Speed You Down
by Maya Tawi
The second morning after went better than the first. Chase didn't even panic that time. He extracted the pillowcase from between his teeth, scrubbed at the saliva stain with the back of his hand, and in short order had risen and followed the enticing scent of coffee and bacon out into the kitchen.
House did a double-take when he saw him, dropping the spatula with a clatter. "Son of a-- warn a guy next time, would you?"
"Excuse me?" Chase asked, uncertain whether or not to be offended.
"I'm old," House said. He reclaimed the spatula from the floor and scooped the sizzling strips of bacon onto a plate. "I have a sensitive heart. You didn't see that, by the way."
"Fried strips of pig fat might not be the best thing for a dodgy ticker."
"Is that your considered medical opinion? I was told it's the breakfast of champions." House snapped off the burner and sucked at his fingers; Chase found himself riveted by the sight. "But if you persist on parading that ass around first thing in the morning--"
"Yes?" Chase said testily, bracing for insult.
House's eyes darkened. In a low voice, he said, "I can't be held responsible for my actions."
He wasn't flattered, Chase told himself; that would be stupid. "I figured we're a bit past modesty at this point."
"Really?" House said. "Figured all you needed was a dick up the ass to fuck the blushing virgin out of you. Oh, wait," he added, grinning as Chase felt his face heat, right on cue. "There it goes again. Short-lived remedy. Perhaps another dose?"
"Is that your considered medical opinion?"
House set the plate of bacon aside and started to back Chase against the kitchen counter. Chase let him, let the permanent morning stubble scrape against his skin as House's mouth found the junction of throat and jaw. Feeling daring, he reached up and buried his hands in House's thinning hair, then gave a gentle tug.
If the soft growl against his throat was any indication, House approved.
"What's going on with you and Cameron, anyway?" Chase asked later, after they had once again made their way to the bedroom for the duration.
He felt House tense against him, then the shift of the mattress as House rolled onto his back with an irritated grunt. "Where the hell did you learn your pillow talk? Your execution is atrocious. I am totally not impressed."
Chase stared at the ceiling, fighting the instinctive urge to back down. "You obviously like the girl," he said, before he lost his nerve. "Enough to agree to that ridiculous date, at least."
"What would you know about it?"
"So enlighten me."
House's voice was a little too sharp, a little too glib. "If this is your preferred form of masochism, I'm disappointed. I thought you were more interesting than that."
Chase turned his head. House was watching him with fierce, glittering eyes, daring him to push the issue. He opened his mouth and found himself asking, "You think I'm interesting?"
Nice, Robbie. Very fucking cool.
"Less and less," House said, "the more I get to know you."
It was an automatic answer, lacking the usual bite. Chase pressed his advantage. "If you're not interested sexually--"
He expected more resistance, and was surprised when House heaved a resigned sigh.
"She's too nice," he said. "Too good. She wants to heal me." The disdain in his voice was obvious. The disappointment was harder to detect.
"And I'm not." It wasn't a question.
"Hardly," House said.
He wasn't surprised. He kind of wished he was.
House rolled over, giving Chase an unobstructed view of the of long muscles shifting in his back. "Let that be a lesson. Don't ask questions you don't want answered."
"You," Chase told his back, "are utterly fucked-up."
"I defer to the master."
Chase looked at the ceiling again and sighed.
"Think the bacon's cold?" he asked.
"No idea. Let's check if the laws of thermodynamics still apply, shall we?"
"You're still an asshole. I'm pretty sure Hell hasn't frozen over yet."
"Don't be too sure," House said.
The next morning, House walks in, announces, "Acute inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy," and walks back out again.
Chase, Cameron, and Foreman stare after him.
"That's it?" Foreman asks finally. "You think--"
"You tell us," Cameron says. "You're the neurologist."
"It fits," Foreman says with some reluctance.
Chase stands, ignoring them, his eyes still fixed on the glass door to the hallway. House has vanished; not into his office, they'd see him through the connecting door. Which means he could be hiding in any one of a number of places.
"Where are you going?" Foreman asks.
"It's polyneuropathy," he says.
"So we need to confirm, we need to start treating Janice--"
"I'm coming back," Chase says, annoyed.
"You didn't yesterday," Foreman says.
Yes, well. A lot of things happened yesterday, and Chase feels ill-equipped to deal with any of them at the moment. He didn't slept at all last night, too tense from the effort of not picking up the phone and dialing, and gave up sometime around four a.m. and took a cab across town to rescue his car. After that, it was the fear of Foreman's reaction the next day-- today, now-- that kept him awake and staring at the ceiling. He feels like shit on toast.
He's relieved, and somewhat amazed, that Foreman has made no mention yet of their late-night encounter. Foreman has no use for secrets, and seems to enjoy bursting his coworkers' self-delusional bubbles. But if he doesn't plan to bring it up, Chase sure as hell isn't about to ask why..
"So report me to the headmaster," he says, as evenly as he can. "In the meantime, I will be back."
Foreman opens his mouth, then stops. He cuts a sideways look at Cameron, who's staring back and forth between them like a spectator at a tennis match, and suddenly Chase understands.
Foreman isn't saying anything, not out of concern for Chase's delicate sensibilities, but because he's trying to spare Cameron's feelings.
Which means he has a pretty damn good idea what's going on after all.
Chase feels his stomach tighten, feels his guts slide down into his expensive leather shoes, as he realizes that the future of his career now rests in the hands of a man who, truth told, really doesn't like him all that much.
He spares a brief moment to wonder why he doesn't care as much as he thought he would, then takes a deep breath and stalks out.
House is not in the clinic, the chapel, the obstetrics lounge, or any of the men's rooms. Finally, on a hunch, Chase hikes up the stairs to the oncology lounge-- too impatient to wait for the elevator, and anyway too restless to stand still-- and finds House fiddling with the TiVo, looking far too pleased with himself. The bruise has already faded to a slight pinking under his eye, unnoticeable unless Chase looks for it. He should be relieved, Chase tells himself, not disappointed.
House glances up, sees Chase, and immediately looks less pleased. "What the hell are you doing here?"
Chase's voice is low, quiet, and far steadier than he'd expected. "How long have you known?"
House's brows lower. Chase fancies he can see House consider and discard several responses-- snide, patronizing, deliberately obtuse-- before settling for a simple, soft, "Since March."
Chase sucks air into suddenly tight lungs. "How long has Wilson known?"
"He's treating him."
Cancer. Not a surprise; all Chase's childhood memories of his father are wreathed in curls of cigar smoke. Of course it follows that House would know. The two of them gossip worse than high school girls.
"He didn't tell me," House adds, just as the thought crosses Chase's mind. "I worked it out all by myself. And I'm not even his beloved son."
Chase's hands clench into fists. Softly he asks, "What should I do?"
"Not my place to say."
"That's never stopped you before."
House shrugs. His eyes stay glued to the TV screen. "He'll be dead in a few months. A year if he's lucky. If you want to carry your grudge to his grave, be my guest."
So fucking simple. Black and white, just like that. Black and white, and Chase is seriously starting to see red.
He says, "Turn that fucking thing off."
House shoots him a quick, almost surprised look, then slowly turns off the television. "How very forceful of you. I'm all a-twitter."
It's the perfect time to bring up Wilson's other little revelation, wipe the superior look right off that smirking face. Chase opens his mouth.
The words refuse to come.
It is, he thinks, too big to contemplate. That he was House's first-- God, it seems so ridiculous. So dangerously humanizing. For once, it's knowledge he doesn't want to have.
But he can still puncture that smugness a little. "Foreman knows," he said.
It's gratifying to see House looking utterly gobsmacked for once. He recovers quickly, though, and narrows his eyes. "Don't tell me--"
"No, I did not bare my soul to him in a touching heart-to-heart." The thought makes Chase shudder. "He was waiting outside. Last night." He swallows and forces the words out. "At yours."
"Thank you, I already deduced that from the look of stark terror on your face." Then House takes closer look. "Lord, Chase, you didn't--"
"Jesus Christ," he spits, before he can stop himself. "Who d'you think I am?"
"He can't help you now. Maybe once upon a time--" Then House clocks his expression and raises a placating hand. "Hey, you wanna screw your way through the whole hospital, no skin off my back."
"Don't tempt me," Chase snarls.
"The screwing or the flaying?"
Chase bares his teeth and contemplates the soft flesh of House's throat.
"Go," House says, after a long silence. "Get back to work. You have tests to run. I assume Foreman isn't going to just blindly accept my diagnosis? Well, I'll be disappointed if he did. I'll deal with him later."
Chase scoffs. "You'll deal with him?"
"I'll give him threatening looks. He'll break eventually." House smirks. "You did."
Chase doesn't trust himself to respond to that. He walks away without a backwards glance.
The fragile truce held for another three weeks, during which Chase spent almost every night with House. He never mentioned Cameron, and House never mentioned Vogler; and sometimes, when they were drinking beer and watching Hank Wiggins play, and House was trying to explain to Chase why he should give a shit about who was on base and who had too many balls, Chase could almost fool himself into thinking it was a normal relationship.
He should have known it wouldn't last. This time it wasn't House's fault. It was his ex's.
Chase had managed to avoid Stacey Warner for over a month; as long as he didn't fuck up another medical procedure, or commit any similar offense, there was no reason for their paths to cross. He'd almost managed to forget she was still there.
"Dr. Chase," she said, nodding as she stepped onto the elevator with him.
So much for avoidance.
Chase kept his eyes fixed on the doors and concentrated on breathing. Stacey was silent until the LCD 3 became a 4. Then she asked abruptly, "How's Greg doing?"
Chase managed not to twitch. "How's he ever?" he said-- the safest, vaguest answer he could muster.
"Usually? Crankier." She shrugged at his quizzical look. "We talked yesterday. He seemed-- I don't know, nice. Sounds crazy, I know, but...." She trailed off.
"It's the drugs talking." 4 became 5 became 6, and finally the elevator doors dinged open. Chase cast the hallway beyond a longing look, wishing he had the balls to walk away mid-conversation.
"You think so?"
And what was with everyone thinking he was House's fucking mood ring? "Why don't you ask Cameron," he snapped. "She's the one who watches him like a hawk."
Stacey regarded him coolly. "Is she?"
Perfectly polite, perfectly neutral, with not a hint of insinuation coloring her voice-- but there didn't need to be. Her eyes said it all.
"I gotta go," Chase said, and fled the elevator to relative safety.
That night, Chase paced, drank, and paced some more. When he saw the Corvette approaching in the street below, he ran and hovered behind the door, yanking it open before House had a chance to knock.
"I can't do this," he said.
House did an exaggerated double-take, his closed fist still held aloft. "Okay," he said, and turned and limped back down the hallway.
Chase stared after him. He didn't look back once.
"Watch it," Foreman warned the next morning, when Chase walked into the conference room. "He's in a mood today."
Chase sank down in his seat with a sigh. "Big surprise."
"He's been kind of weird lately, hasn't he?"
Chase felt his spine stiffen. "How so?"
"I don't know," Foreman said. "Kind of bipolar. Like he'll be nice one day-- well, as nice as he ever gets-- and spit fire the next."
"Can't say I've noticed." Even as he spoke, Chase's heart sank. Show of hands, everyone: who thinks his moods correspond to whether or not he's gotten laid?
"Come to think of it," Foreman said, "you've been weird lately too."
Heart leaping back up into his throat, bypassing his chest entirely: "Really?" Was he a sparkling conversationalist or what?
He was saved from Foreman's response by Cameron's arrival. "Morning," she chirped, as perky as ever.
"Cameron," Foreman said, still staring at Chase, "don't you think Chase has been acting weird?"
Under her considered scrutiny, Chase sunk further down in his chair.
After a short pause, Cameron said, "How can you tell?"
"Ha ha," Chase said with relief.
Foreman wasn't letting go quite so easily. "Jumpy," he said, standing and crossing to the whiteboard, where he neatly printed the word at the top.
"Oh, come on--"
"Snappish," Cameron said.
"Thank you so much."
Foreman grinned. "Scared of House."
"I am not--"
"Please," Cameron said. "You turn white every time he talks to you."
"Better than turning red," he snapped, even as his own face flushed.
Cameron narrowed her eyes. "Did I say snappish?"
"You did," Foreman said.
"And he's getting laid. Regularly."
Chase shot out of his chair. "Hey now--"
"You glow," Cameron said, then frowned. "Not today, though."
Foreman rested his chin on his hand, a parody of deep thought. "It's someone here. Someone House wouldn't approve of."
"Like I need him to approve who I sleep with!"
"So there is someone," Cameron said, with a triumphant grin.
"Wilson?" Foreman suggested, and Chase choked on his own tongue. So close, yet so far.
He sputtered for a few moments before finding his voice again. "You don't-- why would you even--"
Cameron raised her eyebrows. "With those shirts?"
"Uh-huh," Foreman said.
He turned to Cameron for help. "You know I'm not!"
"I know you think you're not," she said. "Could be denial."
"For fuck's sake--"
"Unless," Foreman interrupted, drumming his fingers against his chin. His eyes were wide and very dark.
"Unless what?" Cameron asked, as Chase scowled and tried to will himself invisible.
Foreman waggled his eyebrows. "House is in a mood today. You don't think...?"
Cold dread settled in Chase's stomach like lead. For the first time in his life, he was seriously contemplating murder.
Cameron made a sound that was half-giggle, half-snort. "Yeah, that'll be the day."
Chase sank back down in his chair, rubbery-legged with relief, and almost missed Foreman's narrow, searching look.
"Well, well, well," came the familiar loud, grating voice from the doorway. Chase twisted around; House was staring at the "symptoms" on the whiteboard, a calculating gleam in his eyes. "Looks like someone's been doing something he shouldn't be. Or is that doing someone?"
Cameron beamed. "We're diagnosing Chase," she said.
"Badly," Chase said under his breath.
House eyed the whiteboard with distaste. "Drinks too much, sleeps around, daddy issues out the ass. You think we can concentrate on our actual patients now?"
Chase kept his head down, letting his hair shield his expression. Yeah, he thought, definitely too good to last.
House drops by the lab later in the afternoon with a pointed "Dr. Foreman, I need you for a consult," and Chase keeps his face pressed to the eyepiece of the microscope and ignores the burning stare on the back of his neck.
He wonders which of them is staring at him. Or maybe both are. Too bad Cameron's busy setting up the IVIg and plasmapheresis IVs; he could have collected the whole set.
Foreman says, "Fine," sounding amused, and follows House out the door. After they leave, Chase waits exactly two minutes before slipping out for a coffee break.
He loiters in the conference room and pretends he's not trying to lip-read through the glass door. It doesn't look like House is yelling, but Chase can't see his face, which is seriously hindering the whole lip-reading endeavor.
If it's not the longest coffee break he's ever taken, it certainly feels that way.
When Foreman turns and heads for the door, he still looks a lot more amused than intimidated, and House looks rather more peeved than Chase expects he'll admit to later. Then Chase realizes that Foreman is headed, not for the hallway, but rather straight for him, and is seized by the sudden unmanly desire to flee.
He doesn't get past the stage of pondering whether to put down his coffee cup, or take it with him, before the door swings open.
Thwarted, Chase grips the mug tightly and steels himself.
Foreman lets the door swing shut behind him. He just stands there for a minute, giving Chase a long, knowing look. Chase puts on his blackest glare and tries to placate himself with happy thoughts of Foreman's mangled corpse.
Finally Foreman just shakes his head and says, "Dude."
Chase starts and stares. "Did you just call me 'dude'?"
"Sometimes it's necessary," Foreman says, and shakes his head again.
Chase resists the urge to fling the mug after him when he leaves.
When Chase turns back, House is staring at him. Chase narrows his eyes. House makes a shooing motion with his hand.
Take care of him, my ass, Chase mouths, and followed Foreman out into the hallway.
The odds are pretty good House is a better lip-reader than he is.
"So," Foreman begins, and Chase glances at his watch and stops an imaginary timer. One hour, twelve minutes.
"Fuck off," he says, turning back to his titration, just as the door opens and Cameron walked in.
She stops and sweeps them both with a curious look. "I miss something?"
"No," they say in unison.
Chase glares. Foreman just smiles.
He was getting used to it now, pumping himself up and down, doing all the work while House lay back like an emperor surveying his kingdom. It wasn't all they did-- sometimes he sucked House, sometimes House jerked him off, and once they attempted a sixty-nine, with disastrous results-- but it was often enough that Chase was starting to think of it as the usual, like it was nothing more significant than a sandwich order.
The usual, and it was getting harder and harder to go without.
He'd made it a week this time before placing yet another drunken phone call; a week in which he'd scrubbed bloody vomit off the exam room floor (not enough nurses, House claimed, and the ones they had were too busy) and had been made to tell a doting father that his precious, coddled daughter had syphilis ("Hey, maybe you'll get slapped again-- that was fun"). Round two, lost again.
He'd been furious at the time. Now he was hard put to remember why.
The hard part probably had a lot to do with it.
"One-- of these days," House grunted, as his hips thrust up to meet Chase's, "you're gonna-- stop breaking up-- with me."
Chase's laugh was breathless and strained. "One of these days--" his voice rose sharply on the last word, and he dug his fingernails into House's hips to steady himself-- "you're gonna buy me flowers and-- and serenade me from the roof-- oh God, don't do that--"
House took his hand away. Chase groaned in frustration.
"Your mouth says no," House said, "your love stick says yes."
Chase nearly choked. "Love stick?"
"Man-meat? Pearl pole? Love truncheon? Purple-helmeted warrior?" He'd replaced his hand; each euphemism was accompanied by a fierce, near-vicious stroke. It was almost enough to dull the pain of the litany.
Chase's thighs quivered, gave out, and he found himself fully seated and gasping from it. "Are you trying to kill me?" he demanded once he caught his breath.
"Porksicle," House decided.
Chase slumped over, burying his face in House's stomach. "Oh God."
House squirmed underneath him. "Quit it."
"Because I asked really nicely?"
"Hey," House protested, and Chase felt a wicked grin curving his lips.
"You're ticklish, aren't you?"
"No," House said. "Get up, you jackass."
Chase licked a warm line from House's navel up to the bottom of his ribcage. Muscles jumped beneath his tongue.
"Oh, you are so fired," House panted, and shoved him off. His cock slipped out of Chase with a disconcerting pop. In the next instant, he was crouched over Chase, only a faint tightness around his eyes suggesting the possibility of pain.
Chase started to sit up. "Hey, you shouldn't--"
"Shut up," House said, and pushed him back down. "I just fired you."
"That's a novel concept of sexual harassment," Chase said, trying not to glance down at House's leg; he felt like a nervous parent, and was certain the sentiment wouldn't be appreciated. "Fire me when I do sleep with you."
House's eyes narrowed. His voice took on a sharper edge. "I find your euphemism amusing, and your accusation problematic."
"You're amused by my euphemism? I think my brain is still broken."
"That really wasn't the point there."
"Forget it." More riddles, and he was not in the mood. Chase pushed at House's shoulder, urging him over onto his back again.
House refused to be urged. "Oh no you don't. If I'm harassing you--" and he pronounced it the way Chase did, hair-a-sing, in a drawn-out, mocking drawl-- "I'm gonna do it right."
Chase tried to wriggle backwards. House sat on his thighs, trapping him. "What are you-- look, we already tried--"
"I'd probably remember if we did."
Point taken; they hadn't tried it, for the simple reason that it was such a patently stupid idea in the first place. "Listen, all manly pride aside--"
"Now where would we be without manly pride?"
"I'm sure you're very strong and virile--"
"I should hope so, by now."
"--but," Chase said, grabbing the hands that were reaching for his hips, "I'd prefer not to have to drag you into the emergency room at this point in the evening."
"No need," House said. "I've got an intensivist on hand for just such an occasion. Word is he's not half-bad. Getting a little too big for his britches lately, but-- hey!"
The last was prompted as Chase resorted to the last weapon in his arsenal, indignation and appeals to reason having failed miserably. He brushed his fingers over House's stomach, and House jerked away. Chase felt smug for a second; then his wrists were caught and pinned, and it was back to annoyance and vague dismay.
"You're being an idiot," Chase said through gritted teeth, as House shifted his weight off to the side and pushed Chase's knees up toward his chest.
"Which has always been my prerogative. What are you looking at?"
Chase propped himself up on his elbows, watching as House fluffed and arranged pillows, focusing on the problem with the same bloody single-mindedness he used on patients, and a similar total disregard for their concerns. "Just trying to figure how exactly you plan to pull this off."
"Watch and learn," House said. Chase's legs had fallen back down, splayed on either side of him, and House frowned at them. "I thought I took care of these already."
"Yes, well, I don't actually bend that way."
House raised an eyebrow.
"Often," Chase amended.
The second eyebrow shot up to join the first. "So just sometimes, then."
"That's not what I--" And then his legs were pushed up again and arranged carefully over House's shoulders, and he lost his balance and fell back with a grunt.
"You were saying?"
Chase folded his hands behind his head and raised an eyebrow of his own, ignoring the twinge of stretched muscles. "Stalling, are you?"
"Hardly," House said. He was still seated; as Chase watched, he arranged his right leg in front of him so it ran alongside the length of Chase's body, then rose up on his left knee. Chase's legs rose with him, and he found himself pressed almost double. His hands slipped from beneath his head and smacked against the mattress for balance.
House loomed over him, smirking. "And you doubted me," he said.
"Remind me," Chase gasped, his fingers clutching at the crumpled sheets, "what are you trying to prove, again?"
"It sounds so petty when you put it like that."
"Shoe fits," Chase muttered. He had to admire House's ingenuity, if nothing else. The position was almost like a runner's crouch, only with his weight on the rear leg instead of the front. Certainly it would reduce the strain. And if House had no intention of moving any time soon, he'd consider the problem solved.
Of course, if House had no intention of moving, Chase was pretty sure that would be considered grounds for justifiable homicide. Despite everything, he was still hard, and House was too. And since Chase doubted he got off on the pain....
He narrowed his eyes. "How many pills did you take?"
In response, House sank back into him, balls-deep with one long, forceful roll of his hips.
"Enough," Chase heard him say, through the shock of penetration. It still hurt, even after weeks of practice.
"Clearly," Chase choked out, when he could speak again.
It was awkward and clumsy, and Chase's legs kept slipping, until he crossed one ankle over the other and dug his heels into House's back. House's cock brushed his prostate with glancing strokes, not enough to get him to the edge, and he reached down to help things along. House glanced down at his hand, then redoubled his efforts; his own hands were busy supporting his weight.
The change in position was more disorienting than he'd expected. The loss of power was negligible; in theory, he could push House off any time he wanted, if he wasn't worried about hurting House. In practice, he wasn't willing to risk it. And though the pace was tortuously slow, there wasn't much Chase could do about it. Before, at least, he'd been able to set his own speed. Now he was fully at House's mercy, unwilling as he was to cause his employer any sex-related injuries that could mar his CV.
When Chase came, after what felt like hours, House was still thrusting doggedly away. The strain showed on his face. Chase bit back the concern that threatened to trip off his tongue. If House was trying to prove something, that was his own damn business.
And when House did orgasm, then collapsed, panting and sweaty and smug, Chase had no doubt the point had been made. But damned if he knew what it was supposed to be.
Chase stood over the bed the next morning, hands on his naked hips, not bothering to hide the disapproval on his face. Not like House would see it anyway.
"How's the leg?" he asked sarcastically.
House pulled the comforter up further over his head. Muffled by the fabric, his voice lost none of its venom. "Shut up and fetch me my pills."
One week, two days; it's the longest Chase has held out since this whole farce began. House is a bad habit, an addiction. No matter how many times he tried to quit, it never took.
Work continues to follow a now-familiar pattern: House is chilly and distant, Foreman knows more than he should, and Cameron watches and wonders. Whenever Chase passes Wilson in the hall, Wilson gives him knowing looks but keeps his mouth shut. Chase ignores them all as best he can, keeps his head down, and tries to do his job.
The hollow ache of betrayal is a fun new twist. Two days have passed since House's revelation about his father, and Chase still hasn't called home. He sees the time slipping away now, pages ripping off a calendar like some fucking movie cliché, and every night the phone seems farther and farther out of reach; Australia no longer on the other side of the globe, but on another planet, in a different galaxy even. His father is dying, and he's not close enough to make it feel real. If House didn't let slip, Chase would never have known until the funeral.
It's enough to keep him away that extra day. And probably another, and another. Chase pictures his future, cold and empty and utterly professional, and wonders if he's finally cured.
And every time he thinks about relapsing, every night he drinks too much and stares at the phone and tries to decide which call he wants to make the least, newly-rediscovered pride stills his hand. He wasn't the one to walk out last time, not until House told him to. It's House's turn to come crawling back, something no amount of single-malt can make Chase believe will ever happen. Case closed. Patient treated and on the road to recovery.
Still, when his buzzer rings that night-- two days after the dropped bomb, one day after matching his best time in the Dignity, And How To Pretend You Still Have It footrace-- Chase is at the intercom in an instant, flattening a shaking palm over the door button to let the visitor through. If he can't think who else might be paying him an impromptu nighttime visit, he's not about to admit that to House.
He's not about to admit anything to House, because two minutes later-- Hey, but who's counting-- it isn't House who knocks on his door.
Chase stares. "You've got to be kidding me."
"Come on, man," Foreman says. "Let me in."
"Can you think of a particularly compelling reason why I should?"
Foreman says, "Can you think of a non-pathetic reason why you shouldn't?"
Got him there.
Chase closes the door and considers sliding the deadbolt home, turning off all the lights and crawling into bed and leaving Foreman standing in the hallway. He sighs, rests his forehead on the door, and removes the chain.
Foreman brushes past him into the apartment, looking around-- Chase's stomach clenches-- much like House did the first time. "Nice place," he says at last.
Chase closes the door and leans against it, letting his head fall back against the cool wood. "You're surprised?"
"Hey, money doesn't always mean taste."
"I suppose you'd know."
Foreman's lips thin into an angry line, but all he says is, "Here." He holds out the wine bottle he's been holding. Chase spotted it instantly; it was one of the reasons he decided to let Foreman inside in the first place.
Chase accepts the wine and tries not to let his lip curl. A merlot, expensive and boring, just like Foreman's car. Expensive and boring and doesn't tell him a damn thing about the man currently occupying his carpet, the man who knows way too much about his personal life for comfort.
Chase lets his hand fall to his side, swinging the bottle loosely between two fingers. "What do you want, Foreman?"
"Who says I want something?"
"You have that look," Chase says. "And you're plying me with booze."
"Maybe I just thought you'd want some company."
"Maybe you were wrong. If that's all, you can go home now."
"Damn," Foreman says. "You're even starting to sound like him."
"Oh, look who's fucking talking." The words taste dry and too familiar in Chase's mouth, and it takes him a moment to realize why; when he does, he suppresses a shudder. House's words, right down to the intonation. The profanity, at least, is all his.
Way to prove his fucking point.
Even his mental voice is getting filthier. House inspires employees and fuck-buddies alike to ever greater heights of obscenity.
Foreman looks discomfited, as he always does when confronted with his resemblance to a man he barely tolerates at best. He stopped wearing the sneakers almost immediately.
After a moment, he says, "You're not still... are you?"
"Aren't you gone yet?" Chase snaps.
"Not with you blocking the door, I'm not."
Chase makes a show of stepping aside and flinging open the door. Foreman doesn't so much as twitch.
"That was a suggestion," Chase says. "In case you couldn't tell."
Foreman shakes his head. "Man, if I had to place bets, you or Cameron--"
"This is your idea of male bonding?" Chase smacks his hand against the door. "Get the fuck out."
"Hey, I'm just saying. I had to choose, you wouldn't even be on the list."
"And if I were trying to get you in bed, that'd actually be a problem for me." Two days since he did wanted it, Foreman in his bed and in his mouth, with a fierceness that left him aching; funny how things change. The only thing he wants to do with Foreman right now involve a very tall flight of stairs, and a very hard concrete floor at the bottom.
Foreman nods at the wine bottle, unperturbed. "You gonna open that or what?"
Chase looks down and feels his resolve weaken. Wine is wine, after all.
He makes a last-ditch effort. "Are you going to be polite and actually leave when I ask you to?"
"Not without that bottle, no."
Figures. This time, Chase doesn't bother to hide his sneer.
"Come on, then," he says, slamming the door shut, and stalks over to the sofa. Foreman followed, and Chase forestalls him with an accusing index finger. "You say anything about anyone's feelings, and I am leaving."
"It's your apartment," Foreman says.
"So we'll fucking trade. Don't get complacent."
They watch baseball, which makes Chase think of House, and bores him enough that he can't stop his mind wandering once it starts. They pass the wine bottle back and forth between them, not bothering with glasses, and it seems fitting.
Sometime during the fourth-- whatever; period, inning, down-- Chase feels Foreman's eyes on him and demands, "What's your problem?"
"Not nearly as interesting as yours," Foreman says.
"Which would be a snappy comeback, if that's what I'd actually asked."
Foreman props his chin on his hand, his elbow on his thigh. "Just trying to remember all the times you mocked Cameron for her crush."
Chase shoots to his feet, the bottle hitting the coffee table harder than he intended. "I said--"
Foreman raises his hands. "Hey, I'm not talking about anybody's feelings." He pauses. "Except maybe Cameron's."
"She doesn't count?" The taste of ashes is back, sticking to his tongue and the back of his throat.
"Obviously not to you."
Chase laughs, incredulous; he can't help it. "What, are you telling me she had dibs?"
"I'm telling you," Foreman says, with exaggerated evenness to his voice, "that of all the ways your little affair was a really bad idea, that one's just the icing on the cake."
Chase starts to shake, and can't tell if it's terror or rage, or some unholy combination of the two. "Get out," he says softly. "Get up, and get out."
Foreman listens for once, to the first part at least; he stands, his eyes narrowed to slits. "So what's the verdict?" he asks. "Does he have sex, or does he make love?"
"You'll never know," Chase says. It's all he can think of. His voice sounds dead to his own ears.
"What are you getting out of this, Chase?"
"Were," Chase says, "past tense," and points at the door.
He slams it in Foreman's face and throws the lock as hard as he can.
In the weeks that followed, Chase started, slowly but surely, to learn. He kept his mouth shut, he went along with House, he stopped panicking every time he passed Wilson or Stacey in the hall, and the whole thing started to seem so depressingly ordinary, he almost couldn't tell that anything had changed at all.
Even the others seemed back to normal. Foreman had stopped giving him so many suspicious looks, and Cameron started to lose the moony stares. Whatever her thing was with House, she seemed to have worked it out to her satisfaction, in her own head at least.
Unless they'd worked it out together, the two of them. Chase didn't like the way his gut twisted at the thought. He wasn't supposed to care.
He kept his mouth shut, and that, it seemed, was the point House had been trying to make, because he never bothered to repeat his little death-, or rather leg-defying stunt. Or else he'd learned his lesson, but if there was one thing Chase knew for sure about House, it was that House wouldn't recognize a lesson if it walked up and slapped him in the face. Either way, the fact remained that Chase had been cowed into submission, and it chafed; but he suffered in silence, and he was getting good at it.
Chase, unlike House, took his lessons to heart. He'd always been a quick study. So House didn't want him calling a spade a spade. Chase could do that much, or that little.
But to what end? He didn't even know anymore. He was no longer under imminent threat of being sacked, hadn't been since the meningitis epidemic and the Mary Carroll case. He'd taken his punishment like a good boy, and that was enough for House. It wasn't just about his job anymore; it couldn't be, because thought that it had all been for nothing, everything that happened since that first fucked-up night, was enough to drive a man straight past drink into intravenous heroin.
It couldn't last; he was painfully aware of that fact. He felt like he was walking on a tightrope, knowing the end was coming but unable to see it in the distance-- and worse, he was the only one who realized. House seemed content to continue things the way they were. Of course he was. He was getting what he wanted out of it.
So Chase made nice, and fucked himself on House's cock four nights a week, and held his breath and waited for the other shoe to drop, and the month passed in a gut-clenching, nerve-wracking blur.
It was a hell of his own making, and it wasn't even all that bad.
Things he hadn't known about himself, hadn't ever wanted to know, were bubbling unchecked to the surface. The realization that his compulsion to suck cock hadn't just been a one-off, belated adolescent rebellion. Awareness of his need for House's approval, and how fucking gratifying it was when it came-- couldn't chalk that all up to professional pride, not anymore. It helped that he no longer had any pride to speak of. Helped in a relative sense, anyway. He was satisfied in a way he hadn't been for a long, long time, and just self-aware enough to realize how very fucked that made him.
He had fantasies of doing something insane and dangerous and very much not the usual. Like grabbing House in the middle of the hospital and dragging him into a supply closet, or an empty exam room, where Chase would kiss him senseless; kisses weren't usual, but they weren't discouraged either. And then he'd drop to his knees and undo House's trousers--
--and that was where the fantasy usually ended, with Cuddy walking in and firing them both on the spot. Or just taking a picture with the camera she would magically have in hand.
Even his fantasies were paranoid.
So he never tried it, but that didn't stop House from giving him some serious eye-fucks when the others weren't looking-- never more than a few seconds, never long enough to get caught, but enough to make Chase's blood jump ship from his brain and join the party in his slacks.
"You're killing me here," he hissed once out of the side of his mouth, falling into step next to House in the hall, just close enough to brush against him.
"Excellent," House said. He kept his eyes front as he always did during hallway conversations, trusting in the sheer force of gravity to keep his satellites following him, not caring if they left orbit. "My nefarious plan is working splendidly. You'll die of a persistent hard-on, the rest of us will split your salary, and everyone goes home happy. Except you; you'll just go into the ground happy."
"So glad to see you've put some thought into this."
"I've put some thought into everything," House said.
"Well," House amended, "almost everything." He shot a sidelong glance at Chase, too quick to read whatever emotion might be lurking there, then raised his voice. "Don't worry, Dr. Chase, I'm sure you're old enough to go pee-pee by yourself. You won't get lost on the way, will you?"
Chase opened his mouth, then shut it again, at a loss. A passing surgeon shot him a strange look and shook her head.
"Later," House said when she was gone, in a low voice that sent ripples down his spine.
He hadn't been heading for the men's room before, but all of a sudden the detour seemed like a good idea.
Chase lingered in one of the stalls for a good five minutes, on the off chance that the suggestion had been some kind of code, and House intended to join him in the one place it had already been established that Cuddy wouldn't find them. When no one came in except Robertson from radiology, and he didn't think House was that sadistic, Chase resigned himself to disappointment and jerked off, fast and rough and graceless, into the toilet.
It took the edge off, but it didn't much help.
Chase tried not to think too much. He gritted his teeth and played by the rules and lost himself in his work. And when he started to catch House shooting him different looks-- not his usual ones that curled Chase's toes when no one else was watching, but narrow, almost angry looks, lip curled and eyes dark with something Chase couldn't put a name to and didn't think he wanted to-- the end of the rope started to come into sharp focus.
The question remained whether House saw it now as well.
In retrospect, Chase had expected himself to snap much sooner than he did. He wasn't sure whether it was a compliment to his emotional fortitude or a sad statement on his ability to lie down and take the abuse.
They were in his apartment, well into their second bottle of whiskey. Chase didn't remember what they'd been talking about. He wished he did, because it was the first time he ever saw House laugh with genuine amusement in his face.
Chase opened his mouth, heard the bitter words come out, and realized he wouldn't have stopped them even if he could.
"This is nice," he said. "It's like you almost enjoy my company. We should do this every night."
House's mouth snapped shut; the curve that lingered on his lips was far from friendly. "How sweet-- oh, but that's sarcasm, isn't it? Climb down off your cross there, Chase, you'll need two hands to manage the nails."
Chase downed the rest of his drink in a single gulp. The warmth knocked something loose in his chest, something that had been waiting too long to break free. "I'm sure you'd be willing to lend a hand."
"Sorry. Religious iconography, not my thing."
"Then what is your thing?" He refilled his glass, not much caring about the narrowed eyes that followed his every movement. "What's your stake in this, anyway? Or is it just the sex? If Cuddy knew that was all it took to keep you off her back--"
"Tried that already," House said, and somewhere, Chase knew, Cameron lost a bet and Foreman won. "You're really paranoid, you know that? Just take it for what it is, would you?"
And what is that, exactly? He didn't bother asking; he knew what answer he'd get.
"I can't," he said instead, with what he felt was admirable calm. "Not this. Not with you."
House's eyes widened. "Are you dumping me again?"
He sounded so bewildered, it was almost funny. Almost but not quite. Chase stared into his glass, considering the question.
"No," he said finally.
"Well, why the hell not?"
"Because it never takes." He set the glass down and stood. "Come on," he said, and walked into the bedroom.
For a moment, he wasn't sure House was going to follow. When he did, Chase couldn't tell if the hollow feeling in his stomach was relief or dismay.
It didn't matter. It was up to House now. It had always been up to House.
House left that night without a word, which worried Chase; a silent House had to be a sign of the coming Apocalypse. As it turned out, he wasn't so far off the mark.
The next morning, a prisoner was brought in from death row, and House sent Chase to the prison to investigate his cell.
It was as eloquent a fuck you as he'd ever received.
Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four