Postcards from Ruritania by Aenisses Thai
Disclaimer: All rights to House MD belong to David Shore, Heel and Toe Films and Bad Hat Harry Productions in association with NBC Universal Television Studio. I do not make any monetary profit from this fanfiction.
Spoiler Warning: Spoilers for Season Three through Episode 20, House-Training. Due to the radical shift in character relationships at the end of Season Three, I decided to keep this fic at a point in time before the big changes, inserting it timewise between Episode 3-20, House-training, and 3-21 Family.
Other warnings: Rated T for mature themes, language, and sexual situations. References to slash (male/male), het (male/female), and polyamorous (more than two people) relationships. Pairings: Fanfic Chase/ everyone; Canon Chase/ who knows?
Chapter One. ". . . and the Sun has perished out of heaven, and an evil mist hovers over all." Homer, The Odyssey
"There's a solar eclipse today, you know."
The tone was neutral, but Cameron could read the fretfulness beneath. Then curled her lip, because she didn't want to read his feelings, she had no interest in his feelings and was perfectly happy going through the rest of her life with no regard for his feelings whatsoever. Ever. Whatever.
"The total eclipse is up in Canada, but we'd be able to get a view of the partial eclipse. We're in the penumbra, the partially shadowed part of the Earth. It would be cool to see. If we could get outside, that is."
She drew in a breath, ready to tell him to shut up, nobody cared about the eclipse but him, and would he just stop whining about it? But then she wondered if she was being too bitchy to him, and if her bitchiness could be interpreted as interest in him or some twisted sort of affection, or if she were being just plain mean. She bit her lip, determined not to give in to the urge to yell at him and berate him for every single word that fell from his lips. Because she wasn't mad at him, not really. Not mad, not pissed off, (not sexually frustrated), not angry because he broke the rules and ruined everything, ruined their easy fun and laughter and somehow forced her into becoming the Bad Guy who broke his heart. She wasn't the bad guy, he was: he was the Liar, Liar, Pants-on-fire who went ahead and fell in love with her when it was understood that they weren't going to do that, and—
"You can't look directly at the sun during the eclipse, you know; it'd burn out your retinas in a few seconds. But there's this device that allows you—"
"Would you shut up about the damn eclipse already?"
Cameron let out her pent-up breath, glad that it was Foreman who'd finally exploded at Chase and not her. Her wave of relief passed quickly, however, when she glanced over at Chase and saw him quietly withdrawing, closing his mouth firmly as if determined to let no words escape that weren't directly related to medicine. And that twinge in her chest had nothing to do with regret, and it wasn't a surge of anger she felt towards Foreman for being such a prick, because she knew that Foreman was still suffering over his lost patient in spite of the support that both she and Chase had offered him. Unlike the way Judge Foreman had been ready to lynch Chase for his mistake last year.
No, she wasn't defensively angry on Chase's behalf. Because she didn't care about his feelings. At all.
Chase leaned toward the MRI intercom and raised his voice. "We're ready for the contrast dye injection, House."
The masked and gowned figure with the syringe glared up at them through the glass, and the familiar sarcastic tones crackled through the speaker. "Oh, no hurry, Dr. Chase. Our patient is perfectly willing to wait here for the next hour or two while you put a box over your head and gape at the sky. Don't let something as small as a major diagnostic technique interrupt your fun."
Chase flushed and switched off the intercom, carefully avoiding the glances of his colleagues. On an impulse, Cameron leaned forward and flicked the intercom back on. "Stop fooling around, House; you were the one who wanted to be on point for this test, so let's just get it over with."
"Defending your lover?" came the reply. "Oh, that's right, I forgot—you already kicked him to the curb. So this must be some of your residual bleeding-heart feelings, like the itch an amputee feels in a severed limb."
She drew in a breath, wondering if she should give the angry response he was obviously trying to provoke, but a faint pressure on her wrist distracted her. Chase quickly removed his fingers from her wrist and gave a slight shake of his head, all the while avoiding her eyes.
Don't bother. Not worth it.
Why couldn't she seem to stop reading him?
The intercom crackled again. "Since I only need two of you over there to scan the MRI, why don't you send Captain Planet in here? He can make himself a little less useless. Maybe."
Chase sighed but got to his feet immediately, flicking off the intercom switch and leaving the shielded booth. Cameron saw him reappear within moments, hastily donning a Tyvek gown. Before pulling on his gloves, he glanced at his watch and exchanged a few words with House, who responded with an irritated gesture. Cameron switched on the intercom again without bothering to glance at Foreman.
"…just a shadow, you idiot! It doesn't affect anything, let alone an MRI."
"That's not true. Solar eclipses have been shown to affect biological systems like birds nesting and migration patterns—"
"Bored now, point please," House sing-songed.
"Look, it couldn't hurt to wait ten minutes before firing up the machine, just to be safe. Mrs. Gideon is sedated, so she won't mind—"
"But I mind. I mind having to stand here and listen to your idiocy even one moment longer than absolutely necessary."
Foreman let out a snicker, and Cameron switched the intercom off quickly, not wanting to add to Chase's usual humiliation. House rotated his hand to signal his other two fellows to start up the MRI without interrupting his tirade at Chase. Foreman hit the switches, and the machine hummed, control panel lights flashing as the magnetic core lit up preparatory to the actual scan.
Chase stepped around the MRI table, giving the patient one last once-over before he and House would be forced back to the shielded booth. Cameron could tell by the slight hunching of his shoulders that he was still fending off House's barbed comments, but she was distracted by a sudden vibration beneath her fingertips.
"Did you feel that?" she asked Foreman, but he was staring at the wildly flickering lights on the control panel.
"What the—?" He tapped frantically at the keyboard with little effect. Now Cameron began noticing a rising pitch to the MRI's normal hum, and the machine started the loud banging noise of an active scan. House snapped his head up and pointed at the booth, obviously shouting at them.
"Shut it off!" she yelled at Foreman. "They're still in there unshielded—"
"I never turned it on!" He continued to hammer frantically at the keyboard.
Chase came up behind House and shoved him at the control booth, then grabbed the patient, pulling her from the table. The MRI core light flashed erratically as the banging grew louder and faster, accompanied by a rising, strident hum. The room lights also started flickering, until Cameron felt as if she were in a funhouse, catching brief glimpses of figures moving jerkily in the strobes.
House, almost to the booth, turning around to shout at Chase.
Chase on his knees, carefully lowering the patient to the farthest corner from the malfunctioning machine.
In another flash, Cameron saw House start back towards Chase.
"House!" she screamed and leapt for the door, yanking it open and catching House's arm, throwing him off-balance so that he fell backwards into the booth.
There was a shriek of electronic overload and a blinding flash, and the lights went out, plunging the room into darkness.
It was as if the world had vanished, and there was no up or down, no point of reference, just the acrid scent of ozone and the sound of loud, ragged panting in her ears. Cameron struggled to hear what was going on, but the damned panting was drowning everything out, and she wished it would just stop—
"Ouch!" complained House, the simple word anchoring her. "It's bad enough that you can't restrain yourself from manhandling me; the least you can do is stop sucking up all the oxygen in the room."
Cameron realized that it was her own panicked breathing resounding in her ears, and she made a concentrated effort to calm herself. Something bumped her from behind, and she shifted forward, allowing Foreman to move around her to the doorway of the booth.
"House, are you all right?"
"I will be, as soon as you get your damn foot off my hand. Nice to know that the architect of this little disaster cares enough to grind his victims all the way into the dust."
"You know damn well that I didn't do anything wrong." The words were usual Foreman-arrogant, but he sounded distracted. "The emergency lights should've kicked on by now. Chase, is Mrs. Gideon all right?"
Cameron felt House shift away from her and heard the clatter of his cane and his grunt of effort as he levered himself up into a standing position. "Earth to Captain Planet. Answer now, before I land your sneaky ass with forty extra hours of my clinic duty."
"Chase, if you don't speak up within the next two seconds, you can consider your British ass fired."
"Fuck!" House pushed away from the booth, his cane tapping and banging against obstacles as he tried to maneuver through the pitch-black room. Cameron found herself crawling after him, not caring about how ridiculous she looked, not caring about anything except finding where Chase was hidden in this darkness.
The room seemed to have expanded to twice its normal size, and she panicked for a moment, unaccountably afraid of becoming lost in the tomblike murk. The tapping of House's cane was her only reference point, so she followed it closely until she crawled straight into something solid but yielding. "Over here!"
"That's me, stupid," muttered House, but he was busy with something, his elbows bumping against her as his arms moved back and forth. "Pulse even, respirations slow but steady, everything seems fine—"
"Thank God!" she burst out.
"Whom you don't believe in, but no matter; I'm sure the patient appreciates your sentiment on her behalf."
"But where's Chase?"
"I'm hiding him in my back pocket, what do you think?" House snarled. "He should've been right near here, damn it!" Cameron felt her heart drop at the raw anger in House's voice. If House was worried enough to drop his sarcastic shield, then—she didn't want to think what it meant.
"Hey guys, I think—" said Foreman, just as the emergency lights came up with a low hum. He was crouched over a prone figure face-down near the wall opposite the MRI. They must have crawled right past him on their way to the far side of the room.
House moved faster than Cameron had ever seen him move before, flinging his cane aside as he pulled Chase over onto his back. He pressed two fingers to his neck, then impatiently pulled Chase's white lab coat open and pressed his ear to his chest.
"No heartbeat, no pulse," he growled as he pulled off Chase's tie and tore open the ugly yellow-striped shirt. "Call a code, Foreman, and get a crash team here stat! Cameron, grab the defib paddles and one milligram of epi. Move!" He started CPR with five double-handed presses to Chase's heart.
Cameron rushed over with the portable defibrillator and a syringe of epinephrine, concentrating on keeping each movement quick and efficient, ignoring the shrieking panic in her brain. "Charging—Clear!" she warned and pressed the paddles to Chase's chest. His body arched under the shock, then collapsed into stillness once again.
House pressed his ear to Chase's chest, and shook his head. "Again!"
And again. And again. Cameron felt as if she were in a dream or a fugue state, only dimly aware of Foreman injecting Chase, House continuing with the CPR, herself shouting 'Clear' time and again. Her focus was on Chase's pale face, his blue-tinged lips, the utter stillness of hands that were usually twitching, handling objects, spinning pencils endlessly between his long fingers…
"Shit!" House fell back, clutching at his right thigh. "Cramp, damn it! Take over, Cameron!"
Sometime during all this, more people arrived in the room, the excited, urgent voices reduced to background buzz in her mind. She was dimly aware of them wheeling away Mrs. Gideon but kept her focus on the repetitive motions: five pumps to the heart, followed by blowing a long breath of air into his lungs. Back away for Foreman's defib or injection, check Chase for a heartbeat, start over again. A hand tried to pull her shoulder away, but she shook it off impatiently, bending over to open her lips against Chase's again, feeling them cold beneath her own, remembering that short time past when they'd been so warm, trembling as he'd pressed his mouth to hers—
"Cameron, stop." It was Foreman's voice, quiet and defeated. She didn't bother to look up, only shaking her head fiercely as she waved him away.
As she bent over Chase again, she heard a strange voice, tinged with sympathy. "Dr. House, you have to call it; the time—"
"Fuck off!" The voice lashed out, the rage burning her, burning her, so hot and real and close that she thought it'd been her own cry of fury. But it was House's warm breath on her cheek as he pressed the paddles to Chase's chest yet again. "Clear!"
She pulled back, watching Chase jerk again under the shock, looking almost as if he were alive (what was she thinking, almost?) before collapsing back into stillness. The rising tones of insistent voices all around her: "…down too long…irreparable brain damage…past all hope…"
"I said, Fuck off!" House roared. "If you're not going to help, stay out of my way! In fact, why don't you get the fuck out of here?"
She heard quiet footsteps as the crash team backed out of the room, their murmurs to each other low and regretful: "…nothing we can do now…shame…with that bastard for years…"
She felt another hand on her shoulder and looked up this time. House looked terrible, his eyes wild and furious, his lips white as he grimaced in frustration. Foreman crouched beside him, his gaze hopeless beneath the beads of sweat rolling down his face. She felt her own shirt sticking to her back, and she pushed a straggling strand of hair out of her face.
House moved in and started pumping on Chase's chest again as he glared at them. "Another try. Foreman, I want another seven milligrams of epi. Cameron, double the voltage on the defibrillator."
"You're crazy!" Foreman burst out. "Even if we managed to shock his heart into a giant leap, that amount of current will fry his neural pathways! Not to mention that seven milligrams of epinephrine is toxic in itself, let alone on top of all the other doses you've given him! You're going to—"
"Kill him?" House's tone was low and dangerous. "As opposed to leaving him lying here, all rosy-cheeked and healthy? What do you suggest, Foreman—that we let Chase sleep it off?"
Foreman flushed and looked away. "I'm just saying that we have to face—"
"NO!" House and Foreman stared at Cameron, startled at the ferocity of her tone. "Get the goddamn epi now, Foreman!" She glared at House. "I've already doubled the voltage setting."
A faint smile ghosted across his face, and he nodded at her. They bent over Chase again, administering one last cycle of CPR. Cameron exhaled into his mouth with all of her strength. Breathe, damn you.
A syringe was thrust into her hand, and she injected Chase as House fired up the defibrillator.
The paddles practically buzzed with the force of the current, and Chase's body arched up violently, almost knocking House over. Chase fell back, limp, as Foreman pushed forward and pressed a stethoscope to his chest. He looked back at them, his eyes glistening with emotion.
Cameron felt her own breath stopping, her chest constricting as a wave of despair crested over her.
"No, no," Foreman choked when he saw her expression. "It's a heartbeat—you guys got his heart beating again!"
Only then did Cameron allow the tears to come.
To be continued…
Thank you for reading.