So sorry for the delay on this. RL is being a snot. Between back to school for the kidlet, her dance classes, her getting sick and giving it to me and then painting my bedroom, life has been insane. But here's the end. Thanks to everyone for going along for the ride. I hope to have a new Chase centric fic in the works within a couple of weeks.
House looked up from his box of finished noodles, eyeing Wilson's lo mein. Not surprisingly, Wilson glared at him and hugged his lo mein closer to his chest. House grinned, set his box aside, stretched, then said, "So Chase is coming home tomorrow."
"Yep." That was all Wilson would say as he continued dedicating himself to his food.
"You told him how Cuddy wants him to take a week off before returning to work, right?" House was actually a bit miffed at Wilson. Unfairly so, he knew, not that it mattered. But it seemed that Wilson was the only person Chase would talk to during his two weeks at the treatment center. Wilson would talk to him on the phone three times a week. House had caught them chatting once, when barging into Wilson's office, and Wilson had pointedly left the room while still chatting with Chase. He refused to gossip about the kid, other than to tell everyone that Chase was doing well. House had gotten a few more details out of him after the first week, like the fact that Chase had gained 2 pounds and was sleeping better. Wilson had insisted that if House wanted to know how Chase was doing, he could ask for details when he got back.
Wilson looked up from his noodles. "I told him," he confirmed. "He's fine with it. In fact he wants the week to adjust to being back home before coming back to work. Which I think shows he's getting his head on straight."
House snorted at that. "Chase's head has never been on straight. Not that he's totally at fault for that. Mommy and Daddy get a lot of the blame there."
"Sure." Wilson went back to eating.
"Are you trying to be annoying?" House asked, getting a bit confrontational. Wilson was usually much more talkative than he was being tonight.
Setting aside his box of noodles, Wilson shrugged. "Maybe," he allowed. "I guess I'm mostly just not good company tonight."
House was well aware of that fact. "Scared of sleeping alone in your new, big, scary apartment?"
"Ha ha," Wilson dead panned. "And it's not that big."
"That's because you can't afford big after two, expensive, divorces," House replied, with just enough smugness to his tone to make Wilson roll his eyes at him. "You could have waited to move out, you know. Like a few weeks after Chase came home. He didn't mind you staying with him."
Wilson heaved a dramatic sigh. "You know as well as I do that I can't babysit Chase forever. To be honest, I don't think he was all that happy when I told him I would be moved out before he got home. Which was all the more reason for me to go. In a way I was becoming a crutch."
House wasn't surprised by that. Chase was a strong kid, but he was also far more needy than he realized. Always seeking out someone to guide him. House also knew that Chase looked to him as a sort of father figure. Which bothered him more than he cared to admit at times. He was hardly the fathering type. Hence his reason for not wanting children. "You picking him up?" House queried, getting back to the conversation at hand.
"No." Wilson paused to take a drink of beer, then continued. "He said he wanted to take a cab and that he wanted to take advantage of the extra week to get back into the swing of things. So to speak."
"Guess we'll have to keep an eye on Cameron and not let her go sneaking off to see Chase," House drawled.
Wilson chuckled. "She's just annoyed that he didn't want her to come visit him."
House nodded. "It's going to be fun seeing the look on Chase's face when he comes back to work and Cameron hands over the stuffed Koala she got him."
"You'd better have your camera phone ready for that moment," Wilson agreed. He was quiet for a moment, thoughtful, then asked, "Do you think it helped? I'm mean, going to the center?"
"You're the one who told me he was doing good," House reminded him.
Wilson nodded. "I know. But can two weeks really make him better?"
House sighed, wondering how Wilson could be an oncologist yet still be so naive to the way people worked. "Chase didn't go there to get better. He went so he could get himself back under control. That way he could continue on the way he used to be. You know, pretend his little meltdown and loss of control didn't really happen."
"If that's true, then he's just setting himself up for another fall," Wilson replied, looking worried.
"Isn't that how we all live life?" House countered, pushing out of his chair and heading into the kitchen for another beer. He popped the top, took a swig, then returned to his chair to find Wilson watching him. Waiting for him to clarify his statement. "Everyone is dysfunctional in some way. No one is perfectly happy. No one has a great life. Anyone who claims to is simply delusional. We just go along pretending and at some point we all trip and fall."
Wilson looked amused. "Including you?"
House waved his cane in the air. "I've got visible proof. We take a fall and some of us stay down, the rest of us get back up and keep on keeping on."
"How profound," Wilson replied, hiding a smirk.
"So long as Chase doesn't go looking for another mommy figure, then he'll have made progress," House stated. And he hoped like hell that Chase had learned his lesson in that regard. He'd be better off hooking up with Cameron, although she'd no doubt smother him and they'd end up fighting spectacularly before breaking up and pretending it had never happened. Which would be fun to watch, at least for a while, House mused.
Wilson took another swig of his beer then asked, "So you're okay with him coming back still messed up?"
House shrugged. "A little damage makes him more interesting. Makes everyone more interesting. All I require of Chase is that he be functional as a doctor despite his damage."
"Kinda like yourself," Wilson commented.
"He does worship me and all," House countered, before getting up again and heading to his piano. He could tell by the look on Wilson's face that his friend wanted to discuss the damage issue. Which wasn't about to happen, especially while House was playing his favorite music. When he glanced over at Wilson, the other man was smiling at him. House smirked back and continued playing.
He was glad to be home.
After paying the cabbie, Chase climbed the steps and unlocked the door. He dumped his suitcase on the floor and just stood there for a minute, gearing himself up in a way.
It was strange to be home. He hadn't liked being at the treatment center, but he had understood the message House had given him. If he wanted to keep his job, he had to make changes. He had to be healthy and functional. The treatment center had gotten him back on track with his eating and sleeping habits. Six meals a day until he was up to par on his weight, and mild sleeping pills that he could slowly wean himself off of. Those were things he could focus on and handle. Things he was now back in control of.
Knowing Wilson was gone would be a bit of an adjustment. He owed the man dinner at the restaurant of his choice for the help he'd given Chase. Not the staying around to babysit him bit so much as being willing to be in charge of the renovations Chase had decided on.
The night before going to the center, Chase hadn't been able to sleep. TV wasn't keeping his interest so he'd wandered the house, ending up in the study and shuffling through a stack of Vanessa's architectural digest magazines. He'd found two pages that had caught his eye. One was a kitchen decor, the other a bedroom. So on the drive up to the treatment center, Chase had asked Wilson a favor. He'd given him the pictures, the number of Vanessa's decorator and a blank, but signed check. Money wasn't an issue. All Chase wanted was for the kitchen and master bedroom to be redone before his return and all of his things moved into the new bedroom. Now he was about to find out if everything was done to his liking. Wilson had told him, just yesterday, that everything was picture perfect, but Chase wasn't even sure he remembered what the pictures had looked like.
Turning towards the kitchen, he entered the room and felt like he'd entered the wrong house. Everything was different. All the stainless steel was gone and in its place was blond wood and glass and marble countertops that looked like terra cotta. He found himself smiling as he turned in a circle. Everything was perfect. It was exactly what he had wanted.
Heading for the fridge, he wasn't the least bit surprised to find it was filled. Maggie's doing, which he'd be sure to thank her for. He grabbed a small bottle of orange juice and opened it before heading for the stairs. The one room he had agonized about was the master bedroom. Chase knew he needed to make a permanent change and he thought that might be a good place to start. That and the kitchen. Both had rather become metaphors for what ailed him and if he could change them, they would be a reminder of the other changes he needed to make and keep permanently.
At the doorway to the master bedroom, Chase paused. He realized he was trembling and cursed himself for being afraid of a stupid room. Even though he knew that what he really was afraid of was change. Of what it meant. He shook one hand, as if he could shake off the trembling, then reached for the door knob.
Stepping inside he was surprised by the difference. It was completely different from before. The furniture was sleeker and more masculine. The colors of the walls, carpet, curtains, bedding and new couch and chairs now a mix of blues and greens. Chase stepped further in and was thrilled to see a corner desk set up with his lap top, and a small piano against the far wall. This was better than the picture had been and he felt himself relaxing. This felt like a place he could find comfort in. A place that would be familiar to him because it was something he had created for himself. Not so much a refuge, but a safe haven.
To that end, Chase sat down at the desk and opened the notebook he'd been carrying. His counselor had given it to him on his first day at the center, telling him that he should write down his feelings. Since it wasn't the first time that had been suggested, Chase had accepted it and done just that. In fact he'd pretty much written down his time with Vanessa in novel form. The notebook was almost filled. Since his coming home was a bit chapter in the story, Chase wrote down what he was felt about it. Not so much in the way most people might have. He wrote down what he was thinking and feeling in an almost abstract sense. Using a lot of metaphors and analogies that would probably make most people reading it believe it was a work of fiction. Some kind of fairy tale classic gone bad. But it worked for him. Writing everything down openly was too painful and suffocating.
After filling up a page, Chase closed the journal and headed for the closet. He slid open the doors and was happy to see all of his things had been moved in. Searching through the tall dresser, he found jogging pants and a sweat shirt. He wasn't going to run though, because for now it was another bad habit he needed to break. But his counselor at the treatment center had okayed him to bike ride and he only hoped the bicycle he'd asked Wilson to pick out for him was waiting in the garage.
Changing quickly, Chase tied on sneakers then headed out. The bike was there and it was exactly what he'd asked for. He owed Wilson a couple of dinners for everything he'd done. And he'd done it all without asking questions. He'd done it simply because Chase had asked him too. He wasn't used to people doing that, nor did he expect it to continue. But it was nice to revel in for just a moment.
He didn't let himself linger for long though. He wanted to be in motion. Straddling the bike, Chase headed down the driveway. He kept a leisurely pace for the most part, heading for town. It was lunch time when he finally came to a stop outside of Antonio's Pizza Place. He went in and ordered a slice of mushroom pizza, then worked on Sudoku puzzles at an outside table while eating. He then rode back home, took a shower and pulled on jeans and a pullover.
Wandering downstairs, Chase was pleased with himself. He felt a bit anxious at being back. A part of him was worried he'd fall back into old habits now that he was home again and no longer monitored. That thought bothered him because he knew House would fire him if he fucked things up again. He knew he couldn't expect House to keep giving him second chances. Although he'd gotten more of them from House than anyone else in his life. Which was irony personified.
After strolling through out the house for a bit, Chase found himself sitting down at the piano and idly playing a tune. He felt the most comfortable in this room. Vanessa's presence would always be a part of the house, but it was a familiar and warm presence here. He could remember her as the woman he felt he truly could have loved and had a life with, under different circumstances. But they'd met at a time when they had both been too messed up for each other. Chase could accept that now.
The psychiatrist at the treatment center had suggested to Chase that he had latched on to Vanessa as a mother figure. House had believed much the same thing. Chase didn't buy that though. Not really. Although he was willing to allow the fact he might have been attracted to Vanessa's addiction in the sense of wanting to believe he could save her in the way he hadn't been able to save his mum. The thing was, Chase knew he couldn't save anyone. Hell, he couldn't even save himself most of the time. Not without making his life more fucked up and complicated than ever.
He didn't want to think about that now, though. He had a week off to slide back into the real world and he wanted to enjoy the respite. No one to bother him, nothing to do, just let himself enjoy the quiet. Once he was back to work he knew his life would be chaotic again, but it would be a familiar chaos and Chase was ready for it.
The week passed by quickly. Cameron had come by once and Chase had been making spaghetti so he had invited her to join him and it had been a pleasant evening. Much less awkward than he had expected it to be and when she let her hair down, Cameron could be quite amusing and fun to listen too. She hadn't pushed him to talk to her, instead telling him anecdotes about what he'd missed at work and handing over a phone number from one of the nurses. Kelly. Chase remembered her and thought he might just give her a call. They had flirted at work a few times so it couldn't hurt to ask her to dinner or a movie.
Chase had called Wilson and taking him out to dinner during the week as well. He'd then gotten a call the next day from Wilson, letting Chase know that House was not pleased at not being invited. That had amused him for a time.
Now, however, it was the moment of truth and Chase felt nervous as he entered PPTH. Not all that surprisingly, Cuddy was at the front desk. He knew she had been waiting for him. So he plastered on a smile as he greeted her. "Hello, Dr. Cuddy."
"Welcome back, Chase," she said, a warm smile on her face. "It's good to have you back."
"Thanks." He left it at that and made to step around her, but she touched his arm and he turned back to face her.
Cuddy looked a bit uncomfortable at the moment, like maybe she had something unpleasant to tell him. Then she squeezed his arm before dropping her hand and said, "My offer is still open, Chase."
He frowned at her. "Offer?"
"To talk." Another warm smile graced her lips. "You have my number and I'm available at any time. I mean that."
"I appreciate that," Chase replied, and he meant it. He might just take her up on her offer too. There were a few things he wanted to discuss with her. More work related than personal, but for him it would be a bit like feeling like he had someone on his side here. Chase thought maybe Cuddy would be someone he could talk about what he wanted for himself here and not take it the wrong way. Not make it personal but keep things on a strictly professional level, which was what he wanted.
Cuddy looked pleased and looked like she wanted to squeeze his arm again, or maybe pat his shoulder, but she dropped her hand and simply nodded. "Good. I look forward to hearing from you then." That said she turned and walked off.
Chase watched her go a minute, wanting to make sure she wouldn't call him back again, then he headed for the elevator. It felt strange walking into the conference room and he looked around closely, almost feeling like something had changed but unable to put his finger on it. Until he realized something had changed. Or rather, someone. He had changed.
Dumping his gear, Chase headed for the coffee maker, feeling like a good strong cup today. He had just finished making it when he heard footsteps. Turning, he saw Cameron heading for him with a smile on her face. A moment later he was enveloped in a hug. Chase wasn't sure where to put his hands for a moment, then he awkwardly patted her back and she finally released him.
"It's good to have you back," Cameron said, and her sincerity was shining through.
"Good to be back," Chase mumbled, feeling a bit awkward about this. He'd never been good with physical expression.
Cameron nodded, taking a step back and openly studying him. "You look good. You gained some weight."
Without thinking, Chase replied, "You should try it some time." He almost gaped at himself for saying that and he waited for Cameron to snap back at him. Which she had a right too. Not that she wasn't too thin, but it wasn't like him to say such a thing, and he knew it was mostly a reflex reaction for all the flak he had taken. Not that she had been the one saying things. Chase knew she had been concerned about him. Wincing, Chase scrambled for an apology. "Sorry...I didn't mean that the way it sounded."
"I know." Cameron was actually smiling. "It's kinda nice to see you with a come back."
"I guess." Chase turned away to check the coffee and willed it to perk faster.
Another set of footsteps and Foreman was suddenly in the room. He joined them at the counter and grinned at Chase. "Bet it's good to be back," he offered in greeting.
Chase was grateful for that and nodded. "So far," he agreed. "Do we have a case?"
"Nope." Foreman shrugged. "We just sent the last one home yesterday, so nothing yet."
"Oh, how wrong you are, minion!" House announced, as he entered the room in a grandiose fashion, waving a file at them. He moved closer and tossed it to Chase. "Make sure you keep up with the rest of the class today," House ordered.
Chase felt himself grinning and trying to hide it as he flipped open the file and studied the contents. He had missed this more than he'd realized. The tension in his body was slowly dissipating and he ignored his, now done, coffee in favor of the new case. Five minutes later they were all involved in the differential and Chase felt like things were finally back to normal. As if the whole chapter of his life with Vanessa could almost be packed away and forgotten. Almost. He wouldn't ever forget her, but he could relegate it to his past and leave it there. The way he tried to do with everything. It made his life much less complicated that way.
The day slid by in a rush of hours filled with testing and more differential diagnosing. After a final check on their patient, who was stabilized for the moment, Chase headed off to get his things. It had been a good day, but a long one, and he was ready to go home. But when he grabbed his messenger bag, he pulled something from it and headed for House's office.
He didn't knock but just walked in, heading straight for the desk and dropping his journal on it with a light thump.
House looked up from his game boy, eyed Chase a moment then stared at the notebook. "And that would be?" he drawled the question.
"It's the journal I wrote in at the treatment center," Chase replied. He felt oddly at peace in this moment, when he would have expected to be nervous.
"And you're doing what with it?" House looked intrigued enough to put aside his game and sit up.
Chase locked eyes with House as he replied. "I want you to read it."
House looked a bit shocked at that, but recovered quickly enough. "Why?" There was suspicion clouding his tone.
"Because it'll cut out all the crap." Chase's reply was succinct. When House kept staring at him, he clarified. "I know you want to know things about me. I know you've asked Wilson and he'll only tell you so much. I know you'll speculate and then ask questions that will embarrass me or annoy me or whatever. This way you get everything you want in one neat package and maybe I won't have to suffer for a bit."
"Where's the fun in that?" House countered, looking amused.
Chase sighed. He knew House wasn't going to make this easy for him, and in a weird way he didn't mind. "Read it or don't. Toss it when your done with it either way," he instructed. Then he turned to head for the door.
House thumped his cane to get his attention. When Chase turned back to him he said, "You're not cured you know. Going to the treatment center and gaining a few pounds doesn't make things all better."
"But I am better," Chase insisted. He moved back to confront House across his desk. "I want to work here, under you. I know that to do that I have to be able to function. That means I have to eat and sleep properly, or as properly as this job allows. I'm doing that. And I can do my job."
"Good enough," House replied, looking pleased with himself.
Chase nodded and turned back to the door. He strode out without looking back, feeling House's eyes following him out. He didn't see House take the journal and shove it in a drawer. It didn't matter now. Chase was content. He'd made it over another rough patch and his life could go back to the way it had been. It was enough.
When he hit the exit, he was smiling.