Why am I posting a "Thanksgiving" story a few days before Christmas? The completely Chase & Cameron-free episode of House that aired the week of Thanksgiving, aside from annoying me greatly, also inspired me to make up a reason why they were absent. So, I present to you… What They Did on Their Thanksgiving Vacation
This is not in the Silenced universe! For those of you ready to shoot me for not updating that in a while, I'm getting back to it ASAP. I hope you'll enjoy a very different kind of story than what I usually write. This is about as close to fluff as I can get!
Disclaimer: House, M.D. is the property of David Shore, Universal, etc. No profit gained. No profit sought.
Chase and Cameron stood at the baggage carousel, waiting with about seventy-five other passengers for their luggage to make its way to them.
The flight from Newark to St. Louis had been delayed for "heavy traffic" so they had sat on the runway at Liberty for over an hour. Chase, who had the window seat, had been staring at the Empire State Building which was visible in the New York City skyline, and it reminded him that even though he had been in New Jersey nearly five years, he had never bothered with the touristy things of Manhattan. When he commented on that fact to Cameron she said that she understood because, despite living near St. Louis, she had never bothered to go inside the Arch.
Cameron looked at her watch impatiently now, something she had been doing with more frequency since they had touched down in St. Louis. Her parents were probably circling the airport in their car waiting for her and Chase to come outside.
"It's okay," Chase told her. "You told them we were running late. I guess it's to be expected. Isn't this the busiest week for air travel?"
"That's what I hear," Cameron said, finding it easy to believe. She had never seen the airports as crowded as they had been today. "You were right. We shouldn't have checked any bags," she grumbled.
"But then you wouldn't have sixteen different outfits," Chase reminded her. He had planned to bring a small bag that could be carried on the plane, but Cameron had insisted he take a larger one because she was certain she would go shopping and need some extra luggage space on the way back to Jersey. Her own bag was filled to the point that the zipper had barely closed.
She swatted his arm playfully. His patience with the situation was almost annoying. But he was used to exceptionally long flights, so even sitting on the runway for an hour had not phased him. "We've got a week off, Chase. I'm going to need clothes!"
"Not if I have anything to say about it," he deadpanned, keeping an eye on the bags that were starting to move toward them.
"Look, there they are!" Cameron pointed to two suitcases that had just come under a rubber flap above the conveyer belt. Even though both were basic black, they were easy to spy because Cameron had insisted on tying purple and white polka dotted ribbon on the handles. "Finally!"
"That was a good idea," he acknowledged, seeing the ribbons. It did make finding their luggage in a sea of look-alikes much easier. He leaned forward and grabbed one bag, quickly set it down and then grabbed the other. "Did you sneak Foreman into this thing?" he asked, pulling the heavier bag toward him.
"The weight limit is fifty pounds," she reminded him, grabbing the handle of his bag to push it along. He had insisted on handling her bag as they checked in at Newark since it was nearly as heavy as she was.
"One more shoe and this one would have been over the limit," he commented, following her toward the electronic glass doors that would lead them out of the airport. The doors slid open to let them pass and they walked into a covered area where shuttles and cabs were waiting.
Cameron already had her cell phone at her ear. "We're out!" she announced cheerfully. "You can come get us!"
"So, are they just driving around the airport?" Chase asked. He pulled his jacket more tightly to his chest. It was not nearly as cold in St. Louis as it was in New Jersey, but the wind was blowing, putting a distinct chill in the air.
"I think so. They didn't want to park because then they'd have to pay a ridiculous parking fee, even if they only sat there for three minutes."
Chase suddenly realized he was nervous. This was his first time to meet a girlfriend's parents. None of his previous relationships had made it to this stage.
Soon a champagne colored Expedition pulled up to the curb and parked. Cameron nearly squealed as a woman bearing a strong resemblance to her got out of the passenger side. She was in her late fifties and slender. Her hair was still dark and fell in waves just to her shoulders. Cameron hugged her mother tightly, then turned to her father who had come around the SUV to greet his daughter. He was a good bit taller than both women and also had a slender build with gray hair, glasses, and tanned skin.
"Allison!" Her mother exclaimed, hugging her again. "It's been too long."
Cameron pulled away, but kept her mother's hand in her own. "Mama, this is my boyfriend, Chase," she said, leading her mother to the place where Chase was waiting and watching the family reunion. She turned back and called, "Daddy, come meet Chase," but it was unnecessary since he was already following.
"Hi," Chase said. For some reason the word sounded very stupid to him. Hi, he repeated to himself. What an idiotic way to greet someone. Hi. He shook the hand that Cameron's mother offered, thinking of the etiquette lesson where he had been told that a man was never initiate a handshake with a woman. "It's nice to meet you."
"Ellen Parker," she said, firmly gripping his hand.
"David," her father said, moving in to shake Chase's hand next.
"Nice to meet you," Chase knew he was being scrutinized by the parents. Both looked him up and down, but neither scowled, at least. He changed his mind about Cameron needing clothes on this trip. There was no way he would even consider having sex in the same house with these people.
"Let me help you with these bags," David offered. He and Chase pulled them to the back of the SUV.
"I'll get them," Chase insisted, first lifting his own bag that Cameron's father had taken over pushing.
He placed it in the back of the truck at Ellen's direction.
"Son, what do you have in here?" David asked.
Much to Chase's chagrin, David had lifted Cameron's fifty pound suitcase under the impression that it was his.
"Hair products," Cameron answered quickly.
Her father's smile disappeared for a moment, but he obviously wanted to keep his friendly appearance, so it came back.
Chase looked at Cameron with his patented, Why did you say that? panicked expression and she burst into giggles.
"That one's mine, Daddy," she said. "Chase was just sweet enough to handle it because it's so heavy."
David chuckled at the laugh her daughter had gotten at the nervous young man's expense. "Then, my darling, I'll ask you, what in the world have you got in here?" He shoved the bag to its place next to the lighter one.
"Shoes," Chase and Cameron said in unison.
"That's my girl," Ellen laughed as David shut the rear door of the truck.
Cameron and Chase crawled into the backseat while her parents returned to the front. It took about an hour to get from the airport to the Parker's home in a small-town neighborhood dubbed Hidden Hills. Ellen had monopolized the conversation, which was a relief to Chase, as she informed her daughter of all the activities of an extensive cast of characters. Chase deduced that the list included Cameron's brother and sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, and her mother's friends and their children.
"So, Meggie insisted on making the turkey for tomorrow," Ellen was saying as they pulled into the driveway. "Lord knows your sister isn't a very good cook, so I'm going overboard with casseroles and Tina promised to bring some vegetables and I think your aunt Ursula said she would bring a ham. At least Megan will only ruin one dish this way," she sighed.
Chase was surprised when David parked in the driveway instead of opening the garage, but he did not question it. They unloaded the truck and the men carried the bags into the home.
Chase was immediately taken with the display home quality of the house. A plush beige carpet sprawled out before them. The walls in the living area had a swirling design with just a hint of beige within the flecks of vibrant maroon and deep green. The sofa and loveseat were deep green while two recliners matched the maroon color in the wall almost perfectly. A large screen television was embedded between a bookcase and entertainment center that was built into the wall. The shelves were lined with hardback books and photos of the Parkers' family. Several current magazines were lying in a fan shape on a glass-top coffee table that had matching end tables on either side of the sofa.
"Make yourself at home," David said to his guests, but the impeccably tidy appearance of the house contradicted the invitation.
Chase followed suit as everyone else took their shoes off and left them by the door. That explained why there was nary a smudge on the carpet.
"I made an extra casserole for our supper tonight," Ellen said to her guests. "And I might allow slicing the sweet potato pie if you twist my arm hard enough," she smiled.
"My favorite pie!" Cameron exclaimed. "I bet you've never had it," she said to Chase, seeing the confused look on his face.
"No, I haven't," he answered.
Ellen looked scandalized. "You've never had it?" she asked.
"I've never even heard of it," he admitted.
"Well, that settles it. We're having pie. Ally, want to help me in the kitchen and give your father and Chase a chance to talk?"
"Sure," Cameron said, giving Chase a sympathetic look before following her mother.
"I think the game is on," David said, encouraging Chase to follow him into the living room. David sat in the one recliner that actually looked used and Chase took one corner of the sofa.
Chase was discouraged when David did not reach for the remote control within arm's reach on the end table. It would be hard to watch the game, whatever game he meant, if they did not turn on the television. Right now he felt less secure in his interview skills than he did in his almost nonexistent knowledge of American football. Or is it baseball season? he wondered.
David leaned back in the recliner, elevating his feet, and clasp his hands together in his lap, "So, tell me about yourself."
Chase thought about it for a moment, but not too long. He did not want David to think he had something to hide. "I'm from Melbourne, studied at the Melbourne Royal Medical Centre, have a background in surgery and critical care and spent four years in the diagnostics fellowship with House which is where I met Cameron."
David frowned just a bit and Chase wondered what he had done wrong. I sounded pompous. I don't have a life outside the hospital. What else is there to talk about? At the moment he wished he had some kind of hobby he could discuss.
"You two aren't on a first name basis yet?"
Chase cocked his head to the side, confused for just a second. Then he laughed, "I guess not. Cameron fits."
"Am I correct in assuming that Chase is actually your last name, then?"
"Yes, sir." Chase nodded. He waited a moment before adding, "Oh, Robert. My first name is Robert."
"I take it you prefer to be called Chase?"
"I suppose I do," he answered, wondering exactly when it was that his given name had begun to sound foreign on his own lips.
"So, three specialties already. Bit of an overachiever?"
Chase was not sure how to respond without sounding arrogant. "I just started early," he offered, thinking it was the most humble answer.
"Oh?" David asked, obviously fishing for more detail.
"Skipped a couple of years, took AP courses, and in Oz, we can start medical school just out of secondary school if you get on the right track ahead of time."
"Ally always did go for the brainy type," David smiled, nodding like he approved.
"Really?" Chase responded, a tiny bit of glee coming through his response.
"Oh, yes. She couldn't stand the jocks at all. She wasn't really into the cool crowd, I guess."
"Lucky for me," Chase smiled.
"Come on now, a handsome fellow like yourself? I bet you had plenty of girls after you."
Chase gave half a laugh, shaking his head. "No, I was younger than the girls in my year, liked math and science, and read too much. Science fiction at that," he shuddered, imagining his fifteen year old shy self, nose stuck in a book. "I was tragically uncool," he said solemnly.
David laughed. Just as he started to say something else, Cameron called them to the dining room.
The four of them sat down at the long oval table. The two couples sat facing each other, rather than anyone using the space at the ends of the table.
Ellen had prepared a poppy seed chicken casserole for their supper. She served it with green beans and warm rolls.
"This is my favorite!" Cameron exclaimed after taking her first bite.
"It's really good," Chase commented. "We should get the recipe." He loved the enthusiastic response Cameron had to her mother's cooking. He was certain that if Ellen had served them canned chicken noodle soup Cameron would have declared that it was her favorite.
Ellen beamed, "I'll write it down for you."
"Chase was just telling me about his background," David told his wife, clearly wanting to get back to the subject of the man dating his daughter. "Surgery, critical care, and diagnostics."
"Oh, my," Ellen sounded impressed. "You'd certainly be nice to have around in a medical crisis."
Chase laughed nervously, unsure of how to respond.
"He's great under pressure," Cameron gushed.
"You are too," Chase countered.
"So, Chase, what do your parents do? Do you get back to Australia to visit them often?"
"Daddy!" Cameron managed to scold her father with the word.
Seeing Chase's expression fall, David realized he must have hit a sore spot. For a moment that felt like much longer, no one said anything.
"They're dead," Chase answered.
"I'm sorry," David said, embarrassed that he had said something so insensitive despite not knowing that it was insensitive.
"You didn't know," Chase hoped to assure him that he was not offended even if he had been caught off guard. "If I had a daughter and she had a boyfriend, I'd ask about his parents. It's the polite thing to do."
"I'm sorry. I should have told them," Cameron said, embarrassed that she had not warned her parents to not ask about Chase's family.
"It's okay," Chase kept his eyes on his plate, begging God above that they would not ask how his mother had died. Cameron still did not know anything about her beyond the fact that she had died young and he did not want to talk about it. Cameron had once broached the subject of his mother during their pre-relationship arrangement and he had struck down the topic by reminding her that she did not have pretend to be interested. At the time he knew she was curious, but did not really care. So, he kept his guard high, rather than making himself even more vulnerable when he knew he was falling for her.
"Do you have any brothers or sisters?" Ellen asked tentatively.
"No, it's just me," Chase answered, quickly losing his appetite. He took the initiative to change the subject. "Cameron told me you were both retired. What did you do before?"
"I was the Dean of the History department at Midwestern Bible University in St. Louis," David answered, glad to move on from what appeared to be a sad subject for his guest. "Ellen was a florist."
"Really?" Chase answered, intrigued. Cameron claimed to be an atheist, so he had assumed her family held similar beliefs. "Did you enjoy teaching there?"
"Very much so," David said enthusiastically. "It was a small campus and a wonderful environment."
"What was it like teaching at a religious school?" Chase asked, getting closer to his true question.
David seemed to understand where Chase was leading and, instead of answering the question presented, leapt right to, "I'm not an atheist like my daughter."
"Dad!" Cameron barked. "Should we get into the war in Iraq next?" she alluded to the rule to never discuss politics or religion among polite company.
Ignoring her, David asked, "So, what about you?"
"I want to believe."
"Then what's stopping you?"
"Went to seminary school," Chase answered.
Cameron felt her heart skip a beat. Chase had never discussed that time of his life with her. For a moment, she was glad the conversation had taken this turn.
"That weakened your faith?" David asked.
Chase nodded. "There's a lot of corruption. I didn't want to be part of it. I was very naïve. I went in thinking everyone was there to honor and serve Him." His voice was low. "They weren't."
Cameron's attention was captured. Chase's manner told her that he was revealing more than he had probably ever shared about the subject to anyone else.
"Well, that's silly," David announced, stunning his daughter. That kind of reaction would not inspire anyone to reveal their private thoughts. "You don't judge God by the fallible people and institutions of earth."
Chase considered the statement as David continued.
"If you want to believe, then believe. If the only thing stopping you is doubt, then get a new perspective."
"I do believe God exists. I'm just not sure if He's concerned with the everyday workings of you and me."
David nodded. "That's where faith comes in."
"Where do you find that?"
"Look around," David answered.
Cameron rolled her eyes, not wanting to get into a conversation she had had with her father a dozen times through the years. Where she saw science, her father saw deity. "Anyone want pie?" she interrupted, seeing that everyone had finished their meal.
"I'd love some," Ellen answered quickly, as though she sensed a storm brewing.
Cameron and her mother went into the kitchen, each carrying two dinner plates and sets of utensils which Cameron rinsed and put in the dishwasher.
"Can you please get Dad to stop talking about God?" Cameron asked her mother, irritated.
"To be fair, your boyfriend led him down that path," Ellen responded, pulling the pie from the covered dish on the counter.
"Apparently neither one of them knows that you don't discuss religion over dinner," Cameron huffed.
Ellen could not help but laugh at her daughter's irritation as she cut into the pie.
"What?" Cameron asked, arms crossed as she leaned against the sink, watching her mother scoop the pie from the dish and place the slices on the saucers.
"I never thought you'd bring home a religious boy."
"He doesn't bother me with that stuff," she explained.
"Interesting," Ellen nodded. "For it to not be something he bothers you with, it seems like a big part of what shaped him into who he is. What else don't you know about him?"
"Oh, Mama!" Cameron exhaled, more exasperated than before they had left the table. "I knew he went to seminary. I also knew he gave it up and became a doctor. So maybe he prays every once in a while. He doesn't try to drag me to church on Sunday mornings, so I can live with a little bit of theological difference."
"What's the deal with his parents?" she quizzed.
"They're… dead." Cameron answered, knowing she did not have much to add to that fact.
"How'd they die?"
"His father died from cancer about two years ago--didn't tell Chase he was dying."
"That seems," she searched for the right word. "Cruel."
"Yeah," Cameron agreed. "It really hurt him." Of course, Chase never talked about how it had hurt him; but she knew that the fallout was not the only thing that had left Chase scarred.
"What about his mom?"
"She died when he was in his last year of high school. That's all I know."
"Cancer too?" Ellen asked.
"I honestly don't know. He refuses to talk about her."
"Doesn't it bother you to be with someone who won't share so many things about his life?"
"It's just the way he is, Ma."
"Funny that he's opening up to your father."
"Why do you say that?"
"I'm just thinking. Maybe he'd be more open with you if you let him know it matters."
"It's not that I've never asked," Cameron told her. "It's just that I asked before we were together and he wouldn't talk about it then, so I haven't tried again."
"Oh," Ellen nodded.
"What's that supposed to mean," Cameron asked, offended by the tone of her mother's voice.
"You butted in," Ellen accused.
"I did not!" Cameron's protest was short-lived. "Okay, maybe I did," she admitted. She plundered through the refrigerator until she found a can of whipped cream.
"Try again," Ellen encouraged softly, placing the four slices of pie on a tray to carry them to the table.
"Sure. That'll be easy," Cameron muttered, following her mother with the cold can in her hand and letting her mind wander to more creative uses for the contents.