The bells tolled heavily on a rainy day in November, brazen and loud, just like House would have wanted them. As Chase entered the room and lingered in the back, he picked up the scent of lilies, funeral flowers to him and nothing more. He had days where he would begin to smell the flowers out of nowhere and he would wonder if someone close to him had just died. Chase had never believed in psychic ability or in superstition, but that thought always struck him.
And then he realized it didn't have to be anyone close to him. Every minute of every day, someone in the world was dying. He'd wondered once if they were just surrounded in an eternal musk of lilies and they only got wind of it occasionally.
"Rob," a motherly voice caught his attention. He turned to find Allison Cameron and her family entering the hall. Chase smiled and pulled her into an embrace, nodding to her husband over her shoulder. She'd gone and married a wealthy and prominent psychologist not too long after leaving House, settling down and having three kids. She taught these days in the lecture halls of PPTH, said something about, "the pull of this place." Her smile revealed wrinkles and crow's feet, but they looked good on her. "Look at you," she said with a laugh, stepping back. "You look good."
He didn't, but it was kind of her to say.
He was sure his eyes were rimmed with red from the lack of sleep. He'd taken the red eye back from Melbourne, it was that time of year again to visit his parents and pay his respects, trailing his hand along gravestones and laying down bouquets, crouched down in a suit too nice for a graveyard and wondering if he would be buried alongside his parents. He had a plot there, he knew it. Most days, he simply accepted that for fact and never thought twice about it.
Lately, he'd been thinking. It was hard not to.
House wanted to be buried, which surprised Chase. He always thought House would go for cremation – go out in a blaze of glory – but then, a man who wouldn't cut off his leg to save his life wouldn't exactly let them burn him to ashes. This way, he would have a gravestone. Something tangible.
Cameron gave him another smile as she shuffled along and from the back, Chase could see the grey in her hair. It was nice to see she hadn't been so vain to dye it out. Her eldest was almost twenty now, a reminder that they themselves were becoming dinosaurs.
Chase had never cared about his hair, but lately, the lack of care showed. He didn't comb it, just gave it a good run-through in the morning. It looked fine, simply scattered. His suits were two sizes too big, not because he'd bought them in the wrong size, but rather that he'd been losing weight.
It was hard to help it with the cancer.
He wondered how much of a stroke of luck it was that he hadn't needed to undergo chemo, and so he'd gotten to keep his hair. Just like his father. Alcoholism ran down the mother's side of the father and it turned out that lung cancer followed in his father's footsteps. It became easier to understand his father after Chase had been diagnosed. He began to understand why you simply didn't tell people.
And funny enough, he'd gone to Wilson too.
Chase still lingered in the back as he watched everyone else filter into the small room. Cuddy was up in the front with a few of House's patients, the ones who remembered him, who cut out newspaper clippings about him, the man who saved their lives. Wilson was sitting alone and everyone knew better than to talk to him – he'd just divorced his fifth wife, not days before House had died. Assorted fellows from over the years were scattered here and there, but Chase only recognized a handful.
Foreman arrived with his wife soon after and gave Chase a once-over. "How long?" was the first hushed thing he asked.
Chase shrugged. "Three months," he replied quietly. Foreman and Wilson were two of three people who knew about the cancer; Foreman only knew because he'd needed to rush Chase to the ER when having lunch with him one day.
"You look good," Foreman murmured quietly, his face furrowed with sympathy and empathy and the burden of telling a lie.
Chase just smirked and leaned a little harder against the wall. "I'm not," he confessed. He had to be pleased of one thing. He was one year older than his father had been when diagnosed. His father had been fifty-two when he'd received the news. Chase got to fifty-three before hearing 'Cancer'.
They tend to say that most people who are diagnosed with cancer can't remember what happened when the doctor told them. Chase remembered. He remembered clearly. All he could think was, 'more gifts from my father'.
He was fifty-four now and he had three months to live.
Out of nowhere, the lilies came back in full force, a terrible smell. He gave Foreman a thin smile, pressing his lips together. It seemed to assure him enough. He pressed his hand to the small of his wife's back and took a seat in the small room. Not quite a chapel, but a place to pay respects.
Foreman had married as well, but he'd done it before the rest of them. He'd shown up one day and announced that he'd gotten hitched over the weekend and everyone was invited to meet her. Chase had gone out of curiosity, the same reason House had been there, he suspected.
knocked her up," House commented, fruit punch in his hand. He stood
beside Chase in the backyard, bare feet atop the grass of a suburban
house's backyard with a playset, just bought by Foreman and the new
wife and if that wasn't a tip-off, then the sky wasn't blue.
"Before the marriage, I mean. "Or maybe they just love
each other," Chase taunted. House scoffed. "Love. Who even
knows what love is anymore?"
"Or maybe they just love each other," Chase taunted.
House scoffed. "Love. Who even knows what love is anymore?"
Chase hadn't married. He never found a woman that he could settle down with, never found anyone that satisfied the theory that he had a void in him yearning to be filled. He contented himself in his job, working for House as many years as he could and taking a month every year to go back to Melbourne to spend time there, visiting cousins and old haunts. He eventually switched into a more fast-paced job because diagnostics was boring him and he wanted to get more involved with intensive care, so he switched over to that unit permanently.
The procession started and bodies began filing past House. Chase waited until he could be one of the last, letting Wilson have that honour of being the very last to say goodbye.
Cameron was crying as she went back to her seat, wiping away the tears with the back of her hand as her husband comforted her. Even Foreman was looking affected and there was something akin to regret on Cuddy's face. Chase only watched the carpet and took deep breaths – lilies every damn time – as they shuffled along slowly. There were more people here than House ever would have thought would show.
A man who drove people away in life and drew them to him in death, like moths to the flame.
It had been the Vicodin's fault. Slowly corroding at his liver and damaging his body as the dosage increased over the years. Then, old age crept in, and the inevitable couldn't be held off any longer. House was dying.
"Won't be long now," he
remarked quietly, when Chase had stopped by the office to tell him
about the outcome of a surgery for one of his patients. House,
stubborn House, wouldn't retire, not even when he was into his
seventies. He 'oversaw', whatever that meant. Even Cuddy was
gone, but House lingered, showing up two days a week to have his team
of five do the work for him, while his brain, sharp as ever,
diagnosed. "Looks like I'm going to beat you. What's Wilson
giving you?" House knew about the cancer too. He was the
third. "Six months," Chase replied. "But they're
optimistic." "Yeah, and they're bullshitting you." He
coughed violently. "My doctor, who's the same as your doctor, by
the way, good ol' Wilson, says I don't have more than four months
to go." Chase didn't want morbid jokes, not now. "We'll
just see," was all he could reply with before leaving.
House knew about the cancer too. He was the third.
"Six months," Chase replied. "But they're optimistic."
"Yeah, and they're bullshitting you." He coughed violently. "My doctor, who's the same as your doctor, by the way, good ol' Wilson, says I don't have more than four months to go."
Chase didn't want morbid jokes, not now. "We'll just see," was all he could reply with before leaving.
It was finally Chase's turn. He stepped up and glanced down, resting one hand atop House's and letting out an exhalation, slow and steady, but not a sigh. House looked wrong. Embalming had ruined him, had made him look like a mannequin and not the man, not Dr. Gregory House, the man he had grown to love like a father over the years. Chase's smile was dark and he couldn't help the tears in his eyes as he moved his hand to the edge of the coffin and squeezed it hard, keeping a grip on something.
"Be along soon," he promised. With a nod to House, then a nod to Wilson, he moved along, not bothering to wipe away at his cheeks as he made his way to the back of the room, slight difficulty in breathing as he went.
He didn't stop at the doorway, kept going, kept walking until the smell of lilies and the sound of brazen bells all but disappeared.