Summary: Ch. 1 of 5. After treating a man with a mysterious aliment, Cameron becomes a patient herself, prompting House to reevaluate his actions.
A/N: In all fairness, Niff deserved a co-author credit because she was an invaluable help with the medical aspects of the story. Since she refused, I'll have to settle by offering her my thanks. And thanks to Gibby and Ann for their beta services. All mistakes are mine; I don't share.
Rating: Eh, let's go PG-13 for language.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything remotely connected to this show. I haven't even seen all the episodes yet. I hope I have the characterizations right, but let me know if I screwed something up.
Rounding the corner, Dr. Gregory House hobbled to the door as quickly as his damaged leg allowed. If he could make it to the privacy of an empty exam room, he'd be able to survive another shift of clinic duty without having to be bothered with an actual patient. They always got in his way of treating illnesses, and he had little patience for them. He wasn't fast enough, though, and Dr. Lisa Cuddy stepped in front of him, crossing her arms as she blocked his escape route.
"The patients are that way," she informed him, pointing towards the clinic waiting room.
"Sorry, I already have one."
"Several in fact. All of them are behind you."
"Them? Oh, anyone can see to their runny noses. My dance card is all full," he said dismissively.
"You can't dance."
Cuddy didn't relent, and she turned to grab some charts from the desk behind her. "It's my hospital; I know diagnostics doesn't have anything."
"And that's my fault?" House complained. "I can't help it if all you get are sniffles and scrapes down here. Is that any reason to punish me?"
"No, it's not your fault, but I like punishing you. It's the best perk of my job," she said with an exaggerated smile.
"You are a naughty girl!"
"Besides, I'm sure you deserve it for something. Go with it. Let it feed your inner martyr. Now those are your patients. You aren't getting out of clinic duty."
"This is a waste of my skills."
"Well, until a mystery epidemic comes in, you're stuck here."
"I like the way you think!" House said, giving her a wide grin. "Let's go up to the lab, mix up a bunch of live cultures together, stick them all in a bottle and spray people with it. The mall's the perfect place. Can't be any worse than the attacks of the perfume ladies. The smell from our concoction certainly would be better than some of those things. Someone's bound to come up with an interesting condition if we did that."
"Exam room one," Cuddy said, handing him a chart.
Grumbling all the way, House opened the door and immediately froze. Inside, a chanting woman covered in crystals, amulets and talismans hopped around the exam table on one foot. She held a bundle of dried leaves in one hand, and she was bringing a lighter towards it.
"What do you think you're doing?" he demanded.
"Purifying the room. I have to drive all the bad energy away," she said, falling as she tried to hop backwards around the table.
House pulled the bottle of Vicodin from his pocket and dry-swallowed two pills.
Gladly taking the chart from the nurse, Dr. Allison Cameron scanned the file thoroughly as she approached the exam room. Glen Kelleher, age thirty-six, had been brought in after having a seizure before a business meeting. He appeared otherwise healthy, with no fever and no history of neurological disorders – and now he was the diagnostic department's patient.
Or so she hoped.
Working with the legend-in-his-own-mind Gregory House was an incredible learning experience – when the prickly doctor actually bothered to take a case. Lacking a current one, the team descended on the clinic looking for anything interesting. She wasn't sure how he'd react to her taking the initiative with this patient, but Cameron didn't let that deter her.
Despite his blunt dismissal of her during their first date, she remained oddly attracted to him. House was a brilliant diagnostician – but only when it involved the human body. His reading of her interest had been completely wrong, but she wasn't sure that he'd ever give her the chance to prove that to him.
Since that dinner, things had been off-balanced between them. He'd probably object at her interest in this case. The return of his ex-lover had further complicated matters, but one thing was certain: she wasn't going to let him bully her.
Besides, they were bored.
"Mr. Kelleher," she said, entering the room. Discreetly, she began her observation of the gowned man sitting on the bed. The patient appeared slightly shorter than average and lean, having no excessive body fat. What was exposed of his body showed an extremely well-defined musculature, indicating he was physically active. He was calm, and he had no signs of palsy or other muscular jerking. In fact, he appeared in perfect health, but she knew looks were deceiving. "I'm Dr. Cameron. How are you doing?"
"Call me Glen. And I'm fine. Honestly. I don't know why I'm here," he answered with a mildly exasperated air. "Not to be rude, but will this take long? I have to catch a flight tomorrow, and my meetings are already way behind schedule. I really feel okay."
"Don't you lie to that doctor," snapped an older man who had been pacing the room. He stopped and turned towards them. "You ain't been yourself in days. And today. Oh, of all the times to get sick. You scared your investors off."
The patient smiled at Cameron and nodded to his companion. "Joey says I had a seizure, but I don't remember it."
"That's not uncommon. How have you been feeling otherwise?"
"Terrible, that's how he's been."
"I think Joey needs a tranquilizer," Kelleher stage-whispered, drawing a brief smile from the doctor.
"Look at his hands! He was going so bad he punched through the drywall."
That prompted Kelleher to drop his head, scowling as he turned his hands over. The skin over the knuckles was raw, with bits of grayish powder embedded into it. Flexing them carefully, he swallowed uneasily. "Damn. How did that happen?"
"I need to do an examination, run some tests and get a history. I'm afraid you're going to need to cancel your business meetings," Cameron said as she inspected his hands. "That isn't painful? Good. It's unlikely you broke anything."
"I already checked for that," the older man said curtly, his left hand rubbing his right arm nervously. "Worry about why he had that seizure."
"Hey, Joe. Call Mom and Pop. Let them know I might not be able to fly home to see them tomorrow. Don't tell them I'm sick. Mom'll freak. Tell her I'll call her later. Sorry," he said once the other man had left. "Joey's been with me for years. He was my first coach, works for me now. He's overprotective."
"And he said you weren't feeling well," Cameron responded pointedly, continuing her examination. "Tell me what's wrong."
"Yeah. Nothing really bad. Guess it started about a week ago, maybe ten days. I've been tired, feeling kind of rundown. A couple headaches, stomach's been a little upset. I just thought I was getting a bug."
"If there was one, it wasn't high enough for me to notice."
Cameron pulled back and crossed her arms over her chest. She fixed him with a compassionate but firm look. "And what symptoms will Joey add to that list when I go talk to him?"
"Oh, you're good!" Kelleher said with an appreciative laugh. It was short-lived as he flexed his hands again before running them through his reddish-brown hair. "I can't believe this. I've never been sick. Nothing serious."
"It's all right. It's normal to feel unsettled after a seizure. What else can you add?"
"I guess I've been a little grumpy. Joey's complained that I was barking at him, but I didn't think I was that bad. And I guess my concentration hasn't been the best. I thought it was the stress. There's been so much these last two months. I run a fitness club, and they want to franchise it. I've been flying in for meetings, always on the run. All the finance stuff; it's complicated. The ad people the bank wants to use are insane. Can the stress being doing this, giving me a seizure?"
"That's very unlikely. Have you had any problems with your vision?"
After a moment's shock, he gave his head a shake. "God, yeah. I was thinking I needed to get contacts. Things were getting a little blurry. You must think I'm an idiot."
Cameron jotted down her findings, pausing long enough to give him a kind look before moving to checking his reflexes. "No, I don't. How's your appetite been?"
"Not so good, but we've been on the road a lot. Not really eating right. You know how it is when you're rushing around."
"What about your family history? I need to know if anyone has had any problems with seizures or neurological disorders."
"I don't know. Guess I need to call Mom for that."
"Yes, you do."
"Great," he sighed, leaning back on the exam table. "You think Joey gets underfoot? Wait to you meet Mom. You won't miss her. She'll be the squawking lady attached to your hip."
Cameron's lips curled slightly as she brought up her flashlight to examine his pupils. They contracted normally, but she frowned as she stepped back. A number of small scars covered his face. "How did you get the scars?"
"I used to box," he answered vaguely.
"Used to box, my ass. Sorry, miss," Joey said with obvious pride as he re-entered the room. "You got no reason to be modest. He had a boxing scholarship to Notre Dame, and he graduated with honors. Then he went to the Olympics. Bronze medals in the welterweight class."
"Were you his trainer, Joey?"
"Yep. Been with him since he was in high school."
Cameron finished writing her observations on his chart, taking her time as she composed her next line of questioning. As House was fond of saying, 'Everyone lies', and the two men in front of her had ample reason to do so. She needed their honesty, but she understood that it might be hard to get.
"This is very important. I need you to be honest with me so we can find out what is wrong with you. Did you, or do you now, take any type of steroids, or any other medications while you were training?"
"No!" both men said immediately.
"Doctor, I'm not lying. I didn't use them. I drank some, still do, but no drugs. The Olympics and all the qualifying competitions tested for steroids. Back then, we didn't have those things that don't show up on drug tests. There was no way I'd throw away all my work and other medals taking that chance. And …" Kelleher said, pausing as he waved his hand. After a bashful look, he turned his head away. "Those side effects. Not good."
"You mean the testicular shrinkage and impotence," Cameron said, fighting down a smile as her patient blushed deeply. The sight of such a powerful man reacting like a shy schoolboy was amusing, but she didn't want to add to his embarrassment.
"Yeah. That wasn't something I was willing to risk to win."
"Okay. I'm ordering some blood work and some other tests. I need you to fill out these family histories. Joey, why don't we step outside?"
"She wants you to tell her all the stuff I left out or lied about," Kelleher quipped as they exited the room. Looking up from his paperwork, he winked at Cameron. "She's good. Don't hold back. She'll catch ya."
Smiling, she led the trainer into the waiting area.
Crossing the room angrily, House snatched the bundle of dried herbs from the woman as she stood up and waved them in front of her face. "This is a hospital. No smoking – whether it's holy smoke or not!"
"I was just trying to help."
"I'm sure you were," he replied sarcastically, sitting down on the stool. "Okay, Miss … Freedom Rainforest? Where's that? And what's your name?"
"That is my name."
"Freedom Rainforest. Were your parents exceptionally cruel?"
"Boring," she said with an eye roll. "Can you believe they named me Amanda Schwartz? I changed it."
"Okay," he drew out with an exaggerated sigh. "Besides masochistic tendencies, what seems to be your problem?"
"What. Is. Wrong. With. You?"
"I've been poisoned."
"With what? Toxic weeds?" he asked, staring at the bundle he still held. Tossing it into the trashcan, he washed his hands and pulled on a pair of gloves. "What are your symptoms?"
"I told you; it's an environmental poisoning."
"Humor me. I live for this. It gives me goose bumps," House said, bringing his stethoscope to her chest.
"I've been tired, with a fever and a backache."
"And you got poisoning from that? Amazing! Can you narrow it down to what you think it is that's supposedly poisoning you?"
Rainforest frowned at his annoyed tone. "I didn't make that up. My crystals told me."
House's eyebrows climbed up his forehead. Sitting back on his stool, he folded his hands over his belly. Eyeing his cane briefly, he smiled at the woman opposite him. "Have they mentioned anything about needing a sacrifice? I've got this hospital administrator that you'd just love to meet."
The woman shook her head, causing a cacophony of noise as her various pendants clanged together. "They don't talk to me."
"Well, I'm glad to hear that! It's okay when people talk to inanimate objects. Weird – and definitely pathetic – but okay. It's when they talk back that you have problems. Uh, they didn't use Morse code, did they?"
"I'm not crazy. My crystals are my tools. It's no different than your stethoscope," Rainforest insisted calmly.
"Right. Well, my stethoscope went to medical school, and it says you have the flu."
"But that's impossible."
House threw his head back, staring at the ceiling for a moment before looking at her. "I probably don't want to know, but why is it impossible?"
"I don't cook my food."
"I was right. I didn't want to know that. But now that you mentioned it, I want to know what the hell that has to do with the flu."
"I must say you're not much of a doctor. Raw food is the perfect way to eat. Cooking destroys all the nutrients in the food. That's why people get sick. I've read all about it in my magazines."
"See, that's the big drawback with modern, scientific, medicine," House said, tossing his hands back dramatically. "We can't make eyeglasses small enough to fit on something microscopic. Not that it really matters. The viruses and bacteria don't have eyes. They can't read your magazines, so they don't know they aren't supposed to make you sick. Dumb things, aren't they?"
"But my poisoning?"
"You weren't poisoned." Standing up, he pulled off his gloves and tossed them away. Heading to the door, he looked at Rainforest over his shoulder. "You have the flu. Go home. Rest. Drink lots of hot – well, in your case, cold – tea."
Cameron walked into the diagnostics department with a grin. When her colleagues looked at her hopefully, she held up the file in triumph.
"Tell me you found something," Dr. Eric Foreman half-begged.
"Anything at this point," Dr. Chase added.
"You guys will like this one."
She was writing notes on the whiteboard when House entered his office. Seeing his team eagerly gathered together in the next room, he stared at them quizzically. After a beat, he cast a longing look at his TV before joining them.
"And since when do we have a case?"
"Since I went out and found us one," Cameron said smoothly.
"Oh, this is going to be good. What is it? A teddy bear that lost its stuffing? I know! A sad, little kitten needs an emergency whisker-otomy. I'm missing my soap for this."
"No. Unexplained seizure in a thirty-six-year-old man. He has no history of any serious illness, let alone neurological disorders, and there's no family history of them. His CBC showed no infection, and he has no fever. Electrolytes and sugar levels are normal."
"Other symptoms?" Chase asked.
"His heartbeat is slightly irregular. Fatigue, blurred vision, muscle weakness and gastric disturbances. His trainer thinks he's been 'as grumpy as a damn bear with constipation', but Kelleher says that's because he's been under a lot of stress for the past two months."
"Patients aren't always the best judges of their personality. How did he seem when you talked to him?" Foreman asked.
"Polite. Actually, a little on the bashful side. And a flirt," she said with a wicked grin.
That prompted a round of chuckles and some teasing from the two younger doctors, but House merely stared at her. "Trainer?"
"He boxed in college and went on to be in two Olympics. He hasn't been in the ring for years. And both of them swear he never used steroids."
"Right. And a bashful boxer? I thought that was a mythical creature. Maybe you can write a paper on him."
"Kelleher claims the side effects were more than he was willing to risk."
"Oh, now I know he's lying," House said animatedly as he headed to the door. "Either about the Olympics or the steroids. You don't get to that level of competition unless you're willing to risk everything."
"Even sex? I thought you said men were pigs," Cameron shot back.
He stopped and seemed to consider that. With a shrug, he gave her an impatient look. "So?"
"So what?" she asked in confusion.
"Did you verify that? Are his tinkle-berries still berries, or have they become tinkle-raisins?"
"No, I didn't check. Blood tests will show if he's telling the truth about the steroids."
"Why, Dr. Cameron. I'm surprised at you," House said acerbically. "You had a chance to grab a man right by his nads, and you didn't. Total control of the situation, and you blew it. You're slipping."
"And I don't hurt people just for the fun of it."
The pair locked gazes, neither willing to be the first to look away. A tense silence fell over the room, and Foreman cleared his throat loudly. The others all turned to him, and he grinned innocently. "Frog in my throat."
Chase was the first to swing the conversation back to the patient. "Yeah. Well, dementia pugulistica is the obvious thing to consider. He's punch drunk."
Foreman shook his head. "Not likely. If he'd ever fought pro, that'd be my first thought, too. Every professional bout carries a forty percent risk of acute brain injury. Enough fights, and the damage becomes permanent."
"Some sport," Cameron muttered. "What is it with guys?"
"We're pigs, remember?" House grumbled.
"But amateur boxing doesn't have those problems," Foreman continued. "They wear headgear and use lighter gloves. They base scores on hits, not knockouts. A KO in the Olympics usually is an accident. Serious injuries at that level are rare. You're more likely to break your hand than to get brain damage."
"He's right," House said. "According to the CDC, one hundred thousand young adults die every year from sports injuries. Most had a previously undiagnosed underlying condition. And boxing almost never makes the list. It's the pro boxing that'll kill you. Or at least kill your brain."
"So, even if we can rule out brain damage caused by boxing, there could still be trauma from another source," Chase said.
"Seizure caused by brain damage? I never would have thought of that. What else?"
Cameron answered House first. "Drugs."
"Epilepsy," Foreman said.
"Pheochromocytoma," Chase said. "It rarely happens, but it can form in brain tissue."
"Frontal lobe syndrome."
"Yeah, that only covers a million things," Foreman joked, flashing her a grin.
"Infection," she countered, quickly listing the possibilities on the board. "Metabolic disorders."
"Parasites or a stroke," added Chase.
Foreman nodded. "Vascular disorder."
House popped another Vicodin and clapped his hands together. "Oh, very good! You even did that in alphabetical order. You've been forming your very own Ziegfield Follies on the side." Pointing at Cameron, he continued, moving his hands in an hourglass motion. "You need to be wearing one of those hot outfits with the feathered hats. Better yet, just the feathers. Your boxer would really like that."
"Pheochromocytoma isn't spelled with an eff," she responded coolly.
"Blame the Aussie. They can't speak English anyway."
"What? Like you Yanks have any room to talk."
"Who are you going to believe?" House asked, waggling his eyebrows. "Your boss or the guy who likes vegemite? Okay, is there anything else that could be causing this guy's troubles?"
He gave Cameron a quick eye roll as he picked up the blood results from the file. "So you think he has mad cow disease, or he's a vampire. Or he's a vampire that snacked on a mad cow. Even a bashful boxer is more likely than that."
"So, I take it we're working this case," Foreman said, grinning at the irritated look directed his way. "The possible personality change and blurred vision could indicate a neurological condition."
"Hmm. Nothing abnormal on the initial blood work. Run a full tox screen and urine sample. Let's rule out shrunken tinkle-berry syndrome and drug abuse. Full chems, including liver enzymes and other materials. This could be metabolic. Get an arterial blood gas analysis. Do an EEG and a CT scan as well. Let's see if there's anything inside the Bashful's head," House said doubtfully to Cameron before heading back to his office.
Walking down the hallway, Foreman shook his head mournfully. "I told him it was a bad idea. I tried to warn him."
"You tried to warn him about what?" Chase asked.
"Taking her on a date. I knew that was a disaster waiting to happen. I knew it. I tried to tell House."
"What are you going on about?"
Foreman gave his friend an incredulous look. "Did you miss that conversation between them back there? Whatever happened on that date, it wasn't good."
"So you think."
"And you don't?"
"How would you know?" Chase asked honestly. "This is House we're talking about. How do you think he'd react if they were together? Do actually think he'd be nice to her, at work, in front of others? He's not going to start sending her teddy bears and flowers."
"No, but this was more than House being himself."
"I don't know. I think he got upset when he heard that a patient was flirting with her."
Foreman nodded emphatically. "Oh, I caught that. And the part about grabbing the guy by the nads. Face it – he's pissed that she blackmailed him into going on a date. This could get nasty."
"Or not," Chase insisted.
"Tell me you don't think having to blackmail a guy into a date is good sign."
"Of course not. I said the very same thing to Cameron. But they're both adults, even if they are both idiots."
"I'm glad we agree on something."
"Hell, for all we know, that could be what passes for foreplay between them. They could be on their way to the roof for a quickie right now."
Foreman screwed his face in disgust. "God, that was one visual I didn't need."