SUMMARY: It's like kindergarten dodgeball around here.
CHARACTERS: Chase, Cameron, House.
RATING: R for language and themes.
WARNINGS: Details the aftermath of events in Bad Company, a rough, violent story. Aftermath isn't always pretty; may distress some readers. Adult themes and adult language.
DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Never will.
NOTES: The pieces of this shattered story are numbered. The first number signifies the number of days that have elapsed since the original event in Bad Company; the second number signifies when the fic occurs during that day.
Chase had still been smiling, practically whistling to himself while he walked down the hall like a little boy who was going on an unexpected field trip. She, meanwhile, was not allowed to go. She thinks she will never be allowed. Nobody will even talk to her about Wilson.
The Boys' Club has shut her out. Go to work, little girl. Do your job, and don't mess with things you'll never understand. It feels like the reverberation in the air after someone has slammed a door in her face. It's the end of the day and House—who can always find reasons to leave early—is putting off going home, toying around instead with porn or whatever it is he has on his computer. She wants to talk to him and find out what exactly is so wrong, but she has already tried and the response is always the same. House evades her, often by being such an ass that she has to walk away before she says what she's thinking and maybe gets fired.
Today she isn't even sure what she's thinking. The problem is more of a feeling—a sense of wrongness that she can't pin down because no one will tell her enough to let her diagnose it.
While Wilson was in the hospital, House had spent hours hiding in Wilson's office, doing his research and spying and goofing off while sprawled in Wilson's posh leather chair. He had put up his feet on Wilson's heavy, elegant desk and—Cameron is certain of this—snooped shamelessly through every drawer and file. He had taken to eating his lunch (and often dinner) in there. She'd seen him napping on Wilson's sofa.
Now that Wilson is staying with him, House barely goes into that office at all. He looks at it every time he passes by, though. Yesterday evening, she had padded around the corner of the corridor (her feet were aching so terribly at the end of the day that she had taken off her high heels) and caught him. She was several yards behind him as he walked out of his office, wearing his iPod to shut out the world. He stopped there at Wilson's door. At first it appeared he would go in, but instead he ran his fingers over the silver letters of Wilson's name, like a blind man searching for a meaning he couldn't see.
That simple gesture had made her stop moving, even stop breathing. Cameron had thought of Ebenezer Scrooge on his knees in the snow, trying in vain to wipe his own name from the marble headstone. House had always seemed to consider guilt as a weakness to be exploited in others, while he himself was immune. Yet for just that moment, while he thought no one was watching, there it was. He can ridicule her all he likes, but there's something she knows about him now.
He does care about his friend, and not just a little bit, either. She had thought it was some sort of weird power play, the way he'd taken Wilson home, but it wasn't. All she had wanted to do this morning was help, because House was so oblivious to the damage he could cause; she hadn't deserved his derision, or Wilson's for that matter. Had she?
not cam. have mercy.
What the hell did Wilson think that she would do to him?
"He thinks you'll kill him with kindness," says Chase, over the beer she has bought him. He's being honest, so she sips her own beer and waits for him to continue, knowing that this is not likely to be pleasant. Chase studies her; she can see him weighing his options, making decisions.
"Why do you think Wilson is friends with House?" he asks, and she discovers to her shock that she has never—not once in three years—even thought about that.
"He ... I ... I don't know. I guess ... I think he admires House."
"And that's all?"
"If you have something to tell me, just tell me. You all treat me like I'm an idiot, and I'm trying to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that it's not because I'm a woman."
"Well, it sort of is," he says, and catches himself. She can almost see him trying to remove his shoe from his mouth. "It's just that you're thinking like a woman. That doesn't make you an idiot."
"But it does get me treated like one? That's ... enlightened."
"It means you're not thinking like Wilson. He's really a lot like House, and that's what you're missing. You're concerned and sympathetic. It can feel like suffocation. If Wilson wanted sweetness and sympathy he'd find a different friend."
"I can't treat Wilson the way House does."
"I'd like to see you try," scoffs Chase. "Seriously, that's not what I'm suggesting." He pauses, his finger tracing lines in the condensation on his glass. "I think you'd do all right, if you just treated Wilson the way you'd treat House."
"But House is such a—"
"Have mercy," she sighs, and Chase nods at her. The smile on his face is large, genuine, and not the least bit condescending.
"I'll buy the next round, if you'd like."
"Only if there's food to go with it." She leans with her elbows on the counter, just the way her mother taught her never to do. In this place, with the neon Corona signs reflecting off the worn varnished wood, it's only proper. She'll stay, and relax, and see if there's anything else she can learn from Chase.
House would want her to shut up and do something practical. "Make yourself useful" is practically a mantra with him.
She thinks she has figured out how to do that, at least in a small way. Thank you, Robert Chase. Checking her kitchen cabinets, she finds precisely the item she needs. That's part one.
For part two she settles at her spare little desk and goes online.