My Son, You Sleep in Clouds of Fire
Disclaimer: See part I for the more salient points, but add movies and books to the list behind television shows. Chapter title from 'Amputations' by Death Cab for Cutie. Lyrics from other Death Cab for Cutie songs. Thatcher belongs to me. *shrugs*
Summary: "I know and I couldn't do that. That'd be..."
Selfish, John could just hear Greg say and, sure enough, Dr. Cameron filled in the blank for them all.
chase_fest, Round One prompt #97: House is Chase's biological daddy, Chase has always known, House doesn't.
Notes: I gave up fanfiction for a while to see if I could do it, and I did, and now I'm having a bit of a time getting back into it. I do plan to go on with my stories, though, canon psychosis be damned. Reviews are always encouraged and deeply appreciated.
Part VII: Amputating That Too Slow
His head was a city of paper buildings in the echoes that remained of old friends and lovers, their features bleeding, together in his brain...But once it starts, it's harder to tell them apart...
It was the same as nearly always, waking up and seizing, but it was less violent somehow this time. The aura had been without the nausea of late, more like looking at the outlines in a coloring book but he wasn't worried...couldn't be. His head swam and his body moved, but there was no fear, no pain of overextended muscles when it ended. He stilled and could breathe steadily again and there was a nurse in surgical scrubs was injecting something into his drip. He was fuzzy enough as it was, but he drifted away before he could protest.
He dreamed and it was like looking through a telescope at his own thoughts. But he was warm and safe so he simply floated. There were voices swirling around him but he couldn't make them out.
House bypassed post-op altogether and took the path that led past Chase's room in the Cardiac ICU, stopping at the nurse's station to ask that he be called when Chase was taken back to his room.
"House, Chase is a cardiac patient -- you know you can't..."
"Yeah, yeah, I know that," House snapped, running a hand through his hair. "I just want to be told when he's brought back up. Humor me, here."
One of the night nurses, Thatcher, was in report for a double-shift. House supposed he was lucky or something -- the night nurses didn't hate him like the day ones did. He thinks it's the quality of the coffee.
Thatcher sighed and reached up, making a face and pretending to flick him on the nose. House ducked backward and stumbled slightly. Righting himself, he glared at her. "Can you be serious for five seconds?"
Thatcher smirked and House heard his father snort behind him. "You're one to talk. Fine, I'll call you but you're not his physician of record -- or anyone else's actually, you've emphatically refused every time if Cuddy and Wilson are to be believed -- and you're not Chase's next of kin. You'll have to stick to visiting hours and you know it. Don't make me break regs just to give you a chance to pull some stunt."
House groaned, "Fine, fine. I have a call to make anyway."
He frowned and wheeled back around, pointedly avoiding his parents' eyes as they continued up to his office.
...This is the moment that you know that you told her that you loved her but you don't...
Cameron closed her locker door with a bang and exhaled, throwing her lab coat on and beginning the trek up to the fourth floor. Chase had stood her up and she supposed she was fine with that.
Microwave pizza and all that. She was the one who'd sworn it was never going to be anything more than convenient, casual sex with someone she knew pretty well whenever they felt like it -- she could persuade Chase anytime, after all. Microwave pizza, exactly.
So why was she so angry?
And if it was just how you wanted you'd be glued to his bones and his brainstem...
John watched as Dr. Cameron stomped into House's office and stopped short to find him halfway through dialing someone's number while he and Blythe sat in the chairs in front of his desk.
"Dr. Cameron!" he crowed in a game show host's exuberant fashion. "Just the Jezebel I wanted to speak to!"
Dr. Cameron scowled and tried to ignore the burning sensation in her cheeks as John's eyes locked right on her. "Can it wait, House, I -- "
"Nope!" Greg objected airily, reaching under his desk to pull out bottled water and began to toss it from hand to hand. "I don't suppose it occurred to you to actually call back here when Chase never made it home night before last. Oh -- right, it'd interfere with your flimsy sense of self-righteousness to know he had heart surgery this morning."
Dr. Cameron felt her heart drop into her shoes as she gasped, "What? Is he alright?"
"Do you care?" Greg asked pointedly, causing Dr. Cameron to emit an affronted noise before she could stop herself.
"Of course I -- "
"Then why'd it take you so long to figure -- oh, wait, you didn't! So much for that assumption!" Greg turned his back on her and hobbled into the conference room as quickly as he could, knowing she'd follow.
Dr. Cameron resisted the urge to glance at either himself or Blythe as she strode forward to catch the door before it closed, "You're being completely unfair -- "
"So we're even, then -- great," Greg said shortly, any earlier traces of affability gone now. John could picture Greg's angry face as he stood in the kitchen as easily as he could hear his voice. "Is breaking Chase's heart while you get a warm body and an easy lay in the sack the whole plan? I didn't hire you so you could -- "
Dr. Cameron was yelling before she realized it, "You hired me because I'm pretty," she bit out, advancing on Greg until John could see he'd backed up toward the refrigerator. He had to stop himself from leaving his chair and settle for simply watching, "You specifically said you hired me for my ass, not my brain!"
"I did if that's what you got from what I said," Greg exploded then, causing Blythe to startle in her chair and grip John's hand momentarily. "If you're so insecure as to ask why I hired you, then of course I'm going to make shit up! Look back, Dr. Cameron, look inside you -- or wherever the hell you hide your personality, and you'll find why I hired you!
"You wanna know why I hired Chase? Because it astonished me that his stepfather, who should have been licking my boots trying to get his kid in my door, would actually tell me not to hire him! Naturally, I was curious! I hired Foreman because he didn't reoffend like so many other idiots! He actually learned from his mistakes and, in fact, became -- by far -- the most boring person I have ever come across! He is not a statistic and I found that -- hell, I found it awesome! I'm way more likely to commit a crime than Foreman is!"
"Gee, there's a big shocker," Dr. Cameron sniped, then, her arm flashing in the doorway as she seemingly gestured toward Greg.
"Yeah, yeah -- let's all gang up on the morally corrupt cripple -- "
"You're not morally corrupt -- or bankrupt, or any other deficit. I hate that Foreman ever said that to you because it's just not true. You're an insensitive ass who delights in making people as uncomfortable as possible but you're not a liar or even really a thief. You play pranks, you say mean things, but you never enjoy making someone cry. You hate when you lose because it means people die and you'd never even consider giving one person better or worse care than anyone else. Why do you think you're so horrible?"
Greg paused for a moment before asking calmly, "Cameron, where in the hell did that come from?"
Dr. Cameron's silhouette threw its hands up and turned away momentarily before taking a breath, "Did you actually listen to what I just said or is taking a compliment gracefully a fate worse than death?"
"I've died, Cameron -- " Greg screwed up his face before amending, "For two or so minutes."
Dr. Cameron acquiesced, though bitterly. "A-aand, I have my question answered. I give up -- you're a monster who eats babies. And kittens -- they're probably your delicacy!"
"Well, when Wilson packs my lunch, he'll sprinkle a little Mrs. Dash on my sautéed kitten -- it's the little things..."
Dr. Cameron seemed to make a face of some sort and Greg frowned, as if thinking something over and glanced downward before beginning to play with his cane. "Were you popular in high school?"
A pause. "Why? What do you care?"
The side of Greg's face crumpled again as he purposely stared at the spot of ceiling over Dr. Cameron's head. "Foreman quit -- took a month to do so, but quit nonetheless -- "
"Yeah, and dragged your name through the mud the whole time -- "
"Will you stop?" Greg burst out, gesturing at her. "I need to get this out before I chicken out or do something else equally unpleasant and I can't do it if you're going to play geek chorus!"
"You mean 'Greek'."
"Shut up, Cameron," House ordered, beginning to pace, at which John saw Blythe frown disapprovingly. "Foreman quit and took the 'sanction' out of 'sanctimonious' -- shut up, Dr. Cameron!" Greg overrode another objection to his choice of words and plowed onward before his nerve failed him and Blythe frowned even harder but John found himself more intrigued than anything else.
"I fired Chase because he's learned all he can and, probably, should from me. That's two down, but you fit in neither category and had absolutely no reason to jump the fence to either side, so -- what gives? Were you a Mean Girl?"
"What, no, of course not."
Greg sighed, "You've never seen that movie, have you?"
"No, House, I've been working too much for trivialities such as a social life -- but you knew that. Oh, and poor you. You've probably even let your subscription to Girls Gone Wild lapse."
"Girls Gone Wild isn't a magazine series, Cameron -- duh. I did reference popularity -- context clues. Honestly, you've been away from me for two whole days. I can only wonder what ten years will do."
"Besides preserve my sanity, oh nothing."
John glanced at Blythe, wondering if she, too, felt like she was witnessing a very slow-motion car wreck. He could see Greg was trying to do what most people did and care about the opinions of others, trying to gauge Dr. Cameron's opinion of him, and explain his opinion of her...but it just wasn't flying well. Greg's words had bent wings or something and kept fluttering lamely to the ground or else darted over her head before she had a chance to figure out what he was saying.
Blythe, it seemed, was torn between disapproval, compassion, and amusement and couldn't settle on any which one.
"Were you popular?" Greg finally repeated slowly and clearly, causing Dr. Cameron to sigh before answering, "Sure."
"So you saw the others fleeing for cover and decided ducking out with them was your best chance for survival. Oh."
"I did not!" Dr. Cameron protested, her tone highly affronted. "And, anyway, you tossed Chase out on his butt -- if you didn't want -- "
"Chase..." Greg burst out before visibly calming himself and starting again. "He's done here. I said that."
"Oh, like that matters! He'd stay here until he's as old as you if only you'd let him."
"I know and I couldn't do that. That'd be..."
Selfish, John could just hear Greg say and, sure enough, Dr. Cameron filled in the blank for them all.
"Selfish -- just like that mother we treated -- that one who decided that having a healthy child as opposed to a sick one, which is just so much more work, was more important even than her marriage or her life, or even the kid himself. You don't want to ruin this job for him...or me."
A pause. "Or even Foreman."
At those words, the doors flew open and Greg stomped back past them without a word.
...I don't mind restrictions or if you're blacking out the friction...It's just an escape, it's overrated anyways...
His legs, his feet seemingly carried John without his permission, somehow knowing where Greg was headed even if he had no proof. Sure enough, when John found Greg, he was leaning against the window leading to Robert's room, his forehead against the glass. John waited for Greg to speak, but he remained silent for more than a minute after John's arrival until, "She didn't call me. I guess she likes me less than I thought."
"Or maybe she's busy," John tried to object lightly. "You found your way back soon enough. Dr. Cameron did, too."
Greg snorted, rolling his eyes. "She didn't come here for me -- or even Chase. She came here because she hasn't got dick-else to do. Plus, she kind of works -- worked here."
He deflated slightly at these words and John held in a frown but said slowly, "I realize that I'm hardly the person who should be telling you to watch your language -- "
Greg snorted again, a small chuckle leaking out.
"But stop swearing. You're better than that."
Greg seemed to consider arguing otherwise, but instead simply nodded. "I'll make a deal with you."
John winced, "I can already tell I'm not going to like where this is going..."
"I'll pay twenty bucks every time I swear. You can pay five every time you do."
John shot Greg an offended glare, "And lo and behold -- now, why in the hell do you get to pay so damned much more?"
This time, Greg allowed himself a small, satisfied grin, "Because if you had to pay twenty bucks every time you swear for however long, you'd bankrupt all of your accounts very soon."
"Ha ha ha," John muttered, but conceded that Greg had a point. "How long we doin' this for?"
Greg obviously hadn't given this any thought but, after a few moments, responded, "A week. I have bills to pay."
This time it was John who snorted, "Uh, yeah -- what's this about a subscription to Girls Gone Wild?" Greg's comically irritated expression at those words almost made admitting he and Blythe had overheard his argument with Dr. Cameron worth it.
"I'm going to kill Cameron. That's not a magazine, they're videos and I don't actually have any!" Greg bit out, definitely flustered and John chuckled a little, tempted to make Greg explain himself but letting it go instead.
John then turned to fully face the window, seeing for the first time in hours, Robert's pale frame with layers of bandages sticking out from under his gown. He suddenly recalled the last time he'd seen Robert, that his hair had been longer and blond. It was closer to Greg's and Blythe's shade now. He didn't know how he'd missed it.
"Are either of you going to tell Dr. Cameron...anything?"
Greg expelled a breath, glancing downward in that bashful, uncertain way that John had always hated but wouldn't comment on again. It always looked so damned foreign on Greg's face, though.
Like it had been scraped off someone else's and Greg was just a substitute for some idiot. "Me? No. If Chase wants to say anything, it's his business, not mine."
"It is your business," John objected, leading to Greg shaking his head.
"No," he repeated sternly. "Chase is the one who's going to be affected by this, performance-wise. His affiliation with me is already routinely called into question by idiots here who we've proven wrong at whichever point -- Stockholm Syndrome or whatever crap they can come up with for why he hasn't pissed on my doorstep. Imagine if someone decided to say that nepotism paved the way for him -- that's the last thing that got him in my door, if you recall. His expertise is all his own and I didn't have anything to do with it. He worked smart and hard and never begged or even asked me for anything -- and he won't ask anyone else for jackshit, either, so don't even go there."
Greg stopped short, then, and frowned, giving his head a slight shake before reaching to pull out his wallet and removing a twenty. He started to hand it to John, who smiled despite the seriousness of their conversation and pushed it away.
"I don't want your money, son."
Greg frowned and John felt a sudden urge to laugh at how familiar it was to their little disagreements when Greg had been a toddler and hadn't wanted to eat his peas. It gratified him to know that the little boy he remembered was still in there, plain to see.
"Then what the -- what do you want?" Greg asked then, his words coming out in a bit of a rush, and John wondered how long he'd been holding the question in. "I mean, you were just as content as I was not to talk to one another after I finally vacated the premises and took my chaos elsewhere. This pattern of bearable tension and borderline loathing has lasted a good thirty years, so what the hell? Why do you suddenly care if I'm..."
John could feel his face falling, his eyes widening. He could see Greg's own eyes closing as he began to struggle to hold back how upset he really was.
...So I breed thicker skin and let my lustrous coat fill in and I'll never admit that I...
When Greg spoke again his voice shook very slightly, "What do you care if I'm really happy? You don't want to hear about my job or my life, not really. You don't want to know if I'm in pain because that would screw up your fantasy about my being...whatever the -- whatever I'm obviously not. And if I hadn't called you because I guess I thought Chase should meet at least some living -- "
Greg caught himself and glanced around, a deep frown landing on his face before looking back at John again, all the old anger back, "Some people who could manage not to abandon their families or drink themselves to death...then you wouldn't have called me and I wouldn't have called you and we'd've convinced ourselves we wanted it this way or something like that because -- hey, we're only getting in each other's way, probably, and -- "
John reached up and took firm hold of Greg's shoulders, turning him abruptly and shunting him into Robert's room, where a chair was next to the bed. John dumped Greg into the chair and forced him to face Robert's still-sedated form.
"What -- "
"We already know you and I are bullshitters, extraordinaire," John said quietly, carefully training Greg's head to face Robert. "But one thing I do know is that you're not gonna do that to 'im. Like you said, he deserves better than that. Maybe you and I aren't ever going to be comfortable, but you are already comfortable with this one. He knows you, sees who you are, and if he took care of his mother, he's for damned sure not goin' to toss you to the wayside no matter how much you think you deserve it -- which you don't, mind you -- but he understands you and you understand him. For God's sake, Gregory, let that be enough. Let yourself be liked and loved, alright?"
John's hand fell away from Greg's chin and his face whipped back to stare at John's.
"He doesn't owe me anything," he murmured and John nodded, "Of course not. That's why you have to let him. There's nothin' to be afraid of."
A disbelieving laugh issued from Greg's mouth, seemingly before he could stop it.
"I really don't think that's true."
John sighed and walked over to retrieve the other chair, bringing it to rest beside Greg. "Well, I guess you'll just have to be convinced."
He then heard a quiet shuffling sound and looked down at the bed, a small smile coming to his face, "Well, well -- look who's decided to join the land of the living!"
Greg shot John a scowl, but John ignored it.
...Part One of Two, to be continued...