Challenge/Prompt: fanfic100 091. Birthday
Summary: It's centered around Chase's birthday and has a suspicious edge of fluff. Should be better than it is.
Author's notes: Started writing it on my birthday, and finished it up at about twenty past midnight this morning. And look at my icon! It's my handwriting *gasp* And also; I don't know when Chase's birthday is, so I made one up. I was going to use Jesse Spencer's but I didn't.
Sometimes, Chase thought distractedly, it would be nice to just be able to take the fifteenth of July as a normal day. To be able to wake up, to think oh shit, it’s work again, to be able to have a quick shower and walk into work and act like nothing’s happening to him, to be able to get through the whole day without recognising once that it was his birthday. To his relief, he had found that working for House never once entailed having his birthday brought up, so he could work without worrying that someone was going to mention it to him. No, Robert Chase just got a year older at a time, with everyone eventually thinking he must have a birthday at some point. But never, ever knowing when it was. Really, there was nothing new about that. He stopped celebrating birthdays round about the age of twelve, when both his parents were too wrapped up in themselves to even briefly hug him and whisper that they’d make up for the lack of presents later.
Today, he was not celebrating his birthday. His fingernails dug into the palms of his hands, and he prayed that Cameron had no idea, because the last thing he wanted was someone to break down his veneer of not caring. All in all, he had a perfectly normal day. It was good. They discharged their patient, he filled in four crosswords, House fought with Cuddy for nearly an hour, and then walked out early, leaving Cameron in the lurch and forcing her to spend the afternoon doing his job for him.
Chase planned on working late, because when he was working he didn’t have to *think*, but those plans were scuppered by a mild-looking oncologist, leaning around the door to the darkened office where Chase was making an attempt at catching up on paperwork.
“What are you planning on doing tonight?” asked Wilson.
“Working, for hours and hours on end,” Chase replied, “And then going home and having a shower.”
“Exciting,” Wilson murmured with a hint of a smile, and then paused. “Do you want to grab some dinner?”
“What, like a date?” Chase snorted, and was almost stunned by the way the edges of Wilson’s eyes crinkled slightly.
“Sure, if you want.” He actually winked.
“If House and Cameron taught us nothing-” Chase began, actually thinking shouldn’t you be doing this to one of the nurses, you know, someone pretty with detachable bra straps and just the wrong shade of lipstick?
“If you don’t want to-” Wilson said, turning away.
“I didn’t say that,” Chase replied. “I’m just saying you’ll regret it.”
“It’s only dinner,” Wilson told him, but Chase privately thought no, no it’s not.
To show mild willing, Chase changed his shirt and splashed cold water on his face, but he was still feeling fairly miserable and bad-tempered and felt inclined to warn Wilson he was going to be shitty company, and maybe the other man should just go find someone else. But it also occurred to him that Wilson was lonelier than he’d admit; his marriage had fallen apart (yet again) and his relationship with House was on even rockier ground. The drive in Wilson’s car (considerably nicer than his own, but Chase wasn’t going to mention that) was mostly silent, both men relaxing slightly as PPTH fell behind them.
“Where are you taking me?” Robert asked, unwinding the window a little and watching the streetlights flash past outside.
“Probably the same place House took Cameron,” Wilson responded with a little smile. “It sells Italian. That ok?”
“More than ok,” Chase replied, because he wasn’t really hungry and now some small part of him felt nervous. They didn’t speak again until Wilson was parking and they were walking towards the restaurant. Chase paused at the door.
“If you DHA me, I reserve the right to break your nose,” he said softly. Wilson chuckled softly.
“You’ll be asking for a corsage any minute,” he muttered.
“Only if you can find one to match my eyes,” Chase responded, batting his eyelashes at him. Wilson only smiled and his fingers brushed the small of Chase’s back to push him into the restaurant. Chase pretended, as hard as he could, that a curious little jolt of electricity didn’t run up his back, right from Wilson’s hand and straight into his nervous system.
“Do you want me to pick the wine?” Wilson asked, carefully leaving unsaid the I’ve done this too many times before to too many different people. Chase could read it in his face.
“Sure,” he replied, leaving unsaid the I don’t actually drink, because it’s considerably easier to not slide down that slope by simply removing the chance. But his hair was in his eyes, so he was fairly sure Wilson couldn’t tell that. “Do you have any idea what’s good to eat here?”
“Is this your not-too-subtle way of asking how many nurses I’ve taken here?” Wilson asked, with an air of amusement but something tightening around his eyes.
“No,” Chase replied, just to make him squirm. “It doesn’t matter. I still haven’t decided if this is a date yet.”
Wilson regarded him for a long moment with a completely unreadable expression on his face.
“Puttanesca,” he said eventually. “House swears by it.”
Robert got a pony for his seventh birthday. His mother bought it for him. It was just the right size for him, slightly too short for his age, his hair about as blonde as it’s possible to be without going white. Robert’s father had made him get rid of it within three months. He was still angry with Rowan, more than he wanted to be, but maybe he’d always be, and maybe that didn’t matter.
He and Wilson split a salad for a starter, and Robert pretended to sip at his glass of white wine. It didn’t taste bad, and he supposed that since it was his birthday, to drink wine would be ok. Just a little. Wilson had got to his second glass already. Robert bit his lip and considered the two of them. James Wilson, pretty, pretty head oncologist, neat shirt, neat tie, jacket still looking crisp although he’d been in it all day.
Robert Chase, failure, miserable little bastard, no jacket, a smudge on the sleeve of his striped shirt that may actually be dried blood, a band aid wrapped around the base of his left thumb, ink on his fingers, and he was wearing odd socks and could feel them burning through his slacks.
“I shouldn’t be here,” Chase mumbled, feeling embarrassed, feeling out of place.
“Your pasta isn’t here yet,” Wilson replied like it was obvious, like maybe he’d work out where he belonged between the courses, and Chase shrugged and took a sip of wine, because anything was possible and he’d never really liked that pony.
Watching Wilson eat turned him on in some kind of strange way he didn’t like. Chase barely noticed the pasta except that it was quite nice, and that the wine in his own glass was only dipping a tiny amount, and yet Wilson had drunk nearly four glasses.
Chase smiled gently at Wilson, at the other man who was telling him an incredibly perverted story entailing his first wife, his second wife, a hotel room that wasn’t theirs, a bucket of ice, a packet of M&Ms and more nudity than any story should ever have, ever.
“…And just as I’m beginning to think that we’re never going to get the blue food dye stains out of the sheets and Rose is in the shower doing something with the free shower caps that I think is illegal in most countries, and Laura is going through the wardrobes and trying on these people’s clothes-”
“-They come in?”
“They come in.”
“And you’re all wet, naked and covered in chocolate and these other people’s clothes?”
“Yes way. Just ask House.”
“Why would House know?” Chase asked suspiciously, spearing another piece of pasta.
“He was the one in the corner with the video camera.”
Wilson laughed, pushing his fringe back, and winked at Chase. Chase burst out laughing and buried his face in his hands.
“How do you even manage to get yourself into a situation like that?”
Wilson had drunk most of the bottle of wine. Chase had managed one glass and eaten his surprisingly nice puttanesca.
“So go on,” Wilson said softly, “Tell me one thing I don’t know about you.”
“There are lots of things about me you don’t know.”
“Ok, tell me one thing about you I don’t know and House hasn’t worked out.”
“Oh for God’s sake, DHA me,” Chase sighed. Wilson just looked at him as he finished the last of the wine in his glass and poured another. “Is this the point where you want me to say that I’m not wearing any underwear?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know.” Chase’s leg brushed Wilson’s, just for a second, under the table, and he watched the oncologist turn around and ask the waiter for another bottle of whatever wine it was they were drinking. From the way he was knocking it back, Chase might even suspect that Wilson was nervous, except that he was sure that Wilson wouldn’t get nervous about things like this. Why would he?
For his seventeenth birthday, Robert got a cheque for $75,000 from his father. Blood money for his dead mother. He was in the seminary at the time, nail marks in the backs of his hands from the way he clenched his fingers while praying. He took the money and went to medical school with it because he honestly couldn’t think of anywhere else to go.
“Do you want to split a dessert?” Wilson asked. “Or do you want your own?”
He was certainly metabolising the alcohol well. He didn’t sound drunk at all.
“Depends,” Chase replied, looking down at his fingers and being surprised at the lack of rosary. “Are you likely to hog the whole thing?” He looked up at Wilson through his fringe.
“Probably,” Wilson replied, smiling ruefully. “It’s a habit.”
“In that case, I think I’ll get my own,” Chase replied, studying the neat menu that was in front of him, and thoughtfully starting to sip at his second glass of wine. He was starting to get a little light-headed from the sudden increase of alcohol in his body, since he usually didn’t drink. He had lost count of how much Wilson had drunk by now.
“Fair enough,” Wilson smirked. Chase felt his stomach twist at the quirk of the other man’s lips, and screwed up his toes inside his shoes in order to try and keep his mind blank. “Have you figured out whether this is a date or not?”
Chase looked at him and then back at his menu and said nothing and tried to figure out whether he should just have blown that money on a car.
There was entirely too much whipped cream and chocolate involved in his dessert, Chase decided, but it tasted gorgeous and Wilson seemed to be curiously fixated with his mouth, which was all to the good. Wilson himself was eating pie and his fingers were trembling slightly.
“One thing you don’t know about me. I lost my virginity at the age of fifteen,” Chase said quietly. “Her name was Eden and she was very pretty and I started dating her brother two years later.”
Wilson continued to chew his mouthful of pie for a moment.
“Five years,” he murmured, “Where do you see yourself? What are your aspirations?”
Chase bowed his head and licked chocolate off his lips, smirking.
“I’m not going to sleep with you, Wilson,” he replied, pretending he didn’t feel at all disconcerted.
Wilson just took another bite of pie and his knee brushed Chase’s under the table, once, twice, completely *deliberately*. Chase bit his lip and said nothing.
For his twenty-first birthday Chase didn’t even get a phonecall. He unconsciously waited beside the phone all day, telling himself not to do this as he studied for an exam in a couple of days. He had a migraine and his boyfriend did his best to stop Robert hurting as much as he did, but there was nothing he could do that could fix Chase.
“Let me pay,” Wilson insisted, handing his gold card to the waiter, while Chase protested and tried to work out what had happened to his wallet. Wilson gave him a surprisingly sharp look and Chase stopped arguing immediately. It was a look you couldn’t win against, and had vaguely reminiscent edges of House.
“Why me?” he asked. “Why did you take me here tonight?” Did Wilson know it was his birthday? He couldn’t have done. No one did.
“You looked like you could use a break,” Wilson shrugged, “And I could use the company.” So, the flirting, the lingering glances, the nervous drinking- what was that?
“Ok,” Chase murmured, biting his lower lip, playing with his fingernails, feeling awkward and embarrassed and slightly disappointed, and knowing that he shouldn’t be here. Even though he also knew this evening was ten times better than one at the hospital and then lounging around in his apartment waiting for a phonecall that wouldn’t be able to happen.
The night was surprisingly warm and Chase watched as Wilson slid his suit jacket off, folding it neatly over his arm. He looked at the clean lines of Wilson’s pastel shirt and smelt his aftershave drifting through the summer air.
“I’m too drunk to drive,” Wilson muttered, “Want to share a cab?”
Chase knew that if he agreed, he’d end up going to Wilson’s place and there would be mildly inappropriate sex, and then it would go all awkward between them. He didn’t want to ruin what had been a surprisingly all right evening, and besides, there was a spark between them that had been preying on his mind for hours. A spark he wanted to experiment with, not snuff out.
“No,” he replied gently, “Not really.”
Wilson looked at him for a moment, and nodded.
“All right,” he said gently, heading for the curb to hail a taxi down. Chase shoved his hands into his pockets and followed him, feeling surprisingly uncomfortable. A car slid up to park beside them and Wilson finally turned to look at him.
“Goodnight, Robert,” he murmured, using his left hand to tip Chase’s chin up so he could look at him. Chase felt mildly confused as he looked into those dark, dark eyes, the streetlights filling them with shadows. And then Wilson lowered his head and kissed him, slowly and sweetly and gently, and he tasted like wine and pie as Chase parted his lips, running his tongue over Wilson’s. He hadn’t expected Wilson to be so tender about the whole thing (not that he’d actually given much thought to how Wilson kissed), but it was deliberate and lingering and then Wilson moved his hand from where it was cupping his cheek to step back.
“Happy birthday,” Wilson whispered, and then he was folding himself into the cab and it was driving away to be lost in the hundreds of car taillights. Chase touched his lips briefly, praying he wasn’t blushing, and then started smiling, unable to stop himself.
“Yeah,” he murmured softly as he hailed down a cab for himself, “I think that might have been a date, James.”
And yes, I am being tempted by the idea of a sequel...