One Word, and That Was "Dead"

Chapter One

Dr. Gregory House peered over the balcony overlooking the entrance to the hospital, looking for one of his favourite people to torment. She wasn't in her office - in fact, this week's assistant said she hadn't come in yet.

And if he was at work before Cuddy... well, he was coming to work too early, that was for sure. And he was going to give her hell about it!

The suit pacing the entrance didn't catch his eye at first (her top proved unaccessible to look down) until someone said, "Hi, Dr. Cuddy!"

Cuddy with a top that couldn't be looked down? It must be the end of the world. House stuck his cane between the open elevator doors and hitched a ride down.

When he came face to face with Cuddy, he had a sudden flashback to their college days, the time he'd made her late for a job interview. She had that same pacing he should've recognised, same prim secretary outfit, none of the tranny makeup he teased her about, and a very nervous look on her face.

Cuddy was trying very hard right now. He just didn't know for what. But he was definitely going to find out.

He didn't have to wait very long.

"House! Good," she said when she caught sight of him. "I need to talk to you. My office, now."

"Yes, Mistress."

He followed her to her lair, ogling her all the way. "You know, I see what you're trying to do with that new look."

"Didn't notice I had one," said Cuddy.

"You're trying to make that ass look just a leetle less planetary. I don't think it's working, but more observation's probably in order."

"I have a case for you."

"But I've gone almost a month without one! Oh please, a few days more and I make a personal record."

"I'm told this case is very unusual. Who knows, you might even enjoy yourself."

"Oh really? Prove it."

Cuddy told her assistant not to bother them and shut her doors firmly.

House raised his eyebrows. "You know, if you wanted me, all you had to do was say so. I don't see a case file, after all."

"That's because the patient hasn't been admitted yet. Nor-" Cuddy raised her finger admonishingly- "nor will he be."

"You want me to treat a patient we're not admitting? I'm all for e-commerce, but-"

Cuddy's gaze drifted to the side as she rattled off the details from memory. "His name is Dean. He will be arriving shortly and your team will intercept him and bring him in. You will list him as a John Doe during his stay here, and he will not be charged for any medical expenses. He has an unknown virus that may be contagious, so your team has to take precautions."

"You know the patient's background is the key to solving these cases! My hands are tied here if this is all you're going to give me."

Cuddy looked him in the eye. "If you'll be good during this case and not push too hard for information that no one can give you, I'll let you off clinic hours for this month."

That was altogether too tempting to pass up - although of course he'd be investigating this patient anyway. "Done!"

Actually, that was altogether too tempting. House was starting to feel suspicious.

"Wait a second, who is this guy again? An old flame of yours? Secret love child? Mafia kingpin?"

"I don't know any more than you do, House. I've just been given instructions."

"By who?" he persisted, but she wouldn't answer him.

As he turned to leave, she said, "This may be one of the ones that gets away, House; I don't know if you'll be able to solve this case. It's all right if you don't. The odds are stacked pretty high against you."

"Oh ye of little faith," he scoffed and, against his will, began to feel very interested indeed.

Something in Cuddy had changed, he realised. It wasn't just the clothes, or the fact that under the sunlight streaming through her windows, Cuddy looked like she was glowing. There was calmness and caring in her demeanour that hadn't been there before.

House didn't like change much. He felt off-balance and uncertain with these new developments, like someone had knocked his cane out from under him. His team, on the receiving end of his moods, was going to have a tough week of it.

But he owed it to Cuddy to see it through such positive changes without mocking them... when it led to a month off clinic duty, anyway.


"Yes, House," she said without looking up from her work.

"You look nice today."


"For your age, of course. I hear Woo is magic with the Botox."

Cuddy rolled her eyes. "Get to work."

House made his way to his office as fast as he could, snubbing Wilson's cheerful greeting along the way. This case was mysterious enough that he was kind of looking forward to seeing this patient.

"Listen up, folks," he said to his fellows. "I want each of you to take an entrance. We have a patient that needs admitting. Or - not admitting. Supposed to stay totally anonymous."

"Wait a minute," said Foreman. "We have a case that we haven't looked at first? That no one's looked at?"

"Cuddy let me off clinic hours for this one."

"Is it that intense a case?" Chase asked.

"Or just a trustee or someone?" Foreman cut in.

House shrugged. "I don't know... anything about our patient, really. His name is Dean but we're admitting him as a John Doe, and none of the bills are supposed to go through."

"House, this is ridiculous," said Cameron. She looked to her coworkers for backup, but they seemed resigned. Inasmuch as rolling eyes could be considered resignation, anyway. "What the hell are we supposed to do with the paperwork?"

"I don't know, figure something out. My orders are coming from Big Mama. Now-" he banged his cane on the table- "run Lola run!"

As his doctors scrambled, House strolled over to his office. Daytime television was a soap opera jackpot.

Foreman came in soon after.

"Aren't you supposed to be waiting for our patient? Or is he already here?"

"The nurses said they'd let me know," said Foreman, already absorbed in a crossword.

House was impressed. He filed away the information that Foreman had the nurses on his side.

"Fine," House said, "but the next colonoscopy goes to you."

Foreman winced a little.


"This is stupid," Dean rasped, as they headed towards the entrance in what amounted to a crawl. "We didn't have to go out of our way, any hospital would do."

"Our travel was instantaneous," said Castiel.

"Now you shot off your angel juice, though. What if we need you in a fight?"

"Look, Dean, we know a demon was the source," Sam said. "If it's like the Croatoan virus, it's just going to confuse a regular doctor. I e-mailed one of my friends in med school about this, and-"

"You talk to your friends about me?"

Sam pursed his lips. "Sometimes, I need someone to vent to." When his brother didn't answer him, Sam's stomach lurched. Any other time, Dean would've risen to the bait and they'd be squabbling over the issue right now. "She says Dr. House is like a pitbull with weird cases, just doesn't let go. If there's anything we can find out from your case, he'll be the one to find it."

A blond doctor approached them as they entered. "Are you Dean?"

Dean, through sheer force of will, snapped upright and into hunter mode. "Who wants to know?" Sam could see him reaching to check on his weapons and slapped at his hands, not wanting to alienate anyone trying to help them. Once Dean was admitted, they could set up the proper traps and precautions.

The doctor nodded, giving Dean a quick once-over. "Let's just get you in a chair, and we'll go up to the room we prepared for you."

Dean's jaw dropped and he tried to catch the glances of the two on either side of him for backup. Sam ignored him, but Castiel stepped forward.

"I called ahead," he said.