Meet Doctor House
The recognizable characters appearing in this work are copyright; this story is written for entertainment purposes only. No challenge to the copyright holders is intended, neither should any be inferred.
Chapter 1: Enter the Doctor
Mallory Adams entered the clinic at Princeton Plainsboro Hospital a bit hesitantly. She scanned the waiting room full of crying babies, whining children, coughing and sneezing old people, and generally fatigued-looking individuals. The twenty-four year-old contemplated turning around and leaving. Who knew how long the wait would be, and maybe it was stupid of her to come here anyway. She turned, and nearly tripped over someone's cane. "Sorry," Mallory muttered, embarrassed, and tried to sidestep the gentleman who was just coming in the doorway. This time the cane was thrust horizontally across the door frame, blocking her exit.
"Going somewhere? You're next." The stranger lowered the cane. "Follow me."
Mallory's eyes took in his suit jacket, Metallica t-shirt, blue jeans, and running shoes doubtfully. "You're a doctor?"
House grinned. "Isn't it obvious? Now, you interested in jumping the line, or what?"
Okay, this guy definitely wasn't your run-of-the-mill MD, but for a chance to avoid a two hour wait, why not? "Um...sure."
"Then follow moi."
They started towards the exam rooms amidst curious stares from other waiting patients. "Um, Dr. _?"
"House," he supplied, with barely a glance over his shoulder.
"I haven't given the desk my insurance information yet."
"It's a free clinic."
"Oh. But I don't even have a chart here."
Okay, this doctor was weird. Mallory decided maybe she liked that.
One of the clinic assistants hurried up to House. "Dr. House, you can't just take this patient next, there's an order..."
House kept walking. Mallory followed. Behind her she heard a second woman's voice saying, "Just let it go. Dr. House is actually at the clinic, and he's actually going to see a patient. We should just be happy for that!"
They entered exam room three and House shoved the door shut with his cane. Mallory was feeling a bit guilty. "What if there were other people out there with more urgent needs than–"
House cut her off. "This is a clinic, not the ER."
The unusual doctor pulled up a chair and gestured Mallory towards the exam table. She ignored the hand wave and chose to sit in another chair instead.
"Okay," said House. "What's up?"
Mallory smiled. "Question first. Why'd you pick me?"
House shrugged. "Just feeling arbitrary, I guess. Plus, you were the only one in the room with a question mark above your head."
"A question mark?"
"Meaning, you were the only one who I couldn't tell at a glance what you're here for."
"Piqued my curiosity. So, we gonna get down to it or what?"
Strangely enough, Mallory was feeling oddly at ease with this doctor and his unexpected quirks. Maybe it was because it seemed like he always said what he meant and meant what he said. "Ya...it's kinda weird, but I think I've lost my sense of smell."
Cool? Okay, that was unexpected. "Not cool," Mallory protested. "I want it back. Food has practically no taste, flowers are just...colorful...it's like life's a black-and-white TV all of a sudden, when I was used to High Def."
"Uh-huh. You haven't got a cold?"
"On any meds?"
"Echinacea, when I'm getting a cold."
"Ya. Just multivitamins from Walmart."
"Nothing that would affect my nose."
"I said any allergies."
This rapid-fire series of questions was beginning to feel like an interrogation. "Well, penicillin, amoxicillin, amoxil, ampicillin–"
"Ya ya ya." House waved his hand. "Those are all different kinds of penicillin."
"Oh...sorry." Mallory's cheeks flushed, embarrassed. Why hadn't she known that?
"Laundry soaps, deodorants, perfumes, band-aids, latex...I think that's all."
"Latex. Good to know. How'd you find out about that one? Go to the dentist a lot or something?"
"Meaning...?" he prodded.
"Um...biology class? Dissecting frogs..."
"Right. You're lying."
Mallory blushed. "What makes you say that?"
"First, you said 'um', second, 'biology class' sounded like a question, third, you looked up and to the left before answering, a general indicator of accessing the creativity centers of the brain, whereas looking up and to the right is generally accessing memory, fourth, you're blushing–"
"Okay, okay. It was actually when I was blowing up too many balloons for a birthday party."
"Right," came the sarcastic reply. "Good try."
"What does it matter how I know I'm allergic to latex? What does that have to do with my sense of smell? Is it even relevant?"
House shrugged. "Maybe. Why don't you want to tell me?"
Mallory looked down, suddenly absorbed with brushing some imaginary dust from her pant leg. "Embarrassed," she muttered. "It was condoms, okay? Latex condoms."
"Ah. That...does not sound pleasant."
"No," she agreed, her face suddenly feeling quite warm again.
Thankfully, House left it at that. "So, the loss of your sense of smell. Was this a sudden or gradual thing?"
"Pretty sudden. One day I could smell, then the next, nothing. Noticed it when I was crushing garlic for spaghetti one night."
"How long ago was that?"
"Two weeks. I kept hoping it would just come back on it's own. Thought maybe I was getting a weird cold or something, and I kept expecting my throat to start hurting, or my nose to start running or something, but no."
"Okay. Well, hop up." House waved his cane at the exam table. "Gonna look up your nose."
House poked around in the cupboards, finally coming up with a box labeled "Medical grade plastic gloves. 100% latex-free." He pulled a pair on and frowned slightly. "No fun snapping noise," he explained.
Mallory gave a half-hearted smile as House picked up an otoscope and flicked on the light. "This is kind of embarrassing..."
"I've seen boogers before," he reassured. "And much more embarrassing things. Just don't sneeze," he added, taking a look.
Mallory wasn't sure whether that was a joke or not. She held her breath as he inspected one nostril and then the other.
"Seems normal," he stated. "Okay, breathe though."
"Wouldn't have said it if I wasn't."
Mallory breathed normally, Dr. House still peering up her nose. "Yup, all normal." He tossed the plastic end of the otoscope into the trash and got a tongue depressor. "Throat now."
Obediently she opened her mouth and he shone the light around. "No visible physical damage." He tossed the tongue depressor across the room as though he were shooting hoops. "Score!" He peeled off his gloves and did the same with them. "Okay, could be that your nose and your brain just aren't getting along at the moment. Not talking to each other."
"A brain problem?" Mallory paled visibly and inadvertently clutched her stomach.
"Or it could be something else," House hastily amended. "You use any strong chemicals?"
"You mean, like drugs?"
"Nooo...I mean like paint thinner."
"Oh. Nope. And no drugs either."
"Your place or the neighbors' recently fumigated?"
"I have a self-cleaning oven."
"Paint anything lately?"
House drummed his fingers on the top of his cane for a moment, fixing Mallory with a stare. Quite an unnerving stare. She smoothed her hair self-consciously. "What?"
"Anything else you're not telling me?"
"Umm..." she blushed slightly again. "Well...I've been having vivid dreams. Not vivid in the normal sense, but with lots of smells in them. Bread baking. Rain. Skunks. Diesel exhaust. Campfire smoke. Freshly mown grass."
He nodded and stood up. "Okay, I think we're going to get you in for a head CT."
"Because of my dreams?"
"Nope. Because you can't smell. The dreams are just your brain's way of trying to compensate for the lost sense."
House reached for the doorknob.
He turned and looked at her.
"Do you think I'm gonna be able to smell again?"
He shrugged. "Too early to tell. Maybe. Maybe not."
So much for reassurances.
A/N: In progress. All reviews appreciated.