Chase sat quietly in the near-deserted cafeteria sipping coffee out of a Styrofoam cup, mulling over the events of the day. House taken Hostage, along with 13 and a group of clinic patients. Functions all over the hospital had been disrupted, which explained the empty cafeteria.
Chase looked up as Kutner plopped onto a chair next to him.
He watched as Kutner rested his elbows on the table and tiredly rubbed his face.
"Crisis over?" Chase ventured a guess.
Kutner spread his fingers and peeped out. "What a day," he moaned, clearly exhausted.
Silently, Chase used one finger to push his cup of coffee over to the younger man.
Kutner's hands fell away from his face and he claimed the cup with a sigh, taking a long pull of liquid.
"House solve his case?"
"Yeah. Cameron got it, actually. Chronic melioidosis. Guy nearly killed 13, but Foreman's looking after her."
Chase raised an eyebrow at that. Foreman and 13? Interesting. He's have to tell Cameron.
Kutner fell silent and took another sip of coffee. It was probably getting cold by now.
Suddenly Kutner placed the cup on the table and began to talk in a low voice, looking down at his hands. "My parents owned a Mom & Pop store. When I was 6, a man robbed it and shot them both."
The cafeteria felt like a confessional, and Chase listened like a priest. When Kutner fell silent again, Chase said, "A couple of years ago, a man walked into Diagnostics in the middle of a differential and shot House."
Kutner's eyes widened.
"Shot him once in the stomach. Both Foreman and I stepped forward to help, but the gunman turned the gun on us, warning us off. House was already on the ground and the guy shot him again. This time in the neck."
"God," whispered Kutner.
"Then he just turned and walked away. Like it was nothing."
"Is that how he got the scar there?" Kutner asked, touching a spot on his own neck.
Before Chase could answer, a voice behind him said, "Is this gonna be like Jaws where Quint, Hooper, and Brody start comparing scars?"
Chase and Kutner looked up at the sound of House's voice. House's hand rested for a moment on each of their shoulders before releasing them. Then he moved to the other side of the table and sat down.
"Lethal Weapon," Kutner countered.
"Jaws did it first," House corrected.
"I see you survived," Chase commented.
"No thanks to you," House shot back, making Chase flinch.
"You had six other doctors working on it," Chase replied mildly.
"But not you," House pointed out, studying the Australian.
"There was a hospital full of people who needed help and decided not to use a gun to get it."
House gave him a probing look. "But that's not the reason you left, is it?"
Chase signed. It had been awhile since he'd been under House's lens of scrutiny.
Kutner's round eyes darted back and forth between his boss and the young surgeon, like a tennis match. "Maybe he just decided to not give in to a mad man," Kutner offered. "On principle."
"Wish I'd had that choice," House said, and Chase looked away guiltily. "Tell the truth, Chase. That's not the real reason either, is it?"
"Maybe I just don't like guns," Chase offered, and Kutner nodded agreeably.
"It's not like he shot YOU last time," House prodded.
"No. I just got to watch!" Chase snapped back, looking away, instantly regretting his outburst.
"Ah," House said, as if he had just solved something.
House's eyes flicked to Kutner than back to Chase.
"I can't promise that it will never happen again, but..." House's voice trailed off, then quietly finished. "I'll try."
Chase nodded, head bent, hair obscuring his face, but House noticed a slight easing of his shoulders.
Kutner grinned and pushed the coffee cup toward House.
House nodded in thanks and took a sip... and immediately spit it back into the cup.
"I survive a hostage crisis and you try to kill me with BAD COFFEE?" House gagged.
Kutner and Chase chuckled, and Kutner jumped up to fetch three new cups.
House and Chase watched him go.
"I'm glad you're okay," Chase said, eyes still on Kutner.
"Think I can claim Post Traumatic Stress whenever I have Clinic duty?"
Chase grinned. "Should work for about a month, at least. If you work Cuddy's guilt just right, maybe two."
Kutner set down the cups just as Wilson entered the room.
"House! The police want to take a statement. Cuddy's looking for you."
House grabbed his cup, and swung himself out of his chair. "This is worse than clinic duty. Have you seen that guy. He has less a sense of humor than Foreman," he declared.
"Is that even possible?" Kutner asked.
"Apparently. Come on, Jimmy, we've got to find a good place to hide!"
House and Wilson headed for the door. "Go home, boys," House tossed over his shoulder on his way out.
Chase and Kutner watched Wilson herd House out of the room, then silently clinked cups together, grinning.