Chapter 1 — The Hospital at the End of the Universe
A/N: This story was a long time coming. Started as little snapshots written in detention when I was in eighth grade, published as the start of something more cohesive two years later, and being updated continuously since. This story is under constant edit, so if you're an old fan who is rereading, you may find that things read a bit differently. The tenants of the story will always stay the same, but a lot of the prose has been/is being overhauled.
Old or new, welcome to (or welcome back to) Intervention.
August 26th, 2012, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
With summer slowly fading and my senior year looming in front of me, I made it my mission to enjoy my last few days of freedom before resuming the scholastic grind. Granted, there wasn't much to dread for my last year of high school, as I'd already been accepted to university—but not being in school was always a favorable alternative to being in school.
Stepping out onto the deck, the sun washed over me. While the nights grew increasingly colder, the days remained hot and humid. Made for some chilly pool water, but I didn't have much of a problem with that. I noted that my mom had already pulled out our beach chairs and towels. She'd join me as soon as she finished her last minute touches on this year's syllabus. With a glance through the window to her office, I caught her shuffling around folders with her cell phone pinned between shoulder and ear, most likely running my father through today's shopping list.
I kicked off my flip-flops and took several steps back, for the purpose of a better running start. I loved the invigorating rush of frigid water, the initial shock until my body adjusted to the temperature change. I took a deep breath, sprinted to the edge, and dove in.
I'd flipped upside down without meaning to, and I didn't...I didn't feel the pool water around me. I felt nothing, like my body had lost all substance, all physical presence. I floated untouchable in an ether, wracked with terror. What the hell was happening?
In a heartbeat, water and solidity returned, and if I could have breathed a sigh of relief, I would have. I found myself spread-eagle on my stomach at the bottom of the pool, and there were tiny, flat, round objects underneath me. I groped around blindly with my hands, not wanting to open my eyes to the assault of chlorine. I picked one of the pieces up. A penny?
If the sudden appearance of loose change on the bottom of my pool wasn't enough to mystify me, it also seemed that the water had grown about twenty degrees colder. I made to swim to the surface, but my head immediately broke through. A gust of icy wind blew in my face. My eyes snapped open, and...
My pool...was gone. And I was...
Okay, I honestly had no idea where I was.
For starters, I now understood the presence of change, as it seemed I was in a fountain.
Okay. Not liking this.
I surveyed the area around me, shivering, completely lost. I could only assume I was either asleep or hallucinating, and since the first option was more comforting, I stuck with that one. I was fairly confident in my sanity. I looked around at the buildings and paved walkways surrounding me, and I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd been here before. The trees were bare, but how? It wasn't even fall yet.
This looked familiar...where was I?
And then I saw the very, very familiar building in the distance.
Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital appeared to be less than a mile's walk away, which could only mean that I was on the Princeton University campus. For a second I was shocked, but then rationality beat it down and I rolled my eyes as I stepped out of the fountain. Another House dream, huh? Although I was lucid and it was more realistic than usual, it was the only explanation.
My body was drenched, and the cold air had me shaking down to my bones. I was clad in only my red bikini, and if I was outside in the dreary overcast weather much longer dressed like this, hypothermia was inevitable.
But this is just a dream, so does it really matter?
I sighed, pinching myself. I was freezing my ass off, and this wasn't like the typical House dream I would have, and by that I meant it was lame and had a distinct lack of a shirtless Chase.
Although I pinched myself hard, I remained on the Princeton campus. This makes literally no sense...I closed my eyes hard, trying to will myself out of the dream, but I remained where I was. But this couldn't be real—PPTH didn't exist in the real world. It was entirely fictional.
"Okay," I said, attempting to talk myself down from a panic attack. "Let's assume for now that this isn't a drugged-out trip to wonderland, and it isn't a dream." Unbidden, I imagined my mother coming outside to join me for a swim, and finding no sign of me. "Calm down. There has to be a perfectly rational explanation for this."
Roughly one hundred feet away was what I determined to be the campus store, and the lights on indicated it was open. I hurried towards it as fast as I could, praying no one would see me in my current state.
When I reached the doors of the shop, I pressed them open, poking my head inside. It was empty except for a bored looking girl sitting at the counter reading a copy of Reader's Digest. I debated on what to do, not wanting the awkward questions the girl would ask that I wouldn't be able to answer.
That's when I saw the date on the Reader's Digest.
Shocked, I stumbled forward by accident, drawing the girl's attention.
"The hell?" she exclaimed.
Well, she'd already seen me, so there was no point in hiding now. I walked up to the desk, breathing hard. She looked at me like I was from a different planet. Fuck, maybe I was.
"I'm sorry, I'm...uh...just, what's the date?" I asked, the words tumbling out of my mouth. There was the chance that the girl was just reading a particularly old Reader's Digest, but...who in 2012 read Reader's Digest period? She raised her eyebrows at me. She was a typical college age girl. Blonde hair, mascara, lipstick and an expression that spoke of complete indifference.
"November sixteenth, why?" she asked. "And why are you half-naked and wet?"
I leaned forward. "What year?" I inquired cautiously. It was worrying enough that apparently I had missed three months somehow (still working under the assumption that this was real) but I needed to know how much my reality had been distorted.
She once again gave me a look like I was insane. "2004. You okay, kid?"
November 16th, 2004.
I knew that date. That was the date House first premiered in the US.
If it weren't for the fact that I was in Princeton, I would've written it off as a coincidence. But there I was, on the day it all started, only a short distance away from where the show took place. I had to figure out what was going on, but first and foremost I needed some clothes.
"Listen, my name's Anya. You're not going to believe me if I tell you the whole story, but here's how it is: I'm lost, very lost, and I have no money. I need clothes. That's it, just clothes. Then I'll leave. Please, I really need your help."
She looked at me, chewing on the inside of her cheek, unsure what to do by the looks of it. I'm relatively short, only clocking in at 5' 4", and I hoped that my shivering, small form would inspire some pity and potential kindness from the stranger. She sighed, reaching behind the counter. She tossed me a gray PPTH sweatshirt and a pair of light purple sweats. She threw in a pair of worn down running shoes as well.
"Here, take these. They're old anyway, and I was just going to get rid of them. Should fit you okay."
I accepted the clothes readily. "Th-thank you," I stammered gratefully, still freezing. "Is there a bathroom I can use to change in?" I asked. She nodded and pointed to the other end of the store.
I rushed to the bathroom as quickly as I could, and as soon as I was inside, I darted into a stall and slammed the door shut. Obviously since I had no bra or underwear, I'd have to keep the bikini on, but at least I could smother myself in the slightly too big sweatshirt and sweat pants. I tugged them on as quickly as I could, relishing in the warmth they provided. Taking a deep breath, I leaned my head against the wall, trying to think.
I was eight years back in time. I had only been nine when House premiered, but here I was, seventeen and a stone's throw from where technically, the fictional diagnostician's first televised case should be taking place. It could be a complete coincidence, the date and location I had been transported to.
But I don't believe in coincidences.
There was really only one thing to do at this point. I had to see if my suspicions were correct, and the only way to do that was a trip to Princeton Plainsboro.
I walked out of the bathroom and headed for the door. I looked to the girl behind the counter. "Thank you for your help...and please, don't tell anyone that I was here," I said. I didn't want her to call the police the minute I was out the door. Once I figured out what the hell was going on, I'd decide what to do then. I wanted the ball in my court.
The girl behind the counter nodded. "Good luck, kid. Whatever you're doing."
I gave her a strained smile and departed. Outside, it seemed a storm was brewing. I looked off into the distance at the hospital.
It was time to get some answers.
I stood in front of the glass entrance of Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital.
Well, this was surreal. A total dead-ringer to its show counterpart. I had a feeling my suspicions were going to be confirmed once I was inside. One look at the Dean's office right inside the reception area, and I'd know that somehow, someway, I was in the House MD universe.
I pursed my lips and opened the doors, excusing my way through the thick crowd of doctors, nurses, patients, and visitors. Once clear of the initial throng, I stopped at the registration desk and turned to the left, checking the name on the door. Of course, the blinds were open, so I didn't need to read the name to identify the woman inside: a nearly ten years younger Lisa Cuddy sat at her desk, attending to a pile of paperwork.
I sagged against the desk, trying not to look as shocked as I felt. "Holy shit, I'm actually here." Panicking, I gripped the gold cross around my neck, the necklace I never took off. "Why? How?"
"Are you alright, ma'am?" asked the nearby switchboard operator, looking down her glasses at me.
"Oh, uh. Yes. I'm fine. Totally fine." I skittered away from the desk, heading for the elevator so I could try to freak out somewhere more private.
I wasn't smart enough to answer how, as theoretical physics and string theory weren't exactly my bag. So, that was a non-starter. Why? Well...the dream thing was still a possibility, but if so, this was the most goddamn realistic dream I'd ever had. Coma fantasy? Maybe. Bonked my head when I dove into the pool and now I was trapped in a House-style playground. I could be dead, and this was my heaven, which...fair, but a little too dark for my taste.
Or, Occam's Razor: I was physically and sincerely in the House MD universe, and...and what?
Was I sent here? By God?
I grabbed the cross a little tighter. God worked in mysterious ways, but this shit was WILD. I was used to having to find God in everything, not having Him grab me and toss me into a cross-universe portal that led to my favorite TV show.
I could stand here and contemplate the situation all day, but just finding House seemed like a very good start, so into the elevator I went. House's office wasn't on the first floor, or the second, I knew that...but I didn't know whether it was on the third or fourth floor. I knew a lot of minutiae from the show, but that was pushing it even for me. I winged it when I reached the elevator and pressed the button for the third floor. Luckily, the elevator was empty. I didn't look too fantastic right now, in the old beat up running shoes and casual outfit. I pulled up my sweats and straightened my sweatshirt, privately cursing that the first time I met House, my fucking idol, I was going to look like this.
The elevator doors opened, and a hallway was revealed. Nope, I recognized this place. Oncology. House and Wilson's offices were probably on the fourth floor, then. I didn't even bother getting out of the elevator.
However, someone joined me in a rush before the doors closed. When I looked up at him, my heart skipped more than a couple of beats.
A young and handsome James Wilson gave me a courteous smile as he pressed the button for the fourth floor, patient file in hand.
I gaped at him unabashedly. I hadn't watched a season one episode (or Dead Poets Society, for that matter) in a long time, and I forgot how adorable he was when he was younger. Don't get me wrong, Wilson was always a looker, he was just a little fresher in season one, little more boyish charm.
He noticed me staring, and raised a dark eyebrow at me. "Can I help you with something?"
The fangirl in me was screaming her head off, but I forced myself to stay calm. My plan so far was to convince House that I really was from another universe, and seek his help, I guess. What House could do for me, I didn't know, but...he was House! He always had the answers, or a plan, or something. I'd be better off with him than without him, that much I knew. And if I went in with Wilson, rather than solo, and had already convinced Wilson of my universe hopping, that could make everything go a hell of a lot smoother for me in the long run.
"Your name is James Wilson," I said. "You're on your third marriage, your wives being Sam, Bonnie, and Julie, in that order. Things are rocky with Julie, and she hates the color green. You like the Village People, old movies, and have two brothers. You paint your toenails and blow dry your hair." All the essentially useless trivia I'd acquired from religiously watching the show tumbled out of me in a torrent.
Wilson's eyes widened, and he took a step back from me. I decided to press on. "Listen, I'm from a different universe where your life is a TV show. Well, not your life, but House's, and since you're House's best friend, you're in it. I know this sounds insane, but I must have fallen through some portal or something and now I'm here, and I need to figure out what I'm going to do."
Wilson looked at me for a few long moments before his surprise faded and he cracked a smile.
"House is really running out of ideas for pranks," he said, shaking his head as the door opened. He left me, but I raced out after him and lightly grabbed his arm.
"Please," I begged, searching for something Wilson hadn't told House at this point in the timeline. Good thing we were in season one. "You have a brother named Danny. He's schizophrenic. He stopped taking his medication in college because you hung up on him when you had to study. You've only seen him once since then, and that was in Princeton. That's why you accepted the job when House mentioned it, because you think he may still be in the area. And you never told House any of this, so there's no way he could have told me. In fact, I'm pretty sure you've never told anyone what drove Danny to run away. And there's the fact that I know you still blame yourself for it. It's one of the reasons you're so fucking nice to everyone, or at least try to be, 'cause the one time you dared to be even remotely selfish, it completely blew up in your face."
Silence and tension ran thick in the few seconds after I dropped the Danny bomb on Wilson. He just stared at me. His mouth began to form the word, "How," but I cut across him, pointing to his office. "I think we should talk."