Title: Decay and Renewal
Genre: Alternative Universe/ Friendship
Summary: Change is messy, difficult, and painful, but sometimes good can come from bad and acceptance from adversity. When a bomb inflicts damage on the hospital and two members of the diagnostics department will things ever be the same?
A/N: I am just playing around with these characters, not intending any infringement. This story does not take place in any particular point in the canon House storyline, jumping around as it pleases and is therefore strictly AU. For clarification I will say that the Cameron/Chase romance never matured and is not a factor in this story. Hopefully any major divergences from the show will be explained in the story itself. Thanks for you patience.
Also sorry for the lack of editing in this chapter. I really just want to make sure that this story gets finished. I hope that the typos and bad grammar aren't too glaring or disruptive.
Water overcomes the stone;
Without substance it requires no opening;
This is the benefit of taking no action.
Yet benefit without action,
And experience without abstraction,
Are practiced by very few.
Decay and Renewal
When Foreman had returned to New Jersey without Chase, House had been merciless and in return Foreman had been defensive. Cameron was pretty sure she was going to have to kill the both of them before too long. And to top it all off Edward Vogler was closing in on his fondest wish – getting House fired. She was checking in with Cuddy regularly to make sure she was still going to move her to the ER if things got too tough. After all, it was more important than ever that Foreman keep his job.
Vogler seemed to be getting all kinds of inside information. House had started out accusing her but had quickly dismissed the notion and zeroed in on his other employee. She had to admit that at first she assumed it was Foreman too. In order to become Chase's legal guardian, Foreman needed his job and stability. The problem was it just wasn't in Foreman's character. Yeah, sure he might go to Cuddy when he thought House was going too far, but he wouldn't hide the fact. It was more likely that the information was coming from a lot of sources; namely the various nurses and lab techs whose jobs House occasionally made a living hell. All of which reminded her that she was crazy for liking Gregory House.
Damn it why was he always sneaking up on her? She oughta tie a bell on his cane. "Just checking in with Mr. Hansen."
House eased himself into a seat at the conference room table. "Or maybe just telling Vogler how I misused to the hyperbaric chamber to waste all of his money. Oh and save the patient's lying, worthless life."
"Sorry to disappoint you," Cameron jumped again as Foreman suddenly appeared behind her; he needed a bell too, "but I was just talking with our apparently 'worthless' patient and his wife and kids. She thinks you're a blessing from heaven, by the way."
"I didn't say she was worthless. No one that hot is worthless." He waited for Foreman to roll his eyes, his default response, and then continued. "Why aren't you snitching to Vogler? You need the job, don't you? Just give him a little ammo against me and I'm sure the big guy will make sure you keep it."
"I'll just rely on being a good doctor. When you screw up, I'll just let Dr. Cuddy, your boss, know. I won't need to go tattle to a financial backer." He slapped the Hansen file down on the table.
"Really?" House settled himself into a chair at the head of the conference table. "Half-brain would have sold out me, you, and the rest of the hospital if the coward thought his job was in danger."
"House! No he…"
"Yeah, yeah he would have." Foreman interrupted her protest.
House was as surprised as Cameron, but he hid it well.
"Ah, so absence hasn't made the heart grow fonder. Just made you remember what you hated about him in the first place, eh?"
"First of all, I don't hate anyone. I'll leave that to miserable bastards like you."
"But you know he would have told Vogler anything the guy wanted to know."
"To protect his job. I didn't understand it then; thought it was just typical rich white kid ass-kissing. And don't roll your eyes," Foreman directed at Cameron. "You know exactly what I'm talking about. Medical schools everywhere are full of them. Never had to do a days work in their lives. They're set; part of the club. All they have to do is figure out who's got the most power and then kiss that guys ass until one day its time for all the young rich flunkies to kiss their ass."
"Ooh, I think I saw a movie in a hotel room like that. Not my thing, but I'm glad you're comfortable sharing…"
Foreman ignored House's comment. "But that's not Chase and you knew it. Didn't you?"
"All I knew was that he was a good enough doctor and Cuddy made me hire him. Oh, and there was the matter of his famous father's phone call."
"Right. The problem with that is 'good' doctors is boring and simple. You need something to figure out. So you hire people who are a puzzle, or maybe broken in some way and man you really hit the jackpot with Chase. So yeah, he would have gone straight to Vogler because of some fear, real, imaginary, or manufactured by you. 'Cause this job means…meant everything to him. Oh, and I met Rowan Chase and there is no way he would have helped Chase get a job."
"I never said the guy asked me to give his a kid a job. No, he told me that he didn't think that Robert was ready for the responsibility of working in such an important position." House got up rubbing his thigh before reaching into his inside jacket pocket for the ever-present bottle of vicodin. "So we all agree that Chase would have been a big fat tattle-tale, but what about you Foreman?"
"Me? Well, I guess you'll just have to keep wondering. How about Cameron and I just focus on finding a new case. You go see if you can antagonize Vogler into firing you."
Even House knew it was time to drop it, for the moment anyway. He knew that Foreman wasn't telling Vogler anything. Just as he was sure that the man had used Chase as a crowbar to try and loosen the information out him. The problem was Foreman had too much pride. And he couldn't sacrifice it even for Chase and that fact was pissing the young man off. Foreman would be too easy of a target today. That would make him no fun at all.
"Looks like we might have to put that on hold. One thing I know is what lawyer looks like; I was married to one. That man is definitely a lawyer." Cameron and Foreman turned to see a pencil-necked man in a very expensive suit heading for the office. "Okay here's what we do you're House," a point at Foreman, "you're Foreman," a cane jab at Cameron, "I'll be Cameron, though I don't really have the boobs, buy I'll do my best."
Cameron opened her mouth, but was interrupted by a new voice.
"Excuse me I'm looking for Dr. Eric Foreman."
"That's me." Foreman answered before House could have a chance to say anything. He offered one hand to Pencil-Neck and the gestured to House's office with the other. "How about we step into the office?"
"Did Vogler send you? Tell him not to bother. Dr. Foreman is apparantly my bitch." House said a bit too loudly.
"Excuse me?" Pencil-Neck looked appalled at House's language and manner.
"Don't mind him, he's one of our mental cases." House just watched as Foreman led the suit into his office.
"How can I help you?"
Pencil-Neck took in his surroundings, cast one last glance at House, and then got to work. "My name is Josh Donovan and I represent Dr. Rowan Chase," Foreman actually jumped and tensed in his seat. He wasn't sure what he had been expecting from this guy, but it wasn't this. "And I am here to discuss the matter of the guardianship of Robert Chase."
"The matter? Is that all his son is to him? A legal matter?"
"I'm sure I don't know sir. I am paid to deal with legal matters and that is what I am here to do." Donovan proceeded to take a seat by the desk and removed an immense file from his attaché.
"Well, if you hadn't noticed, I don't have a lawyer with me. I don't think we should be discussing anything. You found your way here so you can find your way out!"
"Of course sir, you are right. I did advise Dr. Chase that you would want and need your attorney present, but he did want the, … excuse me, the matter handled expeditiously."
"People usually do when they're about to throw you under a bus."
"Yes, uhm, well … your attorney Mr. Marou should be receiving these papers soon if he hasn't already. I assure you that my firm would never do anything unethical, but you will of course want to confer with Mr. Marou. However if you have a moment I can give you a brief overview."
"Fine, but none of this is legally binding. Dr. Chase can try any trick he wants. The judge is going to rule in my favor."
Pencil-Neck merely smiled, "I think I ought to dispense with formalities." He smiled and Foreman couldn't help but back off a bit. The guy was just doing his job after all. "Dr. Chase is prepared to relinquish all claim to guardianship of his son Robert Chase to you on the…"
Foreman jumped out of his seat. "What? Is this some kind of joke or trick or something?"
"No, but there is a condition. You would have to sign binding agreements releasing all claim to Dr. Chase's estate on behalf of yourself and Robert Chase."
Cameron had been unable to contain herself after watching her friend jump out of his seat like he had been electrocuted. She and House came in just as Foreman yelled, "He can keep his damn money."
House looked Foreman up and down. "See, I told you he was my bitch. Vogler can't even buy him. Though, if the price is right, I'm for sale."
"Shut-up House!" Cameron and Foreman said in unison.
"My client would like to meet with you tomorrow at 3:00 at our offices. That will be 9:00 am in Melbourne, I believe. We have teleconferencing ability so your lawyer in Australia can join us. You'll find all the information about the teleconferencing in the front of the file."
"I'll be there, so will my lawyer," Foreman said glancing over the thick folder in his hands and absently shaking hands with Pencil-Neck.
Foreman wasted no time getting to the phone on House's desk and dialing the number from memory. "Come on, come on; pick up. Mary this is Eric Foreman – yes – what! I don't understand how could he – the judge – but what does that mean – uh huh – but – uh huh – No, stop. It's not your fault. Don't worry, I'll find him. Yeah I'm calling Noel right now – I know, I must have left my phone somewhere. Okay, I'll call you as soon as I know something – keep in touch – yeah, bye." He scrubbed at his face and let out a shaky breath.
"Out with it. What did the bastard do now?" House didn't bother with jokes.
"He took Chase. He went to the hospital with a writ from the judge and he just took Chase."
"Did anyone call the judge? Should we?" Cameron's voice echoed the fear that was evident on Foreman's face.
"Apparently she just left for a two-week vacation in Bali." Foreman was redialing the phone and while waiting for the party to pick-up continued to talk to Cameron, "Can you go see if my phone is in the locker room?" She scurried off, sparing a look at House. She couldn't remember seeing him look so… so… serious.
"Neil, it's Eric. Yeah, I know I forgot my cell. – I know the lawyer just left and I called Mary. – How can he do that? – Just like five minutes ago – No, but I let him know that I don't care about the money – No! He can keep his damn money – Yes maybe but I'll manage that myself if he does. – I'm sure, I'm positive! – Okay – okay – He said to meet with his client tomorrow, so…. Do you think Chase is with him? – Okay, okay. I'll see you tomorrow."
Foreman sighed and sank into the chair behind House's desk.
House leaned heavily on his cane, his thigh throbbing murderously. "You know it would have been a lot simpler for everyone concerned if Chase had just died on the operating table."
House doubted he had ever seen anyone move so fast. If there hadn't been a desk between them he'd have found himself on his ass.
The law offices of Kline, Burrows, and DeFrank were clean and stylish. There was water fountain wall in the waiting area, a beautiful, well-spoken woman at the front desk, and thick cream carpet under foot. Everything he should expect from Rowan Chase's attorneys. Foreman thought about Noel Marou's office back in Melbourne; no secretary at all, well spoken or not, books overflowing from rickety shelves, and indigenous art here and there. The beautiful well-spoken woman pulled him from his thoughts.
"Are you sure I can't get you some coffee or water or something? I think it will be a bit longer. They're having some trouble with the teleconference. Mr. Kline is a great lawyer, but they really needs to hire someone to take care of the technical stuff."
"No, I'm fine. I'm just anxious to get this going."
"I understand. Why don't I go see what is happening back there. I'll be back in just a few moments."
Foreman watched as she rounded the waterfall wall and disappeared into the bowels of the offices. He craned his neck to see and even considered following her, but thought better of it. It was just driving him crazy thinking Chase might be right there in the building. But, surely even Rowan Chase wasn't cold enough to subject his son to this. He was sure Chase wanted to be with him, but still who wants to know that there own father gave you up with only a thought to his money.
Well-spoken woman came back around the wall along with a young man in jeans and a dress shirt. He was tall, 6'4" at least, but an open face with a big smile mediated any intimidation. He extended his hand. "Hi, Jared DeFrank."
"Eric Foreman." As much as the man's manner made you want to like him instantly, Foreman reminded himself that this was Rowan Chase's lawyer not a friend.
"I'm really sorry you had to wait. They just got that new Cisco teleconferencing thing and no one really knows how to make it work. They ask me to do it, like I know anything. Oh well, we're all set up now. Mr. Marou is with us so if you follow me we can get started."
Foreman stood up, buttoned his jacket, took a deep breath and followed DeFrank. As they moved further into the office, the need to know became too much. He wasn't the kind of person who liked going into unknown situations (one reason his friends thought it was so strange he was in diagnostics). He needed to know what he was walking into. "Who is here with Dr. Chase?"
"You mean who's representing him? Mr. Kline, a senior partner here is representing Dr. Chase. Also there will be a court reporter, and some other paralegals. Oh and of course me. I was assigned as Robert's ad litem."
"So… so Ch, I mean Robert is here?" Foreman groaned inwardly at himself, 'real smooth'.
"No. I didn't think it was in his best interest to witness this. I spoke with him for quite a while yesterday, though, so I feel confident that his desires will be represented."
"I'll bet. After all you work for the law firm that works for his Dad. No bias there." Foreman had stopped walking and was looking around as if he could get an amen from somewhere. Maybe he was too used to being House's straight man.
"Oh, sorry. I should have explained. The DeFrank on the door belongs to my dad. He was a senior partner here before he passed away eleven years ago. I'm a social worker so Mr. Kline called in a favor and asked me to do this."
"Sorry, I guess I shouldn't have jumped to conclusions."
"No. It's my fault. I should have properly introduced myself. And truth be told it is a little hinky, since I've known John Kline my whole life, but I make the same promise to you that I did to Judge Mason. I am here to make sure Robert is represented and that is more important to me than anything else. I've spoken to your attorney too and he seems okay with it." They had continued walking. "You're really lucky to have Mr. Marou as your lawyer, you know. The work he has done on behalf of the Stolen Children in Australia and their parents is amazing. Here we are."
From the moment he stepped into the room, noting Neil Marou's smiling face and Rowan Chase's dour one, everything was either moving in slow motion or too fast to make sense of. Years later all he would really remember was repeatedly saying that he didn't want the elder Chase's money; wanted nothing to do with it. Thankfully Jared DeFrank turned out to be an excellent ad litem. It didn't take long for it to become apparent that he was there to look out for Chase. He reminded Rowan that there were some funds due to Chase from his disability payments from the hospital, as well as trust fund moneys that were legally the younger Chase's in full and he made sure that Foreman had made appropriate plans for Chase's rehabilitation and care in the short and long term. He also let Foreman know that he would be continuing as Chase's caseworker for the State of New Jersey. It was all falling into place.
Terms were clarified, addendums spelled out, papers signed, and then in a flurry of handshakes it was over; the whole damn thing was over.
"We are staying at the Marriot. I will make sure that Robert is ready by 7:00." Rowan wouldn't look at Foreman when he spoke to him.
Maybe it was the sadness he saw in the man's averted face or just the fact that winning made it easier to be compassionate. Whatever it was, the anger was abating. "Sir, I don't want to take your son out of your life. Feel free to call anytime or come and see him. I know that he loves you and he makes it very easy to love him back. I think it would be best…"
"Dr. Foreman, I don't think you really understand my son at all. I know you don't understand me. He had the chance to become a brilliant doctor, but that is gone now. Do you really think I can be around him now without cringing at the mental child he is? The child he will always be? Robert was never easy to love and the fact that he now has the mental and emotional maturity of a seven year old doesn't make that any easier. Maybe you like to think that he is like a permanent baby that you can care for, but I think that will wear thin fairly quickly and when it does, well, then you can judge me."
Without waiting for a response the older man spun on his heels and left the building is lawyer quick to follow. Foreman turned to DeFrank and Marou to see if they had just heard what he did.
"You can't be concerned about that my friend. He has to make his own bed and I daresay that Robert will be fine without his father in his life. He already has a hell of a brother." Neil Marou always seemed to have just the right words ready.
"I don't know if I'll ever be able to repay you Neil."
"I did very little today. Dr. Chase made it easy for us."
"That's not what I'm talking about. All of this. You've been a real friend and I've learned a lot from you. If you ever need anything don't hesitate." Foreman really meant it too. Neil Marou had taught him how to be strong and unwavering in the face of life's difficulties and to do it with gentleness and compassion two things he didn't always use.
"Just make sure you let me know how you and our young friend are doing. Come and visit us." Neil laughed his warm laugh and added, "We wouldn't want Chase to forget where he comes from." It was the first time Marou used Chase instead of Robert and the significance wasn't lost on Foreman.
"We'll see you again for sure, man."
"Goodbye my friend. Goodbye Mr. DeFrank and thank you for looking after Chase."
"You're welcome Mr. Marou. It was a honor working with you."
Foreman watched as the screen went black.