Author's Notes: I know it's been a while--I've relocated to LiveJournal, but after discovering the sorry state of the House/Chase 'ship over here on FFnet (which is to say, it's about as bad as it is over on LJ) I decided that it needed some multi-fandom-archive love. So I'm back, posing this story! Updates will be twice a week--Thursdays and Mondays, as always. Enjoy!
Worlds Away From Who I Was
Dammit, dammit, dammit.
His second night here in the States, and already, he'd messed up. Bloody brilliant.
Chase slammed the door of the rental car shut, turned to walk away, then realized with a suppressed howl of misery that he'd left the keys in the ignition. He whirled around and got his keys, slammed the door shut, and started walking towards the hospital.
Walk to the hospital, take two.
Well, to be accurate, he was striding. It was the closest he could come to running without making himself look like a complete idiot. He was not going to be late to his interview, he was not going to be late to his interview, he was not going to be late to his interview...
They said that Dr. House had never hired anyone before. His father had been calling for the last three weeks but Chase had refused to pick up, so for all he knew his father could have been trying to sing the praises of Gregory House. But it was more likely that his father, like his residency director and his attending and almost everyone else he'd told about this fellowship, had been trying to persuade him to stay away from the mean, grouchy Dr. House. Personally, Chase didn't see the problem. Some of his best teachers in med school had been utter jerks, but they'd known their stuff—and Dr. House was supposed to be a genius. All you needed to be able to learn from assholes was a little persistence and a thick skin.
So he'd known all this. He'd known that his chances of getting this fellowship were slim and none. He'd known that Dr. House was a bastard who actively sought out people's weaknesses so he could exploit them. He'd even known that this trip to the States was costing him nearly two grand. And what had he done last night?
He'd gone to a bar and had gotten himself drunk, and then, picked up (actually, Chase's brain quickly refuted, he'd done the picking up, as they'd gone back to his hotel room).
Chase ran his finger down the list of offices, searching for Diagnostics. Whatever the hell that was.
Before he could find it, though, the elevator doors opened and he was almost knocked over by the wave of people that poured out. He staggered slightly as people ran into him, but managed to stay standing. Gritting his teeth in irritation, he swiped hair out of his eyes and tried to find where he'd left off. Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid—
Then he saw it.
Diagnostics … 4th Floor
Chase let out a breath of relief, and stepped onto the elevator before the doors could close. He did not need another delay. Not today.
He pushed up his shirt sleeve to glance at his watch. Two minutes. He had two minutes to get up to the fourth floor and find Dr. Gregory House's office. It wasn't bad, but it would have been a lot worse if he'd taken the time to leave some cab fare for last night's entertainment. If he hadn't been panicking, Chase probably would have felt guiltier about leaving the guy five minutes after he'd woken up with only some piss-poor hotel coffee and a harried apology. He couldn't even bring himself to care about what, exactly, he would return to. For all he knew, the guy would steal everything in the place.
Oh well. He had all the important things on him right now, and this job was definitely worth a few shirts and a razor.
The elevator slowed to a stop and the doors opened. Chase had one foot off the elevator when he caught sight of the floor number above the doors and stopped.
This was only the third floor.
He exhaled slowly to reign in his frustration and stepped back, allowing two nurses into the elevator. To make things worse, he could feel the beginnings of a headache behind his eyes. Thank you, American beer. Just what he needed right now.
But then at last—hallelujah, at last—the elevator came to the fourth floor.
"Thank God," he muttered, brushing past the two nurses.
Maintenance closet. Break room. Vending machine. Some weird outer office. Dr. Gregory House's office. Dr. James Wil—
Chase backed up.
Dr. Gregory House, the door read in gray letters. Department of Diagnostic Medicine
He'd found it.
Chase looked inside and saw a man sitting at the desk, on the phone—and Dr. House did not look happy. Hopefully, he was mad because someone had put too much creamer in his coffee, or because the mechanic had called him to say that the repair was going to cost him several hundred dollars more than they'd originally anticipated, and not because his first interview wasn't in yet.
He hesitated, and then took a deep breath. He had to steel himself for anything here. About his father, his med school, his nationality, his hotel of choice... The guy was a bastard. He was going to zero in on any chink in the armor that he could find.
Chase swallowed, and then pushed the door open and stepped inside.
Dr. House looked up at his entrance, and then hung up the phone. There was a brief pause, and then an expression of restrained frustration tightened his face. "I am so sorry."
Chase stopped and blinked.
He didn't sound like the asshole that he'd heard so much about.
"You had an interview scheduled for eight o'clock?" Dr. House asked, pulling out a file folder. "Dr. Robert Chase?"
"Yes," Chase said slowly.
"Dr. House isn't in yet," the man—who was obviously not Dr. House, then—told him apologetically. "He isn't picking up his home phone—I was just about to try his cell phone. Do you mind waiting?"
"Not at all," Chase answered, almost automatically. He glanced around for somewhere to sit.
This is a dream.
He stopped, frowning.
A dream. A memory. You're reliving this for the hundredth time.
Chase took a seat in the chair across from the desk, watching as the-man-who-was-not-Dr.-House dialed a number.
That's Dr. Wilson. He was there to make sure that House was civil to his interviewees. Now, you're going to discover that—
Loud, obnoxious music blasted from his pocket.
Chase was so startled that he nearly fell out of his chair. What the hell?
That was definitely not his ringtone.
But regardless, he opened the phone up and brought it up to his ear. "Hello?"
Then he looked up and saw the man—Dr. Wilson—staring at him with a confused expression.
"Dr. Chase?" he asked, puzzled.
What had him confused quickly became apparent as Dr. Wilson's voice sounded directly in Chase's ear—from the cell phone that he was holding.
Pulling the cell phone away from his ear, Chase ended the call and brought the screen back to the main menu.
Definitely not his background.
With something akin to horror rising from the pit of his stomach, Chase slowly raised his eyes to meet Wilson's.
"Why do you have House's cell phone?" Wilson asked, raising an eyebrow.
Chase opened his mouth, but no words came out of his mouth.
He'd grabbed the wrong cell phone this morning. And that meant...
"Dr. Wilson," he said slowly. "Dr. House doesn't use a cane, does he?"
Eyebrow still raised, Wilson nodded. "Yes. I'm going to take a wild guess here and say that you've already met him?"
"Yeah," Chase said faintly. "Something like that."
Wilson opened his mouth to ask something else, when all of a sudden, House's cell phone went off.
Chase saw his own number on the screen and answered it. "Hello?"
"Hello, Dr. Chase."
Everything clicked. This was a dream. He knew this scene, he'd relived it a million times in his dreams. God knew why, it had been four years ago, but he'd had this dream before. He wasn't even working for House anymore. He was working in surgery—and more importantly, he was dating Cameron, which was why this dream didn't matter. It was just parading old news in front of him.
"Hey House," he answered, rolling his eyes. "Enjoying the room service?"
House paused. "Hey. You're not supposed to say that."
"This is a dream," Chase said matter-of-factly, ignoring the confused expression on Wilson's face. "I can say whatever I want."
"Your mother was a selfish bitch who should have died giving birth to you."
"That's not very nice."
"It's a dream. I can say whatever I want," House reminded him.
"You always say whatever you want," Chase pointed out, rolling his eyes.
"Do not," House retorted. "I never told you how undeniably sexy you look in that black shirt of yours."
"Which one?" Chase asked, trying to mentally index all of his black shirts.
"I think you know which one," House said. "The one with long sleeves that you left with the top three buttons undone just—"
"I am not having phone sex in a dream," Chase cut him off.
House exhaled. "Damn."
"One night stand, House. It was four years ago. I'm with Cameron now," Chase told him, although he was unsure of why he was reminding his subconscious of this. "Not to mention, you fired me."
"Aw, c'mon. This is just a dream." There was a pause. "Cameron will never know!"
"Good night, House," Chase sighed, and then he snapped the phone shut.
Abruptly, he realized that his beginnings-of-a-headache had condensed into a real headache. Damn. He needed some Tylenol.
He looked up at Wilson, who was valiantly trying to keep the curiosity off of his face.
"Is there something I should know?" Wilson finally asked, his tone polite.
"Dr. House and I are acquainted," Chase said lightly. "Also, I do believe I've been hired."
Then it ended.
Blearily, Chase opened his eyes.
The dark of his bedroom surrounded him. He had no headache and it had definitely been four years since his interview because he'd since got an apartment and brought the rest of his belongings over from Australia. So it had definitely been just a dream. But he hadn't lingered over that day in months, hadn't even dreamt of it since he'd been fired, so why now? When he was finally leaving House behind, his mind decided that he needed to be reminded of that little mistake. Why now, of all times?
He rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling.
"House is insane," Cameron said, by way of greeting.
Chase paused, and then swallowed his mouthful of bagel. "Good morning to you, too."
"He's split them up into teams," Cameron continued, rolling her eyes. "Guys on girls, I think, except for Cutthroat Bitch, who wanted to be with the guys. First team to cure the patient—to diagnose him, actually—doesn't get fired."
Chase frowned. "How does that make him insane? That's just House playing his little games. I'm sure he's already got the whole thing figured out already—he's reckless, but he's not stupid."
"It's dangerous," Cameron insisted. "What if they treat him for two things at once, and the treatments clash and kill him?"
"I'm sure House is watching," Chase said reasonably. "How do you know about this, anyway? I thought that we had an agreement to stay away from House."
"Cutthroat Bitch came to me, looking for help," Cameron admitted, exhaling.
Then, quite suddenly, things made a lot of sense.
Chase couldn't hold back a grin. "She conned you."
"She did not!" Cameron protested.
"She did," Chase said, biting back laughter. "She wanted a hint, and she knew exactly what to say to get you to tell her."
"She did not con me!" Cameron insisted. "I only gave her a suggestion so that the poor man doesn't end up dead in the crossfire. Even if she hadn't played the ethics card, I would—"
"Hey," Chase interrupted gently, putting a hand on her shoulder. "It's okay. So she got you—at least one of you has a little humanity left in you, right?"
Cameron looked frustrated.
"This is why you left," Chase reminded her. "So you wouldn't turn into someone like... Cutthroat Bitch, you said her name was? Does she have a real name, or was her mother just in a particularly vindictive mood after giving birth?"
A hint of a smile flitted across Cameron's face.
Then she sighed, her shoulders slumping. "I have no idea. I've been up all night and I need to sleep."
"What did you tell her?" Chase asked, curious despite himself.
"I told her to try xenodiagnosis," Cameron replied in half-hearted exasperation. "It's a long shot, though. Just because I worked with him for three years doesn't mean that he taught me anything—there's not a magic formula to it all. If there was, Foreman would have figured it out and patented it, and then bought stock."
"I don't know," Chase said thoughtfully, ignoring the jab at Foreman. He took another bite of his bagel before he continued. "I think that House taught. I highly doubt it was intentional, but I learned a lot under him."
Cameron shook her head. "Whatever. I'm going home and sleeping—I hate night shift."
"You up for something this evening?" Chase asked, trying to remember what her shift had been. He was pretty sure that it had started yesterday at noon, but he wasn't sure. Frankly, it was more than enough for him to keep track of his own wild schedule.
"No," Cameron said, giving him an apologetic smile. "I'm coming back in a four. I'm covering for Sandy until nine."
Chase didn't have the faintest clue who Sandy was, but nodded just the same. "I'm working six to six today. Maybe tomorrow?"
Cameron nodded. "Yeah. See you."
"Yeah," Chase echoed. "See you."
House was, indeed, playing a game with his twenty-something team members. It was hot news around the hospital—so much so that Chase wondered if House was getting a cut of someone's pay in order to keep perpetuating all this drama with his potential fellows. If so, Chase had to find out who it was, because he wanted to get a betting pool going for the next week's show. It was probably one of the nurses, or some receptionist, or maybe even an intern who was trying to make up all the Survivor episodes he was missing. Whoever it was, it was most certainly not a surgeon, or anyone remotely connected with the department.
Chase had quickly found that surgery was kind of like the Switzerland of a hospital. Because everyone relied on it, the department almost never had to participate in hospital politics in order to get what it needed. And even though everyone relied on it the work itself was not controversial. There were no arguments, no leaps of faith, no weighing of one impossible choice against another impossible choice. It was very cut and dry, and about as far away from Diagnostics as you could possibly get without banishing yourself to the morgue.
He rather liked it. He came in, did his part, and then passed the patient back to their doctor. Whether or not the surgery was successful was not his problem. If the patient woke up and was still sick, he didn't have to worry about figuring out what was actually wrong with him. Despite the rise in malpractice insurance, Chase found that he'd been a lot more stressed while working under House.
Well, to be more accurate, he'd been more stressed working under House when they'd had a case. The other six days of the week, he might as well have watched chicken defrost for all the—
Chase exhaled, stopping his train of thought.
He needed to stop thinking about House.
It was because of that stupid dream from last night. His mind hadn't even wandered in the direction of his former boss for weeks, and then out of nowhere, House popped into his dream. And not just any dream, but the memory of his interview, which had been one of Chase's more embarrassing mornings.
But how could he help it when half the hospital was on the edge of their seats as they waited for an update? Chase had been given a blow-by-blow account of the drama that had unfolded thus far over lunch, and was kept so up-to-date on the whole thing that when Cutthroat Bitch came to him mid-afternoon, he didn't need her to catch him up on the latest news.
Which was good, because Cutthroat Bitch had certainly come in with the assumption that he was one of those on the edge of his seat, waiting to see what would happen next.
"Do you think House could be wrong?" she asked without preamble.
"I thought he fired you?" Chase asked casually, not turning around to look at her and continuing to scrub at his hands.
"No, he fired the men," Cutthroat Bitch corrected.
Chase opened his mouth to say something rather rude, but thought better of it. Instead, he shut his mouth and turned around. Cutthroat Bitch was holding a CT scan in one hand, and he squinted at it. There was a moment of suspended silence as he studied it.
"Don't think he's wrong," Chase said at last, keeping his tone light.
But Cutthroat Bitch had a bone to pick with him, apparently, because she persisted.
"If he is, how would I prove it?" she asked, not the slightest bit discouraged by the fact that Chase had returned to washing his hands.
"Just said I don't think he is," Chase reminded her.
"Well, thinking isn't good enough," Cutthroat Bitch said, and Chase knew that she was glaring without looking at her.
"You'd have to run a blood test for anti-sentriamia antibodies," he finally allowed.
Cutthroat Bitch hesitated. "Would you mind running the labs?"
"You can't," Chase said flatly.
Cutthroat Bitch took it as a question. "Well, I can, but—"
Chase turned around and cut her off before she could even get a footing on her answer. "No, I was making a statement. You've been fired, so you no longer have lab privileges. You weren't coming here for advice, you coming here to con a favor to save your job. Sorry. I'm not working for him any more, but he can still make my life miserable."
This was also part of the agreement that he and Cameron had made. House would probably actively seek them out, but there was no need to antagonize him into doing it.
And with that said, he made to walk away.
"You have a chance to make his life miserable," Cutthroat Bitch called after him.
Chase stopped, and then turned to face her.
"I'm insulted," he said, frowning at her. "You conned Cameron by appealing to her humanity."
"I told her what she wanted to hear," Cutthroat Bitch told him off-handedly—sounding, at last, like a cutthroat bitch.
"And you told me what you thought I wanted to hear," Chase continued, and then he paused a moment to reflect on what, exactly,she thought he wanted. To get back at House? To seek out revenge for his unfair dismissal?
Not hardly. He'd just prefer to forget that the last three years had ever happened, actually.
"If it's any consolation," Cutthroat Bitch put in, "I think your motives are more interesting."
Frankly, he had no idea what his motives were, but now that the opportunity was presented to him—a little revenge wouldn't hurt.
"I cannot believe he fired you," Chase sighed at last, shaking his head slightly. "Go draw some blood. I'll meet you in the lab when I'm done here."
And then he left, wondering why the hell he'd just agreed to instigate a fight with House when he'd come back to this hospital, vowing that he wanted nothing to do with the man.
Cameron was furious.
"You said that you were going to stay far away from House!" she said incredulously. "I can't believe you!"
"So did you," Chase reminded her.
"That was different," Cameron said dismissively. "She came looking for me, and then she manipulated me into helping her. But you—"
"Were obviously manipulated, too," Chase cut in smoothly, shrugging one shoulder. "She got me, same as she got you. Next time, we'll both know to watch out."
Cameron narrowed her eyes. "She did not manipulate you."
"And why not?" Chase asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Because you wouldn't have fallen for it," Cameron said flatly. "I know you. You're as good as House when it comes to reading people, and there's no way that you would have helped her without knowing exactly why you were doing it."
"I'm glad you think so highly of me." Chase grinned wryly.
Cameron pursed her lips, obviously fighting back more of a lecture. At last, she huffed and glared at him.
"Well, I hope you're happy with yourself," she said waspishly. "House is going to hunt you down, and God knows he's not in the best of moods right now."
Chase tilted his head. "Why not?"
"He slept in his office last night," Cameron answered, grimacing.
"Ah." Chase winced. That did, indeed, not make for a very pleasant House. "Good thing I'm headed home, then."
Cameron brightened. "Actually, I came to tell you that I managed to get an hour off for dinner. Did you want to go somewhere?"
"Yeah," Chase said, more relieved that she was done being angry than that she'd managed to score an hour of free time. "Yeah, that'd be great. Meet you in the lobby in ten?"
"All right." Cameron smiled.
But it appeared that Chase had spoken to soon, because he had just made it back down to the lobby and met up with Cameron when he heard a familiar voice shout at him from behind.
"I could have you fired!"
Chase didn't have to turn around to know that House was pissed.
"You've already had me fired," he reminded House, stopping. Alongside him, Cameron stopped as well. He could just hear her thinking I told you so, I told you so, la la-la la-la la...
"Which just proves that I can," House said without missing a beat.
Chase turned around to see House furiously making his way towards them, his limp even more pronounced with his anger.
"Were the men wrong?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.
House scowled. "No. That doesn't change the fact—"
"Why are you yelling at me?" Chase asked, cutting him off.
"Because preforming tests for someone who is not a doctor in this hospital—"
"You're frustrated," Chase said, interrupting him again with such ease that House looked a little stunned. "If you want help, I'm here. If you just need to vent... Leave a message."
He turned around and walked away, feeling ridiculously pleased with himself.
Cameron followed a moment later, grinning happily. She spent the whole drive to the restaurant delightedly recounting the conversation.
They had a good time at dinner. Cameron was happy as a clam, and was still smiling when Chase dropped her back off at the hospital. He deflated a little upon getting back to his apartment, but he managed to retain most of his high spirits when he turned on the TV and discovered a not-even-halfway-over game of football. Neither team played particularly well, but that was okay. He didn't mind sitting in front of the television mindlessly for a few hours. It helped clear his mind.
It took him fifteen minutes to pick a team to root for—because Chase believed that loyalty was important, even if it was only for an hour to a bunch of people who couldn't even hear him—but sadly, the team that he'd chosen ended up being crucified by the end of the third quarter. Regardless, he watched the game until the end and then a few commercials afterward. But when the Geico gecko walked onto the screen and started carrying on in that familiar accent, Chase knew that it was time to turn in.
He was coming out of the bathroom, ready to crawl into bed, when his cell phone started ringing.
For a moment, Chase thought of his dream from last night, but he quickly pulled himself back down to reality and trudged over to the couch to find the blasted thing. The list of people who would be calling him was quite short, and chance was good that it was somebody from surgery asking him to come in tonight. Or House wanting to yell at him a bit more.
But when he answered, he was surprised to hear Cameron on the other line.
"Are you still at work?" he asked, squinting at the clock on the wall and trying to see if he'd somehow lost track of time.
"Only for another hour," Cameron said, waving his question away, clearly impatient to tell him something. "It's not important."
"What happened?" Chase asked.
Cameron took in a deep breath. "House tried to kill himself."
Chase sat down on the couch.
"He stuck a knife in an electrical socket."
Chase swallowed. "Is he okay?"
"He's alive," Cameron replied grimly. "Unconscious with a wicked burn on his hand, but he's alive. His heart stopped for a minute or so."
"Brain damage," Chase muttered, his mind racing faster than he could keep up.
"Yeah." Cameron sighed.
It was silent.
"Okay," Chase said at last. "Well, thanks for telling me. Let me know if anything happens, okay?"
"Will do." Cameron sounded faintly disappointed.
Chase hung up. He stood up, tossed the phone back onto the couch, and then went to bed without processing what had just happened. He'd think about it in the morning.