SUMMARY: Chase gets fired and maybe it will turn out to be a good thing, in more ways than one.
A/N: Quotes from the show are indicated in italics (as are thoughts, but you'll recognize the quotes). ALSO: This story comes with a money-back guarantee - it WILL be completed.
DISCLAIMER: You know these guys aren't mine. If they were, I wouldn't be sharing them, now would I? I have a consulting job that charges by the hour, so not only am I not profiting, I'm apparently losing money writing fanfics. I'm simply trying to enhance and/or fix what the paid show writers came up with, so where's my cut of the action, David?
Not Entirely Human Error
"He WHAT?" Cuddy yelped.
House had fired him. Not just yelled or insulted him, not just sent him home or to someone else's home, not just assigned him meaningless busywork, but actually fired him. Chase hadn't seen that coming, at least not lately.
Chase stopped by Dr. Cuddy's office on his way out, to let her know why he was leaving the hospital and wouldn't be doing his clinic hours. He was really hoping she wouldn't be there and he could just leave a note or something…neutral. He wasn't ready to discuss what was happening – not until he knew what that was and how he felt about it.
She was at her desk, though, so he had to deliver the news directly. It was oddly gratifying to see that Cuddy was shocked that House had fired him. He realized now that he would have been crushed if it turned out that House had been planning this ahead of time. Cuddy tried to get Chase to sit down and discuss what was going on, but he politely declined. He wasn't sure what he could say at that point; something this big would require some private thought. He figured if he remained standing and inched his way toward the door, he could avoid a discussion.
"Did something happen with the patient? Did the two of you get into a fight? God, please tell me he didn't throw a punch at you again!"
Chase frowned. "No, nothing like that. The patient is doing fine and we're – they're – getting close to a diagnosis, I think. And House isn't likely to get anywhere near my jaw again."
Cuddy refused to believe what was going on. "Did he give you any reason for firing you?"
"Said it was time for a change."
"Chase, you know this is ridiculous, don't you? House is upset with Dr. Foreman leaving – who knows what he's actually thinking right now."
"That could be, but I'm not going to lurk around the hospital until he gathers his thoughts."
"Chase, don't any of take this personally. You're a fine doctor and House is just being a jerk, as usual. We'll get this sorted out and you back on the job as soon as possible.
"To be honest (Oops, he thought, Stacy told me not to use that phrase), I'm not sure what to do about this. If House doesn't want me here… Well, I need to sort things out." Chase was making noticeable progress toward the door now.
"Please don't make any decisions about the future without talking to me first. There are a lot of factors to consider, and not all of them involve House. In fact, why don't you just take the next few days off and relax? Dr. Wilson and I will handle House."
A ghost of a smile crossed Chase's face. "Good luck with that. House doesn't exactly 'handle' very well, does he?"
Now it was Cuddy's turn to smile. "No, but we've had years of practice, so at least we know a few buttons to push. Now that I think about it, consider the next few days off as paid sick leave…we'll take it from House's account."
That was a good time to escape, while they were both smiling. Of course, House would never miss the sick days – he never took them anyway – but it was a tiny private victory, and with House, you took 'em where you could get 'em.
Chase knew he couldn't stand to go back to his apartment right now. It wasn't exactly homey under the best of circumstances, and right now, after being fired - the thought made his skin crawl. He pulled his car into the parking lot for the walking trails in the city park. At this time of night it was deserted, which suited him just fine.
With my luck, I'll get bloody mugged, he thought wryly. Wouldn't that just make today perfect?
There was a grassy area near the picnic tables, and he came here regularly. It was a good place to think on a quiet day. Grabbing a blanket from the car trunk, he walked out into the field and spread it on the ground. He laid back, took a couple of deep breaths, and began what he suspected would be a long process of sorting out his thoughts about what had just happened with House.
He just wasn't sure how he felt about the situation, and that surprised him almost as much as the firing. A year, or even six months, ago he would have been completely gobsmacked about losing his job, but right now – not so much. It was weird, actually. He needed to think this through, to see if he could make any sense out of what was going on in his head and how his life might be changing.
In the short term, he would be fine. Chase knew something about American job contracts - he had discreetly looked into the issue during the Vogler debacle. He was currently paid on the Diagnostics Fellowship account, but he also had a yearly contract with the hospital because of his work in the ICU. PPTH couldn't just throw him out onto the street without legal cause. Unless he did something truly heinous (and they hadn't fired him after Kayla's death - he really couldn't imagine himself involved in anything worse than that), he 'officially' had a job until the fall, for what that was worth. Chase also knew that the contract could be nullified if he 'agreed' to be terminated, presumably with decent severance. He wasn't rich, but he wasn't going to starve on the street without his job anytime soon.
Chase suspected that, at the very least, Cuddy would offer him a position in the PPTH ICU. The department head there had told him multiple times that once he couldn't take House's abuse any longer, he could come work for them full-time. It wouldn't even be embarrassing, under the circumstances. House didn't exactly have congenial relations with other departments (that understated thought was worth a smile), so he knew that everyone at the hospital would simply assume the firing was just another example of House being a complete arsehole. No one could really figure out how Chase had managed to stay with House as long as he had – it was considered to be a new World's Record for Tolerating House, not likely to be surpassed (according to popular opinion).
Was that something he wanted? To stay around PPTH long-term, even if he wasn't working for House? Better to put that issue on the back burner for a while, he decided. It would keep until he heard from Cuddy. He shifted position to lie on his side, head propped on his right arm, looking idly into the dark woods beyond the field.
As for his job prospects elsewhere? In reality, he had never considered this to be a problem, even in the dark Vogler days. Intensivists were in high demand everywhere. He knew the statistics – in the United States, only one-third of ICU patients were under the care of critical care specialists, due to the lack of doctors in this field. With his credentials, Chase could go pretty much anywhere he wanted and get a better-paying job than he currently had, with regular hours, even, and limited likelihood for an abusive boss. He suspected it wouldn't take long to find a position, either.
Best of all, he smiled grimly, he wouldn't have to worry about any supposed phone calls from his father. House had held that over his head multiple times, even mentioned it to Cameron and Foreman, and at first, Chase had felt humiliated and angry about it. But after a couple of years, having worked out some of what made House tick, he now didn't believe for a moment that House would do anything as a professional courtesy to a colleague, especially a famous one. House couldn't even bring himself to make a simple freakin' speech when his own life was virtually on the line. No, either there had been no phone call, or if there had been, his father must have asked House not to hire Chase. House would certainly be capable of hiring Chase to spite Rowan, but if that was all it was, House would have sent him packing years ago – point made. If Chase had turned out to be incompetent, House could have sent him to the clinic full-time and abused him back to Australia in no time. Anyway, if Cameron and Foreman chose to believe House's little fabrication, the bloody hell with them.
Ouch. That gave him a stomach twinge. He didn't want to think about Cameron right now and he sure as hell didn't want to consider what she apparently thought of him.
God, you think I sabotaged Foreman? I don't even want him here.
Then why would I do…
I think you sabotaged Foreman just to…sabotage Foreman.
So, everyone's a suspect because everyone wants to help House, except for me. I'm a suspect because I'm a petty, vindictive jerk?
Great. He really needed that running through his head. Time to get moving and find a distraction. Preferably containing alcohol.
House sat in his office, idly throwing his favorite ball into the air and catching it. He had just fired Chase, and found it wasn't nearly as difficult as he had feared. Chase hadn't argued or made a scene – just took it in and walked away. That was one of several signs House had had just today indicating that his youngest duckling was indeed ready to leave the nest. The Chase of two years ago had gone rogue at the merest hint of job insecurity. Even more recently, he would never have yelled at House – gone passive-aggressive, probably, but he wouldn't have openly shown his anger. And offering House one-on-one advice? Totally new.
Maybe that sock in the jaw had shaken something loose in Chase's head, in a good way, House thought with a wince. That little altercation was one more thing he might have to someday, sorta, maybe, make amends for.
In a weird way, he felt almost elated that Chase was well and truly fired. It had been a spur-of-the-moment solution to a problem he had been contemplating for a while. He hadn't lied to Chase during their (mostly one-sided) conversation:
"What, because I yelled at you?"
"Because you've been here the longest; you've learned all you can or you haven't learned anything at all. Either way, it's time for a change."
He was sure that once Chase thought about it, he would recognize the back-handed compliment he had received. Both of them knew that Chase had learned a lot in his three years at PPTH. Chase also knew…
House had to stop and grin here, because only Foreman would be egotistical enough to repeat one of House's more sincere insults without considering that it might be true. Foreman had told both Cameron and Chase that House had told him he wasn't ready to move on, and didn't they agree that the insinuation was outrageous? House was confident that Chase had inwardly (and damn, maybe even outwardly, he hoped) smirked at that information. If Chase was even half as smart as House believed, he would put all this together and realize that House respected his abilities as a diagnostician.
He had expected the process of actually firing Chase to be messy, but now, since his former Fellow had taken the news relatively well, the worst part would be the continuous stream of people following him around and trying to convince him to rehire Chase.
Wasn't going to happen, though. And now their employer/employee relationship was over, leaving open a number of intriguing possibilities for their future interactions. House had a couple of scenarios about where all this might be heading, and those ideas brought a smug smile to his face, along with a rare mood of, well, it almost felt like giddiness. There could only be one possible response…
Oh, it was definitely time for a change.