Categories > TV > House > Pathology

Chapter 8

by MelantheVida 0 reviews

House wrestles with the diagnosis further, but comes up with little of worth except one ominous fact. Meanwhile, the hospital is put under quarantine and Wilson begins to grow sicker...

Category: House - Rating: R - Genres: Angst, Crossover, Drama - Characters: Allison Cameron, Eric Foreman, Gregory House, James Wilson, Lisa Cuddy, Robert Chase - Warnings: [!] - Published: 2007-02-05 - Updated: 2007-02-06 - 5442 words

It was odd that a place like the hospital could seem even colder and more depressing, but apparently, it wasn't impossible. Nothing like a rampaging virus to put a damper on things.

"They've quarantined the hospital." Cameron's voice was already floating into House's office before she entered there herself. She tossed a stack of files on the already cluttered desk. The corner of it knocked over a half-empty box of Tic-Tacs that was no doubt left there by Chase. "State department is restricting all travel in and out of Princeton-Plainsboro until they can pinpoint the source of the infection." She leaned down and snatched up the fallen Tic-Tac box irritably.

"Not surprised." The words were spoken neutrally. Foreman appeared to be the least dejected out of all of them. "Would hate to be just a visitor."

"I'm hoping it won't last too long," said Chase. He had one leg drawn up on the seat of his chair and was bouncing the eraser end of a pencil against his knee.

Cameron found an empty chair in the cramped office and sat down. "They say it usually takes a day or two, but it may extend up to a week depending on the type of disease."

"Which means they don't know." A new voice. House immediately made for his seat behind the desk, twirling the cane thoughtfully in his hand as he walked. "The government boys are as clueless about this as we are." He plunked down in his chair.

Chase stopped bouncing his pencil. "Or more."

Foreman glanced up without lifting his head. "You really can't get much more clueless than we are right now." At least, he hoped you couldn't. If you were at rock bottom, then you could only go up, right?


Or you could merely stay where you were for good.

"What've they been saying about the symptoms?" Cameron didn't specify who she meant by "they." It didn't matter. "They" referred to anybody who, when they said something, it was deemed as "official."

"Not much," Foreman said. "They're saying it's like the flu, but more dangerous. Which is the same conclusion everyone else has essentially come up with by now."

"And not much else," Chase added, not quite so helpfully.

"Which is the same conclusion everyone else has also essentially come up with by now." For the first time, Foreman sounded less dispassionate and more snappish.

"Trust the CDC to feed us the obvious." There was a brief pause before House stood abruptly as something suddenly occurred to him. "Which room in the morgue did they move his body to?"

Foreman was already shaking his head. "Not a good idea, I'd say, considering how contagious this thing seems to be."

House didn't physically wave off the warning, but one could almost see him doing so. "If it's as contagious as the flu, then we're all exposed now. Doesn't matter if I touch the guy or cut him up like a watermelon, once the virus is in the air, the infection's going to spread all the same."

Chase frowned. That was a pleasant thought. "Not everyone's going to see it that way," he said. "I'm betting people are already starting to point fingers at our hospital and saying it's all our fault."

"We can't do it anyway," Cameron broke in. Heads swiveled in her direction.

"CDC took Michael's body an hour ago," she said. "It's under containment until they can transport it down to Atlanta."

Wait a minute. House rounded on her. "Why didn't you tell me this earlier?"

"Because Cuddy told us not to mention it earlier." She stepped forward defiantly. "You can't autopsy him, House. It would...endanger the whole hospital, risk exposing everyone to an even more virulent strain of the virus, or body fluids that might-"

House matched her step, his cane slamming hard against the tiled floor. "We're already exposed!" He threw his hands towards the door. "Anyone who's worked here, treated here, walked inside these doors-they're all going to die because you chose protocol over actually diagnosing this disease." The word protocol was nearly spat out.

Foreman was the first to break the long silence that followed. "Why am I getting a sense of deja vu here?"

"Well..." Chase hesitated. "At least one of us isn't sick this time." There was a thoughtful pause. "Why is that? Shouldn't we have been the first ones to come down with this?"

"Don't jinx it," Foreman said. "The isolation room really isn't that fun."

"And the hospital food downright sucks." House paced to his desk, then back again, restless. "This disease moves fast, but only after actual onset occurs. Before the triggering blackout, regular flu symptoms can linger for days, weeks, possibly months without progressing into full blown respiratory form." By now, he was at the window. The grey, drizzly weather outside was fitting for the mood he was in. When he spoke next, it was almost as a thought to himself.

"Which means a lot of people out there who are sick probably don't have a clue they're carrying the disease."

Damn it.

House spun on his heel and was out the door before anyone could interject another word.

"Wait!" Foreman had to break into a jog to catch up with the other doctor. For someone with a lame leg, House moved surprisingly fast. "Where're you getting all this information from? This has to have something to do with your twenty-four hour disappearance." He stopped following as it became clear House wasn't going to give him a direct answer.

He did, however, give a sarcastic wink. "Make it twenty-three, and then you can call CTU."


"Great view you've got here."

House leaned back against the quarantine room wall, cane gripped loosely in one hand, as he tapped a sporadic rhythm against the thick glass. He caught Wilson's glance from the corner of his eye. The other man had been sitting, one leg crossed, upon the hospital bed, gaze roving blankly over the several patients who had also been confined here with the same, flu-like symptoms. None of them looked particularly happy.

"Glass walls, picture windows, TV monitor up in the top right-hand corner," House continued on, "Cuddy could make a fortune renting this place out to hospital donors." He gestured at the room for emphasis.

Wilson rolled his eyes slightly and got up off the bed. "It is a rather gorgeous view. You don't get fluorescent lights like that anywhere. They really just illuminate the tiles brilliantly," he remarked, stopping in front of the speaker panel where House was situated calmly. "Of course, all of that is overridden by the fact that I am in a quarantine room, confined to a bed, without the faintest clue why there is a biosafety sign hanging right outside my window."

"Hey, the landscape can only get better with me here, right?"

"With you, there is no more landscape. Your ego consumes it all." He gave House a meaningful look as he got down to the point. "You know, I'm fine. The only reason I'm still running a fever is because you stuffed me with Interferon."

"Which, coincidentally, also explains your sudden collapse right before they brought you here." House gasped, pretending to come about a revelation. "Oh wait, in this universe, effect actually follows cause."

His friend only sighed and shook his head. "You realize that if I'm not really sick, putting me in a room with people who are may not be the best of ideas?"

"Or - just thinking outside the box here - you could really be sick, and putting you in a hospital room would let us treat the illness properly without resorting to you popping aspirin all day," the other man replied, completely ignoring the irony laden in his ending statement. As if for added emphasis, he dug out the Vicodin bottle from his suit pocket and swallowed a pill.

"House, I have never seen you take an interest in a case of the sniffles."

House cocked his head. "Really? Then what was that blackout thirty minutes ago?"

"It was..." Wilson faltered, hand waving to one side as he searched for an answer. "A very long lasting hangover." Or something vaguely of the sort. The excuse sounded even more pathetic with the look House was giving him.

"Yeah...uh...if the bartender drugged you with GHB," his friend quipped, eyes squinting sarcastically.

Wilson looked mildly disturbed at the thought. "Somehow, that seems more like something you would do," he replied.

House snapped his fingers. "Damn. Should've switched the glasses," he cursed in mock disappointment, lips pursing together into a U. "Don't worry though, I've still got plenty of pictures." Smirking, he gestured with his cane.

"As long as they're not accessible through Google," Wilson muttered dryly.

The other man's smirk grew wider. "Why put them up for free if I can make a profit on eBay?" He squinted into the air, head poised as if reading off some invisible business proposal. "'s...entertainment. I sense a check in the upcoming weeks."

Wilson raised a none-too-curious eyebrow. "I'd ask if I'll be getting any money from this, but I think I'd best not even touch that."

House paused, eyes narrowing suggestively.

"...I'll touch it for you."

There was a long silence as Wilson struggled not to read into that.

"I'm...almost positive you came here for a medical reason," he remarked, if only to steer the conversation away from dangerous waters. Or rather, towards them, seeing as how he still didn't know why he had been brought here, or who the other patients in the room were, or what exactly they thought he might have that could warrant a biosafety threat. The last one was perhaps the most worrying. Wilson rubbed uneasily at the back of his neck, fingers tugging at the hospital gown's flimsy material as he gazed levelly his friend.

House seemed to acknowledge the seriousness in his tone. "I've ordered a CBC and a viral load check, as well as an ELISA for your antigen levels." He paused a fraction of a second before adding, "Cuddy put me as your presiding."

Wilson stopped at his boss's name. Cuddy. Cuddy had authorized this. Which meant she had contacted the CDC as well. Locked a group of unrelated people in a quarantine room without a word of notice and assigned House as his presiding doctor - a diagnostician, not an immunologist, not a neurologist, not a government specialist - a friend of his. Theirs. A veritable taboo.

His eyes drifted up slowly to lock with House's.

"She knew I'd steal any other doctor's notes otherwise."

Wilson studied his friend hard, as if considering the weight of that remark. His response was simple and curt. "Let me know when the results come back." Turning, he made as though to return to his place at his bed, beside the metal hospital cart, before pausing abruptly and asking, "Speaking of Cuddy, has she just lost another twenty million in addition to the hundred from last time?"

"Nope," House answered glibly, getting up from his position by the wall. "Cuddy owes me twenty million and a lifetime of free clinic hours."

"She does." Wilson looked skeptical. "Well, I suppose that makes sense. You did return extremely fast, so either you made a huge impression within just a couple of hours, or you blew it within seconds."

His friend cracked out the old, sardonic smile. "Hey, what's not to impress? I've got the cane, the charm, the fuzzy teddy bear smile..." That last one no doubt referring to his whiskered face. "Mr. Raymond was lost before I even got there." Smirking, House turned the conversation deftly around to focus on Wilson's competitive edge. "At this rate, you're gonna have a challenger for donations next year."

Wilson, however, did not look particularly impressed. "Right. Did you try and slip GHB in his drink, too? Or maybe you've changed." His eyes narrowed, suspicion coloring their depths in shrewd appraisal. There was something far too deceitful about House's offhandedness. "It seems you have, because the other you would've been gloating about securing the hospital a hefty check to anyone and everyone all day yesterday, epidemic or no."

House shrugged. "Who says I haven't?"

Wilson poked a finger accusingly in the other's direction. "See? That's you being evasive by pretending to act casual." He stopped in front of the panel, one hand pressed to the glass, and fixed his friend with a long, hard gaze. Simplicity was the reason House always gave for keeping things from his patients. Simplicity and distrust. His own cynicism for anything that came out of a person's mouth, which wasn't backed by solid facts a computer or test might verify. And yet...

Wilson could see neither in his friend's eyes at the moment. Instead, a flicker - of anger? doubt? - crossed their shadows, and nothing more.

"What were you doing in Florida?" he asked quietly.

House faked a page.

"Oops, looks like those tests are back. Gotta run," he said, sounding falsely bright. His cane clicking against the floor tiles as he exited rapidly toward the hallway.

"Hey - Okay, that's definitely a lie, it's been five minutes." Wilson threw up his hands in exasperation. It was like prying a bone from a bulldog, trying to get information from House. "Tell me what happened!" he called after the other's retreating form.

The response came echoing back faintly from down the corridor.

"Sweden says they're awarding me the Nobel Prize."


A rap of the cane was the only warning that the fellows got before House swept into the conference room and proceeded to attack the whiteboard with a vengeance.

"We have three patient case studies." He divided the surface into several columns, scrawling a capital M above the first. "Patient M presented with blackout and fever, persistent cough, progressed quickly to respiratory arrest from what we believe to be blastomycocal involvement." Symptoms appeared on the chart almost as fast as he ticked them off aloud. "The fungus was treated, the patient discharged, then twenty-four hours later re-admitted with severe lung infiltrates, facial swelling, spike in temperature, which ultimately led to a second respiratory arrest and death."

House barely stopped for a moment before moving on to the second column of the differential chart. "Patient N began with late stage respiratory distress, delirium, swelling, rapidly deteriorating into hemoptysis and multiple organ failure. He died of cardiac arrest fourteen hours ago. Patient - " There was a split second's pause, followed by a subtle shift in the direction the marker was moving, the beginning stroke of a W changed to that of another letter. Only Foreman noticed. " - J presented with mild fever, dizziness, and sudden onset blackout identical to that of patient M. Currently holding stable at 99.4 oC on six MIU of Interferon." He turned to face his staffers.

"All three of these cases originated from the same viral strain." House capped the end of the pen and tapped it restlessly against the palm of his hand. "How do we treat it?"

"Wait a minute, where did Patient J come from?" Chase blinked at the last column of the chart. He was pretty sure none of the case files they'd been poring through had a J in their first name.

House shrugged it off dismissively. "Guy from the clinic. Cuddy sent him to the quarantine room a few hours ago."

Realization slowly dawned on Foreman as to the patient's true identity. He shot a quick glance at his colleagues, but got no confirmation. "If it's viral, we can use Interferon - though so far, it doesn't seem to be working all that well in the patients we're treating."

"Then we need another treatment. Something that's specific to this strain of influenza A."

"Oseltamivir," Cameron suggested tentatively. "It's...shown a lot of promise in fighting influenza."

"Something this strong, it's got to be more than just simple influenza, or even a resistant strain of influenza," Foreman said.

Chase frowned to himself. "You mean like a mutation?"

"It's certainly happened before."

"But if it's based on influenza A, oseltamivir might still be effective," Cameron argued.

House scribbled the treatment down on the whiteboard. "Administer seventy milligrams of oseltamivir with five hundred milligrams of probenecid, and see where that takes us. More options, people."

"Ribavirin, to go more broad-spectrum."

"What about preventative?" Chase asked, eyebrows knitting together. "We're losing staff quickly, if we use mantadine or rimantadine - "

"Measured resistance is over ninety percent for the H3N2 strain," Cameron cut him off.

"But we don't know if this is H3N2," House pointed out. "And until the CDC boys decide to share their lab results with us, we're in the dark for exact H-N targets. However..." His eyes narrowed thoughtfully as he stared at the symptoms on the whiteboard, one hand slowly unhooking his cane. "...we can approximate the viral epidemiology using known strains that have caused pandemics in the past."

"Well, all influenza A strains tend to cause pandemics."

"Spanish flu came from the H1N1 strain." Cameron recalled all the medical history she'd spent weeks studying as part of her thesis. "This might be similar, cause of death primarily due to a cytokine storm. Too many immune cells activated."

House nodded at the suggestion. "Give ACE inhibitors to patients suffering from third stage ARDS, and tell Cuddy to make some calls for the OX40-IG experimental treatment. If it's a cytokine reaction, then the immunoglobin should reduce T-cell response."

"Antisense is known to be effective in preventing the hemorrhaging of least in monkeys. It's still in test phases, but we might be able to stop internal bleeding that way." Crossing his arms, Foreman split his attention between the whiteboard and his boss's strained expression. If this had extended to the clinic, and the clinic had started infecting the doctors in so short a time...then the virus was even more malignant than they'd originally thought it to be. No wonder the health department was keeping such a tight lid on things. Of course, this brought up the question of exactly how House knew all these little details without having been in the same state for the last two days.

Chase pointed out their main dilemma. "We also have a bit of a problem telling who has this, and who just has the regular flu during the initial stages. There isn't enough room to put everyone on a bed, and we don't have enough nurses to attend to them either."

"The difference," House began, voice falling into lecturer mode, "between a coral snake and a milk snake is that the coral will bite when cornered." Pausing, he waited for one of his subordinates to recognize the metaphor in their current situation. He waited for several long moments. "The milk snake, on the other hand, only has its bluff to protect it from those big, frightening predators trampling all over its territory. Once that bluff is called," he continued, "it's got to turn tail and run before all the other predators realize that its bite isn't quite as poisonous as its red-white-and-yellow striped bark makes it out to be." House wound up triumphantly to deliver the key link in his comparison. "Give the ambiguous cases a hard dose of general flu medicine, and see what the response is. If it folds, we'll know it's just the regular stuff. If it bites..." He trailed off, cane twirling in one hand. "Well then, we'll see just how far this superflu reaction will go."

"That's far too subjective." Cameron was the first to protest. "Our resources are already stretched thin as it is, we can't waste them to determine who's really sick and who's not."

"Well, the only other option we have is to throw all of them into treatment, which essentially uses up our resources the same way, only it takes longer," her blond-haired colleague rationalized in response. For once, Foreman was uncharacteristically quiet.

They all looked in silence at their boss.

"Zanamivir, M2 inhibitors, antivirals." The words echoed hollowly without his usual conviction. "Whatever's worked against influenza in the past, give it to the patients."

"So we're just going to stuff them full of medicine and cross our fingers?" Foreman raised a skeptical eyebrow.

"You've got a better idea?" House snapped, more than simply his usual irritation showing through. "Because I'm just dying to hear your cure." He stopped, hearing the tension crackle in his own voice, and realized that he was yelling. Quite loudly, in fact, given the look of the people out in the hallway. One hand went up to rub at the bristles on the side of his face. "Anyone who's not immune has contracted this, and anyone who's contracted this has progressed through every one of these symptoms until death." Turning slowly, his gaze swept once more over the columns of the whiteboard chart, settling inevitably on its last line.

"The mortality rate is a hundred percent." House's eyes belied a tremor. "No one's recovered."


The knocking of a cane on glass drew Wilson out of his musings by the hospital monitor, where he had been observing the tiled pattern of the floor from his vantage point on top of his bed. They'd brought two more patients in since this morning, an elderly man with a severe cough and a young woman with breast cancer, who had collapsed shortly before her chemo session. She'd woken up here, alone, confused, grasping for answers from the various other people in the quarantine. Wilson had none to give her. He had none to give anyone, whatever the worth of his position at the hospital was.

Occasionally, a nurse would come by to check (from outside the window) on their comfort - as if the size of the pillows was the least of their worries - but aside from the initial visit by the state health officials who brought House's patient family and friends in, all still in shock at Michael's death, there had been no word from the outside world. An ominous sense of detachment surrounded them, much as the quarantine room cut them off from the muted chaos above.

Wilson looked up at another rap of the cane, and made his way reluctantly over to the far window. Something was stuck on the glass right beneath his nose. A sticky note. His sticky note. On the back of which was scrawled a brief, barely legible message in the all-too-familiar handwriting of his lunch thief colleague.

Commandeered by Gregory House

Wilson glanced up, annoyed. "I wasn't informed that my lunch had become a British warship."

"Actually..." Peeling back the container's plastic top, House gestured at himself with his fork. "...I'm the British warship. You're the unfortunate merchant vessel that got caught up in a conflict with France."

"I see." Wilson looked anything but impressed by the abrupt history lesson. "And this makes taking advantage of the ill better?"

House shrugged and began digging into the food. "Only if Napoleon could cook." He took a large bite, eyes turning upward to the ceiling. "Chicken, rice, and...peppers, am I right? Thursday is for Southern cuisine." Swallowing, he let his eyelids flutter for a moment, deliberately savoring the meal's taste in front of his companion. A sideways glance confirmed his intended effect on the other man.

Wilson sighed and gazed forlornly at the food - his food - being devoured quite rapidly in front of him. He had made that just this morning, in House's dusty little kitchen, wondering where his friend might have gone off to so abruptly without leaving so much as a word. Not that House was particularly prone to allaying fears with a well-placed note or message, but usually, Wilson could tell when his eccentric companion had come up with some crazy idea that required mysterious disappearances in the middle of the night. Instead, this time, he was left pondering the whereabouts of his pasta strainer at 2 AM on the living room couch, while the clock ticked off the seconds until his partner's return. His home life hadn't changed, merely reversed.

"If you ever end up in the hospital again, I'm getting dishes specially made for you."

"Oh, but that would take away the joy of swiping them from the oncology lounge, right under your nose," House responded cheerfully.

Wilson just shook his head. "Is there nothing that will prevent you from satisfying your wants first?"

House licked his fork thoughtfully as he gave this question some serious consideration. "Well, I'd be willing to trade food for some porn," he began slowly, weighing his bargaining chips. "The good stuff, not L Word re-runs."

"Trading one appetite for another," Wilson remarked dryly.

House crooked his lips in a smirk. "That's how man progressed."

"It's also how both my lunches and my DVD collection progressed from numerous to very few." Taking a step forward, Wilson gave the other man a sharp, pointed look. "If I pretend to be a dying man, would you grant me my one wish of getting something other than hospital food?"

House slowed his chewing at those words, a flicker of disquiet coloring his eyes before he abruptly shoved the fork into the food and slid it through the glass panel between them. He cast a sideways glance to ensure the nurse by the station wasn't looking.

"Your generosity truly astounds me." Wilson took his lunch from the panel and started munching on his food, studying his colleague from beneath narrowed eyes. House had something else on his mind other than the usual thieving torment. Sickbed visits were almost always an excuse to mask some larger purpose, one he rarely ever informed his patients of, and which only revealed themselves in the midst of a dire confrontation. Besides which, House gave in far too easily to the lunch request - any other time, he would've actually made Wilson feign the pleading dying man (a free show) before agreeing to some sort of semi-trade-off. Then again, this wasn't exactly "any other time."

Waving his fork in front of him, Wilson asked after swallowing a bite, "What's the status out there?"

"Busy, as always. Cuddy's taking full advantage of your incarceration to make the rest of us cover extra clinic hours."

"That's one upside." Wilson chewed thoughtfully. "Clinic hours increasing or steady?"

House twisted his face into one of mock concentration. "Based on the number of times floppy hair has been in to touch up his shine, I'd have to say about the same as always when she's on PMS. You really should've swiped her Red Clover when you had the chance," he added.

The image of House's Australian fellow carefully combing back his locks in the middle of the clinic (especially with nurse Brenda around) drew a smile from Wilson, who took another bite of chicken and asked, half-jokingly, "So nobody died yet, huh?"

He didn't expect a straight answer, and got none.

"Died? No. Wished someone would put them out of their misery? Probably." House tilted his head in sarcastic candor. "If your teary-eyed nurse crew doesn't stop sobbing for Dr. Wilson within the next hour, I think I'll be joining you in there."

His friend chuckled wryly. "Now that will definitely kill a few people." Wilson's eyes flicked over the quarantine room, counting off patients in his head. A few had been added since House's last visit. "Six to be exact." Pausing, he reconsidered. "Maybe just five."

House raised an eyebrow in question. "What, Jimmy doesn't count?"

"Being your roommate for a good amount of time, I'd say my tolerance of you is significantly higher." Wilson shoved his fork in the other's direction. "I'll definitely outlive them all."

His words were followed by a sharp cough, several coughs, deep, wet heaves that convulsed painfully through the center of his chest and up his throat. The plastic lunch container clattered to the floor as he doubled over, hand fumbling for the IV stand to steady his balance.

Productive cough...sudden onset? House wondered, unable to switch off his mental diagnostic process even now.

Several moments passed before the spasms subsided and Wilson was able to pull himself upright once more against the wall, breath slowly increasing from short gulps. Wetness flecked the edge of his lips. Copper filled his mouth. He knew what he would see even before his fingers came back, red with blood.

The window reflected back the visage of foreboding as Wilson's eyes met House's through the glass.


Tests. Tests, tests, tests. House was fairly certain tests were supposed to give the tester some useful answers, but the lab boys were determined to prove him wrong.

He had nothing. Nothing useful, anyway. Nothing that could do anything. The serology report revealed little of note this early in the infection, and even taken in conjunction with Michael's blood work (he regretted not swiping Nikolai's when he had the chance), provided few definitive diagnostic avenues. True, there was an antibody that was starting to surface, a new one, but its implications were still murky to say the least...

The ringing of the phone made him jump. House hesitated. Who would be calling him on his office phone at this hour? He was usually reached by his cell phone or pager. Or someone bursting into his office, waving some sort of nonexistent emergency in his face.

Dropping the files onto his desk, he reached over far enough to hit the speakerphone button, too lazy to bother having to hold the actual phone. His docked iPod was nearly knocked over in the process.


"House. It's Fletcher Stone. Get us off speaker."

Fletcher. House immediately sat up in his seat, interested already. If Fletcher was calling, he had to have something new on the superflu. The military base they pinpointed - a lead on the infection statistics, perhaps? Prior outbreaks they could glean some treatments from? At this point, House was willing to take almost any information he could get his hands on.

He did as Fletcher asked, picking up the receiver. "Go on."

"I don't have a lot of time, so don't interrupt." House could almost hear Fletcher shift the phone to his other hand. "Everyone's comparing this to the Spanish flu of 1918, spontaneous epidemic out of nowhere. Deadly, but born of a natural mutation. It's not."

"Wait, what're you saying?" House asked, completely forgetting Fletcher's warning about not interrupting. "This virus is manmade?"

"Listen. Yes. Yes, it's - " Fletcher broke off suddenly. The mouthpiece was muffled, but House could still hear the words on the other end, and some loud thumping. "Ma'am, could you'am, could you not - Lady! Get your own damned payphone!"

House lifted an eyebrow at nobody. Just how bad was it down in Florida? He started listening again as Fletcher continued on, almost as though he had never been interrupted.

"I don't know who released it, but this thing is not a natural mutation."

"Where did you find all this?"

"It doesn't matter. The point is that I can prove it. The CDC - "

"The CDC is involved?" House wasn't sure why he was surprised, given the amount of times he'd remarked (sarcastically though it was) that the CDC had to have their hands in a conspiracy like this, but now that it was actually the truth...the prospect was a little hard to believe.

"I don't know. Probably. Maybe not all of them, but some of them." Fletcher was speaking fast, but not so fast that it was difficult to distinguish his words. He'd evidently had practice before. "They have something, there, documents. I haven't seen them for myself but my source says they're there. Only problem is - "

The connection cut off abruptly.

"Fletcher? Hello?" House pulled the phone away from his ear and blinked at it. Damn.

He hung up. What had that been about? Was what Fletcher said really the truth? House rarely took other people's statements - especially outlandish ones like this - at face value, preferring to figure things out for himself, but...given the current circumstances...that didn't seem quite feasible.

Documents. What documents?

He reached for the large ball on his desk and started tossing it from one hand to the other. The antibody test results from Wilson were left at the back of his mind, now that he was faced with this new onslaught of information. Information that he had no idea what to do with. It couldn't help him find a treatment. It couldn't help him find a way to slow the virus down even a little bit. It couldn't even help him identify who would live and who would die.

But then. Neither had anything else.
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