Author: ishafel aka Santa's Thirteenth Reindeer, Rufus.
Written for: Alesia/phyrry
Characters/Pairings: Adam Pierson, Greg House
Rating: PG, gen
Crossover: House, M.D.
Summary: Adam Pierson takes a gamble.
Adam Pierson liked the track. He always had. He liked horses, even though he was a little afraid of them, and he liked the seedy desperation of the other racegoers. There was a lot of seedy desperation in the two dollar betting line at Aqueduct. Adam was the newest and youngest of the researchers, and they'd sent him off with a fistful of dollar bills and orders to put it all on a 35-1 shot called My Immortal in the fifth.
Adam was a good kid, and the bookies were next to the beers, so he hadn't objected too much. It was a beautiful afternoon, sunny and warm, and the legendary Methos wasn't getting any more lost. Adam could afford a holiday, if it came on the Watchers' dime. If My Immortal won-which didn't look likely, even to Adam Pierson-he would even be able to afford a third beer.
It was an unpleasant surprise when the fat man at the front of the line suddenly reeled, clutching his left arm, and fell down hard. Several people near the front moved back, and the people in the back moved forward, trying to see what had happened. Adam Pierson stayed where he was, waiting for a hero, a boy scout, a doctor, or even a concerned citizen.
Eventually the elderly cashier made her way out from behind the desk. Adam watched, without much hope, as she shook the man's shoulder and failed to rouse him. Some idiot was finally dialing for an ambulance, but it wasn't going to be in time.
No one expected Adam Pierson to step in. No one expected him to know CPR, or how to handle an emergency, or much of anything else. Nothing useful, and nothing that couldn't be learned from a book. But everyone Adam Pierson knew in New York was still in the grandstand.
"Move," he said, pushing his way through the crowd. He slid off his overcoat and draped it over the railing before he knelt. He felt for a pulse that wasn't there. No pulse, and not breathing. He glanced at his watch. Ninety seconds and counting. "Page the medics," he said to the cashier. "There must be an EMT on the backstretch. See if there's a doctor in the clubhouse."
He started CPR. It wasn't particularly effective in the best of circumstances, but it was better than nothing. Adam Pierson might have learned it, anyway, he thought, grimly compressing the man's chest. At a climbing school in northern Wales. Had Adam Pierson been to climbing school, or had that been David Morgan? Or Anthony Pierce, before the Second World War? For a moment he couldn't remember, could barely breathe.
It didn't really matter. The man under his hands was dying, and the horse in the fifth was a forlorn hope. He'd buy himself a beer and pocket the rest of their cash, and if they asked for their ticket stubs he'd claim to have left them in the men's room.
"The doctor's coming," someone said, behind him. He felt it then: the first brush of Immortal presence. Adam Pierson was fucked if the man wanted a fight. He kept on with the compressions, kept his head down and his body quiet. It was too late to run.
The other Immortal was lame. Adam could hear him coming. Very lame, and he used a cane, which Adam had always thought was clever. Not quite clever enough to merit faking a limp, except possibly at airports and amusement parks, places with motorized wheelchairs-but clever. I'm not a threat, he thought, and he made his back think it, too, and his unprotected neck.
Fifteen compressions, a breath, and check for a pulse. Fifteen more compressions. Seven minutes until the human brain began to die. They were so fragile, mortals; their deaths were so final. He breathed into the man's mouth and began the next set of compressions. His arms were beginning to ache, and the buzz in his head was growing stronger, but he only had to hold out until the doctor arrived-or the Immortal did.
The cane came down hard on the concrete beside the fat man's head, inches from Adam's right ear. The Immortal. Despite himself Adam flinched, and lost the rhythm, and looked up.
"Three hundred pounds," the Immortal said. "Heavy smoker. He was dead before he hit the ground. Keep going, though. Maybe you'll get on the evening news. Everybody loves a hero. Although you don't exactly look like a ladies' man."
Not only an Immortal. Also a jackass. Adam should have stayed at the library. There was never any violence at libraries. Fifteen more compressions, a breath, and under his fingers, a faint and thready pulse.
"Hah," he said, triumphant and breathless, feeling the exhale of air on his fingers. "Shows how much you know." Now that he was not listening to those awful, dragging footsteps, he could hear sirens, and a motor running close by. The medics were there. The cavalry. He might yet survive his detour into chivalry.
The cavalry brought a stretcher, and Adam Pierson slipped out of the way. If he could get his coat, he could make a run for it, pretend later that he'd been taken ill suddenly and gone back to the hotel.
The Immortal had Adam's coat. Adam swallowed hard and edged further into the shadows. The man was a cripple, and Adam thought he could outrun him if it came to that. But he wanted his sword, and his room key. That was the problem with the twentieth century-plastic card keys, with the name of the hotel stamped on them-they were practically engraved invitations, but they were so convenient and disposable they'd never go out of fashion. Damn progress.
The Immortal 's hand was inside Adam's coat, and from the look on his face, on Adam's sword. He looked surprised, as if the weight of the blade was greater than he'd expected. Which it was, if you weren't expecting a sword. But an Immortal would be expecting a sword, and any but the rawest of new Immortals would be able to gage the make and age of it, simply be the way it felt in the hand.
What kind of Immortal didn't know anything about swords? The dead kind, mostly, but also-- "My coat, Doctor," Adam Pierson said, putting out his hand.
He was ignored. The other man had turned, the coat still firmly clutched in his hand, and was giving the paramedics orders.
"They know their jobs, I'm sure," Adam said, impolitely and loudly. That was, after all, to be expected from Adam; he had no manners whatsoever. It had no impact on the immortal doctor, who had no manners either.
"I suppose you're a doctor, too. What does it take to get a medical degree in Australia? A pulse and ten kangaroo skins?"
"I am a doctor." It wasn't even a lie. "Dr. Adam Pierson. I studied at the Sorbonne."
That made the other Immortal turn back. "Really. In France? Do they take payment in kangaroo skins?"
"I'm British," Adam said patiently. "Brit-ish. I would think even a Yank like you might familiar with the mother tongue." The medics had taken advantage of the doctor's distraction to load their patient into the ambulance. One of them tipped Adam a wink before they climbed into their ambulance and drove away.
An Immortal that didn't know anything about swords was an Immortal that didn't know anything about the Game. That was the best kind of Immortal. Adam could have ditched the coat and the sword and the hotel key, but the Immortal was the kind of idiot who would track him down, purely for the challenge of it.
"If I might have a word with you, Doctor?" Research hadn't dulled his reflexes so very much. His hand closed on the man's arm, and he dragged him out of the betting line and into the deserted men's room before the other Immortal could protest.
Inside, he ducked to check for feet under the stall doors before he slammed the Immortal up against the wall beside the urinals.
"You really should buy me a drink first," the Immortal said, straightening his blazer self-righteously. "I'm not that kind of girl, Dr. Pierson."
"Tell me your name," Adam demanded, and he let a little of the annoyance he was feeling creep into his voice. Not a great deal; he had a feeling nothing he could do or say would scare the man. That was what happened when you knew you were Immortal but you didn't know you weren't the only one. But enough to take the game to the next level.
"Name, rank and serial number?"
"Start with your name," Adam said, punctuating the words by tightening his hand around the man's throat.
"Dr. House. Head of Diagnostics, Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. I don't have a serial number, but I could make something up. I know how you insane types like to check off the boxes."
"Dr. House." Adam let him go. He was a child, barely past his first death. A mouthy, obnoxious child, not worth killing for his quickening, even if Adam Pierson had been a hunter and not a Watcher.
"So you've heard of me. I suppose even in the outback, there are a few books."
"No," Adam said pleasantly. "I've never heard of you. But then, I haven't practiced medicine in more than a hundred years. My doctorate is in dead languages, and as far as I know the Australians are as literate as Americans."
That got House's attention, finally. His eyes were cool, appraising, a little unnerving. "A hundred years?" he asked. "How long have you been suffering from psychosis? That's hardly a garden-variety delusion. Dr. Pierson."
Adam sighed. His occasional lapses into altruism never turned out well. He yanked his coat out of House's unresponsive hands and pulled out the sword. "This is a sword," he said. "Toledo steel. Some of the best swords in the world were made in Spain-anyway. It's shiny, and it's sharp." He closed his fingers around the blade. "See? Ouch." When he opened his hand, his fingers were cut to the bone. It did hurt. It always did, just as much as it would hurt a mortal.
Every time, he wondered if this time it wasn't going to heal, if immortality was a dream, a-garden variety delusion. There was never a part of him that was sorry when the sparks of Quickening energy began. Five hundred centuries, and he was still terrified by death.
House looked. Adam saw the moment when he believed, and the moment when he tried to convince himself it was some kind of trick. "How did you do that?" he demanded.
"Magic," Adam said, and caught House's wrist left-handed and dragged the sword's edge across House's palm. "Now it's your turn."
"Damn," House said with feeling, staring at the blood welling up in his cupped hand. "You're out of your head. Psychiatric hospitals get a bad rap, I know, but it's better than--." And then the wound was gone. "Fuck. Now I'm crazy, too."
"Crazy and immortal." Adam sighed. The logical types were always the hardest to convince. "Let's go to the bar. You can buy me a drink."
"You cut me!"
"Oh, but I healed you, too. Wouldn't you like to know how?"
"Well," House said reluctantly. "Maybe if you buy the drinks."
Adam followed the other Immortal into the bar. The television above the bar showed the horses in the fifth race loading into the gate. The other Watchers would be wondering about him, but they wouldn't come after him. Not after absent-minded Adam Pierson, who got lost in Watcher headquarters and who sometimes crossed the street against traffic because he had his nose in a book. They just about had time for the condensed version.
"Beer," he said to the bartender. "Two of the cheapest you've got on tap." It tasted like piss, of course, which served House right. Doctors, and particularly department heads, were probably better paid than researchers at obscure European nonprofits.
"You're Immortal," he said to House. "Long as you keep your head, you stay alive. Other Immortals will try to kill you, probably just on principle. Also the last one standing hypothetically rules the world. You'll want a sword."
House downed his beer and signaled for another. "You're buying this round," Adam said automatically.
"Drink or drugs?"
"Are you offering?"
"You're fond of one or the other, or you would have noticed I was there. Quit it, whichever it is. It doesn't matter about your liver, but if you can tell when one of us is around you might keep your head."
"What caused this?" House asked, and Adam could tell that he was caught. It probably was what made him a good diagnostician-assuming he was a good one-that need to know everything.
"Didn't I say?" he asked. "That's the bad news. Genetics. I'm afraid you're adopted. You're a member of a secret, alien race, of which almost nothing is known. Emphasis on the secret, unless you want to become a lab rat."
"Adopted?" House breathed, like that was the important part. "That's good news, actually."
"Good. I'm glad something is. Whatever's wrong with your leg, it isn't going away. Don't ask. The damage we have the first time we die stays with us."
"Gee, was I that obvious, Doc?"
"I'd have asked, if it were me. Look, I don't know your story, and I don't really care," Adam said. "I'm not a doctor, and you're not my patient. If you're lucky you'll find someone friendly and ancient and wise, who will agree to teach you the rules. In the meantime get a gun and a swordcane and stick to well-lit public places."
"Sensei," House said, bowing from the waist. He was an asshole, pure and simple.
On the TV screen, My Immortal coasted home thirteen lengths in front. It was just not Adam Pierson's day. "I've got to go," he said, mentally rehearsing excuses for the Watchers. Good old Adam, went specifically to place a bet, and came back empty-handed. He sighed. "Hang on to your head, my friend."
"That's it?" House looked more disappointed than distressed. "Don't you have any ages-old wisdom for me? No tips? I mean, this is pretty much the coolest thing that's ever happened to me, and you're kind of harshing my buzz."
Adam looked him over. "No," he said. "No wisdom. But hey, here's a tip. Don't bet on the horses."
"Whatever," House said, and put his glass down on the bar for a refill.
Adam Pierson picked up his coat and sword, and walked out into the sunlight without looking back.