Fool's Paradise

She has almost made herself late for her appointment, she's been gawking so much since walking into the building.

It doesn't seem possible that getting fired-with-prejudice could ever land her in a place like this. If you get kicked out of hell, she thinks, you don't expect an open door to heaven. It's quiet here, civilized, glass-walled, gorgeous - too good to be true. The carved hardwood doors of the Dean's office might as well be pearl.

She tries to imagine House, the guy whose prisoner number she knows by heart, walking through these doors, here, a department head.

"He got to you."

That's the first thing Doctor Foreman says to her when she walks in. Not hello, nice to meet you, or won't you sit down?, but this. It brings her abruptly back to earth.

"I'm sorry, I -"

"Worked with House, and he got to you. I talked to your former boss."

"Doctor Foreman, if I'm wasting my time, you can tell me now."

"You're not wasting your time. It's true you're pretty much un-hireable, and what that means is that if I do offer you a job, you have a decision to make."

"Either I take it, and work with House, or I find another field." This doesn't seem complicated. "I have worked with him, and it's not like I didn't live to tell about it."

"You've done that, what? Once? One case?"

"Does it matter? I'm not afraid of him."

"That's a start," Doctor Foreman says, looking at her like he's doing some kind of complex math, and she's the problem. "It's not what I meant about the decision, but it's a start."

He doesn't clarify what it was he meant.

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She's still thinking about that cryptic remark, and not paying much attention when she darts into the elevator and steps backward onto someone's shoe. As she looks up, her apology is cut off by his. He has brown eyes, brown hair and one of those sad smiles she sees now and then on men she shouldn't like.

The smile vanishes when he sees the visitor pass around her neck. "You're Adams," he says, and then seems to catch himself. "I ... I'm sorry, I had heard your name. James Wilson." His handshake is genuine, but the troubled look hasn't left him. He checks his watch, fidgets, and asks her to come get some coffee if she has fifteen minutes.

She stops herself from retorting that he can have all the time he wants. He's attractive, but that's not the attraction, really; it's just that there's something kind about him. No one else has gone out of their way to talk to her.

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House isn't in on her first day, because he's doing some legal thing or other, apparently. Or finding a new place to live, or something. Nobody told her and she hasn't asked.

Foreman has come over to drop off her permanent ID and the last ream of paperwork. There's only one table where she can do that. It's strange in here, chaotically half-empty like an apartment when someone's moving out. The carpet in the middle of the room has a big, irregular stain, the only glaring imperfection she's seen in the entire building, and it seems odd that it hasn't been replaced.

"I already met Doctor Wilson, next door," she says, because asking about the carpet seems like a bad idea. She's also already found the (expensive, obviously well-used) coffeemaker, and put on a pot to brew. This, she suspects, is the only reason Foreman's not out the door yet. If there's one thing the prison has in common with the hospital, she thinks, it's probably the obsession with caffeine.

"Wilson's a good guy. But if he asks you out, you should probably say no," Foreman adds, like that's any of his business. "No, I don't mean - Wilson's not your boss, so I don't care. House does."

"House? I promise, he isn't into me."

"He's probably not." Foreman says. Tact is evidently not his strong suit. "He is into Wilson, though."

Well. More questions she won't ask, because she doesn't want to know. "Wilson said I shouldn't take the job."

"Well, his department doesn't need you. House's does."

"Was he right?"

"I don't think so." Foreman looks away from her to pour a cup of coffee for himself. "But I might be the worst person to ask. And I'm due in a meeting. Probably see you again the first time House wants to do something insane, which, knowing him -" Foreman straightens up and tugs at his jacket "-should be about this time tomorrow."

She watches him leave and thinks that whatever the hell she's gotten into, it won't be boring.

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Two hours later, she's finally checking off the last few boxes and scrawling the last half dozen signatures. She hears something, looks up and finds ... Doctor Wilson. Who is leaning in the doorway and watching her like she's an orphaned child.

"I didn't expect you'd take my advice," he says. "But when you're done signing your soul away, knock on my door. I'll buy you lunch."

Her trepidation must show on her face, because he holds his hands up in that universal gesture for peace. "No, no," he says. "I swear I'm not flirting. Perks of your first day, that's all."

"Even though you think I shouldn't work here?"

"I think you'd be happier, in the long run, if you didn't. I also think it's too late to have that discussion." He's shaking his head like she's a terminal case. "House already got to you."

"That's what Doctor Foreman said," she muses, tapping the pen against her lip. "I didn't get it then, either."

"Sure you did," he replies, and gives her that rueful smile. "You've met him. But you have no idea."

His white coat reflects on no fewer than four gleaming surfaces as he turns around to go. Beautiful, this place is so beautiful. She signs one last dotted line, sets down the pen, and follows him.

"Doctor Wilson?"

"Yes?"

"What is this, the Hotel California?"

For a moment, he startles her by laughing. "The hospital? No," he says, and that sadness comes over him again. "Just the House of House. You coming?"

"Lunch sounds good, yeah," she says, and falls into step beside him.