Chapter Three

It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgment.
Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet

So far, there hadn't been any actual explosions. After seeing the condition of Cameron's patient, Chase had conceded his priority to her and offered to look after Foreman's patient as well while the other two ran the scans. It worked quite smoothly, and they had Foreman's patient in the scanner in record time. Cameron also suggested that they work together on the differentials.

"Isn't that cheating?" Chase had asked.

"This isn't poker," Cameron said. "We're talking about patients' lives. Do you want to take the risk of missing something?"

"Maybe you already have a diagnosis?" Foreman asked.

"House does." Chase sounded sulky.

"You're not House," Cameron pointed out, which had more or less finished the argument there and then.

The boy's tumor had turned out to be a hematoma, and Cameron had already got him started on cefuroxim to get his temperature down. Chase had taken the scans of his patient away for a closer look, leaving Cameron and Foreman to watch the computers as the latter's patient slid into the scanner.

"Do you really think House has the diagnoses?" Foreman asked.

"That's what he said." Cameron kept her eyes on the computer.

"And you believe him?"

"You don't?"

Foreman snorted. "He's good, but not that good. Whatever answers he's got, they're just guesses."

"Well, we'll find out when we go get those envelopes, won't we?"

They sat in silence for a moment, watching and listening to the scanner.

"Do you have a theory yet?" Cameron asked.

"Too early to know. I want to do an LP and repeat the CBC before I make a call."

Cameron picked up the file and began flicking through it. "I wonder what House saw that we don't."

Foreman sighed, settling back in his chair. "It could be severe heatstroke."

"The ER thought heatstroke and sent him home on fluids. That didn't help which is why his friend brought him back."

"So encephalitis is more likely. Maybe herpes simplex."

"Wouldn't explain the muscle rigidity."

"Doesn't have to be herpes, could be another infection. Or it could be a drug reaction."

Cameron ran her eye down the file. "Except that the tox screen was clear." She looked up as the computer beeped. "And no structural lesion."

"It wouldn't have to still be in his system. I need that LP."

"Don't we all?" Cameron followed him out of the observation booth and together they got the patient out of the scanner and into a wheelchair.

Once they had him safely into a bed, they joined Chase in the corridor to compare notes.

"We're going to need LPs to rule out infections," Foreman said. "What did the CTs tell us?"

Cameron gave an ironic half-smile. "That I'm not going to have to see Doctor Wilson. It's a hematoma not a tumor, but as he's hemodynamically stable at the moment I'm going to try to track down the cause, which means getting his temperature down. If the cefuroxim doesn't work, we'll move to gentamycin and hope it buys enough time for a diagnosis." She shrugged. "That's the best I've got right now."

"I want to do a muscle biopsy along with the LP," Foreman said.

"You're thinking malignant hyperthermia?" Cameron asked, frowning. "There's been no operation, no anaesthetics. How can he be having a reaction to a drug he hasn't taken?"

"It could be something we don't know about." Foreman turned to Chase. "What about you?"

"I've had a closer look at the CT. See what you think." He held the black and white pictures up to the light. "I'm starting to think House has got it in for me more than usual."

As the others started to look, there was a shout from behind them.

"Help! She can't breathe!" The husband of Chase's patient was half-standing, clasping his wife's hand and looking helplessly at the doctors and nurses who'd come running at the noise.

"Get him out of here." Chase's voice was firm and calm. He leant over the woman, pushing his stethoscope into his ears and applying the other end to her chest. "Averil, can you hear me? Come on, can you hear me? Damnit." He looked up at the others. "Her right lung's collapsed. We're going to need a chest tube." The last was directed to the nurse, who nodded and hurried to help.

Foreman had already lowered the bed so that it was flat, moving round ready to intubate. Hearing shouting from the doorway, Cameron went to help a nurse who was trying to calm the frantic husband.

"I need to be with her!"

"We need to you to let us do our jobs," Cameron said. "They're looking after your wife."

The man ran his hands through his hair, looking through Cameron rather than at her.

"What about the baby?"

"Let's deal with one thing at a time." Cameron tried to sound soothing, gently herding the man away from the open doorway to the seating area. "Her right lung has collapsed, which is why she couldn't breathe. They're going to drain the air or fluid that's gotten into her lung cavity and give her some help for a while. It's a very standard procedure."

"On a pregnant woman?"

"On everyone." Cameron hesitated over the next question, wanting to know but hating to ask. "How far along is she?"

The man dropped into a chair. "Twenty-six weeks."

Mentally, Cameron made a note. She didn't know the survival rate for babies born at twenty-six weeks off the top of her head, but she knew that while it wasn't good, it wasn't as bad as it could be. She said none of this, however, trying to be a comforting presence. After ten horrendously long minutes, Chase came out to join them.

"Mr Crombie? She's doing much better. We've had to put a tube down her throat to help her breathe for a while until her lung recovers, but you can go in and be with her if you like."

"Thank you." With barely a glance at the two doctors, he hurried towards the room, barging into Foreman who was on his way out.

"What's the real story?" Cameron asked. "What caused the collapse?"

For answer, Chase took the CT scans that Foreman had brought with him and held them up to the light again. "Look here." He traced an outline on one picture, then another. "Thin wall cysts, throughout both lungs."

Foreman whistled under his breath. "That'd do it alright."

"LAM," Chase said. "Unusual without accompanying Tuberous Sclerosis, but the CT along with respiratory problems and pneumothorax is pretty definitive."

Cameron shook her head. "It's also incurable. There are some trials, but no one's going to take on a pregnant woman."

"They might," Chase said, although he sounded doubtful. "There are some studies looking at the association of the two. Anyway, there's nothing more we can do for now. The main thing is to get her as close to term as we can to give the baby the best chance." He glanced over his shoulder. "I don't want to tell them yet – not til she's awake and can understand. Look after these for me?" he asked, passing the scans and file back to Foreman. "I'm going to see House." Without waiting for an answer, Chase strode away down the corridor.

"You think he wants to claim a prize for being first?" Foreman asked.

"Could be." Cameron watched Chase's retreating back.

"That's Chase's second hopeless case in week. You figure he blames House? "

"What did it look like? And LAM doesn't have to be hopeless." Cameron gestured to the scans and file.

Foreman nodded. "I guess. Anyway, we've got our own cases to worry about without taking on Chase's as well, right?"

"Sure." With a last glance after Chase, Cameron turned to follow Foreman.

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House wasn't in the diagnostics department, or the cafeteria. Chase tried a few of the departmental lounges without success, eventually ending up outside Wilson's office. House wasn't there but Wilson was, writing up some patient notes.

"Have you seen Doctor House?" Chase asked.

"Not for a couple of hours. He's probably holed up somewhere eating my lunch." Wilson put down his pen. "Is it urgent?"

"Not exactly." Chase took the offered chair. "I've got a diagnosis."

"Already?" Wilson sounded impressed, but Chase just shrugged.

"I guessed that, with House, it was going to be something rare and interesting so I crossed all the obvious stuff off the list. And the CT scan turned out to be the right choice. Lymphangioleiomyomatosis."

Wilson blinked, surprised at the younger man's certainty and the complete lack of emotion with which he'd delivered the answer.

"I'm sorry," he said. "How did she take it?"

"Haven't told them yet." Chase shifted in his chair, as though bracing himself for a scolding. Instead, Wilson just nodded and turned to his bookcase.

"Let's see if House really did get there first," he said, pulling down the first volume of a heavy medical encyclopedia.

"You hid them in there?" Chase asked, his voice somewhere between amusement and admiration.

"Living with House, you learn coping strategies. And one of them is never, ever trust him not to do something he shouldn't." Wilson began flicking pages.

"You filed us? Not under names?"

"Too obvious. Ah, here it is." Wilson pulled the envelope out and turned the book round for Chase to see.

"Under 'A'?"

"For Australian."

"Sneaky."

"When in Rome…" Wilson's smile faded as he opened the envelope.

"And the loser is-" Chase said, leaning forwards to put his face in his hands.

"'Probably LAM,'" Wilson read. "He gives reasons, if you're interested." Without looking up, Chase waved a hand in a 'carry-on' gesture. "'Note family history of emphysema and bronchitis – probably misdiagnosed. Hormonal involvement unproven but suspected, so condition worsened by pregnancy. CT for preliminary diagnosis, lung biopsy for definitive. Consider C-section if condition deteriorates."

"I'd say it's deteriorating. We just had to intubate," Chase explained. "Collapsed lung."

"There's yet more," Wilson told him. "Even on paper he likes the sound of his own voice. 'Patient good candidate for Moorland's drug trial. Get Cuddy to talk to him and tell her to wear one of her usual blouses – Moorland sucker for pretty cleavage.'" He shook his head. "Sometimes I don't know whether it's better to laugh at him or hit him."

Chase looked like he'd choose the latter option right at that moment, while Wilson developed a sudden fascination with the note on his desk, spreading his hands across it to smooth out the creases. Before either of them could speak, there was a knock at the door and House barged in without waiting for an answer.

Taking everything in at a glance, he gave Chase a surprised look.

"You beat the others. Impressive."

"This is just some kind of sick game to you, isn't it?" Chase started to get up, apparently to follow through on one of Wilson's two options, but House waved him back down into the chair.

"Put them back in your pram, no one's interested." Throwing himself on the couch, he gave his subordinate a long hard look. "You're ticked off because you solved the case."

"Are you trying to send me some kind of message? Two dying patients in one week?"

"If I wanted to send you a message I'm more likely to fold it into a paper airplane and throw it at you. And LAM isn't necessarily a death sentence."

"It's not curable either," Chase shot back.

"But it is treatable. And who do you think would be the best choice to look after a patient who's going to need close monitoring, maybe emergency treatment? Sounds pretty intensive to me." House met Chase's steady glare, infuratingly unperturbed. It was an uneven staring match that Chase never stood a chance of winning. Dropping his gaze to the floor, he shook his head.

"You did this them on purpose, didn't you?"

"Did you save her life?"

"This time." Chase looked up, avoiding House's eye and staring out of the window. "What am I supposed to do now?"

"Help Foreman and Cameron? Watch over your patient until someone takes her off your hands? Go throw yourself off the roof because the big mean boss man was unfair to you? I really don't care."

Feeling the need to intervene, Wilson started to speak, but was cut off by a sharp look.

"You want to actually practice medicine, be a good doctor? This is what it comes down to," House went on. "Big kicks when it goes right and bigger kicks to the head when it doesn't. Either you're up to it or you're not. Which is it?"

Without looking at either of the others, Chase got out of his chair and crossed to the door.

"I'll ask Cuddy to call Moorland."

"Tell her to go in person. She can't show off her true charms over email."

Chase let the door close behind him.

"Did he seem narked to you?" House asked.

"I'm amazed you noticed." Wilson gestured to the empty salad box in House's hand. "Did you enjoy my lunch?"

"Too much garlic." House tossed the box onto the desk. "So neither of the other two wunderkinder have been by to claim their rewards or cry on your shoulder."

"Not yet, but I've ordered shares in Kleenex just in case. Were you expecting them to?"

"Foreman, no. I thought Cameron might have come, just to get a second opinion."

"When it's yours, apparently she's not interested." Wilson looked down at the piece of paper again. "Did you really have to do that to him?"

"Do what? I could have been wrong and she just had a really bad case of asthma or I could have been wrong and she had lung cancer." House twisted his fingers round the handle of his cane. "You make it sound like I'm deliberately messing with them."

"Aren't you?"

"Why would I?" House turned wide, innocent eyes on his friend, spoiling the effect by twisting his mouth into a self-satisfied smirk. "They hardly need me to make them more screwed up."

"Well, you're the expert on that."

"I like to think so."

"So why are you here?" Wilson leant back in his chair. "You've successfully fobbed off three cases onto people who actually care about them and may even fill out charts properly; you did clinic hours yesterday so you're good with Cuddy until tomorrow when you fail to turn up; you ate my lunch from home so you don't need to eat it off my tray in the cafeteria. And yet you're here?"

House gasped in mock outrage. "Does a guy need a reason to come and see his friend and roommate? Doctor Wilson, I am shocked at your suspicious mind. Why does there have to be an ulterior motive?"

"Because you never do anything without one," Wilson was unmoved by the spluttering coming from across the room. Raising his eyes to the ceiling, he said, "This couldn't possibly have anything to do with a case you mysteriously asked me to take, would it?"

"You ask me to take cases all the time," House protested. "You come to me with those wide pleading eyes and threaten to cry at me until I care. Works for Cameron too. Do you two go to class together?"

"You ask me for consults, true." Bringing his gaze back down, Wilson met House's eye with a directness that made the other man look away. "But usually you don't care what happens after that. What's going on?"

House made no reply. Instead, he got a proper grip on his cane and pushed himself upright.

"Who knows? Anything could be happening. I'm off to find out."

"If you're not going to tell me, I'll just have to ask them," Wilson called after him.

House didn't turn around, but he did pause in the doorway. "That's up to you."

Wilson found himself staring at the closed door for a solid minute after House had left. Then, giving himself a shake, he scooped up some of the patient files from his desk to take back to the wards. As he did so, the piece of paper with the diagnosis of Chase's patient got caught in the updraft and fluttered to the floor. Picking it up, Wilson read it through again, then screwed it up and dropped it into the trash can under his desk. After another moment's thought, he retrieved the two other envelopes from other volumes of the encyclopedia. He didn't kid himself that House wouldn't notice the open volume on his desk and his friend's ability to draw conclusions bordered on the clairvoyant. He'd keep them in his pocket for now, until he came up with another good hiding place.

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Cameron was taking as many notes as she could, trying to weed out the irrelevant from the informative as her patient's mother detailed his life history. If his mother was to be believed, he'd never had a day's illness in his life, and neither had she, apart from the times they were sick. Once she'd untangled the various childhood bugs and everyday viruses from the information she actually needed, there wasn't much left. Both parents were healthy; the son was healthy until two weeks ago when he went down with what was diagnosed as a nasty cough – not difficult when the patient is coughing constantly – and a stomach ache.

It took Cameron five more minutes with the patient himself to re-diagnose the stomach ache as abdominal pain. The boy was uncomfortable from the fever and restless from having been cooped up in bed and at home for so long. He fidgeted as Cameron tried to talk to him and was as uncommunicative as his mother was garrulous.

"We've been able to establish that it's not a tumor causing the pain-" Cameron began.

"Thank God." The mother clasped her son's hand and gave Cameron a grateful look. "That's good news, isn't it?"

Reluctant to promise anything, Cameron gave a weak smile. "It means it's not cancer. The pain is being caused by a hematoma. It normally follows some kind of internal bleeding, where the blood clots in a space that it shouldn't."

"Internal bleeding?" The mother's face had gone white. "What does that mean?"

"We need to find out what caused it." Cameron held her patience, used to nervous patients interrupting to ask for the answer she had been about to give. "If it's linked to the fever, we need to treat them both together."

"That's what the antibiotics are for, isn't it?"

"That's right." Directing her attention to the boy on the bed, Cameron smiled. "Let us know if anything changes. If you feel worse, better or anything different. We're going to check the fluid we took in the lumbar puncture and see if you have an infection. We're also going to run more blood tests."

"Thank you, Doctor," the mother said, giving her son's hand another squeeze. "We've just been so worried about him and didn't know what we were going to do."

Cameron let the woman ramble for a few a minutes until she felt the neither she nor the boy could take any more, at which point she excused herself politely and went to check on Foreman. Halfway there, she ran into Chase, almost literally. He was stalking down the corridor, his normally placid face pulled into a scowl and eyes fixed on the ground. Cameron caught his arm as he passed.

"Hey! You're going to mow down a patient if you're not careful." Letting go of his arm, she looked up into his face. "Did you see House?"

"Yeah." Chase's expression softened a little around the edges. "I got it right and so did he. He gave it to me on purpose."

Cameron frowned. "What do you mean?"

"She's going to need a lot of care if we're going to get her and the baby anywhere near term." Chase took a step out of a nurse's way, leaning back against the wall of the corridor. "So he gave it to me."

"Because you're the intensivist? There's a weird kind of House logic behind that, I guess."

"That's the worst part. How come he always gets to be right?" Chase gave Cameron a helpless look, then turned his head away, running a hand through his hair. "I need to go tell them."

Cameron stepped closer, lowering her voice. "You didn't do anything wrong. This is not your fault."

"Right." Chase couldn't have sounded less convinced. "It's just because House hates me. I get it." He turned away and set off down the corridor again, leaving Cameron to trail in his wake.

Foreman was writing up notes at the nurse's station when they got there. He glanced up, as they approached.

"She's awake," he said, signing off and passing the records to a nurse. "Did House get it right?"

Chase nodded. "He did. And that's clearly more important than how I'm going to tell a pregnant woman that she has an incurable lung disease."

"One for one, huh?" Catching the look on Chase's face, Foreman wiped the smile off his face. "Sorry. Though even I'm kinda impressed."

"With House or the disease?" Chase shot back.

"Which do you think?" Angry himself now, Foreman's reply was only stalled by Cameron's interruption.

"I don't think this is going to help," she said, to both of them. "Chase, you want me to come with you on this? Chase?"

Chase roused himself from whatever train of thought he'd been following. "What? No, I can handle it. And House said to go talk to Cuddy about getting her on a drugs trial. When you get back to the office, could you write a letter from him recommending her? Just in case we need it."

"Of course," Cameron said. "So where are we?"

"Waiting for test results," Foreman said. "And I want to get a better history. We hardly have anything on the guy's family."

"I've got the opposite," Cameron said. "I can't find the history for all the information the mother gave me. Nothing suggestive that I've noticed, though."

"How's his temperature?" Chase asked.

"Stabilizing, I hope, but it's too early to tell, really."

"Ok, so we concentrate on my guy for now," Foreman said, opening the file. "He was brought in by a friend. I'll talk to him. The patient's fairly out of it at the moment, but we might be able to get something from him. Feel like having a go?" he asked Cameron.

"Sure," she said. "See you guys later."

Chase nodded acknowledgement. He waited as the others left, looking into the room where his patient was lying, her hand enveloped by those of her husband. Some of his anger at House had subsided, leaving an empty, deflated feeling behind. He knew he should go in there, then go talk to Cuddy sooner rather than later, although probably without House's helpful sartorial suggestions. But he stood for a minute or two longer, watching the silent tableau and praying it wouldn't turn into the one from two nights before.

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House was also watching and thinking, but he was doing his from the middle of the oncology department. According to Emily, the nurse Wilson talked to, House had arrived half an hour earlier, taken over a sofa in the waiting area and just sat there, staring into space. He didn't seem to have noticed Wilson, who now stood and watched him in turn. House had propped his right leg up on the central coffee table, holding his cane firmly upright against it, apparently as protection from clumsy passers by, but partly, Wilson suspected, to stop anyone from bothering him. House never hesitated to use the cripple card when it suited him.

From his lurking spot in the side corridor, Wilson had a good view of House's profile. His friend's head was bent forwards, eyes focussed on a spot somewhere just beyond his raised foot. He could have been a patient's relative, waiting for bad news, but Wilson knew the expression and it worried him. When House brooded this hard for this long, it generally meant bad news for someone else.

Deciding it had gone on long enough, Wilson began to make his way across the floor, glancing in the direction of House's stare and making the connection.

"You know," he said, standing over his friend, "you're more convincing about not caring when you actually stay away from the people you don't care about."

"This is my new hiding place," House said. "No-one will ever think of looking for me where there are patients."

"And it just happens to be opposite the room of Mrs Pamela Taylor, the patient you referred to me and who you claim not care about."

"You're absolutely right," House said. "It just happens to be like that."

"Are you going to tell me, or do I have to get the thumbscrews?"

House looked up at this. "Come on, we're in a hospital. You can be much more imaginative than that. I'm sure the surgeons could lend you something. They've got drills, chainsaws, all sorts."

"House!" Wilson had had enough of going round in circles, knowing that if House didn't want to give an answer,

there was no way of making him. Instead, Wilson opted for pointed silence, also knowing that, like nature, House abhorred a vacuum. In fact, he'd only reached twelve in his mental count when House stirred himself.

"I should see how the kids are coping without me."

"Probably better than they cope with you. Aren't you going to stop in and say hello to Mrs Taylor?"

"Interfere with one of your patients? Wouldn't dream of it." Tucking a hand under his knee, House pulled his leg off the table and stood up, forcing Wilson to take a step backwards. "See you later."

For the second time that day, Wilson let it go. Short of chasing House round the hospital, there wasn't much else he could do. "Am I cooking tonight?"he asked.

"Well my only speciality's Chinese á la telephone, unless you want peanut butter sandwiches-"

"Alright, I'll pick up groceries on the way home." A flicker of something passed across House's face, then his expression went absolutely blank, eyes dropping to the handle of his cane.

Wilson turned to see what had caused the reaction. The woman who had been approaching them had stopped, staring at them. Wilson also noticed that she had clenched her fists, as though ready to fight them both off. Well, maybe not both of them.

It was House who broke the awkward silence.

"Hello, Carolyn."

"Greg."

Wilson couldn't keep the surprise from his face. The only people who called House 'Greg' were family, lovers or idiots who didn't know any better. Since House didn't even flinch, Wilson crossed the last one off his list. Instead, House leant onto his cane, shoving the other hand into his jacket pocket.

"How are you?" he asked, voice oddly subdued.

"As well as can be expected. Actually, I was looking for Doctor Wilson."

"Then I won't keep you. Say hi to your mom for me." He turned on his heel and, with a glare that killed the question on Wilson's lips, he headed off towards the elevators.

Carolyn ran a hand through her hair.

"I'm sorry, Doctor Wilson, I didn't mean to interrupt."

"No, it's fine," Wilson assured her. "Anyone who can make House shut up and go away that quickly is always going to be welcome. Do you teach it or is it a family secret?"

It had been a long shot based on instinct rather than fact, but it hit home. Carolyn flushed and half-smiled.

"Takes years of practice and estrangement, I'm afraid. Did Greg tell you?"

Wilson shook his head. "Educated guess. Not many people can get to him. Must have been an impressive estrangement."

"I don't think Greg does anything by halves."

"Not so I've noticed." Not sure how far he could push the subject, Wilson asked gently, "Do you mind my asking what happened?"

"Long story."

"My time is yours."

Angrier women than Carolyn had caved under that tone of voice. She smiled and relaxed a little, shrugging her shoulders.

"Come on," Wilson said. "I'll put a pot of coffee on."

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Chase never got used to delivering bad news, although Cameron had once suggested that the day he did was the day he should give up the practice of medicine. Under the circumstances, the news had been taken quite well, with the couple listening carefully at first, then tuning out as people always did. There would be more questions later, but Chase wouldn't be the one to answer them. He'd arranged for a pulmonary specialist to take over the case and Cuddy had assured him that she'd do her best with Moorland.

Which left Chase free to help Cameron and Foreman and, as it happened, run into his boss as he got out of the elevator.

"Offloaded your work already?" House asked. "You're learning something after all."

"I picked up the test results for Cameron and Foreman," Chase said defensively. "Where are you going?"

"Home."

Chase glanced at his watch. "It's only 3.45."

"Yeah, but by the time I get to my office, pack up my stuff and get back downstairs it'll be four o'clock."

"Which is an hour earlier than five."

"Last time I checked."

"Cuddy'll-"

"Since when do you care?" House gave his subordinate a curious look. "Aren't you immune to me by now? Didn't I hand out vaccines when you lot were recruited?"

"Aren't you even vaguely interested in how the patients are getting on?"

"Nope." House sidestepped Chase and headed off down the corridor.

"Not even a little?" Chase asked, waving the folder he was holding. "I've got the test results right here."

House stopped, pausing before turning back round. "And?"

"So you are interested?" Chase's expression challenged House to lie.

"Of course I'm interested. Do you think I would have given you cases that were boring? What do the tests say?"

"Come on in and find out." Chase swept past House, heading towards the diagnostics department.

Cameron and Foreman were sitting at the main table, books spread open in front of them. They looked up as Chase came in and Foreman held out a hand expectantly.

"What's it worth?" Chase asked, holding the file against his chest.

"My not telling House about that cute little brunette who gave you the world's best brush-off the other night." Foreman clicked his fingers impatiently, while Chase glanced over his shoulder. Instead of following him into the lounge, House had gone into his own office and, true to his word, was packing his rucksack and pointedly not looking through the glass partition.

"Chase!" Cameron was holding out her hand as well now. Giving in, Chase checked whose was whose and handed them over.

As the others flicked through what he'd already read, Chase went over to the coffee machine. He suspected the others hated the way he made it – too watered down for American tastes – but as Foreman complained about the way everyone made coffee, Cameron was too polite to complain and House was more concerned with the caffeine content than the taste, he figured there was no harm in making it how he liked it. He risked another glance towards House's office, but aside from the still open bag on the desk, there was no sign of the man himself. The door was open, to enable better eavesdropping, no doubt. Assuming Cameron and Foreman ever got around to saying something worth eavesdropping on.

It was Foreman who got to the end first, glancing up at Cameron and raising his eyebrows.

"I'll show you mine if you show me yours."

She shot him an unamused look and laid the file down on the table. "Creatinine's normal, white count's down from two days ago, which is good, but his potassium's way too high, and," she put her finger on a line of text, "he's positive for lupus anticoagulant and anti-cardiolipin antibodies."

"So are about 5 of the healthy population."

"Except he's sick." Cameron leaned over the file again. "He's ANA negative, so it's not lupus. There are all kinds of infections that can cause a positive aPL reading."

"Do you want to borrow my Magic 8 ball?"

They all turned to House who was standing in the doorway of his office, bag slung over one shoulder. "Or maybe write them on little pieces of paper," he went on, "and throw them up in the air. What do you think?"

"I think that unless you've got something actually helpful to say, you should stay out of it." Cameron pointedly looked away, back at the file on the table. "Isn't that what you wanted?"

"Ooh, touchy." House made his way across the lounge towards the coatstand. "Alternatively, you could start testing him for the infections that cause a positive aPL result. Just a thought. Wouldn't want you to think I'm helping you cheat."

"Cheat? I'm trying to help this kid and you're making it into some stupid game!" Cameron stood up, grabbing the file and holding it out to House. "He's been ill for nearly three weeks now, his fever's barely responding to the antibiotics, he's got a hematoma with no explanation and the blood tests are inconclusive"

House, unfazed by her outburst, took the file and flicked it open. After a moment of tense silence, he raised his eyebrows, snapped it closed again then handed it back to Cameron. "Do you want my opinion or are you going to yell at me again? Because if it's the yelling, I need to put his down so I can put my fingers in my ears." When he got no response, he nodded his head towards the chart and said, "Test him for infections that cause positive aPLs. Start with Hep C, Epstein-barr, Lyme's, the most common pneumonias and the kitchen sink while you're there."

"Are you saying you don't know what it is?" Foreman asked.

"I'm saying she should test him for those infections. And try gentamycin for the fever." House shrugged out of his shirt and reached for his bike jacket. "Don't forget that Wilson's got my second opinion – well technically my first opinion, and as you don't actually seem to have an opinion at all I guess it's first to you too. Anyway, it's there if you want it. What about you?" He turned an inquisitive look on Foreman. "Need any words of wisdom before I ride off into the sunset?"

"I'm sure I'll cope."

"Good." House gave them all an extremely fake smile. "Have a nice night."

Once he was out of sight, Cameron threw the file on the desk and herself into her chair.

"Don't let him get to you," Foreman said. "He's just doing it to get a reaction."

"Yeah? Well it's working." Cameron looked up. "What about your test results?"

"Creatinine's way up, as is the white count. Nothing in the tox screen to suggest drug use. I'm waiting on cultures from the LP."

"Fever, rigidity, confusion," Chase said. "Sounds like meningitis or encephalitis."

"Encephalitis is more likely," Foreman said. "I don't think it's meningitis. Partly because the MRI doesn't confirm it, and partly because of House."

Cameron frowned. "What do you mean? He didn't say anything about your case."

"No, but he's already diagnosed two cases of meningitis in the last forty-eight hours. A third one would just be boring."

"Or the complete set," Chase suggested.

"He's doing this to distract us. Assuming he actually has the diagnosis right, he just wants to keep us occupied and out of his way. He doesn't normally worry about that, which means he's got something else going on that he doesn't want us to know about. And no way meningitis is interesting enough for that."

"Those are awfully big assumptions," Cameron protested. "You can't know any of that."

"Well, it's either that or you've finally wearing him down and guilted him into taking more cases."

The three of them considered this.

"So not meningitis then," Chase said, giving Cameron a knowing look. She nodded in agreement.

"What about the history?" she asked. "Anything helpful?"

"I couldn't get much out him – he's pretty out of it. A neighbor was worried and brought him to the ER. He says there's a girlfriend, but she went to stay with her parents in Philly last night."

"A fight?" Chase asked.

"Apparently not." Foreman consulted the notes again. "The neighbor says she got ill about a month ago. She needed looking after and David, the patient, couldn't take more time off work, so her parents came and got her."

"What did the girlfriend have?"

"Some kind of stomach bug, possibly." Seeing the sceptical looks, Foreman shrugged. "The patient can barely talk, and the neighbor doesn't know him that well. All he knows is that she was throwing up a lot."

"Not much to go on," Chase said.

"No, but since David isn't throwing up, it's probably not the same thing." Foreman closed the file and stood up. "I'm going to run some more gels for infections. Encephalitis is still the most likely at this point." He looked from Chase to Cameron. "Anyone else coming?"

"I'll join you," Cameron said, already heading for the door. "I've got to test for the kitchen sink, remember?"

Foreman turned to Chase. "Are you coming?"

"What for? I already solved my case, didn't I?"

"So you're just going to sit around and do what?" Foreman asked. "Wait for House to come in tomorrow morning and dump another case on you? Just because he gave you an easy one to begin with-"

"What are you trying to say?" Chase narrowed his eyes. "That he gave me an easy one because I'm not as good as the two of you?"

"Foreman didn't say that," Cameron said.

"That's what he meant though, isn't it?" Chase turned on Foreman

"You want to prove me wrong? I'll be in the lab." Foreman brushed past Cameron, who gave Chase a weak smile before following.

Chase spent another two minutes contemplating his coffee before setting the mug down and heading out of the door towards Pathology.

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When Wilson got home, House was absorbed in painfully loud music, probably his third or fourth album by the looks of the record covers strewn around the apartment. Stretched out on the couch, head back and eyes closed, he waved a hand vaguely in the direction of the door in a gesture that might have been a greeting. Or he might just have been conducting the intro to the next verse.

Dumping his briefcase and coat, Wilson turned the stereo down to a bearable volume and took the two bags of groceries into the kitchen. When he re-emerged, House hadn't moved or even opened his eyes.

"You know," House said, still with his eyes closed, "it's rude to stare."

"We can't all live up to your high standards of etiquette." Wilson took the easy chair and continued his steady gaze. He'd had House run away from him twice already today. He wasn't about to give him a third chance.

"Take your time," House said. "I have all night."

"Were you ever going to tell me? You must have known I'd find out."

"Yes, but by then Chase would have returned the banana and removed all trace of the showgirl's presence." House opened his eyes at last, but didn't look at Wilson. "I told you it would be a night to remember. Next time-"

"Oh, stop." Wilson tugged at his tie. "You know full well what I mean." He stopped, waiting for House to look at him. When he didn't, Wilson decided added incentive might be necessary. "You also know that you're not getting any dinner until I get an answer."

"No, I wasn't going to tell you. Happy?"

"Yes, that makes everything great. Why not?"

"Because I knew you'd get like this." House swung his legs off the couch, turning to glare at Wilson. "All caring and interested. Go take it out on them and leave me alone."

"They're your family, House. You're supposed to care."

"I figure you can do enough of that for the both of us. See? Saves me time and effort." House pushed himself off the sofa and headed into the kitchen, not bothering to stop for his cane.

Wilson followed him, leaning against the kitchen doorway and blocking House's way back into the lounge. He didn't say anything, nor was he intimidated by House's scowl, although if House had brought his cane, he might have feared for his shins.

"I can stand here all night," he said. "Can you?"

Swearing under his breath, House retreated, propping himself against the work surface.

"What are you expecting? Tearful confessions aren't really my style."

"I want to know-" Wilson paused, trying to figure out exactly what it was he did want. "Just tell me what happened to make her hate you so much."

"She met me. Can I go now?"

"House."

House gave him a calculating look. "Are you planning on starting cooking any time soon?"

"I'll cook, you talk." Wilson straightened up from the doorway and began poking through the grocery bags, stopping to give House an expectant look. Getting the message, House sighed and pushed himself up onto the counter top, hands fiddling with a bag of Steve's food.

"I last saw her," he said at last, "at that God-awful barbecue Mom threw for their anniversary."

Wilson paused in the middle of assembling ingredients. "Wasn't that the one where…"

"The same."

"I seem to remember that it was you who did the throwing."

"Whatever. We fought. Impressively, even by my high standards."

Wilson remembered the fall-out from that party. Stacy had driven House back to Princeton, packed her bags and moved out even faster than she'd moved in. The whole story was something House had always refused to be drawn on, but Wilson had always assumed that his friend had finally said or done something unforgivable. And not just to Stacy, by the sound of it.

"What was the fight about?"

"Can't even remember now."

However much he doubted the statement, Wilson decided not to push. He hadn't been able to get much more detail out of Carolyn, except for a strong dislike of her cousin. Instead, he asked, "What happened to Carolyn's father?" he asked instead. "I'm assuming from the name they're related on your mom's side."

"Dad's actually. Aunt Pamela changed her name back after the divorce."

"I didn't know your dad had a brother."

"I didn't know you did, remember? Guess we're even." House waved the bag of rodent foodin Wilson's general direction. "Less talking, more cooking."

Wilson paused, onion in one hand, knife in the other. "The weird thing is, she really doesn't like you – and I mean really doesn't – and then she sends you her mother's file and begs for your help."

"Because she's not an idiot, unlike the previous eight doctors she'd sent her mother to."

"Hates you but respects you. Or at least your medical abilities. Which is a sign of a reasonable, sane person. Are you sure you two are related?"

House stuck out his tongue as a witty rejoinder and eased himself down from the counter.

"If you're going to be like that-"

"You'll what? Refuse to eat my cooking?" Wilson threw the onion in the pan and raised an eyebrow at House.

"You're the one sleeping on a borrowed sofa," House shot over his shoulder as he left the kitchen. "Privileges can be withdrawn, you know."

Giving in, Wilson turned back to the stove, prodding the onion and trying not to sigh.