Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, four fancy words that some over the top, bright psychologist came up with to describe just about everything that you might say or do after some particular fucked up situation. And it works too.
The genius of it is that it doesn't explain why no two people experience it quite in the same way, it doesn't offer any pearls of wisdom about treatment, it doesn't even specifies how much post is the post part.
For Chase, post was about two months later.
Aside from the slight limp, the one that his therapist assure him would disappear in time, and the scar on his chest, the one that he avoided looking at whenever he took his clothes off, no one would ever guess how close to death he'd been a mere sixty days before.
Detective Bree had called two days after their talk, ecstatic about the digital notebook that they had found exactly where Chase had told him to look. Apparently when open, the files that Thomas had went to so much trouble to hide and that Kazumasu had died trying to retrieve, were like Christmas come early for the entire police department. From the detective's excited conversation, the Australian figured that if he'd ever tired of being a doctor, the policeman would be glad to have him working in his department.
He should've been pleased by the policeman's words and he most definitively should've been happy about his contribution to aid in putting a stop to such organization. What he shouldn't have was that petty feeling of disappointment because Kazumasu hadn't lived long enough to see his failure, hadn't lived long enough to be punished for his mistakes. Revenge and hate, those were the acid feelings that seemed to come easier to Chase now, and already could he feel them eating his heart away.
Chase had spent a whole life tying to control his feelings and reactions, careful to never let more than what was necessary transpire in to his semblance, consciously aware that everyone occasionally liked to help the troubled teen who had a drinking mother and an absent father, but that other people's misery always grew tiresome and was better handled in small doses.
Eventually, tired of walking the thin line between emotionless drone and red-eyed boy, Chase had perfected his act in to a mirror-like condition, showing only what others wanted to see.
The big difference was that, unlike before when he hide his emotions to stop people from pitying him, now he had to hide them because he was ashamed of what he was feeling. His reactions had become self-centred and bitter and the conscious awareness of that scared him, scared him more than the physical changes.
House had been right. How could he hide a crippled soul behind a bum leg? How many times could he fake a smile and tell people that he was fine, when they saw him limping from place to place? How many phoney excuses could he come up with because he was tired of sharing the same tale with everyone that asked?
He could try to escape the questions and the looks, but he couldn't run away from himself and what he had become. He was still as helpless as before, hanging from a chain in the ceiling, and this time there was no sword's blade to put an end to his misery.
Chase had discharged himself from PPTH a week after Bree's phone call. His condition no longer required constant medical surveillance and the constant part of the surveillance was starting to get on his nerves. After two weeks spent under the care of others and completely or partially depended on them to do whatever he liked or needed, Chase was more than ready to craw away from under their microscope.
Going back to his apartment had been out of the question. From the descriptions that both House and Bree had given him, the sight of his trashed things was not one that he was ready to face just yet. There were things inside that apartment that meant more to him than his own skin and for now, he would rather live in the illusion that they hadn't been destroyed than going back there and be confronted with the truth.
With all the protesting voices over his, in their opinion, premature leave from hospital care, Chase ended up reaching a middle ground understanding with Cameron, Cuddy and Wilson. The oncologist had been living in the same hotel room for the most part of last year, so the place couldn't be that bad. He had booked a room for himself there too.
Much to his surprise, House had volunteered his chauffeur services to drive Chase's car and him there. Too tired and aching from his latest rehab session, Chase had just accepted the offer and was nodding off minutes after that, lulled in to unconsciousness by the low humm of the familiar engine.
He opened his eyes to discover himself in House's neighbourhood. "This isn't the right way," he mumbled, chasing the sleep from his eyes.
House made a show of looking the street names. "Are you sure? 'Cause I could've swear that this is it."
Chase gave him a glare that was completely wasted as the other man looked around for a place to park. It was still too far from House's home for that to be their destination and both his apartment and the hotel where Wilson was staying were on the other side of town. "What the hell are we doing here?"
"I offered to drive you home, remember?" House said, making it sound like he was talking to a brain damage person. He finally found a place that suited his purposes and parked the car. "We're just making a quick stop on the way."
"I'm not going home and the hotel is on the other side of town," Chase pointed out, leaning back in his seat, fully intended to sleep a bit more while he waited for House to run whatever errands he'd come here to run.
"Actually," the other man replied, unbuckling his seat belt and opening the car's door, "if by home you're referring to that mongrel place where you used to live, you can't because your previous landlord sort of kicked you out."
The Australian stared dumbstruck at the banging door as House left the car. "What?!" Chase blurted out, fumbling with his seat belt as he tried to manoeuvre belt, door and crutch with one good hand and a semi-collaborate one, to get outside. "He can't do that... I paid him two months in advance to prevent him from doing that!"
House shrugged. "Between the accent and the mob trash party, the guy said it was just too risky living downstairs from James Bond."
"James Bond's British," Chase mumbled by reflex.
"My point exactly," the older man said with a grin. There was no need to say anything about the anonymous phone call that House had made to said landlord, where he might've implied that Chase was a drug dealer and that it had been his competition who had trashed his apartment and that more acts of vandalism could be expected from the future.
A fresh start, that was what Chase needed to get back on his feet and House had made sure that he didn't had to see what had been done to the privacy of his home. Besides, a rich boy like Chase needed a better place than that bird's hole.
House fished a set of keys from his pocket. "As long as you're out of the car, you might as well come with me. Right this way, double 'O' Chase."
The Australian's mind was still reeling from the idea of being homeless as he blindly followed House. He barely looked at the row of two storey houses painted in various colours, or the ochre-coloured one that they stood near to. "What about my stuff?" He asked after a while, sounding slightly panicked.
There wasn't much that he had kept, except for his father's books and some of his mother's paintings, but with them gone, Chase wasn't sure he would be able to deal with the lost of the last links he had to his parents.
The lost look that overtook the Australian's eyes told House that he wasn't asking about his pots and plants and something akin to relief filled him, because he knew that the things that Chase was worried about were just on the other side of that closed door, most of them restored to their previous condition.
When the idea had first come to him, House had looked at his Vicodin bottle, wondering if he'd perhaps overdose himself without noticing, but now, seeing the reaction playing across Chase's face, he realized that they had done the right thing.
The surprise had been going on for a couple of weeks. He'd talked to Cuddy first, because she was the one who had to come up with the funds and then he had mentioned it to Wilson, because he needed his ex-wife's contacts. Wilson had let it escape to Cameron, who had simply run away with the idea.
Before House could fully understand how it had happen, the Vicodin induced thought of getting Chase a new place had simply grown to gigantic proportions and everyone who knew the Australian wanted to be a part of it.
Cuddy had managed to convince the lawyers of PPTH that the destruction of Chase's apartment and consequent expulsion were a direct consequence of his dealings with a patient, which meant that hospital's insurance should cover his loses. She had also managed to get Chase to sign the new house's papers without him even realizing what he was doing, mixing that particular document in the middle of others that he had signed while he was still recovering. If she had presented him with a certified IOU saying that his first born was to be given to her, Cuddy believed that he would've signed it too.
All in all, they had run a smooth and covert operation that would've put to shame the most secret of secret service's move and the only real work that House ended up doing was inside Chase' 'secret' room. The Australian had made it very clear how important it was for him to keep that part of his life private, and House had made sure that it would remain private.
He had wrapped Chase's paintings and his mother's, the ones that were still in one piece, before someone charted them to the new place and taken the ones that were in more than one piece to someone that could put them back together.
"Your stuff is more than safe," House finally answered, putting the key in the keyhole and turning. "Your stuff is already home."
Chase gave the older man a confused look and stepped inside the house. The late morning sun that entered through the living room's windows reached the small lobby, casting white fingers of light through the slightly dusty air. The house smelled of backed cake and fresh flowers and Chase wondered for one frightening moment whose house they were invading.
House lingered back, watching with interest as Chase tensed, seeming to sense the presence of more people inside the place. Cuddy, Wilson, Foreman, a cake holding Cameron and a number of PPTH staff that House couldn't name, opened the kitchen's door, making themselves visible. "Surprise!"
Time had flown by after that, in between physical therapy and his daily struggle to get back to normal, like nothing had ever happen. And then, just when he was somewhat starting to feel whole again, it had started.
Completely innocent smells that would trigger such deep state of angst inside his chest that he could barely breathe; random sounds that had no business being scary but that made him jump in pure fright; ridiculous images and boring faces of people that, being absolute strangers, had no reason to cause the nauseous feeling that would send him racing to the nearest bathroom so that he wouldn't embarrass himself.
It was never the smell of raw fish as he had first feared, and it wasn't the sound of chains or car exhausters that might've resembled the sound of a gunshot; it wasn't even people of Asian descendent or even the sound of the Japanese language has he'd imagined. No, it was always the little things that he couldn't foresee, the situations that he couldn't control, the events that, at first glance, had nothing to do with what had happen to him. After awhile, Chase had given up on trying to predict them at all. Whatever set off his episodes, it always hit him hard and fast and he figured that he'd never sweated that much his whole life.
Going back to work, despite his insistence and Cuddy's reluctant agreement, had proven to be a mistake. After a couple of scares in the free clinic, Chase had stop going there all together, afraid that the next face behind the door, that the next word said out of the blue, might trigger something.
He avoided meeting the patients accepted by House for the same reasons, even though he didn't shared them with anyone. He had always something more important to do than his clinic hours; he rushed to the opportunity of working in the lab rather than near the patient.
And then there was the pain, the one that his therapist said to be a good sign, the one that made him snap at people when it was too intense for him to deal with, the one that he refused to take anything to diminish because he had a too good example of the consequences of that.
Between the limp, his apparent allergy to sick people and that new testy side of him, Foreman had resorted to call him House Two, often snickering that the pupil had finally become the master.
His lack of patience for proper bedside manners and apparent unwillingness to do his job right irked Cameron, not seating well her idea that doctors should take the time to hold their patients' hands at least once, or at least meet them. Unlike House, he didn't have the atoning fact of her having a crush on him to diminish his sins.
Neither thought back to a couple of months before, neither associated his odd behaviour to what had happened to him, because time moves on and once the bruises had disappeared from his face, so had his colleagues' concern.
He passed his days ignoring them both and thinking of new ways to hide his discomfort until it just went away, because he knew that it would go away. He just didn't want to lose his job in the mean time.
Ignoring Cuddy was harder. She had eventually pressed him against the wall, questioning him about his actions. Her memory seemed to be longer than the others' and the image of the Australian, mumbling in Japanese, beaten and disoriented in an ER bed was still fresh in her mind. She wanted him to seek professional help.
Chase clamed that in between hers, Cameron's, Wilson's and his therapist's peep talks, he didn't needed one more set of ears offering to hear his troubles, because the first four did it for free and got nothing. It wouldn't be the act of paying for it that would make him want to share his feelings.
The vacation time that House forced him to take was better received. The older man had accused him of being of no use to him and Diagnostic's messed up as he was, and Chase couldn't have agreed more.
Some time off would at least take him from under their constant inspection and give him the opportunity to get himself together.
The idea of going back to Australia hadn't even entered his mind until House threw a two-way ticket in to his hands, telling him that a month from then, he would be picking him up the airport in New York or he would be going to Sydney to get his money back.
Only as he sat in the plane, facing the perspective of fifteen more hours until landing, did Chase realize just how homesick he really was. He fished the old silver coin from his pocket, playing with it between his fingers. He knew exactly where he was going.
Although they had changed its name, the St. Patrick' Seminary in Manly still held that gothic castle look about itself that had made so many fall in love with it. The old granite stones changed colours with the hours of the day, keeping time with the central tower where the clock and bell took charge of the facade.
Father Bishop crossed himself and laboriously started the painful process of rising from his knees to a standing position. Father Tibious had warned him many times that, at his age, the Lord would not frown upon his elderly follower if he just sat through Mass, but if there was something that the old Australian priest could not emend and erase from his personality, it was his stubbornness.
"It is hard to listen to the Lord's word when the whole church is deafened by your creaking joints, old man," a man's voice laced with the local swirl of tongue said, as a hand reached out to help him up.
The priest thanked the aid, his mind searching for a student's name to associate with the disrespectful words, when the feeling of cold metal warmed the touch between his and the stranger's hand.
He looked at the silver coin that had been left in his palm before looking up at the young man who had spoken. His brown eyes lit up in happy recognition. "One must listen to His word with the heart, not his ears," he said, enveloping the young man in a hug. "It's been too long, Robert."
Chase held the other man tightly, feeling the fragility of his old body and letting the smell of burned candle and incense take him back years in his life, to a time when, although complicated, his life still held the promise of fulfilment. "A whole life time, Father."
Father Bishop let the contact prolong itself until he sensed that the younger man was ready to let go. "It is good to see you again. I had resigned myself to leave this Earth without laying eyes on you again."
"I wasn't planning to come back," Chase confessed, awkwardly taking a step away from the old man. More than ten years had passed since he'd last seen this man and yet, he seemed to have barely changed at all. Chase wondered if the priest would think the same thing about him or if the differences would be evident to him.
"Come," the priest said, breaking the odd silence that had settled between two people who had so much to talk about. "Let's find you a place to stay and then you can tell me all about America."
At night, the distant view of the Sydney Harbour was one of the most beautiful sights that Chase had ever seen. The lights of the tall buildings played with the water' surface, creating the illusion of a mirror city, where everything was upside down and slightly undulating. He felt like he was a citizen of that mirror city.
Much like House and his cane, Father Bishop had a particular way of walking that never left any doubt about whose footsteps it was. A light drag of one of the shoe's heel every couple of steps, a telling sign of a man wanting to walk faster than what his old legs would allow. "I think this is what I missed the most," Chase said when the footsteps stopped and the priest reached his side. "Every time I heard the sound of a tower bell, I would close my eyes and be back in here, right on this spot, feeling the smell of the sea on my skin and looking at the Sydney harbour."
"You could always stay this time around," Father Bishop suggested.
The idea had been playing around Chase's head even before the priest had put it in to words. He had tried to imagine how the people he knew would react to that. He'd figured that some, those who had no idea that he'd been in a seminary, would be surprise by his decision. Others, the ones that knew about that part of his past, would probably accuse him of indecision. House would laugh and rub it in everybody's nose that he'd been right all along when he said that Chase never wanted to be a doctor. He would probably send a letter asking for his plane ticket's money back too.
Chase had tried to imagine himself as a priest, trying to save souls instead of lives, but found out that he no longer could. Science and religion were two plates hard to balance on anyone' scale and Chase found himself in a place where he could no longer renounce one in favour of the other. "I've changed, Father Bishop… the Holy Orders are no longer for me."
"I meant in Australia, Robert," the old man said with a chuckle. "But I guess that two have always been connected for you, haven't they?" He asked more seriously.
Chase looked at the priest, figuring that in some way, he was probably right. His gaze flickered back to Sydney and he took a deep breath, soaking in the smell of home.
"Have you been to see him yet?"
The young man closed his eyes, knowing without asking of whom the priest was talking about. Somewhere across the field of water, in one of the most prestigious graveyards of the city, Rowan Chase had been buried over a year ago. He didn't even know the colour of his father's tombstone. "No," Chase whispered.
When Father Bishop had seen his long lost pupil back in the halls of St. Patrick, he had just assumed that the young man had finally returned to Australia to pay his father his last respects. He'd asked nothing about the haggard look, or about the limp, or even about the cold sweats that the young man would occasionally suffer for no apparent reason. He'd figured that Robert had returned to make his peace, if not with his father, with himself. He hoped that the young man was successful in at least one of them. "Still afraid of letting your heart feel, I see."
"Despite the statistics, feelings are more dangerous to the heart than high cholesterol," Chase remarked as if quoting some recent study.
The old man gave him an odd look and Chase sighed. That sort of nonsense half joke would've worked with the people he worked with. Father Bishop knew him better than that. "I lost something," Chase confessed, feeling that the isolated location and the darkness of it lend itself to that. All that was missing was the smell of burning candles and his knees pressed against the hard wooden floor. Instead of the creaking wood, he had the sound of the waves, breaking against the shore.
"No evil is without its compensation. The less money, the less trouble; the less favour, the less envy. Even in those cases which put us out of wits, it is not the loss itself, but the estimate of the loss that troubles us," Father Bishop recited by heart, hopping that those were the right words for the trouble young man by his side.
Chase kept his eyes on the dark water, lost in the criss-crossed patterns of light playing across its surface. "Socrates?"
The young man took a deep breath and pushed his hands further in to his jeans' pockets. "I find it hard to see the compensation right now... all that I can see is an estimate price that is just too big for me to pay," he said, trying to keep his voice from breaking but failing miserably.
It was the old man's turn to sigh as he placed a calloused hand over Chase's shoulder. He could feel the fine tremors underneath the thin cotton shirt, even if the almost Summer night was too warm for that. "I can still remember the first time we spoke, all those years ago," he said, searching Chase's eyes. "Do you remember what you told me then?"
The intensivist shook his head. The memories of arriving at the seminary were surrounded by a mist of sorrow for his mother's death and his father's rejection.
"I asked you why did you believe in God and you said to me 'because for every action there is an equal reaction and with so much darkness in the world, God is the only reaction capable of equality'," the priest said, surprising Chase with his prodigious memory. "That told me a lot about you, Robert, and the sensitive soul that I saw then is still here, in front of me today, unchanged... what ever it is that you believe to have lost, I can tell you that it's only hidden from your view and not truly gone."
Chase felt the tears running down his face and quickly whipped them away. It really was a simple thing to say, but it had been exactly what he'd crossed half a planet to hear. "Thank you," he whispered to the priest, the genuine smile on his lips contradicting the water in his eyes. He wasn't crying in sadness, he was crying in relief, because hidden he could deal with a lot better than lost.
Father Bishop smiled in return, squeezing Robert' shoulder one last time before letting go. "It's past my bed time… you coming inside?"
"Not yet," Chase answered. He said his good-night to the old man and watched as he slowly walked across the gravel floor until his figure melted in to the shadows and disappeared.
The moon was almost full that night, and its silver light was enough to let him see his way towards the sea. Stripping off his clothes, Chase thought back to a time when this was the best part of his day, when every day he was free to just dive in to the warm water and forget about everything else. Now, years later, the feeling was still there and as Chase's body felt the salt liquid against his skin, he was sixteen again.
Three weeks later, he was ready to return to New Jersey and face the rest of his life.
Unlike glass roofs, the ones that some people have and that are so easily broken, glass walls are common to each and everyone of us and everyone has to take care of its own.
Some lucky people managed to go through life surrounded by intact glass, thick protective barriers that shield them from the glacier feelings of despair and disappointment. It is that barrier that keeps little children innocent and naive through their tender years; it is that bubble that lends the smile on the lips of those who ignore pain or have forgotten how it tastes like; it is that shield that gives power to those who firmly believe that a higher power will keep them safe from harm.
Made of the purest and finest glass, most don't ever realize that the wall is there until it starts to crack. Tiny fissures in the otherwise smooth surface that give under the pressure of life, under the assault of fate. And then all that you can see are the cracks.
Chase's walls had started to crack a long time ago, in the days when he would lay in his bed trying to ignore the voices of his parents, arguing in the living room. From then on, the cracks just seemed to pile on, until there was no clear piece of glass through which he could look outside.
So he decided that glass walls were too much of a liability and that he was better off with solid walls, opaque, concealing walls, behind which he could hide his fears and forget about them.
That had been a mistake.
Because, contrary to what most people might imagine, glass walls aren't fragile and easily broken, and neither are they made of glass to make you feel insecure and expose. They're made of thick glass so that you can see the world outside your walls, so that you can experience life in all its colours and brightness, like an underwater diver, parted from the pulsing waters only by the layers of his suit.
Its only when you lose sight of that the walls tend to break. And then you drown.
Going back to St. Patrick's had felt like a gulp of air to the drowning Chase, even if he hadn't realized that he was losing his breath. And even though it had taken him time to realize it, the cliché had actually held true. That, which doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.
A.N: Oh, wow! It's over! Just a few words before I close this chapter of my writting 'career'.
St. Patrick's seminary is now actually called the Internacional College of Management and if you look it up on the internet, you'll see that it really is beautiful.
To all of you that reviewed this story since its first chapter, I love you all! You've been my rock, my ego stroker, my inspiration -hugs-