Fandom: House MD
Challenge/Prompt: fanfic100, 006. Hours
Summary: Princeton/Plainsboro plays the waiting game.
Author’s Notes: So deliciously fun to write. And all admirably done in drabbles. It’s set in the hours after House’s shooting and is suspiciously fluffy. No season 3 spoilers (since now I’ve got season 3, I’m gonna be old school girl). And just written cuz it makes me happy. That good enough?
Nothing comes easily, fill this empty space
Nothing is like it was, turn my grief to grace
Nothing comes easily, where do I begin?
Nothing can bring me peace
I’ve lost everything.
It is a stupidly long night. Chase watches Cameron drift in and out of sleep, stretched out on about three chairs pushed together. She raises her head every now and then, guilt etched on her features as though getting some rest is akin to betrayal. That’s an almost hilarious thought. The things House has put her through and yet she still feels guilty because she can’t stay awake and angst.
Chase watches Foreman, with his ipod on shuffle and a steaming mug of coffee in front of him, because it’s less awkward.
The silence stings like nails in his skin.
Playing the waiting game is unbelievably boring. It’s worrying, too, and there’s blood on the carpet and the police have been round rubbing Q-tips on everything and asking too many questions. They’re all sat in the employee lounge downstairs, doing nothing, saying nothing.
There’s nothing Chase can do to fix this, so he stays still, tapping his fingers on the leg of his pants, no definable rhythm, and watching as his colleagues don’t talk because it’s been established that they don’t like each other and the only thing stringing them together is fighting for his life on the floor above.
It’s probably a sign that they’re all due to become sociopaths with too many cats in later life, because no one calls their cellphones to ask why they haven’t come home. Chase longs for the safety of cruel words to deflect. There’s nothing and it’s making him silently crazy.
Cameron is properly asleep now, no longer waking up every few minutes; Foreman is making himself toast and burning it because he isn’t paying attention. Sometime, a smoke alarm is going to go off, and then Cuddy is going to come and hurt them all.
Chase just gets up and leaves.
The ER is busy, full of noise. There’s a blonde girl in nothing but a shirt, panties and stilettos, sat beside her boyfriend, who is vomiting blood, and she cries every time he retches.
There’s a woman muttering into her palms, smeared mascara, dirt under her fingernails, staring at nothing.
There’s a man with what seems to be a coathanger sticking out of his chest, and three of his friends alternately sniggering and muttering dude; irreversibly stoned, bloody hands.
There’s a little girl shivering fit to break in her mom’s arms.
Chase sits amongst them all, and just feels lost.
It takes time, and then Cameron walks in, carrying a mug. Chase takes it for lack of anything else to do.
“You should be up there,” she says after a while. The crazy woman is mumbling about rivers of fire, and Chase listens for a moment.
“House robbed me of the chance to sit beside my father as he died,” he says, picking random words that don’t quite fit. “Why should I be there for him?”
“You can’t be that petty.”
“Fuck off and hold your boyfriend’s hand,” he snaps, just to make something really break.
Cameron’s wounded eyes stay with him, a ghostly negative; Chase decides he’s just as mentally unstable as the woman opposite him claiming that the world is doomed unless everyone starts using Head And Shoulders. Or something. He’s not interested anymore (got an attention span as short as House’s these days, but don’t think that right now, don’t).
A guy staggers in, eyes swollen-shut with bruises. Chase watches him collapse onto a plastic seat, mumbling his details to a nurse through a mouth missing teeth.
Whether Cameron’s made him tea or coffee, it looks like mud, and Chase doesn’t drink it.
He can’t stay in the ER all night, and the doctors on call keep shooting him disturbed looks. Chase doesn’t care what people think but he’s not in the mood, so he gets up to go… go where? He has no idea, but it’s a big hospital, and there are too many hours of this stupid night left.
Before he leaves, he presses his red mug of cold… fluid (maybe Cameron is trying to kill him) into the hands of schizophrenic woman, who starts mumbling about poison and cyanide.
“You and me both,” Chase sighs, and walks out into silence.
Back in the lounge. It smells of burnt toast and Foreman’s tie has been abandoned somewhere. Cameron looks less than shiny, hair tired and limp and shirt crumpled, labcoat stained with coffee. Chase almost wants to take blackmail photos, but now isn’t the time. Apparently he is still just about human, after all. Though he has taken advantage of her in a vulnerable state before, he can hardly congratulate himself now.
Foreman is reading an awful-looking Harlequin romance novel that’s been hanging around the lounge forever, spine cracked, pages bent.
There is nothing that Chase doesn’t hate about this moment.
“Why are we sitting here worrying about him?” Chase asks. Cameron stares at him, her you are such an asshole expression fixed firmly in place. “He’s never worried about us.”
“When Vogler was here he almost lost his job trying to protect us,” Foreman remarks, not looking up from his book.
“That wasn’t about us. That was about the fact House can’t face anyone having more control than him,” Chase explains.
“You’re just saying that because he wanted to fire you,” Cameron snaps, over-eager to defend House; it’s both sweet and pathetic.
But she does sort of have a point.
The smell of burnt toast clings to Chase’s clothes as he sits in the ever-quiet locker room. Just him and the metal boxes. The House in his head tells him to pick the locks and rifle through his colleagues’ belongings. The Cameron in his head squeaks indignantly, using words like invasion of privacy. The Foreman in his head just looks disapproving.
Princeton/Plainsboro is making him steadily more crazy and it’s exhausting.
But it’s quiet here, and tiles are a not-entirely-unattractive shade of green and Chase can’t ask for much more than that.
Well, he could, but he won’t get it.
The water is sort of beautiful, spilling from the shower down into the drain in the floor. Chase watches, leant against the stall door, stray drops leaping out and soaking into his clothes. He knows that this is kind of wasteful, and when Cuddy gets the water bill… do hospitals get water bills? Probably not, and right now nothing really matters.
Chase’s head aches and he is blisteringly tired, how many hours? Too many, and he doesn’t care, he doesn’t, except for that cold little screaming space where he does.
He bends over very slowly and carefully unlaces his shoes.
Watching House in a hospital bed with tubes everywhere and a heart monitor is more exhausting than Wilson would have thought possible. He drinks a lot of coffee and offers comforting things to Cuddy when she comes clicking anxiously in, watches TV with the sound turned up obnoxiously loud, and attempts to eat a bag of potato chips and get crumbs all over his friend. He manages half before the bile rises in his throat and then he just has to sit there breathing
Wilson decides, trembling hands, that he’s just not strong enough to pretend that this doesn’t matter.
He thinks that he sleeps, except that he doesn’t, because House is lying right there with two bullet wounds in him and… and just for once Wilson would like a day in this hospital that doesn’t end in extremely mad and messed-up traumatic situations. It would make an exciting change and then maybe his life could take a turn for the better.
The way Wilson sees it, after the last year, God owes him one.
He points this out to House, who doesn’t reply, although Wilson can hear the no one asked you to get involved with your patient anyway.
Cameron comes in eventually, looking pretty awful, hair scraped back and eye make-up reapplied faintly erratically, but Wilson has no illusions about what he looks like so he merely offers her a vague smile.
“How’s he doing?” she asks, handing him a black mug of coffee. It’s probably made just the way he likes it – Cameron is good at things like that. She shouldn’t be working here.
“He’s in a coma,” Wilson replies, unable to prevent a note of duh entering his tone. Cameron’s answering look is a cross between hurt and withering, so maybe she’s learning something after all.
In the silence that isn’t awkward but is really draining, Wilson watches Cameron flick imaginary lint off her slacks until he wants to smack her hands just so that she’ll stop.
“How’s everyone else doing?” he asks; they’re all in this together so he might as well feign interest. Or maybe he does care – it’s late enough that he can’t understand his own emotions.
“Chase is moping in the ER,” Cameron replies in a tight tone that implies Chase has said something offensive to her, “And Foreman is making toast badly.”
Barely four hours and the breakdowns have begun. Brilliant.
In this glass-walled room Wilson decides that this is what going mad is like. Cameron retreated downstairs ages ago, sick of the nothingness of the limbo that is this hospital room. Wilson wishes that he could leave, but this is House. He’s obligated to sit here drinking cold black coffee and biting his fingernails right down. It was right in the friendship contract House got drunk and made him sign somewhere in the proceedings of Wilson’s second divorce.
(There was also something about hookers and black lipstick but he can’t find the original contract so they’ve let that clause slide.)
Cuddy comes to relieve him at a stupidly early hour of the morning.
“You should get some rest,” he says. She’s been running herself ragged looking for House’s shooter and not having much luck. The brilliant red of her power suit is probably the only thing keeping her upright and wandering about.
“You need to get out of here for a while,” Cuddy says, ignoring his advice. “Get some air. Stretch your legs.”
“I’m fine,” Wilson lies. His head is pounding and a caffeine overdose has made everything sparkle in an unsettling fashion.
Maybe he actually does need to get out.
The lounge downstairs smells like burnt toast and there are crumbs everywhere. Cameron is asleep on the couch with her hair over her face. Foreman is reading that Harlequin romance that has been in there for at least the last decade, or at least it looks like it.
“How’re you doing?” Wilson asks. He’s always connected with Foreman best, even if he can’t ever offer actual helpful advice.
“Suzie wants to spend the rest of her life with Jared, but unfortunately he’s engaged to Lucy,” Foreman responds in a dry tone that almost sounds stable.
“Ah.” Wilson smirks. “Good.”
Wilson goes to look for Chase when it becomes established that the guy hasn’t been seen in at least an hour and a half, because God knows what Chase could get up to when sleep-deprived and anxious.
When Wilson walks into the locker room, he finds two shoes and a tie on the floor. One of the showers is going. He finds Chase, fully dressed and soaked-through, blonde hair plastered flat and head in his trembling hands.
“Shall we just make you a t-shirt saying I alienate my co-workers without even trying and get it over with?” Wilson suggests dryly.
The water is warm and it soaks into his slacks when he sits down on the floor beside Chase, who remarkably resembles a drowned rat at this moment in time.
“I didn’t really want company,” Chase says mildly, looking remarkably sane for a man who has been hiding out in a shower for the last hour and a half.
“Tough,” Wilson responds, spreading his legs out and watching the water ruin his shoes.
“Should’ve taken them off first,” Chase remarks, wiggling his socked feet. And Wilson smirks and maybe Chase is more sensible than they all give him credit for.
It’s like being in a bubble with horrible green tiles, and when Wilson tilts his head back it’s like drowning and there’s something sort of nice about that. He’s as wet as Chase now, and making no move to leave. With a belated oops feeling, he realises his pager is still in his slacks pocket.
“Did you ever fuck House?” Chase asks, an edge of curiosity in his tone.
“No!” Wilson replies, leaving just the right pause before his indignant denial, so it sounds completely truthful. “Did you?”
But there’s something in Chase’s tone and Wilson can’t help wondering.
“Tonight is Vegas,” Chase decides an indeterminate amount of time later, because time doesn’t matter here and Wilson is very, very, very wet.
“Are you high?” he asks. The well-rehearsed phrase that he’s said to House so many times the words have lost all meaning. Chase shrugs.
“Might be something in the water,” he suggests. “But what happens tonight never gets mentioned again. You know that. We’re all tired and traumatised and House is unconscious so he’ll never find out.”
He has a point.
“Tonight is Vegas,” Wilson agrees.
But he can tell that this isn’t going to end well.
Chase’s eyes are closed and drops of water are getting caught on his eyelashes. He’s unbelievably broken, and Wilson can’t believe that he’s never noticed this before. Suddenly, he’s glad he’s here, even with the inane, kind-of-in-shock conversation and the fact he’s soaked to the skin. He’s glad he’s here for Chase. Someone has to be. It might as well be him. Wilson feeds on needy, as House has often pointed out.
“Hey,” he says softly, brushing wet strands of blonde off Chase’s face, letting his touch linger a little too long. His hands are trembling.
Chase opens his eyes.
Wilson has his hand in the back of Chase’s wet hair and the other hand fisted in his sodden shirt. But Chase never liked this shirt and he has always had a bit of a soft spot for Wilson, he looks remarkably good in a tux. The tiles are hurting his knees but Wilson’s mouth is warm and halfway desperate and for a minute they’re both drowning together and tomorrow – or much later today, after some actual sleep– they can blame it on all sorts of things.
It’s a kiss. It’s the end of the world, they’ve earned that much.
Chase reaches and turns the water off. He’s sat in Wilson’s lap; the other man has his eyes closed, mouth an unnatural shade of red. It’s beautifully silent now, but it feels strange without the constant, distracting pressure of the shower.
He doesn’t try to kiss Wilson again but neither does he move. Instead, he presses his face into Wilson’s shoulder and Wilson’s hand tightens on his hip. Chase knows his shirt is leaking dye; he pictures it bleeding into Wilson, the two of them mixed up in colour, and then he wouldn’t have to be alone in his head.
They could change into dry clothes but they can’t be bothered, not even awkward around each other because Wilson is no stranger to getting relief wherever he can take it and Chase is just tired enough for everything to look like a good idea, and one little (half hour) kiss is not going to ruin a relationship that didn’t exist to begin with.
They leave dripping, slippery footprints in the corridors, walking close enough together for their shoulders to touch and fingers to brush together. Almost hand-in-hand, but really just keeping each other upright. And it’s nowhere near dawn yet.
“What do we do now?” Chase asks, perched on the edge of a chair in the dark oncology lounge. Wilson is looking in the refrigerator, and there’s something curiously Morning After about this whole set-up, which isn’t comforting.
“I have carrot cake,” Wilson replies vaguely, sitting down beside him and holding out a plate. “I made it.”
Chase eyes him, taking a fork.
“Why did you make it?”
“Why not? Try some.”
Chase takes a bite.
“It has raisins in it,” he says. His voice is shaking.
“It does,” Wilson agrees gently.
“I think I’m going to cry now.”
“We’ve been paging you for over an hour!” Cameron says. She looks dead on her feet and Chase wants to point this out but he doesn’t because there’s such a thing as kicking a person when they’re down.
“What’s the matter?” he asks. “Did House get worse?”
“Same as ever,” Foreman replies, who is still finishing that damn book.
“I was worried about you,” Cameron says defensively. Chase smirks.
“The chances of me getting shot by a maniac are pretty low,” he says, “That’s already happened once this week.”
“You are unbelievably insensitive,” Wilson murmurs. Chase just rolls his eyes.
Foreman closes the paperback.
“Well?” Chase asks. He’s dripping onto the sofa, and no one has mentioned the fact that he and Wilson both look like they’ve been for a swim with their clothes on. They probably haven’t even noticed.
“It turns out Lucy was cheating on Jared and he realised that Suzie was the one he wanted all along,” Foreman explains, tossing it onto the table, “It was very romantic.”
“That’s nice,” Wilson says thoughtfully.
Chase’s eyelids are heavy, and the migraine is thudding against his skull. Without even thinking about it, he leans his head against Wilson’s shoulder.
Wilson considers pushing Chase away, but Foreman isn’t even looking at them oddly and Cameron has gone upstairs again. Later on, there’ll be hell to pay. But that’s later and Wilson has always been about the here and now.
He slides a damp arm around Chase’s shoulders and pulls him a little closer. Chase’s breathing is warm and curiously comforting against his neck.
“Vegas,” he mumbles into Chase’s hair. Chase sighs, already mostly asleep.
Foreman yawns, stretching out like he’s finally ready to get some sleep. Careful not to dislodge Chase, Wilson leans forward and picks up the book.
Maybe an hour later, Cuddy walks in. She’s showered and changed her clothes and looks a lot more human and happy than she did earlier. She looks at Chase, and then at Wilson, reading with his cheek pressed to Chase’s hair. She doesn’t comment, which makes Wilson love her to pieces.
“House is going to be fine,” she announces.
“I knew that,” Wilson replies, closing the paperback.
“No,” Cuddy says, looking at Chase again, “You didn’t.”
Wilson knows his shirt has traces of dye on it from Chase’s, and it all looks worse than it was. He really doesn’t care.
They watch the sunrise from his balcony. It’s one of those really good sunrises that are somehow insincere, that look far too pink and orange to be real. Wilson smirks, leant on the wall.
“He’s still out there,” Cuddy says quietly. Wilson nods, squeezing her hand. By tonight, the boundaries will have been redrawn again. Right now, they’re all still free falling. He supposes it could be worse.
“It’s not your fault,” he offers, not sure exactly what Cuddy wants to hear. She laughs.
“I know that,” she replies, “It’s House’s. I mean, aren’t you surprised this hasn’t happened before?”
Wilson wakes Chase up with a mug of coffee and a clean shirt. Chase changes right there. Foreman raises an eyebrow; he’s making yet more toast, but doing a better job this time. God knows where Cameron is.
“Listen,” Wilson begins, “About last night-”
“Don’t worry,” Chase replies, all easy smiles, “I understand. And thanks. For, you know.”
Wilson smiles back and decides not to tell Chase that he’s horrendously bad at one-time things, no matter how hard he tries. Chase goes to steal some toast from Foreman and Wilson goes back to House.
But he knows this isn’t over.