I have to stop carrying out the ideas I have at three in the morning. I wrote this in November, argued with myself over whether or not it sucked for a month or two, reasoned that that had never stopped me before, and so here it is. I always write a lot of dialogue, so I tried to get a little more narrative into this one. Perhaps I should stick to what I know. You tell me.
I know my titles suck. My titles have always sucked, and my titles always will suck.
I hope you enjoy it, or at least don't feel inclined to gnaw off your own foot at the end of the thing.
It was far too early on a Monday morning when House woke up, groaning his discontent with the pain in his leg and fumbling blindly for the pill bottle on his bedside table. It smacked to the ground. He hissed. The glowing letters of his bedside clock jackknifed into his headache – 3:34. He hated 3:34 and everything it stood for. He mentally made a note to burn something at 3:34 one day.
He was never going to go back to sleep, of course – if House woke up, House would stay awake. It was hard enough going to sleep lately, let alone at 3:3-bloody-4. He had nothing against 3:34, he'd just rather not be around when it happened.
Muttering to himself, House eased himself out of bed and wandered downstairs to see if there was anything that could knock him out in the fridge apart from alcohol. Turkey would be good, or milk. The milk was well and truly off – the hint came from the gristly lumps floating in it – but at the back of the fridge was a plate of leftovers that looked like they might once have been something resembling meat.
You feeling lucky, punk?
He shrugged, dragged it out and lifted the plastic covering, trying to ignore the fact that things seemed to be crawling out of the light and hiding under the vegetables. When your leftovers had evolved into sentient life forms, his logical brain cells advised him, it was best not to eat them.
Then again, the rest of his brain cells, more precisely those pertaining to hunger (widely renowned as the most stupid) he was peckish. And the meat might once have been turkey, if you stretched the imagination a little. Say, over the Atlantic Ocean.
It didn't taste all that bad, House reflected later, if you were to ignore the texture of the stuff, and the tiny screams. And it certainly had the desired effect of making him feel sleepy. Stifling a yawn, House took another Vicodin and turned for his bed.
He woke up a few hours later on the couch. Stifling a groan at the protest from his leg, House swung himself gingerly into a sitting position, rubbing the aching muscle and reaching for the ever-present pill bottle, before remembering he was on his sofa and unceremoniously falling off.
The next few minutes were skipped in the narrative because, well, really House, do you kiss your mother with that mouth? ... Don't answer that.
He was running late, he noted, rubbing his head gingerly and wondering why his mouth tasted like a mixture of soap and apple sauce. At least he'd slept. 3:34 looked a whole lot nicer from this side of it. With a sigh, House eased himself to his feet and got ready for work.
He got to work a half hour early, which irritated him. With a sigh, he flopped down in front of his computer screen with the expression of someone who was about to get a lot more bored than they already were but still hoped that something interesting might pop up. Pulling up a window of what looked like work to fool onlookers, he played Solitaire, remembering all too quickly that the novelty wore off Solitaire about three seconds before you actually started playing it. Irritated, he tapped at a few keys on his 'work' before flicking onto the Internet.
He amused himself for a few minutes in Googling the names of his colleagues and e-mailing the more decrepit sites found to their namesakes, before blinking. That was... odd. Curiousity aroused, he followed one of the other links to a page full of them, each with a short block of text underneath that made absolutely no sense at all.
"AU, WIP, slightly OOC, 1st fic, please R and R..."
My God, it's worse than medical acronyms. And we made them incomprehensible deliberately..
House peered at the screen, before jumping, alarmed. Next to all this garble was his name. And the presence of the word 'cam' directly after it was unsettling to the extreme. He was all too familiar with the sites that had the word 'cam' in their titles – he considered himself somewhat of a connoisseur – and this did not bode well.
He followed the link, and stared blankly at the screen, eyes flicking over the lines of text presented without reading them. No sign of any live action camera. He relaxed somewhat, feeling slightly sheepish. House was a word and a name. It was entirely probable that he'd find the word 'house' if he searched the Internet...
"House stared deep into Cameron's eyes, the lust he felt for her rising to..."
...Now that was entirely less probable. House leaned forward, eyes narrowed, and read the next few lines. His eyes widened and he hurriedly flicked back to the document he was pretending to work on, before cautiously checking to see if it the – whatever it was - was still there. No, there was no doubt that this was him. There, his first name, and Cameron's. And references to canes that had him throwing his suspicious looks and vowing never to touch it again.
... This was new.
Perturbed but fascinated, he read further down the page. It was him, his growing alarm told him, it was a story about him. And not one that anyone under eighteen should be reading. Not anything that anyone under ninety should be reading, actually.
He flinched as if he'd been shot, getting hastily to his feet as Cameron poked her head through the door. Do not look at her chest. Do not look at her chest. Oh, my God, you looked at her chest. You bloody moron.
"Is something wrong?"
"No, nothing, nothing. My mail? Leave it there. Lovely day isn't it okay thanks bye."
She gave him an odd look, but placed the mail on the floor and took a few steps backwards, with the air of one dealing with the insane. He continued to watch her while trying not to look at her. After a few more minutes of this treatment, she fled the room. House watched her go, before getting to his feet and shuffling over to shut the door, drawing the blinds for good measure, and hobbling back to his chair, still steadfastly ignoring his cane.
This was disturbing. This was disturbing and weird beyond all reason and House was determined to get to the bottom of it. He dared to re-open the offending page, clicked the back button with his eyes closed, and surveyed the list. What the hell was this? There were people who wrote stories about... he eyed the list... him and his colleagues? He scrolled down, moved through the pages and pages of links with a growing morbid fascination with the whole affair.
Pages and pages, he thought. These – writers, if they could be called that (House mentally categorized the lot of them as 'stalkers') – there seemed to be many of them. Some kind of a – he shuddered mentally – community of lunatics writing stories about him.
About him, House mused. He'd always been narcissistic and egocentric and strongly of the opinion that if everyone wasn't thinking about him, they bloody well should be. Wilson thought something was wrong with him. But he wasn't really paranoid if they were watching him, right? And obviously, quite a collection of people were watching him. (Collection of weirdos, he thought savagely, typing a new sentence into his work document with some aggression.)
He'd have to talk to Wilson.
Initial shock over with, House examined the site with greater attention. The expression 'fan-fiction' rang a distant bell in his memory – he remembered a girl he'd gone out with, oh, once, with a suicidal fascination with Star Trek. She'd written this kind of stuff. It was the main reason the date had been their first and only.
The last time he'd checked, he wasn't on Star Trek.
He peered out of the glass office, and then threw something against it as Chase walked by. The intensivist jumped, glancing into the office with a questioning expression. House, after a brief pause in which he re-coordinated his hands, gave him the Spock hand sign he could vaguely remember from years gone by. Chase eyed him, before turning and walking steadfastly on, muttering something that looked suspiciously like 'I don't want to know.'
Not Star Trek then. Pity.
Half an hour more of browsing the stories later had him thoroughly disturbed and seriously rethinking even speaking to Wilson ever again, or indeed being within a hundred metre radius of him. Or Cameron, for that matter. Or Chase (mental shudder, twitch twitch.) Or Cuddy. Or – no, not Foreman, Foreman was alright. Foreman was decidedly ignored in the 'stories'. He glanced into the conference room, spotted his ducklings gathered around the conference table and sighed. The real world beckoned.
"Nice of you to join us," Cameron remarked drily as he limped into the room. He glanced at her, careful to keep his facial features neutral. Three quarters of the sick community of depraved lunatics seemed to think that either he was in love with Cameron, Cameron was in love with him, or both. It was terrifying.
"I thought so."
"I'm sure you've been working," Chase put in, with a game attempt at a sarcastic drawl. House swung slowly to face him.
"Have you chosen today of all days to grow a backbone, Chase? I'm proud of you." Note to self. Do not under any circumstances ever type your own name into a search engine ever ever again. Only leads to trouble, really bad mental images, most probable eventual mental breakdown. Already had the third one. Shut up.
The intensivist retreated to his chair, cowed. Foreman lifted an eyebrow.
"Today of all days?"
House restrained himself from wincing and instead strode over to the coffee machine. Stupid Foreman. Stupid token black guy. Great. Now he was thinking about his life like it was a television show. This was going to get worse before it got better.
"Is something wrong?"
"Only you've been staring at Foreman for a while now."
He turned back to the coffee machine, feeling thoroughly victimized. Three confused stares were fixed on his back. He swung around, nearly overbalanced, and regained his posture with some dignity, glaring at them.
"Well? Are we going to do work? Or is the entire purpose of our existence to make vague references to medicine while carrying out complex and sordid affairs for the entertainment of weird onlookers who need to get lives?"
There was a ringing silence in the room.
"Um... no?" Cameron ventured. House glared at her.
"I'm on to you, missy," he informed her, seizing the whiteboard and dragging it with some aggression over to the head of the conference table. "I'm on to all of you. No funny business."
"Okay," Foreman said cautiously into the silence enveloping the table. House began to scribble on the whiteboard with altogether more force than was really necessary.
Time passed. He managed to make it to lunchtime without actually touching anyone, or making direct eye contact. He'd almost reduced Chase to tears on four separate occasions, he had received several worried looks from Cameron, and Foreman seemed to be firmly of the opinion that he was absolutely insane.
Average day, then.
Sighing dramatically, he slumped in his chair, gave the computer a tortured look, before relenting and logging back on to the site. Five minutes later, he wrenched a cord out of the base of the computer and flung it out of the window. House glared at nothing in particular for a moment, before returning to his seat and staring moodily at the wall.
"Ah! Oh, it's you," House added, without much change in inflection from the original startled yelp. Wilson raised an eyebrow, leaning against the door of House's office.
"Something's wrong?" It was more of a statement than a question. House gave him a suspicious look.
"No. Nothing. Nothing at all, everything is absolutely peachy. Nothing," he added for good measure. Wilson raised an eyebrow.
"Then why did you just throw your printer's cord out the window?"
"... um. Long story."
"Something tells me I don't want to know."
"Trust me, you don't," House muttered. He gave the computer a poisonous look, which quickly turned to a startled look, which quickly turned to a look of pure terror as he clicked on the X button as he'd never clicked anything before, finishing off by throwing the mouse at the wall. It made a depressing sort of sproing sound. House looked up, a hunted look in his eyes – Wilson remained by the door, and from the looks of things he hadn't developed zoom-vision. Thank God for that.
"Looking up porn again?" There was a questioning look in Wilson's eyes, coupled with something that was suspiciously reminiscent of House's own obsession with solving problems. Or mysteries, as the case may be.
"Yep. That's it. Totally. Come on, let's have lunch."
"Okay," Wilson said with some caution, craning his neck to peer at the computer. House rubbed his head, before getting with difficulty to his feet (difficult for a man who walks with a cane to hold it without actually touching it) and making his way to the door, edging past Wilson as if he was made of lava. The oncologist glanced at the computer, quietly plotting, before following House to the cafeteria.
"So," Wilson started over lunch. "What's wrong with you today? Wronger than usual, that is."
"Nothing. I can't tell you. I mean, nothing."
"Yup, got that the first eighteen times. Come on, you're eating my chips."
"So, it's like a rule. You eat my chips, I get to know stuff."
"You know heaps of stuff. Leave me something, will you?"
"I don't know anything you don't know."
"And I know something you don't know, and that is how it will stay. Hey!" House protested as Wilson removed his chips from easy reach. Sulking, he waved his cane at his friend threateningly. "Denying the cripple chips. How low you have stooped."
"Denying the cripple my chips."
"It doesn't matter whose chips you are denying the cripple, the cripple is being denied. Give them back before the grammar cripples me more."
"Tell me what's wrong."
"What's wrong is that I have no chips. And you have many chips. Too many for you."
"It has something to do with the computer," Wilson continued, unfazed. House flinched. Wilson's eyes flashed. House assumed an innocent air.
"What do chips have to do with the computer?" He lifted a hand. "Don't even answer that. I've just thought of every possible lame joke you could make, and none of them are funny.."
"I'm going to find out," Wilson informed him decisively.
"No you aren't," House replied in the exact same tone of voice.
"Oh yes I am."
"And how do you propose to do that? I shut everything off."
"So there is something."
"I never said that. Anyway, you wouldn't be able to find it."
"Internet history. I can see all the sites you've visited in the last, oh, however long since you wiped it."
Wilson grinned, thoroughly enjoying the look of bewilderment – and more to the point fear - in House's eyes. He stood up, pushing the plate of chips back towards House with an insolent grin.
"See you later."
"Wilson. Wilson! You're lying. There's no such thing as a history. Wilson!"
"Whatever," the oncologist replied, speeding up as he exited the cafeteria. House stared at the wall for a few seconds, before standing and hurtling away from the table as fast as he was able, murder in his eyes as he barged into the lobby.
"Damnit, Wilson, I will personally remove all of your teeth with a set of rusty pliars – " – spotted him stepping into the elevator, increased his pace – "if you do not hold that elevator!"
"Oh, I'm trying, but I just can't – sorry," Wilson said innocently as the doors closed. House swore vehemently, receiving a furious look from a nearby parent.
"Oh, what are you looking at," he snapped. "The kid's going to learn swearwords worse than that in first grade. Bloody Wilson..."
It took an age for the elevator to return. On the way up it appeared to stop about nine times at every floor, defying the laws of physics as well as thoroughly irritating one of its occupants. Suspiciously, he eyed the panel, saw that every button had been pressed – except for the floor he needed. There was a suspiciously chip-like smear on one of the buttons. House growled.
By the time he managed to get to his office, Wilson was already on the computer, staring at the screen. House groaned, before stalking into the office and dropping into a chair in front of the desk.
"What the hell, House?" Wilson managed weakly, gesturing at the screen.
"S'what I wanted to know," he muttered moodily.
"People are stalking you. You realize that?"
"No, actually, thanks for pointing it out," House snapped irritably. "You realize I had to spend ten minutes stuck in an elevator with some guy with diarrhea? You owe me big on the chips scale."
"Sorry," Wilson admitted ruefully. "I had to figure out what was eating you."
"Did you read – that one – "
"The one with – like - us –"
"Yes," Wilson said with the tone of one who really doesn't want to continue this conversation. There was a long silence in the office, broken simultaneously by its two inhabitants.
"But I'm not –"
"I don't –"
House snorted, twirling his cane idly between two fingers before coughing and putting it down again, risking a glance at Wilson.
"I did mention that you should leave it –"
"Yeah, yeah, shut up."
"Weird though, huh?"
"Weird... is an understatement. How'd you find it?"
"Typing in names," House said nonchalantly, "found several sites with your name on them which probably wouldn't go down too well with the missus – "
"Hah, hah, drop it. And you just stumbled across – "
"Well, I first stumbled across something smutty," House admitted, "which caught my eye, but then – yeah."
"You realize a community of weirdos is writing... stories... about you?"
"Yes, actually, Doctor Wilson, I had realized, thank you for your input," House snapped. "I'm being stalked."
"Oh, my God," Wilson said slowly, realization dawning. "They really are watching you."
"Exactly what I thought."
"But – they – this," Wilson amended, gesturing at the story currently on the screen, "this has... stuff... about me."
"They're watching me as well."
"They probably see you now and then while they're watching me. Don't flatter yourself."
"How do you know they don't see you once in a while as they're watching me?"
"Because I'm prettier. And taller. And I have a big stick, as was so... tastefully... expressed therein." He nodded at the screen.
"You? Pretty? Hah!"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Well, I - Wait! We're arguing over who the sick freaks are spying on, House."
"They're spying on me."
"Well – should we not be worried?"
"Worried about what?"
Both men flinched as if they'd been shocked, House spinning around to see Chase at the door, looking mildly frightened.
"What's going on?" he queried suspiciously. Wilson recovered first.
"Um. Nothing at all, no. Nothing."
"Nothing," House echoed.
"Nope," Wilson elaborated, "absolutely nothing to do with anything resembling big sticks, oh, look what I said at complete and utter random, hah hah, pay no attention to me."
"Good idea," House said darkly.
Chase gave them both a bewildered look.
"My diary gets weirder every day," he informed them mournfully, before turning and walking away. House glared at Wilson, who blinked.
"Oh, I don't know, something along the lines of my God you're a moron."
"Hey," Wilson muttered. "I didn't see you trying to cover for us."
"If you don't make eye contact with them, they give away," House said snappishly, gesturing at the door with his cane before dropping it hastily and giving it a fearful look. "Now they're going to discuss it and go all Three Musketeers on us."
"Why don't we just tell them?"
"Tell them what?"
"About – the COST."
"Community of Stalking Weirdos."
"Good name. Are you crazy? If we tell them, they will look it up, then Cameron will get all 'We're meant to be together' on me, and Chase will have a mental breakdown again before telling everyone, and everyone will laugh at us and I'll have to move countries and never have any contact with any of you ever ever again."
"What about Foreman?"
"Foreman will give me one of those looks of his."
"You never get the looks. One of those ... looks. Then he'll avoid me, which in retrospect would be cool, but the price is too high, damnit."
"What about Cuddy?"
"Don't even start on Cuddy. This goes with us to our graves."
"Musketeer alert," Wilson muttered. House swung around to see his minions framed in the doorway. Chase was surreptitiously trying to hide behind Foreman.
"What?" House snapped, gesturing at Wilson who was determinedly not looking at anyone. "We're in the middle of an important medical... thing. Aren't we, Wilson?"
"No. Yes. What?"
"Wilson's doing it too," Cameron muttered audibly to Foreman, who nodded knowingly. House glared at them both.
"We have noticed," Cameron began, "that you are acting incredibly weirdly today, and we'd like to know why."
"If it's not too much of a problem," Chase squeaked.
"Shut up," Cameron hissed at him.
"No-one's being weird, nothing is going on, there is no connection to anything at all, go away."
"If nothing is going on, why were you acting like a zombie this morning, and why is Wilson acting like that now, and what does all of this have to do with the fact that a printer cable fell on me from this window at lunch?"
There was a pause. House mentally commented that he hated Foreman.
"He... isn't," House said weakly, ignoring the printer cable question on the basis of it being impossible to answer.
"I'm not," Wilson confirmed. House eyed him.
"How would you know? You weren't there."
"I was backing you up."
"Well, don't, because it kills plausibility – and now look. Foreman's got that dogged... 'I will get to the bottom of this' look on."
"Wonder where he learnt that from," Wilson muttered.
"Shut up, Wilson."
"What is going on?" Cameron demanded, taking a step forward to stand in line with Foreman. There was a pause.
"Don't look at me," Chase said, "I'm only here because she threatened to stab me with her heels if I didn't come. I don't care what's wrong with them."
"There's a smart man," House said moodily. "Why don't you all take a leaf out of Chase's book – my God, I never thought the day would come when I actually said that. I probably owe someone money now. Get out of here."
House seriously considered throwing the computer out of the window, then decided putting his back out wasn't really worth it when he could just go home and pretend none of this had ever happened. The ducklings slunk out, Foreman throwing the zealously guarded computer a thoughtful look that House knew and loathed. Again, he thought vehemently of how much he disliked Foreman.
"That's what I was thinking. What's say we head for Mexico?"
"What's say you clear the history of the computer?"
Wilson looked slightly sheepish.
"I can access it, just not – clear it. It's so that higher-up people can see that we haven't been looking up porn at work or something."
"The higher up people?" House asked, a sudden cold feeling in the pit of his stomach. Wilson's eyes widened. They spoke in unison.
"Right. Mexico it is," House declared, getting to his feet and striding with some determination for the door before nearly falling over.
"You're going to actually have to hold the cane one of these days, House."
"Yes, Doctor Wilson," House snapped. "We have two options. Death, or leaving the country."
"Death's a bit inconvenient for me at the moment," Wilson said drily.
"Road trip it is."
"There's another way."
"Good. I'm low on petrol and your car sucks."
"If we could get into the main computer, we could not only wipe the history, but also block the website from everyone at the hospital."
House blinked. "Sounds like a good maniacal plan to me. Let's roll. Where is this main computer?"
Wilson hesitated. "I... don't know."
"Oh, well, that's great. Maniacal plan: check. Knowledge required to actually do anything..."
"We can find out," Wilson said testily.
"And how do you propose to do that?"
"I don't know. Go ask Cuddy, she knows everything."
House snorted. "Yeah, right. Ask Cuddy. You first."
"You should ask her. We all know she has a soft spot for you."
"She does not," House protested. "You're the pretty one. You ask her."
"As flattered as I am that you think I'm pretty – "
" – shut up –"
" – there is no way in hell I'm asking her."
"She scares me. Those eyes..."
"Well, the only other option is that I ask her. And the minute I ask her anything, she'll think I'm up to something and go and check. And we don't want that happening."
Wilson, who had appeared to be lost in some private horror of his own, started. "Well, we'll go to Mexico then."
"Or, I could wield my manly charm."
"Watch me. Oi! Cameron!"
House threw his tennis ball against the glass window where Cameron was walking past, files in arm. The immunologist blinked, stepping in through the door and giving him a blank look.
"Go ask Cuddy where the main computer of the hospital is."
"Kay," she replied, giving him a curious look as she headed off in the general direction of Cuddy's office. House gave Wilson a smug look. Wilson rolled his eyes.
"I'm in awe of the power you wield over women with your manly charm."
"And I'm sure her obeying you had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that you're her boss."
"Of course you are."
"She says it's upstairs on the fourth floor, and that, um, 'tell House that his maniacal plan is going to fail,' and if you don't show up in the clinic within five minutes she's going to do something particularly unpleasant with her high-heels," Cameron said from the door. "Can I go now?"
"What maniacal plan d'you think she meant?" House wondered as she departed.
"Whatever the maniacal plan of the day is, I guess."
"She knows me too well. Anyway, fourth floor, come on."
They were able to lure the 'computer geek' (as House called him) out of the office by telling him they were giving away doughnuts that had passed their use-by in the cafeteria ("Hah, as if they'd give away what they sell anyway," House muttered) but came up against an unexpected barrier in the form of a request for a password.
"Damnit," Wilson muttered. "This could take days."
"Well, we have to figure out who set the password."
"I don't know. Cuddy?"
"Houseishot865," House said instantly.
"Her age in mortal years."
"Hah, hah. Face it, House, we're stuffed on this one."
"Try it," he commanded. Wilson shrugged, and tapped it in. He stared.
"Oh, my God."
"I told you," House said, struggling with the urge to do a victory dance around the tiny office and losing.
"Oh, stop dancing."
"Do your thing, computer boy! If you need any more killer codes broken, I'm right here!"
"Pot-plant," Wilson pointed out without looking up from the screen.
Cringing slightly at the crashing sounds, Wilson manipulated the computer screen with some trepidation as House disentangled himself from the wreckage of several desk, cursing.
"History's clean," he said after a pause. "Which is more than I can say for this office."
"What kind of a moron puts a pot plant in the road there?" House questioned irritably, savagely wiping his shoes on the carpet.
"And – no-one is ever going to be able to access that domain ever again," Wilson said smugly. House nodded.
"Right. Well done, guy who actually listened in that class we got shoved down our throats. Now let's get out of here."
"Good plan. Hey, House?"
"It's been weird. But fun."
"Certainly beat the – the clinic –"
The room was spinning. House swayed on his feet, a shrill beeping in his ears. And abruptly, the room was replaced by a bleary view of his bedside table. His leg was hurting like all hell and so was his head, for that matter. The memory of what might have been turkey swum into his mind.
"Oh, you are joking," he muttered to no-one in particular. Not quite awake yet, he peered groggily up at the ceiling, and, after a moment's disentangling, shook his fist at it.
" 'And it was all a dream'," he informed it loudly, "is the oldest and worst trick in the book!"
A/N: But it does mean that no-one's allowed to complain about OOC-ness, or gaping plot holes, or anything at all really, because it was a DREAM. I'm so clever.
He went through most of that day feeling rather silly, but that didn't stop him searching the web for a good part of the morning, or querying a slightly bewildered Wilson on jokes about sticks, or waving his printer cable at Foreman and searching for any sign of comprehension.
And when he got home, he spent two hours cleaning out his refrigerator.