Title: Pathology
Rating: R for dark themes and disturbing imagery
Pairing: House/Wilson eventually
Description: At the height of flu season, a mysterious illness sweeps through the streets of downtown New Jersey, leaving panic and dread in its wake. Patients are frightened, doctors stumped, and even the eminent Dr. Gregory House is baffled by the virus's origins. As the deadly plague's toll reaches national crisis and even the government's elite can find no answer, it is clear that only one certainty remains - everybody lies.
Author's Note: A House/24/The Stand crossover (yes, a three-way, but really the main focus is on House) co-authored by myself and melanthev. Originally inspired by crack conversations about what the House crew would do at the end of the world, this plot bunny actually evolved into quite a complex head case spanning just about every kind of medical jargon, government conspiracy, and Freudian nutjob in existence. You don't have to know anything about 24 or The Stand to understand the story, although it might help you get some of the references in later chapters.

Midnight, October 27th.

In the quiet outskirts of Princeton, New Jersey, tucked comfortably away from crowded highways and smoke-ridden metropolises, all lay calm. Still. It was Saturday evening, after all, and everyone who was anyone in the town had headed over to the autumn bash at Christina Laudenbaum's home, their suburb's resident party hostess, city socialite, and (to those few who knew her well) sometimes drug addict of the Valium kind. Laudenbaum was famous for giving lavish celebrations around this time of the month, when not five years ago, her husband passed away in a horrible, tragic accident (the details of which were still discussed on and off behind closed doors), and in a suburb that was not averse to good food or even better gossip, her parties were almost unanimously attended.

Almost.

Flickering, unsteady candlelight illuminated a dank basement on the far edges of town, wreathed with black ribbons and old cobwebs. The place was abandoned some years ago, after the original owners were run out of town following an unfortunate dispute with the mayor, and ever since, had stood as a warning against the perils of small town politics. Now, however, it was again reoccupied. By a cult, no less.

Inside the dimly lit room, four cloaked figures stood around a central table, heads bowed as they chanted softly in unison. Each held a golden (well, technically spray-painted tin) chalice in hand, filled to the brim with dark red liquid. Various paraphernalia, including a pentacle, broadsword, devil wings, Crusader helm, human skeleton (made in China), and at least three different herbal incenses, two of which refused to burn, lay scattered about the concrete floor. Mildew was added for extra effect.

Michael was pretty sure the real stench of mildew actually emanated from John's socks.

"Third edition sucks."

The other four figures ceased their chanting to turn an annoyed look at their companion.

"Look, I'm not saying a coupla the rule changes aren't valid. But is it really necessary to get rid of all the mythos priests except for druids?"

"Michael..." Paul began, rolling his eyes at this age-old debate. Every time it was John's turn to DM, they got into the same tired argument over editions.

"I mean, really. Druids? How do they expect us to just ditch everything else like that?"

"Michael, we are not here to debate the merits of a human game," John cut in severely. "We are here to worship the eminent power of Lord Diabolo."

"Oh, cut the crap, John." Paul really couldn't stand the other's over-dramatic pronouncements any longer. "If you don't want to play third edition, Mike, then by all means, go and start your own campaign. But while you're here in ours, would you kindly shut up and learn to deal."

"Now stop stalling with the summon spell already."

Michael looked like he was about to retort, but then caught a sharp glare from Ben, who had thus far kept silent, and bit his tongue. Ben was the oldest player among them. Ben also worked at the local video game store and supplied all their DND books. One really did not want to piss Ben off.

Begrudgingly, Michael stepped back from the table and raised his chalice into the air, eyes sliding closed as he began to murmur the words to the spell.

"Raging fire, tongues of flame. Heed the call of your dark master." A sudden bout of vertigo hit him, and he paused, waiting for the dizziness to go away. Damn that incense. John always overdid it burning six sticks at once.

Ignoring the mounting nausea, Michael raised his voice to complete the chant. "By the power of Cthullu, I summon thee, great harbinger of the dark!" He brought the chalice to his lips and downed the warm liquid in several gulps, then took his place once more back within the circle.

"Now, if this thing only tas - " Abruptly, he swerved, vision blurring to a pitched grey as he threw out an arm to steady himself. The table rocked from his sudden weight.

"What the hell are you doing?" John snapped in annoyance. Of all the lameass ways to ruin the ceremony...

His voice changed, however, when he saw the ill look on his friend's face. "Hey, you all right?"

Ben squinted in the dim lighting. "Don't puke all over my books now."

Michael waved off the look of concern, as he pulled himself back up. "Yeah, just...just the stupid herbs." He shook his head, trying to clear it. "The hell did that Korean guy sell you?"

"Just the usual stuff."

"Right. Spiked with valerian root," Michael muttered. "I'm gonna go get some water."

He trotted off several steps, shutting his ears to the shrill protest John would no doubt put up for screwing up their "summoning" and opening the doors to chaos or some such. This whole night was supposed to be his turn to DM anyway, but of course, thanks to that bitch Laudenbaum's party, they had to reschedule to late night and then of course Paul insisted on switching the campaign rules and why the fuck was the room tilting so suddenly anyway? You couldn't be telling him that -

Three heads turned at the sound of a fourth collapsing. Ben was the first to get to him and push his hood back, flipping the boy over onto his back as his other companions gathered around worriedly. Michael looked up at the congregation of dark cloaks with a glazed eye. Cloak? Coke? Where exactly was the...

With an effort, he managed to murmur one last word before passing out entirely.

"...Water."