First of all a warning; this is severely under-edited. I've looked over it many times, I know I probably missed a few awkward wording places and everything, but for now…it's going up. If I catch something later I'll edit it, but it won't be anything to change the overall happenings of the chapter, just little details. An actual big reveal in this one!
So I apologize in advance if this isn't the best. I wanted to get the events rolling again, especially because I actually know how this story is ending. I have an ending in mind, and that is a major thing for me. The fact that I'm updating this a few days before the one year mark makes me inordinately proud.
So yeah. I'm extremely glad I got this thing done. I'm very excited that I have a game plan. This story will get done, and I'm so grateful for all of you who have stuck with me this long. (Also this is now over 50,000 words, including authors notes, and that also makes me very proud)
Hope you enjoy!
The next morning was cloudy, a chill promising snow biting through the wind. Occasional drizzles of rain came down, though none cold enough to count as sleet yet. It was gloomy, dark weather, and so no one was entirely surprised to find House in an unusually chipper mood.
"Let me guess," Chase said as he came in, both hands tight around a steaming syrofoam cup, "they've discovered the cure for everything, we're all out of a job, and you're thrilled."
House barely glanced up from the board he was writing on – and pointedly blocking – though he did wave a hand in the general direction of the door. "And where would you be without my shining personality every morning?"
"I think I'd manage alright, actually…"
"You've been here all night, haven't you?" Foreman cut in, and House did look around then with something of a pout that did nothing to hide the somewhat-darker circles under his eyes.
"But none of my friends have a curfew." When that was met with silence and three equally unimpressed expressions he let out a huff of breath, turning back to his board. "This case, this dead kid – what's wrong with it?"
His team exchanged glances and after a pause Cameron leaned back in her chair with a weary shrug.
"You mean apart from the obvious?"
"Yes, yes," an impatient marker was waved in her direction quickly, "and what is the obvious?"
"The kid is alive and he shouldn't be," Chase said. "Should be dead, but still here with something wrong. None of it's possible, yet here we are trying to cure him."
"Lovely choice of wording." House didn't turn immediately, and after a few moments glanced over his shoulder. "Hang on, I was planning on the dramatic reveal but you got the keyword before I finished…" That got an eye-roll and the office fell silent save the slight squeaking of the marker. Once he seemed satisfied, House turned as dramatically as the leg would allow to reveal his work. "I wanted columns, it seemed much more professional."
Foreman leaned forward a little squinting. "Is that supposed to be a corpse?"
"Technically a zombie," House corrected, gesturing at the crude drawing in one corner. "Know your mythology. Now," he lifted his cane to tap at the left column, "symptoms. No breathing, no heartbeat, blood pressure despite that, and signs that point to hypothermia despite a freezing temperature. What do they have in common?"
"They're why he should be dead," Cameron said, glancing at Chase quickly. "Not…technically possible."
"Precisely." The cane hit the right side with a soft tap. "And these – incision that hasn't fully healed, bacteria in the blood, at least one stroke, decent amount of confusion this morning, and potential signs of a very high fever."
"He doesn't have a fever," Foreman argued. "We haven't gotten his temperature much above eighty this entire time. And of course the kid's confused, he just stroked last night."
"That's not the point, that's –" House let his cane fall, eyes sweeping the room as if he might find someone more cooperative lurking in the shadows. "Look, all the stuff on the left, that's impossible, you said so yourself. So ignore it. It can't happen, it isn't happening." He paced forward a few steps and gave a sweeping gesture at the three of them. "So what do the ones that are happening say?"
The team stared at him. A few nurses went jogging by the glass door in the silence before Foreman broke it; "Are you on Morphine right now?"
House let out an impatient noise, head falling back as he turned to limp toward his office before spinning around again. "You wanna check my arms? I'm fine. This kid is obviously not, and we're –"
"Oh hell…" Three sets of eyes immediately snapped to Chase, but his stayed locked on the board, narrowing slightly. "Has there been any bleeding?"
"Nurse said there was some in the urine this morning."
Cameron and Foreman exchanged glances as Chase leaned back in his chair, looking almost impressed.
"It does fit."
Danny wasn't sure he'd been fully conscious all morning. He'd managed to struggle to the bathroom once with the nurse's help, pointedly ignoring her concerned looks the whole time, but there were some gaps where he wasn't sure if he'd fallen back asleep and decided not to think too hard about it.
Masters was still there, but he seemed equally lost. It would have been satisfying if the situation didn't suck so much, seeing the older man without any smart comebacks or clever plans. Instead he just paced a lot, something Danny also tried to ignore as much as possible.
They'd told him he'd had a stroke. He knew the basics of what that meant, but it was almost a foreign concept overall. That was something that happened to old people sometimes, not to someone his age, not even with everything else that was happening. Unfortunately the stroke seemed to have beaten down his defenses and wiped out any of his remaining stubborn pain tolerance that he'd built up over the years. Now everything was noticeable – the ache in his stomach and more than a few joints, a general sore feeling that he couldn't actually pinpoint, and the pounding in his head that was only a comfort in that it assured him blood was at least getting up there now.
Talking took a little extra concentration, but at least he could still talk. Apparently none of his brain had been cut off from the blood long enough to be damaged – a perk of stroking in a hospital, he supposed – and there weren't any lasting effects.
It still sucked.
Danny took a break from his study of the ceiling, turning his head enough to watch Masters turn at the wall and start back to the opposite one as he had been doing for the past ten minutes. It was still strange seeing him this concerned over anything besides his sport teams or something, and he wasn't entirely sure what to think of it. The headache wasn't helping.
"They called my parents," he managed after a little effort. The way Masters looked over, it was all too likely that he'd brought that up before, but Danny certainly couldn't remember the conversation if he had. "You know that, right?"
"I'm aware," Masters said, seeming to direct it at the floor. His posture didn't change much, but It would have been slightly surprising if it had.
Danny hesitated, partially to make sure he was wording things correctly and partially just because he was wary to ask in the first place. "What are you going to do?"
That at least got the man to look up, his steps pausing for a brief moment before they resumed as before. "Well heavens knows I would like to…" One hand clenched at his side before a slow breath relaxed it again, and he shook his head. "That remains to be seen. Given the circumstances these things have to be handled…delicately."
"Meaning you can't disintegrate anyone in the middle of a hospital."
"As much as I would like to."
Danny tried for some kind of laugh, ended up wincing when it pulled at his stiches a little, and pressed his head further back into the pillow. Master's pacing was slower now, and if it had been anyone else Danny might have called it uncertain.
"Do you want anything done?" the man asked. It was an unexpected question, and a difficult one given how slow Danny's thoughts still were. "Legal or…otherwise?"
He didn't answer at first. It was a good thing for the time being that his heart was still, since any changes in rate would have been easily picked up by the monitors. There was no breath to hitch remembering the sheen of all of the steel instruments, no heartrate to spike thinking about that damn scalpel, his mother's voice cold and analytical above him…
Danny also remembered the constant wariness afterwards, enough that it could probably be called fear. His sister trying to bridge the gap somehow, not trying for her usual optimism because they both knew it wasn't exactly welcome at that point.
He couldn't help but flinch away from them, practically from the thought of them still. He also knew they were terrified of him these days, maybe just because of what he was, maybe because they thought he might retaliate somehow.
And he'd be lying if he said the thought hadn't crossed through his mind once or twice. He just took a little bit of comfort in the fact that it still repulsed him every time.
"They didn't know," he finally said quietly, clearing his throat quickly and looking up as he repeated it. "They didn't know it was me."
"Daniel, they were the ones – "
"I'm not saying it isn't their fault. But they didn't know."
Masters looked skeptical. It took him a little while to move again, and it was with a heavy sigh. "So you're saying we do nothing."
"Not now. Especially not here, these people have nothing to do with it." Danny attempted a scathing look and gave it up a second later. "And I'm not sure when it became we."
That got at least a small snort and the man seemed to consciously make his shoulders relax. "Well I am legally your guardian for the time being. I'd say that gives me some amount of say in things."
"Right. Keep telling yourself that."
They lapsed back into a somewhat uneasy silence. As much as he wasn't fond of talking to anyone right now, when it stopped Danny was left with nothing else to distract him. His body was constantly reminding him of how exhausted he was, how much everything seemed to ache all at once, and his eyes kept being drawn to the black scarring on his left hand. Even after a few days with the glove off, it wasn't something he was used to seeing in his peripheral, and he caught himself staring at it on more than one occasion.
A group rushing by with a cart pulled his attention for a few seconds, and he realized that Tucker's dislike of hospitals really made a lot more sense these days.
"What d'you think happens…" The boy paused, pulling in what he hoped was a steady breath despite it not actually being necessary. "When we die, y'know? Our kind? What happens?"
Masters stopped by the window, turning to consider him, his look almost pitying. After a moment he sighed, coming back to the chair by the bed and sinking into it. "I don't know, Daniel." Well at least he didn't try to avoid the question entirely. "As far as I've found, we remain the only two."
Danny managed a bit of a nod, eyes closing. "Think it makes a difference which form it happens in?"
"I can't exactly say I've tested it."
"Guess not," the boy scoffed, his face twisting briefly into a grimace. "But as much as I hate to admit you were right…"
"You aren't dying," Masters told him firmly, then seemed to consider the words before amending it; "You're not going to die. As odd as your situation is, there is a medical explanation for whatever is wrong now. They just have to find it."
"Oh I love coming in at the perfect dramatic moment." House's voice made them both jump, though Danny couldn't do much more than flinch back into the pillow. The doctor stood at the door, his usual entourage in tow, and an extremely satisfied look on his face. "I mean that was practically cinematic, someone should be filming this or something."
"Get on with it, House," Foreman told him, receiving an affronted look in return.
"Let me have a moment, come on." House did shove the door the rest of the way open, ignored Master's slight glare, and limped directly to the beside, a small penlight in hand.
"What're you –" Danny gave a rather weak attempt to shield his eyes from the light, but when that proved useless he let his arm fall again and blinked blearily up at the face hovering over his. "What are you looking for?"
"Just proving a point." The light clicked off. House's focus moved to the boy's arms, picking up the nearest and turning it over, peering carefully at the pale skin. "Any specifically painful spots?"
"Other than the obvious?" Danny asked, gesturing vaguely at his chest with his free hand. "No."
The doctor didn't seem to actually be paying much mind to that; his focus was intent on Danny's unscarred hand, and his expression abruptly switched to one of triumph as he turned back to his team. "Proof for the doubters."
"Proof for what, precisely?" Masters cut in. "What on earth could his hand tell you now that it didn't before?"
"Not his hand," House corrected, holding said hand up a little more. "Fingernails. Doesn't show in every case, but boy does it help prove my point."
"We might know what Danny has," Chase spoke up, glancing between the two older men quickly before focusing on their patient. "Or at least, part of it. It's an infection, specifically in the heart, called Endocarditis."
Danny kept looking at each of the doctors quickly, eyes narrowed a little as he tried to process the words. They'd had quick theories before, he knew, but for whatever reason this one sounded confident. He glanced at Masters, but the man seemed about as taken aback as he was, which was different.
"What's that mean?" he asked, and House looked satisfied as he stepped back.
"Pretty straightforward, actually, which is ironic given everything else about you." House went to lean against the wall, flipping his cane up to examine the rubber tip. "That incision on your chest doesn't heal, bacteria gets in the bloodstream. It gets shuffled around and catches in the heart valves, starts building up into little vegetations. If they start breaking off and taking trips, some can get stuck in some important places, cause fun things like strokes." He paused long enough to make a vague gesture toward his patient. "Aches, confusion, blood in the urine, all fairly vague, but they all fit."
"So what was with the…" Danny waved his hand vaguely, trying to look it over somewhat casually. "What was with my hand?"
"Splinter hemorrhages," House said. "Little bits of the bacteria messing with the blood vessels. See those red streaks?" Danny glanced down at his nails, eyes narrowing even further as he wondered why he hadn't actually noticed them beforehand. "Not supposed to be there. They can show up in the eyes, too, or really anywhere on the skin. That's slightly less vague and more evidence that we're right."
"It still doesn't explain some of your other symptoms," Foreman pointed out with a firm look toward his boss, "but it's a start. We're going to keep working on the rest and start working on finding the right antibiotic to treat this with."
"Antibiotics?" Masters had managed to keep his expression fairly calm, but Danny could see his hands tight around the arm rests of the chairs. "Is that all it's going to take?"
"If we're lucky. It's possible…" The man hesitated before giving a small shrug. "Depending on the progress of the infection, we might need surgery to repair the heart valves."
"It varies from case to case," Cameron said, stepping forward as if she'd immediately spotted Danny's flinching back. "We'll need a few tests to decide what to do, but the fact that we have a diagnosis at all is extremely important."
Danny knew that if he actually had a heartrate at the moment it would be spiking. It's a good thing, he tried reminding himself, they know what to do, they know what's wrong. The word surgery wouldn't stop floating around in his head, though, and he shot a look at Masters who was staring a hole in the opposite wall.
The doctors seemed to be expecting some kind of response, but he couldn't manage a coherent one. The silence was broken by the bottom of House's cane hitting the floor as he straightened.
"We'll get this thing treated," he said. "Maybe that'll help put the rest of the pieces together. And you," he shot a look at Masters, "you're off duty. Front desk called on our way here, his parents just checked in and they'll be up in a few minutes. Things will probably get awkward, so I'll let that hash out before bringing in the paperwork."
He limped back out the door, Chase and Foreman following after only a short pause. Cameron lingered, glancing into the hall before stepping closer to the bed.
"I can stay. If you'd like a buffer."
"No," Masters finally spoke up, his voice just barely concealing the tension. "Thank you, but we'll have some…private matters to discuss."
Cameron considered them a few more moments before nodding and following the rest of her team out, the door sliding shut behind her. Danny had to force his hand to release the bed's railing and forced out a slow breath. He tried ignoring the sudden chill that had rushed through him and kept his eyes on the ceiling.
"Are you going to do anything?" he asked, his voice inches away from cracking, and he heard Masters mirror his sigh.
"Not yet," he muttered, "but we will see."