Author's notes:

This is totally and completely unrelated to Masks. Chapters on this story will also be slow to come; I'm just getting some ideas down right now, with the idea of writing this after Masks and possibly The Imposter Impala from the Planet Cybertron are done.

What happens when the universe's two snarkiest doctors meet?

"Aliens." Cuddy said flatly, and regarded Dr. House across the top of her desk with one eyebrow lifted. She'd heard a lot of theories from him, over the years, some more crackpot than others. The craziest of them were often right, but Dr. House was a also known and established practical joker. And he did it just to screw with her head. Really, she didn't know if this was Dr. House being an ass this time, or if he was really telling the truth.

If he was telling the truth this time, it was enough to make her want to hyperventilate, and she wasn't someone normally prone to panicking. If he was screwing with her, she was going to kill him. Slowly. With his own cane. Violence would be a completely appropriate response.

"Better call the CDC." Dr. House smirked, clearly picking up on her irritation and worry. "Looks like an alien plague to me."

"Alien ... plague."

"Well, earth germs don't look like this." He slapped a full-color printout down on her desk.

"Are you joking?" She looked down at the photograph, obviously taken from a microscope slide, then back up at him.

"Would I joke about something like this?" He gave her his best wounded-puppy look.

"Yes." Her frown turned into a scowl. "You said you found these ... germs ... in the man's blood stream?"

The picture showed boxy-looking organisms, about half again the size of the red blood cells they were surrounded by. They looked like nothing more than microscopically tiny mites, and nothing like a human cell. Or any germ, really.

"Aliens germs."

"Alien germs." She repeated his words, eyebrows raising.

"In his blood." Dr. House emphasized. He was loving this. His tone of voice indicated that he'd found an awesomely interesting puzzle, and was just having a grand old time.

Cuddy stood up, and decided she'd verify this herself before she called the CDC. "If you're screwing with me, House, I swear ..." she honestly, couldn't think of anything vile enough to threaten him with, so she simply headed for the isolation ward.

Fifteen minutes later, after viewing a smear of the critically ill man's blood under a microscope, she did call the CDC. Only later would she learn that when the CDC docs viewed the files she sent them, they immedately notified the president, who, in what she would later conclude was a stunning display of intelligence, the president made a personal call to the one medic on the entire planet who had real-world experience with alien medicine.

Forty-five minutes later, her cell phone rang with an unfamiliar phone number. She answered it, "Cuddy here."

"This is Dr. Ratchet. The President asked me to call you ..." a warm voice said. He had a faint, indefinable accent.

"The president?" she said, thinking of various trade associations, other hospitals, charitable organizations, and a whole host of other groups that had presidents. She was a bit distracted, admittedly, and the obvious answer to the question of president-of-what didn't occur to her immediately. The man, found comatose and battered in the middle of a road, with injuries that indicated some sort of very violent trauma, had started to seize and cough up blood. House was ecstatic. The rest of the staff, less so, particularly those few who knew what they might be dealing with -- which was her and House's gaggle of students.

She didn't have time to deal with this Dr. Ratchet. She was trying to track down everyone who might have had contact with the man, in case House was right and this was a contagious plague, in addition to being a potentially alien infection. "I'm a bit busy."

"The President of the United States." The man's clarification sounded impatient. "Among other things, I'm probably your world's foremost expert in xenomedicine."

"In who-what medicine?"

"Alien medicine."

"I didn't know we had an expert in alien medicine."

"You're not supposed to know," the man grumped. "Look, I'll be there in about a day. Keep the kid alive until I get there, will you? He's important."

Something about the man's tone made her say, "You know him?"

"Brilliant deduction. Your world's foremost resident in alien medicine might know the kid with the alien nanyte infection. Just don't kill him until I get there." He paused a beat. "And don't do an MRI. I understand he was in an accident. Cat scan. X-rays. Faith healing. Dancing around singing and shaking rattles at him. All fine. Don't do an MRI. Don't get him within a hundred miles of an MRI machine."

The man's medical files were on her desk. She flipped through them, then said, with a feeling of forboding, "What happens if he has an MRI?"

There was another pause.

"Well," the voice responded dryly, "the results might be better than if you fed him after midnight, arguably, but I hope your staff likes being immortal. Keep him in isolation, slaggit. And shut that MRI machine down until we can decontaminate it."

"Fed him after midnight ...? Immortal?"

"Primus. Nevermind. I trust your staff can provide basic life support. I'll fix the slagging damage you did when I get there. And by the way, any idea where the Camaro he was driving went?"

"Impound yard?" she guessed. "Back up. Nanytes. Did you just refer to Gremlins? And immortal what-how-huh?"

"If his car was in the impound yard I wouldn't be asking, yes nanytes, and yes immortal, if you manage not to kill him. If he wakes up ask him about the car and tell him I'm on my way. It's important. I'll be there tomorrow morning. I'm in California right now and your world's slagging impossibly slow when it comes to arranging transport. I swear I'd get their faster if I drove."

"... our world?" she said, picking those two relevant words out of the long vent.

Instead of a response to her, she heard a dial tone.

After a moment, she went in search of House. She found him in the the boy's room, where House was completely ignoring isolation protocol. He didn't even have a mask on. Through the speaker at the door she said, "The CDC's sending an expert."

"Really? Just want we need, a stuffed shirt to tell me how to do my job." House didn't sound at all impressed, or even very interested.

After the scathing and snarky tones Dr. Ratchet had delivered during his brief conversation with her, she was honestly looking forward to seeing them meet. "Really. His name's Dr. Ratchet and he says not to kill his patient until he gets here. Oh, and the things in his blood are called nanytes and they're probably ferromagnetic."

House wasn't the only one who could put two and two together and come up with five. Ratchet had been concerned about the MRI, and had been distressed when he'd found out they'd already scanned the boy. MRIs used a potent magnetic field that would play havoc on anything sensitive to magnetism within it.

"Already knew that." House opened the door and stuck his head out. She took a huge step back. "MRI was useless. Can't scan someone who's full of metal. We probably killed the poor bastard doing it, too."

He shut the door again in her face and returned to the bed, where she watched through the window as he poked the pale, bruised, swollen boy in the chest with the tip of his cane. Through the speaker she heard him ask the comatose young man, "So? What's your story, anyway? You gonna infect all of us with alien nanytes and turn us into zombies? 'Cuz, that'd be cool. Always wanted to treat a zombie."