Speed You Down
by Maya Tawi
Janice Loew's latest round of bloodwork is no more forthcoming than the previous ones were. For a change, it's all three of them in the lab, instead of Chase slaving away by himself. Given the odd looks Foreman and Cameron keep shooting him, he wonders if this isn't just a new and different form of torture.
He escapes to the conference room for a coffee break as soon as is politic, and has just taken his first sip-- not too sweet, not too bitter; he's achieved the elusive perfect balance-- when Wilson's voice interrupts his reverie.
"House has informed me that he's dumped you."
Chase drops the mug. Hot coffee splatters over his shins.
"Of course," Wilson says, closing the door behind him and watching Chase hop around and mutter obscenities under his breath, "this comes as a bit of a surprise to me, seeing as I was unaware you were there to be dumped. I actually thought he might just be screwing with me, but that's answered that question, hasn't it?"
Chase keeps his head down, busying himself with picking up the pieces of the mug. "What do you want?" he asked without looking up.
"I want to know what's going on with you two."
"Why don't you ask House?"
"Because he won't tell me."
Chase straightens and dumps the remains of his mug into the trash. "He's a smart guy," he says, and finally looks up and meets Wilson's eyes.
Wilson sighs. "I ought to have leaflets printed up. What is it about him, anyway? The big blue eyes? The giant phallic symbol?" At Chase's blank stare, he adds, "Something about him drives all the little ducklings wild. Call it professional curiosity."
"Ducklings?" Chase echoes, outraged and intrigued.
Wilson shakes his head. "All lessons in time, grasshopper."
"Look, whatever you're after, if House isn't saying anything, I'm sure as hell not going to."
"He said other things, too," Wilson says, as Chase brushes past him toward the door. Chase freezes, and Wilson continues, "About you, I mean."
Chase turns his head and stares. Wilson just stares back, guileless.
"What things?" Chase asks at last.
"Now what reason do I have to betray a confidence?"
"You're supposed to be the nice one," Chase says.
"Am I?" Wilson says. "My ex-wives might disagree."
Chase sets his jaw. "Fine. What do you want to know?"
Wilson checks his watch. "Are you free for lunch?"
He isn't, actually, but Colleen in pediatrics can wait. After three-and-some months of sleeping with the man, Chase still has no idea what House thinks of him, if he likes him or even considers him at all. If Wilson can offer him some insight, information, anything....
"What time?" he asks, his pulse pounding in his throat.
Wilson's face is a blank, innocent mask. "Give me half an hour to finish up here. I'll swing by the lab and pick you up."
Yeah, right. Like Chase can concentrate on blood tests now.
He trudges back to the lab, feeling like a condemned man, caught by his own unwilling curiosity. He clings to one thought, and it buoys him up enough to survive the next thirty minutes without incident: House said something about him. He talked to Wilson.
House thinks about him. Maybe he even gives a damn.
Only one way to find out: ask somebody else.
Wilson takes him to a restaurant he's been to once or twice before-- good wine, decent steaks, salads that look more like nonobjective art than actual food. Chase orders a bottle of the former and a random specimen of the latter, hoping it will be semi-edible.
If you're trying to woo me, he wants to say, I come cheaper than this, but he doesn't think Wilson will appreciate it.
House would say, Yes. Yes, you do.
As he sucks down wine and waits for his food, he avoids Wilson's eyes and tells the whole damn sordid story. Wilson doesn't say anything, which is a relief; just saying the words out loud make Chase want to crawl under the table and hide. He has been monumentally stupid, and the reality is just starting to sink in.
Chase finishes and drained his glass; half the bottle gone, a new midday record. He clears his throat and forces himself to meet Wilson's eyes. "Your turn. What, ah, what'd he say about me?"
Wilson looks unruffled, serene, and not in the least disapproving. It makes Chase itch. He refills his glass.
"I can't tell you," Wilson says.
Chase chokes. Wine travels the wrong way, up his nose instead of down his throat. "But you--" he sputters. "You said--"
"That he said other things about you. I never said I'd tell you what they were."
"You cunt-lapping fuckstick." It's the filthiest thing he can think of. His face burns like the fiery depths of hell. He's in hell; it's the only explanation.
He never should've left the seminary.
"True," Wilson says. "On both counts, if I'm parsing correctly. We're not really friends, you and me, are we?"
"We sure as hell aren't now," Chase says, and then is distracted by the arrival of his salad. Pollock, he decides, eyeing the colorful splatters of dressing.
Wilson nods in acknowledgment of his sirloin-- grilled medium-well; predictable and safe-- then continues, once the waiter has disappeared, "So take what I'm about to say in the spirit it's intended. I'm speaking as his friend, not yours." He pauses. "I've learned it's best to clear up any possible misunderstandings right up front."
"Cameron?" Chase asks, wondering if she, too, has received The Talk. Wondering if Wilson dragged her out to lunch too. Wonders if Wilson writes off these lunches as work-related expenses on his tax returns.
"Isn't relevant," Wilson says. He leans forward. "Chase, what do you want out of this?"
"Don't know," Chase mumbles into his wine after a moment. "Not anymore."
"What did you want?"
He answers readily; he can't sink any lower in Wilson's eyes. "To keep my job."
"I see," Wilson says, with a small moue of distaste, and Chase was wrong, he can sink lower after all.
Then Wilson surprises him. "You're a bright kid, Chase, and a good doctor. You could find work anywhere, and good money at that. More than you're making now. Why are you so wedded to this place?"
"I don't need the money."
"That wasn't the question."
"I don't know."
Wilson sits back with a sigh. "Well, you'd damn well better figure it out, Chase, because you're the only one who can."
"What do you care about what I want?" Chase asks, feeling bitter.
"Stacey hurt him," Wilson says flatly. The non-segue gives Chase whiplash. "Well, they hurt each other, but he got the worst of it. Are you even aware that you're the first person he's slept with in six years?"
He isn't. He feels victorious. He feels sick.
"And you're definitely the first man he's ever slept with."
It's a punch in the gut, leaving him breathless, gasping. "You're shitting me."
"I am not."
"How can you even know?"
"Because on quite a few memorable occasions, I've gotten him blind drunk." Wilson seems to consider this. "Or maybe he got me drunk. It's hard to say. Point is, I know."
"I don't-- he just--" Chase splutters. "He's so much older than me!"
Wilson is unsympathetic. "If that's a problem for you, maybe you should have thought about it beforehand."
Chase's mouth is dry. He drains the last of his wine glass, ignoring Wilson's frown, and notes with dismay that the bottle is now empty. In a hollow voice, he asks, "Why are you telling me this?"
"I told you," Wilson says. "He talked about you."
Wilson tucks the last of his steak in his mouth and stands, still chewing. "Take a couple hours, clear your head. I'll deal with House."
If anyone can, it's Wilson.
Chase lowers his gaze to his untouched salad. Wilson turns to go, then stops and looks back at him.
"Have you talked to your father lately?"
Chase's fingers tighten around the fork. "No."
"You should," Wilson says, and leaves
Only when he's out of sight does Chase realize that Wilson has stuck him with the bill.
After Wilson is gone, Chase polishes off another half-bottle of wine, then steps out, squinting, into the late afternoon sunlight. The lunch has taken a hefty chunk out of his credit card limit, but he can't bring himself to care.
I don't need the money. His answer to everything.
He doesn't trust himself to drive, so he wanders around downtown until he feels steadier on his feet. By the time he slides behind the steering wheel, numbness is starting to give way to fury. House told Wilson about them. Hardly a surprise, and yet the anger sizzles within him like oil on a hot stove. It was yet another one of those implicit, unspoken rules. No one was supposed to know. Even if there is, technically, nothing there anymore to know about, it isn't House's tale to tell.
But then, House has never paid attention to spoken rules; what made Chase think he'd stick to the other kind any better?
He knows he should return to work. His job isn't in immediate peril anymore, he doesn't think, but there's no reason to tempt fate.
He drives home instead, flicking House the metaphorical bird every time he stomps on the gas pedal, and makes it through the early-afternoon traffic in record time.
The next morning, Chase is still seething. He wakes up early, unable to sleep, and drives to the hospital instead of stewing alone in his apartment for an extra half hour.
He half-hoped to find House in his office early; Chase wouldn't put it past Wilson to have filled House in on their little lunchtime debacle. But the office is locked and empty, and Chase spares the darkened room a brief scowl before retreating to the lab and losing himself once more in Janice Loew's bloodwork.
House is nearly an hour late, and as usual doesn't deign to explain himself. Chase doesn't get a chance to corner him alone until early afternoon.
Once he sees his opportunity-- Foreman off reviewing the latest test results, and Cameron dispatched to press Janice's husband further about her medical history-- Chase storms in, slams the door behind him, and snaps, "You told Wilson."
House hits the mute button on his remote, but doesn't look away from the TV. He says, "Let me just take a wild stab in the dark here and assume you're mad at me about something."
"You told him!" Chase says again, his voice rising.
House blinks. "That's it?"
"How'd you like it if I told Foreman?"
"You're gonna be telling Foreman in a minute, you don't remember that glass is not actually soundproof," House says. "More's the pity. Besides, you don't even like Foreman."
"I don't dislike him," Chase says in a lower voice. He shoots a quick glance over his shoulder; sure enough, Foreman has slipped back into the conference room, and is sipping his coffee and trying not to look like he's staring. Chase glares at him and turns his back to the glass.
"Well, he doesn't like you," House says. "Glad that's settled. Are we done here, or do you want me to draw you a flow chart?"
Chase opens his mouth, then snaps it shut again.
"We need to talk," he says.
House regards him with vague horror. "Good God. You do think you're in a soap opera."
Will not kill, will not kill.... "I'm simply trying to communicate on a level I know you'll understand."
"Nice one," House allows. "I don't suppose you'd like to talk to me about Our Lord and Savior, would you?" He looks as though that would be preferable to the alternative.
"He's not high on my list of priorities right now," Chase says through his teeth.
"How far the altar boy has fallen," House says. "Are you sure? I've had quite a yen to read The Watchtower lately."
"There are easier ways to commit suicide than by boring yourself to death."
"I hope you're not trying to tell me something."
"I am trying," Chase says, "to have a mature conversation with you for once."
House narrows his eyes. "Wild accusations and melodramatic pronouncements? If that's maturity, count me out."
"Already done," Chase says, baring his teeth.
"See what he did there?" House remarks to what Chase can only assume is an imaginary audience; he doesn't think House is quite that delusional yet. Unless he's hoping Foreman can lip-read. Or maybe Cuddy is hiding behind the curtain. Too bad Chase doesn't have a sword to test the theory. "He's a card, this one."
Chase digs his nails into his palms and takes a deep breath. "Can we just talk? Please," he adds when House arches a dubious eyebrow.
House's face closes, like a door slamming shut, and suddenly Chase doesn't have the first clue what he's thinking. It's fascinating, if frustrating, to watch.
"Fine," House says after a few seconds. "Not here."
Chase nods. Glass isn't soundproof.
House's mouth twists. "Mine or yours? Or neutral ground?"
"Yours," Chase says.
It started there; it'll end there.
"Fine," House says again. "See you tonight." He un-mutes the TV; conversation over.
Chase lingers in the doorway, expecting some smart remark to follow him out into the conference room. When House continues to ignore him and Foreman fixes him with a speculative stare, he sets his jaw and lets the door swing shut.
If Chase never picked up on House's inexperience with the unfairer sex, it was because he didn't have much room for comparison. House was the first man Chase had ever slept with, in every sense of the word. First man he'd ever shared a bed with; first man to ever screw him senseless and leave him gasping.
If there was one thing Chase had learned from American politics, it was that blow jobs didn't count.
So. First time: after another first of many, the first time he'd come crawling back to House with his tail between his legs.
It was a Saturday, so at least he didn't have to worry about being functional at work, or worse, having to look Cameron in the eye. The more he thought about, the more unfair the whole thing seemed-- to her, in a schoolyard kind of way; she wasn't trying to prove a point or anything, she had genuinely Fallen In Love with House and gotten nowhere for her troubles, while all Chase had to do was offer an after-hours blowjob-- and to him; how was he to know House would take him up on it? House seemed to occupy the nebulous grey area between fervently straight and dismissively asexual. He noticed sex, no doubt about it, but hell, he could've had Cameron and didn't, and Chase had wondered whether massive quantities of Vicodin had suppressed his libido entirely. It seemed inconceivable that a man with a functioning sex drive would give an adoring Allison Cameron the brush-off, then two weeks later fall into bed with Robert Chase-- suck-up, turncoat, incipient alcoholic (he gritted his teeth), a Catholic not so much lapsed as utterly failed.
But he had, for whatever reason, and now Chase's world was so askew, he didn't even know which way was up anymore.
Maybe that was the reason.
He hadn't suggested House's place out of concern for the man's leg, or anything like that. His reasons were purely selfish-- he wanted to be able to bolt if need be.
House opened the door with a smug "Just can't stay away, can you?"
Chase wet his lips, testing the mostly-healed cut on the side of his mouth. "Apparently not."
There was an open bottle of scotch on the table, and two empty glasses. Chase pointedly did not take one. House, just as pointedly, did.
Chase perched on the edge of the sofa and stared at his knees.
"So," House said, and sipped his drink. "Should we talk about our feelings now?"
Chase lunged for the bottle. "Give me that."
"It was just a suggestion," House said, smirking and holding the bottle out of reach; Chase glared and sank back down in his seat. "You mean you don't want to know what I think of you?"
"Not at the moment, no." Chase could only imagine.
"Refreshing," House said, and took another sip. "Wanna have sex?"
This time, he let Chase take the bottle.
House kissed expertly and enthusiastically, and his stubble scraped Chase's face; his hands didn't falter on the flat planes of Chase's body, instead digging in hard enough to leave bruises. Chase was dizzy from the first touch, he couldn't blame it on the alcohol, because he hadn't even finished his first glass. But now he knew how House kissed, and he didn't think he'd be able to stop.
Unfair, his brain whispered, not fair at all-- to any of them: Cameron, sitting home alone; Chase, overwhelmed by sensations he'd convinced himself he didn't really want, let alone need; and House himself, because what could he possibly be getting out of this? If he'd ever liked Chase, he certainly didn't now, and yet here he was, tongue in Chase's mouth, hands down the back of his jeans, brushing a line right down the middle--
Chase groaned, a low, obscene sound that echoed in the back of his throat and was swallowed by House's mouth. Not fair to anyone, and least of all him, because he knew what was coming and he couldn't stop if it he wanted to-- and, God help him, he didn't.
House pulled back, and Chase's eyes popped open at the loss of contact. Too-blue eyes gave him a narrow, searching look. "Sex," House said again, seeming to taste the word in his mouth, and it was part question, part confirmation-- yes, sex; yes, I want it; roger, all systems go.
Chase didn't know when he'd grabbed the front of House's T-shirt, but as his fingers tightened and the fabric stretched between his fingers, he was grateful for the handhold. In a low, grating voice he barely recognized, he said, "If you're just gonna talk about it--"
"Bite your tongue," House said, then bit it for him.
Again they shed their clothes on the way to the bedroom; Chase wondered if he'd ever get to walk inside while fully dressed. He was dimly, vaguely appreciative of the lack of stairs, and then he was naked on the bed, and House was naked with him, and--
Maybe Cameron wasn't so crazy after all.
Long sparse body, wiry muscles, strength in the arms and legs that hadn't entirely faded in the past six years. Dark curls over the chest and arms and legs, disconcerting but not off-putting. And, well, then there was the obvious. Medium Greg definitely wasn't little.
Chase tried not to stare, then gave up and stared. House shifted under his regard.
"If you're just going to look," he said, a mimicry of Chase's earlier complaint, cast in harsh American tones instead. He leaned back against the headboard in a tense, deliberate sprawl. One hand twitched toward his leg, then dropped back again to his side. House thought he was staring at his leg, Chase realized; now curious, he looked.
He didn't know how he'd missed it at first. The area of missing muscle was a deep, harsh purple, looking angry and inflamed against the pale skin. Chase waited for disgust, or pity, or something between the two, but all he felt was impatient. His interest lay elsewhere.
House's cock was long and slender, like the rest of him, only somewhat larger than the rest of Chase's admittedly small sample pool. Circumcised, of course, as most Americans were-- he'd noticed that before; hard to miss. And despite House's irritated glare, it was showing a definite interest in the proceedings.
"Satisfied?" House snapped, when Chase managed to drag his eyes away.
"Ease up, would you?" Chase was surprised at his defensive tone, though not nearly as surprised as he was by the brief flicker of apology on House's face-- brief enough that he wasn't sure it was ever there, and so could ignore it. "This is-- it's not easy, all right?"
"Tab A, slot B. Seems fairly straightforward to me."
Chase felt lightheaded; he was fairly certain he'd never been referred to as a slot before. "I'm just saying, I'm not-- I don't--"
"Oh dear," House said, with a look of truly vicious glee, and Chase resisted the urge to slug him, though not by much. He raised a hand to his mouth in mock-horror. "Don't tell me--"
"Fuck off," Chase said, suddenly weary. He started to push himself upright.
House moved with surprising speed, pinning him back down on the mattress, planting his hands on either side of Chase's head. Chase blinked up at him, overcome by vertigo, which did little to dispel his rising annoyance.
"--they let you escape untapped," House continued, as though he'd never even paused. Humid breath brushed across Chase's face. "Virginal and pure. It's a good look for you."
"Persuasive argument," Chase said, baring his teeth in a not-quite-smile.
House returned the expression with interest. "Pissy and prickly, even better. Everything's more fun with alliteration."
"You are seriously warped."
"Oh, look who's talking. I'm crippled, not insensate."
Sure enough, House wasn't the only one rising to the occasion. Parts of Chase hadn't received notice that he was supposed to be put out. House's thigh shifted against his groin, and electric sparks shot up his spine. He scowled and tried not to bang his skull against the headboard.
"Oh, what do you want?" House sounded cranky; it was familiar. Comforting. "Flowers and candy? You want me to beg you to stay? Tell you you're pretty?"
"You've done that already," Chase's mouth said, without consulting his brain first.
House blinked. "Flowers?"
"You called me pretty. It was annoying."
"Thank God I haven't lost my touch."
Chase's nails dug into his palms, tense from the effort of not reaching for House. His throat was dry. He wanted to touch, but he didn't have the nerve. Even now, after everything, he couldn't quite see the path from Point A to Point B; couldn't repair the fundamental disconnect between House barking at him in the conference room and House pinning him to the bed and coaxing him into sex. Couldn't envision House coaxing anyone into sex, even with the illustrative example directly above him.
He wondered, not for the first time, whether he'd finally snapped, and it had taken him this long to notice.
House wasn't touchable. He bristled and stung, and his sharp edges cut the unwary as well as the merely semi-alert. He infringed upon Chase's personal space with ease-- all of their personal spaces; he seemed to take it as his due-- and still Chase couldn't bring himself to return the favor. Such as it was.
"You're thinking again," House accused.
"Frequently. And of all the times to start again--"
"This is a bad idea," Chase said. "A really bad idea."
House made a low, exasperated sound. "Put up or shut up, you paranoid freak. You came here, remember?"
Lord, did he. "I'm just saying--"
"Don't," House said, and promptly silenced him.
Hands-- once he stopped thinking about it, his hands moved of their own accord, digging into the muscles beneath House's arms and his shoulder blades, feeling them flex in time with the movement above him. He touched, and he didn't get stung. He supposed it was an improvement.
House broke away long enough to say, "You wanna get the cuffs, or should I?"
Chase's fingers tightened, digging in deeper, and he was pleased by the minute twitch of House's mouth-- more surprise than pain, anything less than a broken bone probably wouldn't even register over his leg and the muffling effects of the Vicodin, but it was acknowledgment nonetheless. "Rule one," Chase said through gritted teeth. "Drop that shit right now, or I am walking out."
"There are rules now?" House didn't look happy. "Did Vogler play by your little rules too?"
"Believe it or not," Chase said, "thinking about Vogler does not actually get me in the mood."
"Really? Makes me kind of want a backrub. Figure that one out."
"I don't do backrubs."
"More's the pity."
Situation defused, at least for now; Chase couldn't feel much relief. The mention of Vogler had driven home the brutal truth. He couldn't afford to get shirty. He was only still here at House's sufferance; Wilson, he knew, had been pushing for House to fire him since the truth first came out.
He couldn't manage to take it personally. He'd probably want to fire him too.
So he let House flip him over, and he closed his eyes and waited, bracing for the inevitable. When nothing happened, he glanced back over his shoulder.
House was staring at him with a look of consternation that almost made him want to laugh.
"I think," House said with great dignity, "that this will require some strategic planning."
Right; the leg. Chase sighed and rolled over onto his back again, watching House beside him from beneath lowered lashes. If they couldn't figure it out--
"Ha," House said suddenly, brightening.
Right. House, not figure it out? Fat chance.
House reached for the headboard, a sliding door affair with compartments behind the wooden panels, and withdrew a foil-wrapped condom and a brand new tube of lubricant.
Chase narrowed his eyes. "You stocked up."
"I'm an optimist."
The only possible response to that was a snort. Chase obliged.
House had a familiar unsettling gleam in his eyes as he stretched out next to Chase and rolled the condom onto himself with deft fingers. He slicked the lube on the condom, and apprehension became full-blown alarm.
"You can't be serious," Chase said.
"You got a better idea?"
Yes, actually, he wanted to say. What was wrong with a blowjob, or just a hand job-- or hell, even good old-fashioned friction; suddenly Chase could think of about a hundred ways to have sex that didn't involve slots. At some point in the past five minutes, he'd reconciled himself to getting fucked. He'd never contemplated having to fuck himself.
It was obscene. It was humiliating. It was--
--turning him on to an alarming degree.
"Well, come on," House said, as Chase squirmed and tried to hide his sudden surge of arousal, an endeavor doomed from the start; and House reached out and slapped his thigh and said, "Ride 'em, cowboy."
Torn between helpless laughter and sheer horror, Chase covered his face with his hands.
Laughter was winning out. As he shook with it, he felt House guiding him up and into position. Amusement left him loose-limbed and relaxed, and he eyed House with grudging respect as he knelt over the man's hips on nearly-steady legs. Clever bastard. Too fucking clever. Chase would never have the upper hand here, he realized, and the knowledge dropped into his stomach like a rock. He pushed the thought aside; he didn't think he could take it in right now. Probably never, but definitely not now, not like this--
--and Chase lowered himself slowly, felt the pressure and the stretch and the burn, and then he wasn't thinking about anything at all.
"Well," House said later, with an insufferable degree of satisfaction. "That was different."
Chase grunted into the pillow and attempted to will his heartbeat back down to normal.
Way past satisfaction, now dangerously close to smugness: "Work tomorrow should be fun."
"Tomorrow's Sunday," Chase mumbled into the soft-washed cotton.
"Oh," House said. "Damn."
Chase squeezed his eyes shut and buried deeper into the covers. Fun. God. What was he letting himself in for?
"Nice tattoo," House said.
"Shut up," Chase told the pillow.
"Wilson," House greets Chase at the door that night, "has been a very naughty boy." Despite his words, he looks more tired and annoyed than amused.
"No argument here," Chase says.
They stare at each other for a few seconds. Then House steps back and says, "Come in," just as Chase thrusts the brown-paper-wrapped package towards him and blurts out, "Here."
House transfers his stare to the package and makes no move to take it.
"It's alcoholic," Chase says, and that does the trick. House grabs the bottle and retreats from the doorway, clutching his prize.
Chase closes the door behind him and follows.
Silence reigns until they're both seated in the living room, scotch glasses in hand. House gives a surprised grunt when he sees the label, but doesn't comment otherwise. Chase feels vindicated; he doesn't know House's favorite brand, but he has noticed which bottle House always opens when they're in his flat.
The bottle cost over two hundred bucks. He hopes House appreciates it.
"So," House says finally, settling back in his easy chair and pausing to drain half the glass in a single gulp. "You wanted to talk, so talk."
Chase takes a deep breath and realizes he had no idea where to start.
House looks pointedly at his watch.
Might as well start with the general and all-encompassing. "What happened?"
House gives him a long, cool look. "Well," he says, "in the beginning--"
"More recent," Chase says, not amused. "Try three months ago."
"That's jumping ahead a bit, isn't it?" House's eyes narrow; he's going for the throat now. "Your big, bad, black boyfriend dumped you, you couldn't stand the long and lonely nights--"
"Or maybe," Chase says, "it started with you sticking your fucking nose into my business with my father."
"Now I need a flow chart," House says.
Chase closes his eyes. "House--"
"It started," House interrupts, and Chase steels himself for a long, pontificating speech, "when Daddy walked out-- oh, don't give me that look, you brought him up-- when Daddy walked out on you and left you with a big, stern, father-figure-shaped void in your life. You still crave paternal approval, but you've given up on ever getting it from the best man for the job. You tried God, but that didn't work either. You flew all the way across the Atlantic--"
"--and beached upon the august Jersey shore-- yes, but then I don't get to say 'shore'-- where you found a bitter, crippled, abusive man who seemed to fit the bill, which, by the way, says a lot more about your relationship with your father than I'm comfortable with."
Chase grips the glass so tightly he's afraid it might break. "Really," he manages to say.
"No, that's a lie. I'm perfectly comfortable with it."
"Is this going somewhere, or do you just like to watch me squirm?"
"Can't I do both? Where was I?"
"The bastard prick who hired me."
"Ah yes, him. Oh, but I've glossed over your career in the S&M scene, haven't I?"
"Please feel free to continue glossing."
"Nonsense. I would never do you such a disservice."
Lost for a witty retort, Chase scowls.
"You tried the daddy role yourself for a while," House says, and Chase feels compelled to object again.
"I was never anybody's 'daddy'."
"Well," House says, "you certainly weren't very good at it. But you remembered Annette, didn't you? She obviously made an impression."
"She's an impressive woman."
"Not to everyone's taste, granted, but certainly yours. How about it, Chase, you ever been tied up in that basement of hers?"
"Probably wanted to, though, right? Chained collar to cock ring. Hard transition to make, isn't it?"
"Congratulations," Chase says through gritted teeth, "I'm fully humiliated. Can we move on?"
House gives Chase a speculative head-to-toe stare, and Chase manages hold steady under the regard. House says, "You intrigue me, Chase. I obviously get to you, but you just sit there and take it. Let's add masochist to the list, shall we?"
Chase ignores the dig. "Is that why you're sleeping with me? Because I intrigue you?"
"No, I screwed you because you intrigued me. I slept with you because I was too tired to kick your ass out of bed afterwards. And in case you missed my cunning use of the past tense, might I remind you that I am no longer doing either." House barely pauses for breath. "Now no fair jumping ahead, I haven't even gotten to Santa Claus yet."
"Santa Claus," Chase echoes.
"He giveth, he taketh away. Isn't that how it goes?"
"I fear your childhood."
"And I fear yours," House says.
"But let's not get personal."
"You've been personal," Chase grinds out.
"Fine, so I fail. You just don't want me to talk about Vogler."
"Nobody wants anyone to talk about Vogler. Nobody except you wants to talk about Vogler."
"Oh, come on," House says. "Who doesn't like picking at scabs?"
Chase pours himself some more scotch.
"Watch it," House says. "That's the good stuff there."
Chase glares at House through his eyelashes and raises his middle finger against the glass.
House snorts. "Fine, we'll do the Spark Notes version. I pissed you off, Vogler came along, you landed yourself a new father figure. One, by the way, who was way more disturbing than me."
"Noted," Chase mutters. His head is spinning, and he's only on his second drink. This is not how he expected the conversation to go.
He supposes a mutually respectful parting of ways was too much to hope for.
House is nowhere near done; his voice, always grating, now rubs like steel wool against Chase's eardrums. "But that didn't work out so well, did it? So Vogler's out, and you're stuck with little old me again. Except I'm not buying the worshipful protégé act anymore--"
"It wasn't an act--"
"Then that's just sad. And you, my boy, had to step up the game."
"And?" Chase forces out through stiff, bloodless lips.
"And what? And you sucked my dick, and the rest was X-rated history. You asked what happened, I told you."
"That's it?" Chase asks, amused despite himself. "You think I, what, ravished you because I crave your approval?"
"No," House says, "I think you, what, ravished me because you wanted to keep your job, and I think you wanted to keep your job because you crave my approval. Isn't that what you told Wilson?"
Chase's face flames. "That fucker. He wouldn't tell me what you said about me, and all the time he was probably recording our conversation for you."
"My friend," House says, "not yours. And recording your conversation would be illegal. Relaying the juicy tidbits, however, is not."
"And where the hell were you in all of this? Clearly you're not a passive virgin waiting to be seduced, or Cameron would've been a hell of a lot happier that morning after."
"And me screwing Cameron would make me a virgin?"
"You know what I mean!"
"I'm not entirely convinced of that."
Chase takes a deep breath and manages to pry his teeth apart. "You're claiming I took advantage of you."
"No," House says, "I'm saying you threw yourself at me. I took you up on it, and I shouldn't have."
"Is that an actual apology?"
"If it'll make you happy, sure."
Chase scoffs. "What do you care if I'm happy?"
The sudden heat in House's eyes nearly makes him swallow his tongue. "I have spent the whole week trying to make you happy," House growls.
It takes Chase a few seconds to find his voice. "Excuse me?"
"You dumbass, what did you think was going on?" House throws back the last of his scotch and slams down the glass. Chase thinks he hears something crack.
"More punishment," he says, feeling numb. "You were ignoring me."
House rolls his eyes. "So when I make fun of you, I'm tormenting you, and when I don't, I'm ignoring you. What do you want me to do, take up mime?"
"There's a vast middle ground between giving me the cold shoulder and sending me to root through somebody's trash!"
"Whatever," House says. He leans forward and refills his glass. "I'm a bad, bad man. I admit it. We've talked. Satisfied?"
"Not quite the word for it," Chase snaps.
"Well, I suggest you get the hell over it and get to finding yourself a new daddy to discipline you properly."
"That's it," Chase says with wonder, storing this latest dig away in his memory for future vengeance-related purposes. "You don't have anything else to say to me?"
House regards him over the rim of his glass with hooded eyes. "I'd hurry if I were you. No telling when Version 1.0's going to kick it."
Chase stares, turning the words over in his head. No matter from what direction he looks at them, they don't make any sense. Unless....
"What?" he asks finally.
House freezes, then carefully arranges his features into an expression of perfect innocence. "What what?"
House trying to look innocent. It's almost funny.
Chase asks, "What did you just say?"
"Oh," House says after a moment. "That." He sets down his scotch and makes an apologetic face; if Chase didn't know better, he might think it's genuine. "Ah, your father's dying. Did I forget to mention it?"
Chase punches him.
It's an awkward blow, seated as they both are, with no real force behind it; Chase ends up half-sprawled across House's easy chair, his fingers aching from the contact. He shoves himself up and away, staggering across the carpet, nearly falling again when his legs hit the coffee table.
House makes no move to follow suit. He touches two fingers to the angry red mark beneath his left cheekbone, then reaches with the same hand for his abandoned glass.
He doesn't say another word. Chase feels the heavy weight of his gaze all the way to the front door. He grabs his jacket and storms out, slamming it shut behind him.
Then he stops, caught short by the sight of the man in front of him.
"Told you I'd find out," Foreman says as Chase gapes.
Chase's head spins with disconnected memories; House's voice pounds in his ears. Your father's dying... I have spent the whole week trying to make you happy... Virginal and pure, it's a good look for you. He can't think of a single thing to say that won't end with him and Foreman coming to blows. His knuckles still sting.
Oh God, he just punched his boss.
His father is dying.
Have you talked to your father lately?
And Wilson knows. Wilson fucking knows.
Wilson fucking knows everything, it seems.
Something in Foreman's expression changes. "Hey, man, you okay?"
Chase finds his voice. "My father's dying," he hears himself say, and wonders if Foreman knows too. If everybody does.
Annoyance flashes across Foreman's face, replaced quickly by confusion and not a little sympathy. "Uh. Sorry?"
Chase fumbles in his pockets for his keys. His hands shake. "I gotta-- I have to go now, I just--"
Quick, catlike movement, and then Foreman's in front of him, gripping his shoulders and leaning in to sniff his breath. Chase recoils, hyperaware of the pressure of strong fingers through his leather jacket. Foreman asks, "You been drinking?"
Not nearly enough; he's not even buzzed. Chase jerks away, and this time Foreman lets him go. "What d'you care?"
"You're not driving like that."
Chase takes another step back and feels cool brick through his clothes. He sags against the wall and closes his eyes. House is on the other side of this wall. Finishing off the bottle, maybe. Washing down a Vicodin with the last mouthful, flipping through the late-night programs, never mind he just shattered Chase's entire world.
Never mind anything he's ever done to Chase. And God, is the list long.
"He knew," he whispers, unaware and uncaring whether Foreman is even still there, still paying attention to him. "The bastard knew, all this time."
At the light touch on his shoulder, he opens his eyes and stared into Foreman's face-- impenetrable, inscrutable, with warm brown eyes and smooth, unlined skin, and endless compassion he turns on and off like a switch; so unlike House's mobile, time-worn features, House's startling blue eyes, and yet suddenly Chase wants Foreman too.
Jesus. He can't be thinking this, not now. Not when he can feel manic desperation settling in his limbs again, leaving him anxious and twitching. He wants to call Sydney; he never wants to talk to his father again. He wants to get so drunk he can't see straight. He wants to get another tattoo, maybe pierce something. Socially acceptable pain.
He wants... other things.
"Come on," Foreman says, giving his shoulder what's meant to be a comforting squeeze. "I'll drive you."
Not drunk, Chase thinks, I'm not, but he doubts Foreman will believe him. Still, he works his mouth for a few seconds before he can remember how to produce words. "Don't," he manages, and doesn't say, It's dangerous.
Foreman's jaw twitches. "Ungrateful bastard," he mutters. "Come on. I'm saving you from yourself, whether you like it or not." Voice of authority.
Chase resents authority. Resents it, because he can feel it pull at his bones, knows how it makes him respond.
Voice of authority, and he follows Foreman to the dark gray Acura parked at the curb without another word. Even the car doesn't tell him much about the man who drives it. High end, good quality without being showy-- all too predictable, and yet it seems to say something important, something he's in no condition to grasp. Eric Foreman is a cipher. Chase thought he had him pegged early on, but after a year spent working together, he's come to realize he doesn't have a clue.
The rage fades as quickly as it came, leaving him weak and drained. He leans back against the headrest and closes his eyes, lulled by the purr of the engine. Foreman drives with ease and confidence, like he does everything else, and only when he slows to a stop in front of Chase's apartment building does it occur to Chase to wonder how Foreman knows where he lives.
No matter; he's home, and that's all he cares about. And carless-- he'll have to get up early tomorrow morning, take the bus or a taxi to House's place. But in the meantime, it will prevent him from doing anything... well. Anything regrettable.
In this case, however, an ounce of prevention will go a long way, and it's easy enough to apply. He can see Foreman hesitating, wondering whether to come up with him, and settles the question before it's asked by stepping out of the car with as much dignity as he can muster.
"Thanks," he says. "For the ride. Um, see you tomorrow."
Uncertainty flashes in Foreman's eyes. "Right," is all he says, and God, it would be so easy, just get back into the car, lean in...
...probably get punched in the face.
Chase's knuckles throb in memory-- quite enough punching tonight already, thank you-- and he slams the door and makes for the building as quickly as he can without breaking into a flat-out sprint.
The Acura is still there, idling at the curb, when he reaches the sanctuary of his apartment. Chase scowls out the window and flips on the lights, and sees the brake lights disappear as the car starts to move down the empty street. Foreman was waiting until he knew Chase was safely inside.
It's definitely time to break out the vodka.
Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four