"Elijah, please come and wash your hands for me, baby?" Talia called through the apartment. Chase smirked to himself as he balanced Effie on his thighs from the sofa, cooing down at her as she finally started to smile up at him. It was something she was doing more often these days, and both Talia and Chase were obsessed with it.
"Hiiii my sweet princess Eff," he hummed down at her softly, stroking her silky blonde locks away from her forehead. Effie curled her little fingers into a fist and let out a small noise, as if she was trying her best to talk back to him. "Wowww, yeaaahh, you're so pretty, huh? You are so-"
"I AM BATMAN, I AMMMM BATMAN, YES I AMMM, YES I AMMMM, I AM BATMAAAN, I AMMM BATMAN, YES I AM!" Elijah babbled loudly as he jumped up and down, his voice getting louder as he got more excited with each word. Effie blinked at the source of the sound as Talia suddenly swept Elijah up into her arms, making him burst out into giggles and attempt to wriggle out of her grip again.
It had been a little under a year since House went down for what he did. Elijah was now 2 1/2 years old, which had been…an experience for everyone…and Effie was only a few months old. Elijah was an incredibly active little boy now, and his favourite thing to do was run everywhere with no sense of stopping - but only indoors. When outside he was incredibly well behaved - particularly in the street, as he still wasn't completely comfortable with cars or anything with bright lights and sudden loud or overwhelming sounds. Whilst Effie was a quiet little angel, mostly amused by watching her big brother run everywhere, or by observing her beloved mother cook meals and humming to herself from where she sat in her baby bouncer. Even Chase had taken up a few new hobbies here and there and was finding it so much easier to balance life, whilst Talia was living the dream by looking after her kids all day everyday, doing the one thing she'd wanted to for as long as she could remember.
She hadn't spoken to Cameron, nor had she spoken to Thirteen since the day that the big bust up happened - but she could not bring herself to care about either one of them anymore.
Her life was too good and it was all lovely - and then Foreman turned up.
"I'll get it!" Chase chuckled at the sound of the buzzer, hoisting Effie into his arms and speedily making his way to the front door before anyone else could.
"Thank you my love - Elijah! Come on you sticky sticky boy! Don't touch the walls until you've washed those hands, your fingers are practically glued together!" Talia was groaning at her giddy son, who still had syrup all over his palms from where he'd violently attacked his breakfast pancakes for no apparent reason. "Work with me here, buddy!"
"But I am Batman Mama!" Elijah giggled, still wriggling out of her grip.
"You are indeed bub - but even Batman needs to get clean sometimes, he can't go fighting crime all dirty," Talia smirked down at him as she finally pulled him into their bathroom to dampen a flannel.
"Am I good batman, Mama?" Elijah asked innocently, batting his thick lashes up at her as she finally cleaned his mouth and fingers.
"You are the best Batman in the whole entire world, baby," Talia told him with a giggle before pressing a kiss onto his little button nose. Elijah beamed up at her proudly just as there was the sound of the front door clicking shut, and more than one voice emitted from the hallway.
Talia focussed on the voices and squinted slightly as her brain tried to place it - but Elijah was more than one stop ahead of her.
"It's Uncle Foh-man!" he announced with a yawn as he pointed lazily to the source of the noise.
"Is it really? Cheers, Lij," Talia smirked, taking the flannel and wringing it out in the sink. "Let's go see him, then!" Elijah pelted head out of the bathroom first and his mother followed suit, wondering what Foreman wanted at such a random point of the day.
As suspected, he was stood in the kitchen with a curiously blinking Effie in his hands, whilst Chase made him a drink at the bar.
"Heyyyy Uncle Foh-man!" Elijah beamed brightly, tugging on his trouser legs with his little hands.
"Heyyyy lil man! How ya doin?" Foreman grinned back at him.
"Good - I am BATMAN!" Elijah announced.
"You are?" Foreman nodded slowly, taking a glance over at Talia who was already shaking her head knowingly. "Wowwww!"
"Foreman, you're dressed in a suit…" Talia suddenly blinked as she crossed her arms over her chest suspiciously.
"This? Oh, right. Just came from a…little trip," Foreman explained hesitantly.
Now he was starting to look a little shifty.
"Trip from where, exactly? Was it a conference or something?" Chase asked, passing him a glass.
"Um…" Foreman took a gulp. "Prison?" Talia and Chase shot each other a glance, both of them immediately understanding the matching look in each other's eyes.
"Lij, go and take these strawberries and sit down at your table, baby," Talia smiled down at her curiously blinking toddler, who had already noticed the tense silence grow amongst the adults surrounding him. He nodded obediently and leapt across the floor to go and eat his fruity snack, so that Chase and Talia could get down to the nitty gritty without him overhearing anything.
"Prison?" Chase was the first to hiss to Foreman first whilst Talia crossed her arms expectantly.
"I…I had to go and release House a little early," Foreman explained with a slight wince. Talia sucked her cheeks in and counted to ten, just like her therapist taught her to whenever House was mentioned - whilst Chase, who hadn't had any therapist lessons or top tips since the accident with his son, decided to let it rip.
"You…did…what?!" he growled under his breath.
"For good reason!" Foreman quickly defended himself.
"At this point the reason better be out of this world fantastic!" Chase scoffed quietly.
"I have a case and I can't…well, the hospital as we stand can't seem to crack it," Foreman admitted with a sigh. "It's crazy. Like…insane kinda crazy, and the only person that can solve insane kinda crazy is House, right?"
"Well is it any wonder?" Chase muttered under his breath. "Real recognise real."
"Could you not just have him solve it from behind the glass?" Talia pointed out slowly. "Like, on visitation?"
"No. He really needed to see it to believe it - that's the way his brain works," Foreman declined. "Considered it, though. I really did. This was really a last resort."
"So…okay, you got him out of jail…to help on a case. Is he going back in afterwards?" Chase continued to press.
"No, he'll be tagged but free for the rest of his sentence. Only place he can go is the hospital and his home. Anywhere else and they take him straight back in for violating it," Foreman told them both calmly, noticing the light slowly flicker out of Talia's eyes. "But I'm not asking you guys to come back and reform the team. I'm not asking for some big family reunion - I just thought you should know that he was being let out, in case you accidentally saw him and freaked out-"
"Cheers for that," Talia mumbled, running her fingers through her hair stressfully. She could already hear the blood rush to her ears and feel her palms begin to get all clammy. "I…um…I'm gonna go check on Effie. I'll…um…yeah. I'll leave you two to it." She gave them both an awkward grimace before slipping out of the kitchen and off into the nursery, whilst Chase and Foreman were left stood there, staring at each other in surprise.
"I genuinely can't believe you let that bloody bastard out, Foreman," Chase grumbled in solid disbelief, crossing his arms and shaking his head bitterly.
"Seriously Chase, can we not? I already made it pretty damn clear that I had no choice in the matter and I don't feel great about it!" Foreman hissed back.
"Oh Eric, you always have a choice in every decision you make! You're the most hard headed out there - when you don't wanna do something, you simply don't do it," Chase snapped irritably. "Just admit you miss the dude roaming around the hospital like the Ghost of Christmas Past and I could at least respect you a little more for being truthful!"
"I don't miss him around the hospital-"
"Liar - again!"
"The hospital misses him!" Foreman grunted. Chase's shoulders finally dropped and he fell silent. "Look - we all hated the guy as much as each other when we worked under him and I used to give Cuddy so much flack for keeping him around after each and everything he did, but now I get why she didn't wanna fire him for all that time. Without that guy…the hospital isn't as great as it looked before. Yeah, our surgeons are good and yeah, the nurses do their jobs but…we can't get the impossible cases anymore and so now, we're no different to Princeton General."
"So you released the beast to make your scoresheet look pretty?" Chase grumbled quietly, tearing his eyes away from Foreman in disgust. "Right. Cos that makes sense."
"Chase I don't expect you to understand, and I'm sorry if this looks like I went behind both your backs. I didn't intend for it to be malicious or sneaky - again, that's why I came to you both first," Foreman told him earnestly. "Would you…would you tell Talia I'm sorry once I go? I feel like we only just got to a good place and I don't want to be the reason why we're not again."
Chase ran his tongue over his teeth and nodded.
"I will. Cheers, Foreman," he mumbled.
"No worries," Foreman sighed tiredly. "I'll see myself out, dude." He shot Chase another apologetic grimace and began to slip out of the apartment, giving Elijah a little wave as he passed him, and surprisingly saw him wave back.
"Daddy?" Elijah blinked over at the sighing Chase once the front door clicked shut again. He looked over at him as he poured himself a glass of cold orange juice.
"She's…gone to lie down," Chase explained as casually as possible. "I'm gonna go see her now to make sure she's feeling okay. Don't worry, everything's absolutely fine." Elijah nodded and snuggled deeper into the sofa with his fruit to continue watching his art show, giving Chase the chance to go and find his extremely stressed wife before things started to get bad again.
She wasn't actually in the bedroom, she was in the kids' room, watching Effie sleep with a small smile playing at her lips. She could hear Chase enter and he could tell, because her head nudged up slightly once he stepped through the doorframe. "We have the most beautiful kids in the world," she murmured to him under her breath, cocking her head to the side in amazement as she watched her sleep.
"Very true," Chase agreed as he snuck his arms around her waist and leaned on her shoulder blade to stare down at Effie too. "How you feeling, hun?" he murmured as he pressed light kisses onto her skin.
"Sick," Talia answered honestly. "Very sick. Unsettled, even. I've…I've tried so hard, Robert. So f*cking hard to not freak out over this guy because I knew he'd come out eventually, but I'm freaking out right now. As soon as I found out he was out again, my heart literally sunk - and that's a feeling I haven't missed at all."
"I know, baby. I know," Chase sighed. "But you're gonna be okay either way. You know that, right?"
"Should hope so. I don't even feel anything towards House anymore," Talia admitted with flushed cheeks. "If anything, it was once disgust. Annoyance. Borderline rage…now it's nothing. Just feel emptiness. Now that I've sat to think about it properly, I can officially confirm, it's nothing."
"Interesting. Is…is that a good or bad thing?" Chase questioned her curiously.
"Guess we'll have to wait and find out," Talia mumbled, making Chase smirk slightly and kiss the nape of her neck again.
"Well, it's not like we haven't found out in wilder ways before," he considered with a shrug.
"Exactly," Talia nodded, nibbling on her bottom lip. "It's a brand new inevitable cycle now that he's back on the picture, and we have no choice but to go alongside it."