I am absolutely indebted to Katie. Were it not for her help with the plot, with several of the scenes and with putting up with my contacting her at unholy hours of the morning to say 'WHAT IF THIS HAPPENED IN THE FIC WOULD THAT WORK?', this would never have been written.
Just Like House Without The Limp
"Blood cultures rule out sepsis. No cellulitis," House said, gesturing to a line of text on the sheet with the piece of chicken skewered on the end of his fork. "See?"
Wilson swatted his hand away without raising his eyes, and flipped another page of the patient's chart, brow furrowed. "I'm not surprised. Symptoms don't point that way."
"Yeah, I know." House leant back in his chair, prodding absentmindedly at the plate of food in front of him. "Got to let the kids have their fun now and then, though, haven't we?"
They were sat opposite each other in the cafeteria, possibly House's least favourite spot in the hospital, aside from the clinic. Luckily, the size of the tables meant he could steal bits of Wilson's lunch without him noticing, but it didn't make up for the noise, and the less than favourable cuisine. There wasn't a television, either, which meant he couldn't even watch soaps over Wilson's shoulder. Which, in turn, meant that he would have to find some other way to pretend not to be listening. Since when did infuriating your best friend become so tricky?
"Besides," House continued. "They're doing all the work for me. I barely have to work to prove the three of them wrong."
Wilson raised an eyebrow at him. "So you're admitting you'd normally have to make an effort? Why, House, how very modest of you."
With a withering look, House snatched the patient's chart back from him.
"Please," he muttered, frowning at it. "Could solve this case with my eyes closed. It's an infection. And it's boring. Any idea why Cuddy wanted me to take it?"
"She knows the attending where the patient works. Cox, or something," Wilson replied, sliding the plastic container of his lunch quickly across the table towards him when he noticed House's eyes on it. "I guess she owed a favour."
"Why not just treat the kid there? Seems kind of impractical to send him all the way over to Jersey, don't you think?"
"Must have the same outlook as you." Wilson shrugged, mulling it over.
"What, can't be a good doctor when emotions are involved?" House said, and paused. "Huh. I like the sound of this Dr. Cox already."
Wilson smiled. "I thought you might. Something of a... livewire, according to Cuddy..."
House wasn't listening - his eyes narrowed and focused on some distant spot on the wall. Wilson rolled his eyes and prepared himself for whatever insight was coming.
"Strange going to all that trouble only being the kid's attending, though," he said, and looked at Wilson again. "Sounds motivated by more than professional feelings."
Wilson's eyebrows shot up. "Ah. Cox is... male."
House smirked. "That just makes it all the more interesting."
"Twenty-something-year-old male, presents with muscle weakness, high blood pressure and hyperglycaemia. Thoughts?"
Foreman raised his eyebrows. "Isn't that a little ordinary for you? You're sure he's not turning into a squirrel or anything?"
"I know, it's boring, but his attending Cox insisted that we look at him." He looked pointedly at Cameron. "Yes, he's a doctor. Try not to get too weak at the knees."
"Knowing House, it'll turn into something horrible soon enough," Chase said. "Is he overweight?"
"Does he have diabetes?" Cameron asked, leaning forward and resting her arms on the table.
House stared at them. "Yes. He's a fat diabetic, and I just thought you wouldn't need to know that when you were trying to work out why his glucose level is through the roof."
"Stress can cause hypertension," Foreman pointed out. "You said he was a doctor. That's a stressful job, even if he's not working with you. He might just need some time to wind down."
"Yeah, it'd be nice if patients just got better on their own, wouldn't it? Make all our jobs much easier."
Foreman shrugged. "Sometimes they do."
"Right. Cameron, it's your job to ignore the patient and hope that he just 'gets better'."
Cameron blinked. "Sarcasm generally works better when it's directed at the person whose idea you're being sarcastic about."
"I know, but I don't want you getting too close. He's the cute, vulnerable type, and if I don't keep an eye on you I just know you're going to run off and marry him. Check his blood pressure levels if you really have to, but on no accounts is there to be any talking. Foreman, give him some insulin. The hyperglycaemia'll cause erectile dysfunction if we don't do anything about it, and nobody wants that."
"There's no point in blindly injecting him with insulin. If he's developed Type Two diabetes, it won't have any effect."
"It'll be able to tell us whether he's developed Type Two. If he becomes impotent anyway, we'll know he's resistant. Chase, you ask him whether he's got an eating disorder," House said, picking up a newspaper and flicking to the Su Doku section. "When he says he doesn't, go through his stuff. And while you're at it, find out whatever you can from him about this Dr. Cox guy."
Chase and Foreman exchanged glances
"You... think his attending'll know something about his illness?" Chase ventured.
"I think his attending's giving him blowjobs on bathroom breaks," House said, filling in a couple of numbers. "But I can't be sure until I know more. Don't want to be jumping to conclusions, do I?"
"So this has nothing to do with the illness," Foreman said, staring. "You're putting more effort into finding out about the patient's sex life than in narrowing down the diagnosis."
"That's right." He glanced up at them with an expression of exaggerated concern. "You'd better be quick, because I'd hate for the chemicals we're pumping into him to kill him before I know for certain."
JD opened his eyes with an effort and yawned, before noticing that he wasn't alone. A young woman was sitting by his bed, staring at him with such obvious heartfelt concern that for a moment he wondered, with some alarm, whether she was a girlfriend he had forgotten about.
"Dr. Dorian?" she said quietly. "Are you feeling okay?"
"Uh, yes," he said, and then he wondered whether he should append a 'honey' or 'sweetie' just in case she was his girlfriend, and then he wondered whether he would usually call his girlfriend 'honey' or 'sweetie', and then he wondered whether his girlfriends usually called him 'Dr. Dorian', and eventually he concluded that it would probably be a lot less embarrassing for him to fail to call his girlfriend a silly pet name than to call someone who wasn't his girlfriend by one.
And then he said 'sweetie' anyway, because his brain had taken a long time to work out what the sensible course of action would be and his mouth had got kind of impatient.
She looked a little taken aback. Probably not his girlfriend, then. Or maybe it was just that he never called anyone 'sweetie'. 'Sweetie' was a stupid thing to call someone. Why did he say it?
"I'm, um, I'm just taking your blood pressure," she said. "I'll be by again in a while to see whether there's been any change."
He could at least say with some confidence that his girlfriends very rarely dropped by just to take his blood pressure. He was also fairly sure that, unless the Janitor had crept in and converted all of his walls to glass so it would be really difficult for him to have any privacy when he was getting changed, which seemed unlikely but not completely impossible, this probably wasn't his apartment. "Am I ill?"
She smiled sympathetically at him. "You have abnormally high blood pressure and glucose levels. We don't think there's any immediate danger, but we're going to keep you here until we've figured out the cause."
He blinked around at the glass walls, suddenly becoming aware of how very tired he was. That was probably the glucose, then. "I, uh – this isn't Sacred Heart, is it? Why didn't they just keep me there?" He looked wide-eyed at her, suddenly terrified. "Not – I mean, uh, I'm not saying you should take me back there, I can't think of anywhere I'd want to be less when I'm sick – I mean – I mean, it's not that it's a bad hospital, but there's this janitor there and I think he might try to kill me, and – and – " she was starting to look worried, he noticed, and he really couldn't blame her – "I'm not delirious! It's true!"
She gave him a quick, concerned smile. "I'll let you know if there are any developments."
Cameron, worried, pulled House aside – much to his annoyance – when she next saw him in the corridor. "I think that his brain function may have been impaired by his illness."
"Or maybe he's just an idiot. Ever think of that?"
"Your glucose level is dangerously high. I'm going to give you some insulin – it should get rid of the blurriness and fatigue. If it doesn't, it's likely that you've developed insulin resistance."
"So you have no idea what's wrong with me?"
"We're trying to work it out. Do you have any ideas?"
The patient blinked, and yawned, and shook his head. "Um, I've been eating a lot of, you know, snack foods to get me through my shift, but, um, but the hyperglycaemia – it would need to be chronic to affect me like this, right?"
Foreman smiled. "We'll just have to keep thinking, then. Get some rest. My colleague will probably be along soon to check on you."
He came out of the room, and paused. There was a man standing by the glass with his arms folded, looking in at the patient.
"Are you a friend?" he asked. "You can go in and talk to him if you want."
The man looked over at him with such an incredulous expression that Foreman briefly wondered whether he'd accidentally said something more along the lines of 'It doesn't look like he's going to die, but we can soon fix that. Got a baseball bat I can borrow?'
"You think I'm his friend? No! God, no. I just need him to get better so we can have him back at the hospital. We're short-handed as it is, and I'm not going to let him die just so he can get out of delousing Miss Smith."
Foreman quirked an eyebrow. "Well, assuming that you work at the same hospital, why aren't you there?"
He bared his teeth briefly in what might have been intended to be a grin. "It's not my shift. I'm not that dedicated." He turned back to the glass wall. "Do you know what's wrong with him yet?"
"We've got some idea of what it might be, but we'll need to carry out more tests before we're sure." Foreman frowned. "Are you... Dr. Cox?"
He looked very hard at Foreman. "If you tell anyone I was here, I promise you that you will not hear me coming."
So he was visiting but didn't want anyone else to know. House would love that. Foreman wasn't going to tell him, because he had better things to do than indulge House's insane whims, but he would be thrilled if he knew.
"Met our latest patient yet?" Chase asked. "He didn't have any copies of Bulimia For Dummies in his bag. House will be so disappointed."
"I met Dr. Cox," Foreman said, adjusting the microscope.
"Oh, yeah?" Chase asked absently. "What was he like?"
Foreman shrugged. "He was... like House."
Chase very nearly dropped the sample he was carrying.
"Two Houses?" he asked, looking horror-struck.
"Two Houses," Foreman confirmed. "I'm hoping we'll get to see them meet. Either it'll be love at first sight, or they'll end up killing each other."
When it came down to a choice between involving himself in the diagnosis of a patient and talking to his friend about said patient's sordid secrets, House was always going to choose the option that gave him more job satisfaction. Wilson was well aware of this, but he was still starting to find it just a little exasperating.
"So, how do you propose to discover the exact nature of their relationship?"
"Easy," House said. "I'll seduce the sick one. When Cox gets jealous, we'll know I'm right."
"You're insane," Wilson observed.
"Got a better idea?"
Wilson raised his eyebrows. "This'll... probably sound crazy, but maybe you could focus on, I don't know, treating the kid before you start thinking about sleeping with him."
"I was joking, anyway. I wouldn't have sex with a patient. I'm not completely devoid of morals, after all." He looked speculative for a moment. "I can have Chase do it."
"His glucose levels have dropped, so it can't be insulin resistance, and he swears he doesn't have an eating disorder," Chase said. "Assuming he's not the worst doctor ever, he'll know that he'd be risking his health by lying to us."
"By lying to us about disorders, maybe. There's nothing to stop him lying about his relationships," House said. "Okay, so we're no closer to finding out the causes of our patient's hyperthings. The really important question is whether you've found out anything about Cox."
"In Dr. Cox-related news," Chase said, rolling his eyes, "he's been coming in to see him a lot."
"Well, obviously. Wants to make sure his little boyfriend's still alive. What do they talk about?"
"Are you asking us to eavesdrop on his private conversations?" Cameron asked, appalled, but Chase shook his head, tapping a pencil idly on the desk.
"No need. He'll only go into the room when the patient's unconscious."
Cameron stared at him. "Are you saying that Dr. Dorian's been unconscious every time Dr. Cox has visited, or – "
"I'm saying that Dr. Cox won't go in to see him unless he's sure he won't be awake. I've seen him skulking around a couple of times, waiting until he's out of it."
"Only visiting when the kid's unconscious. Interesting." House leant back in his chair. "You're sure Dr. Dorian hasn't been waking up after these 'visits' feeling sore in strange places?"
Chase raised his eyebrows. "Well, uh, he didn't mention anything."
"Why are you suddenly taking such an interest in your patient's personal life?" Cameron asked, torn between hope that House might actually be taking emotions into account and disapproval.
"My TV is broken," House said, smirking. "Got to get my drama somehow. I'm thinking of manipulating one of them into sleeping with Dr. Chase here, just to add to the excitement." He looked thoughtful. "The younger one would probably work better aesthetically, but from what I've been hearing Coxy seems more dominant, and we all know that's how Chase likes it."
"He doesn't have cancer. Why are you trying to drag me into this?"
"Patients like you. You've got the whole caring thing going on."
"You've got Cameron for the 'caring thing'. Why do you want me?"
"Cameron doesn't approve of me taking an interest in my patients. If Not Cancer in there opens up to her, she might not tell me."
Wilson stared. "Dr. Cox?" He glanced down the corridor, and then looked back at House, incredulous. "Dr. Cox? Is that what this is about?"
House shrugged. "I have to know."
"No," Wilson said. "You don't. And you're so convinced of this that even if you find nothing to prove it you'll just keep looking, because God knows they can't not be having sex, you must just have missed something, and while you're so busy trying to find something that isn't there your patient will die."
"The case is dull. I have to find something to focus on, because otherwise I get bored, I stop paying attention, the kid dies. So if he's going to die either way, may as well go for the one that gives me job satisfaction." His attempt at puppy-eyes was probably the least convincing that Wilson had ever seen.
Wilson stared at him for a moment longer, and then groaned.
"You're Dr. Dorian?" he asked, stepping into the room and silently promising himself that he would get to kill House someday.
The patient grinned. "You can call me JD, it's fine."
Wilson smiled. "Okay, JD. How are you feeling?"
"Better!" JD said enthusiastically. He looked a little pale and thin, but he seemed energetic enough. "My chest hurts a bit, but that's all. It's great that you came along, I haven't had anyone to talk to today."
"Really? Your visitor hasn't been in today?" he asked absently, looking through the glass wall into the corridor. House was still hanging around outside the door, and Wilson rolled his eyes and gave him the don't you have work to do? look that he had had, rather unsurprisingly, perfected long ago.
Wilson turned around. The patient looked so confused that he was tempted to ask whether he knew exactly what 'visitor' meant.
"Uh, your – not your dad, he was very clear about that, but he's in and out of here all the time." He paused. JD still looked bewildered, so he elaborated. "Forty-ish? Curly hair? Breaks into long rants at the drop of a hat? He's been by the bed almost every time I've looked in here."
JD blinked. "...that sounds like Dr. Cox. The, uh, the description, not the staying-by-my-bedside part. But he couldn't have been here."
"Okay, so I must have found out his description by reading your mind. Sorry about that. Happens a lot." He frowned. "Are you telling me you haven't seen him? He's in here almost every day."
"...okay, given how surprised you seem I'm guessing you've been unconscious every time he visited you."
"You're sure it wasn't Turk? He's my best friend – he's black and bald, and..." He trailed off, frowning.
Wilson laughed quietly. "Well, obviously that must have been who I meant. I'm sorry, but this Dr. Cox guy's been visiting you, whether you like it or not. If you want him to stop coming, we can probably – "
"No," JD said quickly. "No, I don't mind him visiting, it's – it's just weird. It's like, um..." He cast around desperately for a way to explain it. "Have you ever had a, uh, a friend who hated you? I mean, um, not – not hated hated, but..."
Wilson paused, looking at him. "...I should probably be worried that I know exactly what you mean, shouldn't I?"
"Really?" JD asked eagerly. "And if you got ill, you wouldn't expect him to come see you, would you?"
"...I don't know," Wilson said, after a moment's thought. "I... guess it's not impossible, but..."
And JD looked so crestfallen that Wilson had to quickly remind him that Dr. Cox had been visiting him.
"Who brought you the flowers?" he asked, after a pause.
"I don't know. Someone must have put them here when I was asleep." JD grinned happily at the little pot of flowers. "I wish I knew so I could thank them."
"Maybe it was Dr. Cox?" Wilson suggested, trying to hide his smirk at the thought of how House might react to that piece of news.
JD looked thrilled at the idea, but then his smile faltered. "...I don't think Dr. Cox is really a flowers type of guy."
Seeing as this Dr. Cox was apparently JD's House, Wilson wasn't exactly surprised. The thought of House bringing him flowers if he were ill was so absurd that he almost choked on laughter.
JD, though – JD was choking, coughing uncontrollably. He clawed at the air, trying to breathe, and Wilson stared for a fraction of a second before running to the door and yelling for help.
"Right. Possible causes of hacking cough. Go."
Cameron stared. "It could be any one of a thousand different illnesses."
"Then talk quickly." He grinned. "This is the fun part. Now we know we're dealing with an infection, so we get to inject him with whatever we can think of and see if he explodes."
"Well, um, the obvious guess would be pneumonia."
"Too easy. Something else."
Cameron raised her eyebrows. "You don't think it's pneumonia because – "
"I didn't say I didn't think it could be pneumonia. I just think we should consider all the possibilities first. The patient won't explode if we just stick him on azithromycin, and that's no fun." He tapped his cane against his hand. "He was coughing up blood. What does that tell us?"
"It tells us that it's probably pneumonia or bronchitis," Foreman said. "If it is a common illness, it's not going to transform into something interesting just because you'd like it to be kuru."
"You don't know that. Maybe nobody's tried it before." House leant back. "Fine, start him on antibiotics if you really want to be that boring. What else could it be?"
"Okay," Foreman began, utterly exasperated, "if it can only be something you'll like, let's say that he's actually a woman who disguised herself to avoid harassment by people like you, and the birth control pill caused a pulmonary embolism."
House smirked. "I love it, but it makes no sense. For one thing, the attending would know."
"Oh, right. And it can't be that he knows and has no problem with it, because that means that there's no homosexuality involved, and that means that invading their personal lives just isn't as fun."
"You're getting good at this. Any other ideas?"
"You might have seen me around a couple of times," he said. "I'm Dr. Wilson."
Dr. Cox stared at him. "Oncology."
"Don't worry; we don't think Dr. Dorian has cancer," Wilson hastened to reassure him. "Dr. House wanted to speak to you about his illness. To – " he hesitated for a fraction of a second – "ascertain potential environmental factors."
Dr. Cox folded his arms and looked critically at him.
"Dr. House has three people working under him, and I'm pretty sure you're not one of them. So I have to wonder why, exactly, he's got you running errands for him out here. Is it not cancer season or something?"
Wilson flushed. "It's not my shift," he lied. "Dr. House has trouble walking, because of an infarction in his leg, and his team are working on Dr. Dorian's case at the moment. Somebody has to 'run errands'."
"Look, Messenger Boy, I don't want you to justify yourself to me. I know some people like to be controlled, and that's just great so long as you keep it to yourself. Just point me towards wherever your master awaits me, mmkay?"
"You're Dr. House?"
"I have to applaud you for your ability to read the name on my door."
Dr. Cox immediately thought that maybe he could like this guy. Dr. Cox had rarely been more wrong.
"So, did you want to ask me about Sally? You know I'm actually not his father or anything, thank God, right?"
"...Dr. Dorian. Sorry, I've kind of gotten into the habit of calling him by girls' names, mainly because he is, in fact, a girl."
House raised his eyebrows. "I'd guessed that you weren't the father. You're Dr. Cox, right?"
"Well, yeah, but she could've gotten married and taken her husband's name."
"Treating him like a girl. That's cute," House said, leaning back in his chair. "But yes, I wanted to talk to you about your – what's the word – " He gestured vaguely in the direction of JD's room with his cane.
"Parasite?" Dr. Cox suggested. "Underling?"
House smirked. "Well, that's one way of putting it."
That seemed a little odd, but Dr. Cox was too focused on JD's illness to worry about it. "What do you need to know?"
"Could he have been exposed to any contagious diseases within the last month?"
Dr. Cox stared at him. "Okay, the kid works in a hospital. You know – " he mock-gasped – "I think he just might have been."
"Yeah, I know. I just wanted to see whether you'd try to list them all."
"Do you have any sexually transmitted diseases?"
"I – what?"
House blinked up at him with a particularly sinister expression that was probably intended to convey innocence. Dr. Cox's was one of undisguised disbelief.
"If you think I – "
"Oh, please. Did you actually think that I wouldn't notice?" House asked, making an exaggerated show of inspecting his fingernails, his feet propped up on the chair opposite him. "I'm a doctor. Love is one of the easiest diseases to diagnose. Unfortunately, not always so easy to treat, especially not in as advanced a case as this one."
Dr. Cox spluttered.
"Well, Sherlock," he said, as soon as he was able to manage something slightly more understandable than an incoherent bellow of rage, "I don't know what you think you've been seeing between me and Newbie, but – "
"I just told you," House said, shifting his focus from his fingernails to Dr. Cox. "If you're too much of a moron to have picked up on it from that, I can make it even clearer for you, because I'm just that nice: he's in love with you, you love dominating him, and if you're not already having aggressive controlling sex in the janitor's closet I can guarantee that it'll be happening soon."
Dr. Cox gritted his teeth.
"Leaving aside the fact that the janitor's closet is the lair of the Second-Most Evil Man In The World – although I've got to tell you, you're starting to make me wonder if I shouldn't demote him to third – and therefore the last place I would want to have 'aggressive controlling sex' with Newbie – not that there's any such thing as a good place for that – would you mind telling me exactly what in the hell has put this ri-diculous idea into your head and exactly how many times I'm going to need to hit you with that cane before I knock it out again? If you haven't noticed, the only attention I show Newbie is the 'For God's sake, Lucinda, stop braiding your hair and tell me what the hell's wrong with this patient' kind. It has never been 'Drop your pants, Newbie'. Ever."
House smirked. "There it is again. Have you ever actually stopped and asked yourself why you call your little catamite all these girls' names?"
"He's not – what the hell, Dupin, he's not – "
"You're scared," House said, still with that infuriating little smile. "You're scared because you've never felt this way about a boy before, and you don't like what it says about you. So you call him Shelley and Barbara because that way you can make him into a girl, and then you're still completely straight, aren't you? Everything's fine, right?"
He actually snarled. House was almost impressed.
"Okay," Dr. Cox said after a moment, breathing very slowly and carefully, his fists clenched by his sides. "If you want to go and bend that Dr. Watson or whatever his name is over a table right now instead of projecting all the issues you have about him onto me, that'd be just fantastic. I make it very clear that I don't give a crap about Newbie, so I don't know where you're getting this lovely little fantasy romance of yours from."
"Yeah. And I'm sure you just wandered in here without really paying attention to where you were going and accidentally visited the sick kid you 'don't care about'."
"Newsflash for you, Miss Marple: going to see someone in hospital doesn't necessarily mean you want to jump them."
"Really?" House asked, his eyes wide in mock-astonishment. "So I'm not sleeping with half my patients? Look, I'm not saying that visiting him is evidence that you're having sex with him. Visiting him is evidence that you care about him. The evidence that you're having sex with him is completely different."
"I am not – wait, not sleeping with half your patients? You only visit half your patients?" He paused, considering. "Huh. I can't say I'm surprised."
"I could have meant that I'm already sleeping with half my patients," House pointed out, all his attention now focused on twirling his cane between his fingers.
"The lower half. Now, if you're done trying to make this about me, we can get back to talking about how screwed-up you are."
"No," Dr. Cox said with exaggerated slowness. "No, I – I think I like talking about your issues better." He looked pointedly at House's cane. "Just to get us started, I've been wondering about the giant phallic symbol."
"If you go for the cane I'll go for your name, and then it'll just get messy."
"Or it could be the start of a beautiful love story."
House quirked an eyebrow. "Could it?"
"Well, there are weirder ways for romance to blossom. Like, oh, I don't know, the brilliant reluctant mentor and the girly infatuated student who he is in no way interested in. But hey, if that can work out, I can't see why the two of us shouldn't have sex on your desk right now."
"I can. I don't want you staining it." He paused, pretending to think it over. "We can use Foreman's."
"On second thoughts," Dr. Cox said thoughtfully, "I hate you, and I'm just not that into having sex with people I can't stand."
"Oh, of course not. Because you're definitely not doing anything with my patient you're constantly complaining about, and it's not as if you're still sleeping with that ex-wife of yours – what was her name – "
House barely managed to raise his cane in time to block Dr. Cox's fist. They stared at each other for a moment, and then House laughed.
"This is fun."
"Oh, yeah, 'fun'. That's the word for it." Dr. Cox's eyes were wide and manic. "How the hell do you know about my ex-wife?"
"I was getting information from your friend about you."
"He is not my friend."
"Yeah. You said."
"And why the hell would you be asking him about me anyway? How is my ex-wife medically relevant?"
"She's not. I just wanted ammo for when we had this conversation." He shrugged. "Of course, she could be relevant if she gave you some hideous sexually-transmitted disease, and you passed it on."
"Okay, how many times am I going to have to tell you that I am not having sex with Christi – with Newbie?"
"You can tell me as many times as you like. A lie doesn't stop being a lie if you say it five hundred times. Anyway, you're managing to resist me, which proves that you're in love with him."
Dr. Cox stared at him. "So I want to screw Newbie into the wall because your body doesn't exactly drive me wild with desire. I don't know what kind of doctor you're supposed to be, but I'm guessing you're not much of a psychiatrist."
"Well, obviously it can't be because of any deficiency in the looks department because I know for a fact that I look pretty damn good for an ageing cripple, so I can only conclude that you don't want to do anything that might hurt your unconscious boyfriend in there."
"Oh, of course! It's so obvious!" Dr. Cox exclaimed, smacking his forehead theatrically. "Did it ever occur to you that I might, y'know, not be attracted to you?"
"Oh, come on. Everyone's attracted to me." House grinned wolfishly. "Anyway, I say go for it. As long as you've got the use of your legs, might as well wrap them around your devoted fanboy once in a while."
Dr. Cox actually flinched. "Oh, God. I really, re-he-heally didn't need that." He pressed the heels of his hands over his eyes. "Oh my God, it won't get out of my head!"
"You'll feel better," House said, helpfully. "You might even stop hiding behind all this sarcasm and mockery. God knows the only reason I'm such a sarcastic bastard is because I haven't gotten laid in a really, really long time."
"Yeah, real nice try, there," Dr. Cox said, still trying to shake off unwanted mental images. "Much as I'd love to stay and fondle your cane, I've got things to do." He pushed open the door with a little more force than was entirely necessary and took a few steps in the direction of JD's room – and then he stopped, and shook his head violently, and stalked away towards the exit.
House could barely keep himself from snickering. Baiting Dr. Cox was like Vicodin for the soul.
It was exactly three hours after lunch when Dr. Cox left his office, and when House finally decided to speak to the team, stepping through the door into the conference room to be greeted by an entirely unsurprising spectacle. Cameron had earlier kicked up a fuss about the five possible infections the patient's condition had been narrowed down to, and House had challenged her to find a better suited alternative. She had since made a great affair of scouring her way through what appeared to be the heaviest textbook House owned, and scowling at him whenever he walked anywhere near her. House didn't like being glared at, even less so when he was wrestling with the coffee machine in an attempt to get it working. On occasions like this, Chase was the favoured duckling. At present he was staring into space and chewing on the end of a biro which had long since split. Half his mouth was blue from ink. House smirked and reminded himself to reprimand Wilson for branding his team as overqualified.
"So," he said, simply. "Bets on when this guy is going to croak?"
Chase snapped out of his trance and stared dumbly at him.
"I'm thinking... ten hours? Maybe twelve?" House continued, not registering the interruption. "But hey, that's too easy. How about we bet on which vital organ fails first?"
Cameron and Chance exchanged a glance.
"Er, Dr Dorian is getting... better," Chase said, slowly, as if he suspected the concept hard for House to grasp. "The guy was up and dancing to George Michael this morning!"
House wrinkled his nose. "Are you kidding? He must be sick."
Cameron cleared her throat, and he raised his eyebrows at her. She didn't look far from a primary school kid about to put her hand up. "Dr House, if you think the patient is dying, surely that means that y... t-that we suspected the wrong infections in the first place, and-"
House cut her off. "Nice try."
"He's recovering!" Chase said, earnestly. "That means the treatment is working."
"One of the treatments. Which means that all of the others are obsolete. Or could get in the way of his recovery. Either way, we're still pumping the kid full of chemicals completely unnecessarily. Are you following this, or should I slow down?"
Chase rolled his eyes. "Yeah, fine, we're not stupid. But we need to find which treatment he's responding to, first."
House's eyebrows rose even further. "Oh, A+ for Captain Obvious. Really, really impressive stuff," he said, before barking Cameron's name, and making her jump considerably in her seat. House mentally noted the skittishness, and decided to use it for his later advantage.
"Yes?" she said, wide-eyed.
"That book," he stated, and before she had a chance to even consider gloating, continued. "Unless it's called 'Not Killing Your Patient : A How-To Guide' or you were just planning on hitting Chase round the head with it, put it down. And take out the crossword book you've been hiding between the pages and simply thought I hadn't noticed."
Cameron turned an attractive shade of pink when sheepish. He'd made a mental note of that, too.
"So what did the blood work show?"
Chase sighed. "That's the point," he said. "It's not back yet."
"Oh," House said, slowly. After a lengthy session with Dr. Cox, he'd simply assumed it would be back. "Right. At least you're not entirely without hope, then."
Chase didn't have time to look affronted, because Foreman had just stepped through the door, looking grim, and threw the patient's chart down on the table.
"Read it," he said, simply.
"His white blood cell count is dropping?" Wilson asked, frowning down at the chart as they walked towards the patient's room.
"Slowly," House said. "No cause for alarm. Yet."
"No infection, then," Wilson replied, thoughtfully, and sighed. "Which leaves you back at square one."
"Mysterious illness plus potential side-effects of the antibiotics? Great."
Wilson tossed the chart back to him as they slowed down outside the patient's room, watching him through the glass window in silence. Dr. Dorian appeared to be watching the ending of a Cheers episode, and entirely oblivious to the outside world. House had never seen someone with more ridiculous hair.
"What I don't understand," Wilson began, "is why you spent forty-five minutes probing this guy's attending. I doubt his love life is that relevant."
House tore his eyes away from the pitiful sight of the kid trying to switch the channel with the remote control back to front, and made a small, choked noise that Wilson recognised far too easily as an attempt to suppress a laugh. Wilson cut him off before he could speak - sounding entirely resigned about the whole business, saying, "If you are about to make any kind of comment about the word 'probing', I am leaving this second."
House smiled. "I needed to know about potential environmental factors."
Wilson paused. "Well, I doubt it's an STD, so unless you think he has gay jungle fever..."
"Hey, don't laugh," House said, sternly. "That can be nasty."
The patient was apparently called 'JD', according to Wilson - House hadn't been exactly sure what to make of that. By the time they entered the room, he had finally figured out the way the remote control actually worked, and was grinning stupidly at the television screen. He waved emphatically at Wilson as they came in. House, while fairly perturbed, kept walking towards him, while Wilson slouched by the door.
"So," House said, coming to a stop by the foot of JD's bed. "You're our happy-clappy Dr. Dorian, then. Seem pretty cheerful for a guy who's dying."
There was a long silence, during which JD's eyes became impossibly wide. "Well, actually, I don't feel-"
"Just the morphine," House interrupted. "That'll wear off soon."
"House!" Wilson said, pointedly, from the corner.
House rolled his eyes. JD looked fairly terrified, and now wouldn't stop blinking. He was suddenly reminded very strongly of Chase, and stifled a groan. "Relax, kid, you're fine."
Clearly eager to step in before House could say anything else, Wilson stepped forwards and glanced at his IV drip, rearranging and reading the equipment beside him in a manner House suspected was more for reassurance than anything else. "How are you feeling, Dr. Dorian?" he asked.
"Good!" JD said, apparently obnoxiously cheerful once again, though he lowered his voice and leant towards Wilson when he added "...is that janitor out there supposed to keep...staring at me?"
Wilson turned around. The janitor in question immediately smiled sweetly at him.
"Oh, ah, that's Frank. He's new. Seems nice though."
"I think I'm cursed!" JD whispered, brow knitted with worry.
House cleared his throat loudly and they both turned to look at him. "Can we skip the pleasantries?" he asked, giving Wilson a pointed look. Wilson made an 'I surrender' arm motion and stepped back from the bed, leaving House to step round towards JD, and toss the chart into his lap. JD, sitting up, began to look over it himself, flipping through the sheets.
He bit his lip. Wilson, when House looked at him, appeared entirely sceptical about the whole thing.
"Are you sure about this?" he said, under his breath.
"Relax," House hissed. "He's a doctor. If he needs to talk about his feelings and hold someone's hand, that's why you're here."
"Charming," Wilson muttered.
They were interrupted by JD. "This doesn't make any sense," he said quietly, from the bed.
"Really?" House said, with mock incredulity. "Wow. You're smart. You should be, like, a doctor, or something."
Wilson, at this point, yanked hard on his arm. House's grip stiffened on the cane to keep himself upright. "Just because you're pissed at getting the wrong diagnosis," he said, into House's ear, "doesn't mean you can take it out on him."
House's jaw tightened. Luckily, JD, when he looked round, was actually smiling. He was put-out. That didn't usually happen.
He glanced over his shoulder. Had he missed something?
"You just remind me of someone," JD said, ducking his head and grinning.
House raised his eyebrows. "Oh, your boyfriend?" he said. "We've been introduced."
JD flushed. "He's not-"
"Oh, not you too," House cut in, exasperated. "You may be surprised, but it's actually kind of obvious."
JD looked at Wilson for help. "Is this... medically relevant?"
"No." Wilson sighed. "He just likes tormenting people."
After about five minutes more of much the same sort of conversation, Wilson appeared to need to lie down, and House was remarking about the insane level of JD's optimism. It was... impressive, considering he worked with Dr. Cox. Unfortunately, as capable a doctor as he was, and not bad at diagnosis - he couldn't provide them with any more details than Dr. Cox had done already about anything he could have been exposed to at Sacred Heart.
"No more questions?" JD said, eventually, after House had not replied for a few moments, eyes unfocused, and quietly contemplating.
House took a deep breath and looked at him. "No. They'll take some more blood soon. And this afternoon you're getting an MRI scan."
JD swallowed. "You really have no idea what's wrong with me?"
"Nope," House said, as he turned to go, Wilson in tow. "Fun, isn't it?"
They left - though not before House informing JD that General Hospital was on channel two - and walked down the hallway in silence, chart tucked under House's arm and Wilson quiet, head down, hands deep in his pockets. Wilson spared a few small glances to House - he'd never seen him this quiet following being forced to speak to a patient. They reached the elevator and stepped in, side by side. Eventually, House said, simply - "Smart kid."
Wilson took a few moments to process this. "High praise," he said, eventually, taken aback.
"What?" House said, looking at him. "I like him. Irritating as hell, but I like him."
"Well, you could've been a little more subtle."
"About liking him?" House replied, confused, before launching into a voice far too many octaves higher than was the norm. "You don't think he likes me back? Who will I go to the prom with now!"
Wilson rolled his eyes. "About his condition."
"He's a doctor. He can handle it." House shrugged. Wilson just looked at him. "Relax. He's not going to die, and he knows it."
"So, you like him, and yet you... spent the majority of that meeting scaring him stupid and offending him?" Wilson asked, raising an eyebrow.
"It's a sign of affection!" House protested, dramatically.
Wilson gave a short laugh. "So you insult everyone you like?"
"Even more than the ones I don't," House replied, bluntly, stepping through the elevator door as it dinged open. "By the way, don't style your hair like that. Makes you look frumpy."
Wilson smiled as the doors slid shut.
Dr. Cox was not one for polite introductions.
"So, you're the ones who're poisoning the kid in there. Do you even know what he has?"
Cameron's eyes went wide. "Being a doctor yourself, um, I'm sure you appreciate that sometimes it takes a little time to diagnose a case – "
"Being a doctor myself, I know that the diagnosis, however long it takes, is supposed to come before the treatment. I could understand it if you had some idea of what he's got, but you're completely clueless, aren't you? You're just grabbing whatever medication you can find and shoving it in there, and call me crazy, but that's not what I expect from 'the best diagnostic team around'. I am going to kill Cuddy." He glared. "But you're closer, and I am very angry, so if you don't figure out exactly what it is that's killing him in the next three seconds I just might kill you first."
"Are you always this charming?" Chase muttered, glancing at him.
Dr. Cox's rage immediately switched targets. "What was that, Blondie?"
Chase crossed his arms defensively across his chest. "Your – " he began, and then realised that 'boyfriend' might not be the best thing to say, no matter how convinced of it House was, and so he frantically searched for something that could follow the 'your' that wouldn't make Dr. Cox actually throttle him and eventually concluded that there was nothing – "Dr. Dorian's condition is obviously a very difficult one to diagnose, and – "
"Or maybe," Dr. Cox suggested, with an exaggerated and terrifying grin, "maybe you're just incompetent. Can we place bets?"
Chase gritted his teeth. "We're doing the best we can for your – for him. Obviously we're trying to figure out what he's got, but in the meantime we have to keep him alive for long enough to find a reliable treatment. If he's adversely affected by any of the chemicals, we'll take him off it."
"Well, isn't that just a real confidence-booster? You know that it's a good idea to stop injecting him with arsenic when it starts killing him. I know I'm re-he-he-heally reassured." He looked around. "There are supposed to be three doctors on this case, right? I'm not counting the guy who spends all his time sitting in his office and writing dirty stories about me and Newbie. Where's the third one?"
Chase and Cameron glanced uneasily at each other. "He's... probably doing his clinic hours," Chase lied.
"Fantastic. Why look at the dying kid when you could be talking to pregnant six-year-olds and students who thought it would be a good idea to have sex with a lawnmower?" He growled, turned and stormed out of the room. Cameron stared after him.
"How does he not get on with House?" she asked, barely managing to suppress her laughter.
"More important question," Chase said, turning back to his work: "when do we get to see them battle to the death?"
Dr. Cox burst through the door, looking as if he might spontaneously combust at any moment out of pure rage. House watched him with interest.
"I've met your 'team'," Dr. Cox said, "and I don't know whether you actually believe that Liza's best chance of survival is to be treated by a girl who cle-hearly just wants to adopt him, a man who you obviously hired solely for his hair and another man who is never, in fact, here; none of whom have any idea what he has or how to diagnose it."
House, who was rather hoping for him to just combust already, briefly considered telling him that Foreman was off breaking into his and the patient's apartments to see whether they had been using any questionable sex toys. The expression would be amazing and the fireball would be impressive, but it probably wasn't worth the risk.
"Let me get this straight – " Dr. Cox began.
"Aw, but where's the fun in that?" House asked plaintively.
Dr. Cox made an interesting noise vaguely reminiscent of an angry rhinoceros and continued. "You don't have a clue what Dorian has, so you're just throwing whatever you can find at him and seeing if he dies or not?"
"Absolutely," House said, cheerfully. "And I suppose you have a better idea?"
"Well, for one thing, you could assign doctors to him who actually try to diagnose what he has instead of tailing me all the time."
"You seem to care an awful lot," House said, looking infuriatingly smug.
Dr. Cox stared at him for a moment, and then he crossed his arms and tensed his shoulders and drew a deep breath in through his teeth, and House watched him and wondered how much it would take for Dr. Cox to actually assault him. "You'll have to excuse me if I don't want one of our doctors to die." He paused. "Or for your 'doctors' to be constantly prying into my personal life. Which, by the way, is still completely devoid of sex with other men."
"No sex with other men. I never said that it was an open relationship you had with your protégé."
He managed, with an impressive effort, not to leap at House and tear out his throat with his teeth.
After an enjoyable couple of hours forgoing work in favour of watching sports with Wilson and an agreeable patient in a coma who he had mentally dubbed Sparky, House returned to his office to find, to his undisguised delight, that Dorian had vomited blood all over Chase's labcoat in his absence.
"So the antibiotics are doing nothing, which means that our nice, comfortable, boring diagnosis was wrong. Let's think about more interesting diseases, shall we?"
"He didn't say anything about swallowing blood," Chase said, looking down at his coat with distaste. "So it probably wasn't a throat haemorrhage. Could've been ulcers."
"Behcet's disease? It'd explain the exhaustion, and the lung inflammation."
"Unlikely. No sign of skin lesions."
"And I think his attending might have mentioned something about the genital warts, too." He paused, looking thoughtful. "Speaking of which, someone's sent our dying boy flowers. I want you to find out who."
Cameron raised her eyes skyward. "Is this medically relevant?"
"Nope. But if it's Dr. Cox, I can mock him about it. I think that's more important than finding out what's wrong, don't you?"
"Why can't you ask about the flowers?" Foreman suggested. "Next time Dr. Cox comes in and tries to rip you apart, you can slip it in. I mean, it's not as if you've got anything better to do."
House put on an impressive show of being shocked. "You're telling me to ask him about flowers? The kid's dying!"
"We're dealing with two different sets of symptoms," Foreman said, deciding that the best way of dealing with House in this state was to completely ignore anything that he said. "Either he caught this infection in the hospital, or it was dormant when he was brought in."
"The lung symptoms could indicate Goodpasture's syndrome," Cameron suggested tentatively. "It's rare, but he's in the right age range for it."
"If it's rare, it's probably even more likely," Chase said. "When was the last time someone turned up in here with something normal?"
"Yeah," House said. "But the treatment is immunosuppressants, and they'll just make the blood pressure and glucose problems worse." He paused. "Still, makes sense. Foreman, check his kidneys."
Foreman nodded and started towards the door.
"Wait." House was suddenly smiling in a very sinister manner indeed. "On second thoughts, take a look at the duodenum. I've got a feeling we might see some peptic ulcers."
"I was going to do that anyway," he said, raising his eyebrows. "Because of the haematemesis. You don't have to be dramatic and mysterious about it."
"Oh, I think I do," he said. "Chase! Does Cox have a bag? Coat with pockets?"
Chase blinked. "Um, I – I think he's got a coat."
"Get hold of it and bring it to me."
Chase stared. "You're actually trying to make him kill me, aren't you?"
"Well, if you guys won't help find evidence of their relationship, I've got to find other ways of entertaining myself. Drop by the patient's room on the way back and take the flowers with you. Cameron, you go with Foreman. Check the patient's T-cell count."
"His T-cell count is much lower than it should be. Were you thinking of HIV?"
"Nope," House said. "Although I'd have loved to see the look on Cox's face when I told him that. No, I was thinking of immunosuppressants."
"We didn't give him any immunosuppressants," Cameron pointed out, frowning. "It wasn't an autoimmune disease."
"Of course not. It was the opposite. Someone else has been giving our patient immunosuppressants, which is why I got Chase to bring me this." He dramatically brandished a coat. "Thought we might find the suppressants in Coxy's pocket."
Cameron raised her eyebrows. "I thought you were convinced they were in love."
"Just because you love someone, it doesn't necessarily mean that you don't want to kill them," he said, poking through the pockets. "Especially when you're dealing with Cox. I mean, look at all the times he's threatened me." He looked up at her and put on an exaggeratedly disappointed expression. "I thought you'd have learned that by now."
"We should call the police," she said.
"We shouldn't call the police, because it turned out that he didn't have any immunosuppressants on him. Now I'm just looking for his wallet."
Foreman snatched the coat from him. House folded his arms and mock-pouted.
"You shouldn't take things that don't belong to you."
"If you couldn't find them, why are you so sure someone's been slipping him immunosuppressants?" Foreman asked, ignoring him.
"Because it makes sense. He didn't have a fever even when he was coughing his lungs out, and this is why. We know that the immunosuppressants made him vomit blood – "
"The peptic ulcers made him vomit blood," Foreman said, raising his eyebrows. "They could have been caused by anything."
"Don't interrupt me when I'm being brilliant."
"Immunosuppressants don't explain the chest pain," Chase said. "Don't cause weight loss, either. If anything, he should be gaining weight."
"But they can open the way for an infection that does. Did you find out who gave him those flowers?"
Chase blinked. "I, er, thought that Dr. Cox might go for my throat if I asked him. I don't think he's all that fond of me."
"He'd probably have denied it anyway."
"Yeah," Foreman said. "Just like he denied being in a relationship with our patient. I know everybody lies, but just because he denies something, it doesn't necessarily make it true."
"But in this case, he'd particularly not want us to think that he gave them to him. Have you ever heard of Nocardia asteroides?"
"Bacteria in soil," Cameron said. "His immune system was already shot, so the flowers gave him nocardiosis?"
"Oh, it's even better than that. The soil has an unusual concentration of these nasty little bacteria. Far too high to occur naturally, in fact." He smirked. "Isn't that interesting?"
"You're saying someone tried to assassinate him with flowers?" Chase asked, incredulous.
"Why not? It's difficult to trace whoever's doing this to him, difficult to diagnose – as you may have noticed – and once the infection spreads to the brain, it is very, very effective."
"Why would someone be trying to kill him?" Cameron asked.
"Figures you'd be shocked. You'd never try to murder someone, so obviously nobody would."
She glared. "I was just wondering what the motive could be."
"Old grudge? Someone trying to get back at the boyfriend? I can see that – Dr. Cox isn't quite as sweet as our ridiculously chirpy patient in there. Extremely convoluted random killing? Nobody's been accidentally slipping him immunosuppressants, if you were looking for an answer that would confirm your faith in humanity."
There was a long silence.
"Should I tell him that we've diagnosed it?" Chase asked, glancing at the door.
"Not yet. I want to know who's trying to kill him and why, and I have a feeling it'll be easier when we've got him here."
"You're withholding treatment?"
House adopted a pleading expression. "Just for a little while."
Cameron began to say something, but then cut herself off and frowned. "I, um – when I first went to visit him, he mentioned a janitor who – he said that the janitor at his workplace might try to kill him."
House stared. "And you didn't think that was important enough to mention?"
Cameron shrugged helplessly. "I thought he was confused."
"I noticed his janitor-phobia when I went to visit him with Wilson. We'll need someone to check this janitor out." He nodded at Cameron, with a slightly evil smile. "Guess who just volunteered by not telling us about the killer cleaner?"
The janitor at Sacred Heart was rather tall and intimidating, but he was friendly and charming, in a slightly awkward way. He answered all of her questions promptly and helpfully and spoke of the patient with a fond smile, although he seemed rather unclear on his name and persistently referred to him as 'Clumsy Doctor'. He told her about his mute wife and showed her photographs of his youngest son, whose terminal illness, he said, was the reason he had gone into working in hospitals.
Cameron could not for the life of her understand how anyone could be so terrified of him.
She thought that she might be in love.
"The kid's got a dead dog?"
"That's what I found. Maybe it ran into their apartment, died and stuffed itself, but I think he probably just keeps a dead dog."
"How long has it been dead for?"
Foreman raised his eyebrows. "You know, I didn't ask."
"It probably would've lied, anyway. Those dead dogs always want people to think they're younger than they really are. How old did it look?"
"How should I know? I'm not a taxidermist!"
They turned to stare at the tall man who had somehow appeared in the room without their noticing. He smiled in a slightly frightening way.
"I'm looking for Nice Doctor."
"Dr. Cameron is watching the patient," House said. "Why are you holding a mop?"
He looked down at the mop in his hands, as if surprised to find it there, before focusing on House again. "I'm a janitor."
"But you don't work here. Are you so emotionally attached to that thing that you carry it wherever you go?"
"What if I am?" the Janitor said, a little defensively.
"But you're not, because that's a new mop, so you probably haven't had time to fall in love with it yet. So, why do you have it?" He smirked. "Is it a gift for 'Nice Doctor'?"
It was going to be. They could mop corridors together. She could lull Clumsy Doctor into a false sense of security with her niceness before the Janitor swept in to destroy him.
"No," he said.
House seemed about to pursue the idea for a moment, but then something else occurred to him. "You're the janitor from our attempted-murder-victim's hospital. Have you been here before?"
Normally he would have lied, just for the sake of it, but something told him that he should probably set himself as far away from anything involving an 'attempted-murder-victim' as possible. "I tried out for a cleaning position here once, but that was years ago. Didn't get it."
House raised his eyebrows. "You failed a janitor test?"
The Janitor bristled. "Maybe."
House was silent for a moment, looking at him. "Well, you've come just in time, because I really needed a failed janitor with a crush on my underling right now. Care for a stroll around the hospital?"
The Janitor looked at him suspiciously. He wasn't used to being on the other side of inscrutability, and he quickly decided that he didn't like it. "Why?"
"Because you're the prime suspect for the attempted murder of my patient," House said, "and if you don't help me investigate this I can have you arrested." He clapped his hands together, mock-enthusiastic. "What do you say?"
The Janitor, who knew a hundred ways to kill a man with a mop and was beginning to daydream about taking this doctor by surprise with number sixty-seven, gritted his teeth and nodded. House smirked and stood, but as he started towards the door Foreman caught him by the arm, pulling him off-balance and almost making him fall.
"But first," he said, when he was sure that he was stable, "it seems that my esteemed colleague wants a word." He gave Foreman the most crushing glare he could muster, and was rather put out when he barely seemed to notice.
"What are you doing?" Foreman demanded, quiet but furious.
"I'm trying to get our patient's favourite janitor to help solve our little mystery. What did you think I was doing?"
"If this is the janitor who the patient was so afraid of, don't you find it just a little suspicious that he turns up here now?"
"Well, Cameron did say that he's the sweetest man she's ever met, which obviously makes him my prime suspect, but I find it strange that he'd turn up now. The patient's got nocardiosis; his work is done. Why would he do something as obviously suspicious as walking straight into the office of the person who's investigating the disease?"
"I thought you operated under the assumption that everyone but you was an idiot."
"Maybe I'm trying to throw off my bad habit of making assumptions. You wouldn't want to stop me doing that, would you?"
Foreman glared. "You'll never change, House. Because you're always an asshole to your patients, and you always figure out what's wrong with your patients, you've somehow got it into your head that being an uncaring bastard must be what makes you such a good doctor."
"Because you feel that you have to challenge me all the time," House said, his eyes on the door, "you've given our prisoner time to escape."
Fortunately, the Janitor hadn't gone far. After checking a few rooms, he eventually found Cameron sitting by JD's bedside. JD rolled his head to one side lethargically to see who had just come in, and then did a double-take and looked terrified.
Cameron looked a little startled at first, but then smiled. "Did you come to visit Dr. Dorian?"
"Please," JD whispered, clutching the bedclothes. "Please, uh, please don't leave me alone with him. Please."
She shot him a concerned glance and looked quizzically at the Janitor. "If – I'm afraid if Dr. Dorian doesn't – "
"It's fine," the Janitor said quickly. "Could you come out into the corridor?"
She was a little confused, but complied. He held the door of the room for her.
"He's a good kid," he said, letting it close.
"He's been coping very well," she said, with a quick smile. "If, uh – I'm sorry if this is a personal question, but do you know why he seems to be so afraid of you?"
The Janitor sighed theatrically and shook his head. "He just doesn't seem to like me, and I don't know why. I've always been trying to repair our relationship, but there's just no getting through to him sometimes." Cameron watched him sympathetically as he gestured, trying to find the right words. "I just – "
He stopped abruptly, his eyes narrowing.
Cameron turned around to see what he was looking at. "Do you mean Frank? He's our new janitor." She turned back to the Janitor, and was startled by the intensity of the dislike on his face. "Um, do you know him?"
"He's not a real janitor," the Janitor growled. "He was never at Janitor School."
Cameron was rather perplexed – and then very alarmed, when the Janitor marched up to Frank, looked him directly in the eye, and then cracked the handle of his mop down onto his head. He fell to the floor, clearly unconscious, and the Janitor turned back to look at Cameron with a proud smile.
House was right, she realised, horrified. Everyone she fell for was either insane or terminally ill.
"Did you call me back here for a medical reason, or did you just want to pester me about my personal life again? Because you've got your own doctors for the first, and, although I can understand if you want the opinion of someone who actually knows an IV from a hot water bottle, I don't actually work here. If it's the second one, I'm going to have to amputate your other leg with a rusty scalpel. Just so you know."
"You shouldn't be so defensive," House said, smirking. "People will think you've got something to hide."
Dr. Cox, furious, was about to retort when he recognised the unconscious man House and Foreman were holding between them.
"Oh, for God's sake, you went and brought Mr. Anderson in here? Did you think you just weren't annoying me enough? Now I'm going to have to cancel the Thank God The Bastard's Gone party on Tuesday."
"I thought you might have met. I'm going to guess that you're not exactly Mr. Anderson's favourite person in the world."
"Well, he seemed to think that it was my fault that his esophageal cancer was inoperable, so he didn't exactly love me. Does that mean we're having sex?"
"It means that Frank the Fake Janitor held a grudge, so he tried to get his revenge on you by killing your boyfriend. There were glucocorticoids in the janitor's closet; he probably started secretly administering them at your hospital, came here when Dorian was admitted to keep an eye on him and bring him a few flowers of death." He paused. "If it's this obvious to your patients how much that kid means to you, don't you think you might as well drop your little I-don't-care charade? I'm sure he'll be thrilled."
Dr. Cox stared.
"We've already got him on trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole," House said. "Once we've drained the excess fluid, he'll be fine. You can do whatever you want to celebrate."
"I hate you," Dr. Cox said, after a very, very long pause.
Not long afterwards, JD was released from hospital. He grinned, and waved at Wilson, and practically danced out of the front door, happily humming something that sounded alarmingly like a Spice Girls song. Dr. Cox hadn't visited since learning that he would be fine, but then, nobody had really expected him to.
The next day, House was called into Cuddy's office.
"House," Cuddy said, resting her arms on the desk and trying to ignore her steadily worsening headache. "I'm sure you know why you're here."
"I'm here to save lives, Cuddy," House said, all innocence.
"Here," she said, not in the mood for games. "Here, in my office."
"Well," he said, "if I had to hazard a guess, I'd say I'm being sued. Do I win?"
"Close. A very good friend of mine has sworn to strangle you with your own intestines if he ever sees you again." She gave a tight, unamused smile. "Would you care to shed some light on why that might be?"
"Dr. Cox? But I thought he liked me!"
She closed her eyes and breathed in deeply. "Apparently, he doesn't." She handed House a patient file. "And I think it would be best if you didn't antagonise him, because it seems worryingly likely that we will be seeing him again, and we can't afford to have you killed."
"Another favour?" House asked, taking the file and glancing through it.
"I could hardly refuse him after what you put him through, could I?" She sounded very tired. "Just – treat the patient. Leave Perry out of it."
House raised his eyebrows. "But of course."
After interviewing him for some time about his connections, House left Ben Sullivan's room looking as if Christmas had come early.