NOTE: So, here it goes, the final chapter. When the show dealt with Rowan Chase's death, I decided not to finish this story... but then, I'd started it, hadn't I? So here it is, for whatever criticism anyone desires that I should go against canon. Enjoy!
For over five minutes the three doctors sat mutely in Chase's front room, not bothering even to attempt stilted conversation, trying to ignore the seeming echoes of their forks against the bowls. Chase, thoroughly humiliated by the entire situation, made a few remarks of false gratitude, but there was no purpose in sustaining them as he clearly grudged Wilson and Cameron the attention. For Wilson, who had endured the friendship of Gregory House and survived three (perhaps two and a half, in fairness) marriages, the silence was nothing short of ordinary. Chase found it at least more comfortable than the screaming that had preceded his parents' divorce. For the unscarred Cameron, it was almost unbearable.
"Why is the only picture about here one of you?" she asked finally. Wilson and Chase stared at her, not certain what she meant. "That picture, the one of you with the balloons," she explained to Chase. "It's the only one around, and it's of you, and it's turned down. Why?"
Chase shrugged. "If you're calling me self-involved, it's not that. I had this friend, Kylie, in like the seventh grade. She took loads of photographs, and ended up sending most of them to me, but that's the one she actually handed over in person, in the frame for my birthday."
Both Wilson and Cameron heard the slight catch in Chase's voice. Heedless, desperate, Cameron plunged onwards, "What do you mean, handed over in person?"
"Well… I got the rest about eight or nine years ago, all these cardboard boxes, big ones--if you've ever moved?"
Cameron nodded. Wilson gave a wry, cynical chuckle. "I got kicked out by two wives," he said.
Because Cameron clearly wanted to say something kind, Wilson silently implored Chase to continue. The Aussie obeyed. "Kylie had a ton of pictures, if you can imagine seven boxes piled up, photographs spilling out of them because they were so slippery, and there were so many, the boxes just couldn't hold them. There was maybe one other thing in the boxes, and that was this libretto. She'd scribbled all over it, in the margins, the back pages--the title page. But these pictures…"
When Chase trailed off and his eyes glazed, Cameron glanced worriedly at Wilson. Indulging their concern, he felt Chase's forehead. Normally, to Chase and Cameron, the wrist on the forehead was a silly myth when a thermometer reading was unchanged by, for example, bad circulation or irregular personal regularities, but Wilson had felt enough feverish brows to know danger from safety. "It's not fever," he told Cameron quietly.
"Were all the pictures of you?" she asked Chase.
He blinked. "What?"
"The pictures--Kylie's. Were they all of you?"
Chase laughed. "G-d, no! She'd taken photographs of everything, our friends, her family, pretty things. Most of them were from before I knew her, even, but… it's difficult to explain. I mean, I'm probably romanticizing it since I haven't spoken to her in years."
"She moved?" Cameron asked.
"Not exactly. She actually got put in a mental hospital and died there." Terrified that he would be expected, at this revelation, to break into tears, he pressed on, "If you'd known her, I can promise you, you would both understand. You would know the difference between misery food with Kylie and misery pasta with two colleagues. Sorry," he added quickly. "I meant to make fun of myself, not… not you…"
But the damage was done. Cameron stood without a word, pushed a clump of hair behind her ear and began collecting bowls. She was in the kitchen washing up before Chase recovered. "Doctor Wilson," he appealed. "I didn't mean…"
"I know that," Wilson told him. "House is a brilliant teacher in many things, and how to appreciate the sentiment beneath the social discomfort is his favorite lecture to give. He never stops, in fact. Unfortunately, Cameron will want something more than 'I didn't mean it.'" He nodded towards the kitchen, then with confident tone but awkward phrasing asked permission to use the bathroom.
Left alone, Chase stepped into the uncomfortable silence surrounding Cameron and began drying dishes. For a long while, he said nothing. It was long enough that the bowls were cleaned, dried and placed neatly in a cupboard and Wilson was attempting to be unnoticed in the next room. When Cameron handed Chase the last of the forks, he knew it was time to choke down the thick twist in his throat and tell her the truth.
"Nobody's ever done this sort of thing for me before, not since… and talking about her... I was never Warda," he said, returning to their earlier discussion. "She was always the captain, and I'd never talked about Kylie with anyone. I guess it's easier than talking about my dad. I didn't know what to say, Alison. I'm sorry if I… hurt your feelings." With anyone but Alison Cameron such an apology would be ridiculous, as something taken off a page. But she was so soft-hearted. She was the sort who seemed to have feelings, unlike House who had only arrogance or Wilson who had emotions. Even Foreman had sentiments. But with Cameron, "feelings" seemed an apt word.
Cameron looked up at him, and for a moment something cold and unforgiving in those piercing blue eyes froze the very blood in his veins. Then Cameron smiled that gentle Cameron-smile and said, "Thanks. I know that was hard for you, Bobby." She was testing him, and he knew it.
"Please don't call me that," he said. "Only my dad ever did."
She said, "Okay," then turned and joined Wilson. Chase followed. "So, we should probably leave you to get some rest."
"Feel better," Wilson advised. "It shouldn't take long."
As his fingers brushed the doorknob, Cameron's pager beeped. She checked the message. "Damn."
"What is it?" Wilson asked.
"Our patient died," Cameron answered, clearly on the verge of tears. "I thought… she was recovering." She had to sit down for a moment, overboiling with apologies, and it was Wilson's luck that as Cameron was collecting herself, there came a knock at the door.
"Oh, good, House and Foreman are here… now the party can really get going," Wilson quipped. His jaw dropped when Chase opened the door to reveal Doctor House, leaning on his cane like Charlie Chaplin. "I--I--I had no idea," he stammered.
"Hi, Jimmy," House said.
"Hi?" Wilson replied meekly.
To Chase,House said, "I won't bothering asking if I can come in. I don't want to, you don't want me to. I thought it best to tell you in person that I know about Rowan and for what it's worth I'm sorry. He was a great doctor, and a terrible father." Chase stood, stunned beyond speech, blocking the entryway without realizing it. Wilson and Cameron, too, were surprised: House had issued, even through grave insult,a genuinely kind sentiment. Though he offered it in his clipped, round tone, there was no sarcasm. There was no mockery.
"You aren't a bad doctor, Chase. The minute you shake this flu I expect you back at work." He paused before completing the statement, "Cameron and Foreman, well, they're the tokens--the girl, the black guy--but you, Chase! You are a skilled man, and I miss the coffee neither of them knows how to brew. Cameron's, ugh, would even lose to her in a fight, and Foreman's, well, you know it's gonna be racist so why do I bother?"
With that House turned and walked away. Chase recovered his senses after a moment; he brushed the tears out of his eyes and, before two anxious colleagues,laughed.
Earthdrago: Well, it's sort of about everyone's weirdness because by adding them into the story I'm agreeing to take them as the writers intended, as best I can interpret that. But no, I'm not doing any pairings.
Seree: No pairings whatsoever.
Thanks to everyone who reviewed, it's always appreciated, and I hope you all enjoyed my story.