Dr. Alison Cameron sighed in exasperation. "I just need you to do an ultrasound."
Robert Chase shook his head, blond hair flopping across his forehead. "Unless you're planning on bringing her down to the lab, I can't. He'll kill me if I leave."
"How long is this going to go on?" Cameron demanded.
Robert shrugged and turned away. "Clear it with House and I'll do your ultrasound."
Cameron shook her head in frustration. "I'll call you for the conference," she said, beginning to leave the lab.
"I'll be here," Chase called out, not turning to watch her go.
It had been over two months and Gregory House was still furious at his subordinate. Justifiably so, Robert knew. He'd made a mess of things, and it looked like he would never return from his exile. Weeks of snarl and snark, jokes and japes at his expense, followed by three weeks of running all the lab tests for any patients that came House's way. Even Cameron's forays into 'conflict resolution' hadn't produced any visible results.
He had been banished the day that House had gone looking for him and discovered that Chase was spending his lunch hour in the hospital chapel. Chase had never seen House so coldly furious before.
He clearly remembered the words that House had condemned him with. "If you think that God or I are ready to forgive you, you're sorely mistaken."
Privately Robert thought, 'At least God is willing to listen.'
The funniest part of the whole thing was that he hadn't been in a church in years. It had only been this extended feud with House that had made him seek God's presence.
Chase despaired of ever getting back into House's good graces. He hadn't seen a patient since that day, to almost disastrous results. Foreman had had a patient's mother take a swing at him, and Cameron had been too soft-hearted to inform a patient of their test results, allowing the patient to again ingest a substance that was killing them. Wilson had bailed her out. Again. Even Cuddy had made an appearance and attempted to rake House over the coals for wasting Chase's skills, all to no avail.
A moment later the phone on the desk rang, startling Chase out of his musings, and he put it on speaker. It was time for their regularly scheduled brainstorming sessions. At least House had not barred him from participating, even if he spent half the time belittling everything the young doctor said. Robert just wasn't allowed to attend in person, per House's assertion that he was sick of the sight of him.
Ideas and suggestions flowed back and forth, House prodding them every once in a while. Chase had been listening to the voices, adding suggestions or shooting down theories where needed. He didn't have the patient's records in front of him, but something about the symptoms triggered a memory.
"Are there throat nodules?" he asked, doodling notes in front of him, his own version of the white board.
The voices on the other end of the line ceased abruptly, and Robert waited a minute to see if there was a response, frowning at the phone, leaning closer. Did they just put him on mute? Maybe the phone disconnected.
"Hello?" he asked the air, a small part of him fearing that he was going to be barred from even speaking in House's presence. He waited another moment longer, then in a smaller, more apprehensive voice he asked, "Cameron?"
Cameron's voice suddenly blared over the line, making him jump back. "Chase, what the hell did you say? House just flew out of the room!"
A moment later the doors to the lab burst open and Gregory House strode in. Well, as much as a man with a bad leg can stride.
Chase straightened up in his seat, startled by his boss.
"What did you just say?" House demanded.
Eyes wide, Chase replied timidly, "Throat nodules?"
House seemed to ignore his answer and stared down at the desk where Chase sat. "You're eating in the lab," House stated.
Robert looked down at his food, not sure if he was in trouble. House's tone was too ambiguous. Everyone ate in lab. They just made a point of doing it at the desk, away from the chemicals. "You said I couldn't leave…" he began to explain before House interrupted him.
"Are those Einstein Bagels?"
House plucked it from the napkin it lay on and ripped off a bite, stuffing it in his mouth before Chase could answer.
"Yeah," Chase replied anyway, looking and sounding more bewildered by the moment.
"Why haven't you examined the patient to see if she has throat nodules?"
"You told me I couldn't leave," Chase ground out between his teeth.
House reached over the desk and grabbed the brown paper sack that contained Robert's lunch and peered inside before taking a sniff. He reached in and withdrew a plastic wrapped sandwich.
"Tuna?" he inquired as he opened it, and snatched out one neatly cut half, and bit into it, dropping the other half back into the brown paper sack. House swallowed his bite. "Good! You make this?"
"Yeah," Chase replied cautiously, thoroughly confused.
The voice of Foreman floated into the room over the speaker phone, incredulous. "Did you just go down there to steal Chase's lunch? Are we planning on helping this girl today?"
House grunted in response and lifted his cane, punching the speaker button on the phone, disconnecting the call.
"It's time for you to get out of the lab." House jerked his head toward the door and headed toward it, sandwich still in hand.
Hastily Chase gathered up his breakfast and (what was left of) lunch and followed his boss out the door.
"Does this mean you're not mad at me anymore?"
"Nope," House responded breezily, "You're still in the dog house, but you make better lunches than Cameron, and Foreman won't let me steal."
Robert ducked his head to hide a please smile. For House, that was practically an olive branch.
Moments later they lurched back into the conference room and Cameron made a point of hanging up the phone – loudly -- while Foreman glared at House.
Chase swallowed a chuckle that threatened to erupt, and took an empty seat between them.
House strode to the front of the room, and turned to face them. "We -- and when I say we, I mean one of you -- have a new case. We've been requested for a consult at a prison."
"We're going off site?" Chase asked. That was unusual, unless they were being sent out by House to break into someone home. They generally didn't leave the hospital for cases.
"No. YOU'RE going off site. The rest of us will assist from here."
Chase froze in place. He should have known it was too good to be true. He felt his breakfast start to churn in his stomach. "You're sending me to prison?"
House looked smug. "Has a kind of poetry to it, don't it?"
"Why me?" Chase demanded. He was an intensivist after all. That usually required an Intensive Care Unit.
"I know what kind of rapport you have with mobsters," House shot back.
Chase looked morose. "I should have stayed in the lab."
"Too late for that!" House crowed gleefully, turning his attention to the female doctor. "Cameron, pull up that email and give Chase all the details."
Ozmund State Correctional Facility
Hours later, after having driven half the day to reach the place, Chase was being escorted by a guard and the doctor of the facility, Ellen Martinez, to the prison infirmary. Martinez handed Robert the patient's chart, letting him skim over it as they walked, and she briefed him.
Chase noticed that things seemed tense at the prison. He wondered if it was always like this, and asked Doctor Martinez about it.
"It's worse than usual. We've had two more cases since I contacted your offices yesterday. The entire prison is afraid that there is an epidemic on its way and they are going to be locked up inside with it," she informed him. "Plague. It's one of their worst fears."
"To be unable to get away from it?"
"Yes. Or to find out that the whole thing is deliberate."
Off his look, she shrugged and explained. "We live in the middle of Paranoia Land. This could be a simple infection being spread environmentally, or it could be the work of a single prisoner targeting his enemies. That doesn't even touch on the rumors that it is some kind of government experiment and everyone here is a guinea pig."
Chase quickly read through the case, glancing at the results of the tests she'd already run. "There's no evidence of it being an epidemic so far. Were the new cases in contact with the first one?"
"Same cell block. Same chow line."
"But you say it doesn't present with a rash," Chase clarified.
"It hasn't yet," she replied.
"I'd like to examine them."
"I thought you might," Martinez replied, pushing open the door to the infirmary. She gestured to a bed, one of several along the wall. "With the outbursts, we've had to restrain John. So far the others haven't shown those symptoms yet."
Robert put the folder down on the table beside the patient's bed and pulled on a pair of sterile gloves. Reaching for John's neck, he ran his fingers just under the jaw, feeling for swelling in the glands.
Sure enough, there they were. Chase dropped his hands and turned again toward Dr. Martinez. Just as he did, he barely caught sight of Dr. Martinez standing there with a prisoner's arm wrapped around her neck before a metal bedpan collided with his head. Chase dropped like a sack of potatoes. The young Aussie lost consciousness to the sound of Ellen Martinez begging the prisoner not to kill her, and the prisoner's vicious response.
"Ain't gonna be nobody's lab rat, bitch!"
Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital
House walked down the hall with his friend James Wilson, giving the younger doctor an update on their progress.
"Chase was right, there were throat nodules. I've got Cameron doing the ultrasound now and Foreman's doing a little B&E.
"One of these days you could break all your own rules and just ask the patient to lend you their keys," Wilson suggested sarcastically, knowing it would never happen.
"Foreman needs to keep his skills honed."
Wilson shook his head with an indulgent smile. "I thought he was arrested for stealing a car?"
"He's expanding his repertory," Greg explained.
"And what of Chase? Still got him locked in the Ivory Tower?"
"Oh no. I let Rapunzel off the leash today."
"You are SUCH a wicked stepmother."
House grinned. "Sent him off to go see someone in jail. Figured it might scare him straight. Figuratively speaking, anyway."
James rolled his eyes. "Chase isn't gay."
"I was thinking bi. Or, you know, bi-curious. I think they call it adventurous these days."
"'Cuz he's pretty?"
"You can't tell me that boy's never been propositioned before!"
"Probably," Wilson agreed with a shrug. "Doesn't mean he's ever accepted."
"With those looks he's fit right in with Naughty Headboy at English Boarding School."
"He's Australian," Wilson corrected, uselessly.
"Or maybe The Naughty Alter Boy. He did go to Seminary."
"Do you have that one on DVD?"
House laughed good-naturedly, then added conspiratorially, but too loudly. "Right next to my collection of Naughty Hospital Administrators. Oh, it's you!"
Wilson chuckled despite himself, as they came face to face with Lisa Cuddy. "I've got to get back to work. And I believe, so do you," he said.
She merely looked at them, as if trying to figure out what the two of them were up to, then handed House a patient folder.
"Yes, Sieb," House intoned with grand formality as he took the folder.
Ozmund State Correctional Facility
Chase awoke to find a heavy weight pressing down on him. Someone was trying to kiss him. The Aussie shook his head, and pushed weakly against the weight.
"Don't fight me, bitch," hissed a voice in his ear.
Chase blinked his eyes open as a hand grabbed his jaw and a mouth was plunged down over his own.
"No," Robert protested, turning away. The hand let go of his jaw, then flew to the side of his face and cracked against his cheek.
Gasping at the unexpected onslaught, Chase tried to roll away. His protest was met with a knee being thrust up into his testicles. Chase attempted to curl in on himself, tears springing to his eyes, but he couldn't with the heavy weight on top of him.
His hands were lifted above his head, and he realized that he had been handcuffed. "No!" he shouted, pulling his arms back down. His hands still encased in sterile gloves bunched just under his chin, he swung one elbow toward his assailant's head. Much to both of their surprise he connected, the other's man face swung away from his. That only lasted for an instant before the man was looming over him again, and they stared at each other for an unsettling moment, Chase's eyes wide with shock, as the other's darkened with rage.
"You're so going to pay for that," the man said, just before he snapped his head forward, smashing it against Chase's nose.
Robert cried out, all but ignoring the man tearing at his clothes. He couldn't concentrate beyond that pain, fresh and sharp, blackening the edges of his vision.
Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital
House looked over at the woman in front of him, wondering if Cuddy would kill him if he called for a consult. But she only had a sore throat, and House had already pulled that one on her. What he needed was something oozing and seeping.
He advised the woman to go home and drink hot tea and rest. Still sitting quietly in the room, he began filling in the chart, and thinking of his youngest fellow.
Honestly, he didn't like fighting with Chase. He wasn't stupid enough not to realize that until recently Chase was the one who was most likely to stand up for him. Even while he was de-toxing, Chase had been the only one to not comment, instead leaving House his lie. Chase's only observation had been about the masseuse. Even Greg's 'I'm fine' was met with an 'I know.'
Then had come Chase senior. Robert deserved to know about his dad, but after that pathetic attempt, claiming he didn't care… Chase had shot right through House's defenses. He'd been ready to tell him all about Rowan, but then couldn't bring himself to do it, and completely destroy the boy. He wondered if Rowan had even been around when the ex-Mrs. Chase had drank herself into an early grave. House's 'bouncing bundle of daddy issues' was a mess once you scratched the surface.
They had barely recovered from daddy's visit, when House had yelled at Robert about screwing up. Vogler had shown up soon after and everything had gone to hell.
He liked teasing Robert, because Chase just chuckled and took it in stride. But lately there had been a razor's edge to it all. Chase didn't laugh anymore, merely winced as if those barbs cut, and hid his eyes behind a curtain of bangs. But in true Chase fashion, he didn't fight back, just hared off to the ICU or the clinic. Even getting the hairy eyeball from the other fellows, Chase just let it all roll off his back, like he didn't care. Right! As if anyone was believing that.
Again, it was all Chase's defense mechanism. Run, hide, divert, deflect. They can't hurt you if you don't care. But Chase did care. Probably too much. And the time was coming when the big pain was coming. Rowan didn't have much more than a month left.
Maybe it was time to forgive Chase.
Ozmund State Correctional Facility
His plaid shirt ripped open, a stranger sucking a hickey against his neck the size of Lake Placid, Chase blurrily tried to pull his mind together and remember the lessons the hospital demanded that every employee take about personal safety.
He's treated victims of rape before. The best advice the police could offer was to scream and run away. If caught, don't fight. It will only make your attacker hurt you worse. With his head spinning, Chase really couldn't argue with that one. He wondered if it was too late to scream and run away. Like a scared wombat, House's voice filtered through his mind.
The man on top of him reached for Chase's slacks, tugging at them so hard that Chase's whole body slid along the floor.
"No." Chase protested feebly, hands pushing against the stranger, trying to dislodge him and pull his knees together.
The man's fist swung out and connected with Chase's jaw, snapping his head to the side. Chase thought he would black out. Just as the room started to gray around the edges, the man collapsed, a dead weight atop the young doctor. Chase looked up and met the eyes of Dr. Martinez, the dented bedpan still clutched in her hand.
Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital
"How much longer do you think they are going to fight," Allison Cameron asked her companion.
Eric Foreman sighed in response. He didn't much care for Chase as a rule – too rich, too pretty, too screwed up, too laid back, coasting on daddy's name, -- but the hostile working environment and the additional workload were beginning to become a burden.
"You're his favorite. Why don't you ask House?" Foreman said, looking up from the tests he was running. He saw a pleased little smile flit over her face as she stared down at her test tubes. Cameron liked being House's favorite.
"I've already talked to House. And to Chase. Neither one is willing to budge."
"You mean House won't budge. I think Chase would be glad to see the last of it."
She gave a little sigh.
"On the other hand," Foreman continued, "I'm just glad he didn't send me."
Cameron looked up with a puzzled smile. "Why?"
"I'm pretty sure House would have told me to look up any of my old 'breaking and entering buddies' while I was there."
Cameron laughed. "You're probably right."
Ozmund State Correctional Facility
The two doctors, and the guard that had been Chase's escort, were bundled off to a holding room. The prisoners were gathering everyone to use as bargaining chips, hoping to keep the authorities at bay. As they were being led away from the infirmary, Chase looked back over his shoulder. He was treated to the ghastly sight of his three patients, their throats slit during the riot, spilt blood clotting on the floor beneath the beds.
They stripped Chase of his shoes, belt, watch, and tie, then released him to sit with everyone else on the floor just inside the bathroom/shower facilities of this wing of the prison. He found a place as far against the back wall as he could, sitting near Ellen Martinez.
She leaned over towards him, examining his nose and the bruise against the side of his head. "Are you okay?" she asked quietly, reaching for his hands, peeling off the sterile gloves he hadn't managed to remove for himself. She looked down, examining the scrapes left by the handcuffs he still wore.
"I'm fine," he reassured her.
"Quiet back there," one of the prisoners snarled at them.
Chase rested his arms against his bent knees then buried his face in his arms. No one saw his lips moving in silent prayer.
Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital
The next morning, House walked into the conference room, pushing open the door with his elbow, cane clutched in one hand, Starbucks in the other.
Wilson pushed in right behind him and joined them, wanting to see how Chase was handling the transition back into the fold. It would be the first time he's seen the young Australian in almost a month. Weeks after the Vogler fiasco, Chase had been banned to the lab, and House wouldn't explain why, despite intensive prodding. James had even tried getting Greg drunk, to no avail. Why House hadn't just fired Chase was beyond him. Of course, there was the torture factor. House would have months and months in which he could freely roast Chase over hot coals and Chase wouldn't fight back, merely suck it up as fitting penance.
Then again, Wilson had never before seen House waffle about anything, much less about firing Chase, and even more astonishing, offering a defense on Chase's behalf.
'The kid was worried about his job.' That comment had come from House of all things! Usually James was the one to placate and excuse, to try to smooth things over.
House was going out of his way to actually understand where Chase had been coming from. And Greg had defended him. And he hadn't fired Chase the minute Vogler was gone.
All in all, it could only mean one thing. House really did like the kid and was trying to figure out ways to keep him.
Not that he wasn't going to spank him, too. House wasn't going to let up until he was satisfied that Chase was contrite. And maybe a little bruised to boot. The Houseian version of behind the woodshed with the willow switch.
Greg limped up to the whiteboard and turned to face his audience.
"Where's Chase?" House demanded.
"Oz," Cameron replied immediately.
House froze, and Wilson felt a chill slide down his spine.
"His dad?" Greg asked softly.
"What?" Cameron replied, looking confused.
"Did he go because of his dad?" House nearly shouted.
Cameron's face scrunched up. "What are you talking about?"
"Ozmund State Correctional Facility. He's still at the prison. He didn't come back last night," Cameron clarified.
Wilson looked up and met House's eyes, something twigging at the back of his mind for attention. Getting up, he snatched the day's newspaper from Foreman's hands.
"Hey!" Foreman yelped in protest.
"Oz. Ozmund," Wilson muttered, flipping through the paper, finally finding the article he was looking for, and laying out the pages so they could all see the big, bold print proclaiming, RIOT AT OZMUND PENITENTIARY.
The others took a moment to take in the news then Wilson looked up to meet House's stricken eyes.
"I sent him right into it," House whispered.
There was a heavy pause, than House began snapping orders. "Cameron, see if you can get a hold of the doctor that called for the consult! Foreman, get a hold of Bill Arnello.
Eric Foreman blinked at him. "The mafia guy?"
"Yeah. Maybe he can pull a few strings for us and keep Chase safe. Mobsters don't get raped in prison."
"Oh, god," Cameron paled.
Wilson looked at his worried colleague. "What are you going to do?"
"Go talk to Cuddy. She should be able to break through all the red tape and find out if he's okay."
Ozmund State Correctional Facility
They had been there all night, former authority figures huddled together for safety against their former charges, the inmates stalking back and forth in front of them, on guard. It felt like they'd been there forever.
Chase had fallen into a light doze, cuffed hands tucked against his chest, forehead resting on his up-drawn knees, when his hair was gripped and yanked back.
He cried out as a large black man glared down at him. "Time to wake up, surfer boy."
Chase knew enough not to answer, and he thought the man would hit him, just because he could. One large hand came to rest against Chase's exposed neck just under his jaw, and the man yanked him to his feet, holding him aloft by his hair and his neck. Chase scrambled to grab the man's wrist with both hands and hold on.
"Leave him alone!" Ellen Martinez cried out.
His vision was beginning to darken around the edges when a voice rang out, ordering the prisoner away. Chase was unceremoniously dropped back down to the floor, gasping for breath.
Three men stood at the door, two hulking brutes and an older man, staring at him. The black man moved away, grumbling.
"Are you Dr. Chase?" the older man asked.
Chase froze like a deer in headlights. "Yes?" he half-answered, half-asked, swallowing hard.
"You're with us," the man answered, nodding his head to the two brutes, then walking away.
Beside him, Ellen Martinez began, "You can't…" but was pushed away, then soundly ignored.
"Um," Chase wanted to protest, holding his cuffed hands up defensively. They ignored his resistance and grabbed him by the arms, jerking him to his feet.
"Where are you taking me?" he pleaded, bare feet skidding along the floor as they dragged him along.
"Mr. Santini says for you to come, you come," one of the brutes answered.
He was hauled to a cell already overcrowded with people, the older man sitting in a place of honor. Chase was unceremoniously shoved into a chair facing him.
"You're Dr. Chase?" Mr. Santini asked.
Chase nodded cautiously, and answered, "Yes."
Someone smacked him upside the head for it. "Yes, SIR!"
A little dizzy from the not-so-gentle smack, Chase answered, "Yes, sir."
"You're awfully young," Mr. Santini observed.
Chase wasn't sure how to answer, letting his mouth search for words a moment before shrugging his shoulders and saying, "Yes?" then noticed a movement out of the corner of his eye, and hastily added, "Sir."
"We got a call from an old friend of ours. Bill Arnello. You remember him, yes?"
Chase swallowed, wondering just where this was going. Bill Arnello had smacked him around when he had been treating his brother, incensed that his doctors suggested his brother might be gay.
"He said you figured out what was wrong with his brother."
"Joey. Yes, sir."
"What was it?"
"I can't…" Chase started, than trailed off when Santini's eyes hardened. Quickly changing his mind, he said, "Poison, sir." That was sort of the truth.
Santini nodded sagely. "Bill asked us to keep you safe while you're in here."
Chase's eyes widened in surprise.
"Anyone hurt you while you've been here?"
Chase felt hysterical laughter bubble up, but swallowed it down. He had been punched, knocked out with a bedpan, and had his nose broken. He looked around at the looming mountains of bodies surrounding him. "Um, I'm okay. Sir."
"You're covered in blood, boy. Someone get me a wet towel," Santini said as he stood, taking a step closer until he stood over Chase. "Looks like your nose has been broken."
A man handed off a white, damp towel to Santini and Santini passed it to Chase. Chase took it gratefully, but too late realized Santini's intent. The man grabbed his head, leaning it back until it was immobile, and quickly straightened Chase's nose. Chase gasped, and Santini released him, letting Chase bury his face in the towel as blood spurted down his face again. He felt faint, and was horribly afraid he would throw up on the kingpin.
"Somebody get the boy some aspirin," Santini ordered as the others roared with laughter.
Chase was shaking, cursing into the towel while the laughter died down. A man appeared by his side, and sure enough he was given something for the pain. Thankfully, Vicodin, not aspirin. Oh, goody, House's favorite, he thought giddily.
"Don't get mad, kid. It will be easier now than later."
"I could have had a plastic surgeon do it," Chase protested, tears running from his eyes.
Santini gave him a wolf's smile. "This is cheaper."
Chase grunted a response. He knew that he had looked like a raccoon before, with great dark bruises around his eyes, having caught a glimpse of himself in the bathroom mirror. He probably looked like a road-kill raccoon now. It made him wonder just what Bill Arnello had told them.
Santini smiled again, then looked up at one of the hulking brutes. "Put the kid to bed. Don't let anyone touch him."
Chase let himself be led to one of the bunks, then stuffed onto the bottom mattress. He could feel the Vicodin starting to kick in, and after a sleepless night, felt himself relaxing under the tenuous security for the first time since the riot began. The drugs stirring in his veins and the soft mummer of voices around him finally lulled him to sleep.
Two hours later, the prison authorities raided the place and somewhere between prisoners, SORT team, gas grenades, and gunshots, Chase ended up with a bullet to the gut.
Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital
House knew that Cuddy was good for something. Just like he thought, she had managed to cut through the red tape like a hot knife through butter.
The woman really was good at her job. Not that he'd ever tell her to her face. They didn't have that kind of relationship.
"Yes, Warden," Cuddy was saying into the phone. "He was asked to visit for a consult. He would have arrived yesterday."
There was silence for a moment as Lisa listened to the Warden of the prison. While the man was speaking to her, she looked up into House's worried eyes.
"His car is still in the parking lot?"
Again silence. This one more ominous.
"Yes. Please call me back when you know anything. Yes, thank you."
Cuddy hung up the phone. "They don't have any way to confirm that he's there, other than his car is still parked outside, and it appears that he was signed in by the prison doctor, Ellen Martinez. The prisoners have disabled all the camera feeds inside."
"Jesus. Even if we get him back, will it be in one piece?"
"It may not be as bad as you think. They are starting negotiations to try to end the riot. It appears the prisoners have a list of grievances."
"When don't they?" House looked down at his shoes. "Do you really think with that face they will leave him alone?"
Cuddy looked up at him with sympathy, then stood and came around the desk, putting a hand on his sleeve. She wasn't stupid enough to give him false reassurances. "Whatever you need, just let me know."
House met her eyes and nodded once, and turned to the door.
"I'll call if there are any changes," she called out, watching him limp away.
Ozmund State Correctional Facility
Like many things, the riot ended with a bang.
Robert awoke to the sounds of yelling, and someone pulling him to his feet. He was dragged to the cell entrance and forced to kneel.
"Hands on your head, ankles crossed," someone ordered him from behind, their hands holding his on the top of his head. "Don't move."
The man released his grip and stepped back into the cell.
Chase had never realized just how hard it was to kneel with your ankles crossed. It threw off the body's natural balance, wanting to pitch him forward. It didn't help that he was still groggy. Robert's eyes darted around the room. Smoke was pouring from canisters, obscuring everything. Bodies raced by him, trying to avoid the smoke, some nearly knocking him over in their haste.
Some prisoners were racing into the smoke, hoping to catch the SORT team off guard.
Suddenly out of the smoke came the sound of gunfire, and flashes of light. Those behind him dropped to the ground.
Too late Chase realized that he should follow suit. He gasped as he felt a sudden jolt to his stomach, like being punched with a fiery fist. Looking down, he saw his shirt staining red, only then feeling the pain of the bullet burning his gut.
Without a word, he toppled over, feeling his life's blood spilling carelessly onto the floor. Without thought he began to catalog his symptoms, estimating the time it would take him to bleed out.
It didn't always pay to be a doctor, he thought muzzily as the room faded away.
Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital
House picked up the phone from his desk, barking into the receiver, "House!"
It was Cuddy.
"They sent the SORT team in. The riot's over. Chase has been shot. I don't know anymore details, but he's in surgery now. Apparently the doctor he went to visit was also taken prisoner, so she was able to reach him fairly quickly. I'll let you know more when I do."
"I'm going up there."
All she said was, "I'll clear your schedule."
Sweetwater Community Hospital
House hurried into the ICU, anxious to see Chase, Wilson in tow behind him. House had been quiet for the entire trip, and Wilson was worried about him, afraid that House would blame himself for what happened to Chase.
The room was in semi-darkness when they got there, monitoring machines quietly beeping their reassurance.
Greg went directly to the bed, studying the angelic, sleeping face. He hadn't noticed it before, but Robert had been losing weight. House cursed himself for carrying on with the Vogler thing too long. The two of them should have worked it out a long time ago. The boy had a tendency to skip meals when he was upset or just too busy with a case. He should have noticed, but then, he'd banished Chase from his sight for the last three weeks, so he had no idea how he had been handling it.
Gregg stroked a hand over Chase's head, brushing back the unruly bangs, getting a good look at the bruising.
"GSW to the abdomen. Broken nose. Contusions." There was a lengthy pause as Wilson read over the chart. "They ran a rape kit."
House sucked in a shaky breath.
"It was negative."
His breath came back out in a rush of relief, feeling his guilt ease up just a touch. "How bad is the stomach?"
"Surgeon's notes say it looks pretty good. He'll stay on IV fluids for a couple of days, giving it a chance to heal, before they switch him to liquids, than soft solids. The usual treatment, nothing remarkable about the wound."
House sat in the chair beside the bed. He had been an idiot to send Chase into a prison. What the hell had he been thinking? "And the nose?"
"It's not too bad. They packed it for now, but they're planning on taking that out tomorrow."
"I'll want to move him back as soon as possible."
Wilson put down the chart and moved to stand at House's side. He put a hand on Greg's shoulder. "He may not want to be moved, you know. The way things have been between you…" Wilson trailed off.
"Doesn't matter," House said gruffly, never removing his eyes from Chase's profile. He reached out a hand and gently took Chase's hand in his, thumb gently rubbing the bandage around the wrist.
"He may not give you a choice, Greg."
"He needs to come home."
Wilson just sighed.
Chase awoke to the quiet beeping of machines. Sleepily he blinked his eyes open when he heard a voice (in falsetto) say, "Dumbledore's waiting, Harry!"
He squinted in the dim light until he made out a vague form. It was clearly the middle of the night, and everything was fairly dark, except for the man who sat next to the reading lamp. Finally recognizing the voice as it continued, he whispered, "House?"
The thick hardback that House was holding snapped close with a soft boom, and House set it aside, moving closer to Chase's bed.
"Drink this," House ordered. "Just a sip."
Gratefully, Chase took the straw between his lips and drank, before House took it away again.
He peered up at his boss. "What happened?"
"You were in a prison riot. You got shot, remember?"
Chase peered into the gloom. "This doesn't looks like…"
"No. You're at Sweetwater Community. We're getting you transferred in a couple of days. How do you feel?"
"Like someone beat the snot out of me." Chase paused. "And kind of floaty."
House grinned at him. "Self-diagnosis is a dangerous habit, but that seems pretty accurate, among other things."
"What are you doing here?"
"I'm your doctor. Why wouldn't I be here?" House replied.
There was a long pause as Chase frowned at the answer, turning it over in his mind, trying to determine what was wrong with it. "No, you're not. You can't be my doctor," he finally replied.
House looked a bit surprised by his answer. "Why? Because I'm your boss?"
Chase shook his head slowly. "No, because you never visit your patients. So, why are you really here? I must be hallucinating, or dying."
"Don't be so melodramatic," House scolded him. "You'll live a long and healthy life."
"And by the time you're done with me, I won't want to," Chase muttered to himself, thinking of their endless fighting over the past several months, feeling black despair sweep over him at the thought of going back to all of it. Ignoring House's frown, Chase turned his head away and let sleep overtake him again.
Three days later, Chase was transferred back to Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital.
Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital
It had been over a week and Chase's face still looked like he was imitating a raccoon, but the dark bruises around his eyes were finally fading to multi-hued greens and yellows.
Things between him and the rest of the team had been better. Cameron had visited him, and even brought a teddy bear, dressed like Crocodile Dundee. Even Foreman had made an appearance, seemingly glad to see him.
The only thing that had disturbed his rest was Cameron's offhand comment that they'd been trying to get hold of his dad, and hadn't been able to. It had Chase thinking.
Scrunching onto his side, he reached for the phone by his bedside.
Dialing a number from memory, he heard an older woman's voice speak. "Aunt Bernice? It's Robert."
"Robbie! Oh, thank the heavens you called! We've been trying to get a hold of you."
Aunt Bernice proceeded to fill him in on his father's condition. As she did it slowly dawned on him that his father must have known. Known all along that he had cancer when he had sought Robert out. THAT was the real reason he had come to New Jersey.
Why hadn't his father told him? Maybe now he should be grateful to House for having goaded him as he did. It was unlikely that he would have made the attempt at their last meeting otherwise, even if his father had so little time for a reunion.
"I'll try to get there as soon as I can, Birdie. It's going to take me a few days. Things have been crazy here."
"Soon as you can, Robbie. They say he won't last the week, so quick as you can, right?"
"Yeah," Robert breathed into the phone, then hung it up.
He lay there a moment thinking of his father and their distant, frequently bitter relationship.
His father might not have opened up to him about just wanting to see his son because he was ill, but Robert felt a wave of love wash over him at the thought that his very ill father had come to see him at all.
He had to get back there.
Chase was on the phone talking to his travel agent, making arrangements, when House walked in.
Unashamedly, (and typically House) he listened into the conversation.
"Yeah, Lindsey, if you could just put it on the card, that'd be great. The FedEx it over to the hospital. No, not the office."
Chase was looking at House's perplexed expression. "Send it up to ICU 1 at the hospital. The nurses can give it to me. Thanks."
Chase hung up the phone.
House immediately commented, "Planning on spending your recovery time in Gstaad? Don't plan for very long."
"No. Australia. My dad's in hospital. They don't expect him to live out the week."
House gaped at him a moment, then said, "That was fast."
Chase blinked at him, taken aback, then realized just what House meant. He felt the world drop out from beneath him, then let the anger build, slow and hot.
"You knew." Chase didn't bother to make it a question.
House visibly considered his answer. "I guessed."
"And you didn't think I should know?"
"He asked me not to say anything," House said with a shrug.
"When has that ever stopped you?"
"Plus, I couldn't. Wilson called me in on a consult."
Chase's eyes widened. "Wilson knew?"
"Well, yeah. He came to see Wilson. He IS one of the best."
Chase was taking this better then he expected, House thought, but then thought again. Chase looked like he had gone from surprised and angry to gut punched.
House could see the gears in Chase's head spinning, spinning, spiraling out of control. "Chase?" House touched him, and Chase's whole body jerked.
"He came to see Wilson," was all that Chase said, beginning to breath heavily. "He came to see Wilson," he repeated, shock evident.
Chase covered his face with both hands. "Oh, god." House heard him whisper. "I thought he came to see me." The muffled voice was devastated.
Crap. This wasn't going the way he'd hoped. If the man wasn't already dying, House would have killed him.
"Chase," House said, laying a comforting hand on his shoulder. "He DID come to see you."
Chase dropped his hands to his lap, and jerked away from House's hand, ignoring the spike of pain in his gut. "Don't touch me!"
House's hand dropped to his side. House knew that for all of Chase's easy-going, laid-back nature there were times when he'd royally pissed the young Aussie off, but never before had he seen Chase's eyes burn with such betrayal. Greg withdrew a few steps under the onslaught.
"He just wasn't ready to tell you," House continued, trying to explain.
"I said get the hell out!"
Chase was shaking with anger and House's eyes instinctively flicked over to the rapidly beeping monitor.
"Chase, you have to calm down."
The phone that Chase had laid on the bed beside him came sailing towards House's head, only stopping short because of the cord still stuck into the wall, before clattering to the floor.
"Get the fuck out and don't come back!" Chase shouted.
The door slid open and two nurses bundled in, responding to mechanical alarms. House used the moment to exit. Outside, Cameron, Foreman and Wilson were staring at him.
"What the hell did you do?" Foreman asked.
House met Wilson's eyes. "Chase just found out about his dad."
"You TOLD him?" Wilson looked shocked.
"No," House replied.
"Told him what?" Cameron asked.
House glanced at Cameron and Foreman, then back at Wilson.
Wilson sighed. "Rowan has Stage 4 lung cancer. He wanted a consult. I gave him three months."
"Daddy's ahead of schedule," House snipped meanly.
"And Chase just found out?" Cameron asked.
"And he just found out you already knew," Foreman concluded.
House and Wilson both sighed, and looked guilty.
"No wonder he's angry," Cameron said.
"When I walked in, he was making travel arrangements," House turned to Wilson.
Wilson looked up. "He's not in any shape to travel!"
"Tell him that!" House shot back.
Cameron headed for the door. "He shouldn't be alone. Someone should be with him."
Just as she slid the door back, a nurse stepped out and flung an arm across the opening, baring her way.
"I'm sorry, Doctor Cameron. I can't allow you in here."
Cameron took a startled step back. "What?"
"He says he's fired you as his doctors and he doesn't want any of the four of you in there."
"He fired you?" Wilson said incredulously, turning to look at House. They all turned to look at House.
House sighed heavily, and passed a hand down his face. "Shit."
"I'm going to have to ask you to leave. If you won't, I'll have to call Security," the nurse added.
Moments later they were standing outside in the hallway.
"I can't believe we just got kicked out of ICU," Wilson said, bemused.
Foreman snorted. "Are you kidding? The ICU nurses LOVE Chase."
Beside him Cameron nodded in agreement. "Half the time they are bringing him home cooked dinners, or trying to fix him up with their single daughters."
House and Wilson exchanged a glance. "I didn't realize my little Aussie was so… beloved." The way he said it made it into three syllables.
Foreman snorted again.
"So what are we going to do?" Cameron asked.
House was evidently mulling over options. He looked up at Wilson, and pointed his finger at his best friend. "You're going on a consult."
Wilson's eyes widened in surprise. "To Australia? There's no way Chase is letting you get away with that!"
"We're not giving him a choice." House pointed at Cameron. "You! Chase just made a couple of phone calls. Go down to Accounting and get the numbers. He had to have talked to someone about his dad. The other was to a travel agent. We need to change his travel plans."
House turned to Wilson. "Get down to Cuddy. Tell her that you, me, and Chase need a couple of weeks off."
House paused, clearly thinking. His eyes snapped to Foreman. "We need a plane."
Foreman frowned at him. "But… I thought you were planning on canceling his travel plans. Or… are you getting on the same plane?"
"We need a private plane. That way Chase can sleep on the way."
They all stared at him blankly.
"Does you rich doctor friend in LA got one?"
"No," Foreman replied defensively.
Wilson tentatively offered, "I know Anderson in Ortho's got a Cessna, but… Australia?"
"We need someone with a private jet," House focused on Foreman again. "Get me Vogler's cell number."
Three jaws dropped in unison.
Wilson cried out, "You've got to be kidding me!"
"Let's move it, people," House ordered. "I've got to talk to whomever the hell Chase just replaced me with!"
Within half an hour Cuddy was tracking House down, Wilson in tow.
"Chase fired you?" Cuddy was half-incredulous, half-delighted.
"I see good news spreads fast," House said, glaring at a sheepish Wilson, before turning back to Cuddy. "Kind of like you ass."
Cuddy ignored the jibe. "Are you kidding? It's all over the hospital! Chase's stock is going through the roof! You should see his PQ!"
"His what?" Wilson asked.
House rolled his eyes at her, and Cuddy struggled to tamp down on her amusement.
"So you and Wilson are going to Australia, too. Wilson seemed a bit unclear."
"Wilson consulted on Rowan's case," House defended. "Besides, if Rowan dies, do you really want ME representing the hospital?"
"Good point," Cuddy conceded, shaking her shoulders with an exaggerated shudder of horror.
"Chase shouldn't be traveling alone. He got shot just a couple of days ago. Or hadn't you heard."
Cuddy gave him face, which House choose to ignore, and continued.
"And, well… If I don't go, my intensivist is going to take a runner. And you know how I hate doing interviews."
"You really think he wouldn't come back?" Wilson said, disturbed by this new revelation.
"If I let him go alone, he's not coming back. I'm sure of it."
"I thought you were ready to fire him," Cuddy pointed out.
"For trying to save his job?"
"You talked about it," Wilson accused.
House shook his head again. "As mad as I am… as mad as I was, I understand. I pushed and pushed and pushed when his father was here. Dismissed everything he said, and did it in front of his dad."
Cuddy gawped at him, unbelieving. "First off, who the hell are you and what have you done with House? And second, why would you DO that?"
Sheepishly, House shrugged his shoulders. "I was kind of hoping his father would leap to his defense."
Wilson and Cuddy just blinked at him. He couldn't be that naive. House didn't do naive.
"You really are a romantic," Wilson muttered, ignoring House's glare and Cuddy's grin.
"But Rowan argued with Chase, too. That's why he did his scared wombat impersonation and hared off to the clinic a couple of times. Not that he was safe there. We followed him and ridiculed him there too."
Cuddy gave an exasperated sigh. "Well, now I can understand why he'd leave. How he managed to stay this long is beyond me." She looked hard at House. "Chase is a good doctor. The nurses in ICU love him."
"So I've noticed," House muttered grumpily, making Wilson crack a smile.
"If it had been my father, I'd have decked you," Cuddy said.
"Can we not focus on what I did and get back to Chase's betrayal? I'm just saying I understand why he ran to Vogler. He was scared. Scared about his job. Scared that I would fire him."
"Would you have?" Wilson asked.
"Just how many Australian intensivist do you think there are floating around New Jersey?"
Cuddy's eyes narrowed. "Are you telling me that you hired him BECAUSE he's Australian?"
"No. I hired him because his dad called Wilson."
Cuddy stared at him in astonishment.
"That and it became evident in the interview that Chase didn't know about it."
Wilson thought back to Chase's interview, and now realized that House was right, and despite the fact that Chase tried to cover it up, he not only did not know about the phone call, he got pissed when he realized that there had been one, but had done his best to hide it.
"I love puzzles," House said by way of explanation. "Besides, you know how my other two ducklings are. High maintenance. Chase isn't. If I have nothing for him to do, Chase entertains himself. I just put him in the sandbox with a few toys and he's happy."
The other two rolled their eyes at him.
"I think you mixed your metaphors," Cuddy sniped.
House ignored her. "He follows orders and he's not nearly as confrontational as the other two. Plus the Australian thing? The cultural references alone are worth their weight in gold. Took him two weeks to figure out why I was calling him Doogie."
Cuddy shook her head. "So if he's not as confrontational that means…"
"He's easier to bully," Wilson supplied.
"Plus he doesn't want to date me," House continued. "That turned out to be a big one."
Wilson chuckled at House's exasperation.
Deliberately acting as though she didn't understand, Cuddy asked, "Foreman wants to date you? Make sure you wear the red shirt this time. The sky blue one doesn't seem to work."
House sneered at her, muttering, "Funny," which just made her snicker at him.
Cuddy handed him a slip of paper with their leave approved. "And you think you're going to be able to talk Vogler into lending you a private jet?"
"I'm gonna try."
Cuddy sighed heavily. "Good luck. You'll need it."
House looked down at the number that was scrawled on the paper before him. According to Foreman, this was Vogler's personal cell phone. Unlisted.
This was going to be hell. After somehow managing to run the bugger off, it grated on House's nerves to go to the man, hat in hand. But it was either that or have Chase try to stuff himself into the seat of a commercial airline. No matter how accommodating they were, it was going to be uncomfortable.
Steeling himself, House picked up the phone and dialed.
Chase raised his head off the pillow when the sliding door to his room slammed open and he heard raised voices telling someone 'you can't go in there'.
A wheelchair was pushed through the opening and House appeared a moment later driving the dammed thing.
"I told you to get out," Chase croaked dully, and buried his face into his pillow. He didn't need House's shit right now.
"You're going on a little trip," House said, ignoring his protests.
Chase surfaced and looked at House looming over his bed. "Sod off."
The hand not holding the cane shot out and gripped Chase's jaw, forcing him to meet House's eyes. Chase was so startled, he didn't pull away.
"House!" yelled a voice from the doorway.
"Now you listen to me. You're going to get your ass in that wheelchair, then you, me, and Wilson are getting aboard an airplane and flying out to Sydney tonight. And then when we are all done, you are coming back home. Got it?"
Chase was looking at him as though he'd gone stark raving mad, eyes wide with surprise and showing a trace of fear. House had bullied him plenty of times, but rarely manhandled him. Chase could feel House's fingers digging into his cheeks, and House shook him a little for his inattention.
"You understand me, junior?" House demanded.
Wilson appeared behind House. "Greg!" he admonished House again, mindful of the recent experiences that Chase had been though. He didn't need to be physically abused on top of everything else he had gone through.
Chase swallowed hard and nodded.
House released him, satisfied.
Chase sat up, rubbing his cheeks. At this point he didn't care if he sounded like a petulant child, he wanted answers. "Why are you doing this? You don't even like me! You're going to fire me eventually anyway."
House pushed Chase's knees over, ignoring Chase's apprehensively raised eyebrow in response, and sat on the bed, facing the young doctor. "No. I wasn't," he said seriously. "And I'm not letting you run away."
"Why? Why not just let me go?"
"Because you're a good intensivist."
"You dismiss everything I say!" Chase cried.
"I've been listening," House said quietly.
"You've been a jerk!"
Wilson tried to stifle his chuckle. It was rare to see Chase so defiant. Even rarer to see House allow Chase to reprimand him.
"Well, yeah. But that's my job."
Chase glared at him.
House rocked from side to side as if undecided as to how much to admit. "I've been riding you hard. I know that. I was…"
Chase stared at him, eyes narrowing dangerously.
Chase snorted derisively, looking incredulous. "So you thought you'd get back at me by keeping my father's health a secret?"
"No! That's wasn't my idea. Look, the thing is, your father came here to see you."
Chase turned away, mutinously thrusting his chin in Wilson's direction. "You said it yourself. He came to see Wilson."
Wilson had the good grace to wince.
"Wilson was just his excuse. You think he doesn't know a dozen other oncologist all over the world he could have asked for help? He could have seen Wilson and never bothered to track you down. But he did. He wanted to spend time with you."
"That was all YOUR idea!" Chase shouted. "He wouldn't have stuck around if you hadn't brought him into the case."
"You should have seen his face, how proud he was of you. I was proud of you."
Chase shook his head, near tears, searching House's face, not believing a word he was being told. "Why are you doing this? You know that none of that is true."
"Chase, you stood toe to toe against a world renown expert and persuaded him to your point of view."
"You outvoted me! Voted, for god sakes!"
"And yet, you still proved us wrong."
Chase covered his face with his hands, defeated. His voice was broken when he spoke again. "I can't do this anymore."
House dropped his cane on the bed and reached up and took Chase's bandaged wrists in his hands, pulling them away from his face.
"You don't have to do it alone," House assured him.
Chase face crumpled and he bowed his head. House let him come further, putting one hand to the back of his neck and guiding him to his shoulder. Chase's sobs were muffled, and Wilson met House's eyes over the blonde's head. Wilson moved to the other side of Chase and rubbed a hand up and down the kid's back.
Chase came back to himself a few moments later, sniffing hard and wiping delicately around his bruised eyes. Wilson handed him a tissue and made him blow. Chase looked like he'd been put through the ringer.
"My stomach hurts."
Both Wilson and House put their hands on his shoulder and helped ease him back down on the bed.
"We've got a plane on the tarmac waiting for us. If you really don't want to do this, let me know."
Chase blinked up at him, watery but determined, and in a small voice said, "I want to see my father."
House nodded once.
True to his word, Vogler's Eastbrook Pharmaceuticals' company jet was sitting on the ground, fueled and ready for them. They got the ambulance EMTs to settle the young doctor on one of the couches, then Wilson checked him over, then gave him a shot for pain and let the boy sink into oblivion.
House limped up to the cockpit and signaled to the pilots that they were all aboard. Minutes later they were in the sky.
House settled himself on the couch opposite Chase, stretching out his legs with a sigh.
Wilson found a comfortable chair between them and turned to face House.
"Ya done good, Greg."
House sighed. "We'll see."
Hours later, Chase awoke and took a minute to remember where he was. He blinked up at the ceiling of the plane, then felt the edge of the couch dip, somewhere around his hip.
He looked over to see Wilson giving him an encouraging smile as he sat down.
"How are you feeling, Chase?"
Chase nodded. "I'm okay." He looked toward his left, seeing House stretched out on the other couch, fast asleep.
"Why is he doing this, Wilson?"
Wilson looked over at his friend and smiled fondly. "Because he cares.
Chase turned away, too many misgivings making him unable to believe that answer. "He doesn't have to. I'll be fine."
"Right," Wilson replied, skeptically.
Chase rubbed at his temple, trying to rub the sleep out of his head. Speaking softly, almost to himself, he said, "It's not like I'm going to be around here much longer anyway."
"What are you talking about?" Wilson asked, noticing out of the corner of his eye that House was awake and watching them.
"The Fellowship. It's only for two years, and I've been there a year longer than anyone else. In less than six months, I'll be gone, and he won't have to worry about me anymore."
House sat up, letting them know he heard. "I'll talk to Cuddy. Get it extended."
Chase looked over at him. "Even if the hospital makes me an offer, I probably wouldn't be working for you."
"You're not getting away that easily."
Chase just shook his head and sighed, knowing that there wasn't anything House could do about it, short of firing him immediately. Not that either prospect mattered anymore. Things were just too screwed up between them. Unfixable. Chase had no idea where to even begin.
Wilson watched the despair descend upon Chase like a black cloud, and decided to do a bit of fence mending, plunging in where he didn't belong (and probably wasn't welcome), hoping to smooth things out between the two. He knew Greg far too well to think the whole damn thing wasn't still bothering him.
Looking over at Greg, he said, "What I don't get is why you suddenly got so mad at him and banished him to the labs. Things had been getting better, hadn't they?"
Chase glanced over at House, than back at Wilson. "He didn't tell you?"
"No, I didn't," House said, swinging his legs off the couch and sitting up, hoping that that was the end of it.
But Chase followed suit, though in a much slower fashion, Wilson shifting out of his way, letting Chase face his boss across the narrow aisle. Chase didn't take his eyes off of House's face as he explained to Wilson. "He got mad at me when he saw me coming out of the chapel."
Wilson turned his attention to House. "You got mad at him for praying?"
House looked irritated, his eyes boring into Chase's. "Not for praying, you idiot! For thinking that God would forgive him before he even said he was sorry!"
Chase blinked at him in surprise. "Is that what it was?" Chase said softly, clearly taken aback.
Wilson's eyes were darting back and forth between the two men. The silence stretched until it the only thing that could be heard was the hum of the engines.
House gave a jerk of his head in response.
Chase seemed to consider both House and his answer carefully, then come to a conclusion.
Unmindful of his recent stomach wound, and as graceful as anyone he'd ever seen, Wilson watched with amazement as Chase slid to the floor, landing on his knees, butt resting on his heels, head bowed and his hands loosely clasped together in his lap. The perfect display of abject submission. Wilson caught his breath and held it.
"Bless me, Father," Chase said with quiet sincerity, "for I have sinned."
Across from him, Wilson heard House whisper a reverential 'fuck.' Wilson looked up and met House's eyes, which like his own were filled with shock and a touch of awe. House looked frozen in placed, bolted to the floor by the figure before him. When House gulped, it was loud enough that Wilson heard it.
"I'm sorry," whispered the kneeling man, an echo of tears in his voice. "I'm so sorry." Chase didn't look up.
House took a rattling breath, and let it out noisily, scrubbing a hand over his face.
Wilson's eyes darted to House again, and Wilson sucked in a breath. "If you don't forgive him, I'm going to kick your ass myself."
House gave a shaky laugh, grateful to Wilson for breaking the tension, and reached out a hand, and placed it upon the bowed head, saying simply, "I forgive you, Chase."
House withdrew his hand and Chase's head dipped even lower, face hidden by the fringe of blond hair, his shoulders sagging as all the tension left them. Wilson wondered if the boy would collapse. Then Chase looked up and met House's eyes.
House wondered if he would see glee for having pulled one over on him, or maybe simple happiness at finally being forgiven, but Chase's eyes were solemn as an undertaker as he studied House's face, looking for reassurance that House was sincere. There were tears, unchecked and un-fallen, swimming in Chase's eyes. House crooked a tentative smile at him.
"Thank you," Chase said softly, then reached back to lift himself to his seat.
Wilson immediately moved to help, half whispering an 'amen' as he did.
"I need a drink," House announced to the room in general.
This time the 'amen' came from Chase, making the other two men chuckled.
House got to his feet and started to rummage through the cupboards. "Think Vogler's too cheap to keep this place stocked?"
"He probably had it all removed when he agreed to lend you the jet," Wilson pointed out. "Just to spite you."
"I didn't go to the chapel to ask God to forgive me, you know," Chase spoke softly out of the blue.
The other two men stopped and turned to stare at him, House especially. Chase was sitting forlornly on the couch, looking much too much like a small boy, staring down at his hands.
"Then why?" House asked, eyes boring into the top of Chase's head.
"I wasn't asking to be forgiven. I was just… I was hoping for some guidance."
"From God?" House stated baldly, and a little snidely, making Chase look up.
Chase shrugged. "Who else was I going to ask?"
House sighed mightily. "Next time, try Wilson."
Chase looked down at his hands again. "Is there anyone who didn't want to fire me?"
House and Wilson exchanged a glance.
"Vogler," House said.
"Vogler would have fired me in a heartbeat if he could have gotten anyone else to talk about you."
"He told you that?" Wilson asked, outraged.
"Bastard," Wilson cursed.
House looked down at the bottle in his hand. "Damn. Tells me why you were so desperate." He reached in and took out three glasses.
"Whose name did you give him?" Chase asked after a moment of silence, broken only by the clink of glasses.
"Um, yours," House admitted, not willing to turn and face the young man yet.
"With Foreman, that makes three." Chase's eyes flicked to Wilson, than down again. "Four."
"Funny that," House mused aloud, pouring a splash of whiskey into each glass.
Wilson grabbed a glass and gulped it down. "What's that?" Wilson asked.
House shot Wilson a look but said nothing. "For all of Foreman's proclamations that you didn't deserve the job because you didn't appreciate it, you were the one that fought the hardest for it. Foreman refused to fight, and Cameron walked away."
Wilson stuck his glass out for another refill, and House obliged. Then Wilson grabbed Chase's glass and brought it to the young doctor. "Bottom's up," he said, clinking their glasses together and taking another sip.
"Going a little fast there, aren't you, Jimmy?"
"It's getting way too catholic in here. I'm Jewish. Guilt I can handle, but confession…"
Both Chase and House chuckled, and raised their glasses in salute.
Hours later, they landed to find a car waiting for them. Chase directed them to his father's house.
Chase reached the front door, intending to look for the hidden key, when the door was flung open. House was surprised to see the person standing there was a round, elderly nun, dressed old-fashionably in black and white. Hadn't she even heard of Vatican II?
Chase smiled at her, saying, "Aunt Bernice," before being engulfed in an enormous hug.
"Robbie," she cried in return, squeezing him tight.
Chase's arms slipped around her just as tightly, towering over the tiny nun.
When she finally released him, he turned to his companions. "Birdie, this is my boss, Dr. Gregory House, and his friend, Dr. James Wilson. Gentlemen, this is my Aunt, Sister Bernice."
"Come in, come in," she ordered. "No sense standing in the doorway and letting the neighbors get an eye full."
She hustled them in, never releasing Chase from the grip she'd taken of his hand, before she settled him on the couch in the living room.
"You look terrible, Robbie," she stated, sitting down beside him. "What's with this?" she asked, her finger moving in circles around her eyes, indicating the fading bruises.
"Got my nose broken."
"Rugby again, my boy?"
Chase smiled at her. "Not this time, Birdie."
Birdie patted his knee affectionately, and stood up. "What will it be, my lads? Coffee, tea, or something a bit stronger? There's a casserole in the oven warning, so anytime you're ready, just say the word."
Chase reached for her hand, settling her nervousness. "How is he?"
Sister Bernice sat down again. "It's not good, Robbie. But I'll see you fed and a bit of a lay up before you go to see him. That nice lady doctor, Cameron, called to say that you had been hurt recently, but she wouldn't give me the details." Bernice gave him a pointed look, and Chase flushed.
"I went to see a patient in a prison and there was a riot."
Birdie's eyes widened in horror. "Robbie!"
"I'm fine. Just managed to get my nose broke."
"And," she studied him closely, "You're holding your tummy because you nose hurts?"
From the other side of the room, House chuckled. "She should have been a diagnostician."
Chase gave him a mild glare, and turned back to his aunt. "I got shot, but I'm fine now."
Birdie looked like she would have liked to turn him over her knee for holding out on her. Vaguely House wondered if nuns still used the old 'ruler over the knuckles' trick. Instead, Birdie stood up and bundled out of the room, calling over her shoulder, "Chamomile and some supper, then it's off to bed with you. No arguments!"
"I'm fine!" Chase called back to her, but was completely ignored. He sighed, pretending he didn't hear the other two doctors as they snickered.
True to her word, Birdie had Chase fed and bundled him off to bed, letting Wilson help her young nephew to settle in.
"You and your friend can put your things in Rowan's room, if you don't mind sharing."
"That will be fine, Sister," House answered.
"You're friends of Robbie's, so it's Birdie," she instructed him.
House smiled at her.
Birdie fixed him with an eagle eye. "So, how is he really?"
House looked away, then back to Chase's aunt. "He's had a hard couple of weeks, but things are better now. The wound could have been a lot worse, and he's recovering fast. No major damage."
Birdie stared hard at him, and House had the impression that having spent a lifetime around her brother, she knew when doctors were bullshitting her.
"He's going to be okay," House added.
Birdie relaxed. "My Robbie. He's had a hard time of it. Harder than most boys. You think he lets most of it roll off, but the truth is, he just bottles it up inside."
"Seen that," House commented.
Birdie considered him for a long minute. "Is he good at what he does?"
House was surprised at the question. "Yes. I wouldn't have taken him on otherwise."
Birdie nodded, as if expecting the confirmation. "He was always the calm one in a crisis. The do-er, not the panic-er."
"Kind of had to be, with his mother the way she was."
"Alcoholic," House said.
"Yes. Rowan couldn't take the pressure and finally divorced her. Kept coming back for several years, for Robbie, but there was always a scene. He finally couldn't take it anymore and left for good. It left Robbie to handle everything himself. A year later she was dead. Robbie never quite forgave himself for not being able to stop her, but really, what could he have done? He was just sixteen when she died, and his father nowhere around."
"He was in the Seminary for a while," House prompted, explaining further off her look. "It's in his records."
"After she died. He couldn't, or wouldn't, live with his father, besides which Rowan had no time for him, too consumed by his own guilt. There was no one else except me, and I couldn't take him. Heaven knows I tried. Had a terrible row with my superior about it, with the poor lad sitting right outside the door, I'm afraid. I managed to pull some strings and got him into boarding at Saint Andrew's Seminary. At sixteen, he was the youngest one there. But it was close, and gave me the chance to keep an eye out for him. He seemed to do fine for awhile, but then there was a girl, and Saint Andrew's became a thing of the past. Rowan agreed to pay for his college if Robbie agreed to medicine."
House was surprised. "He didn't want it?"
"He didn't want to be his father. That's why he chose a different specialty."
"He's good at it," House reassured her.
"I never had a doubt. He's a smart boy. The heart's a little guarded, but still plenty big." Bernice turned her piercing eyes on him. "What's he like as a doctor?"
House smiled fondly. He'd never tell this to Chase. Or even Wilson. "Chase is… an odd combination of old and new. He knows his stuff, but every once in a while he'll pull out something that's way before his time. Saved a girl's life with it once."
"Ah, the influence of Professor Morrow, no doubt. He was very fond of Robert. Took him under his wing."
They both looked up as Wilson came into the room.
"He's all settled," Wilson announced.
"Then I'll be leaving you. Rowan's bed is ready, and if you don't want to share, the couch is available. Bedding is in the closet in the hallway." Sister Bernice stood up and gathered her things. "I'll be by in the morning, about nine, to pick you up."
"We have the car," Wilson pointed out.
"I want to be there when Robbie sees his father. I'll bring you back fairly early, then leave the driving to you. Just remember which side of the road to use."
Both Wilson and House escorted her to the door. When she reached it, she turned and looked up at both of them, then gave them both a peck on the cheek. "Thank you for bringing him. It means a lot to me, and it will mean a lot to his father."
"It was our pleasure, Birdie," House answered for the both of them.
She gave him a brilliant smile, and left.
Early the next morning, House stumbled into the kitchen to the smell of bacon frying. Chase stood next to the stove sipping a cup of coffee, dressed only in his sleep pants, feet still bare.
"Shouldn't you be lying down?" House scolded him, snagging a piece of bacon as he made his way to the coffee.
Chase smiled, "I feel fine."
House glanced down to the white bandage wrapped around Chase's stomach. "We ought to change that."
"Wilson did last night. I'll do it again after I shower. It's fine."
Wilson walked into the kitchen, looking rumpled and sleepy in shorts and a white tee-shirt, stealing the cup of coffee that Greg had poured for himself.
"You're welcome, bedhead," House growled at him.
Wilson grinned and sat at the table. "Why are you cooking?" he asked Chase.
"Because I'm the only one who knows where everything is. There's beef sausages for you," Chase informed Wilson. "I cooked them first."
"Chase is my hero," Wilson said sweetly.
"Bigamist," House muttered, pouring another cup and taking it to the table.
Wilson leaned toward House. "I'm throwing you over for someone who doesn't kick and hog all the covers."
"Fickle," House sniffed, and took a drink.
Chase dropped the plate of bacon and sausage on the table in front of them, chuckling. "Bread's on the table. Toaster's just behind you."
Wilson grabbed it off the shelf, and set it on the table, reaching back again to plug it in. "Toast?" he offered House.
"Oh, don't try to get back in my good graces now."
"So, that's a no," Wilson said, slipping two slices into the toaster.
Chase returned to the table just as the toast popped, scrambled eggs still in the pan, three plates in his other. He dished them each a serving, snickering as House stole a slice of buttered toast from Wilson.
"Your auntie will be here at nine. She's driving us to the hospital this morning." House regretted the words as they left his mouth, seeing Chase's smile run away.
"I'll be ready," Chase said, pushing his plate away and standing up.
House caught his wrist, tugging until Chase sat down again. Chase gave him a puzzled look. "Finish," House ordered.
Chase looked down at his plate with dismay, but lifted his fork anyway.
House and Wilson exchanged a look and Wilson couldn't keep the smirk off his face, mouthing the words 'mother hen'. House considered whacking him with his cane. Instead he rolled his eyes and poured them all a glass of orange juice, making a point of sliding one in front of Chase.
Chase sighed, and House thought he should try to lighten the mood. "Your aunt doesn't drive like a nun, does she?"
Chase looked up, puzzled. "She is a nun."
"Yes, yes, but does she drive like one?"
Wilson chuckled and asked, "How does a nun drive?"
"Like God is in the suicide seat and everyone else be damned."
"You are so bad!" Wilson scolded him. "I hope when God strikes you down, I'm standing on the other side of Birdie."
It was enough that Chase finished his food without complaint, so House was at ease with the scolding.
"We'll clear," Wilson volunteered, "You go shower, Chase."
"He'll use up all the hot water!" House whined.
"Hush," Wilson said to Greg. "Go," he pointed to Chase.
Chase shuffled out with a grin.
Wilson cleared the table, soaking the dishes, while Greg put the toaster away. They were almost done when Chase returned.
"Next," he announced, then retreated to his room.
Greg made an exaggerated dash for the bathroom that left Wilson snickering.
By the time House got out, Chase's door was open again and he was holding two shirts aloft. He looked up, catching House's eye, just as Wilson stepped up, ready to grab the shower. "Who packed my suitcase?"
"That explains it."
Chase grinned. "All my shirts are solid colors. Very formal. Very boring. Very Foreman."
House returned the grin. "So, I guess you won't be having him become your personal valet anytime soon."
Chase rolled his eyes and slipped on the shirt. "It's disturbing to think that you're letting Foreman dress me. Of course, I don't find it nearly as disturbing as Cameron offering to become my step-mum."
"Ewww," said Wilson, leaning on the door jamb.
"That's a Lifetime movie just waiting to happen," House commented.
"I guess she really does like older men," Wilson said.
House scowled and tapped him on the leg with his cane. "Shower. Now. Or I'm having the nun keep you after class."
Wilson obediently dashed off. Ten minutes later the doorbell was ringing and Sister Bernice was let to enter.
"Wilson was goofing off, so he's slow," House snitched to the nun. "Make sure he has to stay after and clean the erasers."
Birdie rolled her eyes at him and bundled them off to the car. For payback, Wilson made House sit in the front seat. True to House's worst fears, Birdie drove like a nun.
Letting go of his white-knuckled grip on the dashboard, he badgered her with, "Shouldn't you send your Parking Angel ahead?"
Unperturbed, Birdie glanced over at him, nearly creaming a small flock of children in the process, making House regret opening his mouth as he gulped down a scream.
"Good idea, Dr. House," Birdie replied. He could hardly argue when a few moments later they found a spot right near the entrance.
In the back seat, Wilson and Chase snickered.
All humor was lost as soon as they walked into the hospital. Birdie led the way to the fourth floor, and they were quietly let into Rowan's room.
Chase looked too pale for House's liking, and he directed the boy to a chair near the bed, making him sit before he fell over.
Rowan looked like a man not long for this world. House watched as Chase slipped his hand into his father's too cold one, and whisper, "Dad."
Rowan opened his eyes, turning his head to look at his son. Unable to speak for lack of breath, but lips moving to form his son's name, he slipped his hand out of Robert's and reached up to caress his hair. "Love you," he whispered, than closed his eyes. Chase's eyes closed and he rested his forehead against the side of the bed, letting his father keep his hand where it was.
A few minutes later it slipped off as Rowan fell into a deeper sleep, and Robert gently took it back into both of his, trying to share his warmth.
House exchanged a look with Wilson, then reached down and grabbed the chart and herded Wilson back into the corridor with him. Wilson took the chart and thumbed through it, finding the latest entries. "It pneumonia. The chemo's made him too vulnerable to fight it."
"He's already on them. They're starting to affect the liver."
House glanced back into the room, seeing Sister Bernice resting a supportive hand on Chase Junior's shoulder.
He shook his head, and they reentered the room. Sister Bernice looked up at them. "I've asked Father Rory Hannigan to come by this morning."
Robert looked up at her and nodded.
"We're gonna go talk to his doctor," House said.
Robert nodded again, looking near tears, and turned back to his father.
An hour later they returned to the room to find the priest had arrived, and was giving Rowan the Anointing of the Sick. House kind of missed the old days when they called it like it was: Last Rites. He and Wilson stood against the back wall, listening to the priest go through the ritual. House noticed that Chase the Younger, was following along, his lips moving with the prayers.
House couldn't see Wilson's eyes from where he stood, but he could almost read Jimmy's thought. They were doctors. They faced death all the time, but when they lost the fight, they withdrew from the battlefield. That's when people like the good priest stepped in. To help the dead as much as the living, wrapping the Great Beyond up in hope and comforting mysteries.
He hadn't been lying when he'd told Birdie that Robert was an unusual combination, the doctor who believed, even as he struggled with it. Faith and medicine combined.
When the old priest finally concluded the ceremony, Robert took him aside and spoke to him. The old man nodded, and stepped from the room.
"I'll just be a moment," Chase said as he passed them, then followed the old priest out.
House stepped closer to the bed, quietly checking monitors, before finding a chair and settling down in it. Wilson stayed by the back wall, watching Chase through the doorway.
Birdie was still in the room, head bowed, her hands clasped together, finishing her devotion. He heard her say amen, then saw her cross herself.
House looked out the doorway to see Chase and the priest seated, facing one another, heads bowed together, silhouetted by the large windows behind them. Something about it made Chase seem like an alter boy.
"Father Hannigan is giving him Confession," Birdie said as she took a seat next to House, smoothing out her dark skirt. "He was head of Saint Andrew's when Robbie attended. Father Rory was fond of him. Quite disappointed when Robbie left."
House nodded in understanding. He didn't have a problem with Chase seeking solace from God. Not any more. Not since he had forgiven Chase. He supposed it was God's turn now.
"We'll go as soon as he's done. Robbie looks tired out."
"He really shouldn't be doing as much as he is," House said. "But Rowan…" Greg pointedly looked over at the man in the bed.
"I'll come back and sit with my brother for the afternoon. I'd like to ask you a favor, if you would." Sister Bernice slipped him a piece of paper. "It's the name of the funeral home. I don't want Robbie to have to do it."
Wilson's attention was turned in their direction.
"Won't Chase want to…"
"He will if he has to, but I'd rather he didn't have to. Not again. Just have them send the bill to me. I've been looking after my brother's financial situation for a couple of months now."
House looked out the doorway again and saw Chase getting to his feet, crossing himself. The old priest shook his hand, than gave him a hug, and took his leave.
Chase returned to the room looking… well, if House had to diagnose it, kind of stoned. Sort of an emotional shedding, 'luffa sponge for the soul', spiritual euphoria. A transcendental head rush. Perversely House wondered if the old priest had slipped the boy anything, but then figured that a good soul cleansing might have the same effect. Either that or Chase had been pinching his Vicodin. Surreptitiously he shook the bottle in his pocket.
Chase walked right by them, vague, dopey smile plastered on his face as moved next to the bed, leaning down and giving Rowan a kiss on the forehead.
"I love you, father," Chase whispered, before straightening up again.
Birdie must have recognized the signs, for she scooped him up, snagging his arm before he wandered off any rooftops in a daydream, and headed him out to the car. She bundled him into the back seat, and barely gave the other two a chance to get in before she was speeding off again, vehicularly threatening the life and limb of anyone in her path.
Chase tilted over during the ride home, and before they reached Rowan's house, he was asleep against Wilson's shoulder.
House looked back and gave Wilson 'suggestive squiggly eyebrow', but Wilson threw 'you're such a child' eye-rolling right back at him.
Wilson tilted Chase the other way as soon as they were parked, and jumped out of the car first, hurrying to the other side of the car and leading Chase to the house. Chase's eyes opened and he blinked sleepily at Wilson. "Thank you," he told Wilson politely, then all but collapsed in Wilson's arms.
House came around on his other side of him and grabbed Chase's other arm, lending as much support as he could. Wilson draped Chase's arm over his shoulders and hefted him more comfortably. Chase stirred again, smiling at them as Birdie unlocked the door, and threw it open.
Between them they finally got Chase into his own room and back into bed. They laid the boy out, and House sat on the edge of the bed to check him out. Chase was smiling with fuzzy precision at the ceiling while House opened his shirt, untucking it, so he could check Chase's wound. There was no bleeding, but proved a little too tender to the touch, as Chase's cry of 'ouch' testified. He slapped at House's hands, then covered his eyes when House shined a light in them.
"Settle down," House ordered sternly, and Chase's hands dropped obediently to his sides. Chase's eyes were dilated.
"What did you take?" House asked.
"Demerol," Chase replied. "One this morning when I got up, and one at the hospital."
"It was too much," House scolded.
"Piffle," Chase replied eloquently, flapping one hand dismissively.
House shook his head, mildly amused. "Go to sleep."
Chase's eyes closed at once.
House got up to find Birdie and Wilson standing at the door, watching them. "He's fine. Just one too many happy pills."
Birdie nodded, then brushed by him to give the sleeping boy a brush of her lips against his forehead, and pull the covers over him. Chase gave her a goofy smile in his sleep.
Birdie turned to leave. "My number is on the fridge if you need anything. My cell too, but I'll have to turn if off when I sit with Rowan."
House nodded, and Wilson said, "Goodnight, Sister."
House and Wilson left Chase at the hospital the next morning and visited the undertaker while the boy was occupied. When they returned at noon to gather up Chase, Birdie was there to replace him.
In the parking lot, Wilson made a display of pointing out Birdie's car and the fact that it was three rows closer than their own. House shushed him with mock irritation. Didn't these Australians know how to install ejection seats in rentals? Was it his fault that the woman had an inside scoop with God?
They returned to the house, and Wilson started getting lunch ready, while House kept him company. Starting to wonder where his youngest fellow had wandered off to, House limped down the hallway to the third bedroom, which Rowan had converted to an office, decorated in rich mahogany. Chase stood near one of the bookshelves, a wooden box in his hands, going through its contents.
House watched his profile for a long minute before Chase glanced toward the doorway. House looked pointedly at the box, and Chase lifted something from within and held it out to him.
House walked closer and took the photograph, looking at a picture of a beautiful blond woman. She would have put Cameron or Stacy to shame, for she was world-class-model gorgeous.
"My mother," Chase said simply.
House's eyes darted from the picture to Chase and he saw the resemblance. "She's beautiful! Didn't figure you got your looks from Rowan."
Chase smiled softly, looking back into the box, and pulling out another picture, handing it to House. "Me. At three."
There was a small flaxen haired boy, happily covered in mud, head thrown back and laughing joyously into the sun. House grinned.
"I should steal this and post it in the ICU for the nurses."
"I can't believe he saved all this," Chase said. "He's got my high school diploma! Even a drawing I did in kindergarten."
Chase pulled out another picture, this one of Chase at ten, standing with his parents for a formal portrait. Rowan looked far younger than he did now, but the woman looked older than in the previous photo. That still put her somewhere between fifteen and twenty years younger than Rowan. More careworn, but still very beautiful.
"They divorced a year later. Mum was already drinking," Chase said sadly.
The next photo showed an older Robert, probably fourteen, fair hair bleached nearly white with the sun, racing across a rugby field, face concentrated on the ball. Aunt Birdie was visible in the stands behind him, cheering for all she was worth.
"My mother took the picture," Robert said.
"I meant to ask. Birdie? Where did the name Birdie come from?"
Chase smiled fondly down at the woman in the picture House was holding. "My father always called her Bernie, but when I was little, I couldn't say it right, so it came out Birdie. The name just stuck."
Wilson chose that moment to stick his head in the door. "Lunch is ready."
Chase took the box with them to the table and let the other two pour over the pictures, some of them having the two older doctors teasing him unmercifully. Especially when House pulled out a picture of Robert dressed as an alter boy.
"I knew it!"
Chase rolled his eyes. "I wasn't a very good alter boy."
"Get caught dipping into the communion wine?" House teased, comically wiggling his eyebrows.
"No," Chase chuckled, shrugging sheepishly. "I walked off the alter."
"How is that bad?" Wilson asked.
"During the middle of mass."
"Wow!" House crowed. "Why?"
Chase visibly wavered from telling the story. "The old pastor at St. Mary's was a real fire and brimstone kind of guy. There's a part during the mass that I was supposed to hand him a book to read from. I did, and he told me it was the wrong book. I gave him the other one, and he insisted that IT was the wrong one, too. There were only two books. So I gave him back the first, and he told me that if I couldn't do the job right, that I should leave. I left."
House was hooting with laughter, and Wilson asked, "What did you do?"
"I took off the robes and came back out and took a seat in a pew. Everyone just assumed I had taken ill. When I got home, me mum made me go back and apologize."
"Did he accept it?" Wilson asked.
Chase coughed delicately, and the other two doctors raised their eyebrows. "I told him I was there to apologize to the priest, not the man, because the man had been wrong, but the priest deserved my respect."
"Holy crap!" said House, still chuckling.
"We ended up talking, and from that day forward we had a wonderful relationship."
"How old were you?" Wilson asked.
"What… maybe twelve, thirteen."
"I'll give ya that, Chase, ya got balls," House commented admiringly.
The topic finally turned to other subjects, for which Chase gratefully stowed everything back into the cigar box and closed it. They talked about the places that they'd been, and the things they'd seen. Eventually the subject came back to their colleagues.
House was sitting at the table, pencil in hand, practicing forging signatures. Big loopy letters spelled out: Dr. Allison 'Buttinsky' Cameron, and a tiny scrawl spelled out Dr. Eric 'I Am A Never Wrong' Foreman.
House scathingly wondered aloud if Cameron had a web site shrine to her tragic young husband, surrounded by hearts and flowers; a midi playing (way too loudly) Amazing Grace, (or at least something touching and religious). He nearly had Wilson and Chase in tears with guilty laughter.
"And Foreman?" asked Chase, gulping in a breath.
"His web site is probably dedicated to himself, proudly posting his resume."
"And Chase?" Wilson asked.
House looked over at the handsome young Aussie, considering his answer. "Chase doesn't have to put up his own web site. The ICU nurses maintain one, with a link off the Hospital's main directory page."
Chase almost snorted milk out his nose he was laughing so hard.
"I suppose with Cuddy's approval," Wilson said.
"Yeah. It's under pretty doctors dot com. You're there, too, Jimmy!"
Chase was coughing and laughing, and got up to get a drink of water.
"How do you think we manage to get all those wealthy, older women to donate so much money? I think Cuddy even had them do some photo manipulation so that you're sans clothes."
Wilson grinned and looked over at Chase, who was standing at the sink, his head buried in his arms, body shaking with mirth. When Wilson looked back at House, he was watching Chase too, and looking much too pleased with himself.
"You are an evil, brilliant man," Wilson scolded House.
Every day for half a day, they visited Rowan, then Birdie took over. Every afternoon, the two doctors put Chase down for a nap. Chase objected religiously… and uselessly.
"I'm not the three year old you saw in that picture," Chase muttered.
"If you were, I'd let you stay up and make mud pies," House stated.
Chase scowled, but House insisted and nothing was going to change his mind. Chase went.
The afternoons gave House and Wilson time to sit out on the patio and talk. It was then that House began to talk aloud about Rowan.
"I think he's holding on for something. He sees Robert, knows he's there, but something is missing, like he hasn't finished something yet, and he's too afraid to leave until he does. I thought we'd lose him as soon as Chase showed up."
"What do you think it is? Something that Chase has to do?"
"No. But it's something about Chase. Like he wants to know that he'll be okay when Rowan is gone."
"Do you think so?"
"You've seen his stats. Rowan should have been gone before we even got here, but he's holding on. And holding on tight."
"He left his son once. Maybe he just doesn't want to do that again," Wilson said.
"Maybe he just wants to be assured that Chase will be in good hands when he's gone."
House turned his head and stared at his best friend. Pleased, he smiled, tapping Jimmy's knee with his cane, and said, "You're brilliant, you know."
Wilson smiled happily, but perplexed. "What did I say?"
"Just the right thing," House replied mysteriously, and wouldn't answer any more questions for the rest of the day.
The next morning they went to the hospital as usual, but Wilson kept an eye on House. The man had a plan and he wasn't sharing it.
Chase took his usual seat next to his father, speaking softly to him, telling him of his life in the States. And as usual, House noticed the desperate look in Rowan's eyes. Now he thought he understood just what it meant.
House didn't mind that people believed him to be emotionally remote. It was a trait that most doctors cultivated, making it easier to deal with the loss that was so much a part of their profession. But sitting here, day after day, watching Robert struggle to reconcile the events of his past with the man dying in the hospital bed tore at his heart.
After the room became still, only the monitors quietly doing their jobs, he decided it was time to give Rowan the peace he sought.
House walked over to the bed, standing beside Robert, who looked up at him questioningly.
"Give him your hand, Robert," House instructed the young man.
Puzzled, Robert took his father's hand in his, looking at House again. House placed his hand over their joined hands, and looked down into Rowan's eyes. Rowan seemed to sense what he was up to, and his face relaxed with relief.
"It's okay to go, Rowan," House said softly. "I've got the boy. I'll be watching out for him now."
Chase's whole body jerked, and he swung his head to look at House, staring at him with shock, then looked back at his father when Rowan began to speak.
"My boy. Robert. My beautiful boy," Rowan said softly, then closed his eyes for the last time.
Tears streaming down his face, Robert strangled out, "Dad," then collapsed against the bed.
House looked up to see Wilson staring at them with awe, tears running down his face, the short figure of Sister Bernice beside him, looking on with approval.
He'd given Rowan this last mercy, the knowledge that there would be someone who would care for his boy after he was gone.
His own eyes wet, House let the boy weep, before pulling him to his feet. Chase threw his arms around Greg, burying his face against his shoulder. Awkwardly, House gathered up Chase in his arms, letting him support them both. They stood there for a long while, Chase's wracking sobs finally diminishing. Chase finally pulled back, sniffling, staring at his feet. House put a hand on his shoulder, guiding him back to the chair. Wilson had left to inform the staff, have the time of death called, and to have them notify the funeral home.
Sister Bernice came to her nephew's side and sat, pulling his head to her shoulder while they waited for the body to be removed. House noticed that she had a rosary clutched in one hand, shuffling it through her fingers from one bead to the next as she prayed. Beside her Chase's lips moved, praying with her.
Within an hour the funeral home came, and they found themselves headed back to the house. Birdie following them in her car.
Chase was even more quiet than usual upon their return. House made him take an extra pain pill, and lay down, situating himself in a chair beside the bed while it took effect. Robert's solemn eyes were dark, locked onto House, like a man sinking into the waves, until the pills finally kicked in and he slept.
When House finally emerged from the room, Wilson handed him a whiskey. House nodded gratefully and took a gulp, letting it burn the back of his throat.
Birdie was still there, and Wilson offered her a whiskey too, which she accepted.
"That was a brave thing you did back there," she said.
House collapsed into one of Rowan's comfortable chairs and put his leg up. "Had to be done."
"How did you know?"
House shrugged and took another drink. "Just knew."
Birdie nodded. "I'm grateful. For both their sakes."
"If it had gone on much longer it would have destroyed my duckling," House muttered.
"Duckling?" Sister Bernice asked with a raised eyebrow.
Wilson smirked and took a seat next to her. "That's what the staff at the hospital call the three who work for House. Ducklings. Cottages. Huts. Houseketeers. House Pets. House Boys. House Keepers. Hot House Flowers. Chase is one of them."
"My youngest duckling," House clarified.
Wilson smiled. "They follow him through the halls in their white coats, and the name stuck."
Birdie smiled and looked down into her glass. "Is he happy there, my Robbie?"
House's face looked more sober. "We hit a rough patch for a while, but, yeah, I think he is."
"He definitely doesn't want to leave," Wilson added honestly. Not after all the trouble he had gone through to keep it, but Wilson had the grace not to say so.
Birdie studied both of them for a long moment. "Promise you'll look out for him."
"What do you think I was doing?" House sighed in exasperation. "I just promised his father."
"And I'm not stupid enough to think that part of that wasn't to relieve Rowan's own guilt. But I'm not talking about Rowan now. I'm talking about Robbie."
"Promise," Wilson said immediately.
Birdie smiled at him and looked to House.
"Teacher's pet," House grumbled at Wilson.
They both just stared at him.
House rolled his eyes dramatically. "Okay. Okay. I promise."
Wilson chuckled and Birdie smiled at him affectionately, then got to her feet, putting down her glass. "I'll call Father Hannigan tonight and make the arrangement for the service, and send out the notices. I'll let myself out."
Three days later they held the service. They had only waited that long because of the number of people from all over the world that had called to say that they would be attending.
Rowan was a popular guy.
The church was filled to bursting with people from just about every country on the globe. House and Wilson sat on either side of Chase during the mass, keeping an eye on him, but Chase was holding up. A little subdued, a little more solemn, but with a quiet inner strength. House supposed it was the same strength that he had used through his mother's death.
House watched as Chase slid to the pew in front of him. He winced in sympathy as Chase ignored the strain it must have put on his healing stomach wound, hands clasped together devoutly. Chase bowed his head a moment, his hair a curtain over his face; but then he looked up again, then farther, towards the ceiling and beyond, toward God, his cheeks wet with tears. His lips moved in silent prayer, and House had the unsettling feeling that the universe had shifted its axis and he was staring at the profile of Father Chase, newly consecrated priest. All that was missing was the touch of white on a dog collar, but the black suit, black shirt, and white tie stood in good stead.
House glanced over at Wilson, sitting on the other side of Chase, and met his eyes. Wilson's held pity and concern for the boy. Chase dropped his head again, resting it against his folded hands a moment, a soft 'amen' issuing from his lips before he shifted, moving back to his seat. Both he and Wilson reached for him, settling him back without too much fuss.
The mass ended, and they moved to the cemetery, for the final graveside service. Thankfully, the priest made it short, but then there were a goodly number of testimonials to endure. House wasn't too sure how much longer Chase would be able to keep on his feet.
House was surprised by the number of celebrities in the medical community showed up, and how many of them knew Robert personally.
Sitting on a bench in the garden, House and Wilson had a view inside the reception hall. They sat side by side, watching Chase work the room.
"If I'd known he had these kind of contacts, I'd have had him get in touch with them long ago."
"Greg!" Wilson scolded. "You'd exploit him?"
"Well, maybe," House admitted. "Just a little. Why do you think he didn't apply for a fellowship with any one of them?"
"What makes you think he didn't?"
Wilson looked around at the assembled crowd, scratching his head. "I don't know."
"I mean, come on, there's Crittenhouse from Cedar-Sinai, Fort from John Hopkins, Able from Mayo, Thommason from Sloan-Kettering. And Chase is calling them 'uncle'! It's the glitteratti of medicine!"
"Maybe he wanted to keep some distance between his father and himself. Make his own name in medicine. Hard to do if you're working for your father's friends."
House sat back and studied the young man from a distance. "Chase isn't looking to make a name."
"Well, granted, he's not pathological about it like Foreman, but…"
"But, no. I think that's why he chose Intensive Care. It's quiet, for the most part. You have your moments of excitement, but it's all about solving the puzzle. That and just getting it done. That's Chase. Quiet, brilliant, and just gets the job done, without a lot of fan fare, or glory mongering. Thinking outside the box. Like saving that kid's eye. Or even finding the tapeworm through a simple x-ray. Or the intracranial ultrasound. Old technology and new. That's Chase. He may not come up with a solution right away, but when he does, it works."
"Keep it up, soon you'll be picking out china patterns together," Wilson teased. "Should I be jealous?"
House laughed and threw an arm over his best friend's shoulders. "I'd never cheat on you, Jimmy."
Wilson shoved him off, laughing. "Let's go mingle. You can make fun of people and important new contacts at the same time. Then we need to get the kid home."
Wilson got to his feet and turned to face House, but House was looking past him.
"Oh, hell. We've got trouble at two o'clock?"
Wilson turned around laughing. "What? Did Cuddy show up?"
House grabbed his arm and headed inside, straight for Chase. "No. Vogler!"
When they reached Chase, Vogler was already there, holding out his hand to be shaken, and saying, "I'm so sorry for your loss, Dr. Chase."
Chase didn't react, seemingly frozen on the spot.
House came up behind Chase and pinched his sleeve, raising it to mid-air. Chase turned to glare at him, starting to pull away. "Be nice," House scolded, "He's the one who lent us the plane."
Chase's mouth gaped open, and Vogler took the opportunity to quickly shake Chase's limp hand. Chase's attention swung in his direction, astonished that Vogler would provide help, to himself least of all.
Vogler shrugged disingenuously, "What else could I have done when Dr. House made such an ardent plea?"
Chase turned back to House, eyes flashing fire as understanding dawned, pointing a finger at him accusingly, poking House in the chest. "What did you do?"
House grabbed the hand and lowered it, "Keep it down in front of the nun," he whispered, eyes sweeping the room for Birdie.
"Just tell me what you did! What is it? Another speech? Do you have to write a testimonial? What?" Chase demanded.
"No, no. Nothing like that." House was looking at the floor and Chase's eyes narrowed. House finally shrugged. "He wants me to introduce him to Greggson."
"Thomas Greggson?" Chase asked slowly. "Alzheimer's?" he said, looking back at Vogler with a doctor's appraising eye.
"My father died of Alzheimer's," Vogler said.
Chase looked surprised. "Oh. I didn't know."
House latched onto Vogler's arm. "You're in luck. Greggson's here. I'll introduce you now."
Wilson stayed where he was, beside Chase, knowing that Chase had questions.
Right on cue, Robert asked, "That's all he wanted?"
"So he claims."
"I thought House liked Greggson."
"He used to."
They both kept their eyes on the mismatched duo.
True to his word, Vogler let them keep the plane until they were due to return to New Jersey. He had been very pleased to make contact with Greggson, and when House was walking away, he could overhear Vogler offering to fund a goodly portion of Greggson's research. House smiled to himself, wondering just what kind of strings Vogler would attach to Greggson's work.
Wake finally over, they all headed back to the house, and planning their return. Cuddy would have given them more time if needed, but House wasn't willing to push her good graces at the moment, so they were planning on leaving Wednesday morning.
In the meantime, they started going through Rowan's things, boxing up what Chase would take with him, and contacting Rowan's lawyer. Just as they thought, Robert got everything. The lawyer agreed to handle everything from his end. What couldn't be sold off, would be disposed of. Robert made a point to have the proceeds go to charity.
It was during the sorting that House discovered that Rowan had been working on another book. Taking a few minutes to call his publisher, House discovered that they knew about it, and had first drafts.
House showed the printout to Chase, but he just shrugged. House burned off a copy from the hard drive, and stowed the draft in his luggage.
The only thing Robert wanted was the small box of pictures his father had saved, and a few personal items.
Wednesday came much too soon.
Friday morning, House caught up with Chase in the parking lot. The boy looked better than he had in weeks.
Walking into the conference room, they were greeted by Cameron and Foreman. Cameron embraced Chase warmly, making the kid blush. When she finally released him, he was swept into another embrace (much to his surprise) by Foreman.
"Good to have you back, man," Foreman said.
"It's a duckling free-for-all!" House crowed, teasing them.
"I am not a duck," muttered Foreman, but as usual, House ignored him.
House smiled fondly at his staff, catching sight of Wilson standing in the hallway, watching it all through the glass. House's smile got bigger, and he gave Wilson a wave before turning back to the whiteboard.
"We have a new case, people. Thirty-eight year old woman presents with belly pain. Differential Diagnosis?"
And so their day began.
Two months later, Rowan's last book was published, edited by Doctor Gregory House.
Inside, House had left Rowan's dedication untouched.
It read: For Robert. Beloved Son and Doctor.
Under Editor's notes, House had written:
Unfortunately, I only met Rowan Chase a few months before his death, during a visit with his son.
Rheumatology Rowan was quickly drawn into an unusual case involving: a young boy. Anthrax, and leprosy --- in New Jersey, of all things!
It has never been a greater pleasure than to see Chase the Elder and Chase the Younger working together to help the boy in question, both able to bring their medical expertise to the situation. A difficult, difficult case. Rowan's reputation had proceeded him, and he did not disappoint. But then again, having worked with his son for a couple of years, I would have expected nothing less.
The draft for this book was discovered after Rowan's death, and with permission from his son, I was allowed to give it a last edit before publication. Having read Rowan's other works, I knew them to be both informative and humorous. Know now that the less than funny parts probably belong to me.
Rowan will be missed by many.
Doctor Gregory House
xxxx The End xxxx