A/N: Thanks everyone so much for the reviews they were great. I know there were typos, I'm sorry. I got a new computer and my brother in law set it up and he but the default language to American English so it kept telling me I misspelled every other word. It made me miss ones that actually were misspelled.
I hope I managed to redeem Foreman somewhat and make Chase a little meaner. Hope you enjoy.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of these people nor would I really want to.
Two weeks later, and frost was starting to form on the metal and window panes of the diagnostics department. Chase hadn't said a word to Foreman unless it was directly involving the care of a patient and even those were terse and clipped. Foreman had wondered whether anyone could be meaner than House but then he realized that Chase's frigid silence was crueler than House's insults. How in the world could doing nothing be so damn hurtful? Foreman hadn't realized how quiet the department could be without Chase's strange, off colour quips. He began to worry about their working relationships.
Cameron, of course, tried to work things out between them. She and Foreman had discussed what to do about Chase repeatedly and she had volunteered to try and soften him up. However, Chase resolutely refused to utter a single word about what was going on or why he was angry. Not to mention he didn't seem to be Cameron's biggest fan on the best of occasions and this was not the best of times. It had gotten to the point that even House was getting annoyed or amused by it. He had called Chase into his office twice to talk to him about it but little had changed. Though in actuality, House had called Chase into his office so they could laugh at Foreman.
Chase had taken to completely ignoring the eldest ducking. If Foreman was in the room, he left. If Foreman mentioned something during a meeting, he would only address House. He would only respond to direct questions, and then always answered by ending with "Dr. Foremen," a title that Chase hadn't used since the second day of Foreman's fellowship. Chase refused invitations and spent great deals of time in the ICU or with patients as to avoid Foreman. One could assume that Chase was just in a bad mood, but the worst was that he was positively chipper to everyone else. It only made his utter lack of attention to Foreman that much more apparent.
Foreman was being driven slowly nuts by it. He had never dealt with anyone this stubborn before. He wished Chase would talk to him, yell at, hell even take a swing at him. But all the Aussie did was occasionally stare down his nose at him like he was something under a microscope. Foreman had tried being friendly, he had tried yelling, he had even tried being snippy and sarcastic. Nothing worked. Chase was childishly pretending that he didn't exist and he was stupidly hurt by it.
On Tuesday of the second week, House called Foreman into his office. He hid his smile, partially from multiple Vicodin and partially from watching his eldest duckling squirm and bend to Chase's silent manipulations. It amused him to no extent that Chase was able to make ignoring someone so damn mean but it also saddened him because the Aussie must have learned it from somewhere and he was pretty sure he knew where.
Once they were both seated, House stared down his neurologist and said. "So what is the matter, too proud to kiss Chase's ass and get him to forgive you?"
Foreman tried not to stiffen. Why did House assume it was his fault that there was tension in the department? Chase was the one who had turned the place into a bloody ice palace. "I did apologize. He is the one causing the problems."
"Then apologize more. Eat some crow!"
"Why should I?"
"Because; I am getting tired of feeling like I am limping into a blizzard when I come into my own department. Work it out or work somewhere else till he calms down."
"Why aren't you talking to him about it? I haven't done anything to him." Foreman was more than slightly miffed at the favouritism House was showing.
"Chase is a lost cause. I have talked to him and he thinks he deserves to still be angry. I can't make him forgive you. You have to do that." In truth, Chase, House, and Wilson had had a stellar laugh about how badly Foreman was taking the cold shoulder. Foreman was getting grumpy, jumpy, and depressed by the silent treatment. It was made worse by how pleasant Chase had been to their most recent patient, an Englishman who shared Chase's love of adventure sports. Chase had sat around with their patient talking about cricket, soccer, tea, and the Queen or whatever English people talked about.
"I have tried to work things out with him. He has been an ass about it every time I try to talk to him. He keeps saying he isn't mad at me." But Foreman knew that Chase clearly was still angry. The Aussie was calling him "Dr. Foreman" to his face. Chase never used anyone's title unless it was in front of patients. It had seemed rude and disrespectful at first but then Foreman realized that House, Wilson, and Cuddy did it too. He had gotten used to just being "Foreman" and it was a slap in the face to be returned to the formality of a title.
"Chase can be such a chick sometimes. You didn't tell him that his pants made his ass look fat did you?"
"No. I make it a point not to look at his skinny ass. I am at a loss. I think I am going to have to strangle him. I have no idea how to deal with someone so mean, manipulative, and vindictive."
"Never been married I see." House sighed. "Look, the best advice I can give you for dealing with him is to remember that Chase is the bravest coward you will ever meet."
"That makes no sense. If you didn't want to help me then why did you drag me into your office when I should be home with my honey?"
"Oh but, Foreman, of course I want to help. I worry about all my pets equally. From Eric the pit bull, to the wispy Cameron cat, to the loveable cocker spaniel puppy I like to call Chase. And your honey can wait. Sharon is probably 'brokering' a deal with the head of oncology at Princeton General anyway." House raised his eye brows at the last. Foreman scowled. But House realized that his descriptions were not really accurate. Cameron was more like a puppy, always bouncy and trying to get others to play with her, while Chase was more like a cat. He would rub against you and try to get you to pet his tummy, then something would switch in his head and he would be all hisses, teeth and claws trying to push you away. It was no wonder to him that Chase didn't seem to have a steady girlfriend.
"Then explain what you mean. How the hell can he be a 'brave coward'?" Foreman crossed his arms and leaned back, hoping that House was sober enough to make sense. If not he would have to find Wilson.
"Good of you to ask, young grasshopper." Foreman rolled his eyes. "Chase is one of the toughest people I have ever met." Foreman looked skeptical. "tough" and "Chase" were not two words he generally associated with each other. House continued. "First off, any man who can run an Iron Man triathlon three years in a row is pretty freaking tough. But also, people usually credit Cameron with being so strong and tough because she lost her husband and still went on to become a very good doctor. But Cam ain't got nothing on Chase when it come to past trauma. He has watched his entire family either die or self destruct, had to play out his grief in front of national media, and still managed to become a damn good doctor. Not that I think he is all that happy being a doctor but ounce for ounce, I would trust his abilities over Cameron's. But don't tell either of them I said that. She'll get pouty and he'll get a swelled head. And during that whole Vogler mess, I think he slept with Cuddy to keep his job. Talk about traumatic."
"Your rambling House." Foreman pointed out. They had no patient and it was the end of the day so there were two Vicodin and several cups of coffee floating around inside of the older doctor. It tended to make him trail off onto tangents.
"I am not. Anyway, it takes a certain type of mettle to deal with all that and not fall apart yourself. Most people faced with that sort of situation would end up as drunks or addicts themselves. Chase is relatively normal in comparison to what he should be like or appears normal anyway." Foreman thought for a moment. He had known many people from similar circumstances while growing up. Kids with no fathers and addicted mothers and none of them had ever really made anything of themselves.
"But you also have to understand that almost everything he ever does is motivated by fear. He is afraid of his own shadow, proverbially speaking. He is paralyticly phobic about opening himself up for hurt. If you can get him to trust you, he will be loyal to the point of stupidity. Just think of him like a severely beaten dog. Once he finds someone he can trust he latches on like they are a life saver." House continued
"Is that why you call him 'your puppy?'" Foreman asked, contemplating what he had just learned.
"No, I call him that because he reminds me of my brother's cocker spaniel puppy that took a chomp out of me when I was kid."
"So then Chase isn't that loyal if he bit you in the ass over Vogler?"
"There were other factors at play there that don't concern you." With Wilson he would discuss such things, but not with Foreman. "Suffice to say, Chase has teeth and claws and will use them but only if he is backed into a corner. He strikes me as the sort who won't fight unless he has no other choice but when he does he goes for a kill. He's that quiet guy you always have to look out for, like Jim Jones or Ted Bundy."
"You think he has skeletons in his closet?"
"I think his mother's lives there, or he thinks she does. He is probably one step away from being Norman Bates. Word to the wise, don't mention her. He clams up tighter than a virgin's thighs on a first date. I think he has just as many 'mommy issues' as 'daddy issues.' Maybe she molested him. Why else would he voluntarily hang out with Cuddy." House referred to the fact that once a week Cuddy took Chase out to lunch at some Jewish deli down the road and she always came back looking happy. Maybe she was actually enjoying some Czech sausage, who knows? He didn't put it past Chase to sleep with the boss to safe guard his job and you couldn't get more bossy than Cuddy.
"How does that help me get him to quit being an ice prince?"
"Have you tried talking to him?" Foreman gave House a sour look. Of course he had tried. "I don't mean talking at him and telling him what to do. I mean actually talking to him, like an equal. Make him unclench a little." House pointed out, knowing damn well how preachy Foreman could sometimes be.
"Who would you have fired if all things were equal?" Foreman asked out of no where.
"I thought you just said that he was a better doctor than Cameron?" Foreman was not expecting that. He assumed his head would have been on the chopping block since he and House fought the most.
"Precisely. Cuddy already arranged for the fired Dr. Chase to be hired by the Anesthesia and ICU department and act as my liaison. But he got jumpy."
"Did you tell him your plan?" House looked away, clearly indicating he had not warned Chase. "What if Vogler had said no and made you get rid of someone entirely, no deals or transfers?"
"Cameron." House answered. He liked her, she was hot, but she was also the weakest link in the team.
"Cam? Why? Chase I can understand but why her. She works twice as hard as Chase does."
"Exactly. She works twice as hard and still isn't right as often as he is. Think about it, Chase knew to x-ray the teacher's leg, he knew to ultrasound the swimmer's head, he guessed tropical parasites with the cheating wife, and he guessed immunoglobulin deficiency with the Senator. I should really stop ignoring his suggestions.
"Cameron is the Eastern ideal of hard work conquering all. Chase is the Western ideal of talent. Being a westerner, I would choose Chase's natural intellect and creativity over Cameron's hard work. Besides, immunologists are a dime a dozen compared with good intensivists. Though, frankly I think he is wasting his talent in the ICU and should switch to infectious diseases."
Foreman was stunned. He never would have thought of it that way. To him Chase was the weakest link because he seemed lazy and scatter brained compared to Cameron and himself. He was the least logical person he had ever worked with other than House. Chase was horrible at taking facts and following them to their logical conclusion. He always weighed in other factors and seemed to pull ideas out of thin air. It just wasn't the way Foreman worked. It made no sense to him. He simply could not fathom how such a textbook divergent thinker became a doctor. But, he decided he needed to turn the conversation back to the original point. "So how do I get him to open up to me and trust me?" Foreman was getting tired of having to sit through so much useless banter to find out the few pieces of information he needed. He wished House could be more direct.
"Get him good and tired or good and drunk. That is the best way to keep him compliant. Believe me; politicians could take evasion lessons from him when he is chipper and well rested. If you can keep him confused and off balance, you might just have a chance." House well knew this fact. The easiest way to get Chase to crack was to pick at him little by little over time. Keep him off balance and erode away at his defenses until he is weak and vulnerable. He had done that, when Rowan was there. It had been like slowly unwinding the layers of a bandage to get to the scab underneath. But the problem was, when House had removed the last layer of bandage, it wasn't a well healed scab but an infected, bloody gushing wound. He realized that the only thing stopping Chase from bleeding to death was the bandages he had covered himself with. Ever since then, House fancied he could see blood seeping through to the surface if Robert thought no one was looking. It was almost painful to look at.
After Chase had ratted him out to Vogler, House had been insanely angry. He could have destroyed Chase, not professionally but personally. He knew how to kill him. He knew the sick infection that lived inside the duckling. He knew that with a few well placed barbs, he could make Chase crumble. But he hadn't done it. House might be abrasive, but he wasn't cruel. He didn't think he would be able to sit back and enjoy watching Chase self destruct. He knew it would happen one day, if Chase didn't get help, but he didn't want to be the cause of it. He may like watching people struggle like watching car accidents, but he didn't think he would be able to watch someone kill themselves by inches like Chase would, slowly smothering himself under fear and self loathing.
"I'll try. I really have to go. I'll see you tomorrow." Foreman left House and headed home to his sweetie, Sharon. She would be a better sounding board at this point anyway.
On Friday afternoon of the second week, three days after his talk with House, Foreman had had enough and walked right up to Chase as he was packing his things. "You, me, pizza and beer at Shenanigans tonight." And walked off, hoping Chase would follow him there.
Half an hour later the two sat staring at each other over a pub table at a local bar. Foreman ordered a pitcher of beer and a large pizza with sausage and pepperonis on half and veggies on the other half. He remembered that Chase didn't like meat on his pizza. Chocolate munching aside, sometimes the Aussie could be more of an anorexic bitch than Cameron. Other than teenage girls in an eating disorder clinic, he didn't think he had ever seen anyone pickier about what he ate than Chase. He had wondered for awhile if Chase had been heavy and been picked on about it as a kid, but after seeing the pictures on the internet of the Aussie in all stages of childhood, it was clear that he had always been rail thin. So his aversion to high calorie foods, other than chocolate, was still a mystery.
It was good enough that Foreman ordered for both of them. Sometimes, especially in local restaurants, Chase got so bloody homesick he wanted to cry. He missed his own country. It had been made worse by their most recent patient. Edward Sawyer, a 24 year old male from York, who was an avid skier, surfer, and mountain biker, and Chase had hit it off famously. He too enjoyed all of those pursuits, though he wasn't that good at surfing, he preferred SCUBA diving, not as much of a chance of sun burning. It felt wonderful to talk to someone else who understood him. It just made him realize how much he missed being in a place where people didn't make fun of his accent, the way he phrased things, liked the same sports, and liked the same food. He missed fresh fish and roasted lamb. He missed jaffle, good, spicy Thai food and being able to get sushi any time of the day or night. He missed not being treated like a foreigner. In short, he really wanted to go home.
Foreman turned towards the TV but surreptitiously watched Chase fumble in his coat pocket to pull out a small pink pill and then quickly swallow it. Foreman didn't bother to question; he already knew from Chase's records what it was. The blonde duckling took Celexa, a fairly strong anti-depressant, though he wasn't surprised to read it. He had been looking for something like it for a while now, even before their argument. It explained Chase's obsessive chewing on things and always eating chocolate. Most SSIs caused bruxism or teeth grinding and he remembered from his psych rotation that people who had that side effect tended to chew on things in an effort to alleviate it. Also, Celexa was commonly known for causing nausea and eating small amounts of food frequently, usually helped most patients. Chocolate was a preferred food for most.
Foreman stupidly said the first thing that came into his mind and immediately regretted it. "So how long have you been taking anti-depressants?" Chase froze like a cat caught with his paw in a fish tank. Foeman tried to back pedal afraid he had ruined his chance before it had even started. "Sorry, man, that is your business." Chase dropped his eyes and started chewing on a straw. Much like he usually did, Foreman had an insane urge to yank the straw out of the Aussie's mouth. His Granny used to slap him upside his head when he did things like that.
They sat in a very uncomfortable silence until the waitress brought their beer. Foreman immediately downed one. Chase glared at it angrily and asked for water instead, she smiled sweetly and rushed off to fill his order. She couldn't have been more than 19 and Foreman guessed was probably sizing Chase up for a fling. After she returned and told them their food would be out soon, Foreman tried to salvage the evening. He studied Chase for a moment and watched the blonde's eye lids droop as he ran his hands through his floppy hair. Chase had just gotten off of a full call rotation through ICU and House's department. Foreman guessed he would have been at work for about 30 hours straight and probably pretty darned tired. According to House, this was his best chance.
"Look, Chase, you and me have got to work out this crap between us. It is getting to everyone. We can't take care of the patients if we are at each other's throats all the time." Foreman thought he had done well. He knew that bringing into question Chase's talent for medicine could easily sway the younger doctor.
"I haven't been at your throat. I don't recall saying anything even mildly rude to you." Chase's accent made him sound even more cold and high handed than an American would uttering the same words.
Foreman took a deep breath and tried to quell his anger. Chase was purposely being obtuse. "That is the point; you haven't said a word to me in weeks. You completely ignore me. I feel like I have to pantomime to get you to listen to me."
"I don't recall being particularly inattentive either." Chase sipped his water, vaguely enjoying watching Foreman squirm. Foreman downed a second glass of beer.
"You know what I mean. This frigid treatment like you're my wife and you're trying to cut me off from sex."
"I hardly think I am preventing you from enjoying your little drug rep." He used the term 'little' liberally. Chase thought the woman was a pig.
"Damn it. Will you just act like a human being for once and not like a waspish, stuck up ass!" Foreman snapped. Then he took a deep breath and continued. "Look, I know you are still pissed about what happened, but it is time you let it go. This shit between us is causing everyone stress and I am just plain tired of it."
"So what do you want me to do?" Chase asked reasonably.
"I want you to stop being angry about it."
"Fine, I'm not angry any more, can I go now?" Chase rose and began to fish some money out of his pocket. It looked like rain and he wanted to get home before it started. He hated riding his bike home in this type of weather. He turned to leave.
"You are totally infuriating. No wonder your father wants nothing to do with you!" Oh shit! Foreman had not meant to say that out loud, maybe he was more tired than he thought he was. Chase stopped mid stride, back stiff. "Sorry man, I didn't mean it that way." Foreman tried to appease. Chase just continued to walk away. Foreman ran after him. He didn't catch him until they were just outside of the window and Foreman grabbed his arm. "Chase, wait." Chase shook out of his grip but stopped, his head hanging down. "That was nasty of me, I didn't mean it. Come back inside. We need to talk."
"I believe you have said enough." Chase answered. He finally looked up and Foreman realized that he had shot straight past Chase's armour and the Aussie was trying to hide that he was badly hurt.
"No, I haven't. Look, that was out of line, just come back in and let's talk about things. You may not have a problem with the way things are, but I do, so come on." Foreman turned and Chase hesitated. This was all about Foreman not him. Eric wanted to assuage his guilt and mend a bridge that he had burned. But he was completely disregarding the fact that the other side of the bridge might not want him back. He sighed and followed the black man back inside.
Once they were seated, Foreman poured Chase a glass of beer and another for himself. Chase pushed it away, shaking his head. "Drink it man. It will loosen you up a little." Chase agreed and sipped at it. He didn't like the taste or the smell of any alcohol. Every time he got around it, he had knee jerk sick feeling in his gut from the smell. But gin was the worst. Some times the smell could actually make him physically ill if he had to be around it long enough.
Chase watched his colleague for any clues as to an ulterior motive but he found none. Foreman may generally just want to make up but if he did, he was going about it the wrong way. Chase drank half of his beer, figuring that maybe being drunk might help the situation. It wasn't like he had to work tomorrow. "What do you really want from me?" Chase asked after almost five minutes had passed and he started to feel pleasantly warm from the beer. It was a wonderful feeling, numbing and warming at the same time, like the safety of your bed. But it was also a heady feeling like being in love. He was afraid of it. He had seen first hand with both his parents how alcohol and drugs could all too quickly become a substitute for the real things.
What did Foreman want? He wasn't sure. He wanted Chase to quit giving him the cold shoulder. He wanted the department to go back to the way it was, with Chase and House sniping at each other and Cameron mooning over House, while he stood back and enjoyed it like a TV show. He wanted the tension to be gone and humour to come back. He stupidly wanted to see Chase smile again so that he would know that his fellow duckling was ok. Knowing what he knew now, Foreman replayed every reference to drugs, alcohol, and suicide over and over in his head and realized that they were far too frequent. But why did he care all of a sudden? Maybe he could ignore Chase's idiosyncrasies after all.
"I want us to talk. I want things to be cool between us but for real this time. And in order for that to happen, we have to actually talk to each other. Not me preach and you stonewall." Chase stared at him suspiciously. "No games and no power plays this time. Just you and me and getting to know each other. Go on, ask me a question, about anything then I'll ask you one."
"How will this make me stop being mad at you?" Chase asked. He was wholly uncomfortable with the idea of having to answer questions.
"Because, one reason we knock heads so much is because we don't really know each other. I mean, God man, the only thing you have ever said about yourself is that you like to ski and that one of your professors used to use sonograms to see bleeding in the brain."
"What does anything else have to do with our ability to work together?"
"Because." Foreman talked slower as he tried to explain himself, as if he were talking to a moron. "Maybe Down Under it is normal for work associations to always be cold and formal, but you are in America now and we are a lot more friendly and laid back." Chase seemed unconvinced. "Just humour me."
"Fine. How old are you?" It was an innocuous question. One that he would be willing to answer if need be.
"I'm 32. I'll be 33 this year. Now it is my turn. What is your full name?" Foreman was dying to know why Chase had dropped his very ethnic last name in favour of a bland vanilla one.
"Robert Saint Benedict Pronásledovat" Chase answered.
"That's a long name." Foreman mentioned. It seemed strange to his ears. "Why don't you go by that name? Where did Chase come from?"
"Pronásledovat means 'to chase' in Czech. When my parents moved to Australia, my father decided to drop it professionally to make his life easier."
"Why don't you go by Prasdala, Prodnal, Proladanslavot?" Foreman stuttered, knowing he was totally butchered the name.
"Pronásledovat" Chase corrected. "And you just answered your own question. There are few things more annoying than having an unpronounceable name. I spent my entire grammar school career as 'that kid, who sits behind Albert Prancler.' University wasn't any better. I kept it until the end of my first year then gave up and started going by 'Chase.'" He had also selfishly wanted to remove himself from all the press surrounding his mother's death. Her case had involved her son Robert Pronásledovat, Robert Chase was a nobody.
"So you have dropped all your heritage from your normal life?" He didn't think he had ever heard Chase mention anything about his cultural heritage other than being from Australia. To a proud, black man, that was just sad.
"Me, I'm proud as hell of my African American heritage. Do you know anything about where your parents came from? "
"Of course." Chase was getting annoyed.
"Like what? You seem like a run of the mill, vanilla, WASP to me."
"That isn't my problem." Chase snapped. How dare Foreman assume he knew nothing about where he came from just because he didn't wear it like a badge. He decided to make Foreman feel stupid. "I, unlike you, know where my family came from and can speak both their mother tongues, Czech and Afrikaans. You, who have no idea what part of Africa you came from, have no right to lecture me! I have closer ties to Africa than you do."
"You are getting really close to crossing a line, Chase." Foreman intoned menacingly. There were just some things that a little blonde guy did not say to a black man.
"And you are getting really close to pissing me off even more, Foreman." Chase snapped. There food arrived then and Chase decided to let it drop. Hopefully Foreman would be distracted by its arrival.
Foreman took a deep breath and sighed. "I know your father is from Czechoslovakia, so I'm guessing that your mother must be from Africa some where, though I find it really hard to believe, looking at your pasty, white ass."
"Yes, my father is from the Czech Republic." Chase corrected. Czechs did not like being associated with Slovaks, at least his father didn't. "And yes, my mother was from South Africa. And you do realize that a fairly significant percentage of South Africa and Namibia are white, don't you?"
"Yeah, it just isn't what I think of when I think of an African. So I am guessing your mother was racist?"
Chase rolled his eyes. Here they went, he was a white guy, he had to be racist. He had grown up with a mother and father, who both hated other groups for no good reason but it had never rubbed off on him. He had learned to distrust everyone equally. His determining factor for friendship was whether a person would respect his privacy. "Yes, she was. She grew up in Apartheid South Africa. It was sort of required."
"But you aren't racist?" Foreman wished that Chase was, then he would have a concrete reason to dislike him, but in fact, he had never seen Chase do anything like that.
"No. My mother was but she didn't really expect me to be. Though she would be spinning in her grave if she knew I almost married a Coloured woman from Cape Town." Chase immediately regretted saying that. Stupid beer! He had just given away too much information.
Foreman dug in to the pizza almost immediately saviouring every bite, reminding himself to question Chase about this woman later. "So you have been to Africa?"
"South Africa, Namibia, Egypt, Kenya, Sudan, Dutch Congo, or what ever they call it now, and Angola." Chase on the other hand used several napkins to blot the excess grease off, then tore off the crust, discarding it. He then removed the vegetables from the cheese, removed the cheese from the slice then replaced the vegetables on top of it. Foreman had finished nearly two pieces in the amount of time it took for Chase to get his one slice in what he considered edible condition.
"What is it like?" He was interested. He had always wanted to go to Africa.
"Parts of it are breath taking. Cape Town might be the most beautiful place in the world. But parts are muggy and icky."
Eric watched in fascination as Chase pulled his food apart. It just wasn't right to see a man doing that. "Do you ever go crazy and eat an entire birthday cake and pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream at one sitting?"
Chase wrinkled his nose. "No! That's disgusting. Why would I do that?"
"Because it tastes good and it makes you feel good."
"I think it would make me feel nauseous." Chase commented in disgust. His mother had been anorexic and a good portion of her issues had rubbed off on her son. Mostly because she was always making him diet when he was young. Now it was ingrained in him to habitually wonder about the calorie content of foods. Though he wasn't nearly as bad off as she had been, he still rebelliously ate chocolate every now and again.
"So, I have never seen you get drunk, I have never seen you gorge on sweets, I have never seen you do anything even remotely normal. What do you do to burn off steam, to relax, to comfort yourself when you are upset?"
Chase didn't like the accusatory tone Foreman was using. "What do you do?"
"I call my family, talk to my girlfriend. Eat ice cream until I am torpid and watch football games. Now, what about you." Foreman asked around a mouth full of pizza.
"I go swimming, running, or for a nice long bike ride." Chase had been engaged in endurance sports since he was 7 years old. He found the repetitive nature of them meditative. Plus there was the masochistic part of him that reveled in the soreness of his muscles, the growing ache in his bad knee, and the burning of his lungs. It was a socially acceptable way to punish himself for his sins, mutely martyring himself in penance on the Alter of fitness in a way he no longer felt worthy of doing in the Church. But he wouldn't tell Foreman that, no one needed to know that.
"Why doesn't that surprise me? Anyway, it is your turn, ask me a question."
Chase sighed, wanting to get out of the smoky, loud bar so he could go home and curl up in bed. "Who is your best friend?" He finally asked, not really interested in the answer.
"My cousin Leroy. He's a special effects guy in Hollywood. What about you, who is your best friend and what do they do?" He wondered if Chase even had friends. He knew he had soccer buddies from the team he played on, but he had never really noticed Chase to have steady friends.
"Cass, Cassie. She is a singer and actress." Chase answered. She was just another one of the many things he missed from home, not that she was there right now. She was on tour in Japan somewhere as far as he knew. They still talked to each other at least twice a week, but it wasn't the same thing as having her come over at three in the morning because her most recent boy friend had dumped her. He always let her spend the night and held her while she cried. Or him falling asleep on her couch while the two of them watched stupid kung fu movies because he was tired from school or being on call. She always threw a blanket over him. She was the only one who ever had.
"Your best friend is a girl? Is she an ex or something?" Foreman wondered if she was the same woman he had mentioned almost getting married to. He had spent some more time researching Chase specifically on the internet and had found a few mentions and pictures of him being romantically involved with some Australian singer named Cassandra Iolta, who he guessed must be Cass, and some South African judge's daughter. She had been a hottie, at least Foreman had thought so.
"No, nothing like that. Cass and I are like brother and sister. I've known her since I was 10 days old." Chase corrected.
"Did she turn you down, when you tried?" Foreman tried to joke.
"No. I never tried nor would I ever. We're just friends." Chase would never risk ruining their friendship, it meant far too much to him. She was the one person who had always been there for him no matter what. She too had grown up with an out of control addict for a mother but her father was a strong, down to earth man that compensated for it. But she understood what Chase had gone through and she didn't judge him or make him feel inadequate when he was afraid or just wanted to curl up and hide. She was more than happy to stand by and shield him while he licked his wounds, for that he would always love her.
"Ok, my turn. What was your best Christmas present?" This was a favoured topic of Foreman and Cameron. She liked to work in the fact that House had bought her a gift to anyone and everyone that would listen. Foreman had never had the heart to tell he that House had gotten him and Chase presents too. He had given Foreman a gift certificate to an on-line store that sold track shoes and had given Chase a stainless steel pen he couldn't chew through.
"You first." Chase commented, while he tried to think of one.
"Ok, my dad gave me two court side tickets to see the Lakers play the Bulls. Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan on the same court. It was awesome." Foreman smiled. His father had worked double shifts and even did a few odd jobs to get the money to pay for them. Foreman had been dating a girl at the time and his father assumed that Eric would take her. But the only person he wanted to take was his old man. They had had a great time.
Chase thought about it. He knew the answer immediately but Foreman wouldn't understand. On Christmas Eve when he was four years old, he had gotten a bad case of strep throat and his father hadn't believed him. They had dragged him to a long drawn out midnight mass and he had been miserable. It was hot and stuffy in cathedral, made worse by his formal clothes and he had a fever making him cranky. About an hour in to a three hour mass, he had started whining to his parents that he wanted to leave. His mother had been holding his little brother and would go into labour with his sister later in the day. She was in no mood to deal with him so he started in on his father. Rowan, the more religious of the two, had told him to be quiet. Every 15 minutes he would ask if they could leave. Finally his father had picked him up and carried him outside into the vestibule to yell at him without disturbing anyone. It was then that Rowan realized his son was burning with fever and, in fact quite ill.
Rowan, being Rowan, had not taken Robert home but took him back inside and held him in his lap, hoping to keep him quiet. It had worked. Chase had still felt awful and was cranky but he had relaxed against his father's chest. His memories of it were hazy and dream like but he remembered the peace of falling asleep to the sound of the Latin Liturgy and his father's heartbeat. It was the last time he could ever remember his father initiating a hug.
But he knew he couldn't tell Foreman this. What type of a pathetic looser would the older man think he was? So he gave an obvious answer. "When my sister was born, Christmas day when I was four."
"You have a younger sister?" Foreman was surprised. He had always pegged Chase as an only child.
"Had. She and my brother died in an auto accident when I was six." Chase explained. He didn't see any reason to hide this. It happened 20 years ago, his mother had been drunk and driven into the side of huge truck. Things had gone from bad to worse in his life after that. He had been sad and upset that his parents hadn't even tried to make him feel better. At the time he hadn't known that adults could hurt too. His father had grown more cold and distant and his mother had become more out of control. Both seemed to forget that they had a son who had survived.
"I'm sorry man, that is sad."
"It was twenty years ago, I barely remember." Chase wanted to change the subject. "What about you? Do you have any siblings?"
"I have two brothers and a sister. All younger than me. We used to raise hell and fight constantly but now that we are older we are all good friends. My sister just got engaged. I want her to wait till she graduates college to get married but I doubt she will." Foreman lamented. Neither of his brothers had gone to college but his younger sister had made it into a small liberal arts college in northern California on a scholarship. He hoped she didn't screw up her life over some guy. But while they were on the subject of families, there were some things he wanted to know about Chase's. "So my mother was a mail carrier and my father was a janitor. I know your father is a doctor, but what about your mother? Did she work or did Daddy's money pay for everything."
"Daddy doesn't have that much money. The money came from Mum's side of the family. She was a ballerina with The Australian Ballet Company in Melbourne until I was about seven. Then she got too old and became an artist and photographer." Chase really wanted to change the subject now.
"Why did you become a doctor?" Chase blurted out.
Foreman smiled, glad that Chase had spontaneously asked him a question, maybe the Aussie was finally starting to loosen up. Even if he did look like his shoulders were going to snap from the tension. "I became a doctor because I am smart and love science. I like the rules and logic of it. I also like the paycheck and the respect that comes along with it." Foreman's smile got even larger. "What about you?" He was curious because House had said he didn't think Chase really liked being a doctor.
"It was just what I got into University for." Chase dismissed the question. He wasn't about to give an honest answer. He became a doctor because he was afraid his father would never speak to him again if he didn't. He realized he needed a more innocuous question for Foreman. "Have you ever been skiing?"
"Hell no, black men don't ski?"
"Why not?" Chase loved skiing. He reveled in the silence of the mountains and the physical strain of a fast and furious decent.
"Because it is cold, wet, and way too dangerous." Foreman had always wanted to try but he had never had the money. Ski trips from LA were pricey and he had never been able to afford it. To him, skiing was a wealthy person's sport.
"No, it is fun. Really invigorating, but the slopes around here aren't really gnarly enough to be great." Chase countered. Foreman noticed that his companion's accent had gotten about 50 times worse during his speech, complete with inflecting upwards at the end like he was asking a question.
"If you say so man. I have to pee." Foreman headed off towards that men's room and Chase relaxed a bit. They had been sitting in the smoky pub for 45 minutes and his lungs were aching. He gave into the coughing fit that had been threatening to erupt for the last 15 minutes. Chase had, like several million other children, suffered from childhood asthma that rarely bothered him anymore. His lungs were now stronger than the average man's and he could easily forget about the years he spend coughing and wheezing away the nights. But he still had two triggers that would make him gasp, viral bronchial infections and cigarette smoke. Both his parents had been heavy smokers and his asthma had all but disappeared after he no longer had to be around them.
The cough was harsh, rasping, and made his chest hurt. He knew it was unlikely to turn into a full asthma attack, he hadn't had one in nearly seven years and that had only been because he had bronchial pneumonia. However, it would still restrict his lungs and make working out tomorrow unpleasant. He wanted to leave.
Luckily, Foreman came staggering out just about the time Chase managed to get his cough back under control. He made sure to count each breath to keep them even and steady even though his body wanted to speed them up. He had learned this trick, over years and years of trying to suppress the urge to cough and to gasp through lungs that were nearly closed. He would sit in his attic bed room three floors above his parents and hear the muffled sounds of their fights and their love making. He would hide his discomfort up there so not to disturb his mother's hangover or his father's anger. The skill had served him well, when Foreman returned he noticed nothing amiss.
"Foreman, this has been fun, really, but I want to go home." Chase mentioned as he threw money on the table.
"Wait, we aren't done yet." Foreman stated, trying to make Chase stay a while longer. There was still more he wanted to know and more he wanted to get across.
"Can we leave then?" He wasn't able to cover the cough that slipped out.
"Sure man. Let's go." Foreman soothed and watched Chase nearly run out of the pub.
Once outside, Foreman fished for his keys, realizing that the two shots of whiskey after his beer were not such a good idea if he was planning on driving. Chase noticed and said. "Come on, we can go to my place, it isn't far." He then unlocked his bike and walked it towards the park, Foreman followed.
"Why do you always ride a bike if you have a car?" Foreman questioned. He had always associated bike riding with people too poor or unable to drive a car. He knew Chase had a car and knew how to drive but the Aussie usually rode his bike to work instead.
"I like bike riding. It's faster, cleaner, and a good work out."
"You spend about 6 hours a day working out, it seems, like this small distance makes a difference?" Chase often spent his lunch hour or the times between his shifts in the hospital gym. Oddly enough, Cuddy and Stacy had both changed their work out times to coincide with Chase's. Stacy always called him the 'Australian eye candy," well not to his face.
Chase paused and sighed. "You know how when you drive you usually don't actually pay attention to driving, most of the time you are just on auto pilot? When I am tired and try to do that, I keep trying to drive on the wrong side of the road. So it is just better and safer for everyone if I bike ride through the park." Chase smiled self-deprecatingly.
It began to rain half way across the park and Foreman started to wonder how far "not far" really was? Then they turned a corner and ended up along the river. Chase ducked in between two buildings right on the edge of the water and stopped in front of a huge warehouse with heavy security doors on it. He looked up and saw lights shining from several windows.
Chase unlocked the outer door then punched in a code on a keypad. Then he opened a second door that led into a small vestibule with a white tile floor. There were mailboxes lined up and Foreman tried to tell which was Chase's. Chase hitched his bike over his shoulder by the tube and headed up the stairs. After three flights Foreman started panting and by the time they reached the penthouse on the seventh floor, where Chase lived, Foreman had actually broken a sweat. Chase wasn't even breathing hard. The walk through the relatively fresh air of the park had quickly alleviated the tightness in his chest.
As Chase was fumbling with a large steel door, Foreman commented. "I guess those stairs are the reason your ass is so skinny."
Chase slid the door open and waved Foreman to proceed him. "Maybe if you walked up and down more stairs your ass wouldn't be so large."
Foreman decided not to take offense because he was too busy staring at Chase's home. It was not what he had expected, to say the least. Foreman had expected some large cozy house with expensive floors and big comfy couches. All of it bathed in warm colours and soft fabrics that some interior designer had picked out for him (if Foreman had learned anything, it was that Chase had horrible taste in fabrics, just look at his clothes). But this place was huge. It was one room that took up and entire floor, with exposed brick walls and concrete floors. One wall was several 12' high windows that looked out over the river. Foreman could actually see the hospital from there.
Everything was cold and hard with sharp edges and looked like it belonged in a EuroModern catalogue. Foreman hated it. It was the ugliest place he had ever seen. It looked half assed and unfinished to him with all the exposed girders and pipes. But one thing he did find interesting was the fish tank, which took up almost all of one wall. It had to be at least 11' long. All sorts of fish swirled around in an ever changing collage of colour. It was backlit with soft light and made a gentle water fall noise.
The kitchen wasn't much better. The cabinets were light wood with long metal handles and the countertops were soapstone and reminded Foreman of lab tables. His table was steal and looked suspiciously like an autopsy bay. Everything was back lit with soft, dim lights, making it appear that pieces of glass and other assorted objects were glowing.
Foreman looked over in time to see Chase hang his bike up on the wall beside three others. He then followed suit with Chase and took off his shoes, leaving them in a rack to drain. "Hold on, I'll get you a towel." Chase told him and padded off into the wide expanse of his loft, disappearing around a corner so he was behind the door. Foreman then realized that the space wrapped completely around the interior staircase. He moved further in to look around. The place was bloody huge. He noticed there was nothing personal around. No decorations to show what type of person lived there. The most decorative thing he could see were a set a screens that blocked off a work out area containing a weight machine and a very expensive treadmill.
Before he could take in much more, Chase appeared with a fluffy grey towel and a pair of pajamas. "Here, I hope they fit." Foreman then realized he was soaking wet and dripping slowly on the floor. "The bathroom is around there." Chase pointed to a large glass block wall that was beside a metal stair case. Foreman guessed that Chase's bedroom must be up on the second floor. He nodded and headed towards the bathroom.
There was no door on it, just a long curve that blocked it from view. When he reached the main area, he took back everything nasty he thought about Chase's home. This was the nicest bathroom he had ever seen in his life. It was bigger than his first apartment. There was a large double vanity and a huge frameless shower. The bathtub was easily big enough to fit two people and hat jets for a spa treatment. All of it was covered in iridescent blue and grey glass tiles. Talk about luxury.
When he re-emerged, Chase was in the kitchen pouring water for them both. He was barefoot and wearing pajama pants and a long sleeve tee shirt. His hair was wet and shaggy and he had on wire rimmed glasses. All in all, it made him look like he was about fifteen.
"This is a nice place, how much did it set you back." Foreman asked, curious how much it would cost for him to get someplace like this and actually finish it.
"About $750,000 US, but another $150,000 to renovate it." Chase mentioned off handedly. It wasn't a great sum for him. His mother had been quite wealthy.
"For this apartment?" Foreman was shocked.
"No, for the building. I bought it just before I started work here and had it renovated into a penthouse and 12 flats. It paid for itself already." He handed Foreman glass of water and sipped at his own.
"I think I need something stronger." Chase turned around and retrieved an unopened bottle of whiskey from his cabinet. It was there for company, he never drank it. If he were going to drink, he drank gin. He hated it. The smell alone made him sick to his stomach so he couldn't enjoy it even if he wanted to. It was his way of making sure he never became an alcoholic like both his parents.
Soon Chase led them over to a seating area with low leather couches and a sleek leather chair. Chase ceded the couch to the older man and took the chair, curling his legs under himself. They sat staring at each other for a moment. "Are we supposed to finish our game?" Chase asked. Foreman nodded yes. "Ok, why do you want to know all these things, for real?"
"Have a drink." Foreman pushed the bottle towards his companion. Chase said no but Foreman insisted. "Stop being such a pussy and take a drink." Chase relented and took a small sip, choking on the burn. His stomach lurched at the taste and he had a rather unpleasant image of loosing his dinner all over his coffee table. He quickly handed the bottle back to Foreman. "See, it didn't kill you." Chase nodded again, his eyes watering. Foreman found the childlike reaction to a shot amusing. It made Chase seem even younger. He was beginning to understand House's comment about Chase being a 'brave coward." Chase was the strangest mix of hardened pain and childlike vulnerability. Some of it had to do with his looks, but a lot of it was from his mannerisms as well. Foreman could well understand House's fascination with the youngest duckling, the sweeping dichotomies of his personality made him the most enigmatic of them all. It was like there were 20 different Chases and you could never tell which one you were going to be dealing with from one moment to the next. It made him very interesting as a clinical study, Foreman thought.
After Chase regained his composure, he asked Foreman to answer his question again. Foreman answered this time. "I want to understand you. House is easy. He is a crotchety old man. He is miserable with his life and insists on making everyone else miserable for his own pleasure. He hates everyone and thinks the whole world should bow down to him because he is a cripple. Cameron, she is a sweetheart. Smart, funny, and pretty but not really sure of herself yet. She still thinks she needs to have someone tell her what to do. She'll grow out of that eventually. She just has to learn how strong she is. But you, I don't get. You are rich as shit but dress and act like a hobo. You could have half the women in the hospital but get annoyed when they hit on you. You could be a famous doctor in Australia based on your name alone but you came to a small hospital on the other side of the world. It just doesn't make sense."
Chase contemplated Foreman's comments for a moment. He wholly disagreed with most of them. He didn't think Cameron was a sweetheart. He thought she was a manipulative bitch, who hid behind her looks and seemingly shy demeanor to get men to do what she wanted. Just look at how she had played House by resigning. House had fallen into her trap and gone running back to her. She played dumb and insecure to keep people off their guard, all the while playing them against each other. He had seen his mother, her beautiful friends, and his own friend, Cassie, do it enough times to recognize it. And he had to admit he sometimes did it too, played the dumb blonde or the lazy slacker to get people to open up to him.
Then there was House, yes, he was crotchety and probably wasn't happy with how his life was going but he certainly didn't think that he enjoyed making other people miserable. Ok, maybe a little bit, but not to the point Foreman thought. House reminded him of his own father. There was the cold distant side but there was also the vulnerability. House's was his physical ailments, at least those were the obvious ones. Rowan's were hidden much deeper but Chase clearly remembered the first time he had seen them. He had been eight years old, driving home from a violin lesson, thank god his parents let him give that up. He had a tin hear and was just plain horrible at it. It had been chilly and rainy. His father was ignoring him as usual and he contented himself with watching the street lights go by and feel warm. His father had been almost an hour late picking him up and he was soaked.
Up ahead had been a police blockade. There was a manhunt going on for a killer or something, he didn't remember the details. But he did remember the police shining the light in the car window asking them to step out. He remembered a huge dog barking and snapping its jaws at them, and he remembered the death grip his father had on him when he pulled him out of the car. His father's hands, those famous doctor's hands, were shaking when he removed his ID. His father had jumped when the dog barked and shoved him even further behind himself. He hadn't understood what the problem was, they were policemen they helped people.
Soon the cops let them go and they got back in the car and drove further away. A few streets later his father pulled over and dropped his head into his hands, sobbing. Robert had watched in fear. He hadn't understood then. Now he knew it for what it was, post traumatic stress syndrome, but then he just knew his father was sad and he wanted to make him feel better. He had crawled over the center console and wrapped his arms around his father's neck. His father had clung to him crying. He had pet the older man's hair trying to soothe him. It had been strange, to be the adult, but it wasn't the first or the last time. Finally his father had calmed down and driven them home. He hadn't talked to Robert again for almost two weeks even though they lived in the same house. He couldn't figure out what he had done wrong.
Later, his mother would explain that Rowan's parents had been taken away by the Komunistická strana Československa, the Czech communist party, and he had been orphaned when he was 13. The police, the light, and dogs were too strong of a reminder. It had helped to know, that he hadn't done something to make his father mad, at least not that time. There were some people who should just never have had children, and Rowan was one of them. Chase supposed he couldn't blame his father but that didn't mean it didn't still hurt.
But Chase voiced none of this. Instead, he just commented. "Some people don't want to be famous, in fact, some people just want to be left alone."
Foreman bit his tongue from getting angry about Chase's seeming non sequitur answer. "My turn, so how do you feel about Cam?" Foreman asked. He had wondered what had changed between the two. Chase and she used to seem like friends, maybe not close ones, but at least as if they liked each other. Then things just sort of soured between them and Foreman wanted to know why. He had suspected for awhile that they might have had an affair and then one of them wanted to end it but Cameron assured him that was not what had happened. She said she wasn't in the least bit attracted to Chase. Though, he had caught her doing the same glassy eyed stare at him as he walked away that House and Wilson did to her, only she would never admit it.
"Cameron is a good doctor." Chase answered noncommittally. He didn't like Cameron, he had once but not anymore. He would admit to himself that part of it was his being jealous of the attention House paid to her and that House tended to respect her opinions more than his. But there were other reasons too.
"Which mean that you don't like her, why?"
"She is too nosy and judgemental." Chase could remember the exact moment he had started to really dislike her. They were in the CAT scan booth and she was questioning him about his father. He had already been in a horrible mood, hadn't been able to sleep in two days, had a pounding headache, and she wanted to psychoanalyze him. He had tried to be polite at first but she just kept pushing and pushing. He had lost his temper and snapped at her, at which point she had told him that he was wrong for feeling the way he did about his father. If Chase hadn't been a non violent sort, he would have boxed her in face.
When they were done in the booth he had handed her the results and said he would be back in a minute. He had fled to the nearest men's room and locked the door. His mind had been a whirlwind of voices telling him different things. He had wondered why his father had come to "say hello?" He had wanted to trust him, to believe that Rowan really did just want to see him. But he was so afraid that he would get hurt again like he always did. He thought that maybe he was a monster for not forgiving his father. But didn't he have a right to his feelings? Maybe his father had finally changed and wanted to be part of his life? But every time he started trusting again, Rowan would leave and he feel a little more of his heart flayed off. Was his father ever going to forgive him for letting his mother die? Was Rowan going to tell the others what happened to her? He prayed not, he didn't want them to know.
All of these thoughts swirled around inside his head until he wished that he could crack his skull against the wall just to let them out. Then there was the sense of betrayal that Cameron hadn't respected his wishes. She had sided with a man she had met only a few hours before rather than the one she had worked with for over half a year. Chase had liked and respected Cameron and her lack of faith in him had hurt, badly. She had filled him with more doubt and that was the last thing he needed. He already felt like his insides were knotted into macramé.
He had stood there, with his eyes closed and his face resting against the cool tile of the wall for at least 2 minutes. Then before he knew what was happening he was retching up the meager amount of food he had been able to choke down. You can only swallow so much rage, hate, bitterness, and hurt before it has to find some way to escape. He hadn't even realized he felt sick until he was finished. He had looked at his watch and realized he had been gone for almost five minutes and would soon be missed. He had quickly cleaned himself up and gone to face the rest of the staff and his father. He had felt like he was going to face a firing squad.
Ever since then, he hadn't been able to look at Cameron the same way. He couldn't understand why what she admired in House, she derided in him. What she accepted in others was unacceptable with him. Why couldn't she just understand that she was smart but didn't know everything and some things are private even from friends? He didn't want to deal with that from a co worker. He had enough doubts and felt bad enough about himself most of the time that he really did not need someone else adding to it.
"I don't know what things are like where you come from, man, but around here people ask things about you because they might be concerned." Foreman tried to point out. He had quickly noticed that the fastest way to annoy his Australian co-worker was to ask him something personal. Foreman had used it as a trick to get rid of Chase when he hadn't felt like dealing with him.
"If you say so." Chase wanted to change the subject. "So why were you so concerned about Dan's paternity when House mentioned it?" Chase was annoyed that Foreman had managed to keep him so off balance all night and thought it was only fair that he return the favour.
Foreman sighed but looked Chase straight in the eyes and answered. "The man who raised me wasn't my biological father. My sire was sent to jail when I was about 2 months old. I've never met him and have no desire to. Michael Foreman married my mother when I was about 2 years old and he is the only father I have ever known. He loves me like one of his own and has always been there when I needed him. And no one will ever convince me that he isn't my father. Biology is only the start but being a father is about more than genes. Dan's parents loved him and were his mother and father regardless of where his DNA came from." Foreman gave himself an internal high five. Chase had thought to wound him in their little war, but Foreman had long ago come to grips with this fact. But he couldn't let a volley go unanswered. "A father is man who is there on your birthday, who comes to your foot ball games and spelling bees, who calls just to make sure you are doing fine. A father loves his son more than himself and would do anything for his child. He is proud of his son for learning to drive and for graduating from med school. He is always there for late night talks over ice cream about girls, work, or politics. And all a father ever wants in return is to see his son happy. Tell me that genetics are required for that?"
"I suppose they are not." Chase answered. Foreman thought that the Aussie looked a little like he was about to throw up.
But Foreman hadn't forced this night on Chase to hurt him, which he was beginning to realizing was surprisingly easy. He wanted Chase to open up to him and so they could have some sort of congenial working relationship. So he decided to volunteer information. "My father was the reason I straightened up after my little taste of criminal life. I grew up in a rough neighbourhood in south central Los Angeles." Chase didn't look impressed. "I guess that doesn't mean anything to you, but it was a crime ridden, crack infested sort of place. Almost everyone I knew was in a gang and I was heading that way too. After I was arrested, my mother and my granny beat me within an inch of my life. And I deserved every slap. Then my dad sat down with me and told me how disappointed he was in me. That hurt worse than anything. He looked me in the eye and said, 'Eric, you have a gift and it is a waste for you not to do something special with it. God gave it to you but it is up to you to make something with it. I wish I had the money to send you to a good school but all I can do for you is let you know that no matter what, I believe in you and I will do anything I can to help you." And he did. Anytime the pressure to go with the gangs got bad or when I wanted to drop out of collage or I got stressed about anything, he would take me to this little fried chicken joint down the road and we would eat and talk. I always felt better about things after that. He put things in perspective." Foreman had hoped that spontaneous sharing would have helped Chase open up but if anything Chase now looked more distant and unhappy than before.
Chase had listened to Foreman talk about his life all evening. He had never had to worry about money so he had no concept of what it meant to be poor. So to him, Foreman described a fairy tale existence. And that was their main point of contention Chase realized. He had grown up privileged in everyway but under a tremendous amount of pressure, emotionally shut off, and insanely lonely. He had gone to the best schools, had accomplished amazing feats but had been nothing more than furniture in his own home. To his father, he was like a fine piece of china to be dragged out and admired when needed then locked away when he wasn't necessary. To his mother he had been a dark wardrobe. A place to dump all her secrets and pain but easily closed off so she didn't have to look at it. All he had wanted, his whole life, was to be loved, to be accepted and to feel safe and secure. He wanted to know that there was someplace he could always go and someone to help him if he needed it. Someplace that didn't change from hour to hour based on the whims of an addict. But he had never really had one. He had been the adult in the relationship with both his mother and father on more than one occasion. He had never really known what it was like to be taken care of because he had always been the caretaker.
Foreman, on the other hand, had always had a close knit family and strong support system. He had always had people around when he needed them and they took care of him as much as he took care of them. Foreman could run home and cry to his parents and they would hug him and tell him that hey loved him no matter what. They celebrated his accomplishments and held him up during his defeats. He had always known love. But he had always craved respect and wealth. Not because he was greedy but because he had grown up in fear of where the next house payment would come from or whether there would be enough food for dinner. He had always been looked down on by society because he was poor and black. He wanted people to know that he was better than what they thought of him and that they owed him respect. He and Chase were just so bloody different that they couldn't relate to one and other. They virtually had nothing in common.
"How do you feel about your father?" Foreman questioned.
"There are some things a co worker is not entitled to know, Foreman." Chase snarled. Foreman realized maybe he had pushed too hard.
"Sorry, tell me about the best and worse days of your life." Foreman asked. Very interested to see what Chase would say. He then proffered his companion the bottle again. It would be the fourth drink he had forced Chase to take. He could tell from the Aussie's eyes, which were not tracking straight, that Chase was getting pretty drunk. Half a beer and four shots, that was just sad.
Chase sipped the drink and tried not to choke this time then answered Foreman's question. The liquor was making his tongue loose and it made him worry. Apparently in vino veritas was true after all. "The best day was the day I graduated from University. And the worst was the day my mother died." Both were lies but Foreman would never know. His best day had actually been when he and Cass and snuck away and gone skiing in Switzerland for a week and did nothing but bum around and be average joes. It had been wonderful.
The worst was harder. He had had so many bad days in his life. There was the day his brother and sister died. There was the day his father had moved out. There was the day he found out his mother had cancer. The day she had bled out and then the day three months later she finally died. But the worst had to be during the trial. Her best friend, Cass's mother, had sued to take over power of attorney from him because she hadn't wanted life support shut off. A long trial ensued and Chase was dragged into the national media as an angel of death. There were photographers following him everywhere and journalists asking him questions every time he turned around. For months they had been camped out in front of his house and never left him alone. One day, he was on the stand, and the other side asked him if he would be more sad or relieved when his mother died. He remembered that he hadn't been able to answer. He was a terrible person because he would in fact be relieved to have it over and done with.
He had freaked, lost it completely and the judge had called a recess for the rest of the afternoon. He didn't remember much else, just the strobing lights of the camera flashes as he had walked out. He didn't remember the ride home, nor how he had ended up curled up like child and sobbing his eyes out on the floor of the kitchen. He had been ready to give up then. To let everyone have whatever they wanted if they would just leave him alone. He had prayed until the words were a jumble in his mouth but God hadn't answered him. He hadn't prayed for a miracle but for strength and guidance. He just wanted to know he was doing the right thing. He had received none. That was when he realized that he was too afraid to even trust God. He had cried himself to sleep on the cold tiled floor, defeated, alone, and forsaken.
There was only so much a 16 year old could take and Chase had reached his limit. The cracks that had always run through him shattered that night and he had never completely pulled himself back together. He wasn't the most self aware person in the world but he did realize that he was basically held together by duct tape and will power. Whenever his will faded, parts of him would start to fall off and he would feel like he was bleeding. Pieces of himself, washed away in rivers of blood and carried away from him before he could scramble to pick them back up. His faith, his confidence, his happiness had all been sent downstream and he didn't know where to find them again.
He almost spoke these words, but Foreman interrupted him. "You were second in your class, right? Did you have to give a speech?"
Chase started to answer and then stopped. "How did you know I was second in my class?"
"I saw your CV." Foreman said. Hoping Chase would drop it.
"I read your personnel file."
"Look, don't get mad about it. It's my turn to ask a question. I saw in your file that you worked for the Red Cross. Why?"
"Because I wanted to get out of Australia. My turn, how did you see my file?"
Damn, Foreman cursed in side. He guessed he hadn't gotten Chase drunk enough to disable his quick little brain. "Wilson gave it to me. He saw us fighting and thought I would respect you more if I saw what you had accomplished." He didn't mention the other file he had seen, Rowan's file, or the rest of the talk with Wilson.
"Damn Wilson. I should have rooted his wife when I had the chance." Chase spat. Just after Cameron had come to PPTH, Julie Wilson had contrived to meet Chase at a bar and tried to seduce him in hopes of pissing off her husband. It had back fired because Chase wasn't about to break up a marriage between two people he knew. But now he regretted not doing it. Stupid meddling Wilson!
"It worked, Chase. I had no idea that you were so talented and smart." Foreman tried to pull the conversation back.
"You couldn't tell from working with me every day, but reading my file convinced you?" Chase snapped. Foreman wanted to tell him that yes it had changed everything because in person Chase came across as a lazy, stuck up, moron.
"That is not what I meant, man." He handed Chase the bottle again but this time the Aussie refused to take it. "I just meant that seeing all the things in there other than what I already knew made me see you in a different way. Not just the thorn in my side that I usually think you are. Tell me about your paintings. I saw that you had some on display in Australia."
Chase sighed. His head was spinning and he was angry, tired, and starting to get queasy. "They were nothing. Just some stuff I did for my mother so she could get her work displayed in the Sydney Art Museum. It was some stupid thing with two generations of artists. I'm not very good at it and never really liked art that much." Chase groused, slurring his words and hurt that Wilson would have done this to him.
"Still pretty cool though. Chase, I hope tonight helps. I want things to be cool between us. I want the tension to stop. Rivalries I don't mind, but animosity I can't deal with."
"Ok." Chase stood up. "Are we done? You can stay as long as you want but I need to go throw up and then go to bed, if you don't mind."
"Sure man. Um, hope you feel better." Foreman commented as Chase handed him a blanket and pillow from a chest by the wall. Chase nodded and staggered off towards the stairs and his bed. Foreman hid a smile at what an unbelievable lightweight the Aussie was. "So much for tough Australian men." He thought.
As he lied back, pleasantly warmed from the alcohol and the soft blanket he thought about his co worker. He didn't really understand Chase any better. He had gotten the idea that for every small piece of information Chase gave him, there were huge parts he left out. He figured he hadn't come even close to getting the whole picture. Chase was still being distrustful and secretive. He guessed his fellow duckling would also continue to be distant and vaguely unfriendly to himself and Cameron like he had always been. No doubt he would also be a suck up to House as if nothing had changed. But he had gotten some information and understanding of Chase's motivations in life. He had gotten Chase to relax a little bit and to talk to him without puffing up and hissing like snake. It wasn't a perfect solution but it was start.
A few weeks later.
House had been more rude and abusive than usual and seemed to be centering it on Chase. Both Foreman and Cameron had physically winced more than once during the morning as House had reamed his youngest duckling for not figuring out the case, which was strange because none of them had figured it out yet, not even House. Cam and Foreman had decided they would take Chase out to lunch. Things had calmed down quite a bit since Foreman and the Aussie had talked. He wouldn't say that they were friends or would ever really be good friends but they could hang out during work hours and not want to kill each other. Chase had also softened towards Cameron though only slightly. That would take time. He hadn't expected miracles in that department. One thing that had become glaringly obvious about Chase since their chat, was that he was pathologically afraid of trusting people and Cameron had betrayed that trust once. Foreman had just made him angry, Cameron had hurt him.
Just before they were going to head out to lunch, Wilson arrived and looked at House sadly. House gave an almost imperceptible nod then dismissed them for lunch. He stopped Chase before he could leave though and called the blonde into his office, closing the door behind Wilson. Cameron looked over at Foreman and wondered aloud. "I hope they aren't firing him." Foreman didn't think so. But it did make sense, why else would Wilson need to be there for what ever it was House wanted to talk to Chase about.
"Who knows? Let's go." Foreman ushered her out. About 1 minute later he realized he had left his wallet in his locker and told her he would be right back. He showed up just in time to see Chase bury his face in his hands and lean all the way over until the backs of his hands rested on his knees. Wilson had a comforting hand on Chase's back and House looked on sadly. "Oh shit." He breathed to no one in particular.
He was startled as Cameron came up behind him, tapping his shoulder. "What is it?" She asked, concerned that something had happened to Eric.
"I think Chase's father just died."
"What?" Cameron hadn't quite caught the quiet words.
"Nothing, come on."
OK. Tell me what you think, should I turn the Epilogue into a story?