Burden of Reality

House sat at his desk, despairingly contemplating the build up of paperwork. It was to early in the morning for him to be broken into doing that yet.

He knew he was friends with Wilson for a reason when the oncologist made an appearance in the doorway.

'I should get you a crown of thorns,' House greeted him, enjoying the brief shadow of confusion that crossed the other man's face. But Wilson hadn't known him for so long without learning when to ignore House.

'Hey, I was just wondering if you'd seen Mrs. Ribaldi's file?'

'Why, has it got some interesting pictures-' House trailed off, his ever shifting gaze for once capturing something that rendered him speechless.

'What?' Queried Wilson, knowing that there were also times not to ignore House.

'Your… hand is on fire.' House rubbed his eyes, quickly scanning back through his memory for any drugs he may have accidentally imbibed and came up blank. The situation wasn't helped when Wilson brought the hand up to his face, looking at it in mild annoyance.

'Damn spontaneous combustion,' said Wilson as he gingerly blew at the flames a couple of times. 'One moment.'

'Uh…'

Wilson tried patting at it the fire with his other hand, and then put it in his mouth, withdrawing a hand that was no longer on fire. House watched him carefully, just in case he was about to grow horns or something even stranger. The oncologist settled for letting out a sudden belch of flame, which House ducked to avoid, bringing his head up cautiously to stare at his friend.

'That's better,' offered Wilson brightly.

'Didn't- you know- hurt, or anything?' Queried House, carefully, wondering if Wilson would perhaps admit that this was not normal behaviour. Wilson thought about it.

'Tingles a bit.'

'Uh huh.' Some more staring. At which point Wilson rippled like a mirage and disappeared, revealing another Wilson, stepping up to House's desk. House watched him very carefully for any signs of abnormality.

'What's up with you this morning?' Questioned Wilson in the face of an intently staring House.

'I could ask you the same question,' muttered House in a voice just too low for Wilson to hear.

'Normally I don't get that kind of look at least until I've said something,' continued Wilson, since House hadn't broken the stare.

'Not feeling hot or anything are you?'

'What are you talking about?'

'Growing insanity apparently. You wanted something?'

'Huh?'

'I assume you did come in here with a reason. Or do you just enjoy my company that much?'

'Uh, no. Well, yes actually. Wanna come out to lunch today?'

House gave him another careful scrutiny, although for different reasons this time. 'Wife breaking up with you?'

'Not yet.'

'Killed a patient through gross negligence?'

'That's your job.'

'Found out that Cuddy's quitting?'

'No… is she?'

'I wish. OK. Twelve-ish?'

'Yeah. I'll meet you in here after I finish up with patients.'

'Shh. I'd rather not know about your sordid affairs.'

'There are no-' Wilson cut himself off, never able to resist taking the bait. 'Bye,' House called after him as he left, grinning slightly to himself. Then he remembered that he'd been hallucinating a few minutes ago and frowned thoughtfully. He honestly couldn't think of anything that would have brought on such symptoms. Oh goodie. He loved mysteries.

Just experimenting, he stood, gathering his cane, and made his way into the diagnostics lounge. His team looked up expectantly, and he had to carefully restrain a laugh. Cameron had sprouted a pair of angel wings, and Chase was complete with kangaroo ears coming out the top of his head. Studying Foreman for several seconds, he couldn't see anything amiss, but figured perhaps it was something subtler. The silent staring was not completely out of his usual range of strangeness, but Foreman was starting to return his look with mild belligerence, so he decided he'd probably better speak. No matter how funny Chase looked with ears.

Continuing to watch Foreman out of the corner of his eye, he addressed all three of them. 'Do we use nitrous oxide in this hospital at all?'

'Uh, I don't think so,' frowned Cameron, wondering what he was getting at. He had, after all, taught them that his words always held deeper significance, if it wasn't immediately apparent.

'No chances of leaks then,' said House, closing one eye experimentally. Nothing changed.

'What's going on?' Asked Chase cautiously.

'Nothing at all roo boy,' replied House, stalking over to stand behind Cameron's chair, and abruptly waving a hand through the wings before she could turn. They rippled slightly at the disturbance, but remained firmly visible. Cameron turned her head to look at him, starting to look seriously worried now. Chase was just looking put out about the roo comment.

'Just checking here; none of you notice anything… unusual… at the moment?'

They obediently looked thoughtful. House paced over to the bench while he waited, scanning it's the items scattered on it like they might provide inspiration, then turning to face them, leaning back on the countertop.

'Come on people, it's not a trick question. Not that difficult either,' he snapped, glaring at the three of them.

'Uh, you,' pointed out Chase.

'Right.' House mused silently for several seconds.

'There is something going on House. What's up?'

'Fairly vivid hallucinations,' House replied directly.

'What?' Questioned Foreman.

'Maybe we have got a leak of something, and it's causing deafness for you.'

There was several seconds of silence, and House's carefully honed sensors detected that he'd said something off.

'Who are you talking to?' Questioned Cameron tentatively. House realised what was wrong with Foreman. Just testing, he picked up a pencil off the bench behind him and lobbed it at Foreman. Foreman wavered like a mirage as it passed through him and obligingly disappeared.

'Right then. Foreman not in today?'

'No… he's sick,' replied Chase cautiously. His serious tone was slightly undermined by the giant furry ears on his head.

'You saw Dr. Foreman there?' Asked Cameron, slightly more on the ball.

'Yeah I saw Dr. Foreman there.' House mimicked her nastily.

'I think you've finally lost it House,' Chase stated.

'Brilliant diagnosis Watson. Who needs that pesky DSM IV anyway?' House named the psychiatric diagnostic manual with strong hints of derision.

'OK,' said Cameron placatingly, 'we've got to figure it out then. Any ideas on what's causing this?'

To be continued… (no, really, I'm taking suggestions)