forman, her scrutiny sharp.

“What an UTTER coincidence! Perfect timing,” came his sardonic observation. “Mrs.
Farber, may I present my Mod squad—Doctor Chase . . .”

“A pleasure—“ Chase smiled, holding out his hand; she shook it perfunctorily.

“--Needs a haircut—“ sniffed Mrs. Farber.

“Doctor Cameron—“ House rolled on. Cameron tentatively held out her hand and Mrs.
Farber squeezed it, smiling.

“--Needs a boyfriend. Is that nice Doctor Wilson still married?”

“Yes,” both Cameron and Chase chimed in together. Mrs. Farber shrugged
sympathetically and squeezed Cameron’s hand again.

“—And Doctor Foreman.” House finished. Foreman felt his hand seized and shaken
gently.

“Needs a lighter cologne—“ Mrs. Farber coughed a little. “I tink my eyes are watering.
So nice to meet you all. So young and smart, so . . . “ She trailed away, looking up at
House, who shrugged.

“--So busy standing here in the hall that they haven’t gotten to the tests I ordered. Call
me a softie, Mrs. F, I just don’t have your Teutonic touch with underlings.”

Mrs. Farber nodded. “Haf you tried canings?”

House gave a mock-sigh. “Unfortunately around here they call that assault and it’s
frowned on.” He looked up at the other three, who stood stunned. “Unless someone
volunteers of course—“

That was enough to break up the moment; all three doctors mumbled pleasantries and scurried off, leaving House standing with Mrs. Farber, watching them. He sighed, and
she laughed a little.

“Just like you described them—and they are the best? You are happy with them?”

“Yes. And . . . yes.” He assured her gravely. “Despite the hair, love life and toiletries
involved, they ARE the best. Come on, let’s go inflict you--er, go see Wilson. He’d be
hurt if we didn’t.”

Mrs. Farber made it a point to lightly jab the end of her cane on House’s foot as she
followed him to the elevator.




Mrs. Farber’s Lemon Loaf

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
3 Tblsp lemon extract
3 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
½ cup milk
1 tsp salt
1 ½ cup flour
1 ½ Tblsp grated lemon peel
½ (or more) cup chopped pecans


Mix first three ingredients. Beat eggs in. In another bowl, mix dry ingredients and add to
the first three gradually. Add milk; mix well. Add nuts and pour into greased loaf pan.
Bake one hour.

Glaze
¼ cup lemon juice
½ cup sugar

Mix and pour over baked loaf just out of the oven.

Excellent pound cake, very rich and lemony; the nuts add texture and crunch. Lovely as
a dessert with ice cream, or for certain boys in need of a snack after Lacrosse practice.
Goes well with a glass of milk.




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