Eric Foreman had always been an early riser. Despite the fact that he no longer needed to cram for exams, or even rush to class he still found himself awake just after dawn. Dressing in the silence of his apartment, he'd packed his laptop and headed out the door to the café down the street. In the pre-dawn darkness he could hear birds beginning to sing and feel the rumble of the garbage truck rumbling down the street. At the café, he ordered a chi latte and withdrew to the patio to enjoy the sunrise and the summer's warmth.

Logging in to the wi-fi network, he brought up the latest job offer he'd received from Stanford. A fellowship position under Weiss, one that he'd wanted since he'd been an undergrad. Boston. Mayo. Harvard. His offers had been enticing, offering unique opportunities for research and promising the chance of becoming active academically. While all of them sounded good, he'd had a hard time narrowing the list down. Each offer boded well for his career, but he still felt something was keenly lacking. Sooner than later, he knew, he was going to have to make a decision. If not for the good of his career, then because his lease was going to run out in a month or so. Sighing, he settled deeper into his patio chair and reached for his coffee. Staring out into the eastern sky, he shielded his eyes from the sun as it rose. He stared for an indeterminate time, so lost in thought that he jumped when his cell phone rang.

He dug it out of his laptop case and flipped it open.


"Eric!" Masters sounded unusually excited, and Eric briefly turned the phone over to make certain of the caller's i.d.

"Hey man, what're you doing up so early?" Under normal circumstances, Masters wasn't awake before noon; even for exams, he mused wryly. Sipping at his coffee again, Eric saved his list on the screen.

"I wanted to know if you heard the news?"

"No, what?"

"Where are you?" Masters asked, and Eric realized he was nearly out of breath. "Josie's on sixth. Why?"

"Thought you might be." Masters breathed for a moment before speaking again. "We'll be right there."

Saving his work one more time, Eric looked up expectantly as Masters and Reitman bounded onto the patio and dragged iron wrought chairs over the cement to sink down beside him.

"Hey." Eric saluted them with his coffee cup, smirking slightly. "How'd you know I was here?" he asked congenially.Both men looked slightly bedraggled, like they'd run most of the way across campus. After being on-call all night long. Masters was dragging his laptop out of the case and booting it up.

"So you didn't hear?" Reitman asked, leaning forward in anticipation.

"No." Eric drained the dregs of his coffee and set the cup down, settling his dark gaze on Masters as he ran his hands nervously through his hair. He exchanged a look with Reitman, then blurted out, "Dr House is back."

"What?" Eric leaned forward as well, letting his weight rest on his elbows. "Dr Gregory House? That Dr House?" he asked, feeling the a thrill of excitement run through him. Masters was hurriedly logging on to the Hopkins website, scrolling through the students section and then clicked on a link to Princeton's website. He turned the screen so Eric could see it. Pulling it toward him, Eric studied Princeton's main page to find a press release from the university.

The Princeton-Plainsborough Teaching Hospital is pleased to announce the return of Dr Gregory House to the diagnostics department. Dr House is world renowned for his work in the diagnostic field, in addition to his previous work in Infectious Disease and Nephrology. He has been on sabbatical following an extended leave of absence. At this time, Dr House will not be establishing an active practice, but will see patients upon referral. The article went on, detailing House's career and several of his more notable accomplishments. Eric stopped reading, knowing most of House's career as well as he knew his own. He'd admired the man from the moment he'd first read one of his articles about the virulence of the Ebola virus.

Dr House was a world renowned physician; he held two subspecialties in infectious disease and nephrology and had been highly respected in both fields before he'd moved into diagnostics. To complete—hell, even to be considered for a fellowship under Dr House would tremendously enhance his CV. He'd be guaranteed employment just about anywhere, in any field. Dr Gregory House was revered for his ability to think outside the box. His legendary status within the medical community stemmed from his high solve rate; 97 of his patients lived. Considering that rate given that most of his patients had already been seen by countless other physicians and specialists and had been given nil for odds, Dr House's reputation was well deserved. Dr House's presence had diminished considerably within the past three years; when his own health had taken a precipitous downturn. House had suffered an infarction in his leg. He'd been rumored to have been misdiagnosed several times and ended up diagnosing his own problem moments before slipping into a coma. He apparently hadn't recovered well either; he'd shut down his practice and disappeared for almost a year and a half before returning to medicine as an editor in the occasional textbook, and there were a few articles he published. If he was returning to work, surely it was a sign that he'd improved and intended to re-open his practice. Someday.

Eric's mind was spinning. Maybe—just maybe—Dr House would consider taking fellows. Almost winded himself, Eric motioned to the laptop. "Pull up the diagnostics department page." Masters fingers edged the mouse's arrow over to the diagnostics link and brought the page up. For the first time in a long time, the department's page held updated information. Dr House's picture had been put up, and Eric studied his digitized image intently. He'd seen pictures of him once; long ago, when someone had snapped a picture of him at a medical conference. House's long, narrow face seemed thinner than before; his brilliant blue eyes seemed more sunken. He had aged perceptibly, lines of pain drawn deeply into his face. Eric sighed, studying the picture. He was not a healthy man, if his photograph was any judge of his physical state. And given that Dr House wasn't re-establishing a practice, only taking patients as they were referred to him bespoke of a chronic condition. Eric sighed as Masters returned to the diagnostics main page, which gave a brief overview of the department and detailed upcoming classes and events. So they had students of diagnostic medicine. Eric pondered that for a moment, while Masters tried the different links. Given the parameters of Dr House's return, it wasn't likely that he was actively teaching. Was he only seeing one or two patients a week? Was he writing, then? Consulting on the side for the WHO, CDC or the military? Masters gripped his arm in enthusiasm, shaking him out of his circling thoughts. The mouse's arrow hovered above a link labeled 'PostdoctoralFellowships' under Princeton Medical School.

"Yeah, man!" Eric clapped Masters on the shoulder enthusiastically. Masters clicked it, and Eric held his breath as Princeton's departmental listings popped onto the screen. Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology. Neurobiology. Pathology. Systems Biology. And then—diagnostics.

Eric read aloud; "Three postdoctoral positions are available in the department of diagnostics at the Princeton-Plansborough Teaching Hospital. Positions available to determine the nature, origin, disease associations, modes of transmission, methods of diagnosis and responses to therapy of complex infectious and non infectious diseases. The successful candidates will have a strong background in molecular biology and an ability to perform a wide range of procedures such as plasmid constructions, tissue culture, gel shifts, or yeast 1-hybrid screens. An M.D., research experience, and publications are required. Candidates specializing in neuroscience, immunology and internal medicine will be strongly considered. A 2-3 year commitment is expected, and there is a possibility for advancement and a long-term position. Please send a cover letter, CV, and names, e-mail addresses and telephone numbers of six references to ." Eric sucked in a breath as Reitman pounded him on his back.

"Dude, you should submit your CV." Masters said shakily when Eric had finished. "I'm going to. Hell, even being considered for a fellowship with House would be impressive enough." he said, echoing Eric's own thoughts from earlier. Eric said nothing as he pushed himself back into his seat stiffly, steepling his hands in thought. Reitman was beaming as he got to his feet and shuffled off into line. He returned a few minutes later with an expresso and threw himself back into the chair he'd sat in before.

"I'm going to apply, too." Reitman announced, looking smug.

"You haven't finished your residency yet." Masters pointed out. "Don't you have another year or so to go?"

"Just shows I'm on the ball."

"Or damned annoying." Eric muttered. He typed in Princeton's web address, and quickly returned to the diagnostics page to House's profile. Specialties: Diagnostics, Infectious Disease, Nephrology. Formal Education: Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore MD; under Brightman and Gilmar. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor MI; under Marzouk and Gilles. Postgraduate training: Internship, residency and Chief Medical residency (nephrology) Boston General, Boston MA. Fellowship (Infectious Disease) Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA. (Diagnostics) Duke University, Durham NC. Eric paused then, eyes flicking back up to the top of the screen. Brightman and Gilmar's names caught his eye again, and he frowned. House had gone to Hopkins, but for some inexplicable reason he'd transferred to the University of Michigan. There was something there; he knew it. Dr Gilmar had long ago taken another position at Harvard, but Dr Brightman was still a professor emeritus at Hopkins. Getting to his feet, Eric powered down his laptop and hastily began stowing it. Masters and Reitman stared at him in confusion as he zipped the bag closed and threw his empty coffee cup away.

"I gotta go." He said shortly. "Thanks for sharing that, guys. Let me know if you submit anything."

"Yeah, we will." Masters began shutting off his laptop too, and Reitman shook Eric's hand as he brushed past. "Catch you later!" Reitman called. Eric strode rapidly through the little gate on the patio, his thoughts swirling. He had to talk to Brightman about Dr House. Even if he didn't learn the reason why House had transferred to the University of Michigan; he might be able to talk his way into another reference. With the potential for intense competition for the fellowship with House; a relationship with one of the man's mentors might prove the very thing to get his foot in the door.