To new readers: Hello and welcome! This is a story that I began something like five years ago now, and it's turned into a bigger project than I ever imagined. I still update occasionally and have quite the epilogue developed for the day I decide to finish it. Please read, review, and enjoy!
To my older readers: I'm currently in the process of moving this work over to Ao3 and will be editing chapters here as well- likely no major changes, but hopefully improving my writing as I go.
Daylight begins to slip through the blinds and curtains in an otherwise dark bedroom, slowly illuminating the air around the groggy woman in bed. Dress clothes are scattered over the meager furniture around the room- a long overdue trip to the dry cleaner's the last thing on the woman's mind.
She groans, slowly turning over and glancing at the clock on her nightstand, squinting as though assaulted by the pale sunlight. For weeks, she had woken up with a splitting, incurable headache. She'd tried everything she could think of- every over the counter drug, mediation, massage- and it was getting to the point she wasn't going to be able to do her job anymore.
Although, it wasn't like she really had a job to be doing at the moment. Two months ago, she'd returned from what would prove to be her last operation as an FBI agent. A failed drug trafficking bust in Africa, spanning just under two years- ending with her being held captive for several days and coming home to a divorce- was the final nail in a coffin that had been a long time coming.
Despite having abandoned medicine fifteen years prior in order to join the agency, after being released from her final debriefing meetings, she'd gotten in her car and drove away from DC, not stopping until she came to stay for the night in Princeton, New Jersey, of all places.
Staying the night had turned into staying the week, and before she knew it, she'd leased an apartment and settled in, having little idea of where to turn for a job. She wanted to be a doctor again, but a resume that said Harvard Medical School only went so far when the graduation date clocked in at just over twenty years ago.
At the moment though, she needed to find a doctor, not be one. The headache creeps down her neck and back as she sits on the side of the bed, threatening to engulf her entire body in soreness and tingling. She'd had more CT's and MRIs in a month than she could count, driving into New York City several days out of the week to see countless doctors and specialists- all big names in journals and at conferences- and none had even come close to figuring out what was causing it. The last one had suggested a psych consult, and she was starting to think he might be right.
As a last ditch effort, she'd spent last night looking into the hospitals in Princeton, and had discovered that Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital had a free clinic. At the very least, she figured, she might be able to con some poor, overworked resident out of a good prescription to tide her over.
The woman strides into the clinic, trying her best to hold her short frame proudly, even under the fluorescent lights. Her dark hair swishes around her rib cage as she approaches the reception desk. Big, dark eyes are grateful when the nurse doesn't ask any questions, simply handing her an intake form and gesturing to the chairs where other patients sit, most of whom are doing more to infect everyone in their line of sight with a cold than actually accomplishing anything by going to a doctor.
"Rosemary?" the nurse calls, looking out over the sea of rhinoviruses at the woman, who stands up slowly- forty-five minutes in the straight backed plastic chair not doing much for her aching spine.
She follows the nurse into an exam room, answering her basic history questions and silently complying with the vitals recording. She's told that a doctor will be in shortly, and she nods curtly, waiting for the nurse to close the door before she crosses the room and turns off the lights, sighing in relief.
If her time in the waiting room is any indication, it'll be another half an hour before anyone with a medical degree even thinks about a non-complaining, seemingly healthy patient. She lies back on the exam table and shuts her eyes, knowing she only has to make it through the next few hours before she'll have some relief.
The woman is startled awake when the door to the exam room slams open, an indeterminate amount of time later. The lights flash on as a tall, scruffy man with a cane enters, his nose buried in a gameboy that beeps incessantly.
He doesn't look up, and she clears her throat loudly, making the man jump visibly before staring at her with a tight grimace.
"What are you doing in here?" he grumbles, his face scrunched, annoyed.
She checks her watch, squinting again under the bright lights, and is surprised to see its been well over two hours since she arrived at the clinic.
"Well, I was trying to be a patient here, but it seems they've forgotten about me," she replies, shaking her head. It would be funny, if she wasn't ever more stiff for having unwittingly taken a nap on an exam table.
She hops down, wincing when her feet hit the ground with a small thud, but the man doesn't move from the doorway, his frame now towering over hers. He looks down at her and she detects the slightest twitch of amusement in his lips as she glares up at his bright blue eyes, contemptful and just wanting to go home.
"What's wrong with you?" he asks, sitting down on a stool from under the counter and resting his chin on his cane, which he places between his knees- his gameboy deposited into his pocket.
"You're a doctor?" she asks, incredulous, and continues squinting at his wrinkled shirt and plain tennis shoes, not a lab coat or stethoscope in sight.
"House," he answers, smirking goofily. "Dr. Greg House." He sticks out his hand to her, an awkward distance away, and she leans forward to shake it, his grip oddly weak for his general demeanor. He holds on a little too long and she raises her eyebrows, gathering that he doesn't normally shake hands.
House drops his hand a bit lamely, then peers at her, still squinting. "So, migraine," he continues, rolling backwards to flip off half of the lights and digging around in a drawer for a penlight, "what else?"
She shakes her head. "That's it, really. Migraines for a month, some joint pain. I'm sleeping twelve plus hours a day."
He opens his mouth to say something, but she cuts him off. "And no, it's not depression."
He holds up his hands, feigning innocence, then leans forward to check her pupils, his rough hands brushing her cheek bones as he goes.
"I've had multiple clean MRI's and CT scans, not even a shadow artifact," she offers as he looks in her ears and turns her neck for her, feeling under her jaw and behind her head. "And there's no palpable nodes, I promise," she chides.
He grunts and continues what he's doing, squeezing her shoulders and elbows and wrists and flexing each joint.
"I've been back two months after two years in Africa. I'd gotten all the vaccines but… didn't exactly intend to be there that long. I haven't had any positive cultures for the usual culprits- no malaria or dengue. Hell not even the flu."
House drop his hands mid palpation, allowing them to fall to his lap with a thud and raising his eyebrows at her sarcastically.
"What?" she asks, squinting back at him- this time out of annoyance. "Look, House, right? I'll be honest. I just came here in hopes of getting something for pain, but you're not the naive resident I was hoping you'd be so-"
She stops, startled a bit by the fact that the man's affect hasn't changed since she began talking. He still stares at her, suggestive and pensive, as though he thinks she's the dumbest woman on earth. Something about it makes her shut her mouth, thinking back on what she'd told him since he'd entered the room, and it's as if something just clicks.
"Oh. Fuck." She closes her eyes and scrunches her face, rubbing at her stiff neck as she looks back to the doctor who sits across from her, a wicked smirk painted on his face. "How could I miss that… I literally said Africa and sleeping in the same sentence."
Without another word he pulls a pad from his pocket and scribbles something on it, then shoves the signed prescription into his jeans.
"Tell you what," he starts, settling back on the stool. "There's one thing I hate more than boring cases, and its clinic duty."
She chuckles, smiling some and letting him continue.
"So I'll give you the anti-parasitics if you come upstairs, pretend we didn't have this little interaction, and let my fellows poke and prod at you until the end of the day as our new 'patient.'"
She contemplates the offer a moment, not really seeing what's in it for her. Eventually though, she decides she has nothing better to do and nods, rising and following Dr. House from the room. At the very least, this ought to be entertaining.
The pair arrive at a glass walled office, and House slides a case file onto the conference table, muttering "patient" as he goes to get himself a cup of coffee at the other end of the room.
She stands there awkwardly, glancing at the other three younger, properly dressed doctors who have gotten up from their lounging places around the room to look at the folder.
The thin blonde woman speaks first. "Who's she?"
House opens his mouth to answer, leaning against the counter, but snaps it closed when it occurs to him that he doesn't actually know her name.
"I'm Dr. Rosemary St John," she offers, "I'm the patient he's talking about."
Stated bluntly in a thick Australian accent- "You don't look sick."
She merely shrugs as the last doctor rises to shake her hand.
"Doctor Eric Foreman."
She shakes his hand firmly and takes that as her queue to sit down as House begins writing her symptoms on a whiteboard easel.
In front of her eyes, the doctors begin spewing conditions from A to Z that could explain headaches and joint pain. House makes a few notes on the board and, ideas having run out for the moment, begins ordering tests.
The three younger doctors escort her out of the office, leaving House pretending to puzzle over her case file until they're out of view.
When they'd finished with their samples and scans and examinations, Rose returns to the office while the others head down to the lab to process the tests.
House is still seated at the table, coffee in hand and a medical journal open in front of him.
He slides an orange vial of pills across the table at her without looking up. She picks it up and reads the label: Pentamidine.
Nodding slightly, she takes one and pockets the vial just as a handsome brown haired man enters the office.
"Hey House! Lunch?"
He stops upon seeing Rose, glancing between the two. "Oh sorry, hooker?" he asks, gesturing to her quizzically and fixing House with a look.
She turns to him, her arm resting over the back of the chair and screws up her face, extending her neck and squinting at him in confusion. "Excuse me?"
She watches as his eyes go wide. "Dr. James Wilson," he manages to stammer, sticking out his hand and gulping.
"Doctor Rosemary St John," she replies, shaking his hand with a softening smile as medical journal articles with his name float through her mind.
He looks to House for help, but before he can even bother to smirk, his pager goes off and he rolls his eyes, rising slowly and limping from the room.
Wilson rubs at his neck, awkwardly staring at the woman sitting in front of him and trying his best not to look her up and down.
"Look, Dr. St. John, I'm really sorry its… its not you. Just House and random women can suggest the worst… not that he's a bad guy he's just… I mean…"
Rose smirks. "Dr. Wilson, call me Rose. And its fine, I get it, he's…."
Wilson nods in responds, neither finishing a thought. He shifts his weight back and forth.
"So… lunch then?" he asks, thankfully eliciting a laugh from Rose, who follows him out the door.
Down in the lab, House's ducklings are busy quacking away.
"So what's with the patient joining us in the differential?"
"She's a doctor, who cares?"
"We've treated doctors before. She's still a patient."
"Are we sure she is? So far there's absolutely nothing wrong with her.
"Well she's definitely a doctor. I looked her up, but she' only co-authored a handful of papers in the late nineties. Couldn't find her CV anywhere."
"I think something is up between her and House."
"Could we get back to work guys? This is going to take all day as it is."
The other two doctors nod in agreement. Whoever she was, she'd talked House into taking her case somehow, and they couldn't shake the curious feeling that solving it wouldn't be the last they saw of her.