Summary: House has a dream about the past, present and future. Will it hold the key to the success for House as we know it? The dream expresses my own "journey" with House over the past few years, and my hopes and wishes for the future of House. (House/OC, not for fans of Huddy.)

A/N: This story was written for the House/OC board Friday night challenge but I had a couple of requests to post it here as well. It is a bit of an in-joke, as the chapters feature some of my favorite House/OC writers providing messages for House as he proceeds through the dream - but you don't necessarily need to know who the people are in order to understand what's going on. There are 8 chapters in total - and I'm going to post them all pretty quickly. Hope you enjoy! And whatever you celebrate, hope you're having a wonderful festive season.


A Christmas Dream

© Gertrude2034

It was dark. The impenetrable blackness had spread across his retinas like an ink stain on silk. Now there was . . . nothing.

And nothing was surprising peaceful. Perhaps he could stay here forever, away from the exhaustion of the past few days, away from the constant emotional battles, away from the never-ending demands of life.

Hmm, they had a name for that, didn't they?

Oh yeah, death.

Perhaps he wasn't quite ready for that.

So what was this then? Sleep?

Memory slipped past without leaving meaning. Must be sleep.

Doors appeared in the darkness, emerging from the void fully formed. He felt the sigh echo through his chest even in his dream state. Doors? For chrissakes, could his mind get more Freudian? Or was it Jungian?

As if he gave a shit.

Eight doors in total. Seven of them were clear and solid; the eighth wavered somehow, as if its reality was yet to be determined. It didn't matter, House knew with the certainty that only comes in dreams that the doors must be approached in order. The eighth door's solidity was a problem that wouldn't matter until the seven other doors had been addressed.

"So do I knock?" he said aloud. There was no one to answer. Instead, a table shimmered into sight to his left, filled with an array of snack food – only healthy snack food, the kind Wilson was always trying to get him to eat. Crudités, dry-looking crackers, something that looked suspiciously like, ugh, hummus.

What was the message here? Even in sleep his rational brain never rested.

He was about to undergo a trial of some kind – he needed energy. Nutrition.

Bah.

If his brain thought he needed energy then it could damn well provide a dry Rueben and a can of Coke like a normal person.

Besides, he had the feeling it was a distraction. A red herring. Like the rash on the legs that turned out to be due to his patient's poor shaving technique and nothing at all to do with her cytomegalovirus disease.

Door one.

He turned on his heels to face it.


1.

Images covered the door's surface like some demented decoupage. His Aunt Sarah had been into that for a while. For Christmas one year she'd sent him a timber box covered with faux-vintage travel labels: Paris, New York, Rome, Sydney. What the box was for had never been adequately explained. He still had it in his bedroom. Used it to store condoms as a kind of irony. Kitsch as it was, he kinda liked it.

On the door though, like Harry Potter's chocolate frog cards, the photos moved. Shimmered. All the images were from his work. Wilson, his team, even some patients. There was a picture of a classroom, and House peered at it more closely. At first he thought it was his own education, but then he vaguely recognized an eager-looking student, hand raised, glasses perched tightly on his nose. It was the diagnostics lecture he'd been forced to give, the one where the Baywatch thespian had metaphorically helped out playing the roles of some patients. Yeah. He'd enjoyed that. Not that he'd admit it to anyone. Not that he had any plans of continuing a role as a teacher.

All the photos were dark, as if the camera taking them hadn't been on the right setting. Or someone hadn't got the lighting right. A yellowish tone across them all gave the door a sepia hue. House got it: this was the past.

If this was how it was going to work, shouldn't there be just three doors, then? Past, present, future? The future was the shadowy one; it didn't take a genius to work that out. Why, then, the extra five doors? What was their purpose?

A puzzle. His brain knew he liked those, he supposed. Perhaps this was just its way of entertaining itself while he slept.

With a jigsaw, he always started with a corner piece. With a crossword, the top left-hand clue. With a patient, the facts in the file before him. With doors?

His hand went to the doorknob, an ornate brass sphere, grooved and molded into something resembling fruit.

It opened easily and revealed a familiar scene. Whatever he'd been expecting, it wasn't this. No lush room, no tranquil garden setting. Just the corridor of his own Baker Street apartment, lined with bookshelves, the rooms at each end in shadow.

On the floor, leaning against the bookcase, sat a woman, engrossed in a book.

He took a step closer and she looked up from the pages she was absorbed by with an expression that told him he was expected.

She rose. "Hello."

She was tall and perhaps a little imposing-looking, but her genuine smile and twinkling eyes instantly made House relax. Her hand was confidently thrust forward and he didn't hesitate in returning the handshake.

"Hello," he said, giving her a short nod.

"So I guess I'm here to welcome you," she said, still smiling warmly.

"I guess you are. Welcome me to where exactly?"

"This is the first," she said enigmatically.

"Right." His tone clearly indicated what he felt about that answer.

"It's important to come back here."

"Why?"

"Because this is where we fell in love."

He frowned. He was pretty sure he'd remember a relationship with her. It wasn't like there'd been that many.

"I'm sorry, I don't—"

"It doesn't matter," she interrupted with another of those infuriatingly enigmatic smiles. "You'll work it out." She returned her attention to the book in her hand, reading with the same absorption he himself did.

He shook his head. "Where who fell in love?" he asked, his impatience beginning to show.

She looked up, as if surprised to find he was still there. "Us."

"Us? You and me? Because I'm sorry, but I don't—"

"Not you and me. Well, kind of you and me. But you and us. Or us and you. Yes, that's probably a better way of putting it."

His brain began to hurt. He loved crosswords. Just not the cryptic ones. Those were maddening.

"Would you like a cookie?" she offered.

"No, I would not like a cookie."

She shrugged, seemingly unfazed by his curt tone. "Okay."

"So can I go to the next door now?"

"Sure. Just remember, as you go, why we fell in love. It's important you don't lose sight of that."

"Geez!" He threw his hands up in the air. "I don't remember loving you, okay? So cut this 'fell in love' crap!"

She put her head on one side and seemed to consider his words carefully. "Love means different things to different people," she said eventually.

This was too hard. "Can I wake up now?"

She gave him a knowing look. "Before you've solved the puzzle?"

House stamped his foot like a toddler having a tantrum. A low growl rumbled in the back of this throat.

She nodded. "I thought so. Good luck."

He sighed and turned back to the door behind him. Hand on the knob, a question occurred to him. He looked over his shoulder to find the woman had returned to her seat on the floor, her head buried in the book.

"What are you reading?"

Her eyes flashed up at him approvingly. "Hound of the Baskervilles."

He nodded. It made about as much sense as anything else.