A/N: Being a great fan of speculative fiction, I thought I'd try out a House story in the genre. Concrits, comments, reviews are always welcome.
Disclaimer: House belongs to David Shore and Fox.
-1-Yeah, you've got trouble, boy. Trouble with a capital T...
The first thing to clue him in is The Smell.
He raises his head, pausing Godzilla Wars on his PSP without looking at the keypad...and sniffs the air. The Smell (which is really more of a stench) is, for some reason, maddeningly familiar.
Pret-ty darn unsettling, eh?. Obviously The Smell is no floral bouquet. But you've smelled stink before. You're a doctor, after all. Feces, vomit, three week old 'wake up from a coma' breath. All run of the mill; all most unpleasant. Just like this. So why is it making your stomach clench? Why is that shivery bad feeling traveling up your spine like an electric current?
"Well, maybe," House thinks, "you're just...losing it." A stench is a stench is a stench. Right? Hey, maybe the plumbing exploded in one of the bathrooms and that's what's making the whole place smell like...
No. Deep down House knows there are no burst pipes, no unfortunate lavatory accidents.
Like a determined bloodhound, he sniffs the air again and pushes himself slowly from his seat. The chair squeals its protest, reminding him that the fool from maintenance still hasn't come around with the WD40. Grumbling a short, snappy diatribe about incompetence breeding incompetence, he eschews his cane and hobbles around his office. His gaze lights here, there, on any area where a stink this horrendous might originate.
He pushes his face into a row of books on his shelf and inhales deeply. Ink, paper, leather bindings. Nothing of a a perturbing olfactory nature here. He heads for his PC, leans over to take a good whiff behind it and is rewarded with a snout full of dust. He coughs, sneezes; his left foot kicks, the toe of his sneaker makes a satisfying connection with the leg of the computer desk. Goddamn! When he gets done with them, the shit for brains maintenance crew will wish they'd stayed in Mexico or Paraguay or whatever backwards country they emigrated from.
He returns to his desk, grabs his cane, sneezes loudly twice more before deciding to visit Wilson. Maybe, hopefully, his friend can clue him in to the origin of The Smell.
House uses his cane to slide open the glass door leading to the balcony, then steps into the cool May afternoon. He derives no pleasure from the beauty of the day, the springtime greenery in the courtyard, the pink and white cherry blossoms dotting the lawn. So intent is he on his mission, he even decides to put off refilling his Vicodin scrip until after he sorts this out. Drawing in another long breath, his nostrils flare, searching for stench, his frown deepening as they find it. But, hey, it's actually not...so...bad. House lets himself relax just a bit, heartened to discover the annoyingly familiar smell is somewhat less potent out here.
Who are you kidding? The fact is, it's still here. It's everywhere...
Wilson is busy. House presses his nose against his window, unmindful of the fact there are people in his office: an elderly woman and a guy of about forty. They look like they could use a hug, a nap, a fistful of Vicodin, maybe a hefty shot of morphine...
The woman is weeping, her shoulders heave and shudder as she buries her face in the man's suit jacket. Wilson is wearing one of his most noble expressions-that doe-eyed look of woeful compassion. He takes the woman's hand, bites his lower lip and slowly raises his eyes to the window. House shrugs, beckons. Wilson scowls. The woman's sobs intensify. House can hear them through the glass. He wishes she would stop. The weeping grates on his nerves, making him want to smash his cane through the glass.
Wilson, good friend that he is, excuses himself, rounds his desk and makes it to the door. He pulls it open, then quickly (desperately) closes it behind him. A particle of the weepy sound drifts into the pleasant afternoon before dying away.
"Pathetic," House grumps.
The oncologist takes him by the arm and leads him to the center of the balcony. "Don't you have a job?" he hisses.
Scrunching his nose at the foulness, House asks, "You smell that?"
House lifts his hands, indicating the balcony, the world, the universe. "That."
Shaking his head in bemusement, Wilson responds, "This is why you took me away from the Thorndicuts? Edna's husband just died of prostate can-"
"Tish tosh" House throws the bereaved pair a dismissive wave. They'll get over it,"
"What smell?" Wilson sniffs. "Your burger with extra onions lunch? Yeah, I do, if that's what you mean-"
"That's not what I mean." House takes a step away from him. "Take a whiff of the air."
The oncologist complies, then quirks a brow. "Nothing. Can I go now?"
Leaning against the railing, House dangles his hands over the edge and attempts to ignore the cold that is creeping through his extremities on this lovely spring afternoon. He surveys the hospital landscape, observing the comings and goings of doctors, nurses, nurses aids, the idiots who surf the net and diagnose themselves before ever reaching the clinic. He shivers, trying not to think about the fact that Wilson does not smell The Smell.
"Yeah, sure, swell, go, vamoose. Scat." Just leave me here...
Wilson heads back to his office, throwing House a befuddled look before gently pulling the door closed behind him.
Now, where were we?
Ah, yes. The Smell. He sets his mind to work, to think, to remember where he might have gotten a whiff of it before. And then...something drifts from the fog, a slice of memory so minute, he thinks he might have concocted it to assuage himself. He attempts to grip it with a virtual fist, to hold it, examine it. But it is slimy, mercurial, slipping away from him just as he was beginning to turn it over and over...and remember.
Laughter sounds from somewhere, hissing and grating like chains scraping asphalt...
But he got enough of it to know this could be Trouble (with a capital T).
"Aww, but maybe", House thinks, "just maybe you are way off the beaten path. After all, sometimes the mind plays tricks..."
...the mind plays tricks...
Or maybe it's a brain tumor.
Bzzzzzp! Nope. Nice try. Wanna play again?
The Smell intensifies at the same moment his pager goes off. He holds one hand over his nose, which does nothing to mask the odor. It is everywhere. With a grunt, he tugs the pager from his hip pocket, and checks the screen.
Cuddy. Office. Now.
A small sense of relief offsets the unsettling chill that has now taken residence on his shoulders, the back of his neck, his body's nether region. Cuddy will have the answer to his ridiculous musings. The solution, of course, will be something simple, not the ridiculous notion that is slowly unfolding and sticking in his head like a bug to flypaper.
The mind plays tricks...
...sometimes, perhaps. But not today.