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Title: Step Follows Step
Author: lit_luminary
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Chase
Summary: Contemplation in the aftermath: it wasn’t House’s fault.

Occlusion of the radicular artery.  Incomplete paraplegia, L5; posterior and anterior cord syndrome.  Posterior damage means impairment or loss of sensation; anterior damage complicates movement.

The anterior damage is worse.

The physiotherapist had been guardedly optimistic and painfully earnest, assuring him that with time, with effort, he’ll regain more function.  He’ll build strength.  With support, he’ll be able to walk.

He can move his legs, even though the motion’s stilted and he has to rely on his arms and upper body to stay upright.  He’ll be able to walk.

He clings to those facts; repeats them in his mind until they have weight and shape and his fingers remember rosary beads: I have some sensation.  I will regain function.  I will be able to walk.

Later—later, he’ll allow himself to consider the probable indignities of bowel and bladder and at least some sexual dysfunction.  Later, he’ll deal with the countless small adjustments that have to be made to accommodate disability (a shower chair and a grab-bar to begin with; trying to stand on wet tile would be idiocy when he can’t trust his legs), and the larger ones, like the question of whether he’ll be able to drive without learning over again with hand controls.

I have some sensation.  I will regain function.  I will be able to walk.

He tells himself he’s fortunate.  That if not for House, he’d be in a wheelchair, unable to feel or move his legs at all.     

After physiotherapy, Chase lies in bed in the ICU, every muscle from the waist up aching with the effort of holding himself upright between parallel bars.  His chest wound throbs with his heartbeat, sharp and stinging beneath a muffling dose of pain meds.

Lost sensation concerns him more than pain.

He thinks of Cofield—probing and judging as though that’d make any of this better—telling him he might never walk again because House “promotes recklessness.”  Even if that’s true—even if Chase doesn’t consider nine years with a success rate he’s never seen another doctor match, even if he didn’t agree that House’s methodology works—this wasn’t House’s fault.  House hadn’t put him in that room; House hadn’t told him to run a test with sharp instruments on a patient with a one-in-three chance of going violently insane.  The choice to play those odds had been his.

He blames himself for that.  True, he’d done similar things dozens of times (House doesn’t care whether he authorizes a test, not so long as it can’t muddle up the differential and the information from it’s useful), but he could’ve checked the patient’s mental state before going ahead with the biopsy.  Hell—he could’ve had the patient restrained before going ahead with the biopsy, and if he had, nothing worse should’ve happened to him than the annoyance of House’s hair dye prank that morning.

In other circumstances—in a world where he was doing something besides maintaining a white-knuckled grip on parallel bars and cursing uncooperative legs when House explained his reasoning—the game would’ve ended in a tie, no real harm done.  He’d have enjoyed the small coup of rigging House’s Vicodin bottle and chuckled to himself at home about House’s ways of giving a damn in code.

In these circumstances, it seems absurd that he’d ever been angry about such a stupid, easily fixable thing as orange hair.

I have some sensation.  I will regain function.  I will be able to walk.

He suppresses the urge to try flexing his toes (they’re not going to be more responsive now than they were half an hour ago; he doesn’t need to reaffirm that and resent his traitorous body all over again) and looks through the glass wall.  House is in the corridor, half-hidden by a pillar.  Supported by his cane.

Chase imagines a DDX in motion, the others following House easily while Chase labors after him on crutches, and laughs once, bitterly, as he holds this disaster beside House’s: blood clot, cell death, lost mobility.

Had God laughed at the symmetry, enjoyed the irony when House had watched him struggle to walk?

House’s gaze meets his, and Chase wonders whether he’s going to stay where he is or stalk off to brood at home or in his office.  He’s not going to come in: I’m sorry, straight out, had probably been as much effort for him as Chase had just made in physio, and Chase hadn’t even wanted the apology.

He’d have appreciated it after House had punched him that once, or after finding out House had faked brain cancer and let him grieve for nothing.  But no: House had mustered I’m sorry today, when he hadn’t been at fault.  When he’d done everything in his power to minimize the damage.

House is still standing by the pillar.  Watching.  Recognizing.

Chase considers gesturing for him to come in, to find out whether or not he would, but leaves his hands still on the blanket, on his own half-feeling lap, and watches House’s face.  He doesn’t want to talk, but he can accept I know and I understand from the only one who can mean it.

The words settle steady and solid.

END.

Note:
Those interested can read a companion piece, "While You Were Out," which covers House and Wilson's discussion of these events.

Date: 2012-02-07 01:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jerom2003.livejournal.com
I was waiting for you to write about last episode.
I just couldn't hope it will be so soon.
Thank you very much for beautiful read, as always.

Date: 2012-02-09 03:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lit-luminary.livejournal.com
Thank you; I appreciate your taking the time to comment. I've also written a piece in which House and Wilson talk about the incident, if you'd like to read that (http://lit-luminary.livejournal.com/20975.html).

Date: 2012-02-07 01:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yarroway.livejournal.com
You draw a compelling Chase. I like how you work in faith and religion and Chase's mantra.

Date: 2012-02-09 03:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lit-luminary.livejournal.com
Thank you for noticing those nods to Chase's faith: it's a conflicted faith, of course, but it's something to reach for, especially in this kind of adversity. And the mood of the piece, for me, crystalized around the mantra.

Date: 2012-02-07 07:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lz1982.livejournal.com
Had God laughed at the symmetry, enjoyed the irony when House had watched him struggle to walk?

I'm interested in this too--in the parallels between Chase and House's injuries being explored further. I hope canon doesn't drop the ball on this, and that it doesn't become like Foreman's brain damage in "Euphoria," totally forgotten after a couple weeks.

Date: 2012-02-09 03:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lit-luminary.livejournal.com
Well, having done the research, I will say that if next week's previews are any indication, canon is not treating the injury, or its course of treatment, with any medical realism, so I don't expect much. (Really, Chase should not have been so much as allowed out of bed for at least two or three days, never mind doing physiotherapy.)

Ah, well: if canon does drop the ball, I'll just have to write fic correcting the mistakes.

Date: 2012-02-07 11:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] quack3790.livejournal.com
It's been a while since I read fan fic, but I was glad to see something about Nobody's Fault. Nice little story here. Good job!

Date: 2012-02-09 03:16 am (UTC)

Date: 2012-02-08 04:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] knitty-woman.livejournal.com
I liked both of these - it's true that House does understand, and while he'll never tell Chase that directly, he knows that he indirectly was responsible and he feels as bad as he's capable of.

Date: 2012-02-09 03:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lit-luminary.livejournal.com
Culpability in this incident is debatable, but it was good to see House empathize with Chase's situation.

Date: 2012-02-08 07:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] resourceress7.livejournal.com
"...he holds this disaster beside House’s: blood clot, cell death, lost mobility.
Had God laughed at the symmetry, enjoyed the irony when House had watched him struggle to walk?"

I loved these lines. What a great parallel, down to the cellular level. Great work.

Date: 2012-02-09 03:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lit-luminary.livejournal.com
Those lines were favorites of mine, too. And while canon is likely to give Chase the world's fastest and most complete SCI recovery (up and doing physio in a day, and after cardiac surgery? Seriously?), I intend to explore this with medical realism, and from the premise that Chase doesn't blame House for it. (Again, unlike canon seems to intend...)

I'm delighted you enjoyed the fic!

Date: 2012-02-09 04:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] resourceress7.livejournal.com
"intend to explore..." -- ooh, there'll be more? Yay!

Date: 2012-02-08 11:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] maldeluxx.livejournal.com
Love the wording in this fic, and the calm in it <3 :)

Date: 2012-02-09 03:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lit-luminary.livejournal.com
Thank you so much. I was very pleased with the atmosphere I achieved here.

Date: 2012-02-12 11:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] damigella-314.livejournal.com
I maybeshouldn't comment because I haven't yet brought myself to watch 8.11, but I know the relevant parts.
Thank you for pointing out how House is always the guilty one, always the accused, even when it's not his fault, and especially for reminding everyone that House is saving lives with his methods, questionabke as they may appear.

Fantastic Chase. EIf I watch this episode in the end it will be because everyone agrees that both JS's and HL's performances are perfect.

Date: 2012-02-12 06:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lit-luminary.livejournal.com
Knowing the relevant details is sufficient. I'm deviating from canon in terms of medical realism anyway, and will be completely ignoring the "Chase blames House" insanity of next week, so no need to keep up with canon to enjoy the fics. (Whatever the writers do from here on, though, HL and JS were perfect in 8:11. Watching House watch Chase struggle to walk brought a lump to my throat.)

Chase has proven already--by not leaving with Cameron, who also preached the poisonous influence of House's "reckless environment"--that he knows there's no truth in the idea this was House's fault. He's long familiar with House's flaws, but he has faith in the man and his methodology, and is entirely aware of the fact that he (Chase) has free will and is responsible for the consequences of his own decisions. Portraying the aftermath of this incident any other way is an insult to him and House both.

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