Speed You Down
by Maya Tawi

part four


The aftermath of Foreman's little social call leaves Chase with a pounding headache, a tight knot of dread in his chest, and a stomach that seems to be clawing its way to freedom. When he drags his ass up to the conference room, House says with icy politeness, "Dr. Chase, Dr. Cuddy would like to have a word," and Foreman doesn't look at him, and he almost throws up on the floor.

"Right," he manages to say instead, and turns on his heel and walks out.

It's pretty much what he expected. Cuddy is kind but professional, sympathetic but firm, and presses on him a lot of pamphlets that he intends to run through the shredder the first chance he gets. Chase keeps his gaze lowered and says No a lot-- no, he isn't being harassed; no, he doesn't feel intimidated; no, he doesn't have any complaints-- and isn't even sure if it's a lie anymore.

It's hell, but it ends, and in a surprisingly short time he's back in the hallway, feeling dizzy and stuffing crumpled pamphlets into his trouser pockets, and that's when Wilson turns the corner and stops him with a hand on his arm.

"Chase," he says, "we need to talk."

Chase looks up, ready to retort, to draw blood if need be.

Then he sees Wilson's expression, and he closes his mouth without saying a word.

Gregory House knows he's made plenty of mistakes over the past forty-five years-- almost forty-six, now, and Lord help him if Cameron sees fit to mark that occasion as well-- because he's human and he has a pulse, and fucking up pretty much goes with the territory. Some mistakes have been more impressive than others, and sometimes he spends long evenings alone in his easy chair, wondering whether his biggest mistake was trusting Stacey too much or not trusting her enough. But sometimes he spends those long evenings wondering what the hell's up with Benjamin McKenzie's hair, so in the end it all balances out.

At work, he takes a calculated series of risks designed to narrow the field of probability. Sadly, there are no similarly comforting euphemisms to describe not only screwing a subordinate, but making such a spectacular hash of it in the process.

There is, he tells himself, only so much a man can be expected to take. He's never considered himself much of a catch, but clearly others feel differently; first one and then another employee, fallen to his incalculable charms. It's enough to make him start peering into mirrors as he passes, just in case he's accidentally fallen through one.

At least Cameron's adoration, and even Chase's hero worship, were easy enough to explain. Cameron wanted to heal him and Chase wanted to be him-- both pathetic goals doomed to failure and misery, and neither filled House with the strong desire to lose his pants. But this new sulky resentment of Chase's, coupled with the apparent fact that he still wants House, is just fucked up enough to be irresistible.

And House only has himself to blame. He knew they were all fucked up when he hired them; hell, that's why he hired them, to have something interesting to contemplate while he dodged Cuddy's busy work. There was Foreman, the juvenile delinquent-turned-straight arrow; Cameron, the drop-dead stunner who had no business being in med school in the first place, let alone achieving as much as she did; and of course Chase, the laid-back wunderkind who never, ever talked about his famous father, but still used his connections to land the job.

House figured out Cameron's damage early on, and she immediately ceased to interest him. Everything that followed after was interpretable in the light of what came before. He can never sleep with her now, because he understands her too well. If he knew when he hired her that she'd end up being attracted to him, he would have--

Oh, who's he kidding? He'd have figured it out anyway, and things would have ended exactly the same. The lure of forbidden knowledge trumps all, even the occasional urge to get laid.

Chase was more difficult to pin down. House thought he had him pegged-- Daddy issues, craves approval-- but every time he poked, Chase just got twistier. How did hero worship turn into bald-faced betrayal, and then a simmering, embittered attempt to make nice? There was the obvious answer, of course: Chase played his odds and lost, and was trying to recoup those losses. But would that necessarily lead to him falling to his knees behind House's desk, flushed with arousal, spitting out a request for forgiveness like it burned his tongue to ask? Hard to say.

So of course House couldn't resist poking some more. Cameron was wrong. He wasn't a five-year-old with a puzzle; he was a five-year-old with a broken toy, taking it apart to find out why it had stopped working. Not a more flattering comparison, just more accurate.

It was, he knows now, a mistake on his part.

All he ever wanted was to have sex. Happy, dirty, uncomplicated, no-strings-attached sex. He should have known better. Broken toys don't work the way they're supposed to; that much he could have figured with scratch paper and a pen and the fingers on one hand. Chase isn't even in the same zip code as uncomplicated. If House ever, even once, just for a second entertained the delusion that a sexual relationship with a man would be less difficult, convoluted, and flat-out painful than one with a woman... well, that would have been stupid. And whatever else he may be, House knows he's not stupid.

If only Chase wouldn't persist in that ridiculous martyr complex of his. He kept throwing around words like punishment and blackmail and sexual harassment, which irritated House to no end, save for the latter, which was kind of fun to hear him pronounce. As if House wasn't tormenting him from the very beginning, right along with the others. As if that's not how he relates to people, period. (He has the vague idea, sometimes, that it wasn't always that way-- that he's always been caustic, but maybe not quite so brutal-- but when he has those thoughts, he takes some drugs and lies down and eventually they go away.)

Honestly, if they didn't all squirm so prettily, he wouldn't even bother to poke them.

That, he knows, is why a relationship with one of his minions will never work-- and this is definitely a relationship of some kind, despite his best efforts to the contrary. They all seem to think that some quality naked time will make him an entirely different person, when no such alchemy exists that will keep him from cracking jokes about Chase's pretty mouth should the opportunity present itself. House makes a point of letting everyone within a fifty-mile radius know just how big of an asshole he is. More fool Chase if he chose to ignore the facts.

More fool himself, if he thought it would work out anyway. The simple fact is that Chase-- and he ought to get his brain scanned for even thinking it, but there it is-- Chase deserves better.

Chase is young, bright, and ridiculously pretty; a little damaged, but nothing some sweet young thing can't delude herself into thinking she can fix. More to the point, he wants something House can't give him. It took House over three decades to stumble into a mutually respectful relationship with someone he actually wanted to have sex with, and even that blew up in his face. Lightning may well strike twice, but he figures he'll be well into his eighties by then, when all the hot studs at the nursing home have canes of their own and the competition won't be so stiff. So to speak.

Most of the time, it doesn't bother him. House is solitary by nature, the curse of being surrounded by complete idiots at all times; a person would have to really give a shit to worm their way into his life. Maybe even two shits. Possibly several.

Chase might give a shit. It's hard to tell, but he supposes no one goes to the trouble of crafting such a stunning act of betrayal. Done right, a good knife in the back says more than flowers, and on the plus side, House didn't have to waste time hunting up a vase for Vogler.

The problem is that Chase is, was, and always will be an experiment to him-- not because he wants it that way, but because that's the way it is. And bless the boy, Chase will never let him forget it. House tried; he tried it on his terms; he even tried it on Chase's terms, or at least made the effort, though it was damn hard to figure out what those terms were, and he wishes he'd been given a handbook first. And yet his pet Aussie continued to pout.

House really should have known better. He doesn't do well with paradigm shifts. His own paradigm has already been plenty shifted.

Call it arrogance, call it a lack of foresight, call it just another failed experiment: he tried to change, and he couldn't. And Chase deserves better.

And House had meant to say as much. Someday. Eventually. He'd been working up to it. But while he rarely shies away from vocalizing unpleasant truths-- they are, in fact, one of his favorite things to vocalize, following a close third behind number two, "I've made the diagnosis," and number one, the two loveliest words in the English language, "You're wrong"-- there was something so painfully banal about the It's not you, it's me speech that sapped all the joy out of the prospect.

In the end, it seemed easier to dump the poor bastard and be done with it.

And it might have done the trick, if not for this morning's double-threat sucker-punch. And while it's not House's idea of a fun time to get called into Cuddy's office and verbally, if circumspectly, spanked-- she couldn't chastise him for sleeping with an employee after all but ordering him to jump Cameron's exquisite bones, not without looking like a big fat homophobic hypocrite, but she could allude to "concerns raised by staff," and of course he knows who that means, Foreman-- he's willing to bet that, for once, Chase is having a worse day than he is.

Which is why he's standing in the very last place he wants to be right now: frozen in front of Chase's apartment door, fist poised to knock, asking himself just what the hell he thinks he's doing here anyway.

"That's not the point," Wilson said earlier. "The point is that you're there."

"And you don't think me being there, being my usual charming self, will just make him feel worse?"

"Go," was all Wilson said, and for once, House listened. He went.

And here he is, and he can't bring himself to knock.

"You're being an idiot," he tells himself, and just like that, he can move again. His knuckles hit the door with a sharp, decisive rap.

There's a long silence, during which House debates whether to deploy the cane, or to leave while he still can and say, hey, he tried. Then Chase's muffled voice filters through the heavy wooden door: "It's open."

With sudden, inexplicable trepidation, House steps inside.

Chase sits perched on the edge of the sofa, head bowed, hands clasped between his knees. There's a cordless phone on the table in front of him, an open file folder beside it. When he sees House, his shoulders tense, but he doesn't move.

"Ah," House says, and halts in the doorway. "Hi."

Chase looks up then, meeting House's gaze with clear eyes for a few seconds before turning away. House is relieved, and a little worried, to see he hasn't been crying. He hates tears. But tears, at least, he understands.

"Can't even make a fucking phone call." Chase's voice is quiet and bitter. "Not to him, not to you--" He stops and bites his lip.

House closes the door behind him, trepidation ramping up into full-blown concern. He turns the lock and limps across the room. He's pretty sure he knows what he's going to see, and just as sure that he doesn't want to see it.

The file is Harvey Park's medical history. The open page is his emergency contact list. Annette Raines, address and phone number.

He's suddenly aware of Chase's body, a warm, still presence by his left leg, and starts to back away. "Right. I'll just leave you to it, then."

"No." The word is almost inaudible. Almost.

House stops, incredulous. "You want an audience?"

As he watches, fascinated, Chase's Adam's apple bobs and his hands clench, fingernails digging into his knees. In that same low, horrible voice, he says, "I don't want Annette."

It takes House a few seconds. In his defense, it's been a very long day.

"Oh now," he says, and takes another step back, "really--"

Chase shoots him a sideways glance. "You do the same thing she does, every day. What's the difference?"

House stares. "You want me to get naked and insult you?"

"Okay, so there's a small difference."

There's a kind of dark humor in Chase's eyes that House isn't sure how to interpret. In his vast and varied experience, he's never seen someone react quite this way to a father's death.

Chase always has to be so goddamn special.

"This may come as a shock," House says, "but I don't actually enjoy inflicting physical pain."

"All talk," Chase says. His expression doesn't change. "You and your hair accessories."

"All right, so that may have been uncalled for."

"You don't have to do anything...." Chase fumbles for words. "Weird," he says at last. "Just-- just don't be gentle. Make it hurt."

House casts him a withering look. "And how do you propose I do that?"

"I have faith in your ability to cause pain."

Ouch, House thinks, resigned.

"Get drunk," he says with what little kindness he can muster. "Take some drugs, if you got 'em. Here--" he digs in his pocket-- "have some of mine. I'll just walk out now and we'll both pretend this never happened. Deal?"

Chase makes no move to take the pills. "You or her, House. Yes or no."

Damn it. House withdraws the proffered Vicodin and swallows one, feeling helpless irritation rise in his throat. He doesn't want to hurt Chase. He just doesn't want anyone else to either.

Not like he has any claim on the privilege. He dumped the kid's ass. If Chase wants Annette Raines to tie him up and spank him till he cries for Mommy, that's his own business.

And yet House can't help thinking that if Chase is going to be walking funny tomorrow, it should be because of him, damn it.

He sighs. "Okay, look. Loath as I am to pry into your personal business--" Chase makes a strangled sound of disbelief at that, and House ignores him-- "you're making it my business, so tell me this much at least. What, exactly, do you hope to accomplish with this?"

"What d'you mean?" Chase is starting to look nervous. Good.

"What, am I speaking in tongues here? Your father just died, you emotional cripple! Cry, get mad, hit me for God's sake, just don't come around asking for rough sex!"

"You came here," Chase says after a moment.

"So not the point!"

"Yeah? Then what the hell is the point?" Chase doesn't wait for an answer, just shakes his head and reaches for the phone. "Forget it. Go home."

"Oh, please," House scoffs. "You're going to call her? If you haven't worked up the nerve yet--"

Chase lifts the receiver and starts to dial.

It's instinct that gets House moving, long before conscious thought takes hold. One step forward; then House rests his weight on his good leg, swings his cane, and knocks the phone out of Chase's grip. He catches fingers as well as plastic, judging by Chase's yelp.

"Quit whining," House snaps, thumping the cane back on the floor for emphasis. "That's what you wanted, isn't it? 'Make it hurt' doesn't leave much room for interpretation."

"I didn't mean assault me!" Chase sounds annoyed.

Annoyed is better than pathetic, though not by much. "You don't know what the hell you meant! That's your problem! You're waiting for something, and you won't even tell me what!"

Chase stands. House holds his ground.

"I'm telling you now," Chase says. "Do it or get out. You can't have it both ways, House."

"Oh, fuck that noise," House says. "There's only one way I want to have it, whatever it is, and that's you not injuring yourself over some damn Catholic guilt trip--"

"It's not dangerous. Under controlled conditions--"

"Oh, yes, and we all saw how good Annette is with those, didn't we?"

Chase's eyes narrow. "Is that a yes?"

Oh no. Hell, no. He is not getting suckered into this.

House turns and stalks for the door.

He's within arm's reach when his cane goes out from under him, and he stumbles forward, catching himself against the jamb. He turns, seriously unamused-- what, does the damn thing have a Grab me sign on it that only obnoxious pretty-boy doctors can see?-- but only gets as far as an outraged, "What," before Chase is pinning him against the wall and kissing him.

It is, House decides after a few seconds, a good kiss. A persuasive kiss. A surprisingly mollifying kiss.

They really didn't do enough of that.

When Chase pulls back, he's not the only one breathing hard. Thick blond hair falls over his face, and his eyes glitter beneath it. Fear, lust, defiance-- House never can get enough of that look.

"Come on," Chase murmurs, with an odd sort of whimsy to his voice. "Don't tell me you haven't wanted to beat me with this thing since you hired me."

He tugs on House's cane. House pins him with a searching look. "Is that what we're talking about here?"

Chase's tongue darts out, wetting his lips; they're still close enough that House feels it too, a soft pink brush against his mouth. "Up to you."

The idea holds undeniable appeal. "And later, at work?"

"What about it?"

"Maybe I'll like it too much. The next time you smart off in front of the class, I might not be able to resist setting an example for the other students. You know me, I'm irrepressible."

A brief flash of irritation crosses Chase's face. "Then I'll find another job."

Without Daddy's help? The words are on the tip of House's tongue. He honestly can't say what stops them.

Instead he says, "Don't you dare. Trying to replace Cameron was hard enough."

"Are you telling me I'm irreplaceable?"

House yanks the cane out of Chase's grip and gives him a light shove, propelling him back across the room. Chase goes willingly, a faint smile hovering on his lips. "I'm telling you," House says, "that I hate interviews."

Chase's legs hit the arm of the sofa. He stops, one hand braced against the back.

"Well, come on," House says, with a macabre sense of fatalism; he's going to do it after all. "Strip."

It's his own fault, being such a pushover.

Chase's eyes go wide, but he complies with gratifying speed. House watches with approval as his clothes hit the floor one by one, each baring a fresh expanse of skin. For someone who vacations in as many tropical locales as he does, Chase is remarkably pale.

"Have you considered a nude beach?" House asks. "Get some sun on that lily-white ass of yours."

"You should talk," Chase says.

"And you should stop. Bend over."

Chase's eye-roll speaks volumes. He obeys, then glances over his shoulder with the first glimmer of apprehension. House purses his lips and studies the smooth skin on display, letting Chase sweat as he contemplates a plan of attack.

Finally Chase cracks. "What are you--"

House raises his cane and swings.

He aims for the tattoo he noticed before, an ornate black Gothic cross with the words EVERYTHING DIES in block calligraphy beneath. Even now, that tattoo still amuses the hell out of him. What a precious little goth boy Chase was then.

Both parents in the ground now; House wonders if he'll get a second one, or if he's grown out of the urge to show off his pain like a trophy.

The crack of wood on flesh is satisfying, but not nearly as much as Chase's response. "Jesus, that hurt!"

House pauses on the upswing. "What the hell did you just say?"

Chase squirms against the sofa. "I'm just saying."

"Oh, shut up," House snaps, and lowers the cane for another whack. A fresh line of red appears, parallel to the first, and this time Chase only grunts. It feels good; House does it again and again, letting out months of frustration and anger and, okay, helplessness with each swing. If this was what Chase wanted all along, why the hell didn't he just say? "You wanted this, not me. You wanted to be hurt. So do me a fucking favor and keep your mouth shut, or I'll gag you with your own hideous tie."

"Look," Chase begins, sounding strained, "maybe this wasn't--"

House hits him again. "What the hell did I just say?"

Chase's back arches at the blow and his fingers dig into the sofa. He's panting now, each harsh breath almost a sob. House can't see his face, but he slides a hand between Chase's legs, and finds Chase's dick hard and leaking.

"Nice," House says. "Lube's still in the bathroom, right?"

After a moment, Chase nods.

"Spiffy. Don't go anywhere."

House hobbles to the bathroom, where he finds the half-empty tube of lubricant in its usual place in the medicine cabinet. Then he braces himself on the counter and stares at himself in the mirror, wondering what the hell he thinks he's doing.

It's all just a little too easy, frighteningly so. Maybe Chase is right; maybe he missed his true calling on the S & M circuit. But making jokes is one thing, and putting it into practice is crossing a line he's never wanted to explore. He can't shake the feeling that this is a punishment Chase deserves, and that's anything but safe. This is supposed to be about what Chase wants, not him. Confusing the two could lead to accident, injury, and seriously hurt feelings.

Unless that's what Chase wants.

And suddenly House starts to understand.

"You are an idiot," he tells his reflection, and turns off the light.

Back in the living room, Chase is still leaning against the sofa: hands braced on the overstuffed arm, ass out, head down. His hair sticks to his forehead, slick with sweat. The stripes on his ass look like they've been drawn on with marker.

House stops to appreciate his handiwork, and Chase straightens and turns, pushing back his hair.

"I told you not to move," House says.

Chase says, "The funeral's next week."

Welcome to Non Sequitur Theater. "The rat is in the trap."

Chase stares.

"Your turn," House says. "Isn't that how the game's played? You say something stupid and irrelevant, I respond. It's a grand old merry-go-round."

Chase's voice is icy. "My father's funeral is next week."

"Nope, sorry, you said that already. Though you do get points for variation. Care for one of our lovely parting gifts?" House dangles the lube and a condom from his hand.

With a sigh, Chase starts to lean over again.

"Stop that," House says, and he freezes.

House limps back to the sofa, right up to Chase; they're eye to eye, nose to nose. He can feel the heat of Chase's naked body through his jeans and T-shirt. Chase doesn't back down. Doesn't even flinch.

House asks, "Are you going?"

"I can't," Chase says. His lip curls. "Used up all my vacation days."

Skiing or snowboarding or whatever the young rich doctors are doing nowadays. "Right. Because no one would ever consider giving you extra time for a death in the family. Cuddy would certainly see no reason to put half a globe between us."

"She talked to you." It's not a question.

"Of course she talked to me," House says. "Like she'd pass up such a prime opportunity to strap her bitch on. Don't change the subject. Why don't you want to go?"

Chase's eyes flicker. "I said--"

"I heard what you said. I don't know if anyone's ever told you, Chase, but you're a really bad liar."

Chase smiles. It's tight and painful on his face, and just for a moment, House wishes he could see Chase's real smile, untempered by sarcasm or arrogance or bitterness. Sometimes he thinks looking at Chase is like looking in a mirror. A magical mirror, one that takes off twenty years and gives everyone great hair.

"He didn't want me in his life," Chase says. "He didn't even want me to know about his death. Why shouldn't I respect the great man's wishes?"

"So you do penance now, before the sin," House says. "And you still feel guilty after. Now, I've never been an altar boy, but even I know that's not how it's supposed to work."

"You think this is about my father?"

"You tell me. You brought him up."

"This isn't penance," Chase bites out.

House slams his cane against the sofa; Chase flinches, clearly expecting to get hit, and just for a moment House wishes he could. But he won't, not anymore. He's not playing this game.

"This whole damn thing is penance," he snarls. "You've been using me as much as I've been using you. You feel guilty for ratting me out, so you're trying to punish yourself. But you're also pissed at me, so you have to drag me into it, kill two birds with one stone. Bad move, Chase. I'm the only one who gets to throw stones around here."

He waits for Chase's denial, for protestations of innocence that he'll never believe, and in the silence that follows, he feels his stomach twist.

When Chase finally speaks, he sounds like he's choking; he's aiming for sarcasm, the pitch intercepted by guilt. "If you're so insightful, then why'd you go along with it?"

House keeps his voice steady. "To find out if I was right. You were never going to call Annette. Oh, you might have thought you were," he adds when Chase opens his mouth, "but you wouldn't even have picked up the phone if I wasn't here to see it."

"That's not true," Chase says at last, too late. "I never wanted this. I just wanted--"

He stops.

"Please," House says, "enlighten me." He's angry, he realizes through the growing haze of the Vicodin in his system, and hates himself for it. Chase never meant anything to him; why should he expect any different in return?

Because Chase is supposed to want him. Chase defends him, emulates him, sucks up to him. Chase is supposed to be grateful for what House chooses to give him.

God. And he thought Chase was pathetic.

"Everything you think I've done to you," House says into the growing silence, "you did to yourself. You use people like it's your damn job, Chase, and your problem is--"

"Oh, please, diagnose me, Dr. House, tell me my problem--"

"Your problem," House says loudly, drowning him out, "is that you don't know when to stop. You used your father to get hired in the first place. When you screwed up the job, you used Vogler to try to keep it-- which, by the way, stellar logic there. If you wanted to get me fired, there were easier ways to do it. But you never take the easy way, do you?"

"I didn't--"

"Stop talking. You were mad at me for rumbling your cunning scheme, so you used me to punish yourself, and tried to drag me down in the process. I couldn't can your ass after I screwed it, could I? You think I wouldn't stoop that low? You are so overestimating me. So I get to feel guilty, you get to indulge your little martyr fetish, and you win because everybody's as fucking miserable as you!"

He's shouting now, and when he stops, Chase laughs-- not a real laugh, but a harsh, angry bark, with sharp humor that never reaches his face. "I'm not the only one who loves to be miserable, am I?" he spits.

"This isn't about me, you idiot," House says. "Everybody knows what my problem is."

"And you think you know mine." Chase looks like he wants to hit House again. "If I thought for one second you were even capable of feeling guilt--"

"And again," House says, "you're talking about me."

"It's all about you!" Chase yells. "You think I knew what the hell I was doing? You think I even thought about this, let alone planned it? That I thought you cared enough about me to give a shit if I was being hurt or not? You--"

He stops suddenly and snaps his mouth shut, and House sees a flash of the old defiance: narrow eyes and faint, bitter smirk, the look House didn't see for a year and a half, not until the day Rowan Chase walked into his office. He knew it was a mask then, but it was a good mask; now he can see right through it, can see the fear and misery in Chase's face, can hear the quick breaths whistling through his nose. Chase is naked and scarred and his defenses are shot, and he looks like a lost little boy.

House hears himself ask quietly, "What about me?"

Chase drops down on the sofa and covers his face with his hands.

"I loved my job," he says, his voice small and muffled.

"Past tense," House notes.

"Past tense," Chase agrees. "Before--" he waves a vague hand-- "all this."

"Before the big-screen TV? Before your interior decorator came into your life? Help me out here."

Chase ignores him. "I loved it, and now it scares me shitless. It just-- it felt right. Like something I wanted to do. Something I cared about. Something I was good at, even."

"Please," House says. "So you followed in your father's footsteps, found out you liked it after all, and that's your big neurosis? Spare me."

"Not being a doctor," Chase says. He's still talking into his palms, refusing to meet House's eyes. "Being here-- there, at the hospital, with you. God help me, you made it matter. I don't know why. I wish I did."

"Funny way of showing it," House says.

"I fucked up the angiogram. I thought you'd fire me. I was desperate. I wasn't trying to use anybody, I just didn't know what else to do."

"Keep telling yourself that," House says. He's impressed despite himself; the kid's even more screwed up than he thought. "Maybe you don't know what you're doing, but you do it anyway. And don't think that makes you special. Everyone does it, and that's why people suck. You just do it without an ounce of shame."

"So do you," Chase mutters.

"Good," House says. "You've been paying attention. I use people so I can do my job. You do it because you're a manipulative little shit and you can't turn it off. You want my respect? Earn it. Do your damn job. You want to kill any chance of ever getting it? Play the whipping boy, offer up your ass as collateral, and wallow in self-pity the whole time because I'm doing exactly what you wanted me to do. You wanted to suffer, and you wanted me to suffer, because then it's not about what you did wrong. It's about big, bad Dr. House, making your life a living hell."

There's a long silence. Chase doesn't move. House can't even hear him breathing now, and wonders idly if it's possible to actually berate someone to death.

Probably not. If it were, he'd have done it a long time ago.

At last, Chase lets out a long, shaky breath and whispers, "I just wanted to keep my job." He sounds utterly defeated.

"I know," House says. "And that, my boy, is what makes you so marvelously fucked-up."

Chase sighs and looks up. His face is pale. His eyes are still dry. "And now you're going to fire me anyway."

House doesn't miss a beat. "Get dressed."

Chase stares, trying to read his face. House just stares back. After a few seconds, Chase stands and reaches for his pants. He winces when he bends; the cane marks are still visible, angry and stark against his skin.

Marks of cane. How appropriate.

Chase turns away to button his shirt. His voice is muted but clear. "I'll resign. First thing tomorrow. Cuddy won't ask questions."

"And bears won't shit in the woods."

"Then I won't tell her anything. Nothing will go on record."

"Your nobility is awe-inspiring," House says. "And then what? You'll find another job, you'll hate your boss because he's not me-- and don't think I'm letting go of that any time soon-- and you'll end drinking and screwing yourself into oblivion."

"Probably," Chase says, with a marked lack of emotion. "But I'd rather quit than be fired."

"How's the view from that cross? No one's firing you, you ass."

Chase stills. He doesn't turn around. "Why not?"

"You're welcome," House says.

No response.

House heaves an annoyed sigh. "What do you want, a date?"

"I want to know why not."

It's not an unreasonable request. After nearly four months of self-serving lies, it's high time one of them actually tells the truth.

"You're a good doctor," House says at last. "Too good to waste."

"How sentimental of you."

"I hate waste. And I really hate interviews."

Finally Chase turns. He doesn't look relieved, exactly, but it's close enough.

"Thank you," he says softly.

House narrows his eyes. "Chase."

Chase tenses again.

"If you ever try to pull this shit again, you won't need a new job. You'll need a body bag."

After a moment, Chase's lips twitch with something close to real humor. "It wasn't all bad," he says.

House eyes him, remembering: Chase naked above him, beneath him; wiping scotch from his lips, flushed and pliant with booze; eyes glazing in the face of three balls and two strikes and three runners on base, but giving it a go anyway, because House wanted him to. It wasn't an act. Chase is a crappy liar. If it was all fake, House would have known long before.

It's a small comfort.

"You're on a week's leave, starting now," House says. "And you are going to that funeral, if I have to shove you on the damn plane myself."

"I'm not--"

"Don't argue with me. I'm feeling generous. It usually doesn't last."

Chase lowers his eyes.

"Start packing."


"Now," House says, mimicking Chase's excessive vowels and his wide-eyed stare. "You're leaving tomorrow. Consider it a condition of your continued employment." And Chase will have to spend eighteen hours with his sore ass in an airline seat, thinking about what he's done. The thought almost makes House smile.

Chase sighs. "I'm going to be your bitch now, aren't I?"

"Like you weren't before," House scoffs.

He turns to go, then stops in the doorway. I'm sorry about your father. I'm sorry I didn't tell you. He knows he should say it. Wilson would want him to.

Wilson talked him into coming here in the first place. Wilson will pay dearly for it.

He's not firing Chase. That's apology enough.

House grips his cane tightly and walks away without another word.


by Call Me Alice

It always feels so good at first
This has got to be the best I've ever had (the best)
Never like before, no, never like before
Oh butterflies, oh, butterflies (butterflies)

I'll make it work, I'll make it work
Because this is the best
Never like before, never like the rest
Sweet new disease, I'm falling on my knees
To follow at the speed you are

I can use my foresight
And delegate emotions
To the path of events
Just to make sure I react the way you want

I can use my hindsight
And associate my memories
And experiences
With my intuitions of how this should be

The speed you are, I cannot make a fit
I'm trying hard to find a way to catch on up to it
All too well, it's obvious
I'm, oh, just forced to speed you, speed you, speed you

It never hurts that much at first until the ties cut in
Cutting into you deep again
Always like before, yeah, I've been here before
Oh cut the ties, oh, cut the ties

It still can work, it still can work
Because this is the best
You are the best, you're not like the rest
I'm down on my knees, I'm begging please
Let me follow at the speed you are

I can use my foresight
And delegate emotions
To the path of events
Just to make sure I react the way you want

I can use my hindsight
And associate my memories
And experiences
With my intuitions of how this should be

The speed you are, I cannot make a fit
I'm trying hard to find a way to catch on up to it
All too well, it's obvious
I'm, oh, just forced to speed you, speed you, speed you

The speed you are, I cannot make a fit
I'm trying hard to find a way to catch on up to it
All too well, it's obvious
I'm, oh, just forced to speed you, speed you, speed you

Speed you, speed you, speed you, speed you
Speed you, speed you, speed you down

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

Email: mayatawi@populli.net

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