Characters: House, Wilson, Chase, the rest thrown in for good measure
Word count: 3476
Spoilers: Post "Wilson's Heart." Chase's point of view
Summary: Once on the path of the desperate damned, a man is capable of anything. Chase considers life and death, House and Wilson, and other anomalies.
Chase knew he should do an autopsy.
His reasons were medically sound. According to his research, it was a singular death, statistically unlikely to happen again. If they were going to learn something from this, the opportunity would have to be seized right away. Chase had been a witness, and he wanted to see it through to its end. He wanted it to count for something.
Although forensics wasn’t his specialty, Chase had learned to be whatever he needed to be for whoever needed him. He’d performed most of his autopsies as an intern before he worked for House. In Diagnostics, there’d rarely been a need for a post-mortem exam for a simple reason – House’s patients rarely died. Even when they did die, an autopsy was usually unnecessary. An autopsy confirmed or negated a questionable diagnosis. House’s diagnoses were rarely questionable. Even when he was wrong, he was usually right. In House’s world, there’d never been a lot of room for ambiguity.
Today, House had been right. Amber died just like House said she would. There was nothing they could have done, even if they’d gotten the diagnosis right from the beginning.
All their heroics fading to naught...
Chase shook his head. He had to be tired if he was resorting to poetry. He studied the chart again, trying to stick the facts. The bus crash took out Amber’s kidneys, and the anti-viral, Amantadine, took out everything else. It was an ordinary diagnosis for such an extraordinary death, possibly one for the journals.
So typical. Even a year after he’d been fired, Chase’s most interesting cases came from House, which was hard not to resent. He suspected he’d never be free, even though Cameron insisted his soul was his own.
Sure. Whatever you say, love. Chase knew the truth. Once a minion, always a minion.
Maybe that was why he’d gone along, once more doing exactly what House wanted. It had been one hell of a day, chasing wildly through lost memories and buses and cold blood to try to pull a proverbial rabbit out of House’s head. Hypnosis. Amber’s protected hypothermia. Deep brain stimulation. Memories tangled with memories, lies mixed with truth.
For agreeing to electrocute House’s brain, Chase could have lost his job, if not his license. House could still could end up joining the vegetative party in the basement. Not a great thing for a resume – frying the brain of one of the most brilliant men on the planet.
And Wilson had helped him do it. That was a mystery. Why Wilson had pushed and why House had let him.
Neither had talked about their reasons for agreeing to the procedure, so Chase had to guess at what was going on. He’d always been pretty good at putting things together. Because nobody thought he was paying attention, they usually didn’t try to hide anything from him. It was the curse and gift of a very, very pretty face. So Chase put it together himself. House wouldn’t take a risk like that just for Amber. He didn’t even like Amber – nobody but Wilson really did, but then again, nobody liked House much either, except for Wilson.
What was it between them? Their friendship had never made sense, even though Chase had tried working through it since he’d started working for House. Everyone knew Wilson would give up almost anything for House. But to turn it around? House had been willing to give up his life to make Wilson happy. It was almost too much to think about.
Chase was a pragmatist. Self-sacrifice was noble and maybe even a little inspiring, but it wasn’t something that should be encouraged.
So when House asked him to perform the procedure, Chase’s first and best instinct was to say no. But then he’d taken a look at Dr. Wilson. The man was lost. Hardly on his feet, obviously in shock, Wilson was still standing in House’s long shadow. Once on the path of the desperate damned, men were capable of anything.
“Please, Chase,” Wilson said. “This is Amber.”
Chase had turned to House, head slightly tilted and frowning. “Do you really want to take this sort of a risk?”
“Not much of a risk,” House muttered, leaning heavily on his cane. Chase couldn’t remember ever seeing him look so tired. Heard the unspoken words.
What choice do I have, anyways?
There was always a choice, but considering the two, Chase couldn’t see it either. He bit his lip, deciding. This couldn’t be a good idea, but then again, this was House and Wilson. What did he expect?
It’s your life. Both of you. Who am I to tell you how to waste it?
That what Chase had wanted to say at the time, but maybe he’d only thought it.
Like everything else that day, the procedure did not go well. They’d gotten their answer, but the diagnosis made no difference in the prognosis of the patient. Amber was doomed the moment she’d shaken the pills out of the bottle and swallowed them down. In theory, the mystery was over. Even House would usually have been satisfied. Saving the patient was icing, but House preferred cake. Not this time.
Chase had been the last one in the ICU while Amber was dying. It was too painful and intimate, and the technicians and nurses all left. Chase had seen too much already, so he stayed, watching the monitors. It had stuck with him, what he witnessed when it was over. Wilson lying beside Amber, smoothing the hair away from his dead lover’s eyes.
He hoped he never had to see anything like that again.
But Chase watched until his heart clenched up into something harder and unknowable, and then finally, he could turn away. It didn’t seem like the kind of thing Wilson would ever get over, but Chase tried to shrug it off. Everyone’s got to die sometime.
Then Foreman met him outside the ICU, delivering the message that House was going to be okay.
“Dodged a bullet, didn’t you?” Foreman had asked, knowingly but not unkindly.
Foreman knew what he’d done but didn’t seem to blame him. House always got what he wanted. Almost always.
Chase thought back to Wilson, lying on the bed, his hands tangled in Amber’s hair… the look on House’s face when he knew that she was as good as dead… there were tears from House, he was crying…
Chase needed to do an autopsy. The conviction came over him all it once. This was something he could do to extract some sort of meaning out of this. Surely, someone could learn something from what had happened. It might even be important somewhere down the way.
It wasn’t like Amber was the first to die from Amantadine poisoning, but fatalities were unusual. Although it was generally well tolerated, the anti-viral had side effects. Because it was excreted in unchanged form through the kidneys, it was never prescribed to people with kidney problems. Amber hadn’t had a problem with her kidneys until they were both destroyed by a direct hit from a garbage truck.
If any one thing had gone differently, Amber would most likely have survived, damaged but alive. This proved House’s position that life basically sucked. Or that random chance had a sick sense of humor.
Or it proved that nothing happened by accident.
Because the events that led to Amber’s death were so unlikely, they almost made a case for fate. Or predestination. Chase never talked about things like this to anyone– his beliefs were nobody’s business but his own. But he had always believed that everything happened for a reason. He just had no idea what that reason was.
House would call it a symptom of an unloved childhood, but Chase tried to find significance where he could. His time in seminary had pretty much been a pursuit of providence. The more he studied theology, the less he understood, and Chase didn’t have room in his life for any more unanswered questions. Seminary was swallowing the faith that he had left. A close friend, who had just dropped out of Oxford, told him that the surest way to come to develop a hatred for reading was to get a P.H.D in Literature. Chase knew what he meant. Faith defied dissection. Chase was hungry for the whole and not the parts. Although reluctant to do anything that might please his father, he decided to switch to medicine instead.
At first, it came as a huge relief. In medicine, there was always a reason for everything. Didn’t matter if was idiopathic. Everything had a cause and an effect. Being a doctor gave him purpose, confirmation and certainty.
It was certainty that brought him to House, more than his father’s recommendation. House was one of the best diagnosticians in the country. He had the answers, even if they never did seem to match the original questions. But House was not a god. For a young man looking for one, this was disappointing. While House could find the reason behind the malady, he couldn’t give it meaning.
Chase needed more. He wanted to fix things. That was why he accepted the position in surgery, after House fired him.
House didn’t think much of Chase’s new specialty, but that was surprisingly unimportant. Chase’s childhood had pretty much immunized him from the need for approval. He’d been a bright underachieving son of a brilliant father. Anything he did well had always been a little surprising.
But of course, House took it personally. Chase started finding post-its everywhere – attached to his office door, his backpack, inside the supply closet where he used to make out with Cameron. (The janitor brought him that one) The notes goaded him for his new calling. House had never thought much of surgeons. The post-its called him a glorified butcher. A mechanic.
But power tools were cool, and House knew it. It was very hard to provoke Chase, but House was persistent and finally, Chase left a post-it of his own on House’s office door.
Who fired who, House?
House wrote back on the largest florescent pink post-it Chase had ever seen.
Whom not who. If you’re gonna live in this country, you’d better speak the language.
The post-its stopped coming. House probably got bored. Or maybe he didn’t care any more. Chase told himself it didn’t matter, but it did.
He could do this. An autopsy required approval from the closest family member. Wilson was Amber’s next of kin. She’d been estranged from her family, according to Kutner, and even though she’d only been with Wilson a few months, he was her medical proxy. Wilson could agree to an autopsy, if Chase could make a case for it. But by the time Chase made it back, Wilson was already gone.
Chase had them take Amber’s body to the morgue and autopsy room, waiting for his instructions, but Wilson couldn’t be found anywhere. A side effect of working for House meant that Chase was pretty good at tracking Wilson down. He called every number they had, tried his pager, searched offices and halls, and even checked in the morgue to see if he’d gone to be with Amber. He kept looking until he came across Cuddy standing outside House’s ICU room.
“I want to do an autopsy,” he said more bluntly than he’d intended. “I need Wilson to sign off on it.”
“Chase,” Cuddy said. “Let it go. It’s over.”
“House would agree with me,” Chase said. He actually had no idea what House would agree to.
“And that makes it a good idea?” Cuddy might have been angry, but there was a sad note to the question. She was obviously weary to the bone, exasperated with all of them, her eyes red-rimmed and heavy. It had been one hell of a day, but Chase couldn’t let it go. He wanted to do something to redeem it for all of them.
“This was a unique medical event,” he said calmly. “We have an opportunity to understand more about the systemic effects of Amantadine poisoning and about the effects of renal failure—”
“This is Amber,” Cuddy snapped. “Wilson’s Amber. Do you think anyone is interested in what her death could mean for medicine?”
“Amber would have been interested. She was a good doctor.”
Cuddy’s expression softened. “Go home, Robert. It’s been a long day. There’s nothing you can do here.”
“I disagree,” he said.
“Go home, Chase.” Cuddy was turning away.
“Is Dr. House awake?”
“His eyes are open. If he’s awake… I couldn’t say. You know more about his brain than I do.”
Ah, there was the rub. “Can I talk to him just for a minute?”
Those soft eyes hardened. “Haven’t you done enough, Chase?”
Nope, not nearly enough. But he’d learned from the best. “There’s got to be some good we take away from this. If I do the autopsy, I might learn something....”
Cuddy threw up her hands. “Who am I to stop any of you? Clearly, my power is limited to being the one who runs this hospital and authorizes your paychecks. Fine. I accept that. But you’re not talking with House.”
Turning on her heels, Cuddy practically slammed the door on him. She was formidable and more than a little scary. Supposedly, Lisa Cuddy had been a decent doctor, back in the day.
Chase sighed. It was becoming less and less likely he’d get what he wanted. He knew where he needed to go next.
The autopsy room and morgue was in the basement, distinguished by a metal door marked “Conference Room” probably from some misguided effort to be discrete. But it was what it was. The floor sloped down to a drain, and it was cold, always freezing. Chase closed the door behind him and drew his jacket around him. It was quiet, and it was calm.
Amber was lying there on a stainless steel table, patina-worn after many years of use. Seeing her was harder than he thought it would be, even though Amber really was gone. A body was just a body, but it still had a story to tell. Chase hadn’t known Amber well enough to mourn her, but he was sorry.
She hadn’t died cold and alone. Wilson had seen to that.
Chase didn’t know what he was doing. It could have been that he was in shock himself, but he didn’t think so. He was just tired. He hadn’t received authorization to do an autopsy, and it was highly unlikely it was going to happen now. Amber’s death would be labeled as a complication of Amantadine poisoning, it would be reported to the FDA, and it would become an anomaly, curious at best.
The day was catching up to him. He slumped back on a squat metal stool and rubbed his hands over his eyes. He wondered if this would ever get easier.
It wasn’t like he hadn’t known about grief until he was a doctor. He’d had plenty of practice before that. Loss was the air Chase breathed as a kid. He’d grown up with a mum who hated his father more than she loved her only son. His father left, she went down. Chase learned how to mix a mean gin and tonic. Fifteen years old, and the world literally rested on his shoulders. Too bad he’d done such a shitty job of holding it up. He’d grown up in a shuttered house, with big, beautiful rooms the color of diluted whiskey.
Poor him. Poor Amber. Poor Wilson. Poor House. Chase rolled his eyes. He was starting to wallow.
He didn’t hear the whoosh of the door as it opened, but he felt warmth, and Cameron was there beside him.
“Here you are,” she said too brightly, not looking at Amber. “Cuddy said you might be here. C’mon. Time to go out for a drink. Foreman says he’s buying.”
“I want to do an autopsy,” Chase said.
Cameron leaned against the tiled wall, apparently realizing she wasn’t getting away quickly. “Why? We know what killed her. We don’t need an autopsy to confirm that.”
“This was a singular event. A fatality caused by taking Amatadine immediately before kidney failure is unprecedented.”
“It’s unprecedented because it won’t happen again,” she said, trailing her hand up and down his shoulder. “This was a fluke, a completely random series of events. It’s not going to fit in a statistical profile. An autopsy’s not going to tell us anything we don’t already know.”
“How can we be sure without an autopsy? Because House said so? How can that be enough? House doesn’t know everything.” Seeing the startled expression on Cameron’s face, Chase immediately lowered his voice to something more respectful. “I’m sorry. I’m tired, I guess.”
“What’s this about, Chase?” she asked softly.
He shook his head. “I don’t know. I really don’t. It’s just wrong … Amber’s death shouldn’t have happened. Any variable, just the slightest change and she’d be alive right now.”
“Sometimes, that’s the way it happens. There’s no use trying to make sense of it.”
He looked up at her seriously. “I’m sorry, but I don’t believe that.”
“What are you talking about?”
He mustered up his conviction and forged ahead. “I don’t believe that everything is an accident. I don’t even think I believe in luck. I’m pretty sure that everything has a reason.”
Both were trying hard not to look at Amber, lying naked underneath a white sheet that served so well as a shroud.
“I don’t know,” Cameron said. “I wish I could believe that. But then what would be the point to something like this?”
Chase studied her. Cameron was a widow. He was an orphan. Everyone but House always forgot that about them.
“Do you ever get over it?” he asked.
Cameron didn’t have to ask what he meant. They were starting to know each other better. “No, not really. It’s kind of like a torn ligament. It doesn’t heal, so you have to build up the muscles around it to compensate for the weakness.”
Chase almost smiled. She’d worked for House too long before getting out. Cameron was soft when he’d met her. Now she was equating grief to a ligament, irrevocably torn.
She smiled back. “Are you ready to go now?”
“I saw them Tuesday morning.” Chase wasn’t sure why, but he needed to say this. “Amber and Wilson. They were holding hands in front of the elevator, and they were laughing. Really laughing, so hard he spilled his coffee kissing her. I don’t think I ever saw Wilson laugh like that before.”
“I saw them too,” she said. “After she was finished at work, he was walking her to her car.”
Chase stood and buried his face against Cameron’s neck. Breathed her in. “Wilson was happy. “I think he really loved her.”
“Maybe he did.”
“They never made sense together.”
It was Cameron’s turn to shrug him off. “Who knows? Wilson loved Amber. And House loves Wilson. How can anyone make sense of that?”
“Love’s complicated.” As soon as he said it, Chase knew it was true. He’d been there. He’d been its witness.
From the hypnosis to the frantic efforts to induce hypothermia, Chase had been there. He’d listened to House’s tragic storytelling after the deep brain stimulation and had relived Amber’s last moments with Wilson. He’d witnessed all this, and he still didn’t understand it. He wasn’t even sure what he’d seen.
Cameron tugged at him, trying to pull him towards the door. “You’re not going to do an autopsy. We’re not going to learn more from Amber, not from her death, anyways. Maybe you’re right. Maybe there’s some great plan behind all this that’ll end up bringing about good in the end.”
“Do you really think that?”
Over her shoulder, she said, “No. But you can go ahead and believe it. They say some things you just have to take by faith.”
Chase still wasn’t sure. But he’d go out with Cameron and they’d meet up with Foreman, and there would be drinks and hard laughter and maybe, just maybe, he would be able to forget about dead Amber and ruined House and Wilson, with their grief and screw-ups and love and sacrifice, as if anyone had a right to be a witness to any of it. Amber’s death might have changed nothing or it might have changed everything.
Love was a mystery. It had its own reason and meaning, even if he didn’t know what it was. It was enough for him, oddly enough. He hoped that would be enough for House and Wilson. Time would have to tell, because he wouldn’t be doing an autopsy tonight.
Chase turned off the light and followed Cameron out of the morgue.