A/N: Written pre-Season 2. Conflicts with new canon. Thanks to Sra for the beta. Approximately 2200 words.
"House should have fired you," Cameron says suddenly one night over shots of tequila.
Chase stares at her and cocks his head, trying to figure out where the hell that one came from. He replays the conversation in his mind and still can't figure it out; the thread has twisted from why Cameron liked House to begin with (she refuses to explain, saying only that House knows), to whether House is sexy (the jury's still out), which devolved into a discussion of other doctors' sex appeal (Wilson is unanimously judged hot, Cuddy is trying too hard, and they won't discuss themselves)--and now Cameron is saying House should have fired him.
Foreman, across the table, shakes his head. "Agreed, but why bring it up now?"
Cameron shrugs. "Because I'm drunk?"
"At least you have a reason for that," Chase says dryly.
Cameron glares at him. "Shut up, Robert."
Chase exchanges a look of mock concern with Foreman. "She used my first name! Is she going to manipulate us again?"
"I always am," she says sweetly--and swipes his shot.
Chase rolls his eyes and lets her have it. He glances at his watch and stands, stretching his arms over his head. Tossing a bill on the bar--probably far more than enough to cover his drinks--he raises an eyebrow at Foreman.
"You'll call her a cab?"
"Or drive her."
"I can call my own cab," Cameron insists.
They ignore her patently absurd claim, communicating silently. Foreman at last shrugs.
"I'll see you tomorrow, then," Chase says, turning to leave.
Behind him, Cameron says to Foreman, "It was just one shot. He doesn't have to be such a baby." Foreman just sighs.
Chase tests himself as he makes his way back to his car. He's only had two shots, but he knows better than most the effect even a small amount of alcohol may have. He decides he's fine to drive, but far too sober for where he's going.
Two hours later, any residual effects banished by a cup of coffee and bottled water, Chase flashes his ID to the nurse on duty at Sloan-Kettering's inpatient ward. Between that and a charming smile, she waves him toward his father's room. Someone else is already in the chair, and Chase's breath leaves in a rush--no one else should be here, not this late, and especially not anyone he knows. He's just thankful it's not House.
Wilson doesn't seem to hear him, so he lingers in the doorway, listening to Wilson's quiet murmurs and Rowan's occasional gasping, raspy responses. Rowan dozes off after a few moments, and Chase is about to leave when Wilson looks up and sees him.
"Robert." The brown eyes are utterly exhausted, worn by constantly losing patients and dealing in poor odds. "How long have you been there?"
Chase doesn't bother to lie--Wilson will probably be able to tell, even if he won't call him on it like House would. "Five minutes or so."
"You could have said something."
Chase shrugs. "He seemed to enjoy talking to you."
Wilson has the grace to flush slightly. "If I'd known you were coming tonight--"
Chase cuts him off. "Why are you here?" He's tired, suddenly, and here, Wilson is an unwanted intruder rather than a ranking doctor and his boss's best friend. "Shouldn't you be home with your wife?"
A flash of something--pain, anger, disdain--passes across Wilson's face, hidden quickly by a smooth, compassionate mask. "He asked me to come."
"Why bother? You already diagnosed him," and Chase doesn't bother to hide his bitterness.
Wilson sighs. "You know I couldn't tell you." He stands and makes to leave the room, but Chase doesn't leave the doorway.
"How long has he got?"
"You've read his chart."
"Of course. I'm asking your opinion."
"Maybe a week."
Chase sags slightly against the door frame. He's an intensivist, has known intellectually how poorly Rowan's been faring, but hearing someone say it--hearing Wilson say it--makes it hit home emotionally for the first time.
"Thank you." He doesn't know why he says it, and another flash of hurt passes across Wilson's calm visage.
"I should go."
Chase glances at his father, lying in a hospital bed in a morphine-induced sleep, surrounded by softly beeping machines. Staying would be pointless, not even comforting to himself. He won't know the difference, Chase tells himself. "I'll walk with you."
Wilson shoots him a startled glance, but shrugs. "All right."
They say little on the elevator ride down. When they reach the lobby, Chase breaks the silence. "What were you talking about?"
Wilson frowns. "Is that any of your business?"
"It's not as though anyone's going to sue you for breaching confidentiality," Chase points out.
The corner of Wilson's mouth twitches slightly. "He wanted to know how long he had."
"And you told him the truth."
"Why not? He knew what I would say."
Chase sways slightly on the walk out to the parking lot, and Wilson frowns. "Have you eaten?"
Chase rolls his eyes at the question before realizing its validity. "No."
"You're not driving until you do," Wilson informs him.
He shrugs, acquiescing, and slides into the passenger seat of Wilson's car. When he realizes it's not the expected Jaguar, or even BMW, he blinks. "An Acura? You make at least twice what I do, and you're driving an Acura?"
"Two--no, three now--alimony payments eat into that salary."
"You could still afford better."
"I like this car," Wilson says with finality, and Chase isn't interested enough to push it.
They stop in front of a diner that would give a nutritionist a heart attack from simply walking past it and slip into a booth. The other customers are truckers, dirty fat men hunched over their coffee. Their waitress, a pregnant, tired bottle brunette, looks like she's gone to heaven and Chase can read her like a book. Two classy guys, and they're both hot! After she takes their orders, Wilson rolls his eyes and Chase grins.
"We'll leave her a big tip."
Chase nods. "She could use it."
"For better hair color," Wilson mutters, and Chase laughs at how much Wilson sounds like House.
She returns with cups of coffee moments later, full of apologies that they're out of pumpkin pie. Wilson smiles at her--probably the same smile that started every eventual alimony payment--and tells her that's all right, he'll take whatever they have. Chase toys with a stir stick, trying to figure out how to ask his question.
Wilson finally reaches over and takes the bit of plastic from between his fingers. "If you were the one with a cane, you'd be dangerous with all that spinning."
"Why didn't he fire me?" The question just falls from his lips, and Chase cringes inwardly--that was far too blunt and sudden.
Wilson takes it in stride. "He likes you--not that he'll ever admit it. It was also spite."
Chase blinks; that certainly wasn't the answer he was expecting. "Spite?"
"Yes, spite. Vogler had ordered him to fire someone. Even though Vogler was gone, the ghost of the order was still there, and House has never taken orders well." Wilson gazes at him curiously. "That was months ago. Why are you asking now?"
"Cameron got drunk." If Wilson had ever been around Cameron while she was drunk, that would make sense, but of course, he hasn't.
"And she thinks up odd questions when she's drunk?"
They're silent for a long moment. The waitress arrives with Wilson's pie--it turns out to be pecan--and Chase's sandwich. Both flash winning, unconsciously flirtatious smiles, and that flusters her. When she comes back with a carafe of coffee, she avoids eye contact with either.
Chase suppresses a mirthful smirk at Wilson when she leaves again. "That wasn't fair of us."
Wilson grins. "Probably not, but I bet it made her night."
"Her night? Her week."
"The tip's going to make the last...I'd say six and a half months."
Chase's smile fades slightly. "She's what, nineteen?"
"If that." Wilson seems absorbed in his pie. It looks far too sugary for anyone to stomach, and Chase resists saying just that. Instead, he studies his sandwich skeptically before taking a cautious bite. It's surprisingly good--the bread is fresh, and the tomato actually has some flavor. Even the chicken is palatable.
"Why were you getting Allison drunk?" Wilson asks abruptly.
"Don't tell me you're interested in her." Chase is rewarded with a disturbed, almost frightened stare. "We go out sometimes."
"You two are dating?"
"Oh God, no." When Wilson snickers, Chase realizes he's been had and grins. "'We' includes Foreman. Cameron's a lightweight. I think she was on her fourth shot when I left."
"Fourth shot of what?"
"Allison drinks tequila?"
"Allison says she's not going to drink and steals my tequila," Chase corrects him.
Wilson snorts. "That's really not a shock." Chase gives him a surprised glance. "She's a child," he clarifies. "Allison can't handle being an adult."
Chase nods slowly, processing that. "Her inability to tell the Chen-Lupino parents."
"And the way she blackmailed House into the date." Wilson looks at him sharply. "You'll keep this between us."
"Of course." Chase is already thinking about Foreman's reaction to Wilson's opinion of their coworker. He finishes off the last bite of his sandwich and washes it down with a mouthful of cool coffee, grimacing at the now-apparent bitterness. The waitress appears again, offering more coffee and asking if she can get anything else. Wilson accepts the coffee and thanks her, telling her what an excellent job she's done. Chase echoes the sentiment and she blushes hard, again failing to meet their eyes. Wilson downs the refill--Chase notes absently that he drinks it black--and stands, tossing two bills on the table. Chase whistles softly, and Wilson pretends not to hear him.
"I think you've made her year," Chase says.
"Then it's worth it," Wilson says shortly, and Chase wonders at the sudden lack of camaraderie. "Are you going to be able to drive?"
Chase pauses to take a mental inventory and concludes that he probably shouldn't. "Could I get a ride?"
Wilson nods and leads the way back to the car. When they get in, he sits for a moment before latching his seat belt. "I told him he should fire you."
Chase blinks; he wasn't expecting this. "He probably should have. If even you thought he should, why didn't he?"
Wilson smiles humorlessly. "Because despite all his efforts to prove the contrary, he's a good man." He buckles his seat belt and starts the car.
Chase sighs and turns to gaze out the window. The ride is mostly silent, interrupted only by older rock music playing quietly on the radio. Wilson drives fast and carefully, checking repeatedly before changing lanes and frequently flying along at eighty miles an hour. It's not until Wilson reaches over and touches his shoulder that Chase realizes his cheeks are wet.
"Are you okay?"
Chase wipes at his eyes before looking at Wilson incredulously.
"I'm twenty-seven years old. My mother died eleven years ago, and now I'm mourning the man who killed her."
Wilson's mouth twists. "Like I said, stupid question. Where am I dropping you off?"
Chase rattles off his address without thinking. When Wilson stops in front of the townhouse, Chase wishes he'd given the address of a friend. Wilson gives him a concerned frown. "If you need to talk..."
"Thanks for the ride and dinner," Chase says curtly, climbing out of the car. Wilson peels out as he leaves, and Chase briefly regrets his rudeness. Inside, he flops on the couch, unwilling to face his bedroom just yet. He flips on the television instead, channel-surfing aimlessly. He settles on TNT reruns--the disturbingly throbbing logo attracts him tonight--and hardly listens to the so-called drama.
When a key turns in the lock, Chase starts out of his half-doze and focuses on the door. Foreman, distinctly rumpled, steps in and drops a bag by the door.
"So I'd just gotten Cameron--who gets far too affectionate after her seventh or so shot--settled at her place, found the aspirin and made her take vitamins and drink a few glasses of water, when my phone rings. I look at the display and figure it must be a wrong number, because why would House call me intentionally when we have no case? Turns out Wilson was worried about you and called House for some unknown reason, so House figured I could check up on you."
Chase groans and drops his head on the back of the couch. "I don't need a babysitter."
Foreman settles beside him, closer than is strictly appropriate. "I know, but he doesn't." He doesn't say anything more, just sits there, and Chase is grateful for his presence. Even when Chase's head drops from the couch to Foreman's shoulder and Foreman's arm somehow drapes itself around Chase's back, Foreman stays quiet and comforting. He doesn't even comment when Chase's tears soak his shirt.
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Legal Disclaimer: The authors published here make no claims on the ownership of Dr. Gregory House and the other fictional residents of Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. Like the television show House (and quite possibly Dr. Wilson's pocket protector), they are the property of Fox Television, David Shore and undoubtedly other individuals of whom I am only peripherally aware. The fan fiction authors published here receive no monetary benefit from their work and intend no copyright infringement nor slight to the actual owners. We love the characters and we love the show, otherwise we wouldn't be here.