Chapter 1 – The Hospital at the End of the Universe
A/N: Here we go, folks. The story I've been working on for oh so long but have been oh so nervous to share, for obvious reasons. The premise is... well, you'll soon see. It's something that's been done to death, and typically not well. I'm trying to take a cliched concept and make it good, I suppose. And to answer the inevitable question, no, this is not a self-insert.
Also, I suppose a warning should be made here for religious themes, in the respect that the OC is religious. Though one could argue that I should warn religious people away, given House's remarks...
August 26th, 2012, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
The last hints of the hot summer were fading, soon to be replaced by the cool winds of fall. It was my intention to enjoy the last day of freedom I had before my ass got tossed back in school for my senior year.
I wasn't as distraught about going back to school as I normally was. After all, I had already been accepted to university, so I could pretty much just skim through senior year without much worry. Still, not being in school was always a better alternative to being in school.
I walked out onto my deck, basking in the sunlight as it hit my tanned skin. My Irish heritage would catch up soon, and I'd be pale as a ghost by picture day. Right now, however, my usually sheet-white skin was bronze, and my dark brown hair two shades lighter than usual. Summer always served me well.
My mom had laid out a towel for me as per usual. I spread it out on our deck where I usually sun bathed. I planned to spend the entire day in and around the pool. Thankfully, the sun was out. As the nights cooled, so too did the temperature of the water, and swimming in a freezing pool on an overcast day wasn't exactly my idea of fun.
I took several steps back, preparing to race to the edge and dive in. I liked the invigorating rush of suddenly being submerged in frigid water. My bare feet smacked against the burning deck as I sprinted towards the pool. Launching forward, I parted the water easily, the cool water rejuvenating me.
Once fully submerged, a strange sensation hit me, like I was being flipped upside down. For a long moment, I felt weightless, and not the way you sometimes feel when you're floating in a pool. No, it was like my body had lost all substance, all physical presence. I was an ethereal being, unable to be seen or touched...
Then, I wasn't.
The water was back, and if I could have breathed a sigh of relief, I would have. I was flat on my stomach on the bottom of the pool, and there were tiny, 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 my pool had gotten about twenty degrees colder. When I pushed myself off the bottom and went to swim to the surface, I also found it was five feet shallower. I got up on my knees, and my head broke through the water. A blustery wind smacked me in the face, causing me to shiver.
My pool... was gone. 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.
What the hell?
I surveyed the area around me, 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, I'd become hypothermic.
But this is just a dream, so does it really matter?
I sighed, pinching myself. I was freezing my butt 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.
"Okay," I said, talking to myself like I always did in bad situations. "Let's assume for now that this isn't a drugged out trip to wonderland, and it isn't a dream." I tried to keep from panicking. I imagined my mother coming outside to join me for a swim, and seeing me gone, nowhere to be seen. "Calm down. There has to be a perfectly rational explanation for this," I chastised myself.
Roughly one hundred feet away was what I determined to be the campus store, and the lights on indicated it was open. Eyes glancing around and hoping no one would see me in my current state, I hurried towards it as fast as I could.
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.
I decided that since she had already seen me, there was no point in hiding now. I walked up to the desk, breathing hard, and leaned. She looked at me like I was from a different planet.
"I'm sorry, I'm... uh... just, what's the date?" I asked, the words tumbling out of my mouth. 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?" Ignoring my urge to make a dirty joke, 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 day House first premiered in the US. Being a dedicated fan, I obviously had that little fact memorized.
If it weren't for the fact that I was in Princeton, I would've wrote 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 proceeding kindness from the stranger. She sighed, reaching behind the counter. She tossed me a gray Princeton 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 field.
The girl behind the counter nodded. "Good luck, kid. Whatever you're doing."
I gave her a strained smile and departed. Outside, it looked like a storm was brewing, as indicated by the dark sky. 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. It was just like it looked in the show, and from what I could see of the inside, that too was identical. 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 if what I suspected was true.
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 turned to my 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 wall, trying not to look as shocked as I felt.
I'm in a different universe... House's universe...
Panicking, I gripped the gold cross around my neck, the necklace I never took off. I was in a different universe. Why? How?
Calm down, calm down, I told myself. I needed to figure out what to do, and fast. Right now, I needed to disregard how I had gotten here. Why was I here?
I supposed some weird universal portal could have formed and I could have fallen through, thus affirming the theory that there were other universes, I guess, but for a Christian, the first explanation as to why I was here went out to the guy Upstairs.
Had God sent me here for a reason? There's a reason for everything, I answered myself.
Okay. There were several logical, reasonable courses of action I could take. I could contact the police, the government, scientists, and figure out what the hell had happened.
Well, I was in the House MD universe, quite obviously. So, it seemed like an obvious step to find the man the universe was so named after.
I made for the elevator, knowing House's office wasn't on the first floor, or the second. To be truthful, I never figured out whether it was on the third or fourth floor. 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 sweat shirt, privately cursing that the first time I met my hero I was going to look like this.
The elevator doors opened, and a hallway was revealed. Nope, I recognized this place. It was the Oncology ward. 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 the elevator, and when I saw him, my heart skipped more than a couple of beats.
A young and handsome James Wilson stepped into the elevator and gave me a courteous smile as he pressed the button for the fourth floor, patient file in hand.
I gaped at him. 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 handsome, he was just a little fresher in season one.
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. House was just going to tell Wilson anyway no doubt, and if I could convince Wilson, who was marginally less suspicious and disbelieving than House, maybe he could help me persuade the diagnostician...
"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 my mouth in a torrent.
Wilson's brown eyes widened at me, and his jaw went slack. 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 cracking a smile.
"House is really running out of ideas for pranks," he said, shaking his head as the door opened. I sighed, running out after him and lightly grabbing his arm.
"Please," I begged, searching for something Wilson hadn't told House at this point in the timeline. I was glad it was season one, or else the task would have been a lot more difficult. "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 of course, there's the fact that I know you still blame yourself for it. It's one of the reasons you're so ridiculously nice, or at least try to be, 'cause the one time you dared to be selfish, it completely blew up in your face."
I took a deep breath as I finished, hoping desperately I had convinced Wilson I wasn't just someone House had hired to prank him. We stood in the middle of the fourth floor hallway, Wilson's office several paces away. He glanced from me to his office door and back again.
"I think we should talk," I said, pointing to his office. Wilson tensed before tersely nodding his head.