House corners him in the elevator when Chase is on his way home. It doesn't surprise him. House always corners people in the elevator, where they are trapped in the 8-by-8-foot cubicle with no way to escape the sharp tongue and inquisitive looks.
Chase mentally steels himself for the biting comment, wondering what it will be about this time – his father issues, his taste in ties, his bedside manners, or…
"So, Cameron was drugged out of her mind. What's your excuse?"
His first instinct is to block, to give House a heated 'fuck off' or to remind him that what happened between him and Cameron is none of House's business. But he knows House, and he knows that this is exactly what House is waiting for. With years of practice, he swallows his anger and schools his features into nonchalance.
Where House is concerned, attack is indeed the best form of defence: "Why would I need one? I mean, which sane person would turn down Cameron?"
House misses a beat, and for a second, Chase dares to believe that he has won this round.
"I don't think I know anyone who qualifies as sane," House says after a moment; and just like that, Chase feels the ground he thought he gained slipping away from under his feet again. "Still, nice try. But I'm sure you can do better, come on!"
He closes his eyes and lets the back of his head bounce against the elevator's back wall. The dull ache is gratifying and familiar. He remembers Alison's lips on his, hungry and relentless and sweet. More than that, though, he remembers her words, can't get them out of his mind as much as he wants to: Don't turn into the good guy on me now.
He likes to think that he is a good guy. Cameron apparently disagrees. He doesn't need to ask House for his opinion on the matter.
The words are slipping out before he can stop them. "She just pushed me against the wall and kissed me. She was quite… forceful." He doesn't know why he's trying to explain this, when all it comes down to is more ammunition for House to use against him.
House snorts, and despite his best intentions, Chase turns his head to look at him.
"Oh, right, she raped you. – I got it. Gee, why didn't I think of that right away?"
Chase sighs, frustrated. House doesn't get it. It's not that Chase wants to deflect responsibility for what happened. He's not saying that it was her fault – even though it might very well have been; but that's not the point. "I liked it."
"Well, d'uh. That goes without –" House stops himself and narrows his eyes, looking at him like he's a new kind of disease that needs to be categorized and wiped out. A puzzle waiting to be solved. "Wait, are you saying that you liked that Alison… manhandled you? What, has seminary given you a taste for masochism? Or does that come with the daddy issues?"
The pang of pain is expected and Chase catches it before it makes it out onto the surface, filing it away somewhere safe and far. He has long since vowed that House will not get a rise out of him by mentioning his father. Most of the time, it works. "I don't think it's possible to work for you and not be a masochist," he replies evenly and holds House's gaze as long as he can. And still, he's the first to avert his eyes.
The elevator grinds to a halt, and Chase almost believes he can get away before House comes up with a suitable reply, but no, no such luck.
"So, are you saying that if I just grabbed you and planted one on you, you wouldn't protest?"
"Don't be ridiculous!" Chase says – too hotly and too quickly to maintain the veneer of nonchalance even if it weren't for the blush burning his face. He escapes from the elevator even before the doors have fully opened, squeezing through the gap to get away from House as fast as he can.
"I could get drugged first if that helps," House shouts after his retreating back, the smirk evident in his voice. Then, after a small pause. "Oh, no wait, I already am."
Chase quickens his steps.
He can run from House, but he cannot escape the mental image the other man's ridicule created. By the time he's at home, he's half-hard and frustrated and hates himself only slightly less than he hates House. When he jerks off in the shower and mentally replays the previous night, he wishes he could stop picturing House instead of Alison.
Wanting House is nothing new. It's not like his suggestion that Chase would let House 'manhandle' him brought on a sudden revelation. Chase is fairly certain that House was not serious and has, in fact, no idea how dangerously close to the truth he got with his mockery. If House was aware of Chase's… feelings - but, no, 'feelings' is the wrong word, because it implies something warm and fuzzy like hearts and flowers and starry-eyed adoration, and there's none of that. If House was aware of Chase's wanting him, then he'd have used this as ammunition to make Chase's life a lot more unpleasant than he already did.
House's earlier remark didn't mean anything. It didn't change anything. It's old news; Chase has almost come to accept the cycles of unrequited desire and unabashed self-loathing as routine. It just doesn't get any easier, and it always leaves him worn out and unable to sleep.
He spends two hours watching TV, switching through the channels without any genuine interest to actually watch anything.
It's almost midnight when the door bell rings, and for just a moment, Chase allows himself to indulge hope that it's House. He's not entirely sure what he expects, exactly – an apology (hardly), more of the usual baiting (likely), or for House to make act on his earlier suggestion (wishful thinking).
Instead, it is Cameron he finds on his doorstep, shifting from one foot to the other and nervously chewing on her lower lip. She almost looks like herself again. Her skin is still nearly translucent and the dark shadows under her eyes betray the emotional rollercoaster of the last few days, but her eyes are clear and focused now.
"Can I come in?" she asks; and Chase realizes that he's been staring. He takes a step back and lets her follow him inside. Hesitantly, she does.
Chase wonders if he's supposed to shove her against the next flat surface and kiss her. He doesn't understand why she's here. He doesn't know how to act around her, whether to treat her like a colleague or like a lover. He would like to think of her as a friend, but then, that's the one thing they've never been.
With a sigh, he closes the door and asks if she wants a drink. – Common courtesy, he tells himself, trying to deny that at least part of the reason why he's asking is that it was a lot easier to deal with Cameron when she was intoxicated than when she's sober. Maybe he's not such a good guy after all.
Cameron shakes her head. "I'm not supposed to. The drugs they gave me don't mix too well with alcohol."
He only just bites back the reply that they probably didn't mix well with the meth either.
"Look, Chase… Robert," she tries experimentally. It's all he can do not to flinch at the unfamiliar intimacy of his given name. "I know we agreed that it would be a one-time thing, but… well, you said it didn't suck. It was… fun." She blushes crimson. "So why are we so particular about how it mustn't happen again? It might very well be the best thing that happened to us."
"Or it might make a huge mess of things."
"It might. But we won't know unless we try."
Cameron looks at him, expectantly, as if she's waiting for objections. When none come forth, she closes the distance between them and kisses him.
Her lips are feather-light on his, gentle ghosting over them. It's so unlike the last time, it's hard to believe that this is the same person kissing him. The Cameron he slept with the other day was passionate and… dominant and took what she wanted. The Cameron who's kissing him now is soft and sweet and gentle and treats him as if he's a broken toy that will fall apart if she pushes too hard.
He turns his face away as gently as he can. "I'm not House, Alison." He's aiming for a mild, regretful tone to soften the blow, but he knows he doesn't quite succeed.
Cameron is unabashed. "That's okay. I'm over House," she lies.
She tries to kiss him again, but Chase stops her. Her breath is a soft caress on his face. For a long moment, all they do is look at each other. Confusion is written all over Cameron's face. She looks like she wants to protest, to assure him that no, she really is over House, and even though he doesn't want to tell her, the need to speak before she does becomes overwhelming.
"You…" she begins, perplexed, before the confusion gives way to shock. She almost jumps back, and her hand covers her gasp. "Oh my God, I'm sorry." Her reaction would be almost comical, if he wasn't the one to cause it.
* * *
"So, Chase, you and Cameron still doing the dirty?" House asks the next day, in the middle of their latest differential diagnosis. Chase is focused on the patient's symptoms, and even though he's learned to expect House's non-sequiturial barbs, he is thrown. Thrown enough to answer – which, doubtlessly, is what House was aiming for.
"I, er, no. We're not," Chase stammers.
He feels the blush rising even before the words are out of his mouth. Cameron tenses beside him. Foreman rolls his eyes. House smirks.
"Shame. The kids would have been so pretty! Just out of curiosity - what was it, did Cameron not fancy you anymore when she wasn't high, or was it you who didn't fancy her when she wasn't high?"
"Do you ever get tired of being such a bastard?" Cameron says quietly. It's her idea of protecting him, Chase guesses, but he wishes she would stop. She'll only make it worse.
House doesn't even bother looking at her. The sharp blue eyes remain fixed on Chase, as he raises an eyebrow. "What, you need her now to fight your battles for you?"
It is Foreman who saves Chase from answering.
"Look, could you maybe save your little pissing contest for later? Karen is dying while you're busy discussing Chase's sex life."
"Jealous because you don't have one?" House says, but before Foreman can reply, he turns back to the whiteboard. "Alright then, let's see if we can figure out what pretty little Kathryn is dying of before she actually does die." No one bothers to correct House on the patient's name. They’re all too relieved that they're back on the case instead of being unwilling participants-slash-victims in a game of emotional strip-poker with House.
Ten minutes later, Cameron is on her way to run a CT, and Foreman has hurried off to collect some test results. Chase lingers back, waiting for whatever task House dishes out for him and the inevitable taunts that come with it.
He interrupts before House can say whatever he wanted to say. "We're not discussing Cameron again."
House feigns innocence. "Not at the moment, no. If you want to, though, we can."
He rolls his eyes. As if House had ever cared about what Chase wanted.
"What's your problem, exactly? Are you… jealous that Cameron jumped me and not you when she was all spaced out?"
House snorts. "Please! She's trying to jump me whenever she's not high. Which is, like, ninety-nine point nine percent of the time. You're welcome to her the one night she decides to be a naughty girl. And anyway, you're the one who brought Cameron up just now." The gleeful smirk on House' face was just begging to be wiped away. There were a few things that would have that effect – a fist, or a pair of lips, for instance – but Chase doesn't have the courage to use either and he couldn't have decided on which of the two he prefers, anyway.
"Like you wouldn't have."
"Nope. Wasn't going to."
"Fine, then. What did you want?"
"Before you so rudely interrupted me, I was just going to tell you to go to Kelley's flat…"
"Karen," Chase corrects, almost automatically, which earns him a sharp look.
"To go to whatshername's flat and check if there's anything that could have caused the rash."
"OK. That's all?"
"Well, yes. Except for this."
And suddenly, his back is against the glass wall that separates House's office from the corridor and House is kissing him. House is kissing him, and his whole world shatters. Not because it's such an amazing kiss (he's too stunned, and House is not giving him enough time to participate), but because it's actually happening. It's much too short and without finesse, but it still leaves Chase breathless and, also, more confused than ever.
"What are you doing?"
The damnable smirk is back on House's lips and for the thousandth time, Chase is wondering how it is possible to both want and hate a person so much.
"Testing a theory." At Chase's blank look, House clarifies: "The one where you would supposedly object if I did this." He cocks an eyebrow "So. Can't hear you protesting."
"You're an arse," is the best Chase can come up with.
He's angry and disappointed and wants to yell, but it comes out sounding like a tired sigh. With House, everything is some kind of test, but that's not exactly news. What surprises Chase time and time again, though, is to what kind of levels House will go to prove that he's right.
He tries to break away, but House's grip on his shoulders is unrelenting. Chase is just going to tell House that he has made his point and that he can let him go now when House's mouth comes down on his again, leaving no room for argument. It's better than before, good enough to have Chase hard and aching for more. And, of course, it is once again House who breaks away, putting a safe distance between them that makes Chase's body ache with frustration.
"I think we can safely assume that my theory is proved right. I win." House smiles none-too-pleasantly. Chase notices with a certain degree of satisfaction that there's a roughness in House's voice which hadn't been there before. Of course, compared to the circumstance that Chase himself is currently unable to string too words together, it's a very small victory. "What are you still doing here? Don't you have some breaking and entering to do?"
Chase swallows the lewd comeback that's on the tip of his tongue, but only barely. He nods rigidly, avoiding eye-contact, and toddles off.
Searching Karen's flat produces nothing of interest, but almost gets Chase killed by the girl's jealous boyfriend who thinks he's either a burglar or an ex with a knack of stalking. Chase can't quite fathom how he manages to talk himself out of that situation without landing a broken nose or finding himself arrested. For a moment, he actually regrets that, curious if House would have bailed him out.
When he returns to the hospital, the case is solved.
"I found the bacteria in her blood hours ago," Foreman tells him. "House said he'd call you and tell you that the house search wasn't necessary."
Chase gives him The Look. "Well, he didn't. I almost got arrested, thanks a lot."
"Sorry, man," Foreman says, but there's a hint of a smile tugging on the corner of his lips that suggests that he is really not all that sorry.
"Whatever. I'm going home."
He grabs his jacket and steps into the elevator. Just before the doors slide shut, the tip of House's cane stops them and before Chase can even appreciate the sweet irony of this, House is standing beside him and the doors close. There's a distinct feeling of déjà-vu coming over him.
Chase grinds his teeth and waits.
"You look tired. Had a rough day?" The fake concern in House's voice makes Chase want to strangle him.
Instead, he says, "I'm fine." – A statement which his tone clearly belies. There's no point in bringing up the wasted hours he spent searching the house for a hint to help solve a case that's been already solved before he even opened the front door of Karen's place. Even less point in bringing up the angry boyfriend. He doesn't want to give House the satisfaction. Not that kind of satisfaction at least.
But he's always been kind of transparent and House could read him like an open book from the moment he walked in for the job interview, so of course House knows he's upset. Judging from the smile on House's lips, he's probably congratulating himself on his good job. 'Torturing Chase' has held a high rank on House's daily to-do list for a while now; and Chase has long since given up hope that this is going to change anytime soon.
He's so busy wallowing in bitterness that he almost misses House's question. He blinks, wondering if the dangerous combination of tiredness and wishful thinking finally took its toll, because he could swear he just heard House asking, in the same casual way he'd hand out insults, random statistics and death announcements, "Need a ride?"
Chase stares at him. "You're offering me a ride?" When House gives no indication that Chase misheard, he adds: "Where's the catch?"
"No catch." As if on clue, the elevator stops and the doors open. Leaving Chase behind, House walks off to the parking, calling over his shoulder, "Well, except that I won't make a stop over at your place."
Chase doesn't even bother to hide his smile and tags along.
"You've got to be kidding," Chase says, outraged, as House disappears into his place and shuts the door to his face with a smirk and a, "See you tomorrow morning. Don't be late."
Only his good upbringing prevents Chase from kicking the door.
After five minutes of waiting and cursing and feeling more humiliated than ever, he fishes for his cell phone and is just about to call a cab when the door reopens and House says, "Well, come on in." He has this impatient, almost bored tone that seems to say, 'What the hell is taking you so long?!'
Chase thinks about telling House to go to hell, that he's going home now and that he's done playing House's games. He thinks about turning around and leaving.
He snaps his phone shut and follows House, as he always does.