Disclaimer: I do not own any characters except Althea. She's all mine. :) Any offensive comments made by Dr. House are my attempts to keep him in character and not my own opinions.

"Don't pretend anymore." A soft voice whispered from an undisclosed location. Chase stood there in a hallway at the hospital alarmed, wondering what he had just heard. "Let go Robert." He once again couldn't figure where the sound was coming from, but he knew the voice. "Mum?" he replied to the voice. "God doesn't want this for you." The voice said.

Chase sprung up from his sleep, shaking profusely, sweating and completely terrified by the images. It took a minute, but after coming out of his hazy disorientation he realized it was another dream. He had been having many vivid interpretations lately and many sleepless nights.

He got up, walked to the bathroom sink and splashed a little water on his face. He looked in the mirror. It revealed a peaked persona, complete with dark circles under the eyes and utter exhaustion in its expression. What was happening to him?

Chase sleepily walked over to his sofa and sat down. He looked at the time. He needed to be at work in a couple of hours anyway. Maybe he can catch a wink or two on the couch before then. His mind couldn't relax though. So much had been happening lately. He was having a hard time coping. It all started with Foreman's illness. That scared the crap out of him. He never once let on what was happening, but on the inside he was barely holding it all together. Then it was time for vacation, but he thought working would be better. He didn't need the money. The sisters at the convent could make far better use out of the extra money. The idea sounded good; work through vacation in another department to get away from House for a little while but still continue to help people. Instead of fulfilling though, the NICU brought too much pain. It was so hard to see those so young suffer. Then the one baby died, and that just about killed him inside. Even if his death was unavoidable, it still hurt. Then House got shot right in front of him. Sure, House likely deserved it, but it was still something that wore on already frayed nerves.

Lucky for Chase, work wasn't very consuming at this moment. While House was out, it meant for a big slow down in cases while he recovered. The workday consisted of basic clinic hours and "boring" cases for once. He was glad, since his mind really couldn't take much else right now. He had to ask himself though, if work wasn't stressing him out, then why was he starting to all have these vivid dreams? Why couldn't he sleep? After an hour of this train of thought Chase decided to just give up and go to work early. It looked like another morning of an extra tall coffee was in order.

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Chase arrived at the hospital to find Cameron arriving at the same time. She looked at him as they walked in together. "Out late again? You look like hell." She said in a rather scolding tone.

"I couldn't sleep." he replied. "Why are you here so early?"

"I always come in early. You would never know since you never do."

Chase said nothing. He could tell that Cameron was in another one of her snarky moods. She didn't take House's shooting too well. She tried to mask her worry through bitchy comments, but deep down she was really petrified by what happened. She was also really bored by the slow down. She needed House's punishment on a daily basis. Not having that left a huge void in her life. "How in the world did he become so attracted to a masochist?" Chase asked himself.

"Dr. Chase, I know this is early, but can you see someone right now?" asked the clinic nurse who grabbed him as he walked by. "The patient seems to be in some pain and is a really nice lady. We are short-handed today."

"Sure, I can see her now," replied Chase.

He went into the exam room and saw an average sized African American woman, in her early fifties, flashing him a pleasant smile even though she was in obvious pain. Something about her seemed so different. She exuded calm and pleasantness. Chase felt instantly at ease with her.

"Good morning Ms. Stevens." Chase said as he looked at her chart.

"Althea." she said. "I never liked common pleasantries. I only have a last name so that the government and bill collectors can find me. You look like someone who can help me."

"How long have you been feeling pain in your side?" Chase asked.

"Easily a week, maybe 10 days. It only started getting unbearable yesterday."

"You waited this long?" Chase asked in an unbelieving manner.

"I don't like doctors. They make too much of a fuss. Too cautious. Anyway, I have a very high threshold for pain. If I have to see a doctor about pain, it is serious."

Chase started to examine her. She looked at him intently during the examination. "You need sleep. Are they working you too hard?"

"No," replied Chase. "I just had a rough night."

"You had more than one rough night. Several of them I would say. Still, there is something about you. I feel a conflict. You are strong in faith, but very vulnerable. That vulnerability is well masked."

Usually Chase was deterred by such straight-forward comments, but for whatever reason, he had a warm feeling that her intentions were good. He did wonder how she got all that info so quickly. He would suspect she had been talking with House if he wasn't out of action. "Lay down." he said. "I want to check your side."

Chase noticed something in her side. There was some type of mass. "I'm going to give you something for the pain, and then I'm admitting you."

"Don't tell me I'm going to have to go through the battery of painful and unnecessary tests." she replied.

"There will be tests, but no test is unnecessary." Chase said.

She put herself in front of him and looked hard for several seconds into his deep blue eyes. "Yes, I trust you. I can always tell from the eyes. Okay, go ahead, do what you must."

Chase left the room, slightly shaking his head at what just happened. He has dealt with so many interesting patients before, but this was the first person he had met where he sensed a person was looking deep inside of him. She was someone who was more than just a good observer like House. It was like she was transmitting feelings. "I'm imagining things." Chase told himself. "This lack of sleep is warping my reality."

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A couple hours later, Chase went to check in on newly admitted Althea. He walked into the room and saw that very same warm smile, soothing tone of voice, and comfortable posture that he had seen when he first examined her. Once again he got that strong at ease feeling.

"Dr. Chase, you are such a refreshing sight." she said in her calming voice.

"Althea, tomorrow we are going do a few tests. We are going to start with an MRI. Are you familiar with what that is?"

"I watch TV. Big long tube, makes you feel all claustrophobic, creates pretty pictures only you can read."

"Yes, it is something like that."

"I'm fine with it." she said while Chase worked on her chart.

"You are curious about me." she continued. "I'm an empath."

"Really? How long have you been one?" asked Chase very curious about such abilities.

"Since I was a young child," replied Althea. "It has taken a lifetime for me to control my gift. I have dealt so long with the needs and emotions of others that I have often neglected myself. I believe that is something you can relate to Robert."

"I thought you could sense feelings, not guess names." Chase replied.

Althea gave a slight laugh at that comment. "No, your name wasn't anything I sensed. It is on your hospital badge. I usually like to call people by their first names."

Chase smiled. "Do you pick up on emotions through touch? I noticed you were able to observe my feelings when I started examining you."

"Yes. Does it bother you if I mention you are an open book? Despite all those layers you have built around yourself, I can see through all of them to the core. You have a rather fascinating story. Too bad that whole story is only known by you and me."

Just then Cameron walked into the room. "You paged me?" she asked Chase.

"Yeah, I need a consult. This is Althea."

Cameron said "hello" and grabbed the chart. She noticed Althea looking at her rather intently. Althea then grabbed her hand. "Is something wrong?" Cameron asked.

"She's empathic." said Chase. "It is my guess she is trying to get a read on you."

Althea laughed. "Busted. Yes, I was trying to figure you out. You are a very tough one. There is a big wall there."

Cameron finished reading the chart and told Althea, "I'll need more time to review your history. I'll check back with you later." Then she left the room.

"Wow, she needs that wall." Althea said to Chase. "She has so much going on inside of her without any type of structure she would fall apart. She likes you though."

Chase smiled but was slightly blushing by the comment. "She treats me like dirt." Chase replied.

"She has to. It is that wall thing. I can tell you like her too."

"Alright, enough for now. You need to get some rest. I'll check on you later." Chase said.

"She really is pretty on the inside as well as outside. But I think you know that." Althea said loudly as Chase left the room.

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A couple days later, Chase ran into Cameron in the hall. "How is your empath doing?" Cameron asked.

"Her pain is a little better, but she is still very uncomfortable. The MRI showed a small mass on her right side, but it was harmless. It shouldn't be causing her any pain at all. I'm going to start her some new medicine right now."

"Sounds like the correct way to go. Have fun." Cameron said as she walked away.

Chase went into Althea's room and was once again greeted by that warm smile. "Hello Robert, come to try and fix me some more?"

"I have a new medicine for you. Before I give it to you, I would like to check your side."

Althea rolled on her left side so Chase could check the right. He checked her side and found nothing different. When Althea sat back up, she reached over and touched Chase's shoulder. Chase was overcome by a huge feeling of comfort and calm. He was very surprised that her simple touch caused such intense emotional soothing. He looked at her rather shocked by what was happening. Althea smiled at him. "Feel a little better?" she asked.

Chase nodded slowly, as he continued to look at her with surprise but enjoyed the feeling. "I knew you needed some emotional reassurance and I found the best place to deliver it. Your pain is deep, but not untouchable." said Althea as she looked deep into his eyes. She could tell this was the first feeling of calm he has had in a very long time. She pulled her hand away. "Okay, you can go back to what you were doing."

Chase shook himself out of the strange experience and got everything ready to start the new meds. As he was getting things together, Althea started asking questions. "So which parent was the one you had to look after? I have a feeling that was your mother."

"Yes, she died an alcoholic." Chase replied.

"So, all that hatred must be for your father."

"He's dead too." said Chase.

"Yes, but the hatred didn't die with him. You haven't made your peace."

Chase chose not to respond to her last comment. That confirmed the observation in Althea's mind. "You haven't made your peace with God either. Let go Robert. God doesn't want this for you."

Chase abruptly stopped what he was doing and his heart sank deep. He intently looked at her, frozen in his tracks, completely thrown back by what she had just said.

"Ooh," responded Althea, "I found a pinched nerve. Sometimes words come to me for unexplained reasons. Obviously someone has told you that before."

Chase replied, "I have been having a recurring dream. In that dream, my mother said those exact words."

"So that is why you haven't been sleeping. You are a doctor. You should know that once a nerve is pinched, it needs the pressure relieved."

Chase finished with the IV and knew he had to get out of there. She was hitting too close to home. "You need some rest," Chase told her. "I'll be back later to check on you."

"Yes, we both need a little rest I think. I suggest the same for you." she said with her usual smile.

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Chase again passed Cameron in the hallway. "I'm going to see your patient and get some samples for lab work."

"Be careful," Chase said. "If she touches you, expect a very weird feeling. She does have an extraordinary ability with transmitting feelings."

"I'm curious to see what she will think of me." replied Cameron.

"She may do nothing. She did saw you had a wall there. She told me I was a much easier read."

"We get to see all types in here, don't we? Don't worry, I can hold my own."

Cameron walked into Althea's room and was greeted by a smile. She noticed it was a different smile than the one she gave Chase. It was more cautious and uncertain.

"I need to take some blood and tissue samples." Cameron told her.

"No problem dear. Go right ahead."

As Cameron touched her, Althea started to filter through the swirl inside of Cameron. She decided that Chase needed her help far more than Cameron, so she would push things along here. "You like Robert." Althea said.

"I respect him as a colleague." Cameron replied.

"No you don't. As a colleague you see yourself as a far better doctor. No, you like the mystery behind him. You also think he is cute."

Cameron smiled at Althea's observation. "I bet you think he is cute too. Just about every female here thinks he's cute, and a few of the guys too."

"It's different with you. You see beyond his good looks. You see someone who is deeply layered and would like to examine each layer. He won't let you get close though."

"He has never let anyone get close. His privacy means everything to him. He almost destroyed his career and many friendships to protect that privacy."

"He has breached his relationship with God too. You don't share his faith though. You are agnostic, but yet you are attracted to his spirituality. Isn't that strange for someone who questions God's existence?"

"I'm not attracted to his spirituality." Cameron said defensively.

"Yes, you are right, I'm incorrect. It isn't his spirituality. It is the purity that comes from his religious beliefs. You like that innocence."

Cameron didn't respond, but the look on her face proved that she couldn't deny it. "Okay, I have what I need. I'll let you know the results when they come back."

"Thank you dear." said Althea. As Cameron walked toward the door, Althea said, "You know, you could do much worse." Cameron slightly paused with a "she's unbelievable!" look on her face then kept going.