Fandom: House MD
Copyright “This Is How It Goes” by Aimee Mann.
Summary: Three years of working with House is enough to drive anyone insane, in love with him or not.
Author’s Notes: 1. For johanirae for drawing the most lovely picture for me and also: Happy Birthday honey! (not entirely sure of the time difference etc, so it's going on now, a bit early) I was given the prompt(ish) “House, Chase and a slice of cake”. This ends with cake. And isn’t too angsty.
2. My attempt at combining a linear narrative with snapshot fiction. Let me know if it works. Spoilers right the way through seasons 1 and 2 and I made up my own season 3.
3. Well, I fucking love it. I don’t know about you guys. Feedback would be really, really appreciated. And yes, I know my writing style changes halfway through. Blame exhaustion.
This is how it goes
Jake says that he is about four days off quitting, which Robert takes to be the only reason he’s sitting in the Diagnostics Department of Princeton/Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, drinking cold coffee. Jake says that House is a madman and an anarchist, a bitter twist to his voice, drumming his fingernails on the [glass] table, sighs, and gets up to make another jug of coffee.
“It’s not up to me to put you off working here,” he says, his tone darkly significant. Robert sips at his drink and decides that a) he doesn’t like Jake very much and b) he’s screwed, but nothing new there then, move on.
Jake is Dr Jake West, dark-haired, mildly attractive, accent slightly twisted with what Robert thinks is Texan but he wouldn’t bet anything on it. In different circumstances Robert might be thinking about flirting with him. Under these circumstances, he doesn’t let it cross his mind for a moment.
Instead, he leans back in his chair and lets it wash over him, vaguely wondering where the hell Dr House is and if he’ll ever meet him, but also reckoning that he probably won’t.
Jake drinks strong coffee and eats cookies and tells Robert in excessive detail about all the things that make House officially batshit crazy, the things he does (goes on and on about some chick called “Esther” who died and House still doesn’t know why and he’ll never let it go), the things he says, and Robert tunes him out a little and instead focuses on the fact Jake has pretty eyelashes and the angle that the light shines off the glass walls of the hospital.
Later on that day, he meets Dr Wilson, Dr House’s self-proclaimed only friend, another attractive doctor with eyes he could probably drown in, if he took it into his head to try. Anyway, Wilson is terribly apologetic about House’s non-existence, but there’s a resigned twist to his tone that tells Robert he’d better stock up on ways to amuse himself, because House is obviously MIA a lot.
In fact, it takes two days for Robert to track House down, during which time he amuses himself by reading self help books on Being More Assertive At Work, left over by the last fellow-but-one, who, according to Jake, was called Angela and lasted all of a fortnight. Finally, House stumps in, chucks a folder on the table, makes his way over to a whiteboard next to the window, uncaps a black marker and writes a stream of symptoms onto it.
He turns around, and without so much of a greeting or an acknowledgement that Robert has appeared in the room this week, says:
“So. Differential diagnosis, people.”
You’ll get angry at yourself
A week after Chase (he has learnt that that is his name now; Chase, not Robert, never Robert) arrives at Princeton/Plainsboro, Jake hands in his resignation, informs House he’s an asshole (“I know. Tell me something I don’t”), and leaves Chase completely alone with a man he barely knows. It’s not so much of a problem. Chase is passive and calm and destroys the Being More Assertive At Work books with a big industrial shredder and drinks lots and lots of caffeine and starts chewing pens as the only sign he’s developing a nervous tick of some sort.
House spends a lot of time watching him. Chase is afraid to ask why.
Jake calls him and they meet at a bar and for three weeks they have great sex and they never, never speak a word to each other, not even to acknowledge the fact that they’re over.
[House finds out. Chase doesn’t ask how. It’s too unsettling a thought.]
Anyway, Chase doesn’t get so much as tumble into the swing of things. Sometimes they treat people. A lot of the time they don’t. House makes comments about his hair and spends many, many hours holed up with Dr Wilson playing card games and eating stuff. Chase spends many, many hours either in the clinic or filling in crossword puzzles in the newspaper.
The first patient they lose cracks everything apart and puts it back together slightly differently. It takes the autopsy for House to figure out what went wrong and he’s so angry and Chase can’t do anything about it. House yells at him and then locks himself in his office with the blinds pulled. There’s shouting and crashing and then nothing.
After three hours of absolute silence Chase goes and gets Wilson to give him the spare key he’s got and lets himself in.
There are Vicodin pills scattered over the desk and floor and the plastic bottle they live in is cracked. House is silent and rigid and staring at the medication and he doesn’t look up when Chase walks in, hesitant, but not too hesitant.
“It wasn’t my fault,” Chase says softly, “And it wasn’t yours either.”
“I don’t need validation from you,” House replies without looking up. They both study the pills for a moment, and then Chase begins the careful business of tidying up, gathering the Vicodin up and binning it, and going and getting House more from the pharmacy. House doesn’t thank him and doesn’t look at him.
But things change and heal a little and after that House starts to acknowledge him.
And think you can think of something else
“I’m thinking of hiring a new fellow,” House tells him a few months later, “A girl one. Then I’ll have one of each.”
Chase doesn’t look up from his crossword. 22 across is tricky.
“Sure,” he says. “Make sure she’s pretty. Get them all to send along a headshot or something.”
“I won’t let you pick,” House says. “That’ll be down to Wilson and me. You don’t get to be on the judging panel.”
“Oh, God,” Chase deadpans, “I’m wounded. Sobbing my heart out. Please let me be in your special exclusive clique, Dr House.”
He doesn’t look up and therefore doesn’t catch the expression on House’s face. It would probably surprise him if he did, though.
It’s about this time, though, that House starts actively messing with him.
“Chase,” House says in a tone that screams don’t you dare walk out right now. Chase obeys because he always does, stopping short and then screwing his face up in annoyance where House can’t see it.
“What?” he demands.
House laughs and Chase’s stomach clenches. It’s late and he wants to go home and take a long, scalding hot shower and drink the tea he won’t drink at work (because that would give House the evidence to call him British for another week). Somehow, though, he gets the feeling that those plans won’t fit anywhere into House’s.
“You could keep walking,” House suggests. Chase refuses to turn around, because although House can probably read more from the tension in his back than any expression on his face, he still won’t give him that small piece of satisfaction.
“What are you trying to achieve, House?” he asks.
“Nothing,” House murmurs, “Go home.”
Chase finally turns around.
And a broad smile breaks across House’s face. Chase mentally kicks himself and doesn’t manage to stammer ‘goodnight’ before he shuts the door behind him and walks away, practically getting neckstrain from refusing to look back.
And I’ll hear the clanging of the bells
There’s this truck driver, and House decides that he’s dying. Chase is strongly reminded of Jake telling him about this Esther woman who died and now House sees her disease everywhere. House is a man possessed. Wilson is actively avoiding the department. Cuddy shouts a lot and Chase wants to cower and he obediently runs all these crazy tests and doesn’t once, not once, try to tell House that he’s wrong, because he’s rapidly figured out that that isn’t going to work.
Eventually they realise it’s pretty bad food poisoning, and nothing more, and House pushes Esther’s file back into the bottom drawer of his filing cabinet and pretends that he hasn’t been falling apart for the last couple of days.
Chase makes the mistake (deliberately?) of going to find House in his dark, quiet office much, much later.
“Are you all right?” he asks. House rolls his eyes.
“Oh, Dr Chase,” he says in falsetto, batting his eyelashes, “I’m sure glad I have you to take care of me, this world is so hard and cold…”
“Be quiet, House,” Chase says, running a hand across his face. House has been tormenting both of them enough these last two days and he is exhausted.
“Sorry, I must have missed the memo on when you became head of this department,” House says, a sharp edge appearing in his tone. “Remind me to ask Cuddy when she’s changing the lettering on the door.”
So it turns out you can’t express one bit of concern for your drug addict half-mad boss without being mocked. Chase almost laughs. It turns out you can’t do anything in this department, but he supposes he already knew that.
“House-” he begins again.
“Go home, Chase,” House tells him, and he sounds tired. Too tired. Wilson’s at an oncology dinner tonight and Chase is suddenly afraid for what House will-or won’t- do. “And don’t look at me like that. This isn’t a romantic movie, the lingering looks aren’t worth shit.”
Chase isn’t exactly aware at which point his brain decides it’s a good idea to kiss House, but he comes around the desk and startles him before the other man can stop him or protest. Their lips touch and he thinks House is a little surprised or maybe a little impressed but he can’t tell because he’s got his eyes shut; it’s easier that way.
House’s lips open and his tongue pushes into Chase’s mouth, and Chase may have made the first move but House is the one in control now, and it’s mostly dark in the office and they’re both too tired for this and Chase is bent at an impossible angle and it’s crazy but on some level it’s all right.
‘Cause I can’t stop you baby
House doesn’t treat him any differently. Chase sort of doesn’t want him to. It would complicate matters to an impossible degree if he did. So Chase still spends most of his days idling and rearranging the filing system and reading the medical dictionary. House spends most of his days hanging around with Wilson and avoiding work/Cuddy/patients (or all three, depending on the day).
The evenings tend to be a little different, with the blinds drawn and the lights off and Chase usually ends up with carpet burn on his knees, but he even gets used to that in a surprisingly short amount of time, because if he’s learnt nothing else working for House, it’s that flexibility is a highly useful skill. House alters your world and you do your best to keep standing. The rule is simple enough and so far Chase has just about managed to keep up.
If Wilson knows- which, knowing House, is probably a certainty- he doesn’t mention it. He and Chase are not really friends- colleagues, trapped into trying to keep House sane and in one piece, but that’s not the same- and he can overlook the stubble burn easily enough. He knows that he’s got House in a way Chase never will. Chase used to be a little jealous and then he realised that it must be terrifying to be House’s sole confidant, to hear the things he’ll never tell other people.
House frightens him a lot of the time. Chase tries not to let it show, but he feels him under his hands, overly thin, tired, aging, damaged. Self-destructing and Chase probably fits somewhere into that but he isn’t quite sure where yet. He gets the feeling that if he ever finds out, the world will crack into several large pieces.
“What about this one?” House asks late one afternoon, sliding a printed-out photograph over the table. Chase looks at the image. It’s of a pretty blonde woman.
“What?” he asks. Then it clicks. “You didn’t seriously ask them to send in head shots, did you?”
“No,” House replies condescendingly, “But that’s what google was made for. So. What do we think of this one?”
Chase frowns. He’s quite happy being the blonde in diagnostics.
“Do we have any other contenders?”
House slides across another printout over to him. This woman is also pretty, but brunette.
“I like this one,” he says, tapping the picture. House smirks and Chase tries not to think about how important it is that he’s earned the right to leer over prospective employees with his boss.
A week and a half later and the photograph becomes Allison Cameron.
‘Cause I don’t have a bribery in place
Allison Cameron is pretty and efficient. Chase hates her within three days of meeting her, and wishes that he didn’t. Everything about her, from her clumsy manipulative techniques that remind him vaguely of his mother to her perfect hair every day to the way she gets so overly involved in every case that it’s more than a little scary, drives him up the wall. Not that he can ever let this show. To not like Allison Cameron would be rather like kicking a puppy. Kicking it several times and then drowning it in a bag in a river.
(He tries not to think too much about drowning Cameron. It isn’t productive and frankly it’s a little unsettling.)
Because Chase plays on House’s terms and never his own, he carefully backs away from whatever they’ve been doing together the last month, starts going home at 5:10 every day that they don’t have a patient, gets some sleep, practises cooking various pasta dishes, catches up on the novels he’s always meant to find time to read, and generally tries to fill his empty life and emptier apartment with things that have no connotations and cannot be traced back to Princeton/Plainsboro Teaching Hospital.
Cameron makes excellent coffee; she’s always smiling; she has great, great breasts, big blue eyes, and she’s actually happy to do clinic duty for House. Chase makes reasonable coffee but tends to drink it rather than share it around; he scowls a lot and lets his hair fall into his eyes; he has no breasts and Cameron’s ass is nicer than his anyway; and he won’t do clinic duty unless he’s desperate. It’s not even going to take the toss of a coin for House to pick between them. Chase has nothing; no bribery, certainly not enough charm, to make House pick him.
He’s not even sure if he wants him to.
So he pretends to play Happy Families with Cameron and obviously overdoes it because he gets the feeling that she-shock, horror- might actually like him as a person, which is disturbing on so many levels. Not that Chase will ever actually mention it, and it is slightly nice to have some company when House is sulking in his office or spending all day with Wilson, standing too close together for Chase’s peace of mind (but he doesn’t care, he doesn’t care, he doesn’t care).
“Poisoned by sharpie,” House says thoughtfully, rolling the words around his mouth like candy (or Vicodin) as though he likes the sound of them. “Contaminated pen fumes. Good catch Cameron. Go, treat him and maybe you’ll get a cookie later.”
House has never said good catch to Chase, not in the whole five months he’s been working for him. Chase mentally sighs and then goes to follow Cameron over to the Witherspoon Wing.
“And where do you think you’re going?” House enquires.
“To treat our patient,” Chase replies, with a patience that doesn’t have a single tinge of patronisation about it.
“One might think,” House says, in a tone that sounds teasing but is completely unreadable, “That you’ve been avoiding me lately, Chase.”
Chase wants to reply but he isn’t entirely sure how to, so he just walks out after Cameron.
No bright shiny surface to my face
“You picked her,” House points out in an unsettlingly reasonable tone of voice, “You really can’t blame me for enjoying the view.”
Chase’s initial reaction of fuck off House is quickly suppressed; it’s very, very late and he’s in nothing but a towel in the locker room and he wants to take a shower before he goes home (water pressure in his apartment sucks at the moment).
“I want to take a shower,” Chase states carefully. House smirks at him and settles himself on the bench against the wall.
“Don’t let me stop you,” he shrugs, eyes casually raking over Chase’s body. It’s gratifying and it’s also making him uncomfortable. He bites his lips and prays that the towel will hide the first signs of his physical arousal under House’s firm blue-eyed appraisal.
House’s mouth twists slightly.
“What is it,” he begins, heaving himself back to his feet, fingers too tight around the handle of the cane like he’s really in pain tonight, “That you actually want from me, Chase?”
“I don’t know,” Chase replies honestly, because it’s quicker than lying and watching House peel apart his lies layer by layer and then sniggering at how poorly-equipped he is without his coatings of half-truths.
“Ok,” House says, nodding thoughtfully, like when someone’s told him something new and it’s altered his diagnosis slightly; he’s not disconcerted but he is rearranging his view of the world a little. Or something like that. He tosses a ‘good night’ over his shoulder as Chase finally removes the towel and steps under a stream of scalding water.
(He jerks himself off frantically and silently and tries to think of nothing, nothing at all.)
So I won’t go near the market place with what I’m selling lately
Chase loses track of a couple of months in which House is almost neutral towards him and Cameron decides she doesn’t like him nearly as much as she thought she did. In some ways both those things are rather a relief and in other ways they’re not nearly as much of a blessing as Chase would once have thought. Or something. They treat patients and they lose a couple of them and once again Chase kids himself that he can get away from House by running to the safety of a new boyfriend for a couple of weeks.
(He thinks House knows-because House technically knows everything, and what he doesn’t know, Wilson finds out and tells him-but his boss never brings it up and Chase is silently and surprisingly obscenely grateful. And then slightly jealous.)
The third time he almost falls asleep in the office while staring at the whiteboard until he’s almost cross-eyed, House pokes him awake with his cane and tells him to go home and get some rest.
“But we don’t know-” he begins.
“And you’re going to find out by acting like a narcoleptic, are you?” House enquires, going from borderline-caring to almost unnaturally sharp. “You look like shit, Chase, and you have for the last couple of days. Go home, get some sleep, take a shower, eat something that’s made of something other than sugar and caffeine, come back ready to work and not pass out. Tired doctors make mistakes and I’m not in the mood to cover your ass.”
Chase’s lips form screw you but no sound comes out, and he looks from House in his manic drugged-up state, marker pen in one hand, coffee mug in the other, to Cameron, her hair still neatly pulled back, clothes still looking fresh. I hate you, he thinks irrationally, and then he thinks, you deserve him.
It’s true though; he is falling apart in a rather childish manner, and if he were House, he wouldn’t have any patience with him either.
‘Cause this is how it goes
“I’m getting another fellow,” House announces when Cameron’s in the clinic. Chase doesn’t reply because there’s nothing he can say. It’s been months since he and House were really alone together, and his toes are curling anxiously in his shoes. There’s sunlight streaming through the blinds and a few too many empty coffee mugs. House lets the silence strain between them, waiting for Chase to crack. Chase holds on as long as he can and then obediently obliges.
“Going to get them to send along a headshot; cut out the whole google experience?” he enquires, noticing that his hands are shaking. This is ridiculous.
“I’m not going to let you help pick,” House tells him.
“Cameron hasn’t worked out that badly, has she?” Chase asks, still not looking up because he can’t.
“Thought it might be fun to get another playmate for you two,” House tells him, neatly avoiding the question. “Might get another boy.”
His tone is playful but Chase gets the implications anyway.
“If you want to fuck more fellows, you don’t need my permission,” he says, tone lighter than he means to be. His teeth hurt from being gritted so hard. He thinks he hears House laugh.
(Is something actually funny?)
“What, you want me to quit?” he asks.
“Somewhere else you’d rather be?”
Anywhere but here. But Chase doesn’t say it, just keeps his teeth bitten together. What he’d quite like to scream at this point is what do you want from me, House? But then again he’d be repeating House’s words from months ago, and he’s many things but he isn’t a plagiarist. Perhaps they want different things. Perhaps they want the same thing. He finally looks up to find House has moved and is perched on the edge of the table, far too close for comfort.
“It’s not going to go away, is it.” It’s not even a question, just a statement of fact. House shrugs and Chase rises to his feet, his biro pen falling between his limp fingers, to pull House closer and press their mouths together.
If he were a romantic or even slightly in love with House he’d say the familiar taste is like coming home; as it is, he just thinks it tastes like being trapped into something against his will, although it’s a relief in altogether too many ways.
(Chase almost wants Cameron to walk in on them, to see House tangling his fingers in Chase’s hair as their tongues slide desperately against each other. She doesn’t.)
It’s all about drugs
Eric Foreman is amusing in his methods of trying to work out House as a person and to try and crack his psyche. Chase wants to tell him not to bother but he knows better than anyone that just because you’ve been told to leave House behind his eight-foot-high barbed wire electric fence and not try to touch him doesn’t mean you’ll actually listen.
House’s long slim fingers leave marks on his skin and Chase doesn’t mind. They fight at work and fuck in House’s apartment, erasing whatever frustrations they’ve been building up all day. It happens on an almost regular basis and once again Chase is lulled into a false sense of security.
Then, of course, House spends a week giving up Vicodin. It’s an unbelievably stupid idea and Chase wants to scream at him but he doesn’t, steps back and allows House to do whatever it is that he wants to do to himself. Ends up on his knees on the office room floor more than once, scraping his teeth along the length of House’s cock, giving the only pain relief he can manage, while House’s trembling (and broken) fingers try to tangle themselves in his hair and fail miserably because the shaking’s just too bad.
It’s a week of unadulterated hell and Chase has no sympathy for House at all; pity, perhaps, but he’s had too many hours cleaning up after shattered addicts to fall apart the way Cameron does.
House fights with Wilson and it’s loud enough that Chase can hear every word and quietly thinks about his parents fighting, his father screaming that his mother had a problem, his mother screaming back that she didn’t care, and slamming of the front door and he leant against it and cried for what felt like and probably was hours. Anyhow, with bad memories twirling around in his mind, he watches House take three- no, four- Vicodin pills, switch on Joe Cocker, and lean back in his chair in something approaching bliss.
(Do you even need me the slightest bit? Chase wonders.)
“I’m going home,” he announces eventually, and House’s eyes creak open and he smiles a little, and suddenly Chase doesn’t want to hear whatever it is that he says when he’s stoned out of his brain. But he stands obediently still.
“Kiss me,” House murmurs, which is possibly the most affectionate thing he’s ever said to Chase, and Chase is torn between about four decisions, but he crosses the room and leans over House’s chair to press the softest of kisses against the corner of his boss’ mouth. House moves his head like he wants to deepen the kiss but Chase sighs and pulls back.
“Goodnight,” he says softly, and maybe House mutters cocktease at his retreating back and maybe he doesn’t, but either way he goes home and cries for what feels like and probably is hours.
And it’s that evening, not his father, not the fucked-up angiogram, not some lingering resentment, that honestly makes him start looking at Edward Vogler like he’s a viable option.
It’s all about shame
The New Chairman of the Board is a large, richer-than-God man named Edward Vogler. No one likes him but Chase hands his soul over pretty quick anyhow, because he needs to get some space between him and House. Needs to drive a wall between them before he gets too attached because, if nothing else, Chase has learnt that he’s prone to making the same mistakes. Couldn’t save his mother. Won’t save House. One of these days he’ll stop running away from the man he [could potentially] [almost] [not quite] [maybe in the right lighting] [oh hell, who is he kidding] loves. But today isn’t one of those days.
House pins him to the glass and he tastes a lot like anger. Fingerprints marking themselves to Chase’s skin. Sunlight and movement and he’s fucked in three different ways.
He thinks in twists and fragments. Everything breaks. Everything changes. It shouldn’t be like this. But shooting yourself in the foot has never felt so good, Chase muses, there’s like this rush as he fucks everything and everyone over. He’s grown so used to House being God that he’s forgotten he’s still able to make a difference. Maybe he wants to make a difference. To break things. To break everything. House has never seen this side of thing but they don’t touch any more and Chase almost likes the feel of the hurt that unfurls over House’s features when he honest-to-God thinks he’s alone. Like being stoned. Like being fucked. The whole thing has this edge to it.
Like a child with a new toy. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. He doesn’t care enough. Just to destroy this box he’s been closed tight into and then these things happen and the world is slanted all sideways and he did that- he did that. Rushed through with pride and fear. This wasn’t supposed to happen and everything’s in pieces and in tears.
He thinks he likes doing this. The terror keeps him on his toes. But he hardly needs to work any more. He’s safe. No one else is. From one dictator to another. He can’t work out if Jake would cheer him on or back away, hands clapped over his mouth theatrically.
This should not be happening. But he’s tired. And he’s not going anywhere. And he keeps on ripping. At everything. It’s all got to break and shatter.
He’s terrified of what will happen when the momentum stops.
And whatever they want- don’t tell them your name
By the time Vogler leaves in a huff and Cameron spectacularly quits, Chase is feeling a little less light-headed and a little more like he’s got a vague idea of what’s going on. He knows that he’s messed up and he knows that Wilson is begging House to fire him. House, for his part, has these little smiles that look kind of like they hurt, and Chase takes them as best he can. He doesn’t ask for what he now knows he doesn’t deserve. So they have this uneasy truce where House torments him but doesn’t fire him. It’s supremely awkward.
And once again, House twists the world sideways. Cameron returns to work with a smug smile and eventually announces that they’re going on date. Chase finds himself stammering: He’s so- he’s so old, because he’s just in complete shock. He doesn’t like Cameron’s reply-and you’re so young- much, but right now he’s kind of too angry to think straight.
He has to confront House the first chance he gets. He doesn’t want to, but after the last month or so, he’s got no pride or self-worth left.
“Why are you going on a date with Cameron?” he demands.
“She blackmailed me,” House shrugs. “Pretty sexy, huh?”
“And you were going to tell me when?” Oh, he doesn’t want to keep talking, but he can’t stop himself.
“Oh, sorry, Dr Chase,” House says, tone more mocking than usual, “I didn’t realise we were in a relationship. I’ll make sure from now on that-”
“We’re not,” Chase snaps, to remind himself more than anything, “But a heads-up would have been nice.”
Chase ignores him for the next week or so and House retaliates in the only way he knows how- with dominatrix jokes and almost outright cruelty.
… And then Chase’s father dies. And he fucks up to a degree that makes him start doing things like contemplating suicide and other cheery things, while House yells at him and the face of the mother-of-two he killed haunts him.
In the end, he can’t keep it to himself any more.
“My dad…” he begins, tapping his fingers against the doorframe mid-afternoon, “Well, he’s really quite dead.”
“Ah.” House’s expression is entirely unreadable. “Is this a problem I can solve by getting you naked?”
“Didn’t think so.” House taps his cane against his hand.
“Is that all I’m going to get?” Chase asks. (It’s actually all he really wants.)
“Yes.” House almost smirks. “Do you want something else?”
“No,” Chase admits.
“Then go and do my clinic hours,” House tells him. Chase half smirks. Life slides back into line again a little. For a while.
This is how it goes: one more failure to connect
If there’s one wish that Chase has in the world at this moment in time, it’s that Stacy Warner would take her wheelchair bound husband and fuck off to wherever it is that she lives. He doesn’t like her, he doesn’t like what she does to House, he doesn’t like the way the atmosphere in diagnostics is acidic, and he doesn’t like the way House looks at her.
He’s allowed to be jealous. It’s a thing.
“You look mopey,” House says thoughtfully.
“Shut up,” Chase murmurs, because he’s angry with House and the increasingly lewd comments his boss has been dropping on him for weeks. Then he shakes his head in frustration. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“Well, right now, I’m being a doctor, which is this guy who finds sick people and then treats them, but-”
“Stop it.” Chase whirls around and tries to ignore the fact his hair must look mildly like a hair commercial. “What are you doing to me? The whole ‘you’ve got a prettier mouth’ thing-”
“You have got a pretty mouth,” House points out, tone indicating he’s already getting tired of the conversation.
“Well,” Chase mutters mutinously, “Good luck feeling it again.”
House leans back in his chair and gives him a rare smile.
“I give it a week,” he tells him.
(He’s actually wrong about this, but neither of them mention it again.)
Stacy seems to spend most of her time striding into diagnostics and snapping at House, then they bicker, and then she strides out again and House then snaps at them all. It’s becoming routine and Chase is bored by it all, really, as well as occasionally feeling a dull jealous ache from time to time.
Of course, although life has been coasting on like this for a couple of horrendously boring months in which Wilson’s marriage starts cracking apart and House gets a motorbike which he won’t let Chase ride on, Chase realises afterwards that he should have known that it couldn’t last.
With so many how could I object?
“You had sex with Cameron,” House says, sounding altogether too pleased with himself. It’s quite late and Chase is trapped because he should go home but he hasn’t. “And you kissed that dying girl. I really thought Wilson was the one who went after needy women, but I’m starting to think he was wrong.”
Chase cracks a biro pen between his teeth but says nothing. He’s not in the mood to defend the undefendable, and the bruise Cameron’s teeth left on his lower lip hasn’t quite faded yet. The whole thing is immeasurably irritating and embarrassing. It’s not his fault he’s incapable of saying ‘no’ to blue eyes.
“If I’m going to be handling both sides of the conversation you might as well go home,” House says.
“You like the sound of your own voice,” Chase says vaguely, watching the light glare off the glass. “And you like making me listen to it. Win-win all round, isn’t it?”
He doesn’t turn around, but he hears House roll his eyes.
“I really don’t like you.”
“You don’t like anybody,” Chase points out fairly. Except maybe Wilson, and Stacy, and Cuddy, and maybe Cameron, and you do respect Foreman- oh hell. It’s just me and Mark and the clinic patients on our own white piece of paper, isn’t it? “I don’t need you to like me.”
“Liar,” House sighs. “You just think that by saying that, you’ll sound less needy.”
“Well it obviously doesn’t work, does it?” Chase snaps with more venom than he means. He can practically picture the face House is making at his back and mouths a few choice swearwords at the glass. Everything’s so complicated but by now he should know that there will never be anything different here.
“I’m going home,” he announces, and manages to turn around. House is leaning back in his chair, denim-clad legs spread almost obscenely wide, toying with the handle of his cane in a way that looks casual but really, really isn’t. Chase contemplates letting whatever reason it is that he’s pissed at House just go.
“ ’Night,” House smirks, and Chase can’t work out whether he’s trying to proposition him or not. He swallows and pushes open the door with his palm flat against the glass, resisting the urge to turn back. It’s a little thing but he wants to retain the last inch of his dignity at all costs.
As he takes the first few steps down the corridor, he swears he hears House laughing throatily into the silence, but he doesn’t look over his shoulder to check.
And you- what on Earth did you expect?
Chase has been sued, and got away with it, and House is looking resoundingly unamused while probably coming up with lists as to how he can turn this Foreman-being-in-charge thing in his favour.
“You know,” House says thoughtfully when they’re alone in the office, “Maybe I won’t fire you after this is all over.”
“Hooray,” Chase mutters dryly. He has contemplated apologising but has also realised that there isn’t any point. He bites his lip. “I notice Stacy seems to like you better.”
“That’s partially your fault,” House tells him. “She’s stopped being angry at me about stealing her therapy notes.”
“You actually had no right to do that,” Chase says, dumping all the coffee mugs in the sink and turning on the faucet to wash them up.
“You’re going to start defending her now?” House enquires, sounding rather amused.
“She did what she had to. Stop punishing her for it,” Chase suggests (what he’s actually suggesting is that House stop fixating on her, but then he’s always been a little self-centred).
“You kiss your mother with that mouth?” House asks, like what he’s said is akin to sacrilege. It probably is.
“My mother’s dead,” Chase points out heavily, turning off the faucet and turning around.
“Oh,” House says, like he’s only just remembered (but he doesn’t carry it off). “I knew that.”
Chase rolls his eyes and smirks. But all too suddenly House is in his personal space, leaning around Chase to dump his empty mug into the sink too. And then he doesn’t move. Chase swallows, pinned against the counter by House’s body.
(He imagines House saying something like but will you kiss me with it, but that’s not the sort of thing House would ever say and the room is just too silent.)
“House-” he begins, and feels ashamed at how strangled it comes out. House’s head dips down and his tongue sweeps across Chase’s lower lip. Chase swallows too hard as House bites down, marking him just like Cameron did. He opens his mouth to capture House’s, and feels the other man’s hand slide up the inside of his thigh.
“Are you going to walk out?” House asks softly.
Chase wouldn’t even if he could.
“No,” he whispers against his lips.
For the next immediate minutes, Chase’s world tastes like coffee and feels like stubble. He’ll always allow himself to be trapped again [he likes it far too much].
Well I can’t tell you baby
Chase is on his knees with his eyes closed and his mouth unsettlingly full when House announces:
“So, I actually slept with Stacy.”
Chase chokes and pulls back. What he actually wants to say is you what? but it comes out as:
“You’re not going to play the jealous boyfriend, are you?” House asks mockingly.
“Fuck off,” Chase mutters, biting down on the inside of House’s left thigh and hoping it leaves a mark. Hoping it really fucking hurts and that House thinks of nothing but him when he feels the pain. But there’s nothing that can hurt more than his boss’ right thigh so he goes back to his task, letting his eyes flutter shut again. It’s going to be a long day.
In the coming weeks House’s leg hurts him more and more and Chase says very little and watches quietly and pretends he can’t see the fingernail marks around his wrists. Everything falls apart eventually and it’s his job to catch the pieces; as House’s oldest fellow it’s up to him to try and look after his boss to a certain degree- to be entirely honest, Chase wouldn’t have it any other way. But that’s more than he’ll ever actively admit.
He isn’t resentful or jealous when he discovers that Wilson’s moved in with House; perhaps he ought to be but there’s this- this thing that House and Wilson have going on that no one else gets to be part of. It must be exhausting. Chase has always thought that it must be exhausting to be House’s Wilson; but as he watches House drink cup after cup of coffee, dark hollows under his eyes, he begins to wonder whether it’s just as exhausting being Wilson’s House. He knows that he’ll never find out.
As for him… well he’s got his thing with House that neither of them acknowledge and that Foreman has probably figured out (but who knows), and that will never be enough; but it’s all he’s got so he’ll cling to it anyway.
When this is how it goes
They let Esther go. House finally figures out what she had while cheerily wrecking the clinic’s poker night, winding up Cuddy, and making eyes at Cameron in her pretty, pretty red dress. He’s distractingly good-looking with his tux and silver cane, and Chase feels dizzy. Eventually, when it’s about two in the morning and House and Wilson are playing poker and laughing like schoolboys, Chase pulls out his mobile and dials the number that he swore he’d never dial again.
“Erdheim-Chester,” Jake says thoughtfully, his tone edged with sleep, “Yeah, that makes sense.” He pauses. “I can’t believe you’ve held out this long.”
“Neither can I,” Chase murmurs back, and terminates the call.
He goes home and contemplates stripping off and getting some sleep; but he’s wired, completely wired, and therefore really isn’t surprised when the phone rings at nearly four a.m.
“How high are you, House?” he asks.
And Chase reminds himself that Wilson is still sleeping on House’s couch and that he needs to get some rest and that House is in a fucking strange place right now, somewhere between mixing pills and alcohol and relief and something else entirely.
“I’ll be there in half an hour,” he says, and wonders if House will even let him in. He needn’t worry; House meets him at the door still in his tux, smelling like cigars and sweated-off aftershave. It’s crazy how much Chase wants him right now; completely crazy, but this is how it will always be between them. They never want each other when the world is stable and normal, but then again, when is the world ever stable and normal?
I should quit, Chase suddenly thinks, irrationally, faced with his boss’ twisted smile and the wrinkled white shirt begging to be torn off. I shouldn’t do this to myself anymore.
Instead, he walks inside. Wilson is fast asleep on the couch, still fully dressed, looking faintly like he’ll never wake up again. Dead to the world and sodden in vodka. Oh, the joys of poker evenings.
House pushes Chase’s black shirt off, biting down at the curve of skin where his neck meets his shoulder. Chase says nothing because he knows that this isn’t what this is about at all. It’s about the semi-darkness and the touch and the blind exhaustion in both of them, and the silent relief that Esther will never, never be mentioned in a diagnosis again.
“So, Dr Chase,” House whispers in his ear when he’s got Chase mostly naked, “Aren’t you going to tell me your shark story?”
Chase closes his eyes and says nothing.
So I’ll try to hold on
House makes life difficult for everyone, which Chase accepts with as little bad grace as possible. After all, when everything’s a toss-up between your boss and the big boss up in the sky (otherwise known as God; but don’t even think of mentioning him in the diagnostics department), and your colleagues are attempting to rip each other’s throats out, and you’ve just realised that you have absolutely no money, everything’s become more than a little fucked up.
Chase amuses himself by allotting points to House and to God on the whiteboard, trying not to get himself involved with Cameron and Foreman’s bitch fight, and listening to House and Wilson bicker through the walls of the office. House seems to find it amusing that Chase is contentedly marking his godliness in marker pen streaks on the board, and Chase supposes that it is.
(He honestly doesn’t know anything any more.)
“Do you want to go for a drink?” Cameron enquires about three days before the whole world goes to hell.
“But you don’t like me,” Chase replies vaguely. Cameron shrugs in response.
Chase bites his lip to prevent a smirk when House watches them leaving together; it’s a cross between a victory and shooting himself in the foot and he’s not sure which yet. Anyway, they go to a bar and Cameron drinks pretty coloured cocktails with stupid names and Chase sips at a gin and tonic because it’s that sort of evening. Cameron, he reflects a while later when her inhibitions have gone and they’re almost talking, really is much more interesting and pretty when she’s on drugs or alcohol. There’s this lovely edge she gets. And suddenly, for a few minutes, it becomes blindingly clear why House hasn’t fired Cameron.
(And it’s not just because she really has got great tits.)
It’s a little blurry quite how they end up on Chase’s couch with a tub of Cherry Garcia; but it’s when Chase is thoughtfully sucking on a piece of dark chocolate that Cameron says:
“Are you still sleeping with House?”
When he’s quite finished choking, Chase manages to turn to her. She’s so drunk and he isn’t drunk but he is feeling a little like someone’s hit him around the head with a mallet.
“What?” he asks intelligently. Cameron makes a soft tutting sound.
“I know that you were sleeping with him when I arrived, and then maybe not when Vogler was here, and not with Stacy, but I don’t know if you’ve started again.”
“Does it honestly matter?” Chase asks dispassionately, digging out another spoonful of icecream. Just to be sure.
“Yes!” Cameron exclaims, looking at him with a swathe of her loose hair falling in her eyes, mouth sticky with dessert. And people wonder why he jumped her when he had the chance.
“I’m still sleeping with him,” Chase sighs eventually, pulling the shirt of his collar aside to reveal a perfect set of House’s teethmarks on his left shoulder. “Happy now?”
“You’re an asshole,” Cameron murmurs, apropos of nothing. Chase likes her much better when she’s drunk and actually says what she thinks. It makes a change.
“Tell me something I don’t know,” he shrugs, leaning back a little on the couch and relieving her of the tub of Ben and Jerry’s. And then bites his lip and tries to keep the horror off his face.
“You’re turning into him,” Cameron whispers in his ear, as she steals the icecream back, “Or hadn’t you noticed?”
Chase wants to tell her to shut up but he doesn’t.
(The next morning House leaves bruises on his hips and Chase wonders if he’s a little jealous, before dismissing it, because House doesn’t really do jealousy.)
While you try to let go
The world goes spectacularly to hell over the course of a few weeks, in which everything cracks neatly in two like the Titanic, tips itself up on end, and sends anything normal crashing into the water to drown. Or something.
It begins with Foreman going crazy behind the glass wall of the quarantine room, although Chase doesn’t realise at the time quite how far the whole end-of-everything-he-knew thing is going to go. Anyway.
House finds him on his knees in the hospital chapel, clenching his hands in prayer so hard that he’s leaving nail marks in the backs of his hands. Chase listens to the cane tapping its way down the aisle and to the sounds of House settling himself on one of the pews, getting his gameboy out of his pocket. He doesn’t move and tries to keep his mind clear.
“Have we given up on good old medicine now?” House enquires, but the bite in his tone is absent and for the first time Chase allows himself to think that House is worried and fallible and he bites his teeth together momentarily.
“There’s no harm,” he says in a calm and measured tone, “In asking for a little extra help.”
“I thought we’d established I’m just as good as God,” House says, and Chase can hear him tapping his cane against his hand.
“Then tell me what’s wrong with Foreman,” Chase says with a little too much acid in his voice. He hears House taking a breath or two like he wants to shout at him, because they both know perfectly well that House has no idea what’s wrong with Foreman and Foreman could die and will die and oh God they’re all so very terrified.
“Differential diagnosis,” is all Chase’s boss will say though, and Chase listens to the cane tapping away, whispers amen quickly, and rises to his feet. His knees ache.
But even when Foreman is better things don’t improve. Chase gets himself on a NICU rotation, and it’s almost funny watching House trip over his shoelaces in an attempt to figure out why it is that Chase wants to get away. It’s about the money; but it’s not just about the money and to be entirely honest, Chase isn’t quite sure what’s happening. There’s this sort of level of too-close that he doesn’t ever want to admit to.
And if he doesn’t keep his distance, something could happen. Something bad and something that Chase won’t be able to resist. So he autopsies babies and prays to God lots more than he used to and tries to work out where to go from here, and if, in fact, there’s anywhere to actually go.
You won’t tell me it’s gone
Chase finds the needle tracks on a Thursday afternoon. They’re neat and small but so very clear on the inside of House’s left arm, all in a neat line against the vein.
“Oh, you fucking idiot,” he snarls, shaking his head. He’s exhausted and House falling down yet another slippery slope is the last thing he actively wants or needs right now.
“What?” House asks, raising an eyebrow, but the dark shadows under his eyes tell Chase just how far he’s gone now. Maybe too far to pull back. And where’s Wilson when he needs him?
“Shooting morphine,” Chase says, beginning to pace. “That’s really, really stupid. Do you have any idea-”
“Sorry Robert, did mommy do morphine too?” House enquires, biting off every syllable like he wants his words to sting more bitterly.
“No,” Chase snaps, “But that’s not the point. Watching someone-”
“Then don’t watch,” House shrugs. “Walk away. This conversation never happened. It’s not happening now. Hey, that’s a relief, you’re giving me a headache.”
Chase honestly can’t work out if this is House’s cry for help or if this is his last stand. Either way it looks like things are going to end remarkably fatally.
“You don’t care anymore, do you?” he asks. “You honestly don’t fucking care.”
House shrugs. Chase swallows.
“The question is,” House says thoughtfully, “Why do you care? I treat you like shit, I make you work far too long, I torment you-” he lists his faults with pride on his face, “-and yet you’re standing here begging me not to take painkillers.”
“I-” Chase twists his fingers awkwardly. He can’t find the words to say that House has come to mean more to him than he wants him to, that you can’t work side by side with someone for three years and not come to vaguely care about them.
“I don’t want to watch you die,” Chase says eventually, simply, offering House a helpless smile and walking out in a final sort of way. It’s the last thing he wants to do but on the other hand he cannot and will not watch someone fall apart again. He tried to look after his mother and he’s not going to try with House because it’s an impossibility.
(He deliberately tries not to notice how House doesn’t say a word and just watches him go.)
Over the next couple of days House acts like his manic self but Chase silently tries to work out the differences between morphine-House and Vicodin-House and prays for him a little and decides that it will take a miracle to derail this train before it crashes and burns horribly.
In the end, there is no miracle. But there are two gunshots, which are almost the same thing.
But baby I’ll know
There are some things you just can’t describe.
Chase spreads his fingers on the wall of House’s room, wishing that there weren’t so many glass walls here, wishing that he couldn’t watch House lying there unconscious. He swallows what feels nastily like a lump in his throat, and curls his hands into fists, nails scraping over the glass. He won’t cry and he can’t cry and his head is spinning.
Cut to a couple of weeks later.
[Chase pulls House close and his tears run bleakly down his face and he says I thought I was going to lose you and maybe House says something in reply but he probably doesn’t.]
It’s House’s first day back to work and Chase is on his coffee break. Coffee break with a slice of the richest chocolate gateaux he could find in Princeton. He’s tired and relieved and all sorts of other things. The door opens and he almost doesn’t recognise House coming in without the familiar tap, tap of the cane. Right. House can walk. Pigs can fly. Maybe he should start believing in God again.
“House,” he says softly, stumbling to his feet.
“Glad to see you haven’t forgotten me,” House says with a little smirk, but everything’s wrong now. There’s a new kind of awkwardness between them. Chase’s ribs ache and his head throbs and before he knows what he’s doing he’s moved across to House and is holding him in the tightest hug he can manage.
There’s a shocked silence and House doesn’t move to hug him back but he doesn’t push Chase away and that’s ok. Chase turns his head and presses his lips to that barely-healed scar on House’s neck, wondering if he’s trembling, hoping he isn’t.
“Chase-” House begins uncomfortably, but Chase swiftly shuts him up, wrapping his arms around his neck and kissing him desperately. House does nothing for a moment, then returns the kiss with almost equal fervour, his tongue fighting Chase’s.
He starts backing Chase into the table, until the glass edge is digging into the back of Chase’s thighs. He feels trapped and it’s perfect. Suddenly, House pulls back, licking his swollen lips thoughtfully.
“Chocolate frosting?” he asks. Chase allows himself to smirk before reaching blindly behind him to pull a chunk out of the cake, and holds it to House’s mouth. House eats it and then licks his fingers clean for him, sucking on each one a little too long.
(It won’t last. It never does. Maybe for the next couple of days they’ll almost consciously recognise the fact that there’s a thing between them, but then they’ll both lose interest and run scared and the world will return to normal. Chase is both mourning that and looking forward to it.)
“That’s good,” House says thoughtfully, and Chase smirks and traces the corner of his mouth with his damp fingers. “But why…”
“Well,” Chase says softly, “You’re not dead. I’d say that bloody deserves cake.”