TITLE: Death of the Heart
CONTINUITY: This takes place within a week or two of the ending of X2 and near the beginning of House season 2. X3 doesn't exist. Nyah.
DISCLAIMER: The setting and characters belong to Marvel Comics, Twentieth Century Fox, NBC/Universal, David Shore, and pretty much anyone who isn't me.
NOTES: I'm not a medical professional. I did as much research as possible, but I can't guarantee accurate medicine. Thanks very much to Naomi for her valiant duties as beta. However, since I managed to lose many of her comments beyond recovery and chose not to listen to others, be sure that any remaining problems are not her fault, but are entirely mine. And thanks to Roga and Sabra for kicking me to finish this.
House tossed a pile of folders onto the table and smirked as all three of his assistants stared blankly at them. "Go on," he said, hitching himself up on the corner of the table. "Take a look, 'cause we've got ourselves a new patient."
Foreman scowled at him. "Is Cuddy blackmailing you?"
"Nope." House smiled beatifically.
"Dr. Wilson asked you to take it?" Cameron asked.
"Uh-uh," House said as he moved onto a chair and propped his feet on the table.
Chase blinked as everyone looked at him. "I don't care. I'm just happy to have something to do."
House rolled his eyes. "Way to not play the game. You wouldn't have guessed anyway, because an old friend asked me to take the case."
"You have an old friend?" Foreman asked.
House ignored that and picked up a copy of the chart he'd tossed out. "This is a nice juicy case, referred to us by Dr. Henry McCoy of Salem Center, NY."
There was a long pause and House tried not to snicker.
"McCoy?" Foreman asked in a tone halfway between disbelief and fear.
"Henry McCoy?" Cameron asked, in something like awe.
"Dr. Henry McCoy, the mutant," Chase said, rubbing his temples.
"That's the one. I'm glad to see all that newspaper reading hasn't gone to waste. Now if we could focus on the patient?" He narrowed his eyes at Cameron until she picked up a chart and started reading.
"Hang on a minute," Foreman said, picking up a chart too. "Does Cuddy know about this?"
"Greg, I thought everything was cleared," McCoy said from the doorway.
House watched with satisfaction as all three fellows stiffened and slowly turned in their seats. He found himself pleased at their quick recovery from the shock of blue-furred man.
"Well," House said, "when I said cleared, I meant--"
"That you'd finesse it later," McCoy said with a sigh. "I see you haven't changed."
Foreman and Chase hid smiles, and Cameron looked interested. "Has he always done that?" she asked, handing the last chart to Chase.
"Oh yes, most indubitably." McCoy strode in and settled himself at the table, more at ease with his body than House remembered, even before the other man had turned blue and furry.
"And if we're done with the nostalgia," House said, tapping his cane on the floor, "maybe we could get on with curing the patient?"
McCoy smiled at him, letting sharp incisors show. "The patient's name is Jubilation Lee, familiarly known as Jubilee."
"Yes, yes." House uncapped his dry-erase marker. "I'm sure she's sweet and lovable and kind to animals."
Blinking several times, McCoy stared at House, before starting to chuckle. Within moments he'd covered his mouth to stop a full-blown laugh. "Thank you," he finally choked out. "I needed that." He looked around at the assembled doctors. "Ah, I'm not sure I could explain Jubilee. You'll just have to meet her."
"Dr. House doesn't meet patients," Foreman said, studiously not looking at him.
"Patients lie," Chase said with a firm nod and just the hint of a grin.
McCoy smiled. "You'll want to meet Jubilee. Trust me. I think you'll find her...unique."
House smacked his cane into the center of the table. "This young, perfectly healthy woman collapsed, then three days later was in nearly perfect health."
Foreman rolled his eyes. "Big deal. So did the rest of the world."
House leaned forward, making all three fellows look at him. "The difference is, our patient collapsed 24 hours after everyone else."
Chase's eyebrows shot up. "After?"
"After," McCoy said.
"A week ago," House said, "every mutant in the world collapsed and then all the non-mutants did. We still haven't figured out exactly what happened, bullshit about mutant conspiracies and government conspiracies notwithstanding."
McCoy coughed and everyone looked at him. "Ah," he said, scratching his forehead, "would you believe both? Although not in the order you listed them." House opened his mouth and McCoy shook his head. "I'll give you what technical details I have. Don't ask anything else."
House raised his eyebrows as McCoy distributed a single sheet of paper to each of them. "Your source?"
"Is completely anonymous." McCoy gave him a look that said 'Mess with me and you'll disappear.'
"Riiight." Foreman shook his head, but he was reading the material and that was the important thing.
"None of my other colleagues or students, whether mutant or non-mutant, reacted in this way, so I find it hard to believe that the recent events are the proximate cause of this patient's illness."
House tapped his marker on the whiteboard. "Give me the symptoms, people. You've read the chart by now, haven't you?"
"Chest pain," Cameron said immediately.
"Fluid in the lungs," Foreman said, looking bored.
Chase grabbed the chart back from Foreman. "Suppressed breathing."
"Then it's a myocardial infarction," Foreman said, his tone combative. "Okay, it's unusual in a teenager, but you've got a diagnosis, I don't understand why she's here. No offense, Dr. McCoy."
"None taken, of course." McCoy smiled at him, showing just a few too many teeth. "Jubilee is here because every test I conducted confirmed that she did not have a heart attack. The angiogram showed no blockages, the MRI found almost no muscle damage, and her levels of troponin and creatine phosphokinase were only slightly elevated."
Cameron's brow was adorably furrowed as she read. "That's impossible. She should have had massive amounts of both enzymes."
"Correct," House said, almost rubbing his hands together in glee. "Differential diagnosis?"
Foreman glared at the chart as if it had called him a name. "Heart attack. The tests are wrong."
"Do another MRI and angiogram." House waved his cane at Foreman. "Come back when you can explain a three-day recovery time from myocardial infarction."
"She's young," Foreman said, but even he knew that was a ridiculous argument. "Fine, I'll do the tests."
Cameron frowned. "Could we be dealing with something like atrial flutter?"
Scowling, House smacked his cane against the whiteboard. "Caused by what? Saying it's atrial flutter is worse than useless."
"How about congestive heart failure?" Cameron said.
"As unlikely as an MI," Chase said, poring over the chart. "What about primary pulmonary hypertension?"
"No heart murmur," McCoy said. Everyone jumped. In the heat of their argument, they'd forgotten he was there. Which was unusual, House thought, considering he was very broad, blue, and furry.
House looked at him. "While we're discussing congestive heart failure, has she been drinking or sniffing glue?"
"No." McCoy didn't even pause to consider it.
"You sound awfully certain."
"Jubilee is my friend as well as my patient. I am certain."
House shrugged. "Whatever."
The fellows winced, but McCoy didn't react. "She's also not on any medications that could have caused this. She takes an occasional ibuprofen for menstrual cramps and that's it."
House pointed at Cameron. "While Foreman is checking the heart, you and Chase get to test your theory. Look for viral infections that could cause congestive heart failure. Oh, and check her thyroid while you're at it."
"I've already--" McCoy began.
House interrupted him. "And obviously you found nothing or you wouldn't be here. So let me run those tests over again."
The three fellows held their breath, but McCoy shook his head with a smile. "Same old charmer, Greg."
"I'm not here to be charming. I'm here to heal this patient."
"Jubilee," McCoy said.
"I told you before, her name is Jubilee." McCoy's expression didn't change, but he held House's gaze for a long moment.
House nodded once before turning to the fellows. "Go! Go spend the insurance company's money on expensive tests."
"What will you be doing?" Foreman asked House.
"Me?" He grinned. "I'm going to go take the patient's history. C'mon, McCoy." He strode out of the room, enjoying the choking sounds from behind him.
The corridor was more crowded than usual, but House had no problem moving at his usual speed. He decided it was some combination of the cane and the furry blue man walking beside him.
"Uh oh, red alert," he muttered, spying a potential problem marching toward them.
"Excuse me, Dr. McCoy," Cuddy said without pausing for McCoy to respond. "House, can I speak to you?" It was couched as a question, but he knew it wasn't really. If she knew who McCoy was and was still being rude to him, it meant she was too close to the edge to mess with.
McCoy was trying not to smile as she glared at House. "Of course," House said with exaggerated interest. "I have nothing better to do than speak with you. Certainly no ill patients to attend to." Okay, so he wasn't going to mess with her much.
McCoy coughed politely. "I'll just wait for you here?"
Managing a distracted smile, Cuddy grabbed House's non-cane elbow and dragged him off down the corridor. "Just can't wait to get me alone, can you?" he hollered. All right, so he was going to mess with her, even if it got him in bigger trouble. The need to bait her was almost involuntary.
"What do you think you're doing?" Cuddy growled as she dragged him into an alcove.
"Uh, consulting with a distinguished colleague?"
She crossed her arms, then uncrossed them when he stared at her breasts. "Admitting this patient without talking to me?"
"I hadn't realized you were approving patients now." He leaned against the wall, pretending it wasn't because his leg hurt. "Doesn't that take up a lot of valuable time you could be using to get manicures or something?"
"Apparently you can't seem to understand when something might be a danger for the hospital."
"She's a teenager. I know they're bundles of hormones, but I don't think that's actually dangerous." He cocked his head in consideration. "Although, there is alw--"
"House!" Cuddy took a deep breath. "Your patient, as you are well aware, is a mutant. If her records are to be believed, an extremely powerful one."
"So?" He blinked innocently.
Cuddy narrowed her eyes at him. "Did you even consider the notoriety this could bring? The media attention? The crazies? Or do you just not care?"
"I just don't care." He'd intended to say something sarcastic, but...
She studied him. "Hmmph," she said.
"Besides, was I supposed to turn her away?" He stood up straight. "It's the mission of this hospital to minister to the sick, no matter their insurance level, attractiveness (which is a shame), or the status of their X-factor." He thought about putting his hand over his heart, but thought that was overkill. "Could you have turned away a young, sick girl, even a mutant? I never thought you were so heartless, Cuddy."
"Who said anything about turning her away?"
House stopped mid-thought. "What?"
"I never said I'd turn her away. Hell, I usually have to threaten you to take patients."
"You said you needed to approve admitting her."
"No, you said that. I just said you needed to talk to me." Cuddy scowled at him. "I'm tired of getting blindsided by your need to be more and more outrageous. Now go treat your patient and try not to break anything or annoy that world-famous colleague of yours any more than you have to." And she stalked out of the alcove, temper evident in every click of her heels.
House blinked a few times. "I'm sure I'll have something witty to say in response any moment now."
"Right," she said over her shoulder.
"I'll e-mail it to you," he yelled.
"You do that," she said as she stepped up to a very amused McCoy. "I'm terribly sorry about that, Dr. McCoy."
"That's quite all right," he said with a smile. "I know how Greg can be."
House stomped up to them. "Hey, no ganging up on me."
Cuddy ignored him and held out her hand. "I'm Dr. Cuddy, the Dean of Medicine. I'm very glad to meet you and if there's anything I can do to help you or your patient, please let me know."
"Thank you, I certainly will," McCoy said, shaking her hand and looking pleased.
"Fortunately for all of us," she said, shooting House a look, "Dr. House is very good at what he does."
"Indeed he is." McCoy inclined his head.
"Gee thanks. Do I get Doctor of the Year now?"
"No," Cuddy said. "Now I have work to do other than worry about what you're doing. If you'll excuse me, Dr. McCoy?"
House automatically watched her ass as she walked away, then looked up to an amused expression from McCoy.
"She's really in love with me," House said with a sniff.
"I can see that." McCoy's deadpan was as good as ever.
"C'mon, I hear tell there's a patient to see," House said, setting off down the hall. "And there's nothing I love more than talking to patients."
"Of course." McCoy didn't laugh as he followed, but it was a close call.
"Hey, where's the hot redheaded chick I remember you hanging out with?" House said over his shoulder to McCoy as they approached the room.
McCoy's eyes widened and he looked past House.
House looked forward in time to not run into a man with five o'clock shadow and the red sunglasses. "The redheaded woman was my fiancée," the man said with a great deal of menace.
McCoy coughed. "Scott Summers, this is Dr. Gregory House. Scott, please excuse Dr. House's rudeness."
"I wasn't rude," House said indignantly. "I was complimenting your taste in women."
McCoy looked exasperated and Summers looked murderous. "Greg," McCoy said in his 'near the edge' tone. "She's dead."
"Oh." That excused Summers, he supposed. "Well, then let's have a look at this patient so we don't make it two." House stepped past Summers and into the room. Behind him, he heard McCoy say something to the other man, so he took the opportunity presented and shut the door behind him.
The young Asian woman lying in the bed looked healthy, House thought, just before she looked up at him. Then her eyes met his and he changed his mind. Her eyes were old and her expression said--
"Go to hell."
"Usually it takes at least five minutes before my patients tell me that."
"You're a doctor?"
House looked around. "Wait, is this a test? The answer is...tachycardia. Right? How about bubonic plague? C'mon, tell me, did I pass?" He fluttered his eyelashes.
Jubilee rolled her eyes. "You've got to be that friend of McCoy's. You're just the way he described you." Waving a hand at the chair, she closed the copy of Vogue she'd been reading. "Sorry about telling you to go to hell. I thought you were another social worker."
"Another social worker?" House slumped into a chair, prepared to be entertained.
"Yeah, they keep coming by all earnest and trying to convince me that the school mistreated me somehow. The school didn't do anything wrong, and if they take me away, I'll run away again."
House shrugged. "Okay. If you wanna stay at the school, that's fine with me. I'm only here for the medicine."
Frowning, Jubilee eyed him. "I guess you're okay if Big Blue says you are."
"Gee, thanks. I'm touched. So, what happened?"
She looked him straight in the eye. "I don't know. I got the same headache every mutant did. Everybody was all freaked out, but we were basically okay. Then the next day I suddenly felt like crap and fell over and everyone was running around. Next thing I knew, I woke up in the lab with everyone hovering over me like I was dying or something."
"You were." House studied her. "I assume they've told you that you had all the hallmarks of a heart attack, right?"
"Yeah, but everyone says I'm too young for that."
"What drugs did you do?"
"What?" She sat up straight and glared at him.
"Drugs. On the street. When you ran away the first time." When she just stared at him, he rolled his eyes. "You said you'd 'run away again,' which implies that you did so a first time. So, tell me what drugs you did the first time you ran away."
"I didn't do any drugs!" She threw her magazine at him, and he batted it away with the cane.
"Prostitution?" he asked in his most bored tone.
"No way!" Her glare looked like it could bore a hole in his head.
"What'd you do on the streets, then?"
Her breathing was heavy as she continued to glare at him for a long moment. Then she held up her hands. "This," she said. And a shower of fireworks erupted from her hands, filling the room.
"Nice," House said, watching them in appreciation.
The door closed with a bit more than necessary force as McCoy entered.
"Sorry," she responded, not looking at all sorry. "But he got me mad 'cause he wanted to know what my mutation was and he figured I wouldn't tell him."
House's eyebrows went up and he studied Jubilee, ignoring whatever McCoy was saying. It wasn't often that a patient interested him as a person, but this Jubilee looked like she might manage it.
"Gregory!" McCoy said firmly.
"Hmm?" House refocused. "Oh, there you are. I was just asking some questions."
"I'm sure you were." McCoy gave him an especially long-suffering look. "I think perhaps I'll stay here for the rest of them."
"Whatever." House shrugged. "Okay, so you were on the streets but not doing anything fun. And then you..."
The history took two hours, and House found himself vastly amused by the biting sarcasm of his patient. Jubilee was going to drive his team insane and it would be fun.
After the history was done, House dragged McCoy to the cafeteria and made him buy them both lunch. The cafeteria was full, which meant that the noise was bouncing off the acoustic tiles more than the designers had intended.
"What's really going on?" House took a bite of his sandwich.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean you know damned well she didn't have a heart attack."
"I know, Greg. That's why I'm here." McCoy spoke with exaggerated care. "So your famed diagnostic skill can determine why my young friend collapsed so precipitously and alarmingly."
"Uh huh." House took some french fries off McCoy's plate. "And you came here without a single theory in your furry blue head."
"If I knew what was wrong, we wouldn't be here."
"Right. So, what don't I know about my patient that might help me diagnose her?"
"Don't bother. Everybody lies. My first job is to figure out what they're lying about. And you," he pointed one of the stolen fries at McCoy, "are lying about the circumstances of her illness. So is she. She might have gotten away with it, but you're a terrible liar. Always have been."
McCoy was thinking, so House went back to eating his fries, knowing the battle was half won.
McCoy opened his mouth, but House beat him to it. "I can't diagnose her without all the data. You know that. You knew it before you got here or you wouldn't have brought the highly anonymous data you did."
Closing his eyes, McCoy was silent again. When he opened them, all he said was, "Not here." He stood.
Grinning, House snagged one last fry and picked up his cane.
Without speaking, McCoy led the way to the elevator. The door shut behind them--empty, as the doctor, two nurses, and two family members about to board all stepped back at the grim look on McCoy's face.
McCoy lifted his watch to his mouth and tapped a button. House was about to make a sarcastic comment when McCoy spoke. "Scott? I need clearance on the roof."
"You'll have it in two," the voice of the man with the red shades said from McCoy's watch.
House blinked. Okay, that was unexpected.
The elevator dinged while House was staring and he followed McCoy out into the nondescript blue-gray corridor that led to the roof.
McCoy strode onto the roof without even checking that House was following, and House's surprise hit stratospheric levels. McCoy was the kind of guy who held doors for cripples even during an earthquake, so this was really serious.
His surprise entered orbit as he watched the way McCoy's eyes swept the seating area. It was almost...military.
House opened his mouth to ask a question, but the look McCoy gave him...well, for once, it seemed like a good time to discover the wonders of discretion. So they stood just beyond the door and waited, kept company by the sounds of an approaching ambulance and the pigeons that nested in the corner.
Eventually, McCoy's watch beeped and he hit a button. "Hank?" the voice said. "The Professor and Logan report you're clear. Are you sure...?"
"Thank you, Scott. Yes, I'm sure." He hit another button.
House limped over to a bench and lowered himself onto it. "This is going to be good," he said with relish.
But McCoy remained unsmiling as he sank down on the bench next to him.
"Two weeks ago," McCoy said, "agents of the U.S. government stormed the school and kidnapped several of our students. At the same time, they took Scott Summers and Professor Xavier prisoner. They would have taken everyone, save for our contingency plans."
House sat up straight, all amusement fled. "One of the kids was Jubilee." It wasn't a question. McCoy's strange behavior made sense now: He was angry. Angrier than House had ever seen him.
"Their ultimate plan involved using..." McCoy paused. "Using something stolen from us to destroy all mutants. The plan was discovered by a very powerful and dangerous man."
"Yes." McCoy scowled. "He also planned to use this item--"
"Which you're not going to identify."
"Which I will not identify," McCoy affirmed, nodding his head, "to kill non-mutants instead."
House waved a hand. "That part's irrelevant. What happened to the kids?"
"We don't know for certain."
"What do you mean? She seemed verbal enough to me."
McCoy's expression got bleaker. "Jubilee is the oldest child who was taken. The others were substantially younger. They tell a jumbled tale of threats and guns and a cell, but we can't be sure that their memories haven't been tampered with."
House started to ask if someone could do that, but changed his mind. The Henry McCoy he knew wouldn't say it unless it was at least a possibility. His mind raced. "So for all you know, they turned her into a lab rat."
"Yes." McCoy sighed. "I've tested everything I can think of, but I can't be certain."
Bastards experimenting on his patient. "I didn't even vote for this president," House said as he considered how to move forward.
McCoy knew him well enough to ignore the non sequitur.
House banged his cane on the ground a few times. "Why you? I mean, why has your school got this thing that the government came after?"
McCoy shook his head. "I can't tell you anything further, but I can assure you it's not germane to this case." He held up a hand. "And don't presume you can lecture me twice on what you need to know."
House shrugged, knowing he'd reached McCoy's limit. "Tell me everything about the conditions of this cell. Everything. Mold? Spores? Were any of the other kids sick?"
McCoy took a deep breath. "I'll do my best."
Cameron, Chase, and Foreman found House deep in thought in his office six hours later. "What've you got for me?" he asked as they stopped in front of his desk. He didn't look away from the rubber ball he was tossing repetitively against the wall.
"Everything Dr. McCoy told us is confirmed," Cameron said. "There's no damage to the heart, no evidence that anything was wrong."
"Except?" He grabbed the ball out of the air and threw it at Chase, who caught it. "Nice catch. Now tell me what you did find."
"How do you know we found something?"
"Because a healthy kid keeled over with an apparent heart attack that promptly disappeared. You'd better have something or we're all going to be consulting ouija boards."
Cameron shrugged. "We've still got some blood tests outstanding, but so far, we've got nothing. No viruses, her heart looks good, all scans are clean and normal."
Foreman broke in. "She has slightly elevated catecholamines, neuropeptide Y, brain natriuretic peptide, and serotonin, but that's it, House."
House frowned. "Catecholamines?"
"So she's under stress. Big deal." Foreman scowled. "It doesn't mean anything. I'm sure we all have elevated levels these days."
"You still think she had a heart attack?"
"No, I don't."
"What about pheochromocytoma?" Chase asked.
House paused. "Vascular tumor of the adrenal gland? Nice. And it certainly would explain the catecholamines."
"Should I look for a tumor?"
"No." House didn't even pause to think. "It doesn't explain any of her earlier symptoms." Chase threw the ball back at House and he caught it, bouncing it off the ceiling a few times. "Get me some of the other students and teachers. I want to know what's different about her."
Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital had witnessed many strange things, especially since the arrival of one Gregory House, but the testing of a selected sample of teachers and students from the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters definitely ranked up there.
Not that most people in the hospital even knew anything out of the ordinary was happening, as one of the school's requirements was secrecy.
Professor Xavier arrived first, masquerading as a wealthy donor. (McCoy pointed out later that the Professor was a wealthy donor, and Cuddy said she was glad House hadn't known that in advance or he would have been rude. House stuck his tongue out at her.)
Summers of the red shades arrived later with a hulking youngster who House figured could probably heave all of them through a window. He made a note to have Chase draw their blood.
A striking woman with purple hair herded three young children in front of her a few minutes later. House eyed her low-cut blouse with appreciation until she turned and glared at him from across the crowded lobby. "I certainly appreciate the thought, but we're a tad busy at the moment," a sharp British voice said in his head.
House's good leg slipped on the tile floor and he nearly slid off his perch. He imagined a row of fluffy bunnies hopping across a lawn. Foreman was getting her.
House was picturing bunnies so hard, he nearly missed the last contingent. At the last minute he glimpsed a man in a plaid shirt with odd hair and the kind of sideburns that went out of fashion in the '70s, accompanied by two teenagers--one with a white streak in her hair, wrapped in a cloak. Huh, House thought as he mentally assigned them to himself. They looked intriguing.
With his usual blithe assurance, House appropriated a few temporarily empty rooms for the exams and he sent his fellows off--Cameron to continue testing Jubilee for everything he could think of, Chase and Foreman to test the new vict--er, subjects.
The paperwork they'd given him said his first patient was named Marie. "Okay, give me some blood," he said as she slid into the room, gloved fingers plucking at the edge of her cloak.
She shrank back. "Pardon me?"
"Blood." He waved peremptorily at the exam table. "That is why you're here, unless you're actually a candystriper taking a tour."
"I was supposed to explain, my skin--"
"Is only of interest to me in a perverted sense. I'm not asking you to strip."
"Glad to hear it," a voice said from behind him, accompanied by a sound that sounded remarkably like a sword being removed from a scabbard.
House's eyebrows shot up and he turned toward the now-open door. The man with the sideburns was leaning in the doorway, but nobody could have confused his pose with actual relaxation...especially since his hands had very shiny, sharp-looking metal peeking out of the knuckles.
"And you are...?" House asked.
The man stepped in and shut the door behind him, the metal sliding back into his knuckles. "I'm the guy that's gonna kick your ass."
"I'm so scared." House rolled his eyes and glanced at the charts. "Since you're here, you can give me your blood too. You must be Logan. Although I suppose Kitty wouldn't be a bad name for you, what with the claws and everything."
Behind him, the girl snorted.
Logan glared at both of them. "Oh yeah, laugh it up, Rogue."
"I'm sorry," she said, still snickering, "but you have to admit it was funny."
Logan actually growled.
"Good kitty kitty," House said, waving a syringe. "Now c'mere and give me some blood."
House was glaring at his computer, which was being exceedingly unhelpful, when Wilson ducked his head in.
"What'd it do to you?" Wilson asked.
"Huh?" House looked up. "What do you want?"
"I was going to buy you lunch, but if you'd rather commune with your computer, I could ask Cameron instead."
"She's busy running bloodwork. Or batting her cleavage at the lab to finish it faster." House heaved himself out of the chair with a stifled groan. "Don't think you'll get out of feeding me that easily."
Wilson coughed. "Never," he said, holding the door open.
As House stepped past, he said, "But you owe me something better than cafeteria food."
"I owe you? I know your logic is not like our crazy Earth logic, but how exactly do I owe you?"
House snorted as he ogled the buxom blonde walking past. "Well, you're about to ask me about my latest patient, so I figure I at least deserve Chinese."
Wilson shook his head as the blonde glared at House. "Why would you think I would ask about your patient? You usually talk about them no matter what I want."
"No, I talk about the case, not the patient." House glanced at him sideways. "You talk about the patients."
"So why would I be particularly interested in your patient?" Wilson smiled at a gaggle of pretty nurses huddled around the nursing station.
"Keep it in your pants," House said, pushing the elevator button.
"Stuff it, House."
"Back to our original topic, you think my patient is right up your alley: plucky young girl, bravely facing an unknown fate, a mutant, sick and alone in a world that hates and fears her." His voice lowered, turning into a parody of the 11 o'clock news.
"Assuming that those things interest me, what's the problem?" Wilson's smile was ironic and charmingly self-deprecating.
The elevator door opened and House pushed past the people trying to exit. "Cripple here, get out of my way." Once Wilson had managed to sidle his way in and the elevator was descending, House told him, "The problem is that I, to my deep surprise, find I rather like the patient."
Wilson grabbed at the elevator wall. "What? Quick, somebody callRipley's Believe It or Not."
"She's intelligent, cranky, and a smartass. It's refreshing."
Wilson politely refrained from making any of the obvious replies.
"So I won't--" House stopped as the elevator door opened and they were assaulted by noise. "What the hell is that?" He smacked his cane against the door as it started to close again. Gesturing grandly at Wilson, he said, "After you."
"What a gentleman." Wilson stepped out and House followed.
"Huh," House said as he stared at the lobby full of milling reporters and the crowds gathering outside the glass doors.
"What are you doing here?" Cuddy said as she grabbed their arms and dragged them toward her office.
"Oh, honey, I didn't know you cared." House fluttered his eyelashes. "But do we have to bring Jimmy along? He's such a spoilsport."
Cuddy pushed them both into her office, slammed the doors shut, and lowered the blinds so fast, House was ready to ask if she had the X gene herself.
Cuddy whirled and glared. "You were supposed to stay in your office. You didn't answer your pager or your phone."
"I saw it was you, so I ignored it." House slumped down on the couch. "I take it this means I don't get Chinese for lunch."
"I think so," Wilson said, sitting next to him.
"Lunch is the least of your worries," Cuddy said as she dialed her phone. "Right now, we're going to figure out what we're going to tell the press."
"Nothing," House said, head leaned back as he stared at the ceiling.
"Nothing?" Cuddy hung up the phone. "You're seen what's going on and--"
"We're not going to tell them anything." House sat up, focusing all his attention on Cuddy. "There's a kid upstairs who was kidnapped from her school by the U.S. military, stripped, and dumped in a cell. We don't know what else happened, but now she's sick and she's my patient. And nobody's going to get near her or invade her privacy until she's no longer my patient."
Cuddy and Wilson were frozen in place.
"As far as I'm concerned, the reporters and the demonstrators and the morons can all go fuck themselves. We're not telling them a goddamn thing about Jubilation Lee."
Cuddy let out a slow breath, putting the phone carefully back in its cradle. "Are you done?"
House slumped back in the sofa, feeling drained and a little stupid. "Yeah."
Wilson and Cuddy exchanged meaningful glances and House groaned to himself. Great. Now they were going to expect him to give a shit about every snot-nosed kid who came through the clinic. Like that was going to happen.
"So," Wilson said, "how are we going to deal with the press?"
Cuddy smile was evil and sexy. "Oh, I have a few ideas about that."
House fought down a wave of lust. "What does that mean?"
"Well, I could go out and self-righteously explain that HIPAA prevents us from giving details about our patient's health."
House snorted. "If that's your plan--"
"Please." She gave him a disgusted look. "I was actually thinking of that congressman who caused a stink over his daughter's care, when it was actually his own idiocy that didn't get her treated."
House started to grin and Wilson covered his face with his hands.
"A leak in just the right place..." Cuddy smiled. "Now sit tight while I clear the lobby and get things rolling." She strode out, heels clicking and gorgeous ass wagging with excitement.
"You've had a bad effect on her," Wilson said.
"Oh no," House said reverently, "she was always like this. You just didn't notice. It's what makes her so hot." He sighed happily.
Leaning against the wall eight hours later, House balanced on his good leg, absently rubbing at his other thigh. He mentally ran through the test results for the eighty-fifth time, coming up, as always, with a big fat nothing.
Across the hallway, on the other side of the nurse's station, he could see Jubilee leaning back against her pillows, idly using the remote to change stations.
"Where are the others?" Wilson asked, leaning against the wall next to him.
"I sent them home."
Wilson nearly fell over. "You what?"
House glared at him for a long moment, found he couldn't come up with a single plausible lie, and shrugged. "I ran out of ideas for tests. When I suggested a third 24-hour catecholamine urine sample, Cameron told me I was full of shit and walked out. Chase and Foreman followed her."
"So you didn't send them home. They left."
"Yeah, but I didn't stop them."
"How generous of you."
House ignored him, staring across the hall at his patient, willing his brain to come up with something new.
"Why don't you go talk to her?" Wilson asked quietly.
"What?" House turned to stare at him.
"Go talk to Jubilee. Standing around outside her room is stalkerish, even for her doctor."
"I'm not stalking her. I'm...waiting for inspiration to strike." Scowling, House stared at his recalcitrant patient.
"Uh-huh." Wilson's eye-roll was practically audible. "Look, the world won't come to an end just because you don't despise your patient. Some of us even manage to survive while liking most of our patients."
"And see where that got you," House replied automatically.
Wilson threw his hands in the air. "There's no talking to you in this mood. Stand here and mope if that's what you want, but your patient looks bored. Maybe giving your brain a rest will jar something loose." And he strode off down the hallway, muttering something that sounded profane.
Tapping fingers on the wall, House looked at Jubilee. She did look bored. With a shrug, he pushed off the wall and headed toward her room. When he slid the door open, Jubilee grinned at him as she turned the TV off. "Finally decided to join us?"
He couldn't help grinning back. "Guess so."
"Yay," muttered the room's other occupant, the guy with red sunglasses. What was his name again? Oh, Summers. The one with the hot dead fiancée.
"And a good evening to you," House said, bowing ironically. The other man just sighed.
Jubilee hid a grin as House slid into a chair next to her bed. "So," she said, "I'm assuming you're not here to tell me I can go home."
"Not a chance. Not until I know what's wrong."
She sighed. "That's what I figured." She turned off the TV. "So, what's next?"
"I have no idea," House said, tapping the cane on the floor irritably. At a strangled sound from the other side of the room, he turned and glared. "What? You want me to lie to her?"
"No," Summers said with a sigh. "But it might be a bit more inspirational if you didn't admit you had no idea what was going on."
"Do you want to be inspired?" House asked Jubilee.
She grinned. "Oh, I'm not getting in between you two. Fight it out yourselves. Entertain me."
Summers' look was long-suffering, but House got the impression that he'd kill anyone who got near her with bad intent, so that made the Summers kid not a total waste.
"What do you think is wrong?" House asked her.
"Me?" She blinked. "I'm not a doctor."
"Yeah, but you're the one who's experiencing the symptoms. What do you think is wrong?"
"I don't know." She stared down at her hands for a little while. "I just want to go back to the school and have things get back to normal, you know? Arguing with Bobby, and trying new nail polish with Marie and stuff." She grinned and looked at Summers. "Hell, I'm even ready to go back to class."
"You won't say that when you see my midterm," Summers said with a ghost of a smile.
Jubilee glowed under his regard and House upgraded his opinion of Summers once again. "We're missing something," House said, leaning on his cane. "And that pisses me off."
"Yeah, Hank's like that too. Not that he'd say it pisses him off. He'd say--"
"That he finds his inability to access the correct answer to be indubitably frustrating." House grinned.
"Tell me about the school," House said. "Maybe there's something there." Summers opened his mouth, but House beat him to it. "I already know it's a school for mutants, remember? What else could she give away?"
Summers' mouth twitched in what House would swear was amusement, before he leaned back in his chair and waved at Jubilee. "Go ahead," he said.
Jubilee was stifling a giggle when House looked at her and he wondered what he was missing. Maybe he could get it out of McCoy later...
House took a nap in Coma Guy's room, grabbed yogurt in the cafeteria, and was back in his office before the others arrived. He didn't bother to shave, figuring making them feel a little guilt about leaving him alone was never a bad thing.
They didn't look particularly guilty, but they did look discouraged as they filed in and grabbed coffee. Conversation was stifled.
House limped from one end of the room to the other, feeling their eyes on him.
"We're missing something," he said when they'd stopped trying to discuss the weather.
"Maybe she's perfectly healthy," Foreman said. "That's what all our tests say. Maybe this once they're right."
"Then what about the apparent heart attack?" Chase asked.
"Maybe it doesn't exist. There weren't any of the tell-tales, so maybe she just fainted."
Chase snorted. "You think Dr. Henry McCoy misdiagnosed a fainting teenager as something more serious?"
"He was under a lot of stress, what with everybody keeling over," Foreman said, dropping his pen on the table with a final-sounding thunk.
"McCoy knows a faint," House said, kicking Foreman's chair as he walked by. "If he says there was fluid in her lungs and suppressed breathing, it was there."
"I've gone over the results from the other students and teachers with a fine-tooth comb." Foreman shook his head. "I'm not seeing anything different."
"What about Jubilee's catecholamines?" Cameron asked.
"That," House said, stopping in his tracks, "is the question. There's something about them..." He trailed off as his beeper chirped and he grabbed it, barely noticing as his three fellows looked at their own pagers. "Damn it," he said.
Cursing his slow speed, he stomped after them, each twinge of his leg a personal affront.
By the time House reached Jubilee's room, the area around it looked nearly as bad as the front of the hospital. But because he could see Jubilee through the glass sitting up in bed and talking to someone, he decided he had a moment to stop and take stock.
Okay, those nurses in the corner he could ignore--they were in the middle of hubbub to watch the new hunky guy from Security. And the two doctors from Radiology were here to watch the nurses.
Which left some random bystanders, gaping like hungry baby birds, the head nurse, three guys from Security, Cameron, Chase, Foreman, the mutant named Logan, and several of the morons who'd been hanging around outside the hospital. (Somehow House doubted they were on this floor to get Jubilee's autograph.)
The morons were doing a lot of yelling and one was bleeding from a small laceration in his shoulder.
The shouting escalated and House strode forward until he stood directly between the security guards and the unwashed rabble. Before anyone could move, he smacked the idiots on the knees with his cane, turning their shouts into yelps of pain. "Shut up," he said to them.
Turning to the head nurse--Irma, an older woman who was tougher and more sensible than any three doctors he knew combined, not that he'd admit it to her--and asked, "What the hell is going on?"
She gave him a look that he suspected meant trouble later, but crossed her arms and answered. "Those three yahoos snuck up here and--"
One of the yahoos opened his mouth, but when everyone glared at him and House thumped his cane meaningfully, the man shut up.
Irma sniffed. "They got past me while I was dealing with a crisis down the hall. Next thing I knew, they were hollering and shouting and this guy," she pointed at Logan, "was waving knives at them. And who gave him permission to have knives on my ward?" She glared at House, assuming (with some justification) that it was somehow his fault.
The security guys shifted restlessly. "Uh, shouldn't we--"
"You," House said, turning to the yahoos. "What the hell were you doing bothering my patient?"
The two men and a woman exchanged wide-eyed looks. "We're--" one started.
"Leaving right now," Cuddy said from behind House, "before I have you arrested for trespassing." House turned to watch her as she stalked down the hallway, looking seriously hot as she scowled at everyone indiscriminately.
Everyone except Irma looked abashed.
Cuddy crossed her arms and said very quietly and very seriously. "Leave. Now."
The three people took off at a dead run for the stairs, with the security people following at a more sedate pace.
House tried to decide whether to be amused at their reaction, or annoyed that he didn't get to interrogate them. When Cuddy turned her glare on him, he settled for looking innocent.
"Better you than me, buddy," Logan muttered as he walked by, back toward Jubilee's room.
House started to lean nonchalantly against the nurse's station, but when Irma took a step toward him, he changed trajectory and followed Logan toward Jubilee's room, calling to Cuddy over his shoulder. "Must check on my patient."
Behind him, the crowd began to disperse. Cuddy stopped Cameron, Chase, and Foreman, and House wondered what she was saying to them, but not enough to tangle with her in this foul a mood.
He ducked into the room and slid the door closed behind him with a thunk. Logan smirked at him and House shrugged. "Hell hath no fury," he said.
"She didn't look scorned to me," Logan said. "She looked pissed off and ready to take it out on you."
"Well, it's only because she loves me so."
"Uh-huh." Logan leaned against the wall next to Jubilee's bed, watching the goings-on through the glass. He looked entirely relaxed, but House was sure that any aggressive move made in their direction would dispel that illusion pretty quickly.
House turned to Jubilee and Kitty (who he hadn't seen since drawing her blood), who were watching them with some amusement. But there were definite signs of strain on Jubilee's face, he thought, and he cursed Cuddy for chasing the morons off before he could castigate them. It would have been nice to get some vitriol out on a truly deserving target.
"So, what'd those refugees from the circus want?"
Jubilee glared and crossed her arms. "Don't say anything mean about the circus. We've got a friend who was in the circus."
House opened his mouth to say something snarky, but he noticed Logan using one of his claws to clean under a fingernail, and he reconsidered. "Riiight," he said. "Getting back to the point...what did they want?"
"They wanted to preach," Kitty said, scowling with an expression nearly identical to Jubilee's.
"Mutants are against their religion," Jubilee said, leaning her head back against her pillows.
Kitty was looking at Jubilee now. "Well, people like that are against my religion. So there."
"I'm sure that argument was very convincing," House said absently, watching Jubilee as well. He flicked a glance at the monitors beside her bed and took a step closer.
"You," he said, waving a hand at Logan. "Get out there and get my lackeys in here."
"Why?" Logan said, looking suspicious.
"Well, I thought it might be helpful to have some other doctors in the room when the kid collapses." House was beside the bed, hand on Jubilee's arm.
"What? What are--"
The alarms in the room were loud enough that Logan's claws shot out of his hands and he snarled.
"Clear the room," House snarled back. "And get my team in here. Now!"
Jubilee was gray and unresponsive, looking like any heart attack victim he'd ever seen, except that that was impossible.
Foreman, Cameron, Chase, and Cuddy ran in, and House handed the oxygen mask in his hand to Cameron.
"Chase, get the ECG in here. I want to see what the hell's going on while the rest of you keep her alive." He looked at Kitty, who seemed frozen in shock. "And get the kid out of here."
House stepped back and allowed the more fleet-of-foot to take over, although it galled him as much as ever, and he gritted his teeth. Cuddy came to stand next to him. "House," she said, her expression softening.
"Quiet." He wanted to listen to what was going on.
"Right." She sighed, patting his arm and stepping out just ahead of Chase, who was barreling in with an ECG machine, followed by McCoy.
House slapped on the leads, ignoring yelps from his team as they tried to work. He flipped on the ECG, and he and McCoy hovered over the paper as it scrolled out of the machine, expecting...well, expecting useful data.
"What's that?" Foreman muttered, peering over his shoulder.
McCoy growled quietly. "I don't know. Greg?"
"I have no idea." Scowling, House stared at the pattern he was seeing, trying to figure out why it looked familiar. It wasn't normal, but it sure as hell wasn't a heart attack.
"That's not an MI," Chase said, standing on tiptoes to look at the paper.
"Thank you, Captain Obvious." House elbowed Cameron. "I'm assuming our patient is stable, so take this and get everyone in the hospital to look at it. Someone must recognize this pattern."
"On it." She tore off a lengthy section and jogged out of the room.
"Foreman, I want a TTE. I want data while it's fresh."
Foreman nodded and grabbed the phone to get the necessary equipment.
Chase raised his eyebrows. "What about me?"
"Stay here and help McCoy talk to her friends. They're going to want someone to be reassuring or something. Oh, and if she wakes up, find out what symptoms she had before she collapsed." House didn't wait for a response, just turned to leave.
"Where are you going?" McCoy asked, already seated at Jubilee's bedside and holding her hand.
"To think, damn it."
Cameron found him an hour later in his office, sitting with his leg up on a stool, accompanied by a tired-looking Chase and Foreman. She tossed the now-crumpled EKG strip at them and leaned against the glass wall.
"Most people had no idea what it was, but five said it looked familiar, although they couldn't place it."
House asked, "Which five?"
Blinking, Cameron thought for a second. "Chin, Reilly, Gifford, Feiler, and Weiss."
"You went to Psychiatry?"
"You said to ask everyone."
"True." He pondered. "Three cardiologists, one intensivist, and one psychiatrist."
Foreman shrugged. "We're still nowhere. We've got an EKG result that nobody recognizes and that disappeared almost as soon as we saw it, the TTE showed a perfectly normal left ventricle and a weakened contraction in the middle and upper portions, which also disappeared. And we've got a patient who went from mostly dead to healthy almost as quickly."
"Mostly dead isn't totally dead," House said. "That's something."
"Not unless you've got Miracle Max on speed dial," Chase said. When House raised his eyebrows, he shrugged. "You started it."
House tapped his cane on the floor. "I'm going for a walk. I need to think. Somebody get me the heart biopsy results."
They scurried around him and he stomped off down the hall, turning the data over in his mind one more time.
"A perfectly healthy mutant teenage girl is kidnapped and held by the military," he mumbled. "She's fine when released, doesn't collapse until later, after everyone else."
House turned the corner, nearly tripping over a little old lady using a walker. They exchanged nasty looks and he kept going.
"She and the other kids who were held show nothing abnormal, no signs anything was done to them. She's been a mutant for years, so that can't be it."
In his reverie, he missed the man striding down the hall toward him until he grabbed House's shoulder. "Dr. House!" Summers said, "I've been calling you."
"Well, I've been trying to cure the patient, so go away." Only after he'd spoken did he remember that he'd promised McCoy he'd be nice to the kid, since...His thought trailed off.
"Dr. House?" Summers looked worried.
"Your fiancée died."
"Yes." His face was blank now and he took a step back.
"Died saving Jubilee." Summers scowled at him, but House ignored that. Lost a mother figure. There was something there, a memory, if only he could remember what it was.
The EKG results. The TTE. Death of someone close. An apparent heart attack.
Summers was saying something, but House ignored him. There was something else.
There was something about the catecholamines.
"House?" Cuddy was there, brows drawn in concern.
"Catecholamines," he said, turning on his good heel and striding back toward his office at top speed. He could hear Summers and Cuddy behind him and confused questions, but he was too busy turning the diagnosis over in his mind to answer them.
He pushed open the door and said dramatically. "The heart biopsy shows catecholamine damage, not a heart attack."
Foreman, who held a folder in his hand, turned to stare at him. "I hate when you do that. How'd you know?"
"Because I know what's wrong with her."
"What?" Cameron asked.
McCoy strode in. "What's going on?"
Cuddy said, "Dr. House was about to reveal all."
Everyone stared at him and House tried to look like he'd known the answer all along. "Broken heart syndrome."
"What?" nearly everyone in the room said.
"Stress cardiomyopathy. There was an article in NEJM a few years ago. It's the result of a prolonged surge in catecholamines that stun the heart. The catecholamines are the response to overwhelming emotional stress. You know, like being kidnapped and imprisoned and having your teacher die. Stuff like that. It mimics a heart attack, except that there's no heart damage."
McCoy said urgently, "What's the prognosis?"
"Complete recovery, and a relapse after recovery is incredibly unlikely." House shrugged. "Kind of a boring diagnosis now that I've made it."
McCoy gave him a broad grin. "You're a wonder, Greg. I'm going to give Jubilee the good news."
House watched him go, while the others talked excitedly. "You could go with him, you know," Cuddy said.
"Nah," House shrugged. "I'm terrible at giving good news."
Cuddy shook her head, a small smile on her face, but she didn't say anything else.
House stopped by Jubilee's room as she was getting ready to go home, but she had a bunch of students and Logan and Summers helping, so he watched for a few seconds, then went back to his office.
McCoy and Wilson were waiting for him, already comfortably ensconced with good coffee and doughnuts. House grabbed a chocolate doughnut out of Wilson's hand just before he took a bite, then settled down in his chair, grinning.
Wilson rolled his eyes and grabbed another doughnut out of the box. "So, another case resolved."
House shrugged. "Yeah."
"C'mon, you've gotta feel good about this one," Wilson said. "You liked the patient for once, and she's going to be fine."
"Whatever." House took a big bite of doughnut as Wilson sighed in a long-suffering fashion.
"Well," McCoy said. "I'm thrilled that Jubilee will be fine. The school has had enough stress without any additional problems."
"Yeah, about what'shername--"
"Greg." McCoy's tone said 'Top secret, remember?'
"I was just wondering." House shrugged, drinking some coffee. "Anyway, Jubilee will live to chew bubblegum and buy outrageously short miniskirts again. But the diagnosis..."
"What about it?" McCoy asked.
"Broken heart syndrome," House said with a sniff. "It's a dumb name. Who came up with it anyway?"
"I think it was--" McCoy began.
"Rhetorical question," House said quickly. "Anyway, it makes it sound sentimental and beautiful when it's really the body going haywire. But 'Body Going Haywire Syndrome' doesn't have the same ring."
Wilson sighed. "You don't have a sentimental bone in your body, do you?"
"Stop!" Wilson put up a hand. "Whatever you were going to say...don't."
House gave him an innocent look, but neither McCoy nor Wilson seemed to believe it.
"What's important," McCoy said, "is that we know that Jubilee is going to be all right, thanks to you."
"Yeah, yeah." House waved a hand. "And the world is still full of puppies and kittens and flowers. Go away now. Come back when you have another interesting case."
McCoy was undeterred, sticking out his hand and leaving it there until House grudgingly shook it. "Thank you, Greg. I appreciate your help, and so does Jubilee."
"Whatever." House waved them away, and Wilson and McCoy grinned at each other before departing.
When they were gone, House looked down at his desk drawer. He opened it for a moment, looking at the handwritten note lying under a pile of paperclips and sticking out of a copy of People:"Thank you, Dr. House. I hope you get lots of interesting dying people to talk to. Love, Jubilee."
He dropped a copy of JAMA on top of it and shoved the drawer closed again.
Then he propped his leg up on a stool and pulled out his Gameboy. Somebody would be dying soon enough and he had a few more games to lose before they showed up on his doorstep.
Final author's note: "Broken heart syndrome" is real. For more information on stress cardiomyopathy, check out the Johns Hopkins University Hospital website. I read an article about it in the Washington Post Magazine about three years ago and knew I would find a use for it in a House fic someday.