glared. He was particularly good at it, given the object of his
however, took in his scathing glance with a little shrug of her
shoulders and leaned more
heavily on her cane.
“If I wanted critical and cutting remarks about my ability to
paint a porch railing, I’ve got a
wife that can do that just fine,” he pointed out dryly.
Marlena Farber sniffed a little, her
lined mouth pursing up a bit.
“She lets you off easy, Grrreg, oont you know it. I bet she
re-paints everyting after you’re
House winced, aware that the comment was probably true. When it came to
practicalities of domestic life, he was fine at the small projects and
with the larger ones. Cuddy accused him of attention deficit; he
countered that anything
that couldn’t be done in a single afternoon was worth paying
someone else to do.
In the end it became a battle, albeit a cheerful and ongoing
one-upsmanship as the two
of them continued to remodel Blue Brook Dairy. House had to grudgingly
admit that not
only did Cuddy have excellent taste, she also gave in on enough of his
to keep him happy—or at least not grumbling as much as he
usually did. There were
times when he ambled around the bedroom loft, or around the spacious
living room and
felt an odd, private pride in ownership of the place.
Of course he never told Cuddy about the bodies.
He’d found the first one out along the area she’d
marked off for the new koi pond, twenty
feet from the back door. After his spade had hit bone on the second
shovelful, House had abruptly told Cuddy to go on without him;
he’d finish the job alone. When she’d gone
the nursery to pick out the fiberglass hull for the pond, House stayed
behind, and carefully unearthed the skeleton, bagging up the moldering
bones in a Hefty trash bag.
House estimated the victim had been buried nearly twenty-five years
ago, and, given the
single, efficient bullet hole in the right temple, had probably pissed
off some one of the
Cosa Nostra persuasion. He also knew that if Cuddy found out about the
be compelled to report it, and THAT would mean a police investigation,
and the end of a happy, quiet home at Blue Brook.
House had other plans.
So he’d carefully taken the Hefty bag out to the dump, along
with a few other earmarked
items and never said a word about it. In his opinion, anyone
who’d pissed off the Mafia
nearly a quarter of a century earlier probably wasn’t being
searched for anymore,
although the juxtaposition did amuse him privately—the whole
idea that the victim had
once slept UNDER where the fishes now were was tacky but still good for
a grin now and
But now he was constantly on the alert every time Cuddy mentioned
gardening, and the
closer spring came, the more she wanted to do, which was annoying as
hell. He’d dug
enough flowerbeds in his time for his mother, and later for Marlena
Farber . . . to have to
do it for Cuddy as well seemed unfair, but given the odds of her
uncovering another body, necessary.
Cuddy of course was suspicious. She taunted him and demanded
explanations, but he stonewalled and redirected her attention until in
time she’d given up and let him do the
digging, grumbling about macho-ism.
So far House had found three bodies altogether—or two and a
half, since he felt couldn’t
count a disintegrating bowling bag with two skulls in it as a body, per
se. None of these
remains were younger than thirty years by his estimation, and none had
Mrs. Farber spoke again, breaking into his thoughts. “Ja,
vell I had to come oont see it
for myself. Hasi Greggie do-ink verk. Voluntarily, even. I should take
“Watch it, or I’ll throw a bucket of water and make
you melt,” House scowled, resting the
brush on the rim of the paint can and looking carefully at the section
of rail he’d just
painted. Mrs. Farber sniffed and shifted to the porch swing, settling
on the striped cushion
with a sigh. For a moment they didn’t speak, sitting in the
cool of the spring mid morning.
A breeze made the branches stir, and fresh green smells were in the
air. House wiped his
hands on a rag, and didn’t look at the woman off to his side.
“You’re going back to Austria,” he
announced shortly, “And you’re not planning on
back, are you?”
Mrs. Farber sighed. “Ja, mein Liebes. I’m old,
Greg, and I vant to go home.”
“I thought you had
one, out on South Lace Road,” he replied distantly, trying
sound hurt. Mrs. Farber gave a slow sigh, like air leaking out of a
“I hat a home mit you, and then you grew up. I’ve
been vaiting for you to make a home
yourself before I could call the job finished, nicht wahr?”
“You needed to see me dead or married,” House
snorted. “I know which option I would
have bet on.”
“Ja,” she agreed, making him glance at her sharply.
She flashed him a knowing smile.
“But I suspected your sex drrrive would win out,
“You’re a perverted old lady,” House told
her, trying not to smile. He rose and came to sit
next to her on the porch swing.
“Ha! Ziss coming from a boy who made his own Playboy trading
“I was ahead of my time,” House admitted
unapologetically, “Still have a few, somewhere,
if the She-Beast hasn’t pitched them.”
“She’s goot for you,” Mrs. Farber nodded.
“Better zan you deserve, you know.”
“Sure, take her side just because you’ve both got
uteruses,” House grumbled, but gently.
He sighed and looked over at Marlena, surprised to see her eyes
slightly wet. She sniffled
“Zorry. But it’s true, mein Hasi-Greggie. You HAF a
home, and I vant to be buried in mein homeland. To be next to
House tightened his jaw. “You’re not
“No, but I am getting olt, boychik. I’d rasser go
back to Austria on two legs zan in a box.
Besides, you’re settled now. A king in your own
“More like the knave . . . with perks,” he
conceded, a twisted smirk crossing his mouth.
“Although we both know who the queen is, no problem
“Lisa . . . “ Mrs. Farber sighed. House looked at
her sharply now, arching an eyebrow.
“Schwan-ger,” Mrs. Farber smiled.
“I’m tellink YOU, Mister Hot-shot Diagnostic
“über meinem toten Körper,
Marlena—“ House snapped back. “You think
something as obvious as that?”
“Ja, you vould,” she replied comfortably, turning
her brown gaze on him and smiling. “She doesn’t
know it yet herself, but I looked in her tea leaves ziss
Marlena Farber’s unshakable confidence; her smile and knowing
eyes made the unease
in House grow. He winced a bit.
“Tasseomancy doesn’t predict anything except that
you’ve come to the bottom of your
tea cup. I’m telling *you* she’s not pregnant. In
fact she was riding the cotton pony . . . “
House trailed off, trying to think back to exactly when he’d
last noticed the tampons out.
When the moment dragged on, Marlena nodded knowingly. House flexed his
agitation. He sighed.
“No. I’m not daddy material. You of ALL people
should know that,” he muttered. “I have
no interest in beings who can’t take care of their own
“Zat explains ze medical degree,” she dryly shot
back. “Of course. Vell I vouldn’t vorry
about it, Grrreg. She vouldn’t let you near your baby
For a moment House looked relieved; then speculative. “You
may have a point. The She-
Beast does put the *over* in overachiever. With a little careful
planning I might not have
to contribute anything except a few cigars and a picture sitting or two
. . . “
“Babies are goot tax deductions too, I hear,” Mrs.
Farber added, smiling to herself.
Before either one of the could say a word more, the sound of a car
driveway interrupted their conversation; guiltily they looked up as
Cuddy pulled up and
parked, climbing out and studying the two of them. She held a gym bag
in one hand.
“Did you finish the porch railing?”
ever hear of the Emancipation Proclamation?” House called
back, rising stiffly
from the porch swing and reaching for his cane. Cuddy mounted the steps
and flashed a
smile at Mrs. Farber.
“I’ll touch it up while someone has nap
Mrs. Farber nodded, then tried to look innocent when House glared at
her. “He did goot.
“Mostly,” Cuddy echoed, then cast a suspicious
glance at House when he circled around
her, his gaze intent. “What are you doing?”
“Looking at you—I thought that was
obvious,” House muttered. “Did you throw out my
homemade Playboy trading cards?”
“What? No—I left them with the rest of your icky
boyhood crap in that wooden chest you
keep under the bed,” Cuddy snapped back, eyeing House with
concern. Mrs. Farber rose
off the porch swing and shook her head.
“I’m goink to take a nap before making dinner.
Grrreg—“ came her soft warning, but her
eyes were twinkling, and House’s mouth twitched. Cuddy spoke
“That’s fine—please, go rest, Marlena. I
bought what you needed and House can help me unpack the
“First the painting, then the groceries; *fine.* I might as
well be wearing a collar and rabies
tags,” he grumbled, shifting to follow Cuddy down the two
porch steps. She glanced back
at him in fond irritation.
“Dogs don’t paint porches . . .what’s
gotten into you anyway?”
House paused, then lumbered past Cuddy to the car.
“Nothing,” he brusquely told her.
They carried the bags in, and after House had cleaned himself of paint
at the sink he gave
a nod towards the garage. “I’ll be out.”
Cuddy gave a distracted nod, shifting cans of mushrooms on the pantry
attention focused on her stock. House tugged on his leather jacket,
hesitated, and then
came up behind her and awkwardly kissed the crown of her head. Cuddy
tipped her head
back to look up in to his face.
“Not yet,” House told her quietly. Cuddy stared a
moment longer and did a graceful twist
and turn to look at him as she blew her bangs clear of her eyes.
“Okay,” she agreed quietly. Whatever the burr was
up Greg’s ass, he’d reveal it
eventually. Sometimes he rode for hours; sometimes he drank, with
Wilson or alone, but
so far he’d never failed to come back to her, and Cuddy felt
that was about as reasonable
as House would ever get.
He paused again at the kitchen door and eyed her once more.
“And don’t redo the porch.”
“If you did a good job the first time, I won’t have
to,” Cuddy pointed out patiently.
“I mean don’t touch the paint. It’s got
VOCs in it,” House muttered, and lurched out the
door. Cuddy blinked a little, watching him go, and when the roar of the
rumbled away, she shook her head and felt her sense of worry grow.
Things weren’t perfect between them; thank God. Most of the
life they were making
together was still half-bicker, half-bang, to the amusement of anyone
who knew them.
House hadn’t let up an inch on the insulting and suggestive
comments to her at work; his
ability to twist an innuendo into a verbal pretzel had become an art in
Cuddy kept to her balancing act, striving to keep herself from either
giving in or holding
out too much, and oddly it worked. If anyone grumbled (and there were
still a few
specialists and departments that did) they didn’t have too
much hard evidence of
Neither House nor Cuddy had mellowed in marriage; and yet the rhythm of
their days and
ways flowed on, time softening an edge here and there with
Cuddy sighed, and wondered if House’s melancholy had to do
with Marlena Farber’s visit.
Two days earlier the old woman had called, announcing her intention to
visit Blue Brook;
a situation House protested loudly, although Cuddy could tell it was
mostly for show.
They’d picked her up at the bus station and brought her back,
where House complained
as he took Marlena around to show off almost every feature of the place.
Cuddy liked having the company; Marlena was supportive and good-natured
and the two
of them got along well. She was due to catch a flight to Austria
tomorrow; Cuddy would
be sorry to see her go, but she’d be back, and there was
always Christmas of course.
Then she frowned, wondering again if there was another reason for the
The automatic habit of thinking in negative terms came far too easily;
Cuddy had looked
at too many test results and scans in her lifetime not to consider
Marlena’s health. But
the woman looked fine and complained of nothing. In any case, House
hadn’t even asked.
Cuddy sighed again and moved to the back door, opening it and stepping
out onto the
patio. The sunlight came filtering through the tall trees back here,
throwing sparkles on
the koi pond and dappling the flowerbeds. She noted with annoyance that
House had left
another stack of journals under his hammock, along with a dirty plate.
“I have better things to do on my Saturday than clean up
grumbled, still reaching for the plate anyway. As she bent to scoop it
up, her glance fell
on a little blue inked scrawl graffitied in tiny letters on the canvas
edge: Did Lisa
04/12/07 nine stars.
She felt the sweet heat of a blush rise on her face, remembering
clearly that afternoon
when they’d put the hammock’s construction through
a rather vigorous test. House had
been in a mood to tease, and Cuddy remembered being so frustrated that
sunk her nails into his ass but good, which had volcanically expedited
Yes, it had certainly been a nine star afternoon, thank you very much,
Cuddy grinned. Her
gaze wandered around the yard, and she suddenly wondered if House had
any of their other . . . sites.
*** *** ***
“I’m coming!” Emily Mansfield chuffed,
waddling to the front door, wishing she hadn’t
thought dusting was a good idea. At eight months her mobility was
limited now, and yet
the damned nesting instinct wouldn’t stop. Wilson had
threatened to lock up all the mops
and sponges if she didn’t slow down at least a little.
She opened the door and blinked, staring up into House’s
face. “Um, hi.”
“Hi. Wow you’re big.”
“And people say you have no tact,” Emily replied
dryly. “James isn’t here right now,
House. His car needs a new muffler.”
“Not here to see Wilson. Got any coffee?” House
muttered, looking down as Oliver
pushed his way around Emily’s thigh and snuffled. Absently
House reached down and
petted him; Oliver’s tail swept back and forth.
“Yes. Come in,” Emily told him, puzzled. She made
her way to the kitchen and plugged in
the coffeepot, measuring out enough for two cups. House wandered in
after her, eyeing
“Pine Sol. You’re deep into it, aren’t
“I’m afraid so,” Emily agreed.
“I had to stop myself from demanding you put on booties
come in. So what’s up?”
House looked uneasy. He glanced down at her belly again, his expression
seeing it, Emily blinked. “Do you want to touch it?”
“Do I have to?”
“Only if you give me a dollar first,” Emily
solemnly told him. House briefly grinned at that.
“Not bad. What’s it like?”
“Getting uncomfortable. The kid kicks like a fiend and I have
to pee constantly. Antacids
are my new drug of choice.”
“Nothing like chalk tongue to make it all worthwhile,
“ House replied. “And the horrifying knowledge that
you’re bringing an innocent life into a fucked up world that
you’ll never be
able to fully protect him or her from? How’s that
“Sinking in,” Emily admitted, watching the coffee
drip down. “I’ve told James several
times that I’d like a do over button, and he still thinks
it’s funny. I give it until the baby’s
first colicky night before he’s right there with
“Simethicone, and earplugs,” House advised, but his
voice was oddly flat, and Emily
looked at him out of the corner of her eye. She took her time pouring
the coffee, and
handed House his mug before speaking.
“Okay, enough with the fun and games. You’re not
here to see James which means you
came to see me. Since it’s the weekend and you’re
not wandering by to try and steal my Gravedigger, there has to be some
other compelling reason why you needed to talk,
House. So talk.”
He leaned on the kitchen counter, looking into the depths of his cup,
stalling for time and
trying to think of what, exactly to say.