A/N: Welcome, and thank you for taking the time to stop in and read this. I was savagely ambushed and beaten by this plot bunny and couldn't deny its wishes to be written, so here it is. I do hope you enjoy the story and drop a review before you leave.
Songs: Which to Bury, Us or the Hatchet? – Relient K
4am - Snow Patrol
Disclaimer: I do not own House M.D. nor do I own anything in association with said show. I make no profit from this work other than the reviews left for me and the pleasure of writing about the characters.
I think you know what I'm getting at
I find it so upsetting that
The memories that you select
You keep the bad but the good ones you forget
Chase rocked back in his chair, tipping precariously on two legs while he absently scanned through the newspaper, forgoing his usual crossword puzzle in favor of the mindless drabble of American reporters.
Cameron sat across from him, utterly captivated by a medical journal, lips moving silently as she read, brow furrowed in concentration.
Foreman stood at the counter, mentally cursing whoever had taken the last cup of coffee as he attempted to make another pot. His coffee skills were vastly lacking in comparison to his fellows, namely a blonde, pen chewing foreigner.
The three sat in comfortable silence, acknowledging the presence of the other two, but refraining from intruding on their thoughts. They savored moments like these; to be able to do nothing and simply be, without judgment or interrup—
The glass door leading into the conference room swung open, admitting a storm of limping sarcasm and snark.
"Good morning, my little minions!"
The three in question cringed in perfect unison, much to the delight of their tyrannical overlord.
Cameron looked up in expectation, "New case?"
House grinned, "Oh, no. We've got something much, much better." He threw a manila envelope into the middle of the table and the trio leaned in to get a better look. There were large, bold letters on the front: Annual Medical Conference.
Foreman lifted his eyebrows in mild interest, glancing up at his boss warily.
"Care to explain?"
House heaved a sigh, "I'd spell it out for you, but look! It already is!" He picked up the envelope and waved it back and forth in front of the neurologist's face.
"I meant, what does this have to do with us?"
House limped over to the coffee machine, bent over to smell the contents and made a face. "It has everything to do with you, seeing as how I am required to attend."
Several pairs of eyes narrowed in suspicion. Chase regarded his boss with something akin to smugness.
"You, not us."
House lifted his cane and poked the intensivist in the chest. "That's where you're wrong. I've decided that since I am being forced to socialize with those below me, I will be taking one of you with me so that you can communicate with them—and congratulations, Dr. Chase, you've just volunteered."
The blonde's eyes widened in dismay, "No, no, no. I think I'll pass."
"No choice, wombat. Cuddy says I have to go and one of you is coming with me whether you like it or not. And you're quite simply the most obvious choice."
"And why's that?" Cameron huffed indignantly.
The older man smiled wickedly, a maniacal glint flashing in his eyes as he turned to leer at Chase.
"Because, my dear little ducklings—the conference is in Australia."
Chase paled and Foreman had to cover his mouth to hide a grin as Cameron whipped her head around to gauge the Aussie's reaction.
The intensivist put both hands over his face, massaging his temples as a dull throb began to pound through his skull.
House was enjoying every minute of it.
"And guess who's coming with us?"
A blue-green eye peeked out from behind fingers and a muffled "who?" escaped.
This time Foreman couldn't hold in his laughter and even Cameron cracked a smile. The two older doctors were notorious for causing disruption when together and quarreling like a married couple.
Chase leaned over until his forehead hit the table top.
"Double bloody hell."
House clapped him heartily on the back. "Make sure to pack something mildly decent or I'll tell all your wombat friends you betrayed vegemite for peanut butter."
The Aussie rolled his eyes and sank further into his chair.
No, I don't hate you
Don't want to fight you
Know I'll always love you
But right now I just don't like you
Chase sat at the airport, his bag on the floor between his legs as he waited for Wilson and House to show up. He was dreading the entire trip. There was no doubt that he missed his home, but there was also no doubt that he didn't want House stepping foot or cane in his country.
They would have one day in Australia to settle in before the conference started, two days of lectures and mingling, and then half a day to prepare before leaving for New Jersey. Chase had already decided that those two free days would be devoted to catching up with friends and soaking up as much of his home as possible before going back to America.
A sharp jab in his leg made his head snap up and he came face to face with House and Wilson one step behind, a ridiculously large suitcase at his side.
"Ready to hop a plane Down Under?" House stated in an exaggerated Australian accent.
Chase stood up, leaning down to grab his bag and slinging it over his shoulder. "You better be careful who you mock there, House. You might find yourself on the receiving end of someone's fist."
The older doctor scoffed, "Judging from my experience with wombats, I think I'll be just fine."
Chase just shook his head before turning to Wilson, raising an eyebrow at the man's luggage. "Why did you pack so much? It's only four days."
Before Wilson could respond, House cut in. "Wilson here is high maintenance. He'll die without proper care. Which reminds me, you're in charge of feeding him while we're there."
The Aussie ignored him and headed to the gate indicated on his ticket. Apparently, all of their accommodations had already been taken care of from plane tickets to hotel rooms.
They boarded without incident, but as they headed down the aisle a debate rose over the seating arrangement.
House pouted and swung his cane, nearly decking a man already seated in the row in front of them. "I want to sit by the window."
Wilson had already claimed the aisle seat and was having a difficult time stuffing his suitcase into the compartment above them.
"House, there is no way that I am going to sit between you two lunatics for a thirty hour flight."
Wilson turned indignant eyes on the blonde, "Don't you lump me in with him."
Chase muttered an insincere apology, "Just sit in the seat that's marked on your ticket."
House reached out and snatched Chase's ticket from his pocket. "Hm…B7. That's me!" Without another word, the diagnostician hobbled passed his employee and settled himself in his seat, staring avidly out the window.
Chase pinched the bridge of his nose and breathed deeply. This was going to be a long trip.
Make your decision and don't you dare think twice
Go with your instincts along with some bad advice
This didn't turn out the way I thought it would at all
You blame me but some of this is still your fault
House was bored. Twelve hours into their flight and he had nothing to do. His Gameboy ran out of batteries because he had forgotten to pack extras. He had listened to almost every song on his ipod twice and there was nothing good to read other than the survival manual tucked into the seat in front of him.
He turned to look at his travel companions. Wilson had a set of headphones on and was doing something on his planner. Chase had closed his eyes half an hour ago and was sound asleep between them, his head tilted back and slightly to the side.
House signaled Wilson, who looked up and stared at him questioningly. The diagnostician mouthed "watch this". Wilson rolled his eyes, but continued to stare at his friend as House reached over and lifted Chase's arm, holding it for a moment before dropping it. It fell limply into the younger man's lap, but the blonde didn't stir.
Wilson watched in mild fascination as his friend grabbed the intensivist's shoulders and shook. "Chase!" The only response was a small shift.
House grinned and took out his cell phone, hitting speed dial two. A moment later, a shrill beeping filled the air and Chase started awake, eyes wide as he searched frantically for his beeper.
Wilson chuckled in disbelief and House sat back in satisfaction. Chase remained slightly off balance, still half asleep as he turned his beeper off. However, he still managed to send a scathing glare at both doctors.
A few minutes later, and the Aussie's eyelids began to droop again as his head tipped forward, golden strands falling over his face. House frowned and used one finger to push the boy over until he was barely an inch away from Wilson's shoulder.
He reached for his cell phone again.
"Leave him alone, Greg. Just because you have the attention span of a mosquito doesn't mean you should make the rest of us suffer."
"But I enjoy it."
"Well, he doesn't, so knock it off. He barely gets enough sleep between you and the ICU. Let him rest."
House looked back at Chase and studied the young doctor for a moment, noticing that he had dark circles under his eyes. He folded his arms and looked back out the window.
I tried to move you, but you just wouldn't budge
I tried to hold your hand but you'd rather hold your grudge
I think you know what I'm getting at
You said good-bye and I just don't want you regretting that
When they stepped off the plane, Chase inhaled deeply and allowed himself a small smile. He hadn't realized just how homesick he had been.
House and Wilson were already peeling off their jackets, grumbling about the heat. Chase simply felt like he was finally warm again after years in cold and dreary New Jersey.
When they arrived at their hotel, they were given a key.
"We have to share a room? All three of us?" House's expression was comical.
Wilson shrugged, "Cuddy already sprang for three tickets. Three hotel rooms is expensive on top of that."
"Then she shouldn't have sent us."
They opened the door to the room and, as expected, there were only two beds. Chase stated that he could call a friend up and spend the night there, but House wouldn't have it.
"The Three Musketeers stick together. Especially in unknown territory. You're our travel guide, anyways."
"Then who's sleeping on the floor?" Wilson asked, dreading the answer for both himself and Chase.
"Well, it's just plain racism if you were to make a cripple give up his bed, so you two can fight to the death and I'll watch."
"Well, you two are already used to sleeping in the same bed, so why not just share?" Chase's smile was wide.
"Wilson's a kicker and hogs all the covers," House whined.
Wilson groaned and began to unpack, pointedly ignoring both comments as he said, "There's a cot in the closet. I'll gladly take that."
Chase protested, "Dr. Wilson, I really don't mind—"
"Chase, I've been sleeping on House's couch for weeks. This will be heaven. Don't worry about it."
House pouted at the implication that his sofa was uncomfortable, but brushed it off. "Now that it's all settled, let's go explore the Outback."
"You two can do whatever you want, but I've got plans." The blonde pulled a few things out of his bag and stuffed them into a spare backpack, heading for the door.
"I'll see you later."
"But we need you!" House whimpered for effect. "What if we get eaten by dingos? Or attacked by rabid kangaroos? Or—"
"Well, then, mate, I suggest you use your cane, because I'm not missing out on all this sun." And with that, he was out the door.
After a moment of silence, House turned to Wilson, "He abandoned us."
The other man continued to shuffle around the room. "I'm sure we'll survive."
And wisdom always chooses
These black eyes and these bruises
Over the heartache that they say
Never completely goes away
He grabbed a taxi and headed to the beach. When he got there, he rented a surf board and changed into his wetsuit. The sand was hot under his bare feet and as he gazed out at the perfectly swelling waves, the barest spark of excitement fluttering in his chest.
He walked down the beach until his feet met the water, stopping to allow the smaller waves to wash over him.
A second later, he ran head first into the swells, lying on the surf board when the water was up to his hips and paddling further out. A wave crashed over him and he resurfaced on the other side of it, using his arm to turn the board around so that he was facing the shore. He positioned himself for the next wave and smiled as it came at him, jumping to his feet and riding it all the way into shallow water as he cut zigzags and arching patterns into the blue, cresting walls.
Later, a few of his friends joined him. He had called them in the taxi, letting them know he was in the country and his destination. His return was cause for celebration, but as soon as he said "surfing", there was a "whoop!" of agreement and several of his old mates met him in the water before he could get another wave in.
"Rob! You sneaky bugger! Why didn't you tell us you were coming? We would have had a party waiting for you at the airport."
"Nah, mate. I'm here on business."
"Hey, if this is business, get me an application."
"I'll be here for four days. I've got two for screwing around with."
"Yea? Good on ya, mate. Now shut up and surf, 'cause we're making up for lost time."
What happened to us?
I heard that it's me we should blame
What happened to us?
Why didn't you stop me from turning out this way?
And know that I don't hate you
And know that I don't want to fight you
And know that I'll always love you
But right now I just don't...
House was flipping through channels on the TV and Wilson was asleep when Chase came back around midnight, his hair still thoroughly soaked and a grin on his face.
"Do you have any idea what time it is, young man? You had us worried sick."
Chase glanced over at Wilson, who was snoring lightly, and shook his head, dropping his bag in the corner as he shed his jacket, flicking the light switch on in the bathroom.
"Yes, I'm just drowning in your concern. I met up with some of my mates and we went surfing. I would have invited you, but I know how you dislike people in general, much less Australians."
"Nonsense. I love people. I just hate it when they breathe."
"Exactly." The younger man shut the door and a moment later, the shower could be heard. House continued to mindlessly flip through channels, stopping on a program about giant lizards that ate sheep.
When Chase came back out, he was dressed in baggy navy blue scrub bottoms and a white t-shirt. He crawled into the bed on the opposite side of the room and clicked off the light on the nightstand next to him.
House wondered briefly if he should turn off the TV so the Aussie could sleep, but the man in question seemed to read his mind.
"Don't worry about the volume. I can sleep through anything."
"Anything but a pager."
But his comment fell on deaf ears since Chase was already asleep.
I walked around my good intentions
And found that there were none
I blame my father for the wasted years
We hardly talked
I never thought I would forget this hate
Then a phone call made me realize
Chase jerked awake, breathing heavily and a light sheen of sweat on his forehead. He had been going through the same nightmare a few times a month. He supposed that this one was a result of being home again.
It was of the day he got the call about his father's death, only it was his father on the phone, explaining the details of his demise and asking his son why he hadn't been there. Chase tried to speak, to tell him that he hadn't known he was sick, but he could never say anything, mute with pain.
He looked over at the digital clock. Four am. He sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face, just realizing that he was sitting up. He lay back down, turning onto his side and curling into himself. Slowly, his mind calmed and his eyes closed in sleep.
House opened his eyes, confident that the duckling was once again dead to the world. He frowned in thought, wondering what could cause the Aussie such distress. Whatever it was, he would find out. He just couldn't let a puzzle go unsolved, he told himself.
If I don't make it known that
I've loved you all along
Just like sunny days that
We ignore because
We're all dumb and jaded
And I hope to God I figure out
The next day was full of lectures about things House already knew and he complained and whined endlessly, claiming they should have an open bar for cripples and true geniuses who actually knew what they were talking about.
"Look at all these pompous do-gooders. Just a bunch of idiots," he grumbled, snatching a glass of wine off the tray of a passing waitress.
"Yes," Wilson muttered. "You have absolutely nothing in common with any of them." He rolled his eyes and grinned at Chase, who ducked his head and snickered quietly.
House studied his fellow carefully, noting the bags under his eyes and the slouched shoulders. Every once in a while, he would find the blonde staring into space, an absent expression on his face until his eyebrows would furrow in thought. He was becoming more and more intrigued in what was bothering his young intensivist.
As the day wore on, they met several celebrities in the medicinal world, Wilson awe struck, House condescending, and Chase politely uninterested.
"Dr. House, is it?" A graying man in a painfully expensive suit approached and stuck his hand out to shake. "I've heard a lot of good things about your work. It's a pleasure to meet you."
House stared at the hand offered to him and looked up at the unfamiliar doctor, "And you are?"
"Ah, where are my manners? Dr. Penwater, Dean of Medicine at the Seasonal Institute in Sydney."
House finally shook the man's hand, if not reluctantly. He gestured to his colleagues. "This is Dr. Wilson, Head of Oncology and this is Dr. Chase, specialist in Intensive Ca--"
Dr. Penwater cut him off. "Dr. Chase? Dr. Robert Chase?"
The Aussie was caught off guard by the piercing stare directed at him and he nodded dumbly.
"I knew your father, Robert. He was a good man. Seeing you now, I'm sure he'd be very proud of you. I'm sorry for your loss."
House and Wilson watched as Chase's eyes hardened and his face turned impassive.
"Thank you for your sentiments, Dr. Penwater, but you obviously didn't know my father very well and it wasn't much of a loss on my part."
And before anyone could say a word, he smiled politely and excused himself, disappearing into the mingling crowds and leaving two puzzled and one interested doctor behind him.
Chase continued to be pleasant, if not distant, throughout the rest of the conference, greeting people and smiling shyly during conversations. Twice more, his father's passing was brought into light and the emotionless mask would return as he accepted their "I'm so sorry's" and found a corner to occupy until House and Wilson signaled that it was time to go.
By the time they arrived back at the hotel, all three were too exhausted to exchange any words. As much as House would have liked to question his duckling, even he wasn't so cruel as to prod him while his nerves were so clearly frayed. At least, not so cruel at the moment.
They each collapsed onto their respective beds and muttered barely coherent goodnights before the lights were turned off.
The next day progressed much like the first. They dutifully attended and listened to dull speech after speech, putting up with the arrogant heads of departments and benefactors. Halfway through and House was on the verge of homicide, popping his Vicodin pills like skittles every time someone approached him as Wilson watched him nervously.
Chase was a model of tolerance, graciously ignoring the females ogling him while he spoke with several interns looking into Intensive Care.
If the first day had been tiring, the second was twice as bad. All three men were relatively grumpy and worn out during the cab ride back, an occasional snarky comment making its way from one to the other.
Trudging out of the elevator and back into their hotel room, House mustered up enough energy to shout a falsely cheery, "Get some sleep, my darlings! Tomorrow it's back to toilets that flush clockwise."
Chase rolled his eyes and flopped down onto the bed, not even bothering to pull back the covers. A moment later, and the room went dark, two out of three occupants asleep.
I walked around my room
Just sinking in this box
I blame myself for being too much
Like somebody else
I never thought I would just
Bend this way
He woke up for the second time that night in a cold sweat, panting and squeezing his eyes shut at the memory of his beautiful mother in a casket, worn out and pale from years of drinking and then his father, shriveled and gray from cancer.
He gave up trying to go back to sleep this time. He would rather be awake and exhausted than asleep and tormented. It was six thirty am.
He turned his head to make sure that both of his room mates were still sleeping before pulling himself quietly out of bed and changing into jeans and a long sleeved shirt, tugging on his sneakers and heading for the door. A thought struck him and he took out a pad of paper and a pen, quickly scribbling a note before silently leaving the room.
House wasted no time in getting up and flicking on the light. He grabbed the note.
Went to say my goodbyes to some people. Back before 3:00.
House pondered the underlying meaning that the Aussie may have unintentionally left for him to decipher before shaking Wilson awake.
The Oncologist mumbled something and turned his back to his friend.
"Up, Wilson! Up! Our duckling has left the pond."
"Chase left. We're going to follow him."
"Are you insane? Leave me alone."
"I can't do that, Dr. Wilson. The wombat is hardly capable of keeping himself out of trouble on a good day. He's been keeping his sleeping habits a secret."
Wilson sat up with a vaguely interested expression. "He hasn't been sleeping?"
"Not enough. Let's ride."
They were dressed in record time before hailing a taxi.
"Do you even know where he's going?" Wilson asked around a yawn.
"I know exactly where our little Aussie is off to."
"Would you mind sharing with the rest of the class, then?"
House handed him the note Chase had left on the nightstand. Wilson studied it for a moment before shrugging.
"So he went to visit his friends before leaving. That's no reason to drag me out of bed at the crack of dawn."
"Exactly. Who would wake up their friends at this forsaken hour just to say goodbye when he has all day to do it?"
"House…I'm too tired for your games. Get to the point."
"My point, dear Jimmy, is that our wombat isn't going to meet up with his kangaroo wrangling friends. He's going to see his dad."
"His dad is dead, House."
"My, you're observant when you're tired."
Wilson glared at him through narrowed eyes.
"He's going to his grave."
"House! We can't follow him there! This is none of our business. What if wants to be alone? This is a very private matter."
"Yes, it is. And I don't care if he wants to be alone. He's been alone long enough."
"Is that concern I hear, Dr. House?"
"No, it's self preservation. I'm not going to let one of my employees self destruct and then go through a thousand pointless interviews to find a new toy to break in."
"Sure. Do you even know where his father is buried?"
"I read his obituary online. It's at the Melbourne Cemetery."
"You could be a stalker."
"Or James Bond."
"Or a stalker."
"Or a spy from England."
"Or a stalker…"
If I don't make it known that
I've loved you all along
Just like sunny days that
We ignore because
We're all dumb and jaded
And I hope to God I figure out
Chase walked through the rows of polished tombstones, ignoring the carved out weeping angels sprawled over open books.
He made his way to a rather impressive looking statue of a saint clasping a rosary, head bowed over the grave of Dr. Rowan Chase. Even in death, his reputation as a medical prodigy was important to him. Chase scoffed as his eyes roamed over the words engraved in rock.
Dr. Rowan Chase.
Loving Husband and Father.
The young man's face contorted in anger. He had left everything up to the lawyers concerning the financial issues and when asked about the funeral arrangements, he had specifically told them that there were to be no sentiments on the head stone. It appeared that his "stepmother" had overruled him.
Chase took a cursory glance around the cemetery, assuring himself that no one else was there so early. He reached into his jacket and pulled out a single cigarette and a cheap plastic lighter.
He lit it expertly, shoving the lighter back into his pocket as he crouched down to get a closer look at the inscriptions, hands dangly between his knees. He exhaled a lungful of smoke toward his father's name, watching as the gray tendrils curled upward against the stone.
It was the three month anniversary of his father's death. Every month, he would smoke one cigarette in remembrance of his dad, who had loved cigars dearly, ironically leading to his lung cancer.
"Cheers, Dad. I'm finally following in your footsteps," he spat as he took another drag.
House and Wilson watched from behind a large tomb, bent painfully low so as to avoid being seen.
"I didn't know Chase smoked," Wilson whispered in confusion.
"It sure looks like he knows his way around a cigarette."
House shushed him as Chase began muttering to his father's grave.
"Selfish bastard. You couldn't leave me alone even in death, could you? Your pathetic cohorts carry on your legacy even if I don't and they just love rubbing it in my face." He threw his cigarette down in front of the head stone and stamped it out with the heel of his shoe.
"Wow," Wilson mumbled. "That's a lot pent up anger, there."
House nodded, slightly taken aback by the young intensivist's spite. Chase was quiet, submissive, occasionally funny, and passionate about his work, but hate was rarely, if ever shown.
They continued to listen to the Aussie berate cold stone.
"Loving husband, my arse. You wouldn't even look at mum when you came home from work. You used her and broke her just because she was beautiful. And she was beautiful, you cold hearted wanker, no matter how many times you told her she was ugly. Heaven knows why she put up with you, let alone loved you."
The two doctors winced as the blonde straightened and kicked the base of the statue savagely.
They watched in silence as the younger doctor suddenly became quiet, a pensive look on his face. He stared at the words on the head stone for several long minutes before finally speaking again.
"'Loving father.'" Chase bent his head down and shook it, laughter breaking the thick silence that had settled over the graveyard.
His entire frame racked with mirthless laughter as he gasped between chuckles and then suddenly the laughter turned into sobs as his shoulders shook and he doubled over, covering his face with both hands and quietly weeping against the unforgiving statue of the saint.
Wilson and House stared, completely struck dumb by the raw show of emotion as Chase buried his face in his arms, muffling his sobs in the sleeves of his jacket.
Wilson hesitated for only a moment before he stood up and walked toward the distraught young man. House grabbed at him but missed.
"Get back here!" He hissed.
"House, look at him."
And the diagnostician did and he felt a pang in his chest before he rolled his eyes and joined his friend.
Chase was oblivious to their presence as they approached him until Wilson crouched down next to him and settled a hand on his shoulder.
The oncologist was caught off guard when the young man turned toward him, and without opening his eyes, wrapped his arms around him in a desperate hug, reaching out blindly for affection as he pressed his face into the other man's shoulder, hands clenching the fabric of the oncologist's sweater.
Wilson looked up at House briefly before gently returning the hug, rubbing soothing circles on the intensivist's back and softly whispering words of comfort.
"It's ok, Chase. It's all right."
They stayed that way for several minutes as the sobs tapered off into small, jerking gasps, breaths hitching between sniffles.
Chase finally pulled back and wiped his face, blushing furiously at having cried in front of his boss, much less in Wilson's arms.
"What are you doing here?"
House shifted awkwardly. "We were admiring the architecture."
Chase glared and rose from his kneeling position, offering a hand up to Wilson, who took it with a crooked smile.
The blonde opted to drop the subject of having been followed and instead changed it to a safer one.
"What time is it?"
"It's eight forty-five. We still have time to flush every toilet in town just to make sure that they all really flush counter clockwise."
"You're really stuck on that, aren't you?" Wilson muttered, a mixture of frustration and amusement in his voice.
"It's just not natural!"
Chase snorted, "Imagine how I felt when I first came to the states."
"It must have been like an entirely different planet for our little wombat," House commented, growing more comfortable with the light banter.
"You have no idea," the Aussie replied. "You yanks and your peanut butter."
"Hey, now. Lay off the PB," Wilson protested indignantly. "It's saved the lives of college students everywhere."
"And yet you still manage to eat it like you can't afford anything else," House griped. "I never get any, you greedy little monkey."
They continued to mock each other the rest of the day as they prepared to return to New Jersey. Chase was a little melancholy about leaving home, but he managed it well.
Once they had boarded the plane, Chase once again sandwiched in between both doctors, he muttered a quiet, but sincere "thank you."
Wilson smiled widely, "Not a problem. You're very welcome."
House jerked his head in a nod and "hmphed", but patted the Aussie's knee twice before turning to stare out the window.
Chase bowed his head and smiled, leaning back in his seat and settling in for the long flight home.