Title: Turn Your Head and Coffee
Author: Bastard Snow
Summary: 8th in the Coffee series. Scoobies head to New Jersey to find a slayer who’s been hospitalized.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of it.
A/N: Thanks to Rob Sorenson for the idea (over a year ago) for the title. I’ve just been waiting to use it ever since then, and finally found the idea to go with it. Also thanks to Drake for beta’ing.
Feedback: yes, please!
The folder slammed down on his desk, waking him from his mid-day nap and almost causing him to fall out of his chair.
Gregory House, M.D. gave his boss, Lisa Cuddy, the evil eye. “I was dreaming about Carmen,” he complained.
“Case for you,” she said. House picked up the file and opened it. “Her name’s Sandra. She’s from Camden.”
“Too bad for her,” House said. He looked at her chart. “She’s healthy.”
“Perfectly healthy,” Cuddy said. “She’s your patient.”
House looked up at Cuddy and blinked. “I don’t know if you know this, but this is a ‘hospital.’” He made quotes with his fingers. “Here, we treat ‘sick people.’ It’s kind of a thing we do. Although if you’re looking to dramatically redefine the word, that’s fine with me. I’ll have more free time.”
“Look at the chart again,” Cuddy said. House sighed and looked at the file again. His brow furrowed of its own volition. Blood pressure was perfect. Cholesterol, perfect. Blood oxygen, blood sugar, body mass, all perfect. House raised an eyebrow at Cuddy. “And she’s beautiful, too.”
“I’ve never seen test results like this,” he said.
“Nobody has,” Cuddy told him.
“It’s odd,” he told her. “But she’s healthy. I don’t see why I should be interested in it, other than as a medical improbability.”
“She broke her arm last week, compound fracture,” Cuddy said. She handed him x-ray films. “These were taken two hours ago.”
House held the film up to the light to see it better. “That’s impossible,” he said. The bone was completely healed. He couldn’t even tell where the bone had been broken.
“Now, I know you’re a diagnostician, but I’m willing to bet you want to know what the hell is going on here just as much as I do.”
“Not quite,” he said. “It’s intriguing. Something for researchers. Put the girl in a wheel and have her run to her little heart’s content. I’m still interested in sick people.”
Cuddy sighed. “I’ll cut off one hour of clinic time a week.”
House smiled, picked up the phone and paged his team. There was work to be done.
* * * * *
“Princeton-Plainsboro Hospital,” Xander read.
“Teaching hospital,” Willow corrected.
“We got a Slayer in the hospital?” Buffy asked. “Before we identified her? That sucks.”
“Well, at least we’ll be able to tell her why she’s healing fast,” Xander said. “Because that part’s good.”
“Not that it makes up for the rest,” said Faith, “but yeah, it don’t suck.”
“We’ve got her name?” Buffy asked.
Xander held up a piece of paper. “Sandra… um… Tally-a-ferrow?” he asked, pronouncing the word phonetically. He handed the paper to Willow.
“Taliaferro,” she read, pronouncing it ‘Tolliver.’
“Why the hell’s it spelled that way?” Xander asked. “That’s stupid.”
“Okay,” Buffy said. “How old is she?”
Willow looked at the paper again. “Seventeen. She’s… a gymnast – presumably a very good one – and we don’t know why she’s in the hospital.”
“Great,” said Buffy. “Well, why don’t you guys wait here and I’ll go see if I can find out her room number.”
“Uh, Buff, no offense,” Xander said, “but it’s been well established you suck at undercover.”
“He’s right,” Willow agreed. “I mean, you’re worse than I am. And I’m really bad.”
“Come on,” Faith said hooking her arm through Xander’s, but being careful not to disturb the cast. He was still healing from that tussle in Neptune. “We’ll get it.”
“We will?” Xander asked, as he was dragged along behind Faith. “Apparently we will.”
The pair of them walked into the hospital and up to the information desk. Faith scanned the desk and saw two middle aged women behind it.
“Okay, you’re up,” she said.
Xander looked bewildered a little. “What? I’m what?”
“You’re up,” she said, shooing him towards the information desk. “Turn on the Harris charm.”
“That was your plan? We come in here and I charm the room number out of the nurses?”
“Sure, unless they were dudes,” Faith said. “Then I’d be up.”
Xander blinked at her. “Remind me never to have you plan a vacation.”
Faith looked up at him quizzically. “As if this whole thing isn’t just some kinda extended vacation?” she asked.
“Right,” he confirmed. “As if. All right, here I go.”
Xander walked nervously up to the information desk, eyeing the women behind it. He chose the woman with the kindest eyes and aimed for her. He stood in front of the desk for a moment before clearing his throat.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
Xander glanced down at the nametag on the woman’s scrubs. “Hi, Tammy. I’m visiting a friend of mine,” he told her, “and I’ve forgotten which room she’s in.”
“Name?” Tammy asked.
“Sandra Taliaferro,” he said, pronouncing the name as Willow had told him. “Only it’s spelled Tally-a-ferrow.”
Tammy punched a few keys on her keyboard, said ‘hmm’ a few times, punched a few more keys and frowned.
“Problems?” Xander asked, a nervous smile crossing his face.
“Only for your friend,” Tammy said. “Her doctor is Gregory House.”
“That’s bad?” Xander asked. “What, is he a drunk? Bad doctor?”
“He’s probably the best doctor at the hospital,” Tammy said, pulling out a map and circling both their current position and the position of Sandra’s room. “He’s just an incredible ass. Room 415. Have a nice day.”
Xander smiled, thanked her and took the map. Walking over to Faith, he studied the fastest way to get there.
“So?” Faith asked.
“Success,” he said. He turned the map around. “But if we’re currently in New Jersey, I think we have to go park in Spain to get to her room.”
Faith took the map and followed Xander back outside.
“So?” Buffy asked.
“Well, we found her,” Xander said. “And she’s about as far away from our current position as is possible while still being in the hospital.”
“Xander?” Faith said, looking at the map.
“Yeah?” he asked.
She hooked her thumb back over her shoulder towards the area they’d just exited. “She’s just up the elevator from the lobby. Fourth floor.”
“That’s impossible.” Xander took the map back and looked at it again. “No, see? She’s way over there.” He pointed over the building and into the distance.
“They print each floor separately, numb nuts,” Faith told him. “Because they don’t have holograms to do it 3D.”
Xander pondered the map again. “Oh,” he said. He squinted a little at the map, then at the fourth floor. He counted rooms and with his good arm pointed to one where a teenage girl was standing at the window, looking sad. Xander lowered his arm. “I think that’s her.”
“What’s her doctor’s name?” Willow asked.
“House,” Xander said. “Gregory House.”
“Okay. I wanna look him up before we go into this,” Willow said.
“Which means?” Faith asked.
“Getting into an empty room and accessing their network,” Willow told her. “Shouldn’t take more than ten minutes.”
* * * * *
“All the tests we’ve run show a perfectly healthy seventeen-year-old girl,” said Dr. Allison Cameron, an attractive young brunette who was seated at the clear glass table in House’s conference room. “I don’t understand why we’re keeping her here.”
“Because she’s too healthy,” Dr. Eric Foreman said. “Because compound fractures don’t heal perfectly in a week.” He pointed at House. “Because Sherlock Holmes over there loves nothing better than solving mysteries.”
“Not true,” House corrected with a wave of his cane. “I find Swedish massage to be quite delightful.”
“But we can all agree that what happened to this girl shouldn’t be possible, right?” asked Dr. Robert Chase, swiping some of his blond, Australian locks out of his face. “I mean, this isn’t something that anybody’s ever seen before, right?”
“Very good, Dr. Chase.” House patted him on the head like he was a puppy. “Glad you’re with us today.”
“What I mean is, as far as undocumented things go, this is right up there.”
The door swung open and Dr. Wilson, House’s best friend joined the fun. “Blood tests are back,” he said.”
“Wait,” said Dr. Foreman, “You’re picking up blood tests for us now?”
“He’s our new intern,” House said. “It’s always been his dream to work for me. That, or sleep with me, I’ve never been able to figure out which.”
Wilson rolled his eyes. “I had some labs of my own to pick up and I thought I’d save you a trip.” He tossed a folder on the table for all to see. “Tox screens negative, blood sugar, blood oxygen. White count’s a little elevated, but nothing out of the ordinary.”
“High enough to worry about cancer?” asked Cameron.
Wilson shook his head. “High, but high normal. I’d just say she has a very healthy immune system.”
“So what are we looking at?” Chase asked. “I mean, really. What can we find out from a perfectly healthy girl whose broken arm healed too quickly?”
House’s foot tapped rapidly against the leg of the table. “Okay. Do a cardiac stress test.”
“Why?” Foreman asked, looking confused. “Do we suddenly think she has heart problems?”
“Just a hunch,” House said.
* * * * *
“You’re from where?”
“Cleveland,” Xander said, sipping his horrible hospital coffee. “Or, well, California, originally, but now Cleveland. And occasionally England, I guess. We don’t really –”
“We’re from an all-girl’s school,” Willow cut in, shooting a look at Xander. “And we’re interested in offering you a scholarship.”
“Don’t you think this is a really odd place to approach someone about this?” Sandra asked. She was wearing the paper gown typical to all hospitals, and sitting up in her hospital bed.
“Well, it’s a very special school,” Buffy said, taking a sip of her own coffee and scowling at the taste.
“You guys know I’m not retarded, right?”
“Not special like that,” Willow said.
“Are you guys drug dealers?” Sandra asked. “Because I don’t use. And they test us for that kind of stuff.”
Faith stepped up. “Look, back a while ago, you got real strong and real fast, yeah?”
Sandra looked at her warily.
“Hey, nothin’ against it,” Faith said. She pointed between herself and Buffy. “We got the same deal, sorta. We’re just here to offer you the opportunity to learn more about what’s happened to you, what it means, how you can protect yourself.”
“Protect myself?” Sandra asked. “Are you sure you guys have the same thing? Because I’m pretty sure I could take any of you in a fight.”
“Uh, me, maybe,” Xander said. He looked around at the group of four girls, any of whom could kick his ass and thought, not for the first time, that he needed some male friends. “But the three of them… not so much.”
“And it’s not protection from regular people,” Buffy said. “It’s protection from other things. Scary things. Things that are strong, like you. Like us.”
“You said that only the two of you are like me –”
“Slayers,” Faith said. “We’re called Slayers.”
“Okay, good, scary,” Sandra said nodding. She pointed to Willow. “But one-eye over there said you could take him in a fight. What’s with that?”
Willow shrugged. “I’m a witch.”
“Missing some warts, aren’t you? And a long crooked nose?”
Xander, Buffy and Faith groaned.
Willow, looking offended, took a deep breath and prepared to launch into a rant about unfair and stereotypical depictions of witches throughout history and the media. Instead, a hand planted itself over her mouth.
“No,” Xander said, “that’s just an ugly stereotype, and certain people in the room would prefer that it be put to a quick and timely death.”
“Prove it,” Sandra said.
“That it’s an ugly stereotype?” Xander asked, removing his hand from Willow’s mouth. She glared at him.
“No. Prove that you are who you say you are.” She pointed at Faith and Buffy. “Prove you’re like me.” She pointed at Willow. “Prove you’re a witch.”
Xander sighed and sat in one of the chairs. In succession, Buffy picked the chair up one-handed, tossed it to Faith. She caught it nimbly and placed it back down.
“That came really close to the ceiling,” Xander complained as his chair levitated and floated back to its original position. He looked pleadingly at Sandra. “Please tell me that was enough. Because Will can turn me into a ball that’s just as heavy as I am, and they’ll juggle…”
“Excuse me.” They turned and saw Dr. Chase standing in the door of the room. “May I ask who you are?”
“Oh,” Xander said, “we’re –”
“Friends of mine,” Sandra said. “I got bored and they came to cheer me up.”
“Oh, okay,” Chase said, eyeing Xander warily.
“It’s the eye patch, isn’t it?” Xander asked. “Always gets people. I lost it in a construction accident, haven’t felt like getting fitted for a glass eye.”
“And the arm?” Chase asked.
“Fight,” Xander said, shrugging.
Faith sidled up next to him, wrapped her arm around his waist and leaned her head into his chest. “Couple of guys jumped me,” she said, looking up at him with love and amazement in her eyes. “He saved me.”
Chase smiled and nodded. “Unfortunately, we have to take Sandra here off for some tests, so you guys’ll have to come back later.”
“Sure,” Buffy said, smiling at him. Chase smiled back and allowed them to pass out of the room.
“So what am I doing?” Sandra asked.
“Stress test,” Chase said. “Just wanna see how your heart’s working.”
Sandra nodded and stood up. She glanced at her backside, visible through the, well, gaping hole in the back of the paper gown. “Can I get some better clothes?”
End Chapter 1