I don’t own House or BTVS. No infringement is intended. Sadly, no profit will be made from this either.
Lisa Cuddy was wondering what else could possibly go wrong when the door to her office was opened non too gently.
"House. One, you should really be old enough to have mastered the ability of knocking. Two, Dr Marmine just left and I'm so not in the mood for another squabble. Three, we have a possible situation in the paediatric ward. I really don't have time for you now," she said tiredly without looking up from the papers in front of her.
"But mommy, mommy! The bully stole my cake!" House whined, leaning on the opposite side of her desk, enjoying the view.
"Yes. All 5'3'' of her. Besides, it was a triple chocolate yoghurt muffin, not
a cake," Cuddy deadpanned without batting an eyelash.
Sighing theatrically, he put both his hands over his heart. "I think I'm in love."
Cuddy just snorted, although she couldn't suppress the threatening smile completely.
"In fact, I don't think I can concentrate enough for clinic duty," House continued in a faraway voice.
"Keep on dreaming. You still owe me another hour today."
"Even if I might mistreat a patient due to my in love-iness?"
Refusing to even look up, Cuddy kept on shuffling through the papers in front of her. "House, you always mistreat your patients. In love-iness – is that even a word? – or not!"
"Bummer." His face matching aforementioned phrase, House almost pouted when Cuddy didn't even notice
his perfect I'm-truly-disappointed expression. He'd worked on it for hours!
Instead, she just signed the file in front of her. Bah.
Meanwhile, Cuddy kept on ignoring House on purpose and grabbed the next file. "Indeed. I'm the one who has to deal with the consequences, remember?"
House chose not to, of course. "So, did that Marmite guy leave in one piece?"
Despite a quickly approaching headache, Cuddy couldn't help herself but smile at the loathing in House's voice. "Barely. He even forgot to change the appointment I arranged between him and Miss Summers. And his name is Marmine."
Topping up the empty water glass on her desk, he took two Tylenol from the bottle on the table and held them into Cuddy's field of vision. "I bet his girlfriend won't be too impressed either."
Stopping her hand containing the pills in mid-motion, Cuddy looked at House with raised eyebrows. "Girlfriend?"
"Tall, dark-ish complex, anorexic looking, no puppies, working in Snobbish Hospital across town," House summoned up dismissively.
"Snobbish Hospital?" Cuddy asked while shaking her head at his antics. Not waiting for an answer, and not expecting one either, she continued, "Anyway, is there anything you don't know?"
House just shrugged his shoulders and waggled his eyebrows suggestively, "Well, I'm not sure when you last fed your
puppies." In contrast to his words, his expression became serious. Looking straight into her eyes, he asked, "What's that about the parasite ward?"
Sighing, Cuddy threw her hands up in frustration. "I don't know!"
"No!" House exclaimed in mock-shock, before he quickly became serious again. "What's happening? Need a good looking diagnostician to save your perfectly formed backside?"
Cuddy just shook her head as if she still couldn't believe it, ignoring the second part of his comment completely. "It was almost unnoticeable at first, but comparing this month' numbers with those from five month ago, the number of unexplained deaths has gone up considerably. But only of those children being between the age of three and eleven."
"Why them?" House asked curiously.
"I don't know! We went back over all the records. Some of them had cancer, others accidents or routine operations and all of them had started to get better. Until they suddenly died. There was nothing unexpected in their blood work, no unexplained infections, no medication mess-ups. Nothing!" Clearly frustrated, Cuddy started pacing in front of him. "It's like whatever is causing it started off cautiously but became bolder as time went on and nobody detected anything unusual."
"So the question really isn't what but who."
"That's the thing, I don't know if there is a who
. Even if there is, how are we going to figure out who
if we don't even know how
?" Taking a deep breath, Cuddy stopped right in front of him, hoping he'd come up with the perfect solution for this problem. Right now, she'd promise him almost anything if he'd only find an explanation.
Reading her thoughts, House let a small smile play around his lips before asking, "Who brought it to your attention?"
"Dr Clarence, a paediatrician fellow. Last month she came back from her four month maternity leave and worried about the number of deaths. She went through the records and then came to me with the results," Cuddy explained tiredly.
House nodded thoughtfully. "So you keep working with her as it can't possibly be her."
"Yes. But I've since talked with everybody on the paediatric ward and everyone seemed just as shocked by the revelations. We introduced additional checks before each change of treatment and also before any medications are given, increased the hygienic routines for doctors and nurses to avoid unnecessary infections."
"And you just had another death," House stated matter of fact.
Stopping her pacing, Cuddy slumped into her chair, defeated. "Seven year old boy, car accident. Ruptured liver, concussion, broken arm and the usual cuts and bruises. It was touch and go on the first day but then he was improving greatly. The concussion was almost gone, his liver functions were moving back to normal, there were no sign of secondary infections. Still, he started to become weaker and weaker overnight and died within six hours. I ordered an extensive autopsy, but it came back completely normal."
"Well, apart from him being dead." Knowing when he had shot way over the target, House quickly apologised. "Sorry."
Cuddy just nodded. "We still have to wait for the toxicology reports. Though going by previous results, they will be just as normal as all the others we've done during the last month."
Eyebrows furrowed, House suggested the first thing coming to his mind. "So the autopsy was messed up."
"All of them?" Cuddy shook her head at that notion. "Besides, we started to send out blood and tissue sample to other labs for reference. Nothing. They all came back with the same result. No abnormalities."
"Is the body still here?" House asked thoughtfully and Cuddy nodded in confirmation. "Can I have a look?"
"Why not." Releasing another deep sigh, she started to rub her temples again. "After you've done your clinic hours."
Shaking her head as if to dare House to contradict her, Cuddy elaborated, "As much as I want the puzzle to be solved, I still have a hospital to run. And right now, we are overflowing with clinic patients."
"What if they suddenly start dying too? I mean, we don't really know what killed the kids. Was it something airborne? Was it intentional or human error, simply bad luck or, hell, even something supernatural." Although, if House was honest, the last two were only added for effect. The idea probably coming from the show he watched on TV last night. "It might get the clinic patients too."
Eyes wide open, Cuddy looked up in alarm. "Don't even start!"
"I'm just careful. You know, you always tell me to be more careful," House replied innocently. Or, translated into House-speak – I'd do anything to avoid clinic duty.
"Right." Annoyed at him still trying to get out of clinic duty, Cuddy added snidely. "Then you'll just have to be extra vigilant and make sure our clinic patients are safe!"
Accepting he couldn't win this fight without going much farther than he wanted to, House nodded. "Okay. Clinic first, autopsy later."
"Tha-" Suddenly an earlier comment from House registered and her head stopped in mid-motions, eyes opening comically wide.
No. No. No. NO. NO!
That couldn't be.
She had left that part behind a long, long time ago and vowed to never look back. It had cost her so much. It was simply too painful.
Still. House mentioning something supernatural as possible cause for the children's deaths had opened a door, or rather uncovered a hidden hatch, Cuddy thought had been lost a long time ago.
Or at least overgrown by something impenetrable.
A door she never wanted to open again. But now that this tiny grain of doubt had made itself comfortable in her brain, it wouldn't leave again. No, all it would do was grow. And that it already did rapidly.
What if he House was right? Although, without a doubt he'd only thrown it in for effect or whatever. She was pretty sure of that.
Whimpering pitifully, she buried her face in her hands.
"Cuddy?" Hearing the true concern in his voice, she just shook her head.
Damn him! Why did he have to open those old wounds again? With nothing but a careless comment at that? Somehow it was all House' fault! It just had to be!
Feeling rather then hearing him coming closer, Cuddy quietly chanted to herself. Please don't touch me, please don't touch me.
His hand was warm and reassuring on her shoulder. Great. So much for her telepathic powers. Maybe she needed to try harder.Please don't say anything. Please don't say anything.
"Cuddy? What's wrong?"
Okay, apparently second time isn't the charm either. And she wasn't sure she had the strength for a third.
For once House was clueless at what was happening. He'd understand her reaction if he'd insisted on the autopsy in favour of doing his clinic hours, but he hadn't. He had agreed to her wishes. So what was going on here?
Next to him, Cuddy was in agony. Emotional pain raw enough to make her whole body scream at her in physical pain was running through her whole being. All Cuddy wanted to do was to curl up in the corner of her couch and shut out everything around her.
Meanwhile House was standing next to her, subconsciously stroking up and down her back. Furrowing his brows, he looked her over for the umpteenth time in the last couple of minutes. But as much as tried to find any signs of physical distress, he couldn't find anything. And there was a reason he didn't do emotional. He was just contemplating if he should move her hands from her face, when Cuddy, thankfully, spoke up again.
"Just… just go. Do your clinic hours. Do your autopsy. Whatever. Just go." Her voice was shaky at best, but she looked at him with dry eyes.
Scrutinising her for a long time, House finally nodded. He really
didn't do emotional. "I'll be at the clinic." Giving her shoulder another squeeze, he took his cane and left her office.
Following House, locking the door behind him, she could hear him gruffly advising her secretary to not disturb Cuddy for the next while. For whatever reason, this was enough to break the dam holding back her tears. Quickly covering her mouth with both her hands to muffle the escaping sobs, all Cuddy could do was move to her couch and curl up like she'd imagined only minutes earlier.
At the same time Buffy had just finished with her first patient after lunch and had a couple of minutes until her next. Having only seen the sun through the hospital windows that day, she decided to go for the real thing.
Choosing the shortest way, which happened to be through the walk-in clinic, she smiled as soon as she could feel the sun gently stroking her face. She'd never thought she'd say this, but sometimes she really missed California.
Frowning as the thought of California brought up another issue, Buffy let her slayer senses out to play without restrictions. It took only a minute for her to realise that the weirdness-factor had went up another three or four notches in the past day or two. There was definitely something going on here. She was about to do some more exploring, when her train of thoughts was interrupted.
"Buffy Summers?" A hesitant voice asked next to her.
Pulling the slayer back, she slowly opened her eyes to find a nervous nurse standing in front of her. A glance at her wristwatch told her she still had a few minutes, so that couldn't be it. Then, picking up a very faint sense of … something, she intuitively moved into more of a defensive position.
Eyes opening in alarm, the nurse, Brenda according to her name tag, raised both her hands in a peaceful gesture. "No, no! I'm not … I haven't … I'm only half… I've never done anything. I'm just trying to live a normal life."
Raising an eyebrow in question, Buffy made no further advance towards her but nodded slightly, motioning for her to continue. Her only being a half-demon would explain the rather weak weird-vibes coming from her. And the amulet Buffy saw peaking out from under Brenda's uniform might have something to do with it as well.
Taking a deep, if shaky, breath, Brenda interrupted Buffy's thoughts. "But there's something going on here. Something bad. And it's getting more frequent."
"Okay." Nodding curtly, Buffy relaxed a tiny bit. She could listen first, and maybe slay later. "What do you know."
"I can … uhm … I can taste the fear. Literally." Brenda started nervously. "It's my thing. That's why I work in a hospital, there's enough of it already to give that nice buzz. Kind of like a bonus to the salary. But that's all, I swear. I can't enhance it or anything."
"Go on." She'd have to put her on her observation list. Although she was pretty sure Brenda wasn't lying. And she obviously knew her, or rather of her, to be afraid. Very afraid.
"It started a while back. One morning I came to work and there was suddenly more of it. Or rather the remains of fear lingering around. At first I shrugged it off as it seemed to be a one-time occurrence. Then it happened again. And again. The interval became shorter and, I don't know, it feels different to me. More potent, having a supernatural touch to it too, if you know what I mean."
Raising her eyebrows again, Buffy looked at her watch. She only had three more minutes left if she didn't want to be late. But this was important.
Brenda, catching onto Buffy's time pressure and not wanting to end up on her bad side, quickly continued, "It began to almost make me, well, high on certain days. Interfering with my work. So I started to ask questions. It's the paediatricians ward. They have an increase in unexplained deaths there. I went up to have a look, but the fear became too strong for me to handle safely."
Buffy's face, especially her eyes, hardened even more. Someone, something
, was going for the innocent. In her
hospital. She was- ! No, loosing her head wouldn't help anyone.
Taking a calming breath, she went with her instinct. Grabbing pen and paper that were peaking out from Brenda's pockets, she quickly scribbled down her mobile number. "Call or message me when it gets stronger again."
Handing it back to the perplexed nurse, she hadn't even registered the Slayer taking pen and paper until she was almost finished writing on it, Buffy quickly turned and headed for her next patient without glancing back.
But definitely slay later. Nobody was messing with her hospital!
Brenda, on the other hand, had to take a couple of deep breaths to calm down. So that was The Slayer. The Chosen One. Of course she had heard of her, but after finally having met her in person – and survived – she could understand the fear she inspired in the demon world.
Among the smart ones anyway.
And she considered herself smart. She had built her life, founded her own family without them knowing of her darker side. But, as she had told Buffy, she had found the perfect way to combine her need for a taste of fear – not unlike a vampires need for blood – with the human world around her. She was only taking what was already there, not going as far as causing fear like so many of her kind. No, she was smart and loved her life. Or rather being alive.
She wasn't going to take any chance. Not after she had witnessed her father's – the demon's – violent death by the Slayer of that time. She had only been a little girl, not really understanding that she and her daddy were different to the people around her. Or that hurting others in the way that was her and her daddy's secret was wrong, even though it made her feel so good
Thinking about it now, she didn't now why the dark-skinned Slayer had spared her life. Instead, she had taken her aside and told her why it was wrong to do as her dad had done. Why she had to kill him. It wasn't an easy task to do with a four year old, but the Slayer had found the right words. Had made them stick in Brenda's mind. And, knowing from her watcher's research what it was the demon in the little girl was aching for, the Slayer had told Brenda that there was already enough fear in the world for her to harvest without causing any harm.
Then she had taken Brenda by the hand and shown her. And, despite only being four years old, Brenda had understood. As had her mother when the Slayer had taken Brenda home. This was another thing that still amazed her today, how her mother had reacted so calmly to the announcement of her ex-husband's death. She once had asked her, and all her mother had said was that she was glad to have been shown a way to help her daughter. That one day, when Brenda would have children of her own, she'd understand.
And she had, the moment she realised that the demon part her children had inherited from her didn't have influence on them. At all.
Looking at her watch, Brenda quickly put out the cigarette she had started on to calm her nerves. Walking back into the hospital she chuckled, wondering how a certain Dr House would react to her being nothing less than a half-demon.
--A/N: Well, Brenda was always going to be a demon or such. But what Muse made out of that, well, I'm completely innocent and had nothing to do with it… Once again thanks for all the reviews! I had my parents visiting and with the squealing – very dignified squealing of course – going on I think I might have scared them. LOL. Anyway, ever tried to read something out loud for editing purposes (like suggested by spring) with a hiccup? Very unhelpful, but funny. LOL.