Rating: T for language, substance abuse, and some sexualness.
Disclaimer: I don't own HOUSE :(
A/N: Thanks for reading!
Allison Cameron looked at the tall brick buildings in front of her in awe. In addition to their size, they were all the more overwhelming because of the students moving around in between them, running through the courtyards, chatting with their friends to signal the start of a new school year. Unfamiliar girls and boys rushed past Allison without a second glace, seeming perfectly at home in this strange environment. Suddenly, Allison felt incredibly small, and she clutched onto the handle of her suitcase as though it were the only thing holding her to solid ground.
"So this is Princeton-Plainsboro Academy in action," Allison's dad said, coming up behind her. "Nervous?"
"A little," Allison confessed.
"Don't worry, bud. All the freshmen will be new. You'll fit right in," he said in his usual cheery, encouraging voice.
"I hope so," Allison said. Truthfully, she wasn't so sure. When she'd been applying, PPA's walls had seemed to beckon her like a siren call. She longed to attend the prestigious high school, to live away from home, to begin to establish her own life. But now that she was here, the buildings seemed darker and more sinister, and she wondered whether she was making the right choice in leaving her cozy Pennsylvania home.
"Freshmen should go to the main office to get their schedules and dorm assignments!" a voice called out, which Allison traced back to a stubby little man standing in the midst of the commotion. "Everyone else should put away their belongings! Assembly starts in one hour!"
"There's the main office," Allison's dad said, pointing to their right. "Do you want me to go with you?"
Allison took a deep breath. "That's alright, dad," she said. "Watch my suitcase for me?" She gave the handle of the rolling bag to her father and walked towards the office. She knew her way around this particular building, because it was the one in which she'd had her interview. Right through the double doors was the secretary to the headmaster's office, and it was there that she headed now.
Four kids were already inside the room, as well as the secretary. A placard on her desk read Mrs. Withers, and the name certainly suited her. She looked about seventy years old, and her white hair seemed to become visibly thinner as the seconds ticked by. Allison joined the small queue that had formed and waited her turn.
"Your name, dear?" Mrs. Withers asked when Allison reached the front.
"Allison Cameron." Mrs. Withers search through a hefty pile of papers before reaching Allison's name. She pulled out a schedule and a map.
"You're in room 45," she said, writing the number on the map. "Freshman dorms are here," she circled an area on the map, "and your room will be the fifth one on the fourth floor. You should take your bags there and then come back to the main courtyard for the assembly."
"Thanks," Allison replied, taking the papers. She immediately went to her schedule and glanced down to read it as she made her way to the door. English first? That was going to be bad. But after that was math, which was a subject she liked. The teachers' names were listed below the class, and Allison wished she knew something about them. She hoped none of them would be too strict.
Absorbed in her schedule, she did not realize she was walking straight into someone until it was too late. "Sorry," she squealed, stepping back quickly.
"No worries," a voice replied, and upon hearing an Australian accent, Allison looked up in surprise into the eyes of the boy she had just collided with. Blond hair hung down around his face, and his green eyes seemed to check her out as she checked out him. Blushing, Allison walked around him and headed for the door. "I'll get it," the boy said, reaching out behind him and holding the door open for her.
"Thanks," Allison said awkwardly, heading through the door. The boy let it close slowly behind her, and as soon as he was out of sight, she sighed in frustration. Bumping into some really cute guy was not the way she had wanted to start out the school year.
She went back outside to see that her father had now been joined by her mother, who had finally made it out of the car. Both of her parents looked apprehensive.
"Are you sure you're going to be alright here?" Allison's mom asked with her usual worry.
"What's going to happen to me?" Allison said with a smile, yet the look of concern did not leave her mother's face.
"Where do you have to go now, bud?" her dad asked.
"To my room," she replied. "And then to an assembly. So I think I have to leave now."
"Oh, Allison," her mother cried, pulling her into a tight hug. "Call us as soon as you can, okay? I want to hear from you."
"I'll miss you, bud," her dad said, tousling her hair. "Stay out of trouble."
"I will," Allison promised. "I love you."
"We love you too," Allison's mother said. "Good luck."
"Thanks," Allison murmured as she took her suitcase. Luck. She was going to need it.
The dorms were relatively easy to find, since there were signposts everywhere instructing people on where to go. The only problem was the actual journey, which involved a fairly long walk past the field and gym. At least when soccer season started, she wouldn't have to go far for practice. But otherwise, the distance was annoying.
There were two large dorms for freshmen, and Allison went into the girls' one. Upon entering, she found herself inside a common room, which had a T.V., a fireplace, and a refrigerator, as well as lots of chairs and couches. It wasn't exactly the best interior decorating that Allison had seen, but it looked comfortable. Then came the unfortunate news. Her dorm was on the top floor, and the elevators were for emergencies only, which meant she had to haul her heavy suitcase up three flights of narrow stairs. "At least we only have to do this twice a year," a girl in front of Allison grumbled. "Now and at the end."
Once they had reached their floor, the hallways were wider and it was easy to get to number 45. Allison found herself following the girl who had spoken earlier as they turned into the same dorm. The girl turned around to look at Allison.
"So I guess we're roommates?" she asked with a smile.
"Looks like it," Allison replied. "I'm Allison Cameron, by the way."
"Taylor Greyson," the girl said. "You care which bed?"
Allison looked properly at the room in front of her. The door was smack dab in the center, with a nightstand and a bed on either side. The beds were against the side wall, and below them were two dressers. Desks were against the opposite wall, and there was a window over each one, looking out at the field and the top of the gym. It was small for sure, but pretty nice. "They look about the same," Allison said. "You choose."
"I'll take this one, then," Taylor said, throwing bag onto the bed on the right side. Allison moved over to the left and put her suitcase down. Then she edged herself onto the bed and watched Taylor unpack. She seemed like a nice girl. Her hair was long and dark red, which was a color Allison was envious of. She had long bangs in the front that ended just below her eyebrows. Taylor pulled off her sweatshirt to reveal a plain gray t-shirt over navy jeans. Nothing was a designer brand, which put Allison's mind to rest. Taylor seemed to be a lot like her.
"Are you going to unpack?" Taylor asked.
"Do we have time?" Allison replied, checking the clock that was on her nightstand. "The assembly starts at ten and it's getting close."
"Yeah, I guess we should go," Taylor said. Allison slid off of the bed led the way into the hall. Taylor grabbed her sweatshirt off the bed and followed. They joined the mass of freshmen that were heading out of the dorms and Allison made the journey back towards the entrance of the school in silence, taking another opportunity to admire the immensity of the buildings as she walked. When she got back to the main courtyard, she followed the steady flow of people into what had to be the auditorium.
"There are no assigned seats for grades," Allison heard one of the teachers call out. "Sit anywhere."
"Come on," Taylor said, weaving her way through a bunch of people to get a seat near the back. Allison followed her and they sat down. Allison looked around the auditorium at all of the kids around her. She spotted the boy she had bumped into earlier, flanked by two giggling girls.
"There he is, that's Robert Chase," she heard a voice say behind her. "The hottest boy in the school. He's a junior."
"He's gorgeous," another voice said with a sigh. Allison turned around to see two gossiping girls behind her.
"Who are the girls with him?" Allison asked them.
"The blond one is Amber Volakis," one of the girls said with distaste. "And the other one is her friend Nicole Mulligan. From what I hear, they're total bitches."
Allison turned to face forward and watched as Robert wrapped an arm around each of the girls. "He looks like a tool," she muttered.
"Well of course he is," Taylor said. "But still, he's a total ten. I could just look at him all day."
Allison laughed and the lights began to dim. All around her the sounds of talking began to fade out, until the entire school had grown quiet. A tall, authoritative man walked up onto the stage and assumed a place at the podium. "Welcome," he said in a deep voice. "For those of you who have not met me, my name is Headmaster Vogler. I've been teaching at this school for thirty years, and it gives me great pleasure to be addressing all of you today."
"Is this going to be boring?" Allison whispered to Taylor.
"Boring and long," Taylor replied. "For sure."
"Princeton-Plainsboro Academy was founded in 1834 with a simple credo—to uphold the standards of behavior set forth by the first headmaster and founder, Dr. Billson, and to form a lasting bond with the other students and teachers at this school. To have integrity both inside and outside the classroom, and live our lives by the lessons we learn at this wonderful academy. Because otherwise, our years of schooling would come to nothing."
"That's not a very simple credo," Taylor muttered, and Allison snickered in response.
"We have high academic standards here at this school, and the primary goal of our wonderful staff is to help any student until they have reached these standards. We believe that every student is capable of excellence. We want everyone here to feel that their personal best is measureable against the same yardstick as the best of the student body as a whole."
"It's the same thing every year," a boy said in front of Allison as the headmaster continued to drone on. "He could at least change it up a bit."
Suddenly, there was the sound of footsteps in the aisle, and several heads turned. In the dark, Allison could barely see who it was, but it looked like a girl. The figure walked to the row in front of them and began to slip past people to get to the empty seat at the center. She sat almost right in front of Allison, and immediately, the boys in her row turned their heads to look at her.
"Hey Remy," the boy who had spoken earlier said. "Coming in late to the first assembly?" he teased. "You should get detention."
"Shut up," Remy replied breathlessly. "What's going on? Did I miss anything?"
"No," the boy muttered. "Just the usual."
"Hey, is it true you hooked up with Jennifer Miller?" another boy asked. "She was talking about you."
"She has a big mouth," Remy replied vaguely.
"Yeah, you would know," the boy snickered, and he and his friend quietly hi-fived. Allison glanced over at Taylor and pointed to Remy questioningly. Taylor shrugged. The knowledgeable girl behind them leaned down so her face was right by Allison's and Taylor's ears.
"Remy Hadley," she said as quietly as she could. "She gets around. The guys love her. I think she sells drugs."
"And she does girls?" Taylor whispered back.
"She goes both ways, apparently," the girl muttered. "Every guy's dream, right? Anyway, I'd steer clear of her."
"Now it is my pleasure to introduce you to our new student body president, elected at the end of last year, Lisa Cuddy," Headmaster Vogler was saying, and he stepped down from the podium to loud applause. Lisa Cuddy waved as she walked onto the stage. She had black hair that was carefully blowdried and a friendly, well meaning smile. She looked older and more professional than the rest of the students in her khaki skirt and red button down shirt. Her red high heels clacked against the floor of the stage as she walked to the podium.
"Good morning, everyone," she said. "I'm Lisa Cuddy, and I will be your president for the rest of this school year. I don't want to take up too much of your time, so I just want to briefly introduce the rest of the student council. If you could stand when I call your name, that'd be great." Lisa introduced the other members of the student council, who, of course, Allison did not recognize, and then she talked about some of the goals that she wanted to accomplish this year. Then Headmaster Vogler went back up to the podium to introduce two new teachers and the new tenth grade dean. Finally, the dean of students, a man named Mr. Robin, went up to wrap up the assembly.
"Lunch will be served from eleven to one," he announced. "Freshmen should go to their dorms around noon where you will receive a tour of the campus. Everyone else should see Mrs. Withers before three o'clock to get their schedules. And you're free for the rest of the day. Have a great year!" As soon as the words were out of his mouth, everyone stood up and there was a rush for the doors. Allison hung back and let some of the more intimidating seniors leave first. Taylor came up behind her.
"Let's eat," she said.
Dr. Nolan barely glanced up as the door to his office opened. There was no need, for he was expecting a visit at twelve-thirty, and that visitor had now arrived. The doctor allowed himself several moments to finish drafting a letter he was writing to one of his fans; someone who had bought his book on the psychology of psychologists had been so thoroughly interested that they had bothered to write a letter to its author, and this level of commitment to one of his texts was so unusual that it deserved a response. As Dr. Nolan typed, the boy who had just entered the room looked around impatiently, and the tapping of his foot become more persistent, pounding a rhythm into the polished wood floor.
"Please sit down, Greg," Dr. Nolan said in his usual calm, deep voice. He hit the save button on his letter and closed his laptop with a small snap. Then he looked up for the first time, examining the boy that was now taking a seat opposite him. His brown hair was untidy, his jeans were torn, and his band t-shirt contrasted starkly with the stiff, elegant décor of the office in which he now sat. His startlingly blue eyes were cold and unfriendly, and he gazed unfalteringly at the man in front of him, as though wishing to intimidate. But Nolan was unperturbed. Before he had come to be the therapist at Princeton-Plainsboro Academy, he had been a psychiatrist at a mental hospital. It had been a difficult job, though he had been very good at it, and he had come to the school seeking a calmer environment in which to work before his retirement. Needless to say, teenagers did not intimidate him.
"You look better," Dr. Nolan said after a moment's silence. "Much better." He gave the boy another once-over, nodding in approval. Greg looked back at him without saying a word. "You can't imagine how happy I am that you are back at school this year."
"You're right. I can't imagine it," Greg replied, his voice flat and emotionless.
"And your summer school grades exceeded my expectations. You're a brilliant young man, you know. Very talented. We are lucky to have you here." Dr. Nolan paused. "I don't suppose you remember that we first met at the end of the last school year?"
"I remember," Greg said. "You were there when I met with Headmaster Vogler."
"Yes, good. I'm glad you remember. See, I brought you here because the headmaster would like you to meet with me on a regular basis. That is, of course, if you're agreeable." It was not really a choice, but Dr. Nolan phrased it so. He had learned many times to make the patient choose to meet with him, to get better, for then the progress was much more remarkable. However, Greg seemed to sense the unspoken command in Nolan's voice.
"Last year, you told me I had to get straight A's in summer school if I wanted to stay. And I had to submit myself to regular room checks for alcohol and drugs. Well, I did the first one. I'm allowing the second one. So how is it fair that I have another thing to do now?" Greg leaned forward threateningly as he spoke.
"Greg, if these meetings will serve only to complete a requirement to continue to attend this school, then the point of them is lost. I want you to choose to get better. I want to help you conquer your drug seeking behavior," Dr. Nolan said, unfazed by Greg's outburst.
"How do you know I haven't conquered it already?" Greg asked.
"Our meetings will only take place every two weeks," Dr. Nolan said. "For one hour. This won't be like therapy. We'll just talk. I'll check in with you, see how you're doing, and then I'll decide how much progress I think you've made in taking drugs out of your life."
"Well, I guess there's nothing I can say to stop you," Greg said angrily, standing up.
"You're right," Dr. Nolan said calmly, "and sit down. We're not done quite yet."
"What else could there possibly be?" Greg muttered, falling back into his chair.
"The headmaster has done a great service to you and your family," Dr. Nolan said. "The possession of drugs in a dorm room usually leads to immediate expulsion from the school. We made special arrangements for you because we want you to stay. But you are not better than us because of it, Greg. We want you to give back to our school. We expect repayment."
"You do get your repayment," Greg said harshly. "In the form of a big fat check that my parents send in every year in donations. Don't think I don't know why I was invited back. I'm not stupid."
"No, you're not, Greg. Which is why we came up with a very particular way in which you can help our school. Mr. Cotter—you must know him, he's taught English here for years—is getting older. He often has trouble reading and grading the number of papers that his students have to submit to him. This year he's only teaching one class, freshman English first period, and he agreed to put off his retirement because we promised we would find him an aid. You were given first period free on purpose. When the headmaster saw how good your English grades have been, he decided you would be an ideal candidate for the post."
"So I have to basically take freshman English again?" Greg asked incredulously. "I have to give up my free period and go grade papers and talk with a bunch of fourteen-year-olds?"
"I think you'll find that you can both teach and learn from these kids. And I expect you to do a good job. Mr. Cotter is one of my most esteemed colleagues and I would hate to hear that you are disrespecting him."
"Alright," Greg said, standing up again. Fury was etched into his face. "I'm gonna go before you can force more crap on me that I never agreed to." He stormed towards the door and yanked it open.
"I hope that in time you'll come to appreciate all that this school has done for you, Greg," Dr. Nolan said as he looked at Greg in disappointment. "I sincerely hope that." But his last words were lost as Greg slammed the door behind him.