i"The souffle is my Mom's recipe." Knight Fall/i
"Greg! It's so good to hear your voice. It's been too long."
House winces at the feeling of guilt rising from somewhere deep within him. He wonders if Nolan will somehow spot a shadow of it in their next session. "It hasn't been that long, has it?"
"What?" House shakes his head. "No, it hasn't been that long. Didn't you just call a couple of weeks ago?"
"Yes, I called. A month ago. And I had a nice talk with James. He said he'd tell you to call back." She's having fun with this. House can tell by the way her voice rises slightly on Wilson's name, like she's teasing him.
"I've been busy."
"You always say that you're busy."
House sketches idly in the flour dusting the marble countertop, a simple stick figure. "And I always am."
"Fine, fine. I give up. You win." Mom finally laughs. "Just like always."
"As it should be."
House adds a motorcycle in front of the stick figure. It doesn't look quite right, so he wipes it out, taking the stick man down with it. He smooths the layer of flour on the counter again. The pasta maker sits idle on the end of the counter, waiting for the dough he hasn't made yet. The flour seems more distracting for now than the recipe he printed out for pappardelle.
The flour and this call.
"I don't want to give you the idea that I just sit around the house, waiting for you to call," Mom says. "I do have a life of my own, you know."
"I know. Drinks at the club, shopping, bridge, golf --"
House stands up straight, forgetting about the flour and the pasta and the time. He searches his memory for the moment, back in the Philippines on a base that seemed more isolated than anyplace they'd been before -- remembers Mom trying out everything she could find to fill the time.
"Skeet shooting?" he asks.
"I was just going to empty your father's locker at the gun club, but he'd paid up until the end of the year," Mom says. "Did you know that they have a women's tournament every year?"
"Did you win?"
House leans back down over the counter, draws a woman this time with a boy by her side and a shotgun over her shoulder.
"So, to what do I owe the pleasure of this call?"
"Do I have to have a reason to call my mother?"
"No, but you always do."
House sighs, feels that guilt again. Nolan will definitely see something. He's too good at finding everything House tries to tamp down. "I need a recipe."
"You're cooking again?"
"Someone I should know?"
House hears her sigh and pictures her smile fall slightly. "That's ... nice."
"You sound disappointed."
"I am not disappointed. I'm just wondering."
"What the special occasion is. It's not James' birthday."
"Let's just say that I want to surprise him." House checks his watch. He'll only have a couple of hours before Wilson shows up with Sam, if Wilson sticks to his Wednesday routine. A couple of hours after that, and his trap will be set. "I wanted to make him your chocolate souffle."
"The souffle? I haven't made that for years."
"But you haven't forgotten how to make it."
"No, but it's nothing special. You could have looked up a recipe anywhere."
"I tried other recipes." The old apartment was filled with the remains of three other souffle attempts in the days before he went back to the hospital. "They didn't taste as good as yours."
"Thank you, dear. Let me get my recipe box." Her voice rises a little and he pictures the smile she always gave him when he was a boy and drew her a picture filled with flowers.
When she returns to the phone, he hears the sound of rustling paper. He knows she's looking through the silver metal box that found its way into her kitchens on bases in the U.S., in Japan, in Europe -- everywhere. He sees himself sitting at the table and watching her cook. He doesn't remember which kitchen it was or what country. It probably doesn't matter.
"Here it is." She chuckles, softly.
"Just reminiscing. I started making this back during my Julia Child phase. Remember that?"
House nods. "I remember that Dad always complained about you forcing that 'French crap' on him."
She laughs again. "He did. And he always cleaned his plate." She goes silent for a moment, then takes a breath. "OK, have you got something to write with?"
House wipes out the stick figures and holds his finger poised over the floured surface. "Go ahead."