I wrote this all in one shot one day and have spent the last few days polishing it a bit. The longest thing I've ever written. Trumpet fanfare and the like.
I enjoyed writing it, anyway. I hope you enjoy reading it.
Read at your own risk. The author's mad.
"Well, aren't we the picture of industry today?"
The sarcastic drawl failed the have the usual guilty response it usually got among the three ducklings seated at the conference room table. House blinked, stepped up to the table, and tried whacking his cane down hard on it (and whatever hands may have been in the way.) Chase yelped and fell backwards off his chair.
"Oh, don't be such a cry baby," House snapped, before staring around at the other two members of the team, who were still staring at the wall. "Earth to sleeping people? This hos-pi-tal. You know, sick people to cure, that sort of stuff."
"There are none," Cameron said flatly.
"If we don't have any cases, get some, or Cuddy'll be after me for clinic work again."
"There are no patients," Cameron repeated dully. "None. At all. Even if Cuddy sent you to the clinic there'd be nothing to do."
"She's right," Foreman volunteered.
"I don't know. There are no patients. In the entire hospital."
"Oh," House said with the air of one on the brink of a revelation. "You mean there are... no patients." He lifted his right hand to tap the side of his nose, almost clobbered himself with his cane, and wisely dropped it.
"No, I mean there are no patients. They fixed the sick ones, got the hurt ones sent home to rest there. How they got the time... The rooms are all empty. The clinic's clear because every time someone goes through the door, they get pounced on by about eight doctors. Everyone's too scared to come here now. I arrived and had to produce a medical certificate to say that I wasn't sick. Most of the hospital's gone completely insane. This isn't one of your crazy schemes, House," Cameron added reproachfully to get her point home.
"I didn't think so," House admitted heavily. "And if it was, I'd have thought you could have done better than 'there's no patients mister'." He slumped into his chair, stretched his leg out under the table, and stared at the ceiling for a minute.
"I know what happened," said Chase, who had picked himself up from the floor and was nursing his right hand. "The nightshift fixed 'em all." There was a pause. Chase looked defensive. "They did. They went all maniacal. I heard about it this morning. The poor bastards looked half dead, but they got everything done. The patients are all cured."
There was a long silence, finally broken by House.
"That's impossible. They'd have to work hard all night, no breaks, to even manage half of it. Don't be an idiot. "
"He can't help it," Cameron put in brightly. Chase glared at her.
"They did," he said sulkily. "Some of the day shift guys stayed on into the night. God knows why. My hand hurts," he added with a wounded look in House's direction, which was pointedly ignored.
It was at that moment that Wilson ambled into the room and made for the coffee machine without looking back. House eyed him for a minute, lifted one quizzical eyebrow.
"I'm asleep," the oncologist explained succinctly. There was a pause.
"Care to elaborate?" Foreman asked carefully.
"I'm asleep. What's to elaborate?"
Wilson sighed. "There are no patients. There's no work. There's nothing to do. It's the best dream I've ever had and I always wake up from those and find I'm late for work. So, if I wake myself up now, I won't be. And the coffee machine downstairs is broken." His expression grew crafty. "But why am I telling you this? You're just the mental projection of my subconscious mind."
"Sheesh," House muttered, and got no response. He watched Wilson making coffee for a moment, before turning with some resolution to his co-workers. "So. Read any good books lately?"
"Bloody decaf. Have you got anything decent to drink over here?"
"Try the second drawer," Cameron said automatically.
"So... really, no patients?" House pressed.
"No," Foreman said blankly, "no patients."
"Shut up, Chase, or I'll break your other hand."
Chase curled back into his chair, guarding his injured hand with a whimper. House glared at him for a minute or two, before turning back to the group, vague satisfaction on his face. Wilson was sipping his coffee and throwing sideways looks at everyone. House rolled his eyes, before stretching in his chair.
"But this is great. No clinic, no proper work... heck, I could even go home."
"You can't go home."
Everyone had spoken simultaneously. They each threw each other sideways looks, almost frightened.
"You can't," Cameron said finally, timidly. "It's... it's working hours. It's ten past nine."
"So? We don't have any work to do."
"But it's... work time," she said, eyes wide.
"With no work to do," House said gleefully. "Cuddy's going to go nuts!"
As if on cue, they saw Cuddy striding down the hallway with the cross, jerky movements of one whose veneer of sanity is wearing even thinner than usual. She lifted up the sheet hanging over the edge of a stretcher, peered underneath it for a moment, before muttering something that looked like 'impossible' and striding on.
"Well," House said finally. "I'm all for a game of Scrabble."
"We don't have Scrabble, House," Foreman said, frustration growing.
"It's a hospital! We don't play Scrabble! We cure people"
"I don't see why not," he muttered. "People are boring. Flu. Bed rest. Fluids. Next. Give me Scrabble any day."
"We have to do something," Cameron said uncomfortably. "I mean... we're wearing the coats."
"It seems wrong, wearing coats... without the coat work," Foreman added.
"I'm not wearing a coat. You think they have Scrabble in the waiting room?"
"Will you shut up about the Scrabble? Geez!"
House lifted an eyebrow, impressed. Foreman shifted in his chair, as unnerved by his outburst as House was.
"I'm going to go – find something to do. There must be a patient here somewhere. Or paperwork, there's always paperwork..."
He stood, and strode out of the room, still muttering.
"Check up on the Scrabble," House called after him. He was answered by the slam of the door. Cameron eyed her gleeful boss for a minute, before standing and trotting out after the neurologist. House rolled his eyes.
"Just you and me, Wilson. Oh, and Chase."
Wilson nodded, only a little bit too fast, over his fourth cup of coffee. Chase whimpered slightly.
"What are we going to do all day?" House asked, to break a silence in which Wilson had retrieved more coffee and Chase had awkwardly strapped his hand using his own tie.
"I don't know," Wilson mused. "I'm sure something'll happen soon. Someone will start chasing me and my feet will be glued down. Or I'll fly. That'd be cool. If I'm going to be late for work, I may as well have been flying."
"It's not a dream, Wilson," House said patiently. Wilson drained the coffee, stood resolutely and went in search of more.
"How do you know it's a dream? You could be dreaming too," the oncologist pointed out. He wrinkled his nose. "I hate instant."
"I'm not dreaming, Wilson. My leg hurts."
"Ah," Wilson said. He glanced into his coffee, looking slightly troubled, before shrugging and swigging it.
It was at this point that the door burst open and, without warning, a demoness launched herself straight across the table at House, Chase knocked aside like so much paperwork. House yelped, startled, as her momentum toppled him over backwards and onto the floor. Uttering a few choice swearwords, he struggled beneath the deranged Dean, wriggling to shift her weight from his bad knee.
"Jesus woman! If you want sex that badly-"
"Where are the patients? Where did they go?"
Her hands were vices on his shoulders. House entertained the very real notion that she was about to kill him as Wilson stared at them across the table with a bemused expression in his eyes and Chase lay curled into the fetal position on the ground, whimpering.
"What do you mean?"
"What have you done with the patients?" she hissed, grip tightening and eyes wild. House grappled for his cane with one arm, planning to whack her good on a pressure point if he could reach it. Her foot shot out. He whimpered something about stiletto heels.
"I didn't do anything to the patients!"
"Of course you did!" she growled. "You and your gung-ho 'lets get out of work' attitude! You've scared them all off, or cured them all or something! Get them back!"
"It wasn't me! It was the night shift! Blame them!"
"I don't care who it was, get the patients back!"
"How the hell should I get them back?"
"I don't care! Call people! Get referrals! Go out on the streets with a shotgun! Dance around wearing a sandwich board! Whatever it takes!"
"What have you been smoking?"
"This is a hospital!" Cuddy almost shrieked. "We need patients or it stops being a hospital and just starts being a bunch of doctors hanging around! I do not want a bunch of doctors hanging around! I want people being cured! I want order!"
Her hair was wild around her face and her pupils distended. The need to make a snide comment was almost overwhelming, but House fought bravely, for the sake of whatever parts of him she could reach with those switchblade stilettos of hers.
"Okay. Okay." Pander to the madwoman. "Get off me."
She stood up, slowly, taking deep breaths in through her nose and out through her mouth. House gazed owlishly up at her without moving, and Chase continued to cringe. Obligingly, Wilson slid out of his seat and settled cross-legged on the floor. House looked at him.
"Everyone else is doing it."
"Cuddy," House said soothingly, "I think there are patients in the lobby."
Her eyes shone. "Really? Patients?"
"Lots," House said, improvising madly. "They're all milling around. Everyone's disorganized."
"They need me!" Cuddy said exultantly, before turning and marching towards the lift. House watched her go, still not daring to get up.
It was to this tableau that Foreman and Cameron returned – Chase curled in the corner, Wilson sitting on the floor and staring at the wall while the caffeine continued to seep into his system, and House tangled in his chair and regarding the ceiling.
"This place is getting weirder," Foreman muttered, dumping the three-foot high stack of paperwork in his arms on the table. House prodded him in the ankle with his cane, which he'd somehow managed to hang on to during the attack. Foreman sighed, extended a hand to help his boss up.
"I'm not even going to ask what happened."
There was a pause.
"You want to know what happened, don't you?"
"Cuddy tackled me."
"Geez. People are going crazy, aren't they?" Wilson mused. He'd gotten to his feet and had drained his seventh cup of coffee. He was starting to twitch. Foreman just looked at him, before dropping down into his seat and attacking his pile of paperwork with the air of a man possessed. Cameron, on the other side of the table, was doing pretty much the same. House eyed them with some disgust.
"I cannot believe you're actually working. It's the absolute best excuse we've ever had to bludge work – someone else did it for us."
"Have to work," Foreman said with the air of a zombie. "It's working time."
"Working time," Cameron echoed hypnotically. House took a few adroit steps backwards to where Chase was just regaining his footing and Wilson was getting another coffee.
"They're going off the wall," he informed them. "I've seen it happen. Some kind of a chemical imbalance, and they turn into workaholics. No-one's ever figured it out. Must have happened to the nightshift."
"Then why aren't we mad?" Chase asked skeptically.
"Stupidity produces antibodies," House said nastily.
"Oh," Chase said sagely, attempting to tap the side of his nose and missing. Wilson looked puzzled.
"What about me?"
"Dunno. You've got immunity or something. Or, it's because you think you're dreaming."
"I am dreaming."
"I rest my case."
"And I guess you're not affected because you hardly do your job when there are patients to cure?"
"Something like that."
"I vote we get out of here," House said, giving an apprehensive look to the pile of paperwork Foreman had done with impressive speed. "That'll only hold them for a while. Then they'll come looking for illnesses or injuries, even if there are none... "
"Chase," Cameron said as if on cue, eyes distant, "let me fix your hand."
The intensivist stared at his colleague, looking somewhat frightened. "It's fine. Just a little bruised."
"No," she said, still robotic, "it looks hurt. I'll bind it for you."
"I've done that," he said, with the air of one explaining to a two year old that one and one made two. "With my tie. It's fine."
"Let me bind it, Chase."
"No. You're scaring me."
"Run now," House advised him as Cameron rose to her feet, advancing on Chase.
He dodged around Cameron and fled for the door, shooting an alarmed look over his shoulder as he did so. She followed him, a wild look in her eyes. House gave Foreman a worried look, before sidling towards the door. Wilson followed him, packets of instant coffee stuffed into his pockets.
The oncologist flinched as if he'd been struck, but Foreman didn't look insane yet. "Could you pass me that file?"
"Sure," he said cautiously, lifting it and passing it over, before hissing and sticking his finger in his mouth.
"Paper cut," he said automatically, before flinching. The zombie look was in Foreman's eyes now.
"Let me put a band aid on that."
"No, no – it's fine, really."
"No it isn't."
With unexpected speed, Foreman lunged across the table to seize Wilson's arm. The oncologist yelled, stumbling wildly backwards and crashing into the wall, before jerking his arm away and fleeing the room, the caffeine high giving him a head start on Foreman, who elbowed past House as if he wasn't there and sprinted after Wilson. House watched him go.
"God, this place is weird."
"House!" A high pitched shriek that knifed into his brain made him wince instinctively. He winced again as he realized it was Cuddy marching along the corridor towards him, her hair whipping around her face like electricity. "You lied!" House decided this was not a good time to say 'everybody lies'; especially when Cuddy looked very much like she was going to kill someone. "There were no patients! And if there are no patients I will make you one!"
She accelerated. House's eyes widened – he extended his cane just in time to push her away from him as she lashed out at his face with one hand. It stung – he lifted a hand to his cheek and felt blood. Her nails seemed to have been sharpened to dagger points, and she was holding one of her stilettos with the heel pointing at him. He could take a hint. He gave her a shove with his cane, knocking her over, before limping as fast as he could in the opposite direction, adroitly spreading obstacles behind him.
House was forced to bludgeon doctors out of the way with his cane – they continued to spew forth from the corridors adjoining the one he was following, wielding bandages and salve with their lifeless eyes fixed on the scratches on his cheek. He found salvation in the form of a closet – he whipped open the door, stepped into it, then jammed it shut using his cane from the inside and slumped against the wall, squinting as his eyes tried to adjust to the darkness.
"Did you bring any coffee?"
House jumped almost a foot in the air, before his pulse settled. That had been Wilson's voice.
"What are you doing?"
"Hiding from Foreman. Seriously, the coffee."
"Coffee. I'm still not awake."
"Damnit, Wilson, it's not a dream."
"House, I'm standing in a janitor's closet, with you, hiding from Foreman who has become deranged due to the nightshift going mad and curing all our sick patients, fixing the injured ones and sending them home. I'm dreaming."
"Yeah, well, my face hurts as well as my leg. Not a dream."
House sighed to himself, before fumbling in the darkness, finding a broom, and jamming the door shut with that. He then retrieved his cane, felt around in the darkness with it until he located Wilson, and whacked him sharply.
"See? You're not dreaming."
"It's a realistic dream."
House gave up. "How long do you think we have to hide in here?"
"Until 'working time' stops."
"They may insist on overtime because they haven't done anything."
"Damnit," House muttered. "I don't suppose there's a Scrabble board in here?"
"Kind of hard to play in the dark, anyway," House muttered, leaning against the wall and sliding unceremoniously to the floor. He stared into the darkness for a minute, before retrieving his Vicodin from his pocket and eating one. There was a pause, before Wilson joined him – House felt him settle next to him. He was still twitching. There was something rhythmical about it.
"Wish we had some coffee," he muttered.
"There are many things you need, not the least of which is psychiatric help – "
" – look who's talking – "
" – but coffee is not one of them."
"Oh, come on," Wilson muttered moodily.
"Anyway, we can't get out there, there are zombie doctors from hell to deal with. And Cuddy, who is reminding me more and more of a banshee as this insane day moves on. Or maybe a harpy."
"She found you?"
"She clawed me."
Silence fell, broken by the occasional deathly shriek from outside – Cuddy, most certainly. House idly imagined her with huge leathery wings sprouting from her shoulders, and then shuddered at how easy it was to picture.
"We have to get out of here," House said eventually.
"Why? There are crazy people out there," Wilson informed him primly.
"And in here," House muttered.
"Nothing, caffeine boy. We have to make a break for it. We have to get out of the closet."
Wilson stared at him. House blinked, before realization dawned and he scowled.
"Oh, for heaven's sake. We are literally in a closet. And we literally must get out of the closet."
"Shut up, Wilson. Grab a broom."
"Ah." Wilson fumbled in the darkness before finding a wooden handle. "Have you noticed how similar this is to a video game?"
"Yeah. We could probably even find crates with first aid kits in them."
"Think there'll be coffee?"
"Shut up about the coffee."
"It's my super power booster."
"Now you're just scaring me. Come on."
House swung the door open, lifted his cane automatically in case of attack and nearly fell over as he took a step, hissed at the stab of pain through his leg. Perhaps he should have thought this through a bit more. He glanced at Wilson, who was waving a mop maniacally and charging down the corridor ahead of him with what sounded suspiciously like video game noises – with a muffled curse, he seized the broom he'd used to keep the door shut and began to limp down the hallway, broom in one hand and cane in the other.
A few furious minutes – and several moaning would-be attackers – later, House slumped against the closed door of his office, putting a chair under the handle for good measure. Wilson was bouncing off the walls, trotting back and forth. He reminded House of a deranged humming bird.
"Wonder where Chase is?"
"Here," came a subdued voice from the corner. Chase was slumped in a chair, with what looked very much like half the hospital's supply of gauze wrapped around his right hand. It was resting on the chair next to him. It was about the size of a boulder.
"They caught you, huh?"
"They were everywhere. I couldn't get out. The eyes, those cold lifeless eyes... I'm going to have nightmares for weeks. They bound my hand then I used it to bludgeon them out of the way, got here before my arm gave out on me. I can't move now. I think they're busy fixing each other now. Gauze sales will triple. Where were you two?"
"We were in the closet," Wilson said brightly. Chase looked at him, then at House. He grinned.
"We were in a closet," House snapped, "literally, hiding from Cuddy and Foreman."
Chase continued to grin. House scowled at him.
"Well I'm glad someone's seeing the humour in the situation. Let me show you the humor in getting walloped by a broom."
"You're over-reacting, House," Wilson instructed him. The effect was slightly ruined by the fact that he was tearing open little packets of coffee and pouring them into his mouth at a rate of knots.
"Anyway, it doesn't matter. What does matter is that we seem to be the only three people in the hospital who aren't overcome by this insane... No Patient Fever workaholism thing."
"No Patient Fever workaholism thing?"
"We'll think of a cool name for it later."
"Well what are we supposed to do about it?" Wilson's voice was about half an octave higher than it usually was, and about three times the speed. House surreptitiously checked the coffee drawer. It was empty.
"Did you eat the entire drawer of coffee?"
"More or less. I think there are a few sachets left."
"Not anymore," House said firmly, tossing them out the window. Wilson whimpered.
"It's alright," House said sarcastically. "You can have more when you wake up from this dream."
"It isn't a dream. This much coffee would have woken me up by now and besides, my arm hurts where you whacked it."
House received his eighth wounded look of the day, or somewhere thereabouts. He ignored it.
"So... why aren't you going all 'crazy doctor' on us?"
"Well, you know that this is real, there's no reason you shouldn't go as loony as Cameron and Foreman and Cuddy." There was a pause. "Well, maybe not as loony as Cuddy. She's gone through loony and out onto the other side."
"I don't know," Wilson said, glancing apprehensively at himself. "I don't feel loony. Loonier than usual," he added after a pause. "I'm having more coffee. There's some in the bottom drawer, I saw it."
"Oh no you don't," House said firmly, standing in the way of the drawer. Wilson stared at him, before taking two slow, deliberate steps to face him.
"No. You're not thinking straight."
"Don't get between a man and his coffee," Chase advised him. House ignored him.
"Never thought I'd say this, but listen to Chase. Get out of the way."
Wilson stepped forward, all humour gone. House lifted his cane. Wilson lifted the mop he was still clutching in one hand. A furious battle ensued. Many knuckles were skun, many muted hisses of rage were uttered before House's experience with his cane won out over Wilson's caffeine-fuelled rage. The mop broke in half. Wilson sighed, dropped the halves, and glared at House. House looked back, quietly counting down. Five, four, three, two... Very slowly, Wilson slumped forwards until his head was resting on House's upraised cane. The older doctor stepped adroitly to his side and directed him into a nearby chair before he could fall over.
"Caffeine crash," he informed Chase, who was watching with some fascination. The intensivist deflated.
"I thought it was some kind of hypnosis."
"No, though that would be cool."
"At least he's not bouncing off the walls," Chase muttered. "Coffee, I tell you. It's good for working late, though – can't imagine how the nightshift managed last night."
House looked up sharply from settling Wilson into his chair.
"What? What about the nightshift?"
"They didn't have coffee last night. The machine in the lobby broke."
House stared at him. "We're idiots."
"Speak for yourself."
"We're idiots! Chase, what did you do this morning?"
"Got up, had breakfast, came to work."
"What did you have with breakfast?"
"Nothing. I barely had time as it was."
"You went through a drive-through and got a cappuccino, didn't you?"
"Yeah, come to think of it."
"I had one this morning," House said rapidly, "and Wilson, well... I heard Cuddy say yesterday she'd switched to some weird herbal tea, and Cameron and Foreman mustn't have had time to get any from this machine because Wilson was monopolizing it. This is some kind of insane workaholism brought on by stress or whatever, and coffee is its cure!"
There was a ringing silence in the room. Wilson looked up blearily.
"Don't worry about it. You just rest. Chase, give me a hand, we have to make as much of this stuff as possible, get this nightmare over with."
Thirty minutes later, House limped out into the corridor with a stretcher covered with cups of coffee in tow. The crowd of doctors immediately circled him – he hid his cane behind his back and shouted to be heard above the clamour.
"It's not time for a coffee break," one of the doctors shouted back. "We haven't done nearly enough work yet!"
There was a general chorus of agreement. House waved a hand.
"But you've done so well, and coffee will give you a boost to do more work. More and more and more!"
A sullen muttering arose, before the doctors shuffled forward to take their coffee cups with an air of resentment. House grinned as the caffeine began to take effect – one by one, they seemed to wake up, glanced at eachother with slightly sheepish expressions, before shuffling off to their offices, presumably to shirk work.
Eventually, only Cuddy was left in the corridor, staring into the coffee cup in her hands. House whistled, staring at the ceiling.
"What just happened?" she asked finally.
"Nothing much. Usual stuff, you know – coffee machine breaks down, entire hospital turned into crazed workaholics due to some unstudied and unexplained chemical imbalance that occurs without sufficient caffeine, you tackled me and pinned me to the ground. The usual stuff."
There was a long silence, broken by a snort.
"Yeah, right. Get to the clinic, House. I have paperwork."
House watched her stride off down the corridor, and shrugged, stepping back into his office where Chase was removing the last of the gauze from his right hand and Wilson was sprawled across the desk, moaning. House settled in the seat next to him.
"Oh, God, my head."
"We had fun, though."
"Did we? I can't remember."
"Really?" House looked intrigued. A grin spread across his face.
"What did I do?"
"Oh, not much. You talked at length about closets."
"I what?" Wilson leapt about a foot in the air, pinning House with a horrified look. The older doctor grinned. "What did I say?" the oncologist demanded. "House?"
"That's for me to know and you to wonder about until your dying day. Now go on, I'm sure you have... paperwork or some such business to deal with."
Wilson searched House's face for a minute, before sighing distractedly and striding out of the room, shaking his head and muttering to himself about the benefits of tea. House smirked.
"That was mean," Chase commented.
"What was mean?" They both flinched and turned to the door – but Cameron and Foreman seemed back to their old selves, standing in the doorway with identical looks of confusion on their faces.
"Oh, nothing," House said loftily. "Wilson just thinks he told us all he's gay."
There was a pause. "I really don't want to know," Foreman muttered, flopping into his seat at the table. "What happened? I can't remember this morning at all."
"Well, actually, everyone in the hospital went completely insane due to a lack of coffee, Wilson and I were forced to hide in a janitor's closet, and Cuddy tried to kill me with her shoe."
"No need to get sarcastic about it," Cameron muttered, flipping open the nearest file and looking at it without enthusiasm.
No-one noticed when House met Chase's eyes across the table and shrugged.
Just a day in the life of a diagnostician.
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