Fandom: House MD
Characters: House; Chase, Cuddy, Wilson, Foreman, Cameron
Challenge/Prompt: 100moods, 041. Frustrated
Summary: Wilson might at some point have had a rant about connecting with people.
Author’s Notes: Set after “Half-Wit”. House doesn’t exactly fix things but he makes them slightly less complicated. Probably :) You know how much I love writing mad and awkward dialogue.
You can’t fight the tears that ain’t coming,
Or the moment of truth in your lies.
“My father died of cancer,” Chase says, apropos of nothing, it’s just them in the conference room, them and the whiteboard and a whole host of bitterness. Same old same old.
“Yes,” House agrees. “And now you’re sleeping with Cameron and you’re broke and your Big Bad Boss hit you and refused to believe you hadn’t betrayed him.” He leans back in his chair. “Some days, you’re better than a soap opera.”
“Is that why I haven’t been fired?” Chase enquires, seemingly fixated with the coffee mug in front of him. While the red glaze reflects light wonderfully and it’s all very shiny House is pretty certain that Chase is just trying to avoid looking at him.
Can’t look at me when I’m dying, can’t look at me now I’m going to live. Can’t win with you Chase. Wouldn’t even want to try. I bet your rules are fucking terrifying.
“You haven’t been fired because for one day a month you’re almost very close to being a reasonably competent doctor,” House replies disinterestedly, fingers playing some imaginary tune on the tabletop. Shifts his fingers slightly; changes the tune to minor.
“I’ll take that as a compliment.” Something that might tentatively call itself a smile tugs the corner of Chase’s mouth.
“Oh, don’t.” House is getting into full swing with his invisible symphony; it’s gorgeous in his head, aloud it’s probably just entangled discordant notes. Story of his life.
The silence yawns and stretches. House waits for it to ping like a rubber band, which it will, because Chase is nothing if not terribly predictable.
“I hugged you.”
“Want me to fire you for sexual harassment?”
House wants out of this conversation but Wilson said something ridiculous about connecting so now he’s got to sit it out so that Chase will go back to being blinky and offended and generally irritating and life can be normal again. He’s got to make this awkward silence and the way Chase keeps at least four feet away from him at all times stop. It’s making elevator rides impossible.
“You didn’t fire Cameron,” Chase points out.
“Cameron’s prettier.” House shrugs. “Of course, you’d know that better than I do.”
Chase refuses to be baited, but that’s ok. There’ll be other days. Lots and lots of other days. Endless amounts of time to torment and tease.
“My dad died of cancer,” Chase says again.
“If you tell me you see me as a father figure then I will actually fire you,” House assures him, and is slightly gratified by the horrified expression that Chase shoots him. “God, what would it take to get you to bail out of this conversation? Money? Drugs? Hookers? Cameron to turn up to work in just a bikini?”
Chase rolls his eyes. House sighs.
“Fine. Say your piece. Then go and do my clinic duty.”
“Foreman and Cameron are already doing your clinic duty.”
“Then go somewhere that isn’t here. Anyway. Talk.”
There’s another awkward silence and House has had quite enough of awkward silences in this huge glass room and the look on Chase’s face is some complicated cross between angry and penitent and-
“My father died of cancer, and then we thought that you were dying of cancer. And-”
“I didn’t do this to kick your puppy, Chase.” House snaps it out, not sure exactly what Chase wants from him and he’s uncomfortably aware that Chase doesn’t know either, but what the hell.
“It wasn’t about me,” Chase says steadily, “It’s never about me.”
House thinks about saying: at least you’ve figured that out, but he doesn’t.
“Is that it?” he asks, just to make sure.
“Yes.” Chase is looking at him now, strange little smile quirking his lips.
“Do you want a hug?”
“You’re an arsehole.”
Chase gets up and for one very odd moment House thinks- but no. Chase heads for the door instead.
“I’m going to do your clinic duty,” he clarifies, hand flat on the glass.
House doesn’t want to ask except that Wilson might at some point have had a rant about connecting with people and this is the first stupid step or the second or some weird step in between that doesn’t get a number. So he asks.
“Are we… are we ok?”
Oh, it costs him a lot to say it and Chase looks almost comically shocked but it’s too late to bite his tongue out so he’ll deal.
A weird little smirk flits across his intensivist’s face; something almost wistful and bitterly amused.
“Were we ever?” he points out, and doesn’t look back when he walks out.
House screws up his face in annoyance for a moment, but at least things are back to normal.
“You liked having cancer,” Cuddy says accusingly, bright blue eyes narrowed.
“I didn’t have cancer,” House reminds her, just because there are some hours when he’s not too sure either.
“You convinced yourself you did. Oh, sure, it was just some poor terminal patient whose files you were screwing about with, but it was fun. It was a game; but it was real.”
Cuddy is looking at him like she’s peeling all the layers off one by one and doesn’t like what she finds, but then she gives him that look three times a day so it’s losing its potency. Besides, House knows she’s more hurt than angry.
“Sure. All the fun of dying with none of the payoff.” House rolls his eyes.
“It was something new to define yourself by,” Cuddy explains, and for one interesting moment she looks and sounds exactly like Wilson (but with breasts… now that’s something to mention to Jimmy next time he’s bored). “Something different to try.”
“Can we cut the psychoanalysis and just go to the part where you complain that you let me grab your ass and now I’m not dying you’re annoyed about it?” House suggests with very little hope. He’s come to realise that you can’t fake cancer and then expect everyone else to let it go. It has to be turned over and discussed from too many points of view until everyone’s sick of the subject before it can be forgotten.
“I think I knew you weren’t dying,” Cuddy informs him, she’s twisting a rubber band between trembling hands, that’s just about the only sign that she’s not fine. Outside the windows it’s dark but he saw this conversation coming a mile off so he’ll sit obediently until his leg goes to sleep and then he’ll make some remark about morphine and she’ll let him go in disgust. House knows how this goes. He and Cuddy and the final line that neither of them will cross.
“Because if you were dying you’d be complaining more. Whining that your tumour itches and therefore you need time off clinic duty.”
“So it’s impossible for me to be noble?” House enquires, leaning back into the squashy couch in her office because he’s on steadier ground now. He can do this bit.
“House, if you get so much as a papercut you make sure that everyone in the hospital knows it,” Cuddy points out. She looks more relaxed now too, now that she’s not trying to be Wilson; her posture more slouching and her shirt is gapping so he can see her bra and House doesn’t point this out in case she makes an attempt to rectify this.
House likes to spread the agony around. Except that sometimes he doesn’t. He knows more about suffering in silence than Cuddy gives him credit for; and he thinks that they both know this. But he’s not going to bring it up. That’s a whole other conversation that they’ll never have. It’s a conversation to have, possibly drunk, in Wilson’s Heartbreak Hotel Room.
“How did it feel,” House begins, “When you thought I was going to die, and you’d perjured yourself for nothing?”
Cuddy considers the question, unconsciously winding a curl of dark hair around her finger.
“I don’t think it ever crossed my mind,” she says, “And jail would be a pretty shitty place to die, wouldn’t it? I’d probably feel good about myself.”
Well, it’s clear Cuddy’s forgiven him, which is slightly unexpected, but then she didn’t spend two days manically trying to find a cure to save him like his faithful little team did. They’re exhausted and betrayed. House has the vaguest feeling that Cuddy expected this to happen, on some very strange level.
“Don’t you have somewhere to be?” he asks, before they can get into the “and why did you want a happy drug implanted in your brain in the first place” conversation, because he’s going to have to have that one with somebody and he doesn’t want it to be her. Besides, they’ve been awkward around each other long enough, and he’s got to get out of the hospital before Cameron takes it into her head to molest him again.
Cuddy shrugs. It’s eloquent, for a shrug; he can read all sorts of things about empty-housed evenings and a job that is both fulfilling and stressful, and House doesn’t want to read those things because this is Cuddy and therefore things are a bit complicated when it comes to her.
“You can go if you like,” she says. House considers this.
“If you thought I wasn’t dying, why did you let me grab your ass in the first place?” he enquires. “And if I tell you I’ve got two months to live, will you flash your-”
“Out,” Cuddy orders, but she’s smirking.
They are both really quite drunk, because Wilson insisted on it and House was honestly going to decline because mixing pills and alcohol is such a bad idea – oh, ok, fine then. It’ll probably take a good quantity of scotch to make this evening less difficult anyway.
Having a conversation with Wilson is sort of like playing jazz, House muses after a while, when he’s not exactly sure how many fingers he’s got and Wilson is glowering at the blank TV screen (House is sure that they used to hold their drink better than this but maybe they’re just drinking more these days). Streams of meaningless words, disjointed phrases, nothing that seems to make up a coherent discussion to the uninitiated listener. But that’s because you’re not supposed to listen to the words themselves, but to the spaces between them.
Well, either that, or he and Wilson are just really crap at this communicating thing.
“Talking to you is like having your leg shut in a steel bear-trap,” Wilson remarks.
“Is that something that happens to you a lot?” House enquires, but Wilson ignores him.
“- And you’re chewing your own foot off to try and escape but as soon as you do it opens again and attaches itself to your arm, so you have to repeat the whole process on your wrist…”
“I’m sure I’d have noticed if I was making you bite off your own appendages,” House says. There’s something wrong about that sentence but he’s damned if he knows what it is. “Is there a point to this?”
Wilson shrugs. His tie has disappeared, probably between the cushions of House’s couch, never to be seen again, and he looks as haggard as he does when he’s lost four patients and his ex-wives are complaining about their alimony cheques and the new nurse from radiology won’t meet him for a coffee. Except that as far as House knows Wilson’s patients are all hanging in there, and therefore it’s probably his fault that Wilson looks like he’s been wrung out and left in a little pathetic heap. It usually is.
They drink in silence, and House amuses himself by counting the seconds in Wilson’s mutinous silence, waiting for his friend to break. After all, Wilson laughed manically for a while, and told him not to push people away, but really, that’s not the angry reaction House knows that Wilson has been holding inside and is just waiting to unleash.
“For God’s sake just say it,” he orders in the end, because he’s just trying to have a quiet drink and Wilson’s uncomfortable tension is making the whole thing stupid and awkwardly complicated.
“I’m just wondering what it’s like in your head,” Wilson replies mildly. “I mean, I want to know at which point you woke up in the morning and thought: ‘hmmm, what shall I do today? I know, I’ll pretend I have terminal cancer! That’ll be fun! Ha ha!’.”
In real life, it was a line of dominoes that all toppled over a little too fast and left him breathlessly crushed at rock bottom, and he acted out of sheer desperation. But Wilson doesn’t need to know that and besides, it’s both terrifying and endlessly amusing that his best friend thinks that House is the kind of guy to pretend he has a fatal disease just for shits and giggles.
He shrugs. “I thought maybe that if I was sick you’d make me a cake,” he tells Wilson.
Wilson is staring at him, slightly unfocused puppy eyes still expressive in spite of exhaustion and inebriation.
“You’re mentally ill,” he says slowly. “You are actually insane.”
House sighs. Wilson has this irritating habit of never seeing the funny side and always being things like moral and disbelieving.
“Give it up, Jimmy,” he says, “It happened, now it’s over.”
Wilson shakes his head.
“I’ve put up with a lot of shit from you recently-” he begins, and this is not a conversation they are going to have, now or ever. They are not going to remember prescriptions with the wrong signatures, they are not going to discuss Wilson giving up everything he had and they are not going to talk about the way he left House choking on his own vomit and they are also not going to mention the rehab that wasn’t rehab and the trial that wasn’t really a trial. A few months locked tight in a box and they’ll never be let out again.
“We’re not doing this,” House announces casually, swiping the bottle of scotch from Wilson’s slightly shaking hands and managing to put the lid back on.
“No, we’re not,” Wilson agrees, going back to the uneasy truce (or is it a stalemate) that they’ve achieved.
House tidies up awkwardly in the silence. It’s late and neither of them constitute sober any more. Wilson looks up at him, big-eyed and vulnerable-looking.
“If you were dying,” he begins hesitantly, “Would you come to me? Would you tell me?”
“Go to sleep, Jimmy,” he says, pointing at the couch, “And in the morning you can make me some ‘Hooray You’re Not Dying’ pancakes.”
Wilson sighs but he doesn’t argue. He never does.
House has to practically accost Foreman to get him to talk to him because Foreman doesn’t seem inclined to speak to him about anything but work (and even then he glares at House and spits out differential diagnoses in an annoyed sort of tone, which is making everything incredibly boring and complicated). Everyone else is virtually leaping on House to tell him how angry and hurt they are; but not Foreman. God forbid he ever open his mouth and let House have it.
“Cameron kissed me,” House announces. It’s late, Foreman is attempting to leave, he’s even got his coat on, but that doesn’t matter. “Ok, so she was trying to steal my blood at the time, but she kissed me. Chase hugged me. Cuddy let me grab her ass. Wilson was all emotionally supportive. But you – you just tried to tell me that you liked me, which you don’t, because most days you want to hurt me in creatively painful ways.”
Foreman looks at him, an unreadable stare.
“Are you done?” he asks eventually.
“No.” House decides he might as well push it. “Why didn’t you care when I was dying?”
“You weren’t dying!” Foreman points out, but he seems to realise that this conversation isn’t going to end anytime soon, because he puts his briefcase down. It’s a start.
“You didn’t know that,” House reminds him. Foreman sighs.
“I was sad when I thought you were dying,” he annunciates carefully, not a trace of real human feeling in his tone.
“Sad you hadn’t taken that job in LA with Marty McSmug?” House enquires, twisting something, looking for a reaction so they can move on. Not let it simmer bitterly between them, because life is too fucking short.
“You’re not a good person and I barely respect you but that doesn’t mean I want you dead,” Foreman tells him. That’s some form of truth. House can believe that. Everybody lies but sometimes- sometimes they don’t.
“I’m obviously not doing a good enough job of making your work life hell,” House says instead. It almost gets a smile – almost, but not quite. And he watches the question ripple over Foreman’s face but he doesn’t say it. Even Foreman can’t quite ask why; though if anyone actually worked up the courage to look House in the eye and enquire just why he felt the need for such an elaborate and fucking stupid ruse, then House knows it would be the one employee not willing to bend over backwards at a moment’s notice.
“I’ll tell you, if you really want to know,” he offers. That gets a reaction too; genuine surprise, with an edge of sharp suspicion, on Foreman’s face.
“Why would you tell me?” he asks, eyes narrowed, clearly expecting the world to end any moment. House doesn’t blame him. Nothing seems too certain right now and anything’s possible. Brain cancer is secretly neurosyphilis. And Cameron kissed him first.
House shrugs, says: “Because we’re frighteningly similar.” It’s true enough for Foreman to look uncomfortable.
“I’m nothing like you.” It sounds more like a mantra than anything actually true.
“We wear the same sneakers, drink the same coffee, have the same medical opinion – half the time you find yourself snapping things you know that I’d say,” House points out. “The perfect little clone.”
Foreman’s scowl is deepening into something almost beautiful.
“I’ve never faked cancer,” he snarls.
“Well,” House shrugs, “Not yet, anyway.”
“Well, maybe next time you start screwing a nurse, you won’t be able to send her away to another nursing program miles away in order to dump her,” House says, pushing, always pushing, although he should stop one day because otherwise Foreman really will up and quit and then who will he torment properly? “Always got to have that get-out clause ready.”
Is this a step too far? The look on Foreman’s face, like he’s going to hit him in the face any second, implies that House has crossed that wavering and not always very clear line, but then this is very nearly normal for them.
“I am not you,” Foreman says slowly, and he picks up his briefcase and walks out, leaving House to the regular kind of awkward, angry silence; the kind they’re used to.
“You say that now…” House murmurs.
Tuesday morning, Foreman and Chase are in the clinic or braiding each other’s hair or doing whatever it is that they do when avoiding the diagnostics department. Which means that sooner or later Cameron is going to-
“I made you some tea,” she says, slamming a black mug on the desk in front of him, like he’s really sick (and wouldn’t she just love it if he were).
“I don’t like tea,” House points out, looking at the mug in mild perturbation, as though it’s full of poison; and he wouldn’t put that past Cameron, not right now.
She bites her lips together, and he remembers kissing them in a detached sort of way, like remembering a dream, but only recalling pieces and he can’t remember if she tasted like strawberries or not, which means that he’s lost that bet with Wilson somewhere along the line.
“If you’ve got something to say you might as well just get on with it,” he says, ignoring the steaming tea, fixing her with a glare because although he’s supposed to be fixing all this he’s not exactly sure how he can improve the situation with Cameron without having a conversation that he really, really doesn’t want to have to go into. Not now, not ever. He’s not used to backing away from arguments or even from the truth but for once he’d happily give everything up and not do this.
“I’ve got nothing to say,” she says, tone tight, he supposes that brain cancer has all sorts of delicious connotations for her too, “There’s nothing you can say to me that can make me understand or forgive you.”
House considers saying something along the lines of: I told you I had brain cancer and you didn’t try to marry me. I’m hurt. But that’s a step too far and he can push Foreman but push Cameron and she breaks. The funny thing is, though that you can never tell just how she’ll break. Whether it’ll be the crying over centrifuges kind of breakage or the sudden flash of anger that no one expects or even the getting high and screwing Chase kind of breakdown. Which reminds him.
“Why Chase?” he asks, “I thought you’d at least have the good taste to pick Foreman.”
Cameron pouts and House is once again reminded of corsages but he didn’t want it enough and he doesn’t want it now; but he did kiss back (and the look in her eyes tells him that she won’t forget that in hurry, she’s storing it away to use somewhere when he’s not expecting it, and that’s very, very bad. House hates it when people have something on him that he can’t get back.).
“Foreman’s too much like you,” Cameron informs him, but House doesn’t think that’s the truth, and besides, he’s fairly sure that she hasn’t figured out how deep the similarities lie; not yet, anyway.
“Oh, tell him that, it’ll make his day,” he tells Cameron, leaning back, refusing to touch the tea she made him because that’s a connection that runs too deep for comfort.
“Is everything a test?” she asks eventually, taking a step forward like she believes that he’ll give her an honest answer. She should have learned by now but she hasn’t and House, on some scary, sadistic level, likes leading her on and then tripping her up. Knocking out the naïveté one lie at a time.
“Not everything’s about you,” House tells her, “I don’t just wake up in the morning and go ‘what can I do to upset Cameron today?’”
Last piece of his penance; he just has to sit here for a few more minutes and then he can go back to acting like king of the world; can survive everything, even fake cancer. And they’ll all forgive him because they have to. First thing you learn working for him: forgive House whatever he does, because it won’t work any other way.
“But you considered every angle,” Cameron pushes, “You knew how it would affect everyone and you still went ahead and did it.”
“I didn’t mean for you guys to find out!” House points out, annoyed now, because Cameron’s giving him that shrewd look and sometimes he thinks she’s figured out more about him than Chase and Foreman put together.
“You really believe that, don’t you?” Cameron is frowning, and stepping closer again.
“You’re not going to try and kiss me again, are you?” House enquires, neatly inserting a brick wall into the conversation she’s trying to create before they’re crushed together too close and it gets messier than it already is. “Because I’ll let it go once but I won’t let it go twice. The next time, you’re out for sexual harassment.”
Cameron looks like she’s been slapped, which is a relief because otherwise she might say a few other things House doesn’t want her to have worked out.
“You like being isolated,” she tells him, “I don’t know why we bother any more.”
“So you don’t want a sperm sample?” House enquires brightly, with something that’s almost a perky smile (and God knows how disturbing that actually is to look at).
Cameron shakes her head, but pauses with her hand on the door for one final shot.
“I liked you better when you were dying,” she hisses.
“You always do,” House reminds her, “That’s your problem.”
Cameron looks like she’d like to say something else but restrains herself, and walks out. House leans back in his chair, and studiously ignores his untouched tea as it slowly goes cold.