Poison 2/3

Poison
Written May 2006
Rated PG-13
Synopsis: When Cuddy collapses during a meeting with donors, House must figure out what happened — and who tried to kill her.
Spoilers: “Who’s Your Daddy?”

Disclaimer: The characters within are property of Heel & Toe, Shore Z. Productions, Bad Hat Harry Productions, and other corporations. No infringement is intended.


“Thank God you got my message. Why do you even bother screening your calls?” Wilson looked at the items in House’s hands — a green plastic bucket and a small bottle — and frowned. “And what you doing with syrup of ipecac? Is that for Cuddy?”

“No, me. I need to lose some weight. My ass is huge.”

“I don’t think I need to detail the dangers of bulimia.”

“Nitroglycerin poisoning, Jimmy,” he said, heading toward Cuddy’s room.

“With her stress level, I’m not surprised she’s hypertensive–”

“She’s not.”

He frowned. “Then why is she taking nitroglycerin?”

“That is the million dollar question.”

“Wh–”

“Do me a favor. Go to Cuddy’s office, find the cup she drank out of. It’ll be the one with the lipstick imprint. Or one of the ones with a lipstick imprint,” he said, shuddering at the thought of Ed Harper. “If you can’t find the cup, rip up the carpet. See if you can get a sample of the liquid and test it.”

“Test it for what? You think one of the donors spiked her drink?” Wilson’s grin quickly disappeared when he realized House wasn’t in on the joke. “Oh, come on. Spiked her drink with nitroglycerin. While most people know that you can O.D. on any drug, they’d be more likely to use rat poison or bleach to kill someone.”

House regarded him curiously. “So someone more like a doctor would use a real drug to poison someone.”

“Yeah, probably.”

“Or someone who has high blood pressure might crush up a few of their own pills to give to their arch nemesis.”

“Maybe. But the real question should be, why would anyone want to kill Cuddy?”

“I can think of a few reasons.”

“This coming from the man who agreed to make her medical decisions while she was incapable. How’d you get that job anyway? I thought you two were still–” He made a strangling motion with his hands. “You know.”

“If I was going to kill her, she’d be dead. Moreover, no one would know how she died. Only amateurs try to kill someone and fail. Like those three hospital donors.” He swung the bucket at Wilson, hitting him in the chest. “Go to her office, test her drink. Test some scotch from the actual bottle as a control. Since the others didn’t keel over, I think we can assume it wasn’t packaged that way.”

“If one of the donors really did try to kill her, I can’t just take the scotch from her office. That would be tampering with evidence.”

“Let me make it easy on you. Who would you rather be reprimanded by — the Princeton Police or Cuddy?”

Wilson glared at him. “If I get arrested, I’m ratting you out.”

“Cool, maybe I can get my prison tats re-inked.”

Confident that Wilson would do his bidding, he continued toward Cuddy’s hospital room and was intercepted by Cameron, Foreman, and Chase.

“We just checked on Cuddy,” Foreman said. “She’s resting. Vitals are greatly improved. Cameron got her out of the MAST trousers and took her off the oxygen mask. The EKG was normal, so it looks like it was the nitroglycerin.”

“Did you talk to the donors?” Chase asked.

“Did you call the police like I said?”

“Yeah, they’re on their way.”

“You really think someone tried to kill her?” Cameron asked. “Isn’t it more likely that she really does have hypertension and took her medication as prescribed, but it interacted with the scotch and made her blood pressure fall?”

“A — she’s not hypertensive. B — unless she was trying to kill herself, her blood pressure shouldn’t have fallen that much, with or without alcohol. And C–” He paused. “I can’t think of C, but it doesn’t matter because you’re wrong.”

“What about the gonadotropins I found in her blood?” she asked, chin held high.

Both Foreman and Chase stared at her then look back at House. “Fertility meds?” Foreman asked.

“Last I checked, the side effects did not include cyanosis or shock. The shock happens after they work and you realize you’ve committed yourself to a lifetime of agony.” He shuddered. “It’s Friday night, don’t you people have dates or blow up dolls or something? Go home.”

“Go home?” Chase looked at him suspiciously. “You mean, you don’t need us?”

“For what? You just said she’s fine.”

“She needs to be given activated charcoal to get the drug out of her system,” Cameron said.

House held up the bucket and bottle of ipecac and shook them. “Just call me the Candy Man.”

“Yeah, I’m definitely out of here,” Foreman said.

Chase laughed uncomfortably. “You’re going to sit there while she pukes her guts out?”

“The highlight of my day. Now I can finally prove that Cuddy munches on Payday bars that she keeps hidden in her desk drawer. You ever seen regurgitated peanuts?” Chase stepped back by Foreman, hand pressed to his mouth. House turned to Cameron. “Cameron? You want in? There’s only one pair of safety goggles though, and I’ve got first dibs.” She didn’t seem interested either, and he rolled his eyes. “Go home. All of you. If I come out and one of you is still here, you get to clean the vomit off my shoes.”

They walked away from Cuddy’s room, Cameron lingering slightly behind. No one spoke until they entered the elevator and Chase finally let out the breath he had been holding. “Whoa. Cuddy wants to have a baby? Didn’t see that one coming.”

“Why not?” Foreman asked.

“Well, she just, she doesn’t seem that … motherly.”

He chuckled. “You’re just scared of her.”

“Am not, I–”

“How did House know she was taking the gonadotropins?” Cameron’s question silenced their banter, and Foreman sighed.

“Here we go again.”

“He probably dug around in her trash,” Chase answered. “He seems to make a habit of that.” He looked back at Foreman. “I’m not scared of her.”

“Yeah, right.”

“So you think she’d be a good mother?”

“I think anyone who can put House in his place would be a good mother.”

“Well, sure, if you like totalitarianism.”

The elevator doors opened to the lobby, and Chase and Foreman stepped out while Cameron remained inside. They stopped to wait for her, but she didn’t follow. “Uh, I forgot my jacket.” She pressed a button, and the doors slid closed again.

***

House waited until his staff had disappeared before he ventured into Cuddy’s room. Eyes closed, breathing even, she appeared to be sleeping. Her hair was free of its usual pins and clips, and it splayed wildly on the pillow beneath her head. If she’d been a blonde, she might have looked angelic, but the dark brown curls didn’t have the same effect. He quietly closed all of the blinds to her room. Then he picked up her chart and skimmed over the records of the past few hours. It was lucky that she was still alive, a testament to the staff she had selected for her hospital.

“It’s about time you got here.”

He looked up. Cuddy was watching him through half-closed eyes, a small smile on her face. He returned the gaze, and a surprising sense of calm flooded his body. “How are you feeling?”

“Like hell.”

“Then call me Satan because it’s about to get worse. Sit up.” She did, and he showed her the bottle of ipecac.

“Fantastic.”

He placed the bucket on her lap then prepared two tablespoons of the syrup in a small cup. “Figured you’d like the bucket better than a bedpan. It’s larger, which means less mess and more volume.”

She noticed the PPTH logo on the side. “Did you steal this from the maintenance closet?”

He shrugged. “It’s pine scented.”

“How very thoughtful.” She downed the syrup with a groan.

“Now for the chaser.” He handed her a glass of water which she drank without complaints. “Good girl.”

She rolled her eyes. “So you haven’t told me why you’re subjecting me to emetic torture — and there had better be a medical reason and not just some perverse pleasure on your part.”

“Why, Cuddy, I’m insulted that you would even think I would enjoy watching you upchuck your last eighteen meals.”

“Good thing my stomach has digested most of them.”

“That’s what you think.”

“What were my symptoms?”

“No one told you?”

“I just woke up a little bit ago. Cameron was taking MAST trousers off of me, so I’m thinking shock. Brought on by what?”

He leaned on his cane. “Hypotension. We gave you atropine to reverse the vasodilation, treated you for the shock, and you pulled through. But you know what they say — only the good die young.”

“Then you should be around forever.” She swung her legs over the side of the bed, facing him, and repositioned the bucket between her knees. “So if you’re inducing vomiting, does that mean poison?”

He nodded. “Nitroglycerin.”

“I didn’t take any. I’m not hypertensive.”

“That’s what I keep telling them.”

“So what’s your theory?”

He pulled up a chair and sat across from her. His eyes dropped to her legs and feet. Her toenails were neatly pedicured and polished red.

“Stop checking me out.”

“I’m not.”

“You’re staring at my legs like you’ve never seen them before.”

“Not your legs. Your feet.”

“What’s wrong with them?” she asked with concern, instinctively crossing one ankle over the other. “Are they blue? Cyanosis often presents with hypotension, and–”

“No, no.”

“Then what?”

“Nothing. They’re … quite nice. Uh, medically speaking.” He turned his attention back to her face, ignoring the pink tinge of her cheeks. “How well do you know the three donors?”

“Not well. ¬†I know who they are, I’d recognize them in the grocery store. I don’t spend any time with them, if that’s what you mean. Why?”

“I think one of them poisoned you.”

“Okay.”

He quirked an eyebrow. “Okay? You don’t think there’s something wrong with that statement?”

“Well, there’s lots of things wrong with it. But medically, it’s a viable assessment. I’m not on any anti-hypertensives, nothing I take has nitroglycerin in it, and I was feeling perfectly fine until I passed out. Nitroglycerin reacts instantly, even worse with the alcohol.”

He paused then lowered his voice. “You know, you probably shouldn’t be drinking if you’re trying to get pregnant.”

She covered her face with both hands, and House had to catch the bucket before it fell to the floor. “Oh, dammit. The fertility drugs showed up on my blood panel, didn’t they?”

“Yes.”

“So they know?”

“Just Cameron, Foreman, and Chase.”

She shook her head sadly. “And anyone else who views the results in search of blackmail material.”

“Well, it’s not like they wouldn’t figure it out after a few months anyway.”

“That’s assuming I ever find a suitable donor. As you’ve pointed out, donors are trying to kill me.”

He was momentarily speechless. “I was under the impression those guys were hospital donors, not sperm donors.”

“They were, unless the hundred thousand dollar check was for a college fund.”

“A hundred thousand? Lots of lollipops.”

“They’re good people,” she defended. Her words evaporated into a sigh. “Or so I thought.”

“How did you meet them?”

“Jack Manning’s wife came down with pneumonia. She almost died. He was very gracious when she got better. He brought Ed Harper and Troy Owens one day, introduced them as his friends from college. They wanted to know about donating to the hospital, so I met with them. All three of them have been in at one point or another, usually to the clinic.”

“They seem wealthy enough to not need our clinic. So which one’s got the hots for you?”

She chuckled. “Troy Owens. He keeps asking me for drinks or dinner or golf lessons, and I keep turning him down. He’s extremely persistent.”

“Troy Owens… Is that the wannabe golf pro?”

“Yes. He’s also a wannabe doctor who flunked out of medical school.”

He thought back to his earlier conversation with Wilson, that the man who tried to kill her had some medical knowledge, and of Troy seeming disinterested in answering questions. “Okay, who brought the scotch?”

“Jack.”

“Probably wasn’t in the bottle because everyone’s glass was poured from the same one.”

“And we used hospital cups which Ed brought from the lounge. Jack poured the drinks, and Troy handed me the cup. I guess each of them had an opportunity to–” She closed her eyes and moaned. House watched her fingers curl around the rim of the bucket, and the knuckles turned white.

“Are you okay?” Tiny beads of sweat made a path along her hairline. “Hey.” He sat on the bed next to her and reached for her face. She jerked away. He was about to try again when her head bowed and she began to vomit. A lot. With a sigh, he scooped her hair back. “It’s okay. Just think of it as practice for morning sickness.” His reply was another retch.

When the heaving finally subsided, he grabbed the box of tissues so she could wipe off her mouth. “Thanks,” she muttered.

“You okay?”

She looked at him, and he slowly let go of her hair, letting it cascade off his fingers. A smile fluttered across her face. “Better.”

“Good.” His knuckles brushed against her shoulder then trailed gently down her arm.

The door opened with an audible sliding sound, and Wilson poked his head in. He was in the midst of speaking, but he shut his mouth when his brain processed the scene. “I, uh–”

House hopped off the bed. “You going to be okay for a second?” Cuddy nodded, and he stepped outside after Wilson. His friend was grinning like the Cheshire cat, never a good sign.

“Looks like I interrupted a tender moment back there.”

“Please. She just barfed in a bucket.”

“And you held her hair back. That’s so sweet.”

“Did you actually need something?”

“I found the cup that Cuddy drank from, and there was enough liquid left in it for testing. I took it to the lab along with the bottle of scotch; they’ll have the results soon.”

House stared at him. “That’s all?”

“And the police are here.”

That’s all?”

“Explain something to me. You hate treating patients; you’d rather treat illnesses. So why are you spending so much time with Cuddy?”

“Uh, because she’s the director of the hospital?”

Wilson gave him a self-satisfied, I’ve-got-it-all-figured-out grin. “You like her.”

“You say that about every woman I’m nice to.”

“That’s because you’re not nice to anybody.”

He waved his hand dismissively at Wilson and turned back toward the door.

“She likes you too, you know.” House hesitated, giving his friend the perfect opening. “But she recognizes the walls you built up around yourself. She’ll never make a move unless you make one first — and I’m not talking about cheap sexual innuendos and staring at her ass when she walks by.”

“But that’s really the fun stuff.” He went back into Cuddy’s room. She was still sitting on the edge of the bed, bucket in her lap. “Guess you’ll think twice before¬†ordering dinner from the cafeteria again.”

She moaned. “Mention food one more time, and you’ll be working in the clinic for the rest of your life.”

He sat in the chair across from her since the bed didn’t seem like a safe place at the moment. “No projectile vomiting? As much as I love being in the thick of things, I don’t think I want to be in the thick of that.”

“I might be done now. You were right. Eighteen meals. God, my abdominal muscles hate me.”

He handed her a box of Tic Tacs, and she gave him a half-grin. “When you’re spew-free for half an hour, I’ll give you some activated charcoal. That should take care of the rest of the nitroglycerin. We’re going to keep you overnight since your blood pressure is still a little low, but you’ll be back to terrorizing the masses by morning.”

It was nothing she didn’t already know, but it helped stabilize their relationship and bring it back to the way it was before she collapsed. She was avoiding his gaze as much as he was avoiding hers; it was probably the wiser course. He thought about telling her that he’d never put the moves on a woman with barf breath, but her voice halted his attempt.

“Do me a favor?”

“What’s in it for me?”

“Lollipops.” She smiled at his expression. “I put the donation check in my center desk drawer. Will you make sure someone takes it to the night deposit box? Those bastards may have tried to kill me, but it won’t stop me from taking their money.”

He smirked. “Okay. Where’s your drawer key?”

“On the keyring in my purse in my coat closet. Smaller size, gold, but I don’t think the desk is locked.” She handed him the green bucket, which he took with a grimace. “Thanks.”

“It is past your bedtime, young lady. Under the covers you go.”

Cuddy tried to look annoyed as she followed his directions, but there was a hint of a smile on her face. “Your bedside manner has greatly improved, Dr. House. Are you turning over a new leaf?”

“I tend to be a little less abrasive when there are half-naked women following my every command.” He rose and looked down at her. “I’ll be by in half an hour to give you the charcoal. Try to get some rest.” He turned out the overhead light then picked up the green bucket and limped to the door.

“Greg?”

He stopped and gazed back at her. “Yeah?”

“Thank you.”

He nodded once before stepping out of the room. His thoughts were jumbled, insides a twisted mess. There was a name for this feeling, one which he pushed far from his mind. Now was not the time or the place.

House left the bucket with the head nurse who did not look pleased. He could rinse it out, but that’s what the lowly servants were for. Besides, he wanted to supervise the police officers who had arrived to speak to the donors. It was his experience that cops were dumb, and while Cuddy offered no motive as to why one of the three men would want her dead, House had a hunch.

Rounding the corner, he saw Cameron heading his direction. “I thought I sent you home.”

“I left my jacket,” she said.

“Well, you lucked out. Cuddy’s vomit got nowhere near my shoe.” He knew she was on this floor for a reason — her jacket certainly wasn’t it — but he wasn’t in the mood for confrontation tonight. It was late, he was tired. Cameron, on the other hand…

“You knew about the gonadotropins.” She didn’t make it a question, already certain of the answer.

“Yeah, you just had to bring that up in front of Chase and Foreman, didn’t you? Can’t let a juicy piece of gossip go unnoticed. Why not go tack it on the bulletin board in the employee lounge? Or better yet, make a ‘kick me’ sign to put on Cuddy’s back. But instead of ‘kick me’, have it say ‘impregnate me.’ Oooh, maybe I’ll do that.”

“You’re defending her, so it must be true.”

“Your logic makes no sense.”

She ignored him. “Did she tell you because you’re her health care proxy, or because–”

“There’s this little thing called doctor-patient confidentiality. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? It means you don’t go blabbing about the patient to uninvolved parties. And they call me insensitive.”

“You’re her doctor.”

“Yeah. And it is my medical opinion that gonadotropins had nothing to do with her collapse or any of her subsequent symptoms. End of story.” He started walking again. Mountains out of molehills.

“I’m sorry. I just thought that congratulations might have been in order.”

He stopped again. “Congratulations for what?” When she didn’t reply, he turned around to face her, but she was gone. Maybe he was hallucinating. That was certainly preferable to the conversation he’d just had, to just about all the conversations he’d had in the past few hours. His life was more of a soap opera than General Hospital.

He headed down to the first floor to retrieve the check from Cuddy’s drawer. Her purse was laying on the desk instead of hanging in the closet, but she had been correct in that the drawers were unlocked. He found the check and tucked it in his coat pocket. Too bad he’d dismissed Cameron. Luckily, Wilson appeared. “Hey, the nurse said you came down here. What are you doing?”

“Taking some money.”

“From Cuddy? That’s a new low for you.”

“Here.” He gave him the check. “Take this to the bank.”

Wilson looked at it. “A hundred thousand dollars? Are you sure you can trust me?”

“You aren’t really the type to blow it all on booze and hookers. That’s why I gave it to you instead of taking it myself. Did you get the results from the scotch?”

“Yeah. Nitroglycerin in the cup that Cuddy drank from. None in the actual bottle of scotch. You were right.”

House smiled. “I never get tired of hearing that.”

“So…”

“I feel a headache coming on.”

“All joking aside, how did you get to be Cuddy’s health care proxy?”

“She asked.”

“Why?”

“She wanted someone who would make the same decisions that she would. I agreed to act in conjunction with her family, but if it’s a medical necessity, I have the ability to do that without their consent.”

“Wow, a serious answer. Didn’t know you had it in you.”

“Tell me — do you think breast implantation qualifies as a medical necessity?”

“And just like that–” Wilson snapped his fingers. “–you set men everywhere back a hundred years.”

End of Part 2

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