"So," Sarah Chambers asked the other two doctors during lunch one day, "What was this guy like?"
Cameron and Foreman exchanged a look, then stared at her like they didn't know what she was talking about. She tried not to scowl. While they were working, both of them did a pretty good job of not treating her like a joke just because she didn't have the year or two of experience in the field they did. And she was learning--and both Foreman and Cameron were pretty good about shielding her from House's criticism while she did learn, although they did it with a certain amount of confidential 'you owe me for this' glancing when House wasn't looking.
But when they weren't working, Sarah was very aware that she was filling in a role recently vacated by someone else, and there were moments when they obviously didn't realize she wasn't yet in on the joke.
Plus there was that whole Vorlon thing. She was really hoping to dig up the dirt on that.
"The guy I replaced? Dr. Chase?" she prompted.
"Oh," Cameron said, as if the thought hadn't occurred to her. "Well, you know. He was nice."
Sarah wound noodles around her chopsticks while Cameron and Foreman shared another look. She'd heard the stories, of course. Chase had worked for House for years--come with him from Mars, when the commander had asked House to come to B5. There were a lot of Marsies on the command staff, and they tended to stick together.
And then the Vorlon thing happened. House had been demoted to a tiny department in Medlab 3, and Chase left after a kid he'd treated for terminal congestion had been killed by his parents in some kind of bizarre ritual.
She'd gotten this information from Dr. Henderson in Medlab 4, from Dr. Hobbs in Medlab 2, and from Zack Allen, the security guy she'd gone on a date with. None of it had come from Doctors House, Cameron, or Foreman.
Cameron had stopped talking, and Foreman hadn't said anything. Sarah raised her eyebrows and looked from one to the other. "I saw his ID photo when I looked him up," she said. "He managed to make that look cute, which is a minor miracle."
That got a snort out of Foreman and a chuckle from Cameron. "So c'mon," Sarah prodded. "Did you guys know him pretty well?"
Foreman shrugged, since it was his turn to offer meaningless platitudes. "Y'know, we hung out," he said. "Had a few drinks, some casual sex, but we weren't really... close."
That told her nothing except they all had their shots up to date. Time to bring out the real weapons. "So what about the Vorlon?"
Sharp looks from both of them. "What about him?" Cameron asked.
Sarah lay down her chopsticks gently. "I heard," she said, keeping the nervousness out of her voice through sheer force of will, "that you three actually looked inside Ambassador Kosh's encounter suit when you treated him."
"Hard to treat a patient without seeing him," Foreman said flatly.
"Though House tries it all the time," Cameron grumbled.
"Who told you?" Foreman asked.
"One of the techs," Sarah said vaguely. "So what did he look like?"
Cameron's mouth thinned into a line. Foreman took a deep breath, then said, "You wouldn't believe us if we told you, and if we told you the Vorlons would have us all killed."
Sarah's first instinct was to roll her eyes. "Oh, come on--"
"He doesn't need the encounter suit," Cameron said. "He just wears it because the Vorlons don't want anyone else to see what they look like. After the ambassador was better, we all got personal messages from his office that basically said to never tell anyone, or..."
"Or something left to our own imagination," Foreman filled in.
Sarah frowned at their earnest expressions. "You think they'd do that?"
"You missed the Deathwalker thing, I take it," Cameron said.
She wound up not learning much more about Dr. Chase. Or about Vorlons, for that matter. But she started to feel like she was in on the joke.
Chase stepped back onto the station with nothing but a small suitcase; traveling had a weight premium, and he had made most of his way on his own dime. He rented a small apartment in red sector and dropped his briefcase on the table, then told the computer to access the mail drop he'd set up and download any messages he'd gotten while he was away.
Coat went in the closet. The change of shirt, socks, and underwear from his suitcase went in the thermal unit. Babcom announced his messages had finished downloading by then, so he stepped over to the screen. "Play."
Cameron's face, first. "Chase?" she asked, voice quavering. "Are you okay? Do you need anything? I know you were upset, but none of us thought you were going to quit--"
"Delete," he ordered quickly, pressing his hand to his head to stave off the headache.
Foreman, next. "Hey, House told us you quit," he said. "What the hell? Are you still on station? Call me if you need to talk."
That was... unexpected, if reassuring. He still didn't move his hand away from his eyes. "Delete."
A pause, then House. "I thought you were going to send postcards, you ungrateful lackey."
"What House was trying to say," Wilson said in the next message, "Was that we haven't heard from you in a while, and it would be nice if you dropped us a line and--"
"Robert?" asked the next message. "It's your father."
The calm and serenity that Chase had felt since leaving the V--well, since starting his return trip--vanished in an instant to be replaced by a cold hand seizing all his internal organs and slowly tightening its grip. His mouth formed the syllables 'delete' but his breath didn't come.
His father's image was still talking. He dropped his hand, watched out of the corner of his eye. "There are some things I need to say to you, things we need to discuss. Call, when you get this message."
The image froze for a moment, and Chase had plenty of time to study his father--older, greyer, but still the same deep eyes and thinning hair--before the Babcom screen came up. "End of message," the computer said after a moment. "Instruction?"
Chase swallowed, tongue thick and clumsy in his mouth, and didn't say anything.
"Interesting," came a voice from behind him.
He turned around, even though he knew what he was going to see.
House--well, not House, but he looked exactly like House--was leaning against the wall of the apartment. He looked past Chase to the screen, then met Chase's eyes again. "So that's your father."
"Yeah," Chase admitted.
House smiled wryly. "You're... not close, I take it."
Chase sighed, then turned back to the com. "Delete."
"Not going to answer?" House prodded him.
"Don't care enough about his bullshit," Chase said.
House limped, still. He came around and stood next to the screen, studying the Babcom logo for a moment. "Is this going to be a problem?"
Chase shook his head. "Like I said. He can go fuck himself, for all I care."
"But you do care," House pointed out, "about some of the people on this station." He tapped the handle of his cane against the Babcom screen and raised his eyebrows, to make the point.
"Yeah, well," Chase said, "You said this station was important, right? So what if I don't want people on it getting blown up?"
House just gave him a look. "Wanna quit?"
Chase scowled. "After you guys put thousands of credits worth of work into me? Not likely."
"Fair enough." Another one of those wry smiles. "Just make sure to keep that perspective."
"I will, Ambassador," Chase murmured, as between one blink and the next the vision of House vanished. "I won't let you down."