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1.

 

Foreman and Cameron stand in front of an observation window, staring at the unlikely figure of House perched on a stool next to a patient's bed. Foreman and Cameron are speculating on why the patient wanted to see House instead of either of them.

"There's only one reason he'd want to talk to House instead of making you wait on him hand and foot," Foreman says.

Cameron looks at Foreman with that expression of hers that says she's torn between wanting to know the rest of what he's going to say and being offended. "What, he thinks House is holding back some secret preposterous way to cure a severed spine?"

"House isn't known for holding back preposterous ideas," Foreman comments. "But the real reason he'd want to talk to House instead of either of us is that he wants something unethical."

Cameron snorts. "He already managed to double his morphine by faking House's signature."

Foreman makes an insensitive comment about how it's too bad his arms weren't paralyzed too, and Cameron is appropriately shocked, trailing behind Foreman on the way back to the office and insisting that Foreman doesn't mean that.

They wonder—as they have all along—about the fact that the patient claims to have injured himself by falling down the stairs. Foreman ponders whether the patient is actually lame enough to have fallen down a flight of stairs, or whether the patient is stupid, and can't come up with a better excuse to cover up some more interesting but less socially acceptable way to be injured.

Cameron gives Foreman a look. "You sound more like House every day," she says, knowing that Foreman will not consider that a compliment. "Blood alcohol concentration was .13 upon admittance," Cameron points out, getting back to the patient. "Must have been higher when he actually fell. That could be reason enough to fall down a flight of stairs. The bruising matches, too."

The two of them get back to the office, but the absence of the House and Chase seems palpable. Cameron flits around and sorts House's mail; Foreman pours himself a cup of coffee.

Eventually, Foreman shakes his head. "I knew Chase wanted to be House," Foreman takes a sip of coffee. "But I never thought he'd go so far as to actually cripple himself."

2.

 

House pushes Chase in a wheelchair over the threshold to House's apartment. There's a slight bump to it, an adjustment between the cement outside and the wooden paneling inside, and it's covered by a rubber strip that causes the chair to rock just slightly as it is pushed over. Chase— in a wheelchair looking very much like Jude Law in Gattaca—is irritable but still impeccably groomed. House is sucking on a lollipop. It takes House a minute to maneuver the wheelchair into his living room.

"When I said I wanted *out* and I wanted you to help me, I meant that I wanted to *die,* not that I wanted you to spring me from the hospital and take me home with you," Chase says.

House removes the lollipop from his mouth and assumes an exaggerated look of surprise. "Whoops."

The ensuing dialogue involves House making bad jokes about Dr. Kevorkian and Chase eventually losing patience with House's ineffectual maneuvering and insisting he can do it himself. House steps back, hands off the wheelchair, and watches pointedly as Chase tries to wheel himself around and promptly gets wedged between the couch and the piano bench.

Chase loses his temper and shouts a lot of uncreative things at House, who finishes his lollipop and scores Chase's insults on a scale of one ('You bastard!') to five (House provides some choice examples of phrases Chase could have chosen). Chase averages a two.

The come to an agreement, eventually, or more accurately, Chase stops shouting and fumes silently while House condescends to tell him what's going to happen. Twelve weeks, House says. After twelve weeks if Chase still wants to off himself, then House will help him.

Chase protests at first, why does he have to go through twelves weeks of hell, shouldn't it be his right to die whenever he chooses. House tells Chase that he can go ahead whenever he feels like it, but Chase wavers, and whines, and eventually makes House agree that he'll help Chase make it painless. House calls Chase a coward, and Chase pouts a little more and asks why House even cares.

This would be a genuinely good question, but House spouts off some line about expecting sexual favors, and Chase makes a disgusted face and looks away, and House tells Chase how grateful he is his mouth isn't paralyzed, even though it means he'll have to listen to Chase's whining all day.

3.

 

The whining doesn't stop, of course. When Wilson comes over one evening to pick House up for dinner, he finds Chase sitting on House's couch. House emerges from the den, opening the door and regarding the broken glass all over the floor. Chase has spent the last hour or so shouting and throwing assorted pieces of crockery at the den door as House has ignored him.

Wilson looks confused but asks House if he's still up for dinner. House, who is now blithely stepping over the broken glass in sneakers with his cane, stops to pop his headphones out of his ears. "What?" he asks Wilson.

Wilson sighs and Chase has the same look on his face that babies have the second before they start to wail.

"Chase is staying with *you*?" Wilson asks, always interested in the good gossip, and House looks over at Chase on the couch as though seeing him for the first time.

"He's my new sugar baby," House says, putting on his jacket from the coat stand.

Wilson doesn't quite know what to say, and turns back toward the door. House gives some last minute instructions to Chase. "I'll be out late," he says. "Don't wait up."

"You asshole!" Chase shouts behind them. House doesn't turn, but Wilson looks back at the door and raises a shouldn't-we-do-something eyebrow. "Move the chair back over here!" Chase is shouting behind them, but House is already in the car.

Wilson hesitates to start the car, still worried about Chase. "I'll go help him," Wilson says finally, pulling the keys out of the ignition and opening the door to go back inside.

"Don't bother," House says, and when Wilson looked over at him House waggled his eyebrows. "I hired him a hooker. She should show up any time now."

"You didn't," Wilson says reflexively, but his hand is back on the keys in the ignition. He starts the car.

"She's going to be dressed like a nun."

4.

 

House gets a perverse glee out of tormenting Chase, of course. He likes to leave the remote control on the bookshelf that is just slightly too high for Chase to reach, and he keeps Chase's favorite kind of cookies in the top cupboard. House occasionally appears home from work with an orderly and a special van, and he pays the orderly extra to ignore Chase's protests and he packs him off in the car to go on little expeditions to the mall or the grocery store so he can mock Chase in ever new environments.

Chase tries once to spite House in the middle of the supermarket while House is paused—for twenty minutes so far—in the magazine aisle, reading about the new Brangelina baby. Chase reaches down and slips on the brake on his chair, but House is like Sister Mary Margaret, his second grade teacher who had eyes on the back of her head. House doesn't miss a beat, flicking the brake off before he continues on to the next aisle.

5.

 

Chase prays. When House is out, gone, at work, visiting a strip club—when Chase cannot find another pill bottle that actually has any pills in it—when he is lying on the floor in the middle of the rug and knows that he has no strength to pull himself anywhere else, he prays. Quietly, but with an air of desperation, a catch in his voice, a frantic uncertainty about who or what he is addressing.

House catches him, once, mumbling in Latin under his breath, and it pisses House off, makes House angrier than Chase has seen him in a long time. Chase tells House to leave him alone, and by that afternoon he thinks it's forgotten, but obviously not, because House takes him to the cathedral downtown.

The front of St. Paul's is white, and the sun shines brightly on the snow remnants. Inside, the light filtering through the stained glass rose window must be beautiful, but out here, Chase doesn't see any beauty. He feels cold and exposed. House pushed him across muddy snow, leaving two wheel tracks in the front grass, and now he's stranded at the mid-platform, up half the steps to the church but with half still in front of them.

"I'm an Anglican, actually," Chase says, for the sake of saying it. St. Paul's is Roman Catholic.

"I thought you weren't anything," House sneers at him. "I thought you'd left all of that behind you."

House is referring to House's first interview of Chase, when House asked Chase the obvious question about why Chase left seminary to attend medical school. "I lost my faith," Chase had said, and House had commented that he'd once known a guy who'd had a dog named Faith. House's story had a punchline of "I lost my Faith" and a moral about appropriate names for dogs.

"I have left it behind me," Chase says. "So let's leave this behind us and get out of here." He squints in the sunlight and tries to see a ramp.

House turns around and begins down the slick steps frosted with snow residue, balancing on his cane and the railing.

"Wait," Chase calls. "What about me?"

House turns around but remains three steps below him. "Who are you going to pray to now?" he asks.

"What?" Chase is incredulous.

House stares at him like he's a particularly slow primary student. "You need help, so who are you going to pray to now?"

Chase drops his arms exasperatedly. "No one," he says. "I'm going to call a sane adult to come pick me up—" he trails off as he reaches into his coat pocket and doesn't find his mobile phone. House sticks a hand in his own pocket and then holds Chase's phone up with a "looking for this?" gesture. Chase swears.

House raises a questioning eyebrow. "You're a devotee," House told him snidely. "Who are you going to devote yourself to?"

"No one!" Chase shouts. The two of them are starting to gather odd looks people walking by. "What do you want me to say? You?" Chase rolls his eyes. "Fine, get me down from here, please, right now—do you want me to beg?"

When Chase was young his mother had told him when he prayed that his words went to God's ears, and he formed a mental image of God as an enormous head floating in the sky and with words floating from all over the world up into his ears, letters intermixing and words entangling, twisting past each other through the air, some on slow direct courses and others more flighty and fanciful. Much later he'd been viscerally prompted back to that image when he'd flown United on a business trip and seen their welcome and safety video with the various forms of 'welcome' written out and floating across the screen. Now, Chase can't figure out why House cares so much about words tossed into oblivion—if everybody lies words should be irrelevant—but Chase is quieter in the future.

6.

 

There's more pain than there should be. That had been odd since the beginning, and back in the hospital Foreman had been quick to suspect addiction and cut off his morphine.

House knows pain, at least. In cavalier moments they sign prescriptions for each other, but in other moments Chase finds himself sweating and tasting blood in the middle of the night. In those moments, with rubber already wrapped around Chase's arm and House sitting on the edge of the bed, flushing air bubbles from a syringe in the dim light spreading from the bathroom, Chase looks at House with an awe he never felt for God. He begs with a fervor that he didn't have when he'd despaired at seventeen and promised himself to the church.

Cameron might have teased him once about relationships that are only about pain, and this is clearly one of them. But House knows. He knows when Chase needs the physical pain to distract him from the other times when there is a strange lack of pain, from the times when he stares at a blanket on his lap and realizes that the lump could be a pillow or his knee and he doesn't know which. And House knows when the physical pain is too much and when the mental pain is too much, and he seems to know exactly how much red wine one can actually mix with percocet.

 

7.

 

The first night, House wheeled him into the bedroom and half-scooped half-levered him onto the bed and then walked around to the other side and lay down himself. Chase now had claim to the left side of the bed, and House had the right side with his book and alarm clock on the nightstand. Chase had gotten a whole stack of packets upon leaving the hospital, and House had fed them to the fire as kindling one evening, but one of them had been about bedsores and the importance of water beds, and House already had one. Chase wondered how necessary it was for House himself, was curious about how much sensation House still had in his thigh, but it wasn't exactly a subject House welcomed bringing up, and mostly Chase just stared at the ceiling.

8.

 

There are other significant moments on the bed.

One evening House sets his book down on the nightstand and turns his head on the pillow to look at Chase. "When are you coming back to work?" he asks casually, as though Chase is on a short Caribbean vacation.

Chase has a hissy fit, what the fuck, he's never going back to work, why the hell do they need him anyway, why is House always torturing him, and a slew of insults that House gives a three. Chase is becoming slightly more creative under the influence of the master.

"So, not tomorrow then?" House says, and rolls over. "Sweet dreams."

"I fucking hate you," Chase says.

9.

 

The next morning finds Chase fiercely wheeling himself down the hospital corridor, Cameron running behind him frantically trying to open doors for him and being generally hypersensitive.

Despite coming back merely to spite House, Chase does not really return to work. He shows up that day, and he glares at Cameron if she so much as looks at him sympathetically. Chase tries to hide out doing lab work until House calls him on it and forces him to go do clinic duty.

But Chase hates it. He looks like a patient, not a doctor, even with a lab coat. Nurses always give him a first glance of "Aren't you supposed to be somewhere else?" and a second double-take of sympathy and "Oh it's *him*, that poor doctor from diagnostics." Then they offer him vague platitudes and generic questions about how he's doing.

All in all, it makes Chase miss House. If House caught Chase stuck on a doorstop, he'd laugh for a while, make ten stupid jokes, and then kick the doorstop out from under his wheel. Cameron, on the other hand, asks Chase five times if he's all right, and Chase has to patiently explain that he's fine, really, he's just having a bit of trouble with this doorstop, and then Cameron apologizes seven times, swears she'll talk to Cuddy about making sure the hospital is truly accessible. There's a pause, a catch in her voice before she says "accessible," and he can feel the silent "handicapped" even though Cameron is extra vigilant not to say it. It's as though she's trying not to mention it for fear of bringing back painful memories, which is ridiculous, because it's not as though he ever *forgets*.

In contrast to Cameron's sensitivity, at House's apartment, Chase regularly gets wedged between the end table and the doorway, and he suspects that House actively moves his furniture around to create obstacle courses. House calls him a paralyzed cripple about five times a day, which is only half the quantity of times House calls him a prettyboy coward or an alcoholic-wannabe sissy.

Anyway, Chase doesn't really resume going to work. He gets tired now after only a few hours of sitting, which doesn't make sense to him but that's how it is. Half of the time he's had a bad night and hauling himself from the chair to the toilet is the project for the entire morning, forget showering and trying to get dressed. About once a week he manages to hang out in the office and contribute some ideas, or he stares through microscopes in the lab. House acts as though it would be beneath him to take regular attendance of his underlings, though he obviously knows Chase's schedule, and Chase's efforts seem to be enough for Cuddy, who continues to pay him. She wouldn't have to. It's not as though he needs the money, since he's currently living as House's kept boy, and he has disability insurance which should kick in. Periodically he thinks he should look into it to make sure he's getting what he's due, but it rarely seems worth the hassle.

Sometimes House calls him on speakerphone and asks him to please explain to Foreman why the idea of the patient of the week having acute nephronalitis is utterly ridiculous, and sometimes Chase even responds with something other than clicking to the dial tone.

10.

 

Chase has his own mirror in the bathroom. House had explained it early on as "the one concession he was going to make for Chase's ridiculous vanity" and he calls it Chase's doggy mirror, because, Chase supposes, as a small mirror hanging low on the wall, it looks like a small flap door for an animal. Either that or there's some sort of sexual insult to it that's going over Chase's head.

House would be quick to point out that many things now go on over Chase's head.

11.

 

They talk, sometimes.

Not often. They're both men, and House is House, after all, and is only interested in talking about other people, and doesn't believe that accurate information can be extracted from the actual person in question. But sometimes they fight about television programs, or water on the bathroom floor, or who was supposed to tell the maid to order the groceries.

They're sitting in the living room one evening, and House is playing the piano and Chase is refraining from saying anything, so it's practically a bonding moment already. House pauses his playing to wash down a couple pills with a sip from the glass of merlot he has sitting on top of the baby grand. House's hands are poised above the keys again, and Chase says, "I tried to kill myself when I was sixteen."

House doesn't turn around. He plays a thoughtful and quiet chord, and Chase continues. "I had...well, when my mum died, I took some of the bottles out of the liquor cabinet. I just—I didn't mean to drink them at the time, I just wanted something to remember her by, something real, not the pictures my father liked to hang on the mantle, ones where I couldn't even fucking recognize anyone."

House stands up and reaches for the wine bottle from the bookcase to refill both of their cups.

Chase swallows. "And anyway, I kept the bottles in the back of my closet, and sometimes I would take them out and look at them, and they reminded me of her. I know," he winced, slightly. "I know how bad it sounds, all right? But it wasn't...sordid. It was just...a memory. And as I got older, it got harder to remember her, but the smell of the bottles was always there. 'Cept, of course, that soon the smell wasn't enough either, and I had to have just a little taste."

Chase reaches for his wine glass on the coffee table, and his hand is shaking.

"There were six bottles," he continues, and he tells House about each of them specifically, what brand they each were, and how full, and how there was one bottle of vodka that hadn't ever been opened, and how Chase saved that one for last. He drank the first five in ever-increasing sips over dozens of despairing schoolboy evenings, and then he drank the entire bottle of vodka in one night, combined with some random capsules from the medicine cabinet.

"It was ridiculous, really," Chase says. "Of course I vomited right away, and the housekeeper called the ambulance, and my father..." Chase trails off.

House is still playing quiet and slow keys, and a few moments after Chase trails off House stops abruptly and gets up, grabbing his cane and walking into the kitchen. He hasn't looked at Chase the whole time he was speaking, and Chase is grateful for the pretense that House's attention had somehow remained fully on the music, is grateful that House has always made it abundantly clear that Chase is boring to him, that the melodrama of Chase's life is less interesting to him than a new sneaker commercial.

12.

 

There are some things about House that are mildly surprising.

Chase has tried, the entire time he's known him, to not be surprised by House, to anticipate anything—everything—the worst things. Chase doesn't feel surprised much now if only because for the most part he doesn't feel much at all—he feels as though he is not only physically half-crippled but he is emotionally half-crippled, totally drained and void. This is helpful, sometimes, when tolerating the indignities of helplessness, of having nurses, aides, and House help him with everything from getting to the toilet to trying to have his hair cut.

When he'd been in the hospital, House had wanted to do a million tests on him. Chase hadn't understood why Foreman and Cameron had been so surprised—how long would it take them to learn that House wanted to do a million tests on *everyone*?--and Chase had endured everything in a zoned-out space. He watched as strangers—often accompanied by Cameron, who seemed to think that a familiar face would make it all *better*—had touched his legs and stuck tubes into him and it had been as though he was watching it happen to someone else, to some other patient who he cared nothing about. He could see Cameron and Foreman talking about him outside his room, and he could see the intensity in their faces, but he didn't care about their diagnosis any more than he cared about the diagnoses of any random patient who came into the clinic.

Cameron thought that House did extra tests on him out of a strange and twisted sense of affection—she thought that House was more dedicated to curing Chase than he would be anyone else out of a sense of loyalty to someone he knew.

Foreman thought that House was crazy, or maybe trying to torture Chase. That was probably closest to the truth—House came in to tell him about three more of the tests he wanted to do and he was taunting about it, prodding even after Chase agreed. "Foreman thinks it's pointless," House added, and Chase didn't care, he told House to tell him where to sign. House handed over the clipboard almost reluctantly, and House could never stop pushing. House seemed to get a kick out of telling him how painful each procedure was going to be, and Chase suspected when Cuddy came in later to tell him her thoughts on how ridiculous House was being, that House had goaded her into an appearance deliberately, too.

Chase had refused to be provoked, and he suspected that that was what irritated House the most. He tries to stay that way now, tries not to get angry when he can tell that House is hiding his things or making them hard for him to reach. He tries to solve his own problems or to try to forget about them and some of the time he is successful.

Not always, though, and House does occasionally manage to surprise him. House cooks, for example. He alternates between the junk food habits of a teenager or college bachelor and between a surprisingly adult sophistication, making shrimp scampi and serving it with cloth napkins. House makes food for Chase without asking if Chase wants any or if he likes it. Chase isn't hungry much, but he eats, and sometimes he stares across the table at House calmly pouring cream sauce onto rice and doesn't recognize him.

Wilson visits more than Chase would have guessed he did, and Chase suspects, from little corners of things that Wilson has said, that Wilson is visiting substantially less now that he knows Chase is staying with House. But Wilson shows up at odd times, and often with his tie off and his sleeves rolled up, and House never blinks, just sets out another plate and pours Wilson a glass of wine.

13.

 

Chase gets a generic letter and brochure from the hospital encouraging him to come to group therapy sessions, bragging about how well-adjusted he will be after commiserating with some other poor bastards in the same situation as himself. He ignores it just as he ignores letters from the hospital scheduling staff about making follow up appointments—Chase figures that if there's anything wrong with him, House will inform him in one of House's usual bulletins about Chase's flaws and shortcomings—and advertisements from companies excited to install ramps and arm rails in his home.

But House sees the letter and reads it with a disturbing almost-manic glee. He not only insists that Chase must go—Chase is so surprised about House's enthusiasm that he doesn't protest much—but declares that House is going to go along with Chase, for "moral support."

House pushes him down the hospital hallway slightly faster than he normally would, and Chase is still slightly boggled about this. "I don't really think that talking to other people is going to make me feel any better," Chase feels compelled to protest.

"Of course not," House scoffs.

"Then why--" Chase's question is cut off by their arrival at the room.

It becomes immediately clear why House wanted to go to group therapy, and it only takes him six minutes to get them both kicked out, which House tells him is twice as long as his previous record.

Chase rolls his eyes and isn't sorry to go. The session had quickly degenerated into Mark and House shouting at each other, but before that the social worker had opened up with a number of questions that Chase doesn't want to answer. "Where do you see yourself in five weeks?" is nearly as bad as "Where do you see yourself in five years?" and Chase has never had an answer to the latter. It's always been something that eats at him. He'd made solemn vows to the church and meant them, and he still couldn't look and see himself there five years in the future; even as he knelt in confession there was a vicious battle inside of him. He wanted those answers, he wanted to want the church because it gave them to him, and yet he hadn't wanted it. At some level he wonders if he has ever really wanted anything.

House is snickering on the way back from therapy, gloating at what he perceives as another victory over his rival. But something bitter twists in House later that evening, and apparently House has been thinking about that question as well. Chase hears House and Wilson arguing in House's den as Chase organizes the scattered pills on the coffee table into little rows by size, shape, and color. He knows what many of them are, but some are unfamiliar to him, and he's tempted to try them anyway.

Wilson stalks out of the den and out the door, clearly tense with anger and frustration. House doesn't emerge until later. House has obviously been drinking and he seems angered to see Chase sitting apathetically in the middle of the room, staring at the pills he sorted and resorted.

House scoffs at the somewhat longing expression on Chase's face as he looks at the pills. "Everyone has their porn," he says, and Chase rolls his eyes, which only riles House up further.

"Five weeks from now, you're going to be in hell," House says acidly, and there is something almost ferocious in his voice.

Chase's head snaps back to stare at House. Chase swallows, and makes a visible effort to collect himself. "What of it?" he manages somewhat evenly.

"You want it," House says, "You want to suffer, you like *pain*, and it makes you feel all righteous, because unlike most idiots, you don't actually believe that you deserve it." House bends over near Chase, who flinches away from the alcohol on his breath instinctively. "But hell isn't going to be like that, *Robert,*" House continues, "and there won't be pretty lips to suck your dick after they whip you, and there won't be any of your superiority to the rest of the pathetic assholes, and there won't be *anything.*"

House is holding a glass of liquor in his left hand and finishes it in one gulp. "Don't think that you're going to be some beautiful long-suffering martyr in hell," House spits at him. "In hell everyone is ugly."

Chase isn't pretty right now, either. House has goaded him to the edge of tears, and he's red in the face. "Shut up!" Chase grabs the empty glass from House's hand and throws it at the wall, but neither of the men even look over to see it shatter.

They stare at each other, each breathing heavy with emotion.

"Hell can't possibly be worse than living with you," Chase says finally, and he knows it's weak and regrets it even as he hears his own words.

House doesn't even need to tell him that hell will be worse than that—it's clear in the look of disgust that House gives him before he turns around and leaves the room.

14.

 

One evening House settles pointedly in the living room and opens a folder under one of the reading lamps. He obviously wants Chase to see him, to know what he's doing, because if House were really serious about reading without being interrupted he'd be in his office with the door closed.

Chase doesn't have the energy to play any of House's little games this evening, but he can't help but be slightly irritated when he realizes that House is reading his will.

Chase almost protests, though it's reflexive. He isn't really surprised that House snoops into all of the personal documents of his life, and it's not as though his will is particularly revealing. Chase has no one to leave money to, after all, and money is all he has. Some of it is earmarked for his funeral and assorted expenses, and the rest of it is going to go to a wildlife conservation fund. House might puzzle over that, Chase figures, and it serves him right. Chase had told his lawyer that he didn't want his money to go to anything religious, anything medical, or anything having to do with people, and he presumes his lawyer did the best that he could within the parameters.

15.

 

For someone who practically exudes "Don't touch me" vibes, House is surprisingly casual about touching other people. He helps Chase into and out of his chair without hesitation or squeamishness or an excess amount of caution. House can't carry him, but he's surprisingly strong, manhandling out of his chair and onto the bed even when Chase is being uncooperative, is having a fit about life and the fact that House won't give him any more drugs.

House is disgusted, telling him he's hysterical like a little girl, and Chase only tries to twist that to his own advantage, begging for sedatives, then, in lieu of painkillers. It wouldn't be as good but it would probably put him to sleep so he at least wouldn't have to think about anything anymore. There are moments when it is all too much, when phrases he remembers—words from his father, echoes from an old cathedral, a million different reprimands from House or any other figure he's tried to impress over the years—repeat over and over again in his head, speeding up until he can no longer recognize the words but can no longer think of anything else, either, until he feels like an overwhelming loop of self-loathing static.

House says no to the sedatives, too, and he has some reason, House is saying some ridiculous words but Chase can't hear them over everything in his own head. Chase flops completely onto the bed as House levers his legs up onto the sheets, but Chase is already pushing himself up onto his elbows to continue his protest.

Chase moves himself on the bed and manages to catch hold of House's arm as he's moving the wheelchair away from the bed. House looks at him pitifully, peels him off like a small child put to bed early in the evening after a tantrum.

16.

 

Chase hasn't been counting the weeks (though why hasn't he, he asks himself later), so when House looks up from dinner—chicken fettuccine—and says, "So, Saturday," it takes Chase a minute to even follow his train of thought.

"Saturday," Chase swallows a bite of only half-chewed pasta. "Twelve weeks, right."

House raises an eyebrow at him. "So..." he says again, pointedly. Then he adopts a falsely cheerful tone. "Is Saturday good for you? My weekend's free."

Chase doesn't say anything for a moment, and House goes on. "I assume all of your affairs are in order?"

Chase wipes his mouth on a napkin. "Of course," he says, trying to put a note of certainty in his voice. In reality, he has paid no attention to any of his affairs for more than four months—which was when he had first been hospitalized. Cameron goes to his apartment occasionally and gives him his mail at work, but he suspects that his cleaning service has stopped cleaning since he hasn't been around to pay them and his apartment is probably a giant mess. However, none of that really matters to him if he isn't around any longer, and it isn't like he feels badly about causing House a tiny bit of extra grief for having to deal with all of it.

"Saturday, fine," he says finally, and swipes a last noodle across his plate with a fork, and forces a smile at House across the table.

House smiles back.

That was Thursday.

17.

 

The following day Chase is still awake when House gets up to go in to the hospital, though he keeps his eyes closed and concentrates on keeping his breathing steady, trying to feign sleep in front of someone who is probably far more perceptive than Chase's alcoholic mother had ever been.

Chase gets up, despite his lack of sleep, and begins to read, frantically. He's pointedly avoided reading anything about his condition before this, but he tries to make up for it in scant hours now. He goes into the den—where House has pointedly told him he's not welcome—and uses House's computer to scan medical databases and access hospital records.

He doesn't find anything, though. He wishes that the right pieces of information jumped out at him the way they jump at House; that he could look at a scan and always see the right thing, though he suspects that half of the reason House had kept him on the staff in the past was to accentuate House's brilliance by always being the one to insist that there was nothing there.

Nothing jumps at Chase now, but worse than that, words scramble on the page in front of his eyes, and he finds his hand trembling on the mouse. He's hyperventilating before he even realizes it, and the more he tries to tell himself to calm down, that he has to focus, that—and these words are familiar from hundreds of late nights at the hospital—someone's life hangs in the balance, he can't do it. Eventually he leaves the den, not even able to care that House will clearly see he's been in there, that he's pushed away House's chair and left his computer on with spinal injury search pages still pulled up.

He hadn't hoped, really, anyway. It was never really hope with Chase, always an anticipated fear of regret, a miserable feeling that leaves his stomach twisted and ill. At noon he stares at the ashes in House's fireplace and wonders. He wonders what one should want to do on their last day, if they are supposedly lucky enough to choose, and not tethered by tubing to a generic hospital bed.

Chase wonders what his father did—his father must have known the end was near. Were there people who his father would have had with him, people who were mysteriously more important than his wife or his son had ever been? Had his father wanted to see the sun, been frantic to finish one last research article? Chase has neither, has no work to claim his passion, to give his name to, and he is kept from going outside alone by the steps outside House's apartment. He can only really be disappointed in an intellectual way.

He should write something, or say something, or pray—something to throw something of himself into the beyond. But he has no wisdom to offer to anyone else and he has no pleas, either. What would he say—save me? Protect me? Love me?

An image of a corpse he did practice surgery on lingers in his mind, and he pictures of class of medical students discussing him—Cameron lecturing someday, perhaps—talking about his ailments and problems in sterile impersonal terms. At sixteen Chase had pictured what would happen after he was dead, and he had envisioned his father standing by a fresh grave in the rain. He compares the vision of his father to the one he has now of Cameron lecturing and finds that he doesn't care.

He wants to do something poetic, but at the same time he doesn't really want to, he just wishes that he wanted to, wishes that he was someone he isn't. Since the last few weeks have been about limitations, about the true delineations of what a man can do and what a man cannot do, perhaps now is not the time to care.

No one else will care.

18.

 

Saturday comes. House is actually whistling as he limps back and forth from the bathroom, preparing a variety of pale-colored substances in syringes. This would prove—if Chase hadn't already been convinced many years ago—that House is seriously deranged. House had told him to lie on the bed, so Chase is, but he's agitated, jittery.

House eventually seems to have everything prepared to his satisfaction. He rubs his hands together. "Any last words?" he asks Chase. Chase blinks, and swallows, and shakes his head silently. He doesn't remember what the last thing he said was.

House swabs his arm with alcohol, and Chase has hysterical thoughts about why it's necessary to prevent infection *now* running through his head.

At the very last moment, when House is already holding the first syringe poised and has Chase's arm positioned in his hand, Chase grabs House's arm and half sits up. "I don't want to die," he says clearly.

House injects him anyway.

Chase can feel the shock in his eyes as he falls back on the bed. As Chase succumbs to unconsciousness, he hears a faint echo of House's voice saying, wryly, "Well, *duh*."

19.

 

Chase wakes up back at good old Princeton Plainsboro. He blinks, feeling thick and muffled and dazed.

"He's awake!" Cameron says, and he feels her squeeze his hand. "You must be so excited," Cameron tells him, and Chase gets the distinct impression that she thinks he knows something he doesn't.

"How do you feel?" Foreman asks him, coming over to the bed and leaning into Chase's view. It's probably the warmest Foreman has ever sounded toward Chase.

"Uh..." Chase is tempted to say 'Not dead,' but neither Cameron nor Foreman would get the joke, and he's not quite sure it's a joke, anyway. "Hungover."

Foreman rolls his eyes. Cameron is poking his feet with a pencil and acting irrationally excited at the way they twitch when she does this. She tells him to curl his toes and he does, but when he sees the toes at the bottom of the bed actually curl it's a surprise.

"I can't believe House figured it out," Foreman says, and Foreman marvels slightly at whatever it is House figured out that has given Chase back feeling and muscle control in his legs, but Chase doesn't hear it at first, and then he doesn't want to, is struck with a superstitious feeling that if he understands the "how" of it all that his understanding will jinx the miracle.

Chase feels as though he should be excited—Foreman is saying things like "expected full recovery" with a tone of slightly disgusted admiration in his voice—but though there is a new sensation growing inside of him, it's not quite excitement, and he doesn't yet know what it is.

20.

 

House only comes to Chase's room once while he's recovering, and scoffs, "Did you really think I'd let you die *at my apartment*?" House leaves before a stunned Chase has a chance to answer.

Chase doesn't know what he thinks. Everything he thought was true, isn't, and yet, at the same time, everything is exactly how it was.

21.

 

Time seems to speed up. Chase spends six weeks in assisted living at a rehabilitation center, but it seems like a flash in comparison to the way he remembers his eternity with House. He returns to his apartment—which seems both strikingly new and utterly familiar—and he returns to work. Sometimes he sits in the conference room and House is talking about something—bickering with Cameron about who writes on the board—and Chase thinks, 'It can't have happened.' Other times, it feels as though the rest of it is a dream, as though that was the only experience he can ever be sure of, and the rest of this could all just be some strange amorphous unreality. He wonders about the afterlife.

Strange moments mix together with more clarity than others:

House brings a pair of Chase's pants to work one day and dumps them on the conference table and announces that Chase left them at his place. The looks on Cameron's and Foreman's faces are hilarious.

Chase is bludgeoned into attending a hospital charity function with Cameron. James and Julie Wilson come up to them to say hi, and Julie tells Chase that "Oh, Jimmy has that same tie." Chase has gotten this tie from House, who had given it to Chase in a box full of things House claimed weren't his but were "cluttering up his space." Julie fingers the tie for a moment, and then lets it go, suddenly, turning her attention to another passing guest. Chase clears his throat uncomfortably and Wilson rubs the back of his head and looks slightly sheepish.

22.

 

There is something new in the way Chase looks at House. It bothers Foreman, Chase can tell. Foreman had always been on his case for being a sycophant, and it had never been a challenge to ignore him.

One evening, after House has thought of precisely the right thing at precisely the right instant and received his usual grudging accolades from Cuddy and the patient, Chase and Foreman are sitting in the conference room. House is in his office packing up for the night and throwing a squishy football at Wilson, who is flustered every single time House does it, and never manages to catch the ball.

Chase is watching House through the glass; Foreman is finishing up some paperwork. Foreman looks up and follows Chase's gaze, and frowns. "He's not God, you know," Foreman says with that reproving look he does so well.

"'But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins,' he said unto the sick of the palsy, 'I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house," Chase quoted calmly. "And immediately he rose up before them, and took up what that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God."

"Jesus," Foreman says, halfway between shocked and disgusted.

Chase grins without focus in recognition of Foreman's irony, and Foreman realizes what he said, exactly. Foreman is about to take it back, say something else, point out that Chase knows that wasn't what he meant, but it's the end of the day and they're both tired. Chase gets out of his chair and grabs his coat off the rack. When he bends over to take his bag off the floor, he has sudden flash—they happen less and less frequently, even now—of realization, of surprise, that he'd thought he'd never again do this, never be able to do anything like take his coat off a hook and pick a bag up off the floor. "Later," he tells Foreman, and he walks out the door before Foreman can say anything else.

23.

 

House and Wilson are eating lunch outside on Wilson's office balcony—it's a classic spring day, warm sunlight, brisk breeze, daffodil buds poking out of the hospital's landscaping. The ducklings seem to have been searching for House—Chase pokes his head out into the courtyard and when he spots them he leads the ducklings up to them and makes a full report from the middle of the courtyard, squinting up at House through the sunlight. Chase doesn't complain when House assigns him the worst of the follow-up tasks.

"Chase worships you now," Wilson observes. "You must get off on that."

House responds to the first part of Wilson's comment. "He should. I saved his life."

Wilson rolls his eyes. "You probably orchestrated the whole thing because Cameron refused to ghostwrite your articles anymore. You needed a new disciple to record your great deeds."

House steals one of Wilson's fries and makes an innocent face. "By the way," Wilson continues, "Foreman and Cameron still haven't settled their bet on whether Chase actually 'fell down the stairs' or not." Wilson raises an eyebrow at House, looking for insider information. "We can split the winnings," Wilson promises House.

"Dr. Wilson!" House scolds. "Are you really encouraging me to breach doctor/patient confidentiality?"

"For a bet?" Wilson leans his chair back. "Absolutely. Spill."

"Let me just say this—Chase took a quicker route than the stairs." House eats another of Wilson's fries and Wilson tries to solve the puzzle.

"So, what...he fell down a garbage chute?" Wilson surmises. "Was he really that drunk?"

House laughs, once. "No. He was on the roof, and he decided he wanted a trip straight to hell. I suspect the alcohol impaired his ability to estimate the distance. Sober he could have been more successful."

Wilson leans forward and puts all the legs of his chair on the ground. "Chase tried to kill himself? Seriously? How do you know?"

House shrugs. "Bruising pattern, affected areas of trauma, the way Chase looks longingly at the roof..."

Wilson leans back again, absorbing the information. "You sound like you might know something about that," he says mildly.

House brushes aside Wilson's comment with a wave of his hand. House steals Wilson's last fry, waggles his eyebrows, dips the fry in ketchup, and eats it with a flourish.

Across the courtyard, Chase walks up the steps to the hospital with his hands in his lab coat. He pauses in front of the door to hold it open for a man carrying a lunch tray, and then he disappears into the building with a glint of sunlight on the glass doors.

 

END