Fandom: House MD
Challenge/Prompt: fanfic100, 063. Summer
Genre: Pre-slash (gen)
Copyright: I unashamedly adapted one of my favourite lines of dialogue from Life On Mars. Title’s taken from a song (the original is still the best, however cute some cover versions are).
Summary: Apparently, seeing your boss shot down in front of you is traumatising.
Author’s Notes: Another fic filling in some space between the seasons, where everyone’s a little cold and edgy and everything’s a bit strange. So much bloody fun to write, in particular playing with all the different aspects of Chase. Although I don’t think I should have stayed up till 2:30 a.m writing it; the ending went places I didn’t mean it to.
Apparently, seeing your boss shot down in front of you is traumatising. Chase has to dispute this somewhat, if only because he has spent hours and hours wanting to shoot his boss and for a split second something almost akin to smug satisfaction ran through him when he saw House bleeding on the floor.
He decides that it’s probably best not to mention this to the therapist.
Cuddy has them all in compulsory therapy on Thursdays, no ifs, no buts, no wriggling out of it. They all traipse up to the third floor for a couple of hours obediently at three o’clock sharp, where Chase meets the very blonde and suspiciously chirpy Dr Sara Montague. He obediently reels off stories of watching his mother die a bottle at a time, a father who never loved him, a lonely childhood spent listening to shouting behind closed doors and then, as he grew up a little, open ones. He doesn’t give a shit about any of it but lets Montague construct an Oedipus complex and make pitying noises because it seems to make her happy.
What Chase doesn’t tell her is anything that is actually in any way personal, but she doesn’t seem to realise this so he doesn’t point it out in case it messes up these cosy little therapy sessions and she starts trying to analyse him properly. They have an arrangement and he’s damned if he’s going to fuck it up in the hope of some closure. He walks out of her office at the end of an hour, trying to look healed and grateful rather than irreversibly bored. Cameron and Foreman are usually walking out of their respective therapists’ offices too; Foreman looking as tired as Chase must do, Cameron wiping at streaming eyes. Well, Chase thinks, at least someone’s getting something out of this.
They cope because they have to, but they don’t cope well. The diagnostics department is pretty much closed for business without House around, since none of them are good enough yet, and maybe they never will be. It’s clinic duty and mild cases that can be easily solved while serious patients are carted off to other hospitals. Boring as hell but they don’t have the guts to try anything else. Cameron mopes and complains and Foreman shuts himself up into a box and Chase acts the way he always has, cold and indifferent because he’s not really sure what else he’s supposed to do.
House is in rehab, or something similar, because the ketamine fixed his leg but it didn’t magically clean away the drug addiction and after six or seven years of limping he’s got to figure out how to go back to walking like a normal person. All this really means to Chase is that he still doesn’t have a boss, he still has nothing to do with his time, and Cuddy doesn’t seem to feel the need to replace the carpet in the office. It’s a little distracting trying to do the crossword when your boss’ blood is right there, very red and obvious and distracting.
An indefinable length of time later, because Chase stopped counting too long ago, Foreman announces that it would be a very good idea for them all to get drunk. Chase is on the point of telling him that this is an unbelievably stupid idea when he notices that Cameron is actually lying on the floor next to the bloodstain and staring at it in a stalkerishly obsessive fashion and he’s somehow managed to bite his biro pen into cracked plastic pieces.
“Most sensible thing you’ve ever said, mate,” he tells Foreman with a wan smile, and goes to get mugs out of the cupboard.
They drink vodka even though it makes Cameron cough, all three of them sitting on the carpet and feeling more than a little morose and confused.
“It could’ve been me, you know,” Cameron mumbles after a while, eyes a little too bright.
“How’d you figure that one?” Chase asks, loosening the knot of his tie.
“The shooter asked which of us was House, and House pointed me out,” Cameron says, drinking deeply from her mug. Foreman rolls his eyes at Chase.
“I don’t think he knew the guy was a psychopath,” Chase tells Cameron, then thinks about it. “Maybe he secretly wants you dead.”
“… And he hired the guy to kill you. Only it backfired on him.” Chase smirks. “No pun intended.”
Cameron scowls. Foreman looks at Chase with a mixture of disgust and amusement on his face.
“You really are an insensitive ass,” he says, topping up Chase’s mug for him.
“Eh.” Chase shrugs and then drains the mug in one gulp, feeling the burn all the way down his throat and into his stomach.
“Didn’t your mom die of alcoholism?” Foreman asks in the silence. Chase doesn’t ask how he came to know. Cameron’s eyes are wide but then she’s the blindest one in the department some days.
“Gin and tonic,” Chase explains, reaching for the bottle. “Not vodka. It’s different.”
The other two consider this.
“I’ve got some tonic water in the fridge,” Cameron offers. Chase glares at her. She glares back. Foreman sighs.
“Get a room,” he mumbles. “Oh, wait, you already did that.”
Some time later when there’s alcohol spilt on the carpet and Cameron’s lying miserably next to the bloodstain again mumbling something incomprehensible, Chase realises that he’s very very drunk. Quite why Foreman decided today was the day and brought in several bottles of strong liquor he doesn’t know, but what the hell. It’s this or go down to the clinic and treat hives all day.
“Foreman,” he says suddenly, looking up at the clock, “Foreman, it’s two-thirty.”
Foreman squints at the clock too.
“And?” he asks.
“Therapy.” Chase smiles vaguely. “In half an hour. And we’re definitely drunk.”
“That should liven things up a bit.” Foreman sounds completely out of it, and his eyes aren’t quite focused. Cameron is crying quietly in the background, but it’s just white noise in Chase’s ears. He leans against the bookcase and stretches his legs out on the floor in front of him.
“Part of me is glad that he got shot,” Chase mutters, looking at his hands, because he’s hardly going to say this to Dr Montague and he’s so far from sober that he can say what he likes and use the vodka as an excuse later. “’Cause I wanted him dead some days, so damn badly.”
“You are so fucked in the head,” Foreman mumbles, shaking his head, laughing slightly. “I mean, so fucked.”
“Don’t say you’ve never wanted him bleeding in front of you. The things he does-”
“House doesn’t do anything to you that you didn’t bring on yourself,” Foreman lectures, offsetting his attempted stern tone by the fact his tie is askew and he’s clinging to the whiteboard. “I mean, all that shit with Vogler- that was smart, man, selling him out like that, and then kissing his ass in the hope he’d forget you screwed him over-”
“I liked you much more when you were dying,” Chase interrupts.
“And you’re just a sleazy asshole,” Foreman returns distractedly, having noticed that Cameron is now unconscious. “Is she ok?”
“She’s sleeping,” Chase says. They both study her for a second, but Chase’s vision is blurring and he can’t see whether she’s breathing or not. “Or maybe dead.”
Foreman walks unsteadily over to Cameron’s sprawled form and presses his fingers to her wrist.
“There’s a pulse,” he says. “I think she’s just out cold. Lightweight.”
“You’re the one who got her drunk,” Chase points out, getting up very slowly to help Foreman carry Cameron into the office next door. She’s warm and surprisingly heavy for a woman who is so very skinny, and they settle her down in the big armchair in the corner of House’s office. Chase checks the clock. Ten to three. Oh dear. Cuddy’s going to kill them for this.
Foreman makes sure Cameron is comfortable and then picks another chair to fall asleep in. Chase supposes that that’s what he ought to do, choose somewhere and pass out, but he doesn’t want to. He equally doesn’t want to go up to Dr Montague, drunk and stupid, and tell her things that might actually ring slightly true. So he walks out into the corridor.
He’s so unsteady on his feet that he has to keep one hand flat on the glass wall to stop himself falling over and the one tiny part of him that is still sensible and sober is begging him to just go find somewhere quiet to get over this, but he instead continues down the hall.
“Dr Chase.” It’s a nurse whose name is almost certainly Mindy or Mandy or Catherine, and she’s holding out a chart, “I was wondering if you could-”
“Dr Chase isn’t here right now,” he says before he can stop himself, “But if you’d like to leave a message…”
Mindy/Mandy/Catherine is giving him a worried look. Chase laughs because he can’t help it. The corridor is bright and all the light is glaring off the glass at painful and very shiny angles. He’s about to say something else that will probably get him fired when a hand closes around his arm and he looks, after a couple of false starts, at the furious face of James Wilson. Oh, this is all he needs.
“Sorry, Lucy,” Wilson says to the nurse, so obviously her name isn’t Mindy, Mandy or Catherine, but Chase can’t be expected to know that, “I prescribed Chase some codeine earlier and I’ve only just found out he’s allergic.”
“’M not,” Chase mumbles, but Lucy has already gone on her way and Wilson is dragging Chase towards his office with a cross parent sort of look on his face. This is an unbelievably stupid situation but he can’t get out of it so he just obediently stumbles after the oncologist. “Going to take advantage of me?”
“I’m not you,” Wilson mutters with unbelievable venom in his tone. Ouch, Chase thinks, as the office door shuts behind them.
“What the hell have you done?” Wilson demands loudly, when he’s closed all the blinds and sat Chase forcibly down on his couch.
“Why do you care?” Chase returns petulantly. “You’re not my father.”
Fuck knows where that came from. Stupid therapy.
“And for that I am eternally grateful,” Wilson snaps before he even thinks about it. Then he gets a sort of penitent look on his face.
“I think if I were sobererer,” Chase begins, stumbling over the word, “I’d be hurt by that.”
“You’re drunk, aren’t you,” Wilson says flatly. Chase thinks about lying and then realises that there is no point.
“Duh,” he mumbles, trying to lean back a little and winding up just sliding off the leather couch and onto the floor.
“And where are Cameron and Foreman?” Wilson asks in a long-suffering tone.
“House’s office,” Chase responds, closing his eyes. He imagines the cross look on Wilson’s face because he can’t be bothered to look at it.
“Ok. Stay here, don’t move, don’t touch anything,” Wilson orders. “I’ll be back.”
Chase isn’t sure he could move even if he wanted to. He listens to Wilson walking out and drums his fingers on his thigh in a rhythm that isn’t a rhythm at all. A while later, Wilson comes back in.
“Sit up,” he orders, all hard edges and not at all the fluffy Dr Wilson he is for his dying cancer patients. Chase, with difficulty, eases himself back onto the couch and gets his eyes open. “You’re all drunk at three o’clock in the afternoon.” Wilson is holding one of the discarded liquor bottles. “This is not ethical!”
“I know,” Chase tells him, “It’s vodka.”
“Do not fuck around with me,” Wilson snarls, dumping the bottle on the desk. “If Cuddy finds out about this-”
“Please stop talking,” Chase mumbles.
“I don’t have to cover for you,” Wilson tells him.
“I didn’t ask you to,” Chase sulks, leaning back on the sofa and managing not to slide off. Wilson sighs and comes over to sit beside him, grabbing Chase’s arm and rolling the sleeve up. Chase watches with interest as Wilson rubs a cotton wool pad over the skin near his elbow, then flinches away as the other man pushes a needle into his skin.
“Don’t be such a baby,” Wilson mutters, calmly connecting Chase to a banana bag, which he then hooks up to an IV pole that he must have brought in somewhere around the time Chase was being unobservant. “We’re going to get you sober, ok?”
“You don’t have to do this,” Chase tells him, lying down very carefully on the couch.
“Don’t remind me.” Wilson sighs. “You’re all unbelievably stupid.”
“It’s Post Traumatic Stress… Thingy,” Chase tells him.
“It’s really not.” Wilson bins the vodka bottle and sits down at his desk in front of a pile of paperwork. “Now shut up. Go to sleep or count the ceiling tiles or something.”
“I’m not stoned,” Chase mumbles malevolently, and then takes a look at the ceiling. “And you don’t have ceiling tiles.”
He falls into silence and Wilson is beginning to think it’s all going to be fine when Chase pipes up:
“Are you fucking House?”
“Oh good. You’re a talkative drunk,” Wilson mutters through clenched teeth.
“You’re avoiding the question,” Chase singsongs.
“Keep talking and I’ll get Cuddy up here,” Wilson warns him.
Chase actually pouts, which is unsettling, but he shuts up for about five minutes.
“Bet you’d fuck me if I asked.”
“Don’t push it,” Wilson almost shouts. Chase gives him a smile that has far too many teeth in it.
“I don’t like you at all, Dr Wilson.”
“Well, you’re not exactly one of my favourite people either,” Wilson returns tiredly, picking up another file.
“So why are you doing this then?”
“I… have no idea.”
But Chase eventually falls asleep and when he wakes up he has a nasty hangover and so Wilson thinks that they’re probably even.
A week, give or take, passes. Somehow, unbelievably, Cuddy doesn’t find out about the Highly Unethical Vodka Situation, and they all keep their jobs, which is probably a good thing.
“It’s not working,” Chase says, tipping his head on one side.
“You don’t know anything about interior design,” Foreman points out, but he’s got a doubtful look on his face.
The cheap rug may be covering up the blood on the floor, but it’s like sticking a band-aid over a wound; it just makes it more obvious that it’s there.
“Come on,” Cameron says, “It’s got to be better than having the blood on the floor.”
Says the woman who spent a week stroking it, Chase thinks, but he doesn’t say it aloud.
“The bloody carpet needs replacing,” he tells her, “I don’t think shoving a rug over it is going to fix anything.”
“I’m trying,” Cameron says.
All three of them look at the rug and then Cameron sighs and rolls it back up.
“Sorry,” Foreman offers, although he has nothing to apologise for. Cameron shakes her head.
“I don’t know how to make this better,” she says quietly.
“You can’t,” Chase tells her, “But I think that’s the point. You can’t fix everything.”
He thinks she’s going to cry for a minute, and then he thinks he is, but the moment passes and Foreman gets up to make them all some coffee.
Princeton/Plainsboro grinds to a halt piece by piece. It’s not blindingly obvious but without House everything becomes a little cold and more than a little colourlessly depressing. Wilson is definitely lost without his friend but he doesn’t seem to be trying to find a solution. Chase doesn’t want company but he finds himself spending more time with Cameron and Foreman than is probably healthy, all snapping and snarling and sniping at each other, chipping away at cracked armour because they’re all bitter and bored and angry and Cuddy won’t replace the fucking carpet.
“You isolate yourself,” Chase tells Wilson, sipping a coffee that tastes like battery acid and paperclips. “Shut up in this office worrying. You should come for a drink with us sometime.”
Wilson gives him a semi-incredulous smile.
“I’ve seen what happens when you all get together and get drunk,” he tells Chase firmly. “It’s not all that pretty.”
“You could just come for a drink with me,” Chase pushes, because he feels almost duty-bound to save Wilson or maybe he’s just so bored and reckless now that he’ll push all the buttons anyone will allow him to push, just to see what happens.
“I’ve seen enough of you drunk to last me a lifetime,” Wilson says, but at least he’s smiling. Chase shakes his head.
“The rumour is that you’re incredibly easy, Dr Wilson,” he murmurs, suddenly not giving a damn about the consequences of his words, “So when did you start playing hard to get it?”
“I’m worth it,” Wilson smirks. Chase raises an eyebrow, inviting further information, but Wilson refuses to give him any.
Maybe they’re all so lonely and fucked-up by this that they’ll never manage normal social interaction. Then again, Chase doesn’t think that they were all that good at normal social interaction to begin with. But he doesn’t have a frame of reference, so he doesn’t mention it.
Chase starts suffering from insomnia and when he can actually sleep he gets these stupid dreams that all seem to involve too much shouting and blood and sometimes he’s holding the gun. He doesn’t mention any of this to Dr Montague because it’s all very well to mock therapy when you don’t need it but now he thinks he might so he keeps vaguely telling his shrink tales about losing swimming races as a kid and his father’s disappointed eyes, and how he never liked House all that much so none of this matters. Anything to keep her from asking questions on how he’s coping.
Foreman offers him a prescription for Valium when he finally admits in a roundabout way on a Wednesday afternoon that he thinks maybe he’s going a little bit crazy.
“I just can’t sleep,” Chase mutters, doodling devil horns on a picture in the newspaper. Foreman waves his hand vaguely, indicating Cameron, who is dozing on a pile of paperwork.
“Do you think any of us can?” He sighs. “I could prescribe you some sleeping pills if you want,” he offers grudgingly, “Although you could, you know, try actually talking to your damn therapist.”
Chase glowers at him but takes the prescription anyway.
Life without House is boring. It’s a sad but inescapable truth. Without him holding them all together with a glue of futility, resentment, admiration and downright fury they all fall apart. Not spectacularly, not unless you were looking hard, but nothing’s the way it used to be and Chase isn’t as glad about this as he thought he would be.
“Do you ever miss home?” Cameron asks. Two years and she’s never thought to question him on this before. Chase shrugs.
“Sunburn. Skin cancer,” he says. In truth he misses Australia less now that House isn’t around shoving his nationality in his face daily. Maybe these shreds of America are all he has left. These pieces of home; Cameron’s tears, Foreman’s icy cold exterior, Cuddy’s shouting, and Wilson as the forever unattainable man behind glass.
He doesn’t want to know where that thought came from.
“You really are nothing without him, aren’t you?” Chase says, wishing it didn’t taste like surprise in his mouth. Wilson doesn’t even look up from his paperwork.
“I could say the same thing to you,” he murmurs, “Otherwise why do you keep hanging around my office like a lost puppy?”
“You define yourself by him,” Chase continues, ignoring the interruption, “So what do you do when he’s gone?”
“I don’t resort to stalking,” Wilson says mildly, finally looking up. “Are you lonely? Is that it?”
Chase doesn’t know.
“I’m not lonely,” he says, “I’ve got a therapist. And there’s always Cameron…”
Wilson gives him a sad smile and gets up from the desk, walking over to where Chase is leaning against the office door.
“I’m going to give you one piece of advice,” he says quietly, “So I want you to listen.”
You’re still not my father, Chase thinks, but the words get a new meaning when he’s sober so he swallows hard and doesn’t say anything.
“Don’t choose to play the bastard,” Wilson tells him. “It won’t get you anywhere and it won’t make you happy.”
Chase is left disconcerted by the raw honesty in the words and so lashes back before he can think it through.
“So when House isn’t around you hand out the preachy advice to whoever’s nearest?”
Wilson’s face gets a cold, closed-over look.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” he tells Chase rather ominously, and returns to his desk. Chase stands and watches him for a moment and then walks out.
Days slip through his hands and get increasingly more meaningless as they go.
“Do we send him a get well soon card?” Cameron asks into the silence when they’re all eating takeout noodles and trying to figure out what to do with an impossibly long afternoon that doesn’t involve clinic duty or ritual suicide.
“‘Gee, sorry you got shot, please don’t hurry back’,” Chase mumbles.
“We ought to show we care,” Cameron insists.
“But we don’t,” Chase and Foreman say in unison, then shoot each other concerned looks.
“You’re such bastards,” Cameron tells them without much conviction. There’s a long afternoon of silence stretching out in front of them and for a terrifying moment Chase wonders why they bother to go on trying to live.
“I’m not sitting here for the rest of the day looking awkward,” Foreman announces.
“We could call up Stacy,” Chase suggests. There’s a moment while Cameron and Foreman seriously consider this.
“She has to know what happened to House by now,” Cameron says doubtfully.
“Yeah, but what if she doesn’t?”
Foreman and Cameron stare at him, torn between the idea of amusing themselves by hurting Stacy’s feelings and horrified at Chase for even suggesting it in the first place.
“Do you have any redeeming qualities?” Foreman asks eventually. Chase shrugs. Maybe he really doesn’t.
It’s getting late and Chase is on the balcony watching the city below because he doesn’t want to go home yet.
“He just shot him,” he says quietly. “Got this gun out of nowhere and shot him in the stomach. House fell into the whiteboard and it was all so fast.”
“I know,” Wilson says from somewhere behind him.
“And he could have shot all of us, really, any of us, and he’s still out there.” Chase can hear his voice shaking because this wasn’t supposed to matter but it sort of really does.
“I know.” Wilson has stepped a little closer.
“Cameron’s upset and Foreman’s playing the repression game and I don’t give a fucking damn.” Chase watches a car drive past below and feels momentarily dizzy. “But- but he was supposed to be invincible and I thought he was going to die.”
“I know.” Wilson is standing almost directly behind him now. “And I know you’re scared. But you have to get off the wall.”
Chase looks down, at the narrow wall he’s standing on, and one step could carry him right off the edge and down into nothingness.
“I don’t want to die,” he says quickly.
“I don’t know how I got here.” He swallows hard. “I don’t know how to fix this.”
“Maybe not lying to the therapist would help,” Wilson offers dryly. “You’re under a lot of stress right now and perhaps you could talk it over with her. I hear these psychiatrists do actually know a thing or two about helping people through stressful times. They don’t just hand out degrees in mail order catalogues, you know.”
“Chase, come on.”
It’s a long way down and Chase swallows hard. Being drunk and cold and indifferent was fun. This bit is scary because it’s slowly trickling into his head just how fucked-up and stupid this situation is.
“Help me,” he whispers. His head is pounding.
“Get off the fucking wall. Now.”
Chase falls. And Wilson catches him. Apparently, falling backwards was the sensible option and he feels Wilson let out a relieved breath. Chase is trembling, and closes his eyes hard as Wilson wraps his arms around him, both of them panting in synch from fear and anxiety and fuck knows what else. Chase buries his face in Wilson’s shoulder and digs his nails into Wilson’s upper arms, feeling sobs rising in his throat and desperately trying to swallow them down.
“House isn’t dead,” Wilson whispers into his ear, “He’s healed. He’s happy. He’s coming back to work next week. And you’re fine. We’re all fine.”
Chase breathes hard for a while, swallowing down a lot of fear and misery and anger until he feels mostly human again.
“You can let go of me now,” he says.