Fandom: House MD
Characters: Chase, Foreman, Cameron (bits of Chase/Cameron)
Challenge/Prompt: 100moods, 097. Uncomfortable
Word Count: 2020
Spoilers: Season 3 finale; early season 4
Summary: Moving on proves a little more difficult than anticipated.
Author’s Notes: Written in drabble form, ‘cause yay. I’m just cross ‘cause 100moods doesn’t have a prompt for “Humiliated”. Now I’ve finished my Owen/Ianto epic, I can get back into writing Housefic for the new season, which I’m most excited about! (Amber/13 FTW. And yes, I do know what 13’s real name is, but I’m not using it til canon does) But I love the old fellows more, like Foreman! I never realised how much I adored him til he wasn’t there any more. :( Written entirely between 00:30 and 02:20 this morning, so please point out typos etc.
When I return, I will be better than before,
I will have learned what your medicine is for.
Mouth dry from early morning filter coffee, Eric Foreman carefully unzips his suit bag, exposing his black interview suit. He has a freshly-pressed white shirt and a real silk tie and it will all look very smart when he puts it all on. Not that it matters; he suspects that he might as well just get a t-shirt printed with the words I’m not Greg House; I promise on it. That’s basically what he’s going to be insisting today.
It would probably be all right but for the fact he’s not really sure that he believes it. Not any more.
“…I think this is a proposal,” Robert Chase admits quietly.
“Oh.” Allison Cameron glances at him, down on one knee – oh, he’s traditional, she saw that one coming, at least – and nods. “It definitely looks like one.”
They’ve only really been away from PPTH for about a week, but they drove each other mad for three years before that, so this decision isn’t entirely unexpected.
“Well?” Robert asks, tone anxious. “Will you…?”
Allison smiles a little. She only started calling him by his first name four days ago.
“Yes,” she replies softly. “I will.”
After all: why the hell not?
The first time he feels a rebuke in his mouth, Eric catches it on his tongue and forces himself to swallow it. It’s not his team’s fault. They’re new at this; they haven’t been ground down under House’s sneakers until their view of the world is distinctly skewed.
He’s beginning to suspect he got this job under false pretences, but as long as no one else picks up on it, he might be ok. He’s not House; now he just has to repeat it until he buys it.
Turning away from the whiteboard, he pins a smile to his face.
CVs give him papercuts and staring at the computer screen nearly gives him a migraine. And House fired him, which was stupid and not supposed to happen. Besides, Robert discovers, House’s bad rep quite cancels out all his father’s influence. It’s nearly poetic, or at the very least ironic. Turns out working for House doesn’t give you a ticket to anywhere you like.
Cameron – who is not Cameron, but Allison, because they’re supposedly getting married eventually – points to something on a website.
“What about Arizona?” she suggests.
Oh dear God, Robert thinks.
“What about it?” he asks, trying to smile.
“I never set out to be a martyr,” Robert says carefully, laying all his cards flat on the table between the salt and the red wine.
“House fired you,” Cuddy points out. “There’s not much I can do about that.”
She doesn’t get up and walk away though; so either the house salad is really good or she’s willing to hear him out.
“Allison is talking about Arizona,” he adds a little desperately. “Please.”
Cuddy sighs, tapping her fork absent-mindedly against her plate. But he knows she’ll cave.
“I can offer you surgery,” she says finally. “How does that sound?”
The first time they’re stuck waiting four hours for an MRI timeslot, Eric is about to tell his team to go steal someone else’s slot when he remembers that people don’t do that. House’s methods are not normal methods and so he’s got to ignore them. The results aren’t worth the price.
He goes to make himself a cup of coffee. Eric would rather get his team to do it (he’s never missed Cameron more than he does right now) but that’s probably abusing them, right? Maybe?
Choking down lukewarm instant coffee, Eric vows that he’ll get better at this.
“The thing is,” Allison begins, twisting her ring around her finger in a way that feels kind of compulsive, “Robert keeps talking about Arizona. And I…”
Cuddy takes a slightly too large gulp of wine and then smirks. She kind of looks like she’s on a private joke that Allison won’t understand.
“There’s an opening in the ER,” she offers lightly. “It’s well away from the fourth floor, at least.”
Permanent clinic duty; severed fingers, mild cuts, projectile vomiting and small children with inappropriate things stuck in inappropriate places. Nothing changes.
“Sounds great,” Allison grits out. “I can start Monday.”
They sit either side of the dinner table and can’t look at each other.
“The thing is…” Allison begins.
“I’ve been meaning to say…” Robert trails off.
“You first,” they say in unison. Then deep breaths.
“I’ve got a job in surgery at PPTH.”
“Cuddy offered me a place in the ER.”
They stare at each other.
“I thought you were interested in Arizona,” Allison ventures.
“I thought you were,” Robert replies.
They stare a bit more.
“Shit,” Allison mutters, and bursts out laughing.
“We’re probably mentally ill,” Robert agrees, and joins in.
Another minute, and they start looking suspicious.
Wilson’s mouth is a little too close to the phone, and when he laughs it crackles too loud and gives Eric an instant migraine.
“You left too late, didn’t you?” he accuses.
Eric won’t ever admit to it. “You don’t have to sound so gleeful about it,” he mumbles.
“Are you fired yet?” Wilson enquires brightly.
“No.” Eric scowls. “I’m doing fine.”
“I’ll be sure to tell House that, if he asks.” Wilson sounds too amused. “Not that he will.”
Screw you, Wilson would be too easy.
“I don’t know why I called here,” he admits.
“I do,” Wilson sighs.
“…Blonde.” Allison’s stylist narrows her eyes. “That’s a bold move.”
Allison doesn’t want to hear that it won’t go with her skin tone or that it’ll be a bitch to get rid of if she changes her mind. She’s made the decision now, no going back.
“Any particular reason?” the woman continues.
Well, there’s the thing. Allison can hardly say I’m trying to ensure that my ex-boss doesn’t recognise me when I sneak back into the building, because that sounds kind of crazy.
“Just needed the change,” she shrugs. Smiles wide to hide the lie.
“If you’re sure…”
“I don’t want House to know,” Chase tells Wilson. They’re having a drink, waiting for Allison to join them. Tomorrow, they return to PPTH. ‘Anxious’ is an understatement.
“He’s going to ask eventually,” Wilson replies. “Well, when he’s had enough of his new guitar, which could take a while. Or he’s going to see you both.”
“House is a fairly easy guy to avoid if he doesn’t know you’re there,” Chase points out. “So don’t tell him we’re back and he’ll never know.”
“What do I say when he does ask?” Wilson frowns.
Chase shrugs. “Tell him: Arizona,” he replies.
Cuddy never bothered with complications and politics because it was much easier to say stop it or I’ll fire you than to mess around with false words and smiles.
Eric’s new boss is far harder to read, and toeing the line is more difficult than he remembers it being in the past.
(Los Angeles, Princeton, New York… what exactly is he running from?)
The rules have slid from his hands, to all intents and purposes. He second-guesses himself at every turn, terrified of faked smirks and incredulous nods, because really, is he heading for dismissal or is he doing fine?
Robert’s cheeks flush high under the mask. Holding a patient’s large intestine in your hands is not the time when you want someone asking: hey, weren’t you one of House’s lackeys?
“Yes,” he says, because there’s no point in trying to hide it.
“Weren’t you the one stalking the one who was in love with House?”
Their depressing lives were the rest of the staff’s soap opera. And it doesn’t ever stop.
“Yes,” he mutters, and doesn’t bother trying to tell his side of the story. They’re really not interested.
“Weren’t you the one he fired?”
Robert shuts his eyes.
“They’re placing bets,” Wilson tells her, joining her in the ER breakroom, coffee in hand. “How long it’ll take House to notice.”
“He won’t notice,” Allison replies coolly. “From what I can tell, he’s more interested in learning all the chords to Hotel California to care about where we are.”
“Displacement,” Wilson offers. He doesn’t sound convinced.
“He’s a bastard,” Allison murmurs.
She doesn’t know if she wants to be missed or not. How’s that?
“Want me to put some money in for you?” Wilson asks.
Allison bites her bottom lip.
“No,” she decides. This game got old months ago.
“What was it like, working with the Greg House?”
Sooner or later, the question was going to pop up. Eric sighs, looking at his team. Maybe he should’ve broken them the way House broke him; maybe not.
“He was… brilliant,” he says carefully. “Could come up with connections that were wild and crazy and right, against all the odds.” He’s starting to sound wistful, which is bad, because Eric’s been guarding against that. “But he didn’t care about the patients, or endangering them, and he… wasn’t a people person.”
That’s not even half of it. The rest, he can’t repeat.
“How are you getting on?” Allison asks.
Eric sighs. “I’ve got a team of my own. And they all kind of remind me of you.”
“Should I be offended?” she laughs.
“Only slightly.” He coughs. “How are you?”
“I’m back at Princeton/Plainsboro,” she admits.
“Oh. With House?”
She shouldn’t have called.
“Has House hired new fellows yet?”
“Forty of them.”
“Does that mean we were indispensable?” Eric sounds amused.
“That’s one way of looking at it…” Allison smiles. “So you’re ok?”
“Yeah.” His voice cracks.
“Do you… regret…?”
There’s no reply. She wasn’t expecting one.
Robert reflects that he’s pretty bad at subtlety, but it’s been weeks and House has an entire room full of new employees with little numbers around their necks, getting under people’s feet and being generally disruptive, and he can’t resist walking past House’s office door.
“Do you have a nefarious plan to drive House mad for firing you?” Wilson comes and asks him later. “He’s convinced he’s hallucinating you.”
“Just keep telling him I’m in Arizona,” Robert insists.
The game is petty, but it’s nice to win for once. Wilson is staring.
“Don’t you ever do any work?” Robert mutters.
In bed one night, Allison’s hand seeks his.
“Do you ever hate us for coming back?” she asks.
Not if the choice was here or Arizona, Robert thinks.
“Sometimes,” he admits. “Do you?”
She laughs quietly. “Yeah, sometimes.”
Today, he got a diagnosis, solved the puzzle as fast as House did. It’s either growing up, or just showing how he’s never going to be able to let go.
For once, it would be nice if things were simple.
“Do you think everyone else laughs at us for coming back?” she continues.
Yes, Allison; what should I say?
“No,” Robert lies.
House is a goddamn albatross around his neck and Eric is tired of it. Over and over, it’s helpless smiles, my hands are tied, Doctor Foreman, and the door closing politely behind him. First he was fired for saving someone, now he’s the worst kind of leper.
House gets away with it because he’s House. Eric…isn’t.
He doesn’t want to trail back to Princeton with his tail between his legs but it turns out there’s no choice.
Cuddy’s slight smile in no way helps matters. And disgrace is a bitter pill to swallow.
He can’t look her in the eye.
“I have news,” Wilson informs them.
Allison decides that Wilson has really taken an unhealthy interest in the trials and errors of House’s former diagnostic team, but she doesn’t point it out.
“What?” Robert asks.
“Foreman’s been fired,” Wilson says. “Broke one too many rules. So guess who’s coming back on Monday?”
“Shit,” Robert murmurs, looking stunned.
“I can’t believe that none of us managed to escape,” Allison sighs.
“You tried,” Wilson offers.
This Stockholm Syndrome goes worryingly deep, and in the end it looks like they all lost the game. So Eric’s returning to PPTH?
Monday should be interesting.