'Come home with me.'
One week ago
'Your hair is inexplicable.' House muttered, looking down at the top of Chase's head.
'What?' Chase asked, looking over his shoulder.
House leaned over and pulled Chase's bangs away from his face. 'No doctor has hair like this.'
'Yeah,' Chase drawled, 'I've been meaning to tell you my medical degree's a forgery. The time never seemed right to bring it up.'
He dropped the hair back against Chase's cheek, brushing the skin lightly. 'It's a hygiene risk! What do you do in surgery?'
'Same as everyone else,' Chase said, a little offended now. 'Put it under a cap.' He looked back down at the patient's file, hair falling in front of his eyes.
'This only proves my point,' House said.
'This,' House answered, pulling Chase's hair back again. 'You can't even read a file.'
'You're the only one having a problem with it,' Chase said, looking both amused and bewildered by House's persistence.
Chase had turned round to face House fully, head tilted up to look at him. House framed his face, pushing the hair back carefully. He looked down at the slight smile Chase was wearing. Gently, and without letting go of the bangs, he brushed a kiss against the curve of Chase's lips. 'No problem,' he said, pulling his hands back.
When Chase leaned back down towards the file, his hair almost, but not quite, veiled the finger he reached to touch his lips.
He looked up, startled, 'Excuse me?'
Three weeks ago
This was the second patient in a week they looked like losing. He hadn't lost one in months, and now two at once. If he was superstitious he might have suspected divine retribution.
House looked over at Chase, whose blond head was bent over a book. Chase probably believed in divine retribution. Lapsed Catholics tended to think that God could punish them long after they lost the belief that he would answer their prayers. As if he suspected he was being observed, Chase hid his yawn, badly, behind his hand. The yawn was as contagious as any virus, and House watched Cameron and Foreman respond in kind.
House tried to stand, his leg protesting vigorously. That was another piece of fun to factor into his week. The Vicodin was just barely taking the edge off at the moment. He misjudged the step, and grasped the desk to balance himself, swearing as inventively as he could manage through gritted teeth.
Chase was looking up now, concern quickly masked by professional curiosity. 'Vicodin not kicked in?'
'Well, it's only been an hour, Chase, I wouldn't like to say,' he said, 'After all, it hasn't had any more effect than an aspirin for the past week, but this might just be the hour that the pills magically figure out how to re-grow the muscles in my leg and we can all go dancing.'
'Just asking,' he said, looking back at his book. He yawned again, and darted one more troubled look at House.
'Okay, go home,' House said definitely.
All three of his fellows looked at him in shock.
'I'm tired,' House said,
'But...' Cameron waved the patient's file at him.
'Do any of you genuinely believe that the answer is going to jump from those books into your heads when you fall asleep on them? No? Then you might as well sleep in bed. If we're lucky, when we come back tomorrow she'll have developed a new symptom, or she'll be dead. Either way – easier to deal with.'
It was a sign of how tired Cameron was that she barely looked upset at that remark.
'Chase,' House said.
Chase walked up to him, looking confused. He didn't bother to answer the question in the blue eyes, just placed his hand on Chase's shoulder and gripped hard. 'Aim towards the car park.'
'Do you have some particular desire to come in tomorrow morning and find me in a twisted heap outside the office?'
'That wasn't the most convincing denial of a desire for my death I've ever heard. Not the least either, I'll grant, but still.'
'Think of it as giving balance a hand.'
Chase's head turned so quickly it was a miracle he didn't pull them both over. He gave House a questioning look, as if the reference might have been accidental. Then, ignoring Cameron's astonishment and Foreman's curiosity, he helped House walk out of the office.
'It's late. We can't do anything else until the tests are back.'
'That would explain why I should go home. Why should I go home with you?'
Three and a half weeks ago
'Don't you ever get tired?' Chase asked, a sting in the question that was almost annoyance.
'Of being right? Never.'
'Of...' Chase made a gesture that was probably meant to encompass House and all the inexplicable things about him, but ended up just looking vaguely lewd. House wasn't entirely sure whether that was an after-effect of having slept with Chase and therefore just in his mind, or whether Chase's subconscious was putting out without his realising.
He refocused. 'Yes, that was explanatory, Dr. Chase, thank you.'
'You know what I mean.'
'Unfortunately my psychic powers are acting up today, come back tomorrow.'
'You never let anyone get...'
'Yours, however, seem to be fine, because you're clearly channelling Cameron. Or possibly my mother. Which is actually scarier.'
'See!' he said, and at least that was different. Cameron generally didn't tend to yelp like that.
'See what?' House asked.
'You do one nice thing, and then you spend the next three weeks trying to make sure everyone knows you didn't mean it!'
'I'll have you know I've done more than one nice thing for you. It must be at least five.'
'And I'm sure you've put in the four months undoing it!'
He just looked at Chase. 'Three weeks by five things is fifteen weeks. That's only three months and three weeks. Also, I'm pretty sure I did my first nice thing more than four months ago.'
Chase looked vaguely stricken. 'That's not what I meant. I mean... you know I appreciate what you did. More than that. But if you would just...
'Just what?' House asked, still bothered by the comment in a distant kind of way.
'Balance,' Chase said. 'I remember what you said after he... but sometimes balance needs help. What you said is only true if you actually let me... Today we lost a patient, which is obviously bothering you, but you're just making jokes about the autopsy proving you right. Can you just let me pretend that maybe I can help you too?'
'You want me to cry on your shoulder?'
'You even managed to drive Wilson off,' Chase said.
'And obviously I should be upset about that too? According to your little theory.'
'Forget it,' Chase muttered, stalking out of the office.
'It's been three months since he was here.'
'This is true. And?'
Four weeks ago
'Wilson told me he's speaking at the trial.'
'I could have done that.'
Chase looked surprised. 'I know. You would have complained the whole time, but I know you would have done it.'
'Is this part of your whole "this isn't healthy for either of us" kick?'
Chase shrugged awkwardly, and put his hands in his pocket.
'Are you going to quit?'
Looking over sharply, Chase asked, 'Do you want me to?'
'If I wanted you gone, I'd fire you. No one's forcing me to keep you this time.'
'Yeah, but torturing me into quitting would be more fun.'
House nodded, conceding the point. 'Probably. But that's not what we're doing today. So I ask again: are you going to quit? Since we can't seem to work together. Which bothers you more, Chase – that we slept together, or that you have to work with me?'
Chase leaned against the wall, and looked over to meet House's eyes. He smiled ruefully. 'Difficult as this will be for you to believe, wrong on both counts. I started the first one. And the second part... I don't care that you own me.'
'I didn't say that,' House retorted.
'You have before.'
'You shouldn't,' House said, not bothering to explain why the language bothered him on Chase's tongue.
'I told you – I don't care. You own me, Cameron, and Foreman.' He grinned teasingly, 'And Wilson owns you.'
House sputtered. 'Wilson doesn't own me! Where do you get these... I don't work for him!'
'No, you work for Dr. Cuddy, and you don't do anything she says.'
'I don't do anything Wilson says either.'
'You started taking cases again because he asked you. We hadn't done anything for months before he made you do it.'
'He didn't make me do anything. I was bored. Or he tricked me, I can't remember. And even if it was because he asked, one incident doesn't prove anything. Or have we started diagnosing all headaches as inoperable cancer of the brain without me noticing?'
'He makes you feel guilty,' Chase said. 'There isn't anyone else's job you would even have thought about making that speech to save.'
'I didn't make the speech,' House said defiantly.
'But you felt bad about it. It's like...'
'You and Vogler,' House filled in.
'Yeah,' Chase answered uncomfortably. 'Something like that anyway.'
'Do you want me to point out the flaws in that argument, or am I just supposed to accept it?'
'Of course, you were doing it in a desire to protect your integrity, and I was just saving my job,' Chase said sarcastically.
'Are you trying to tell me that your actions were motivated by something other than self-interest? It's not an accusation, Chase - everyone and everything is selfish. What makes humans so fascinating is that we try to hide it.'
Chase folded his arms in front of his chest uncomfortably. 'I couldn't rely on you to save my job, so I went to someone else.'
There was something familiar in the way Chase said that. Something reminiscent of another conversation they'd had in this office. "I loved him until I figured out it hurts a lot less to just not care." No expectations, no disappointments. He hadn't believed Chase then either.
'I can't decide whether it was a pre-emptive strike, or yet more evidence of your masochism,' he said thoughtfully, trying to provoke a response. 'Did you think I was going to fire you, or did you know that I couldn't fire you after that because torturing you was more interesting?'
'Do you ever have a normal conversation?' Chase asked in exasperation. 'One where you don't dive into the other person's psyche? Maybe about the weather. Or sports.'
'Only with very boring people,' he replied, and if Chase couldn't take that as a compliment, then they really wouldn't work out.
Chase sighed and left the office, but he seemed more resigned than angry or confused.
'You think this means everything's all better now?'
Two months ago
'Are we going to be done anytime soon?' Chase asked.
'Why?' House answered suspiciously. 'Hot date?' He looked at Chase properly for the first time that day, and took in the subtly matching clothes. 'You're kidding, right?'
'You have a date.'
Foreman and Cameron were watching them now, with matching looks of concern.
'I have a date,' Chase agreed. 'He's three inches shorter than me, a nurse, and I'm carrying a panic button and pepper spray, but other than that, it's a perfectly normal date.'
'You're dating a male nurse?'
Chase shook his head wearily as House ran into a rant on how people brought stereotypes on themselves.
He only finished when the shift did, and he finally allowed them to leave. On the way out the door, Chase turned to look at him. 'My cell phone's on.'
He was tempted, briefly, to ask why Chase thought he should know that, but chose simply to answer, 'Mine too.'
'No, I don't. But things are getting better.'
'So this is an anniversary celebration. Three months on the wagon?'
Three months ago
Chase looked at the hand held down to him, and tried to push himself up without it. At House's look, he explained himself. 'I don't want to pull you down with me.'
House thought about that for a moment, and then waved his hand at Chase again. 'You won't.'
'How do you...'
'Basic biology. It's easier to help someone else up than push yourself up. You don't pull me over now, I won't pull you over on the way to get that ankle looked at.'
'I don't think that's how it works. It's about balance.'
'Balance can work itself out.'
Chase nodded, accepting the almost-reassurance. He took House's hand.
'So what is it?'
'Today was nothing special. Nothing happened.'
'Well, we saved a few lives, but maybe that's all in a day's work for you now.'
'I didn't mean that. Nothing happened. No... no traumas, no police, no bruises... no reason for it to happen today.'
'And because there's no particular reason for me to say yes, you thought it was a good time to ask?'
Chase smiled nervously, and repeated himself, 'Come home with me.'
House pondered that logic. It was, as usual with Chase, a mixture of elegant simplicity and an utter refusal to do things the easy way. Now, why did that seem familiar? He offered a lopsided smile, and stood up. 'Well then, since you asked so nicely...'
FIN: All done! Thanks again to my lovely beta parkermonster, who made this last chapter (hopefully) make much more sense here than in its first draft. Feedback, as ever, is wonderful to receive.