Fandom: House MD
Pairing: Chase/Wilson [teensy bit of canon!Chase/Cameron]
Challenge/Prompt: fanfic100, 024. Family, un_love_you, 027. Author’s Choice I don’t know what this is.
Genre: Slash [het]
Warning: This fic starts with an ellipsis. You have been warned.
Summary: Foreman’s mistake reminds Chase of a few things he’s been trying to forget about.
Author’s Notes: Basically, this particular ff100 prompt has been giving me a headache, so I decided that I’d just base it around the episode entitled “Family”. Tenuous link, yes, but what the hell. Written largely on buses, because public transport is slightly inspiring. And just so you know, a lot of this is intentionally vague. It’s a conscious choice, though I fully accept that it could irritate you, and you may flame me for it.
So what d’you think about me?
I couldn’t live without me,
But everything about me is driving me mad.
…And it’s not really even as though they’ve been avoiding each other, it’s just that they have no reason to be alone together, ever. That aspect never used to bother Chase, and there came that time, a year (and a little more) ago; when Cameron was still off the table and Wilson still had a wife to go home to, and avoiding each other became nearly impossible.
These days, they barely talk, and no one notices the difference because, really, there isn’t one. Except that Wilson sold House out for a bruise on Chase’s jaw and they still can’t actually look each other in the eye.
Chase supposes that worse things have happened. At least with Wilson there wasn’t a misplaced declaration of love, at least with Wilson their cards were flat on the table and the whole thing almost resembled a coherent mistake (which made a nice change from the rest of his life at the time). Now, he’s faced with Cameron and her brittle determination, which will crack one day, but Chase doesn’t know this new Cameron, and it honestly could go a million ways with her. The chances are he’s still going to lose, but that’s ok, because it’s been so long that Chase can no longer remember what winning feels like anyway.
“You kill people all the time, right?”
Chase knows that it’s a shitty opening to what he actually wants to say, and mentally winces at his own tactlessness, but on the other hand he hasn’t had nearly enough sleep, and besides, Princeton/Plainsboro generally robs you of the ability to have a normal conversation about a week after you first step through the doors.
“Well, no, Dr Chase,” Wilson says, something that’s either anger or amusement causing a smirk to flick across his face, “There’s this thing called cancer, and it-”
“Fine.” Chase cuts him off before they both get distracted with patronising each other, and his original point is ruined. “But you’ve lost a lot of patients, haven’t you?”
“Through no fault of my own,” Wilson reminds him mildly. Chase almost wants to make a House-like remark, something along the lines of how Oncology is a truly blameless medicine, because even if you do kill your patient they were dying anyway. But that won’t help matters either, so he doesn’t. Instead, he cuts straight to his point.
“I think that you should talk to Foreman,” he says.
Wilson looks bemused.
“Surely you’d be the person to talk to about screwing up and killing patients,” he replies, tone matter-of-fact.
“Apparently my daddy issues exonerate me,” Chase tells him, dropping into the chair on the other side of Wilson’s desk.
“Do they?” Wilson enquires, as though he’s actually interested.
Chase shrugs. It’s a question he’s asked himself so many times over the last year that it echoes unpleasantly in his head, and he’s no closer to a meaningful answer. But at least he’s got a dubious, paper-thin excuse to cling to. Foreman’s got nothing but an honest-to-God mistake, and Chase can’t even begin to imagine what that feels like; to have made a stone-cold decision and then to realise that you were so wrong that you cost another human being everything.
“You’re better at sympathy than I am,” he explains, ignoring Wilson’s question because he doesn’t know what to say. “And the two of you have always got on well.”
There isn’t a note of jealousy in his tone because Chase figured out a long time ago that there’s no point in being envious of the fact that Wilson gets on better with Foreman and Cameron than he does with him. It’s probably a matter of respect. Foreman and Cameron generally admire Wilson’s judgement and advice. Chase can see right through the erratic nice-guy persona and out the other side, and it’s not nearly as pretty a view as Wilson would have him believe. Besides, Wilson doesn’t really even like him and Chase has come to accept that merely as par for the course.
“So you want me to talk to him about screwing up and how you cope afterwards?” Wilson is rubbing the back of his neck like he does when he’s uncomfortable, but Chase knows he’s sold. Wilson loves saving people. It’s a character flaw, but it does come in handy sometimes.
“Pretty much,” Chase replies. Wilson frowns.
“That’s unusually selfless of you,” he points out. Chase hates him for that because the slightly disdainful note in Wilson’s voice makes his chest hurt, and he doesn’t want Wilson’s opinion to matter to him. Not ever.
“Well,” Chase says, keeping his voice as airy as he can, a half-smirk playing around his mouth, “Foreman also needs someone to talk to about ‘how to cope when you discover you’re turning into House’, and I figured you’d be the expert on that too.”
They’ve had an awkward half conversation but Foreman woke the topic up in Chase’s head and grabbing a few hours’ sleep in the on-call room, he dreams of Kayla again. He doesn’t sleep well, his head is pounding and having the lives of two young boys on his conscience adds another layer of cloying guilt to the already suffocating cocoon.
Foreman has made him a cup of coffee and the words on the whiteboard blur in front of his gritty eyes. Chase can’t even remember what day it is, except that there isn’t enough time left. There never is.
He doesn’t need Foreman’s anxious remorse filling up the air and intermingling with his own. Chase has too many ghosts stored tight and miserable in his ribcage to make room for dealing with Foreman’s. It doesn’t matter that his father was dead and he could barely remember his own name, let alone a routine medical question for a woman claiming she was fine. It’s a pointless rationalization, something cheap and helpless that might have saved him his career but which doesn’t excuse the fact that a woman suffered and died because of him.
Cut out of the will and left with a mother-of-two’s blood on his hands. Rowan Chase’s very final fuck you. Robert knows he was never good enough, but he didn’t deserve this.
House, new cane with flames licking the base of it as though that will somehow make everything better, looks at the two of them moping over coffee, and a nasty little smirk quirks his lips.
“Can you imagine how great it’ll be when Cameron finally kills someone?” he remarks, eyes gleaming in a faintly unsettling way.
Chase is exhausted and apparently kind of a bit in love with Cameron, which just about explains why he’s the one to speak up.
“Seriously,” he says, “You have got to stop getting off on other people’s pain.”
“Why?” House asks. “It’s not like I’m getting off on my own.”
Chase is sorely tempted to say: yes, yes you are, but this isn’t his argument. He’s not supposed to give a damn about House and the reckless way he stumbles the line between sadism and masochism, so he doesn’t. He lets Wilson and Cameron and Cuddy worry about House, and lets everyone else think he’s criminally self-absorbed because it’s easier than wasting emotions on someone who doesn’t give a shit either way.
So he shrugs, and doesn’t say anything at all, and watches Foreman staring unseeingly at his coffee.
At the time, Chase was so busy grieving over his father that he barely had time to remember that he’d killed Kayla. She was an afterthought, a splinter, when he had too much other devastation to deal with. He doesn’t remember all that much about those days, anyway, madness and loss and trying to hold it together enough that House wouldn’t put two and two together and make a whole wealth of cruel remarks that Chase was in no fit state to ignore.
He’d almost managed to forget Kayla; at least until her brother came in for a check-up, and reminded him of all the things he’d distractedly broken while trapped in his own head. ‘Sorry’ has never been an easy word, and Chase found it much simpler to slide a court case and a few layers of fresh blame between himself and what he’d done. It was easier to apologise to Cuddy and House for the fact he was getting sued than it was to apologise to Kayla’s family for the loss of a woman who would have been fine if it weren’t for one tiny, little, practically meaningless screw-up.
The day the papers arrived, he remembers very little. There was altogether too much shock and guilt for everything to be completely lucid. In fact, there’s really only one moment that remembers with raw clarity; up against the glass in the half-light with his lower lip trapped between Wilson’s teeth. He isn’t entirely sure how he got there, because that part wasn’t important. Chase can’t imagine what he thought he was going to get out of it, but he already knew that it no longer mattered how much further he fell, and Wilson’s logic processes have never really made any sort of sense to him.
It was just another mistake; another slip-up in the wrong direction, something tiny that became bigger than it was ever meant to be. A few months of hell (or something so complicated that it fucking felt like it), and then nothing. An anti-climax.
Kayla’s death and Chase’s ‘relationship’ with Wilson. Entwined together so irreversibly that Chase can no longer recall one without the other. Foreman’s got blood on his conscience but Chase has even more to regret.
“Well, I talked to Foreman,” Wilson says, waylaying Chase in the corridor. They fall into step with each other easily. Chase is never exactly sure how he and Wilson are supposed to interact now. He assumed that it was meant to be indifference, but Chase knows that an awkward conversation when his jaw hurt with wounded pride and a deep purple bruise led to Wilson turning House over to Tritter. And that not only makes things endlessly awkward, but Chase no longer has any idea where he stands.
Nothing new there then.
“How did it go?” he asks. He and Foreman barely tolerate each other’s presence most days, but that summer without House fixed a few things, and Chase thinks that someone in the damn department deserves some kind of emotional counselling.
“I may have just talked him into quitting,” Wilson shrugs, tone neutral. Chase smiles slightly. No one has a logical reason to stay here, but they do anyway.
The silence isn’t as uncomfortable as it could be, really, it’s just silence, and before he knows it Chase has followed Wilson into his office. Nothing here can end well but Chase has enough sense not to stumble again and, if you believe the hospital gossip, Wilson’s too distracted attempting to date Cuddy. So, with this tentative safety net in place, Chase sits down on a spare chair.
“House called me a coward,” Wilson says carefully. Chase almost wonders why he’s being told this, when it hits him: his opinion means nothing to Wilson. He can say what he likes and, in the scheme of things, it won’t matter.
“He’s right,” Chase points out. “You hide it well, behind your steady hands and charming smiles and aren’t-I-much-nicer-than-House attitude, but underneath it all, you are a coward.”
The look on Wilson’s face tells Chase that he might actually be wrong. Maybe his opinion does matter after all.
“You’re in no position to judge,” Wilson points out, voice barely steady and Chase still can’t tell if he’s actually angry.
“At least I’m honest about it.” Chase doesn’t want to be here having this conversation. He’s not sure what he wants but it’s not this.
There’s a long pause when neither of them can think of anything to say. When they stopped sleeping together, they didn’t even have to avoid each other. They’re tenuously linked by House and all his insidious madness, and that really is it. Any form of social interaction is so impossibly difficult that Chase wants to fold and give up trying.
“You look tired,” he tells Wilson instead.
“I am,” Wilson replies. “Over the last few days I’ve had two boys apparently racing to see who could die first, so many phonecalls from my ex-wife that I’m beginning to get suspicious about her intentions, House trying to murder my dog, and a migraine that makes my head feel like it’s trying to split open.”
Chase thinks about this.
What the hell.
“I’ve set Tuesdays apart for telling Cameron that I want to be with her,” he begins carefully.
“I know.” Wilson’s smirk is sudden and slightly dangerous. “The nursing staff are incredibly amused by your stalking antics.”
Chase wants to tell Wilson that he isn’t stalking Cameron, but for all he knows, he is.
“If you want,” he continues recklessly, “I can start reminding you on Wednesdays that although we don’t really like each other and have nothing in common, I am incredibly good-looking and surprisingly easy.”
Wilson considers him for a moment, an unreadable expression on his face.
“Wednesdays aren’t really good for me,” he says at last.
“Fine.” Chase forces a smile onto his face. “It was only a suggestion.”
“Thursdays are fine though,” Wilson adds.
“All right.” Chase gets to his feet. If Foreman really is quitting then he’ll be required to sit around looking useless and making insensitive comments. He’s pretty good at that, and it’s what’s expected of him. God forbid he disappoint them all by proving that he’s not actually a tactless asshole (at least, not all the time).
“Do you have any idea what you’re doing?” Wilson enquires, a definite edge of amusement in his tone now.
“Not really,” Chase admits.
Wilson still looks exhausted, but his bite of laughter is genuine.
“I’ll see you Thursday, then,” he says.
Chase closes the office door behind him and turns towards diagnostics. He has got to stop getting himself into these situations.