Marmine raised his eyebrows at the cold voice greeting him from within the office. It didn't need a genius to realise that the woman waiting for him was pissed off; though he was pretty sure he had stayed clear of her radar lately. Keeping his face as expressionless as possible, Cliff Marmine opened the door and entered.
Cuddy was sitting at her desk, staring – or, rather, glaring – at the file in front of her. She didn't look up or acknowledged him otherwise but kept shuffling papers.
Barely a minute later and Marmine didn't know what to do. The Dean of Medicine had called him to her office. She had told him to enter – he was absolutely sure he hadn't just imagined it – yet she seemed to be completely oblivious to his presence.
He cleared his throat as politely as possible.
Cuddy turned a page of the file.
He went from clearing his throat to coughing, louder this time.
Cuddy wrinkled her forehead. She knew exactly where Marmine was. In fact, she had no idea what kind of file she was looking at. But she wasn't ready to face him yet. Besides, being ignored could only do him good.
Marmine tilted his head, thoughtfully scratching his chin. He'd been up and about since early morning and his feet were asking for a rest. However, simply sitting down would be a sign of disrespect and he knew that, unlike House, he wouldn't get away with it. As, even though he was really good at his job, Marmine knew that he wasn't as brilliant as House. Or, in other words, he was simply easier to replace. Clearing his throat again, he took another step towards Cuddy's desk. "Dr-"
She held up her hand to stop him as soon as the first word had left his mouth. Cuddy was almost disappointed when he reacted promptly. Well, it seemed like she had to let him wait a little while longer. Grinning inwardly, she managed to focus on the file in front of her for the first time.
And almost broke out laughing.
She still had no idea what it was, but it was clearly upside down. Cuddy closed it without batting an eyelash and put it to the side. Then she grabbed the next one from the ever-growing pile on her desk. Making sure it was the right way around, she opened it and started to read.
A group of clinic patients had filed an official complaint about the treatment they had received by none other than Dr Gregory House. Resisting a groan, she quickly scanned over it, already thinking on how to best solve this. Luckily, she remembered the incident. House had made a group of clinic patients line up in front of him and played a round of speed-diagnosing and -treating. She had come by just as he was finished, and, deciding to better be safe than sorry and avoid possible repercussions from a wrong diagnosis, had seen to all of them herself. Unsurprisingly, she had come up with the exact same diagnoses House had.
"Uh, Dr Cuddy?"
Ops. It seemed like her tactics of ignoring Dr Marmine had worked out rather well – as she really had forgotten about him. Well, she would simply blame House. After all, it technically was his fault that she had gotten immersed in the file. Satisfied with her conclusion, she looked at Marmine, an eyebrow raised questioningly. She did, however, remain silent.
"You wanted to see me?" Marmine really didn't like the look she was giving him. He almost felt moved back in time to his days as a young boy. His grandmother, a formidable woman who had been and still was very proud of her familial roots, had made it her goal to instil the proper manners into him. She had given him the same look whenever he had appeared at any meal with the tiniest spot of dirt showing on any of his clothes or himself. Even as an adult, this certain look had the same effect on him as it had as a child. It made him feel like a failure and insignificant. He had hated it – and still did. Of course, after coming back spotless his grandmother had always giving him an appreciative nod – and then she had smiled a smile that made her stern features look ageless and never failed to give him a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. Somehow, however, he doubted Dr Cuddy would give him a similar smile any time soon.
Cuddy almost smiled as she saw him react to the look she gave him rather unexpectedly. In fact, she could clearly read the contradictory emotions running across his features – shame, almost childish defiance, affection and puzzlement. She guessed they weren't directed at her but at a memory of the past. "Dr Marmine. What can I do for you?"
He frowned for a moment. "You
asked me to come and see you."
"I did, didn't I?" She loved this. She really, really did even though she knew she shouldn't – from the Dean of Medicine point of view anyway.
Cuddy motioned for Marmine to take a seat in the chair in front of her desk. Allowing her face to show open curiosity, she said, "It has been a while since our last conversation and I was wondering how, after your initial difficulties, Buffy Summers was coming along."
She could almost literally see the wheels starting to turn in Marmine's head – and not in a good way. "As good as can be expected, I suppose," he said casually.
Cuddy decided to play along for the time being. She wanted to see where this was going. "How so? Is she behind her co-workers or not as knowledgeable as she should be? Are there complaints from her patients?"
"Not really. The majority of patients seem to like her and she knows just as much the others. They all make the odd mistake, but also learn from them." Knowing that sticking to the truth as much as possible reduced the chance of being caught lying later on, he admitted, "We seemed to have had a few communication problems with each other, but they have been solved recently."
Cuddy raised a questioning eyebrow. She knew he was referring to his clash with Buffy merely a week ago, even though he didn't know that she did. What surprised her though, was that he openly admitted to it. If anything, it made her more cautious. "That is good to hear."
He looked down into his lap as if there was something more. Knowing the game, Cuddy asked, "But?"
"I don't know how to say this," Marmine looked up again, giving the impression of feeling uncomfortably in telling her, "but recently things started to vanish from the locker room my students and other staff are using."
"Only yesterday one of the nurses told me she thought she recognised previously stolen goods in Miss Summers' locker."
"How would she know?" Cuddy asked as she fought hard to push her anger back into the dark corner it had been coming from. There would be time for that later.
"Uh." Marmine swallowed and Cuddy had to admit that he was rather good at pretending to be uncomfortable. "She walked passed Miss Summers as she got ready to leave for the day and recognised an expensive handbag that had gone missing from her friend's locker the very same day. The nurse, I'm sorry but she didn't want to tell me her name, only stopped me because she knew I am Miss Summer's supervisor."
Cuddy made a noncommittal sound. "What else has gone missing and why haven't I been informed of the thefts?"
Marmine shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know. I'm not using those lockers and only know what I've been told by the nurse." Of course, there never had been a nurse telling him about seeing stuff in Summers' locker. The thefts, however, were really happening.
"Do you believe Summers is capable of stealing her co-workers' things?"
"I don't know," Marmine said so thoughtfully that Cuddy almost wanted to roll her eyes. "But-?" she prompted again.
"But, as you might remember from our last meeting, there was the break-in into her apartment a while back and she lost her laptop and other expensive things. Maybe she's trying to recover her losses?" He suggested carefully.
Ah. That would explain it then. Shaking her head, Cuddy looked straight at him, "So you have finally come to the conclusion that the burglary wasn't a fake after all?"
Eyes opening comically wide, Marmine started to stutter something unintelligible. Damn, he was such an idiot! Last time they had met, he had only admitted to reacting too harsh to her missed homework, but at the same time he had made it clear that he didn't believe Summers' excuse.
"Or," Cuddy continued without waiting for a reply, "Do you tend to bend the truth to suit you best?"
Even though it had seemed impossible at first, his eyes opened even further and Cuddy expected them to fall out of their sockets any second now. Seeing his shock, Cuddy went in for the kill. Rubbing her hands in obvious glee, she smiled sweetly at him and almost sing-songed, "You are fired."
Marmine gave a rather unmanly squeak. "What?"
Resting her forearms on the desk, her fingers interlaced, she leaned forward and squinted her eyes. "You. Are. Fired." Leaning back in her chair again, Cuddy relaxed and smiled pleasantly at him. "Oh, and I wouldn't expect a good character reference either."
"But … but I didn't do anything
His squeaks were starting to grate on her nerves, but she kept her saccharin smile in place. "Hmm. That's interesting. Here I thought you were just accusing Buffy Summers of theft. Without having any evidence, I might add."
"But the nurse-"
"Never stopped to talk to you about the thefts. In case you're interested, there's been a severe shortage of locker space for female support staff. So Buffy Summers and a couple of others have been moved to the Intern's locker rooms," Cuddy explained with a pleasant voice, looking very pleased with her.
Marmine gulped visibly, his face going from red to pale and back to red within seconds. He was so screwed.
"And then," Cuddy continued, "is the issue of implying Buffy Summers being a killer."
"But she is," Marmine replied, crossing his arms in front of him defiantly. Finally he'd be able to get some sort of control back! "You weren't there, but she openly admitted
it yesterday. Just ask Dr Wilson, Dr House or his new fellows!"
"Oh, I have." She was still smiling sweetly – and Marmine started to get seriously creeped out by it. "Dr Wilson actually relayed some very interesting information to me."
Great. The squeak was back. Rolling her eyes, Cuddy continued, "One, Buffy Summers didn't kill anyone. Neither Wilson's cousin nor your fiancée's brother."
"Would you stop squeaking
already?" Cuddy quickly stood up and, with her hands resting on her desk, leaned towards him – using the height advantage of her standing over his sitting form rather impressively. "My ears would greatly appreciate it!"
Cuddy sat down just as quickly as she had stood up, her saccharine smile back in place as if nothing had happened.
Marmine, on the other hand, cowered into his chair.
"Where were we?" Cuddy asked more rhetorically than anything else. "Right. One
, Buffy Summers didn't kill anyone. Two
, offering jobs for personal benefits are unethical and deeply frowned upon. Three
, abusing your powers to punish a subordinate without reasoning is a big no-no. Four
, making up facts in order to accuse someone else of stealing is just as wrong. Hence, you are fired
Marmine actually whimpered.
Her pleasant smile never leaving her face – even though she was afraid her muscle would freeze in that position and she'd have to go through the rest of her life with that stupid smile in place – Cuddy finished, "So, you were saying?"
Dawn and Buffy giggled as their mother re-enacted this morning's meeting with Marmine. Lisa had invited them for a girls' night in to her place and both had readily accepted. Dawn had to fly back in a few days and she wanted to spend as much time as possible with Lisa. And Buffy, of course.
"Wow. Remind me to never get onto your bad side!" Dawn said with admiration. "What a jerk!"
"Yep," Lisa gave them a genuine smile. "Of course, I couldn't really fire him."
"Huh?" Dawn looked so confused, that both Buffy and Lisa broke out laughing. Dawn put on her best pout. "Hey! Laughing at the not-knowing person is just wrong!"
Lisa raised her eyebrows before dissolving into another fit of giggles. "And I thought Buffy's pout was good!"
Immediately appeased by that comment, Dawn grinned right back. "It is…. But mine is perfect
After an impromptu – albeit short – pillow fight with the sofa cushions, the young women relaxed once more, waiting for Lisa to explain the whole story.
"Well, that's what I dreamt last night. It was really creepy," Lisa said, her body shuddering involuntarily. "I opened the same file as in my dream. Worse, I even knew what Marmine was thinking!"
"Eww!" Dawn and Buffy said in unison, both pulling disgusted faces as well.
"And it was so close to the truth too!" Lisa shook her head in disbelieve. "That's what was so creepy. So, as soon as I realised the meeting went almost exactly like my dream, I loaded the hospital's ethical guidelines onto my computer, marked certain passages and printed them out. And, instead of saying 'You. Are. Fired.
' I handed him the printout and suggested he thought long and hard about his behaviour. I also printed out the registration form to the next offered course on work ethics – and suggested he'd attend it in his own time, paid out of his own pocked."
Dawn frowned, "But why didn't you fire him?"
"As much I would have liked it, no," Lisa shook her head. "I really liked the way my dream ended better."
"But I couldn't really fire him because he'd have a moderate chance of winning an appeal against it. Buffy being my daughter would give him a good leverage to start with. In the end it could get really ugly and the hospital's board of directors would probably want to make a deal. Marmine would get a slap on the hand but could keep his job," Lisa explained.
"So the way you handled it is far less messy."
"Yes. He knows that I'll be watching but as long as he understands this and behaves accordingly, he'll get away without a reprimand that could negatively influence his career."
"So he gets off lightly," Dawn said unimpressed.
"Maybe," Buffy said, patting Dawn's knee reassuringly. "But he'll be more inclined to leave me alone as well. He knows he's treating on very thin ice. I rather prefer this than him being all pissy about it and making my life hell while the appeal is going on."
"You're okay with it?" Dawn asked. "Both of you?"
Mother and daughter shared a look before they nodded in unison.
"You know, Buffy, this pregnancy makes you all soft and mushy."
Buffy grinned. "Yep."
Dawn giggled at the goofy smile on her sister's face before she became serious again and sighed. "I still don't like it."
Lisa ruffled Dawn's hair, earning herself a dirty look. "I know. But I can't help the feeling that House just found a new victim to annoy."
That idea lifted Dawn's mood immediately. "Really?"
"Oh yes," Lisa chuckled at the satisfaction in Dawn's voice. "He has the cunning ability to know which people he can annoy the most without me stopping him."
However, as much as she was looking forward to see Marmine becoming House's favourite toy, it would be her who had to pick up the pieces in the end. It might be fun seeing House do what she wanted but couldn't do – but she would also have to pay for it. And, judging by the mischievous twinkle appearing in Dawn's eyes, she figured keeping her away from House for the remainder of her stay would be a very good idea too.
"So," Buffy said with the same mischievous twinkle in her eyes as her sister, "House is cunning, huh?"
--A/N: So, I started several times as I didn't really know how to best write this chapter. Hope you like the result! Anyway, thanks for all the reviews and to everyone who voted for me to keep both my stories in the race for the COA! Muse was very pleased. Although, looking at some of the stories left in my categories, she rather feels like hiding under my bed… But I'll keep promising her chocolate so she'd still tell me how to continue :P!