top1top2top2top3

House and Family




None of them knew quite what to do—one minute they’d been sitting around
working through a differential diagnosis and the next, they’d been . . . invaded.


A creepy looking man in a pinstripe suit bounced in first, followed by another 
one dressed in what looked like a monk’s habit. Neither of them looked 
particularly healthy; they each had dark circles around their eyes, and a pallor generally found on the terminally ill. Then two children stepped in, looking like 
a Goth version of Hansel and Gretel— that is, if Hansel had been husky and 
wore a horizontally striped shirt and if Gretel had tight braids and a stark black dirndl.


Behind them came a cadaverous man so tall he had to stoop to pass through 
the Diagnostic office door. He stood at the rear of the group, looking like a 
keeper of gargoyles.


The leader of this unhealthy company, the pinstriped man, stood in the middle 
of the diagnostic office and looked at House, his eyes gleaming with and 
almost maniac cheer. He puffed his cigar and spoke up, waving his hands 
towards House.


“You must be House—you match Lisa’s description perfectly: Cranky-looking bastard with a cane!”


“Excuse me—“ Foreman began, starting to rise. A low growl rumbled out and 
it took everyone a second to realize it came from the gaunt giant in the back 
of the group. Foreman froze and sat down again. The menacing rumble 
stopped.


Once more the pinstriped man spoke up, moving over to the whiteboard and 
wiping clean the diagnosis there. House glared at him, tugging the eraser out 
of his hand. The other man grinned, taking no offense.


“Come on old man, Lisa said you were the best—if anyone can figure out why 
Tish is smoking more than usual it’s you.”


“Lisa? You mean Doctor Cuddy? Who the hell ARE you people?” House 
managed, “The Von Crap family?”


“Good one! No, The Von Craps are vacationing in Tia Carumba this month. 
Gomez Addams, and this is the rest of my crowd—Fester, Pugsley and 
Wednesday, and the big fellow’s Lurch.”


“Great. Get out,” House snarled. Gomez flashed his white teeth once more. Wednesday and Pugsley darted over to the whiteboard and began a 
complicated game of hangman. Chase, Cameron and Foreman all stared 
helplessly at each other and House picked up his cane, swinging it 
menacingly.


“Listen Mr. Addams, I don’t know what Doctor Cuddy told you, but I don’t 
take cases on a walk-in basis, capice?”


“This is different—we’re family,” Gomez announced.


“Not MY family, God forbid,” House snapped.


“No, no, Lisa’s. She’s my second cousin’s niece,” came the sunny explanation. 
“In fact I’m surprised she hasn’t mentioned us before.”


“I’m not,” Chase whispered to Cameron. House paused a moment and let his 
gaze wander over each member, and he cocked his head. On the whiteboard, 
the children had added circling buzzards to the game.


Gomez spoke again, this time looking slightly sad. “My wife, Tish, is smoking 
more than usual. She keeps setting off the detectors all over the house, the 
little minx.”


Foreman sighed softly. “House’s going to take the case. Look at him.”


“What case?” Cameron finally found her voice. “If the man’s wife is smoking, 
all she needs to do is cut down on the cigarettes.”


“Oh Tish doesn’t smoke cigarettes. She just . . . smokes,” Fester smiled at 
Cameron in a totally disarming way. “From her head mostly.”


“Mostly,” Gomez agreed, looking slightly lascivious. “In any case I’m prepared 
to pay whatever’s necessary to put you on her case, House. Money is no 
object.”


“She smokes?” House repeated, his brows drawing together. Then he reached 
over and plucked the markers away from Wednesday and Pugsley. He filled in 
the hangman word: EVISCERATE and bared his teeth at the children; they 
took a step back.


House looked over at Gomez and gave a slow nod. “Clear out. Go terrorize 
the gift shop or take the kiddies to the morgue while the minions and I toss a 
few rune stones here and see what I can come up with.”


“Atta quack!” Gomez clapped House’s shoulder in a broad gesture of support. 
He turned and beamed at the rest of his family. “Come on kids, let’s see if we 
can’t pick up a few trocar buttons as souvenirs.” 


As quickly as they’d piled in they left, Lurch ducking his head cautiously as he passed through the doorway. As they moved down the hall and out of sight, 
House thoughtfully added a few details to the hangman and spoke over his shoulder. “She smokes from her head. Not your common complaint.”


“Not unless you’re Joan of Arc,” Chase agreed. Foreman shook his head 
ruefully.


“I really think it’s a bad idea to take the case, House. The husband walks in 
here and presents us with a single symptom, no history, no other 
information—“


“Chase, nab whatever records Mrs. Addams has. Cameron, I want you and Foreman to take a complete history of the woman.”


The three of them paused for a moment; finally Cameron cleared her throat. 
“What about our patient Mr. Baynard? The one we were in the middle of 
before the Addams came in?”


“Him? He’s got vasculitis—I was just making you go through the motions,” 
House muttered, heading for the door.


*** *** ***


Out in the hall House headed purposefully for Cuddy’s office, working up a 
righteous indignation with every lurching stride. He pushed his way into the 
office and looked around. Guiltily Cuddy was pulling on her lab coat.


“You.” He growled. Cuddy lifted her chin.


“I’m late for clinic, House—“ she tried to bluff. He reached out and caught her 
wrist, long fingers circling it tightly.


“Screw clinic,” he told her impatiently. “What I want to know is why you sent 
the family of a patient to see me personally.”


She glared at his grip on her wrist then looked up at him and sighed. “House—
I didn’t have the heart to tell my aunt’s second cousin NO, especially since he 
did help put me through Med school. Besides, I figured you’d either tell them 
off, or take the case, and either way it would be over.”


“So because all of a sudden you’re totally passive aggressive when it comes 
to your dysfunctional family you want ME to do your dirty work!”


“They’re not dysfunctional, they’re just . . . different!” Cuddy snapped. “And 
before you brush the case off you might want to see the file, okay? I don’t 
claim my uncle Gomez and aunt Morticia are your average everyday white 
bread all-American family. I know they’re a bit unusual, but aside from that, 
there’s something genuinely a little off with my aunt, and since you’re the diagnostician, that does put the ball in your court!”


House scowled. “Different? Is that how you describe them? You’ve got an 
uncle with Grave’s disease, a pair of third cousins with transient 
erythroblastopenia of childhood, a bald adrenalin addict and cadaver man’s 
clearly got Marfan’s syndrome.”


Cuddy worked her jaw a little, both surprised and annoyed; finally she 
laughed. “Got it all figured out then, hmmm? Then my aunt Morticia should be 
a breeze.”


“Smoking from the head is a little harder,” House admitted grudgingly. “So 
we’re going to go see her, and then we’re going to check out the family vault 
to see if she plays with any dangerous embalming chemicals.”


“We?” Cuddy accused. House rolled his eyes.


*** *** ***


They looked in the glass wall of the room, towards the woman on the hospital 
bed. She was sitting up, pale and languid, her straight dark hair severely 
parted and hanging to her shoulders. Her piercing eyes took them in just as 
calmly. House scowled.


“She’s wearing black.”


“Nightgown from home,” Cuddy murmured.


“She’s on black sheets,” House groused. “Designer sheets. SILK sheets.”


“Privilege of wealth, at the moment,” Cuddy sighed. “I did mention they’re rich, right?”


House turned to look at Cuddy speculatively. “How rich?”


She smiled dangerously in return. “Rich enough to call Bill Gates ‘that 
underpaid little computer geek’ and mean it. Be polite, that’s all I ask, House.”


“In the face of that kind of money I can be Emily Freakin’ Post,” he replied 
and pulled the glass door open, stepping inside.


“Good morning, I’m Doctor House,” He grudgingly introduced himself. Cuddy 
shifted past him to the other side of the bed and took one of the woman’s 
hands in her own.


“Morning Tish. How are you feeling?”


“At Death’s door—“ Her aunt replied in a low, melodic voice. “It’s wonderful.”


“Been there often?” House demanded, taking her other hand and checking her pulse. Carefully Morticia Addams turned to look at him, her smile cool and mysterious.


“Always to the porch, never across the threshold yet,” she replied. House 
looked back at her steadily.


“Yeah, well Doorbell Ditch with Death is one of my specialties,” he told her as 
he examined her eyes. “And sometimes I leave a flaming paper bag of—“


“House!” Cuddy snapped. She gave her aunt an apologetic look. “He’s really 
very good, when he’s not being a jerk.”


“That’s all right, darling—it’s the sign of a dedicated practitioner. Doctor 
M’Bongo is often short with me—“ Morticia hesitated, adding, “Of course it 
might also be because he’s a Pygmy.”


House had leaned in now, and was deliberately sniffing Morticia’s hair, his 
brows drawn together in concentration. Fascinated, Morticia shot him a 
sidelong glance but remained perfectly still. 


Cuddy blinked a little. “House, what are you doing?”


“Checking for smoke, of course,” he snapped. “I’m getting hints of shampoo 
and graveyard mold, but nothing particularly flammable. What brands do you 
use?” House demanded of Morticia. She gave a little sigh.


“Herbal Decay shampoo and Eternity, by Kalvin Decline—I did tell that to your 
two young colleagues earlier,” Morticia replied. “I do hope this isn’t going to 
take terribly long, Doctor House. I have a chapter meeting of the North 
Innsmouth Rose Clipping Society to attend--“


Even as she spoke, long tendrils of smoke began to rise from out of Morticia’s elegant ears, mingling with other wisps drifting upward from various points on 
her scalp. House studied them a moment, then again leaned forward and 
inhaled a long drag.


“I BEG your pardon—“ Morticia blinked, pulling away slightly. House coughed, backing up and waving a hand in front of his face.


Cuddy herself gently fanned the air, dispelling the grey strands. “I’m sorry, 
he’s also a little . . . unorthodox at times. House—“ 


“It’s not paper, or wood or flesh,” he replied, coughing a little, “Nor is it that 
cheap smoke you get in magic shops. I need to examine your scalp—“


Graciously Morticia allowed it, looking regal even when House ended by 
peering through an otiscope into her ear. “You’ve been smoking for years, 
haven’t you?”


“Yes, how can you tell?” Morticia asked, slightly startled.


House sighed. “Your cerumen is completely grey.”


He motioned to Cuddy with his head and they left the room together, heading 
down the hall. Cuddy shot him an anxious look.


“So?”


“So if the smoking isn’t from an external chemical reaction then there’s got to 
be a biological component. I’m going to go visit the family crypt and see what I 
can find,” he replied shortly as he pulled out his Vicodin. “Have the rest of the Groovy Ghoulies stay with Auntie Flame there, will you?”


“You’re not going to their house alone, House—“ Cuddy paused at how odd 
that sounded. He looked askance at her and she lowered her voice. “—I’m 
going too.”


“You’re worried about me,” he gloated. Cuddy gave him a look so dry that 
House could almost taste the grit. She shook her head.


“No, I just want to be there when you run across . . . a certain Thing.”


*** *** ***


“There’s bizarre, and then there’s bizarre—look at this woman’s inoculation record—Wanga-Wanga fever; Smallpox, Mediumpox, Whoppingpox; Black 
Plague and Lycanthropy Serum—I’ve never even HEARD of these,” Cameron 
shook her head in distress.


“Definitely odd. Take a look at this—“ Chase nodded, pointing to a thick file. 
At random he pulled out a sheet of paper; it was vellum, with a wax seal at the bottom. “Her birth certificate from Carville Louisiana. I’ve never heard of 
anyone born in a leprosarium before.”


“That’s . . . weird,” Foreman agreed, looking uneasily at the paper, “But 
there’s no indication she’s got Hansen’s, right?”


“None documented. Despite the file she’s fairly healthy—no major surgeries, 
no chronic diseases, no traumas or infections. How did the family history go?” Chase asked, looking over the table at the other two.


“Long,” Cameron sighed, “But fascinating in a train wreck sort of way. She’s a Frump by birth, and has the lowdown on about a billion relatives all with some 
pretty weird names.”


“As in?” Chase prompted. 


Foreman looked at the history. “Apparently the Addams have cousins named 
Blah, Bleak, Bleep, Blink, Blob, Cackle, Caliban, Clot, Creep, Crimp, Cringe, 
Curdle, Droop, Farouk, Fungus, Goop, Gripe, Grisly, Grope, Imar, Manuel, Melancholia, Nanook, Plato, Slimey, Slosh, Slump, Trivia, Turncoat, and 
Vague.”


No one spoke for a moment.


Then Cameron spoke up again. “Apparently there ARE a few genetic 
anomalies: some color blindness and hirsutism mostly—but nothing that 
accounts for smoke from the head. What kind of symptom is that anyway?”


“Maybe she’s an aborted spontaneous combustion,” Foreman mused. “You 
know, starts to heat up internally and never completes the process.”


“Yeah, well you’d think she’d FEEL that somehow—a fever or something,” 
Chase complained. “And if that’s the case, what’s causing it to stop?”


“No clue. Where’s House—he’s the one who’s supposed to be able to figure 
this out,” Cameron sighed. Chase gave a shrug and moved to the 
coffeemaker, pulling out the old filter full of wet grounds and dumping them in 
the trash.


“Probably off racking up his billing hours—Addams did say money was no 
object.”


*** *** ***


“So this is it—“ House mused, looking up at the Second Revival Mansion 
beyond the rusted iron gate. “Nice and tomb-ey.” 


Next to him, Cuddy gave a long suffering sigh and fished in her purse for a 
huge black key; House took it and lumbered up the long drive towards the 
house, keeping his gaze on it. Cuddy kept with pace with him, scowling.


“I always thought you had skeletons to hide, Cuddy—nice to see I’m right.”


“I know you won’t understand this House, since it’s in the realm of genuine 
emotion, but they’ve been good to me, all right? Uncle Gomez is a major philanthropist. He and my aunt set up a trust fund for me when I was born. I 
spent summers with them in the Hamptons, and I always had a place at their 
table for Christmas.”


“Yeahyeahyeah, love and kisses, the best relatives in the whole world, 
whatever,” House replied, reaching the front porch. “I’m sure they NEVER suppressed you and let you explore ALL the colors of your rainbow world,” 
came his absent sneer as he stuck the key in the lock.


Cuddy paused, and forced herself to relax. She reached out for the doorbell 
and pressed it; immediately a foghorn blared out and House twitched a little at 
the low groaning boom echoing over the porch. 


“What did you do that for?” he complained. She cocked her head, opened the 
door and waved him in.


“Just making a point about not being normal. Come on—“


They stepped into a little foyer; House eyed it then moved into the living room, scanning it carefully. Cuddy didn’t bother looking around—she kept her gaze 
on House, watching him keenly as he let his gaze move about the room. He 
took in the mounted swordfish with the leg hanging out of it with interest.


“This was no boating accident,” House quoted almost playfully. Cuddy bit 
back a grin and strode forward, walking around the bearskin rug and settling 
herself in the rattan peacock chair carefully. House glanced at her for a 
moment, then looked around again.


“Eclectic and eccentric. The whims of the wealthy on full display with the 
added snob appeal of being genuine, no doubt—“ He stepped back, and his 
cane landed on the polar bearskin rug, which growled menacingly at him. 
House twitched again, and then promptly swung the walking stick, catching 
the tip of it against the black nose on the stuffed head. This time the bear whimpered.


“Your name’s not Smoky is it?” he addressed the rug. Cuddy shook her head 
at him.


“That’s Hotfoot, just ignore him, he’s harmless. I’m more concerned about 
Kitty Cat. Tell me what you’re looking for, House—you HAVE to have some 
sort of theory.”


Carefully House turned and walked over to the wall under the cuckoo clock. 
He examined the human outline on the wall, and the little slit holes all along 
the edge. Off to one side were the knives. House pulled them out, hefting one experimentally, but Cuddy was out of the chair and at his side before he could 
do anything more. “Don’t. It takes years, House.”


“Like YOU can do it,” he scoffed. She set her mouth in a thin line. Moving 
gracefully, Cuddy tugged the knives away, marched away from the wall and 
turned, tossing blade after blade so quickly that they looked like a continuous 
silver stream flying from her hands to the wall. Soft little ‘thunks’ marked the 
hits and the head of the outline was neatly ringed in quivering handles.


House refused to admit he was impressed. “And to think you passed on 
surgery as a specialty.”


Cuddy had one blade left; she flung it with more force than needed and it hit 
the crotch of the outline, burying itself deeply in the wall.


House winced. “Note to self; don’t argue with Cuddy near the steak knives of 
the cafeteria. Sooooooo—you wanted to hear my theory.”


Cuddy crossed her arms and moved closer, crossing over Hotfoot’s back. 
“Yes I would, before you get into any more trouble in this house. What do you 
think is going on with Aunt Morticia?”


“Does she have a garden? A greenhouse or conservatory?” House muttered. 
“Some place with those roses she mentioned growing?”


“Uh, yeah . . . out here,” Cuddy replied, leading the way. They stepped out 
into the dank, cool, glass-walled room. House noted the window boxes of 
pallid mushrooms and murky hanging vines. He gritted his teeth and tapped 
his cane on the stone floor.


“Okay, so start looking for shit. Or in actuality, fertilizer—anything with a 
particularly high phosphorus content. We want to check any and all chemical compounds out here, because I suspect your aunt’s been exposed to the stuff 
for years. Long enough for it to be absorbed into her skin and endocrine 
systems. For most people that would be a death sentence of course, but as 
you yourself pointed out, normal isn’t quite the word anyone 
wouglggggghhhhhh—“


Cuddy looked over from the crate she was examining to see House being 
ruthlessly strangled by a thick strand of vine wrapping itself tightly around his 
throat. Reaching up, she tugged on the plant, hard. “Cleo, knock it off . . . 
come on, just calm down and let him go!”


The plant tightened a little, and Cuddy squared her shoulders even as 
House’s face began to turn red, his hands gripping the vine futilely. Finally 
Cuddy stopped tugging and gently stroked instead. “Come on, honey, let go, 
be a goooooood girl and let go—“


Gradually the vine slackened and began to unwind; Cuddy carefully lifted the 
loops away from House’s throat and when he was free, she pulled him away 
from the plant’s reach. House leaned over Cuddy’s shoulder and jabbed a 
middle finger at the potted vine. “Oh yeah?” he rasped hatefully, “You want to 
be a man-eater, bring it on! I’ve got one word for you, Cleo—weedwhacker!”


The plant swayed menacingly, like a leaf-covered cobra. Cuddy tried to keep 
the two antagonists apart, growling a little herself. “House, knock it off! Cleo—“ 
she trailed off, not sure how to chastise a plant, “—Just--don’t get your roots 
in a knot, okay?”


Carefully she made House rest his butt against the edge of one of the potting 
tables and checked his neck. He whined, but let her do it. “Stupid piece of 
kudzu . . . “


“Shhhhhh, Cleopatra’s Aunt Morticia’s oldest and most favorite plant, House. 
Don’t even think of defoliating her or I’ll . . . “


“What? Fire me? Over a plant? A plant that willfully tried to STRANGLE me, I 
might add—“ he snarled. House stretched his chin up as Cuddy gently 
touched his throat. “Anyway it doesn’t matter. There’s a huge bag of Cemetery Friend brand fertilizer right under that windowsill. I can smell the stuff, and I’m 
willing to be a little chemical analysis will show it’s a good percentage of 
yellow phosphorus.”


Cuddy sighed. “You look a little red, but other than that you’re fine. Okay, 
good. This is good—I’ll grab a glass from the kitchen and we can take a 
sample of the fertilizer back to the hospital. You go wait in the living room though—I’m not leaving you here.”


“Worried I’ll pluck up the wonder weed?” House sneered.


“Worried you’ll end up hanging from the rafters,” Cuddy replied firmly. “Come 
on.”


She settled him onto the sofa and slipped out of the room, leaving House to 
sulk a bit as he toyed with his cane. Absently he fished in his pocket for his 
pill bottle, twisting the cap off and pouring a pair of capsules in his hand. A 
glass of water nudged his wrist and he waved it off absently. “No thanks, I 
swallow dry,” he told the hand in the box holding out the offering.


House swallowed his Vicodin, choked a little as realization set in, then looked 
over at the glass once more. The hand holding it waggled the offered water a 
little more temptingly and House finally took it. A dry and flat “thanks” came 
out of him, more a reflex than genuine gratitude, but the hand cheerily gave 
him the ‘okay’ sign and pulled the lid of the box closed.


House stared at the water. “Got any beer?” he finally asked.


The hand emerged again with the speed of a jack in the box, holding out a 
Sam Addams Pumpkin Ale. House nodded approvingly and traded it for the 
water. “Okay—you, I like.”


When Cuddy returned, she found House swigging the beer and talking to the 
hand.


“ . . . And I don’t want to make any assumptions here, but right now I’m not 
really in the mood to work up a theory as to why I should fret over a 
disembodied hand, you know? Live and let live, particularly if you’re willing to 
share the brewskis.” He glanced up at Cuddy, who looked slightly amused 
now.


“See you’ve made friends with Thing.”


“Every man should be in touch with Things,” House agreed. “Particularly when 
beer is involved. You’re the designated driver, by the way, so I’ll just stay here 
while you go get the fertilizer.”


“You’re going to make me do all the legwork?” Cuddy griped. House nodded, saluting her with the beer.


“Hey, you’ve got three thumbs up on that.”


*** *** ***


“Phosphorus. Her hands in particular are loaded with it,” Cameron marveled, 
waving at the microscope. “It’s in her skin, absorbed down through the 
muscles. But why is it making her head smoke?”


House leaned back against the lab table and looked up at the ceiling, trying to compose a lofty explanation, but Cameron added, “And who gave you the 
hickey?”


“That’s NOT a hickey,” he growled, rubbing his neck, “The reason Cuddy’s 
Aunt Morticia’s head smoked was that it’s the part of the body most exposed 
to temperature changes. Those changes caused the phosphorus in her 
system to sweat out and become exposed to the air—bingo, smoke.”


“Why more now?”


“Menopause,” House shot back. “One of the major symptoms of menopause 
is hot flashes, and in this case, flash is pretty much the operative word.”


“So—prior to this she smoked off and on, but now—“


“Now she’s on hormone replacement therapy to cut down on her fumes,” 
House finished, moving out of the lab.


He made his way through the hospital until he stood outside the glass wall, 
watching in through the blinds at the group assembled around the hospital 
bed. In the low light of evening they all looked just as out of place as before, 
but somehow it didn’t seem to matter. Cuddy was with them, smiling, one arm around the husky boy, the other around Gomez. She looked up in time to 
catch House watching.


She excused herself and stepped out of the room. “So.”


“So.” He replied. “They’re still a freak show.”


Cuddy nodded softly. “Aren’t most families?”


House smiled.




Later, in the darkness of his office, House finished typing up the case study 
on the computer. He saved the file and leaned back, pleased to think that the 
New England Journal of Medicine would probably be interested in the file 
when he felt a tap on his forearm.


Thing was leaning out of the cigar box on the far side of the desk, holding out 
an envelope. House saw his own name nearly written on it.


“Thanks.” Taking it, House turned it over and saw the wax seal on the back; a 
gothic capital A. He used the letter opener and pulled out a sheet of vellum.


House old man,


You did the job splendidly! We’ve switched fertilizers, Tish is on the mend and 
you have the gratitude of the whole clan. Consider this an open invitation to 
come on out to the house anytime! Thing gives you the thumbs up, and if 
you’re not doing anything on Halloween, get Lisa to bring you on over. (She’s 
a good girl, whiz at dueling, yoga and demolition in case you didn’t know.)


Gratefully,


G. Addams


P.S. If you ever need to fire bullets into a body again, let me know!



Under the note was a check.


A really BIG check.


House grinned.


END

 

 


         


House index



GuestbookGuestbook





bottom1bottom2bottom3