A World More Full of Weeping
Chapter rating: PG-13
Summary: Baby ducks don't do well in prison, especially not pretty blond ones.
Disclaimer: The House MD characters are not mine. I'm just playing with them. They'll be returned…eventually, not in good condition but that can hardly be blamed on me!
Author's Note: First House-fic. This will be slash just to let you know. The rating will be higher in later chapters.
He'd come with the intention of mockery. Y'know, a couple of barbs here and there. He hadn't been sure if he'd go the obvious 'dropping the soap' route but when would he ever have a chance like this again? One of his fellows was in jail. Not the black one. He'd already been incarcerated so that was nothing new. And it wasn't the girl. He couldn't imagine girl prisons being that bad anyway. No, it was the youngest one, the foreigner –and charged with a double murder no less.
Murder seemed like a stretch. Was Chase really capable of something like that? House thought it would take guts, conviction, passion and stupidity. In his opinion Robert Chase was lacking in all four.
Well maybe he wasn't totally gutless. The bruise at the left corner of his mouth and the one under his eye indicated that the blonde had been in a fight –and only three days since his arrival. What had House rethinking his opinion however, were the bruises and cuts on the pale white knuckles. Somewhere deep inside a part of Greg smiled that Chase had given as good as he got. The rest of him however was frowning.
The taunts and jibes had died in his mind before he could even think of the most dramatic order to verbalize them –it's all about timing. The tired young man who sat down before him, all expression closed off to the world, was unfamiliar but somehow House knew that it had always been lurking behind the calm demeanour he associated with the young doctor. He knew without any evidence that this was the face that saw Robert through his mother's untimely death to alcohol and the media blitz that surely followed. Rowan Chase, House wondered if he had ever felt guilty when he saw this expressionless mask. He knew the now deceased Doctor must have seen it, maybe blamed himself for it.
No matter how Robert felt about him, Rowan was his father and father's, even absent ones, could always manage to cut into sons the deepest, whether they knew it or not. Chase Sr.'s unrelenting, overshadowing confidence, provided an understanding of where Chase's quiet stubbornness had been wrought.
Hopefully he was stubborn enough to make it through Trenton. This New Jersey Prison had been the sight of a prisoner riot in 1952, when finally too many of the scum of the community where concentrated in the walls. Greg didn't imagine that the prison population had improved at all over the years.
A glance around the meeting area confirmed his suspicions. The cons were easy to pick out –thank you standard grey shirt and grey pant ensemble –but it wasn't just the clothes. Body language was always the other half of the story. If he had enough time he reckoned he'd be able to tell how long each on of them had been in the joint for and to what step of the prison social ladder they clung. Chase, obviously, was at the bottom. Fresh meat would always start there. That's a given.
He hadn't given it much thought two days ago though; when Foreman had towed an outwardly reluctant diagnostician to the Trenton correctional facility to meet with the third musketeer. He'd been unimpressed by the whole structure. He was hoping for the cliché prison: electric fences, guard towers, search lights and the like. Maybe if he came back at night, he'd thought. But then they'd been put through the visitation procedure and he'd lost most of his good humour.
Foreman had weathered it all with nothing more than a few rolled eyes and his typical expression of arrogance. That most of the guards thought he was probably coming to see his drug dealing, or maybe murdering, friend or brother didn't faze him. He endured the looks with nothing but silence, hostile though it had been. And when the staring contest with one particular bastard of a corrections officer had ended (Foreman as the victor) they'd finally made it into the large, pale greyish room.
Metal tables bolted to the floor with four similarly trapped metal chairs were all the furnishings afforded to the meeting area. There was of course the single chair in front of metal cage for particularly dangerous criminals but nobody would look at Chase, charged with a double murder or not, and think that they'd need protecting from him.
That day Robert had been edgy and antsy when he met them. There was a touch of panic to it and House hadn't held his tongue. He made his callous comment and he'd expected the glare from Chase but not the one from Foreman. The dark man had ignored the surly Doctor for the rest of the meeting focussed solely on Chase and he actually did seem…concerned? House had filed that little puzzle away for later.
Mostly Foreman had given Chase advice. Some of it seemed pretty obvious in House's opinion but he knew that sometimes it was the little things that had the biggest consequences.
"Get your hair cut." It had been an order, not a suggestion. Chase had stilled his fidgeting and looked directly in the fathomless eye of his older co-worker and after a few seconds nodded. The fidgeting began again after that little exchange and House had given in to the urge to hit the Aussie with his cane. Not hard but hard enough to be more than annoying.
Today, there was no fidgeting. Sharp blue eyes had noticed early the tremors that racked the slender frame. The dark under the previously vibrant blue-green eyes indicated a lack of sleep and when an inmate passed by and paused just minutely at Chase's back he knew there was a good reason for it. The lips of the tanned and tattooed man moved, delivering a low taunt to the new recruit to Trenton. Before anything could be said in return the man was walking away a smirk on his face. House glared after him. Useless though it was, it made that petty part of him feel better.
He couldn't make Chase feel better, couldn't take away this whole sorry situation. And he wasn't they type to comfort. His attempt resulted in his left hand resting on the cold tabletop two inches from Chase's, curled in a tense fist. It wouldn't take much to just inch his hand closer, grasp the other one and through a friendly, or at least a not-hostile touch, provide a modicum of solace.
An announcement through the PA informed everyone that visitation was coming to an end soon. House and Chase didn't move. House had resolved silently upon seeing Chase that he would stay for the maximum amount of time possible. Foreman had forced him to do the same thing two days ago. At the time he thought it was unnecessary but presently he knew it was all he could offer. Here in the visitation centre Robert was safe.
He'd sent Dr. Chase to prison once before. When the death row inmate had become mysteriously ill, Chase had been the one sent to check out where the patient lived. And he was right, Chase did have a pretty mouth and in Trenton it had garnered him the attention of the other inmates.
His dulled eyes shifted at every unexpected sound, now well versed in picking up on approaching footsteps, figuring out how many were coming, and from the sound of their walk what there intention was. It kept him safe but the net was closing tighter around him. He had no allies inside and with a face and body like his nobody was willing include him in their posy unless they got something for it, at least not while he was in such high demand.
His reprieve would last only twenty minutes more. House silently observed the others inmates wondering briefly about their situations, wondered if any of them had been falsely accused. He knew that Chase hadn't killed anyone. He may not be a priest but not even House could turn Chase from choirboy, former seminary school attendee, to hardened criminal. Well maybe he did get them to break the law but B&E wasn't even on the same map as homicide. And that had been the only way Dr. House had ever thought he'd see any of his minions behind bars, caught breaking into a patients home. He would have laughed. Sure it technically would have been his fault but he would have explained, would have socked Cuddy and Stacey on the cops and gotten his followers released if only so he could mock them continuously and not just during visitation hours. This situation was much different.
This wasn't directly his fault. It was a stretch to say it was indirectly his fault. You couldn't say it's your mother's fault you die because she gave birth to you. So how Wilson had managed to guilt him into coming here today to visit Chase in the first place still wasn't quite clear. It was just an email. He wouldn't have even seen it if Cameron hadn't been checking his mail again. Just a short message, threatening him and that had been weeks ago, after he'd been shot twice, and after Chase had been poisoned, but before the charges were brought against him, before bail was denied.
It said something along the lines of making him suffer. He hadn't actually read the whole thing. James did and hounded him for days about who could have sent the message, almost called the cops until Greg made him feel so silly for even considering it that he dropped the subject.
So perhaps this was how his e-mailer was going to try and get back at him, through Chase. He would have thought it absurd but he was the first to admit (only to himself) that he'd reacted badly when Foreman had gotten sick from their patient. It had been just as bad, if not worse, when Chase had been poisoned. The poison meant for him but ingested by the Australian. Anyone watching closely enough would have discovered an easy way to torment the surly head to the diagnostics department. Attack the people he kept around him, the only people in the world he allowed himself to care about or feel responsible towards.
It was a particularly sensitive nerve that had been hit when the target, accidentally or not, was Chase and with his weakness exposed, they were getting what they wanted. House had pulled every favour he had and some he didn't trying to help his Australian underling. He'd put his issues with Stacey aside, asked her to find Chase the best criminal attorney available. When he'd landed in prison he'd called the mob guy whose brother he'd saved, asked him to get his buddy's on the inside to keep Chase safe. He'd gotten no direct response but by the looks of it that favour hadn't gone through.
Back then the true gravity of the situation hadn't hit him, not like it bombarded him now.
A silent sigh passed his lips and he hunched a little further on the uncomfortable chair. Chase still sat in the adjacent chair one hand resting against his forehead as he leaned heavily on the table. Though safe for now his mind was back in the cellblock, planning how he was going to get his food, go through the commissary and get back to his cell without being attacked. It was always tricky and he didn't have many tricks left.
"Thirty-one year old male presents with high fever, rash and ataxia. Nothing in his record or family history that would point to a chronic or genetic illness but he had an appendectomy a week earlier." House's soft words broke the silence that had been between them since Chase had sat down. Silence they had both been fine with except that House thought Chase could use a distraction.
It took several seconds for Chase to respond. "How high's the fever?"
"One-oh-two point four."
"Not for you."
"The patient," Chase corrected without missing a beat. The familiar banter and the puzzle were welcomed distractions.
"Took two asprin before coming the hospital. Said he had a headache."
"You don't believe him."
"I don't believe anyone."
"You must live in a strange world."
"Yeah, reality is like that."
A slight smile tipped the corners of Chase's mouth up but his eyes remained dull and focussed on the dingy white table. House was somewhat pleased that he'd managed to lighten Chase's mood somewhat but it was only temporary.
"Could be an infection."
"Like the side of a barn," House intoned. Chase didn't follow. "Broad."
He shrugged one shoulder. "Strepticocal Toxic Shock syndrome."
House tilted his head to the side in the manner that said he was either impressed with the obscurity of the diagnosis or unimpressed with it. It was hard to tell with him. "That's usually reserved for women with tampons."
"Or anybody who had an open wound. The tampons one is staphyloccus aureus bacteria."
"You sure know a lot about tampons. Sure you're name wasn't Roberta at some point?"
Whatever response was forthcoming was cut off by he deliberate collision of another inmate with the younger man. The incident attracted the notice of a nearby guard but deeming it an accident he ignored it and continued to survey the assembled people. From his vantage point he couldn't see the inmates hand slip "accidentally" down Chase's side and to his crotch as he tried to stay upright. The whole thing lasted about three seconds from stumble to collision to grope to escape –no time to react with anything other than a punch, which wasn't advisable.
From his position House saw everything, including the humiliation and impotent rage on the blond man's face. All the work he'd done to relax Chase had been undone. The anger faded away leaving a brief glimpse of fear that Chase tried to cover with his hands. When he pulled them away all expression was gone again. He was mentally prepping himself to go back in there. Visitation was almost over –maybe they had a minute more. House stayed until the end.
He'd come with the intention of mockery. He never thought he'd leave without warning the Aussie not to drop the soap. He would because although he was cruel sometimes, rude almost always, there were some things, some possible, and others now all too probable dangers and tragedies that he didn't deride. Death was one, rape was the other. In a few minutes Chase would be facing the possibility of both. And it wasn't the expression on Chase's face, or the lack there of, nor was it the drab though at least matching prison issue clothing that hung too enticingly off his slender but toned frame. It was one small detail, something that most people wouldn't notice on a normal day unless exceedingly bored. Somehow it managed embody or at least make real to House the true danger Chase was in. It brought him closer to the whole ordeal, had him loosing his perspective.
The blonde strands, shimmering an ethereal gold even in the harsh fluorescent lights were in disarray, testament to the nervous tick of a hand running through it too often. But what caught his eye most of all wasn't the need for a comb. The hair he'd made fun of, the hair he'd sometimes envied, the hair he'd wanted to run his hand through just to know what it felt like, the long locks were no more. Left behind were uneven strands that from the top of his forehead didn't make it down to his brow.
Foreman had probably hoped it would make Chase look tougher and not as pretty but to House he just looked young. Too young to be here and far too young to be here alone. Somehow all his worry was brought to the forefront by the absence of a staple that was so very essential to his image of Chase. It was gone, the first casualty of this, his incarceration.
He'd cut his hair.
This segment actually occurs much later in the story. I don't know why I thought to start it here. shrugs My bad, I guess. Anyway, I just thought I'd post the prologue before the season premiere. I might get chapter one out over the long weekend. No guarantees. I still have to split the story into chapters and finish the later parts off. Hmmm. So much to do.