A/N: This is just a short little story I wrote for a live journal challenge about parents
Disclaimer: Blah, blah.
Fathers and Sons
Chase sat on the balcony looking down at House and his parents. He knew he shouldn't but he did. It was a sad little rebellion, watching House in a private moment. It was wrong, but deliciously wrong like eating chocolate before supper or going down on a married woman. Two sins were always sweeter than one. Cameron would have done watched unabashedly, enjoying the private interaction of a family she wanted to be a part of. Foreman, he would have watched as well, all the while saying he wasn't really interested but unable to move his eyes. Chase watched because they happened to be in front of him. There were different rules for all three of them. House would accept fighting and back talking from Foreman in a way he would have shut Cameron down for. In Cameron he would accept nosiness and judging that would be unreasonable for someone else. Chase had the least leeway of them all, being House's favourite whipping boy.
He watched House hug his mother and kiss her on the top of the head. He could easily read House's lips as they said, "I love you," to her. There was a stiffness and awkwardness as House turned to his father. Both men were proud and strong, neither willing to bend to the other. But eventually, as usually happened, the father won out, or maybe House just did it for his mother's sake, but House allowed his father to give him one quick, stiff hug. The Aussie couldn't miss the look on Mr. House's face, as he embraced his son. It was a blend of pure pleasure and pure sadness, pride and disappointment. He wondered if his own father had ever looked like that. He could clearly see the "I love you" from the father not returned by the son. He wanted to yell at House, "Say it back to him. Don't let him leave without knowing how much you love him, even if you don't want to admit it!" But he said nothing and watched House as House watched them walk back to their car, presumably to head back to the airport and a flight home. He was surprised how long House stood there watching them.
Chase put his dinner of yogurt and homemade granola aside, and rested his head on folded arms on the half wall. The sun had set but the stars weren't visible through the haze of lights around the hospital. He missed the bright skies of home. His brief trip home last month had only made leaving that much more painful. He thought about House and his parents. He had met them this time around. Cameron would be so jealous. House had purposely sent his ducklings home early but Chase had been called back by the ICU for help. He had walked into their conference room and come face to face with House and his parents talking. House had glared at him and he awkwardly tried to find someway to escape, all the while answering Mrs. House's polite questions. She seemed nice. She had asked him to join them for dinner, luckily he had to work.
He had thought about them all the time he had been working, thought about the looks House had given his mother and his father. House had seemed so uncomfortable yet so happy and that had made Chase curious but he hadn't pursued it. Unlike House and Cameron, Chase scrupulously respected personal boundaries. It was none of his business, so why couldn't he quit thinking about it? He closed his eyes and the sight of House embracing his parents seemed to be burned into his retinas. It hurt to think about but he couldn't stop, like worrying a loose tooth or poking at a bruise.
He watched a Care Flight helicopter fly up and land on the roof. Another trauma, he would probably see them in the ICU later or maybe he wouldn't. It didn't matter to him. When the sound of the heli blades died down, he could hear his boss in Wilson's office. He listened, hating himself for doing so. He could hear the sounds of glasses being shuffled and a bottle being opened. It must be Wilson's stash of scotch, he thought. There was laughter from both of them. The laughter hid the bitterness.
House lamented his evening to his best friend. He complained about his mother being too solicitous and his father too harsh. He disbelieved their avowals of pride and love but believed their criticism. "Everyone lies, unless they are being mean?" Chase wondered, feeling a cold lump form in his chest. "Maybe you are just lying to yourself because you don't want to admit that someone cares about you?" He unkindly thought about his boss, hoping that mentally lashing out at someone would alleviate the crushing pain in his chest. But it didn't. The sadness still coiled itself around his heart and lungs, threatening to suffocate him with its strength. He blinked, trying to clear away whatever was making the lights swim in front of him then was angry to realize they were tears.
He bent over, burying his face in his fleecy sleeves, his breath shaky as he tried to control himself. He couldn't cry, not now. He didn't deserve it and he had to be in surgery in an hour. Just as he had managed to shove down the last of pain, stamping it down like a smoker packing cigarettes to make them and it burn longer, he heard House say, "Well, he'll be dead one day and I won't have to deal with him anymore." Then, there was laughter and Chase couldn't help it anymore. He did sob but let silent tears fall.
Too soon for Chase's liking, he heard Wilson's door open and House emerged, wobbling slightly from too much scotch and probably too many vicodin. Chase turned away and quickly wiped his face dry. "Hello, Dr. House." He said conversationally.
"Chase." House slurred. He was in no mood to deal with any of his Fellows, especially Chase. The Aussie being the most observant and intuitive of them. The blonde always knew and thought more than he let on. But he also wasn't in the mood to be alone. He hated seeing his parents. His mother he loved but even with her, there was pain. Always the silent question of "when are you going to move on and be happy?" It was the hardest question of all because it was the one he could never answer. But at least she had the decency to keep it silent, not like dear old dad.
House stood there, staring at his duckling, trying to figure out why he was still at the hospital. Was he there to spy on him or did he just not want to go home to his empty apartment to think about his empty life? House could understand that. He could respect that. "How was your evening?" Chase finally asked, hoping to stop the elder doctor from studying him.
"Fine." House answered, displeased and uncomfortable with the thick, heavy sound of Chase's voice. He could see the crystal reflections of tear tracks on the younger doctor's face. The site made him angry. "What are you still doing here?"
"Organ donation surgery." Chase answered. "We are just waiting for the paper work to go through." He turned away even further. He wanted to smack the older man. To tell him to call his father and make amends, to explain to him that he did love him and that all could be forgiven. But Chase also knew that wasn't true because some sins couldn't be forgiven and some wounds won't ever heal. But most of all it wasn't any of his business.
"Isn't there a whole other department that takes care of that sort of thing? Why do they need you to keep the meat fresh?" House asked, looking out over the hospital.
"The on call doc had a family emergency and the donor is an 8 year old girl. I'm the only intensivist without kids so they asked if I could handle it." Chase shrugged.
"You aren't a parent so you get stuck with the duty? Cold" House commented.
"It's a niche. I guess they think it's less traumatic for someone without ankle bitters." He gave a weak smile.
"Thrilling, it must be so riveting to keep a corpse breathing long enough to harvest his organs." Generally speaking the job of an intensivist in an organ donation was to keep the donor's stats up high enough to keep the organs fresh, while they were being harvested.
"Actually it's a Non heartbeat or it she will be after I'm done with her." Chase followed the elder doctor's eyes out over the compound. "That's why the paperwork is taking so long."
"Oh." House muttered. He knew Chase hated doing NHBD or non heartbeat organ donation surgeries. In effect, he had to kill one patient to save others. House always wondered how Chase dealt with the fact that he had to basically euthanize someone who still had brain activity and watch them die right in front of him, especially given how religious his littlest duckling was. He wondered briefly if that was why Chase had been crying.
"They are doing three of the surgeries here. I'm supposed to double up on the heart transplant after it is harvested, so I may be a little late tomorrow morning." It made the most sense, the heart was the last major organ taken. With no heart and no lungs, there was no reason to still have an intensivist around. But even at a high tech, up to date teaching hospital like PPTH, intensivists were few and far between. They were very expensive to train and very expensive to keep around. The ICU was far and away the most cost draining department in the hospital to staff and maintain. Therefore, most intensivists had to double up at some point during surgeries.
"Whatever." House looked again at his fellow, the one who had been there the longest, the one who had put up with the most shit, the one who was probably the most versatile of all. He meant to leave, to walk away and not look back. To go home and wallow in self pity over his disastrous night but something stopped him. Some cosmic joke against him made him speak when he should have held his tongue. "Is that why you are out here sulking?"
Chase started, expecting House to leave him alone to brood in private. "I'm not sulking." He said petulantly, afraid that he had indeed been sulking.
"When a grown man stands outside by himself, staring into space because he has to do something he doesn't like, it is sulking." House slurred. He was drunker than he thought. Perhaps he could blame the liquor for his loose tongue.
"I'll remember that." Chase answered non committally. He turned to leave, if House wouldn't but the elder man now blocked the door back into the Diagnostics department.
"You didn't answer my question." House tapped his bottom lip with his index finger, looking thoughtfully at the Aussie. "But I have a theory." Chase rolled his eyes, praying his pager would go off to tell him the surgery was ready. House would do a lot of mean, underhanded things but he wasn't likely to prevent a doctor from going to an emergency surgery. "I think that my little wombat is beating himself up old school Catholic style because he doesn't want to sin by taking a life. Even though it is medically necessary and the person is basically a dead man anyway or kid as the case may be. But you can't get past that stupid ingrained sense of Christian morality so you are out here in the cold sulking and hoping that God will forgive you for something that isn't your fault." He sneered at his fellow. Chase's sense of morality was strange at best. House could understand Cameron's hers was a black/white, right/wrong, clear cut type. If you didn't agree with her you were wrong, if you did, you were right. Simple. Chase's was different. For all that he had left seminary and the church, the church hadn't left him. He had never said he wouldn't do something based on religious beliefs but it was also painfully obvious that he wasn't comfortable doing things because of it. He wouldn't complain about it but he would self flagellate. It seemed strange to House, for Chase to blame himself because House always chose to blame others.
Chase hung his head. House could be so cruel sometimes. "Exactly." He answered and moved back towards the door. House didn't budge.
"No, wait. That was way too easy." He tilted his head and looked at his duckling, even as Chase turned back to stare over the compound. "It's something else. But what?"
"It's nothing, just drop it." Chase offered, torn between fear and anger.
"What else has happened that would make you unhappy? Couldn't be papa Chase's untimely death because 'you didn't care'." House tried to mimic Chase's accent at the end. "I haven't seen any drunks or nuns walking around to make you maudlin. Whatever could it be? Did you get into a fight with your boyfriend?" House joked meanly.
"Yes, now excuse me. I have to go scrub for surgery."
"No you don't. They'll page you when they're ready for you." House was a bit disturbed by the fact that Chase wouldn't even look at him. The younger man just kept staring out into space. "So what is bothering you?"
"Nothing. I'm fine." Chase answered, trying to make it sound true.
"Could it be that Cameron is giving you the cold shoulder or did she sexually over power you again and wouldn't even cuddle the wittle wombat afterwards?" He taunted.
"Drop, House!" Chase finally snapped. He really hated when House did this to him. The man had even less respect for personal boundaries than Cameron did.
"Not until you tell me." House leaned back against the door, getting comfortable. "I'm bored and too drunk to drive so I have all the time in the world to wait." He pulled out a large cigar, a gift from his father, and lit it, puffing on the smoke. The smell made Chase sick to his stomach. His own father had loved cigars.
They stood there together, neither saying a word for nearly five minutes before Chase tried to escape again. House wisely stayed in front of the door, playing too of Chase's pathological traits against each other. The blonde never invaded someone else's privacy unless absolutely necessary and his innate desire to run from anything uncomfortable. He stood staring at his fellow.
"You!" Chase finally snapped. "You are why I am upset."
"This can't be just because I cornered you out here. So what else have I done lately?" House waved his hand in a bored gesture.
"Because you are an ungrateful son of a bitch." Chase finally spat out. House looked rather stunned. "You don't realize how lucky you are." House saw red. Had he not just heard those words uttered by his father he might have laughed it off but not tonight. Tonight they enraged him.
"I'm lucky? I am lucky!" House moved towards the younger man trying to seem menacing. Once it would have been easy but now with his limp and his age he was sure that in a fight, Chase would probably win. "I'm not the little, rich pretty-boy whose daddy gets him jobs. Whatever are you going to do now that he can't call and browbeat people into hiring his screw up son?" He sneered, surprised that Chase didn't look away. "I am the cripple, who is in constant pain. I am the man with the drug dependency and the evil ex. I am the one with the saccharine sweet, oblivious mother and the unreasonable father. Try again, junior"
"At least you have them. I'm jealous." Chase's voice hitched as tears flooded his eyes. He savagely blinked them away. He felt weak and raw, in no mood to argue with anyone.
"Of that." Chase waved towards the front of the hospital where he had witnessed House's interaction with his parents. "They love you." He looked down, assuming that explained everything.
"So? Of course they do. It's an evolutionary and biological imperative for parents to care about their offspring."
"I know, but if that is true, then what is so wrong with me?" Chase blurted out.
"What the hell are you talking about?" He snapped at his young fellow, forcing the younger man to face him.
"They're proud of you. Do you have any idea what I would give to have heard my father say he loved me, even once? To hear that he was proud of me? To feel for even one minute that he cared about me as much as his work and his research and his reputation?" He stopped and looked down, trying to fight back the urge to sob and his own embarrassment. "I know that I have no idea what your life was like and I have no right to judge you and it's probably totally pathetic of me to be upset about it but I can't help it." He took a shaky breath. "You have people who love you and take care of you. You have people that will always be there for you no matter what. If you are sick or hurt they will come and care for you. You have people who love you even though you aren't perfect." He finally gave up and turned away from his boss.
House glared at him, anger surging through him like the warm burn of whiskey. He knew that in some respects he had had a much better life than Chase. His mother was a kind and smart homemaker his father stern and unyielding but at least he had been there. House may not have always felt that they approved of him but he knew that they both loved him. House knew that couldn't really compare to an alcoholic mother and a father that had up and left his son with said dying alcoholic. A man that Chase had fled across the globe to get away from and even when Rowan had come to New York for conferences, hadn't even bothered to ring his son. But to be fair, Chase had known his father was there and hadn't attempted to contact him either, so maybe the blame was on both sides.
But that wasn't what made him angry, what made him angry was the fact that he knew Chase was right. He realized that he took something for granted that Chase would probably give his left arm for. He was angry because he knew he had hurt the Aussie and he didn't know how to apologize. He was enraged by the fact that more than anything he wanted to give the younger man a fatherly hug and tell him that he was a good son, no matter how Rowan had treated him. So when in doubt, House fell back on his normal behaviour. "Well, your right about one thing, you are pathetic." He snapped and retired to his office to sober up, ignoring the fact that Chase looked like he had been slapped.
Fifteen minutes later, House saw his fellow scurry though the darkened conference room, like a mouse trying to by pass a cat's notice. Soon after that he fell asleep. He woke up to the feel of Wilson tapping him on the head. He glared up blearily at his best friend. "What time is it?" He mumbled, fumbling for his vicodin. Usually his leg woke him up around 5 for a pill.
"About 6:30." He answered and sat down to pick through a back from a local bakery. "I figured you never made it home last night so I picked you up some clean clothes and breakfast."
"Thanks, mom." House teased as he tore into Danish. They were quiet for some time until House finally spoke up. "I need advice."
Wilson coughed as if he were choking. "Don't do that to me, when I'm trying to swallow."
"Seriously. I may have done something a wee bit nasty last night, even for me."
"You didn't break in to Cuddy's house and start sniffing her underwear again did you?"
"No, and it doesn't count if she is in them or is that what you tell your wives you are doing?"
"Ha ha. What do you need advice about and what did you do that you think is nasty?"
"Nothing terrible. I just told Chase he was pathetic."
"And you need help coming up with better adjectives to describe him?" Wilson looked confused.
"I want to apologize but I'm not sure how. I haven't done it in so long."
"You want to apologize for calling him pathetic? Why? You have called him a hundred things worse than that. You make fun of his accent, you insinuate he is homosexual, you make fun of hair, not to mention the whole Rowan thing. Why was this so bad?"
"I told him he was pathetic because he called me on not being happy to see my parents."
"You told a guy, who lost his last surviving relative less than a month ago, that he was pathetic for being upset seeing you blow off your family?" Wilson asked slowly. House nodded his head, 'yes.' "That's pretty shitty even for you."
"Ergo, why I need advice how to apologize."
"Try, 'Chase, I'm a total wanker and I'm sorry'."
"That doesn't sound at all like me. I would never use the word 'wanker'."
"How about, 'I'm sorry. You have every right to cry your eyes out because you just lost your father in a really crumby way and it must hurt like a son of bitch to see someone else totally treat their relatively benign and lovely parents like they were hell's spawn'."
"I like the 'hell's spawn' part but I don't know about the rest of it."
"House, stop being an ass. For once in your miserable life, act like a human being and recognize that Chase is going to be upset and off balance for a while no matter how much he tries to hide it. And for the love of God, stop purposely trying to disturb him."
"But he gets such a cute, little look on his face, when you hurt his feelings."
"Then say you dying and you never had the chance to have sex with a green eyed, blonde Australian before you died. Then maybe you get him into bed and get over your school girl crush on him." Wilson said with great exasperation.
"School boy crush." House corrected.
"Fine, school boy crush. The point is, he needs a friend and if you aren't willing to be one, then don't be his damn enemy."
House sighed, putting all jokes aside. "He needs a father." It was painfully obvious in all of Chase's toadying and people pleasing that he was searching for someone to say he had done well. Chase lived his entire life wanting other people to be proud of him but ultimately afraid to ever ask for it.
"You don't seem willing be that for him either." House didn't answer.
As it happened, Cuddy sent him a new case that morning and he, Cameron, and Foreman spent the morning going through it. Oddly, the meeting hadn't seemed that off without Chase, the Aussie having been extremely quiet since he had gotten back from his father's funeral. By 9:30 he had sent his two remaining ducklings off to run tests and bring back theories for him to shoot down. He reluctantly went to the clinic for an hour.
When he returned to his office, he found Chase sitting at the conference table, eating a bowl of cereal, and reading through the new patient's file. He looked up and froze, when House opened the door, spoon half way to his mouth and milk dripping from it. He said nothing, waiting for House to give him some clue as to how to react.
House looked his youngest duckling over. The blonde looked tired and drawn. Not surprising since he had been in surgery for over 12 hours. His hair was limp and greasy as it fell in his face and deep shadows coloured the hollows under his eyes. House finally spoke, tired of the staring match. "How did the surgery go?"
"Fine, everyone looks good." He shrugged, putting his spoon down, immediately on guard. He was waiting for House to ream him for being absent when he should have been working on their patient. "So Mr. Palmer." Chase started.
"Forget Mr. whoever. Chase," House paused, totally uncomfortable with apologizing yet realizing that he needed to do it. "You're not pathetic." He finally said in a rush and turned away though he could still see in reflection that Chase had dropped his head down to stare into his cereal. He sighed. "That came out wrong. What I meant was that it is only normal for you to be upset about your father's death. I don't think you pathetic for being sad." That sounded better but Chase still didn't look up. 'Oh God, please don't let him be crying again?' House mentally begged no one in particular. Finally he pulled out a chair and sat down opposite his foreign fellow. "Chase?" He questioned, surprised when the other doctor finally lifted his head and his eyes were clear.
"Thank you, Dr. House." He said kindly then looked back down.
House rose to leave and stopped again; he was starting to get soft in his old age. "Why don't you go home and take a nap. I think Foreman and Cameron can handle things without you."
"Thank you." He said, also rising.
"And one more thing," House made sure his back was to the Aussie, knowing that he was about to drop their normal formality. "There is nothing wrong with you, Robert, any father would be proud to have you as a son." He heard the sound of Chase suddenly dropping his bowl into the sink and could see the reflection of the blonde's shoulders tensing.
But, he almost missed Chase murmuring, "Any father but mine."
"Go home, Chase." All formality and masks returned.
"Yes, Dr. House."
So, what did you think