This is a crack!AU, now in it's second season. It's an alternative-universe PPTH/America, where people are slaves, and Gregory House is one of them. You can read the first season in CollarRedux. Like the first season, this is planned to continue, one chapter per episode, till we reach the season finale... in a twisted kind of way.
Stacy was meeting with Doctor Cuddy. They were still at the stage at which both of them had invited the other to use first names, but Stacy at least was still saying "Lisa" but thinking "Doctor Cuddy".
Cuddy's PA was hovering. "Excuse me? Doctor Nolo is here."
"He doesn't have an appointment."
"He wants to talk with you about the state prison consult."
Cuddy glanced down her calendar. "Ask him to make an appointment for some time this afternoon."
"He said you'd say that," the PA said. "But he wants to see you before he goes to the prison."
"Prison?" Stacy asked.
"There's a guy on death row, has something wrong with his heart," Cuddy said. "The prison asked for a consult, I'm sending them a cardiologist."
The door opened and Doctor Nolo came in. Stacy remembered him, though not by name; the doctor who used to get drunk at every Christmas party and throw up. Once he vomited on House. By the look around his eyes, he wasn't just drinking at Christmas parties any more.
"I don't want to go to the prison," Nolo announced. "Also, I don't see what the point is. He's on Death Row."
"New Jersey hasn't executed anyone since 1976," Cuddy said. "The feds asked for a consult. Just go."
Nolo literally swayed, standing there. "We both know," he said with dignity, "that they asked PPTH for a consult because they want the guy who can diagnose anyone."
"I am not sending a very valuable asset to the state prison," Cuddy said. "Unless they can send the prisoner here, we're not obliged to do more than respond to the consult. I am responding to the consult: I'm sending you. Please do your best for them. Thank you, Doctor Nolo."
Stacy waited till the door had closed behind Nolo before she said "Should you be sending a drunk doctor to a professional consult?"
"He has tenure," Cuddy said, answering the question Stacy hadn't asked. "And from the look of him, he had a shot to brace himself before he came into my office. It's a two hour drive, and they said they'd send a car. He'll have sobered up by the time he gets there." She paused. "He is still good with students, he's sober when he's seeing patients, and he is due to retire in eighteen months."
"You're not going to send House?"
"Part of our agreement was that we weren't going to talk about Diagnostics," Cuddy reminded her.
Stacy nodded. He came back into her mind sometimes, the sight of him, leaning up against a wall, sitting across the table in the staff canteen, smiling. But she had arranged not to see him, and so far, she hadn't.
The phone rang: Cameron answered it. Chase went on doing the crossword. She looked up, startled. "It's House."
"What does he want?" Foreman asked.
Chase stood up. "He wants us down in the lobby, now," he said, just for the pleasure of saying it a second ahead of Cameron, and annoying Foreman.
But Foreman just nodded, looking calm and uninterested. "Makes sense," he said, not moving. He was working at his laptop. "He's about to leave the clinic, and for some reason he wants an escort."
Cameron was already at the door. "He said all three of us," she said.
"Right now I don't care why he wants an escort," Foreman said. He sounded calmly smug. "Either one of you will do, anyway."
"Thanks," Chase said, a bit amused. He guessed Foreman was going to call one of his tame ER nurses as soon as they were out of earshot. He also guessed that House had managed to annoy Foreman once too often by preferring him for an escort when he wanted to go somewhere safely: Foreman did look more like he could beat someone up.
House was standing just inside the door of the clinic. Chase walked up to him, stopped three feet away, and stuck his hands in his lab coat pockets. "You rang?"
House glanced over his shoulder. "I'm going to Mercer State Prison," he said.
Chase felt as if someone had punched him, then suddenly thought, House was screwing with him, and then glanced over his own shoulder, following House's gaze, and saw a corrections officer, in uniform, by the main entrance. Outside, parked in the quick drop-off zone, there was a white prison van.
"Relax," House said. "I was asked for a consult. They want to know why a patient's heart started beating so fast it pumped air instead of blood. Doctor Cuddy knows I'm going. That's why they sent the van. Walk me over to the corrections officer and tell the guy I don't need to go out in cuffs."
Cameron was looking very worried. House glanced at her. "Go do your clinic hours."
"I already did mine for this week."
"Then go do two of mine." House set off towards to the front door. Chase followed.
The van driver had been joined by a guard. They were both looking at House in the same way PPTH security did: assessing how much trouble a tall slave with a cane could give them. The guard spoke to Chase, though: "You got the transfer papers?"
"He's not going out of here permanently," Chase said. "It's just a consult."
House produced a piece of paper, a computer-generated form signed at the bottom, and handed it to the guard. He was standing, Chase realised, legs slightly apart, head bowed, shoulders slumped: he looked submissive and harmless.
"He can't have the cane," the guard said, and took it out of House's hand. He held it out to Chase, who took it after a moment.
"He needs it to walk."
The guard shrugged. "We'll put him in a wheelchair when we get there, I'll call ahead." He produced a set of shackles. "We'll get him back here before the end of the day."
"You don't need those," Chase said. "I've got his cane, he can't run. You're taking him as a doctor, not a prisoner."
House didn't move. He didn't say anything and he didn't move his hands into position to be shackled.
The guard sighed. "He's now in our custody, Doctor. Rules are rules."
Cuddy said sharply from right behind them both "What is going on?"
"Doctor Cuddy," Chase said. "This are the men from Mercer State Prison to pick up... Greg."
"What?" Cuddy said, very sharply indeed. Chase had a sudden sinking feeling that something had gone wrong. House was standing very still. His hands, by his sides, were trembling.
The guard handed her the form. She took it, looked at it frowning, and then focussed on the field at the end. "I didn't sign this. Who gave it to you?"
"That guy - " the guard pointed, apparently not quite sure what to call House.
"I never gave permission for the Diagnostics slave to leave the hospital," Cuddy said. One of the security guards was already walking over towards her. "Put Greg in my office." She handed the form to her PA. "Find out what you can about this, and page Doctor Nolo to my office at his earliest convenience."
"And what am I supposed to tell my boss?" the guard said. "No offense, Doctor Cuddy, but whatever the administrative mixups here, he sent us over to collect the guy - "
"Doctor Chase," Cuddy said.
Chase wished he'd thought to assume he was supposed to go with Greg - the security guards had taken him by the elbows and were walking him over to Cuddy's office.
"You can go to the prison and take a look at the prisoner. Doctor Chase is our most senior Diagnostics fellow," she added to the guard. "He'll carry out an examination and report back."
"Okay," Chase said. On a moment's thought, it actually looked preferable to be out of the hospital for the next three hours." He looked at the guard. "Okay with you if I drive myself over?"
"Prefer it," the guard said. "Unless you want to ride in back."
House had not returned from clinic duty. Chase and Cameron hadn't come back either. None of the ER nurses knew of an interesting case. Foreman was getting his notes on three previous cases into order for articles he planned to write. The phone rang.
"Foreman," Chase said. "I'm in Mercer State Prison, Capital Sentences unit."
"My sympathies," Foreman said. "Where's House?"
"He's not back?" There was a pause. "We have a patient. Guy on death row. He needs to be intubated and put on a respirator. He's hypoxic. He's got fluid in his lungs, breathing rate of 50, blue fingernails, blue lips... But the prison infirmary doesn't have a respirator."
"So he's going to die," Foreman said. "Oh wait, he's on Death Row. He's going to die." He stopped. The background sound was on an outside line. Foreman himself might have set up an elaborate practical joke like this, but he could not see Chase being energetic enough to do it. "Are you actually in the state prison?"
"Yes," Chase said. "They wanted a diagnostician. Actually they wanted House, but they got me."
Foreman's first, ridiculous impulse was jealousy. He realised it was ridiculous even as he felt it. This wasn't a job he would have wanted, so why should he care that Chase had landed it? "How did that happen?"
"I was standing there." Chase sounded hesitant. "Look, House got taken off - he's really not back? It was hours ago."
"I don't know," Chase said. "But this guy needs to be on a respirator, and it would be easier to run the tests if he was in the ward on our floor. Can you go ask Cuddy if we can bring him in? - And when you do, can you ask Cuddy where House is?"
"She's not back either? She was doing clinic time."
Cuddy was in a private interview with someone, the PA said, and not to be disturbed. Foreman sat down to wait.
After half an hour, he called Chase.
"How's death row guy?"
"Still dying," Chase said. "I checked out his cell. They had him locked in the stationery closet. Too violent for the infirmary. Could a guy on death row get heroin?"
"Are you kidding me?" Foreman asked.
"Right," Chase said. "Heroin addiction could cause the tachycardia, which would cause the pulmonary edema. They're taking hair, blood, and urine samples now."
"What if he's not on heroin," Foreman said.
"Well, I'm sure they'll test for everything - "
"I mean, what if he's on something that was sold to him as a narcotic, that isn't? Like selling oregano for hash." Which Foreman had actually done, in juvie, not that he was about to admit it to Chase.
"Well, in that case, we're screwed," Chase said. "Could be anything."
"He's screwed either way, probably," Chase said. "Longer you leave it, the less chance he'll survive the trip. But we're screwed because if House doesn't figure out what was killing this guy before he dies, he's going to obsess about it for years."
"I didn't send Greg," Nolo kept saying. He was even more drunk now than he had been. "I didn't want to go, and I kept saying that, and I thought I would try to sober up, but I couldn't..."
He trailed off. Cuddy watched him. Nolo had been part of PPTH before she became the Dean: he was in his early sixties, and he looked like a very old, tired man.
"Please," he said finally. "Give me a second chance. I really did try to sober up. I had a cup of coffee. It didn't help."
"You're drunk now," Cuddy pointed out neutrally.
"I know." Nolo shook his head. "I'm sorry. I tried. I didn't want to go but I didn't send Greg. Please." He swallowed. "Kevin - our youngest - he's still only sixteen. My wife teaches high school - she - we can't manage on just her salary. Mary and Andrew are in college - "
Cuddy dropped her eyes. She moved her pen from one hand to the other. She looked up. "He was seventeen last week," she pointed out, still gently, neutrally. She had looked up his family before she asked to see him. Minor children were at risk of involuntary attachment to pay their parent's debts.
Nolo looked down. He looked defeated.
"Will you check yourself into rehab?" Cuddy asked.
"Yes," Nolo said, with dawning hope.
"You are now, officially, on your final warning," Cuddy said. "I'll put you on unpaid leave from today. I'll let your wife know where you are. When you leave my office, go directly to rehab. I'll sort out your insurance."
Nolo got up. "I'm going," he said. "Thank you."
Cuddy braced herself, and called Nolo's wife. The call took five minutes: most of it split between embarrassing anger and even more embarrassing gratitude.
Then she made another phone call. By this time, Greg would be fastened up against the whipping post. It always took hospital security some time to get him into position, because of the standing orders that he wasn't to be harmed or damaged. She had considered this quite carefully. There was no proof that Greg had been the one to log in under her hospital ID and generate the printed order that allowed him to be taken to the prison. Nolo really had been very drunk. It was possible he'd done it. It was also possible that someone else had done it for a joke. The one thing that was certain was that Greg had made no effort to bring the situation to anyone's attention - and he should have: he knew he wasn't allowed out of the hospital to see patients. In fact, he'd done his best to ensure that no one would stop him, by summoning his fellows. And there had been a situation, nearly a month ago, where Greg had got away without a whipping, on condition of good behavior for a month.
"Ten lashes," Cuddy said. "Tell him this is because he lied to Mr and Mrs Park." She spelled out their names. "He should spend tonight in the recovery ward. No painkillers. No clinic shift tomorrow morning. He can return to his usual painkiller and clinic shift for 8pm tomorrow evening, if his recovery's normal."
The four-time murderer on death row had died, Chase said, in a stationery closet, a few hours after Chase's arrival. Permission had not been obtained for a respirator. Nor for an autopsy.
"If we'd cured him, he'd have gone back to Death Row," Cameron said.
"I know," Chase said.
Foreman said nothing. He was still working on his laptop.
The door opened, and House pushed his way in. He was walking clumsily, without his cane: Chase had brought the cane up from the lobby, and propped it up against the Eames chair in House's room. He looked at them. "Tachycardia, pulmonary edema, likely suspects?" he said.
Cameron was thrown. Even Foreman looked up from his laptop.
Chase said, "Dead. About six hours after I got there yesterday."
House stood still. His jaw worked. "What did the autopsy show?"
"Immediate family's a younger brother. He wouldn't give permission for an autopsy." Chase glanced at his watch. "The body's probably already been cremated."
House nodded. "Okay," he said.
"I'm sorry - " Chase said.
"Yeah, yeah." House's voice was a grey tired lurch. He started moving towards his room. "Go do whatever it is you guys do. Find me another case tomorrow."
"I found one," Cameron said.
"Tomorrow," House said. He didn't stop. A minute after he entered his room, he came out again, holding his cane in one hand, the file Cameron had left where he couldn't miss it in the other. He still sounded impossibly tired. "Somebody left this on my bunk. Clever - forces me to either deal with the file or never lie down again."
"Cindy Kramer," Cameron said. "I told her you'd see her."
"You shouldn't have told her that," House said. "She's got metastatic squamous cell lung cancer, six months, tops."
Cameron shook her head. It could be pneumonia. It could be sarcoidosis. What it couldn't be was a diagnosis that meant a woman without husband, parents, sisters, brothers, or close friends, was going to die. "Have you even looked at the x-ray?"
"No, just guessing," House said. He dropped the file on the table. Cameron immediately picked it up and flipped it open to the x-ray. She had been sure House would pull a new diagnosis out of it.
"A spot on a x-ray doesn't necessarily mean that she's terminal."
House looked at her. His eyes were cold, nearly colorless, and held more contempt than Cameron wanted to receive. "She already has swollen hilar lymph nodes on the other lung. She's dying."
"Could we at least brainstorm for other ideas?" Cameron said.
"I've got to learn not to beat around the bush. By dying, I mean no matter what we do. Very, very soon she is going to be dead. Is it still too subtle? Now go tell Cindy whatever-her-name-is that she's dying."
"You logged on to the hospital mainframe to get assigned to Death Row guy, but you won't even see Cindy?"
"She's dying!" House said. His voice, suddenly raised, was more shocking than anything else. He stood still, his hands locked on to his cane, staring at her. "Okay, fine. You guys brainstorm. Knock yourselves out." He turned round and walked away. There were straight red lines making a pattern across the back of his t-shirt. It was a long moment before Cameron realised, her mouth filling with cold liquid, that the marks were lines of blood.
When Cameron was aware again, she found that Chase and Foreman had picked up and left. The door into House's room was firmly closed. She was alone with Cindy Kramer's file.
A few minutes before six, wilson checked his e-mail for the last time, and walked down to the Diagnostics ward. Cameron was sitting on the bed, talking to the patient; a young woman. They were both laughing.
Wilson opened the door. "Doctor Cameron? Could I borrow you for a consult?"
Once they were both outside in the hall, Wilson closed the door. "Bittersweet thing about being head of the oncology department, I get CC'ed on all the biopsy results."
"Yeah, I know." Cameron sounded sad. She met Wilson's eyes. She really was very lovely. "She's terminal."
"Yeah," Wilson said. "So I take it you were in there informing her?"
"Well, I..." Cameron looked away. "I hadn't exactly gotten around to that, but I was just - "
"Doing what? Making friends?" Wilson made his voice calmly authoritative.
"Cindy's divorced," Cameron said. She met his eyes again. She didn't sound guilty, but there was a note of self-justification in her voice. "She doesn't have any kids, no siblings, both her parents are gone - "
"It's not your job to be her friend," Wilson said, keeping his voice into the authoritative range. He had had to say this to other oncology fellows and nurses, faced with the reality of a terminal cancer diagnosis, a likable patient. There was a little girl called Andie... "Do you understand?" Wilson said. "And it's not worth it. She feels better her few final days, and you're not the same, maybe for years."
"You don t think it s worth it," Cameron said.
"I know it's not worth it," Wilson told her.
"My husband w - " Cameron wasn't married. Wilson saw her trip to a halt, turn her head to look at Cindy, and turn back to meet Wilson's eyes. This time, there was something in her voice beyond what Wilson had expected. "I met him just after he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. If I hadn't married him, he was alone."
So that was what had happened to Cameron. Wilson nodded, without changing his expression. She wouldn't be the same, maybe for years.
Camerion's voice cracked a little. "When a good person dies, there should be an impact on the world. Somebody should notice. Somebody should be upset." She went back inside. This time, Wilson thought, she would tell Cindy. And she was certainly going to be distracted from Greg.
Wilson went back down the hall to the Diagnostics conference room. He had Greg's prescription of Oxycontin in his pocket, and permission to give it early. He had two hours ahead of him before Greg was due in the clinic. He was getting that pleasant twinge in his gut when he thought of Greg showering and changing into his clean clinic clothing, the marks of yesterday's whipping still clear on his back. Wilson smiled to himself. He wondered when he would decide to let Greg have the Oxycontin.
Thanks for joining me for Season Two of CollarRedux! RAL: Reviews Are Love!