a/n: Sorry, this update would have been sooner if there wasn't an impromptu Super Bowl party at my house this weekend. My house is trashed but empty of guests now, so I guess it isn't all bad. Anyway, I hope everyone enjoys the final chapter.
He couldn't shake the curiosity for the rest of his stint in rehab. The picture in his head wouldn't go away and needed to be dealt with. House mulled over his disturbing thoughts as he with usual flare barged into Wilson's office unannounced, not taking his friend all that much by surprise. Wilson knew he was getting out and anticipated this moment as inevitability. "I want to see."
"Rehab blinded you? I'm not that kind of healer." Wilson joked.
"Chase. I want to see him in action."
"He won't like you spying on him, and he sure won't forgive me."
"Who said anything about him finding out?"
"Please, you won't be able to keep that sharp tongue quiet."
"I promise to be good."
"Oh, that makes me feel better."
"Fine, I don't need your help. I'll just follow him after work."
"House," Wilson had to stop him. It was pointless resisting and Chase would be better off with both of them there. House was already halfway through the doorway, impatiently demanding with his intolerant eyes a response. "Fine, we can go tonight."
"Great." House completed his fast exit. Wilson wrestled with the idea about issuing some type of warning. Was that really needed? Chase knew his training was now common knowledge and House could follow him at anytime. Maybe House could put a lid on it and watch undetected. Who the hell was he kidding? He swiftly got up and went to find Chase.
"I have a special request." Chase asked the master as it was time to pair off for sparring.
The master nodded with curiosity. His student was never big on requests, so this one must be important.
"Lurking in the shadows over there, pretending not to be seen is my boss. He's obviously here against my wishes and just wants to spy on me. Is it okay if we give him a show?"
The master smiled. "That's the bastard that hit you, isn't it?"
"Yeah, he needs a good scare. I accept your challenge. Our usual tempo?"
"That would be great."
The two retreated to a remote corner of the mat. When they got in position, others gathered around knowing that this was going to be good.
House continued to stare inward with complete fascination. "So he's putting on a show for me." Wilson smiled. "You are in for a treat."
Chase and the master bowed in unison, then each took a deep breath of preparation just before the bell rang. The master instantly came out with a roundhouse kick as Chase deftly dodged out of the way. He delivered a punch/kick combination of his own that barely scraped the master as he moved. They both started delivering blows and blocks in rapid succession while each avoided the other with rapid maneuvering all over the mat. The choreography was eloquent, but contact was light and everyone expected that this was just a warm up for something greater. The bell rang signaling the end of round one.
"That was just pretty dancing." House told Wilson. Wilson smirked, knowing this was about to get better.
Chase and the master took their places after a one minute rest and gave each other a little smirk. Full contact, all-in sparring could now begin. Now they could start using more complex moves, sweeps, and patterns.
Chase delivered the first strike of a powerful side kick backing the master into a corner followed by a combination spinning axe kick which struck him squarely in the torso sending him back a few more steps. Without hesitation the master went into a forceful counterattack after rushing in and jamming Chase's next attack. Chase sidestepped the master with quick agility and prepared himself for another offensive. The two furiously delivered one swift combination after another of complex and artistic moves all while maintaining an even pace that allowed for little relief. Since Chase's training recently focused more on practicing patterns, they were now incorporating some of the pattern fighting techniques into their heavy contact sparring. They were also using hosinsul, which incorporated several self defense procedures. The end result was a session that was both exhilarating and highly dangerous. A crowd pleaser for sure.
"Holy shit!" House said as they neared the end of the second round. Wilson looked at him with a satisfied smile. "Now do you call that dancing?" House's wide eyes silently continued to take in the display of mastery before him. From that point forward, he was pretty quiet. Speechless in fact.
The third round kicked up the pace another notch, but now take downs, low kicks, and trips were permitted. House now watched with complete awe as he saw the fire and killer instinct within his young fellow's eyes. He knew a few things about the techniques of this sport and was blown away by how his young fellow was so well trained. The impressive footwork gave him extraordinary ability to lure and evade his opponent. The perfect form in his stances allowed control with kicks and balance, and his landings in proper position that gave him the ability to deliver swiftly more accurate and powerful kicks. Neither opponent showed any sign of relenting and came back each time with more power and fury in their impassioned delivery.
Chase was in such a rhythm and so into the moment that he wasn't sure how he ended up making such a careless mistake. He went to deliver a basic axe kick and in his fatigue failed to properly position his upper body. He wasn't able to push his hips outward which would have pushed his upper body away from the leg. Seeing the weak position the master delivered his swift kick to Chase's shoulder in retaliation. Chase fell straight to the mat and felt enough pain despite the padding where he couldn't continue. He raised his arm up indicating surrender.
Applause erupted in the room as the master helped him off the mat. Chase winced in pain over his left shoulder the entire way up. He could tell it wasn't broken, but suspected there could be a bone bruise. The master looked at him with concern. "I'm okay." Chase assured him.
The knock down was enough for Wilson and House to be near him almost immediately to check out his injury. He looked at them like he didn't need a doctor, but knew they would follow his lead to the locker room anyway.
"How bad does it hurt?" Wilson asked as he helped Chase gingerly remove the padding.
"Not too bad." Chase was lying, but he wasn't about to let on with House standing right there.
Wilson started touching the shoulder as Chase gasped in pain when he reached the contact point. "'Right, doesn't hurt. Come on, we are going back to the hospital for an x-ray to be sure."
While Wilson was playing his role of doctor, House stood against the wall being suspiciously quiet. Chase had no idea what to make of the silence. House's blank expression made it hard for him to tell if he was impressed, disappointed, or neither. He chose to pretend he wasn't there.
The master caught them as they were leaving. "Take a few days off Robert. Rest the shoulder."
"Thanks. I'll see you in a few days," Chase replied as he and his entourage headed for the exit.
The master stopped him from going forward and looked at him squarely. "It's time Robert."
Chase nodded with uncertainty, but gave him a look that he also understood. The master smiled and let him continue.
House and Chase were alone in the diagnostics conference room while Wilson waited in radiology for the x-rays. House finally decided to speak.
"I got to visit that actual Kukkiwon when my dad was stationed in South Korea. I don't remember ever being more impressed by a place."
Chase smiled at the thought of visiting there. "That must have been something."
"So, why aren't you a dan? You were just as good as the other guy and his he had all the pretty decorations on his belt."
Chase shrugged. "It never meant anything to me before. Gaining rank was never my goal."
"So why is it now?"
"My goals were wrong. I'm making them right. A black belt ranking isn't just about skill. It's about attitude. A dan is supposed to calm his temper, be an influence on others, and should be disciplined in the small areas of life as well as the large ones. I wasn't ready to do that until now."
House lowered his head onto the top of his cane in reflection of what he just heard. Chase was a bit puzzled, trying to figure out what in the world House could be struggling with. He only recognized such thought when they were working on a case.
"I'm sorry I hit you." House blurted out. His eyes were focused away from Chase when he delivered those words of apology. He eventually moved his gaze over when all he heard was stunned silence. Chase's head quickly moved downward when House made eye contact.
"Thanks." Chase replied in a soft voice.
The two waited in comfortable quiet until Wilson arrived. "Nothing's broken. There isn't any evidence of a bone bruise either. Just swelling and bruising of the surrounding tissues."
Chase stood up and put on his jacket gently. His shoulder was still in quite a bit of pain. "Great, I'm going home then."
"Before you go, what did 'it's time' mean?" Wilson was too curious not to ask.
"My preparation is done. Time to test."
Wilson gave him a pleased smile. "Good night Chase."
House stayed quiet as Chase headed out for the evening. Wilson took his place on the chair next to House, noticing his friend's curiously pensive mood. "You haven't said much. Are you ill, or could it actually be that he scared the crap out of you?"
House slightly laughed. "No, even though I was told to expect it, I still couldn't believe that. I just told Chase I saw the Kukkimon in Seoul. What I didn't tell him is for a little while I had the privilege to watch the best of the best from all around the world train. The amount of mental and physical discipline required to reach those heights was inspirational. I watched that day something glorified and above me. It was a humbling experience, and I wasn't humble even back then. I never felt that way again until this afternoon."
Wilson now offered his smile with his slight nod. "It's incredible how people you've known for a while can surprise you." Wilson was more referring to all that they had been through lately. The Tritter mess had certainly changed many notions about each other.
A capricious chuckle strangely emerged from House's quiet reflection. "He can really kick some serious ass, can't he?"
Wilson joined in the laughter. "Kind of unsettling, isn't it?"
"I could use this to my advantage. He could be my enforcer. Think I can get Chase take Foreman down for me whenever he deserves a smackdown?"
"The only person he would smackdown is you. You do have a way of pushing buttons."
"Me? I'm such a nice guy." House looked forward, having to really admire Chase's mental discipline. If he had those abilities, he would knock himself around.
"Beer?" House asked, ready to move on with his evening.
"Why, I'd thought you never ask."
"Saturday is the day." Chase announced to Wilson. It had been two weeks since Chase had hurt his shoulder and he was finally back to training full strength.
Wilson assumed Chase could only be talking about one thing. "The black belt exam?"
"Is it open or closed?"
"Open. It's specifically for black belts. There won't be huge amount of people testing so an audience is encouraged."
Wilson wasn't afraid to push by this point. "Do you mind if I stop by?"
Chase was surprised by the question. "You want to see it? It's hardly exciting. It should be a slam dunk for me."
"Still, I'm interested. I've never seen such a thing."
"Sure, you're welcome to come." Chase turned around to leave, stopped himself, and turned back. "You can bring a friend if you want to."
Wilson laughed. "I'm not sure you want my friend there. He's a nuisance."
"It's your option. I can handle it either way."
"Fair enough. Either way, I'll be there." Wilson assured. Chase nodded in appreciation and headed on his way.
He'd been breaking boards without hesitation for years now. He wasn't sure why he was so nervous about it this time. Probably because if the boards didn't break then he wouldn't pass. This was the last element of the day and the only thing standing between him and his new rank. He couldn't think negatively. The purpose of breaking boards was to promote mental discipline. He was required to deliver a strike with pure accuracy, concentration of power, and strength of will. If he delivered those in any type of wrong way, he would likely have a broken hand or foot for his trouble. Actually, he could end up with those injuries anyway. When he did break a board though, it was a confidence builder.
Punches fail with fear, speed not strength, he told himself as two instructors held out three large wooden boards in front of him. He took in a deep breath of relaxation, and delivered a swift punch as his first two knuckles made perfect contact with the middle of the board. The boards split instantly before being knocked from the supporting hand of one of the instructors. Chase felt relief as he heard some applause over his successful motion. It was only a few minutes later when he started to feel the slight pain in his hand. That delay in pain showed how much his adrenalin was in full force. He wanted to get the punch out of the way first. He repeated the exercise this time using his most effective kick, the flying side kick. He hit the boards again dead on contact and broke them without trouble. Same for the spinning axe kick. The test was done and he was feeling confident.
The test was already going well that day. The judging panel was rather thrown back by the red belt with black stripe that he now wore. His skill level was too great for even the level of 1st dan that he was testing for. Sure, he was just above average on the poomsae. He knew these patterns for years and could do them in his sleep, but it was only in the last few months of training where he truly learned to perfect the elements of eye control, concentration of spirit, speed control, strength control, flexibility, balance, and variety in techniques. His self defense techniques though were superior, as was the one step sparring.
What really won him over with the judges though was the kyorugi. He easily out did his opponent on a number of complex elements. The judges didn't find out until afterward that Chase was the sparring partner for the master who was training for the 5th level dan. He was the only person skilled enough in the school to match the master at that level. Needless to say, his scoring in that element of the test was the highest of the day.
"Robert," the master said coming over to him after the kyorugi. "They have a special request. They want you to do the keum-gang."
Chase nodded, not sure what it meant that they wanted him to perform a pattern that was reserved for a 2nd level dan. He did as requested though and his performance met with approval.
One of the judges there was certainly highly regarded. He was a 9th level grandmaster dan that was there specifically to judge the master on his quest for the 5th level. The 9th level dan was the highest ranking anyone could achieve and many were in awe just by his presence. The many stripes on his belt added to that prestige. The test for 5th level dan wasn't really all that rigorous. Judging by the pleased look on the grandmaster's face, it looked like the master would easily attain his new ranking.
Chase and the master shared a respectful bow after Chase finished the last part of the test. "Well done Robert." Chase headed over to the viewing area to find his cheering section of two didn't look too bored. "Congratulations Chase." Wilson said. Chase waited patiently for the insult or snark to come from House. He wasn't disappointed. "You look like a girl in that thing." House said commenting on his attire. An insult was the best possible compliment to come from House.
"So when do you find out?" Wilson asked.
"In a couple of months. The application has to go through the Kukkiwon."
"Come on," Wilson motioned, "you've earned the privilege of a beer."
Chase slighted frowned. "Does he have to go?" House looked at him with mock offense.
"Yeah, I say the same thing every time. Be prepared to pay."
"Okay, I'll be ready in a few minutes."
Four months later Chase got a page to come to Wilson's office. He really wasn't in the mood. He had been pulling double shifts for the ICU the last few days and was exhausted. Still, Wilson usually had a reason. He was rather shocked to enter the office and see the master there standing next to Wilson.
"What's going on?" Chase asked as he looked at the two of them with skepticism. His thinking actually hadn't been too clear, otherwise he would have easily guessed. He still didn't have the results to his dan exam despite the fact that more than enough time had passed. He was assured by the master the application was probably lost and they would try again.
The master pulled out something from behind him. It was a long black belt with two gold stripes on it. "Congratulations, 2nd dan."
"2nd?" Chase wasn't sure how this was possible.
"The judges told me to submit a special request to the Kukkiwon for you to jump in rank. Unfortunately, such requests take a very long time. I'm sorry for my dishonesty. I knew specifically why your application was taking so long. Anyway, you hadn't been to class so I called Dr. Wilson to see if he could find you. I wanted you to have this just as soon as I got it."
Chase was at a loss for words to express his gratitude. After all, a jump in rank was a very high honor. It was one he didn't expect. "I'm not sure what to say."
The master bowed. "You shall have an indomitable spirit." Chase bowed back in respect. "Get back as soon as you can. Your title is now Assistant Instructor. We need to get you ready for your new role."
"I will. Thank you for bringing this here." The master gave him a look of pride as he brushed out of Wilson's office.
"May I?" Wilson asked reaching for the belt. Chase handed it to him. Wilson moved the thick material in between his thumb and finger. "Something tells me that you don't earn something like this when rage is in control."
"No, I guess not." Chase agreed.
Wilson handed him back the belt. "Good, now keep it that way."
"Don't worry. Worse thing that could happen is that House will finally get the beating he deserves. Other than that, I'm in control."
Wilson now bowed in respect. "Master."
Chase laughed. "That sounds good. You think I can get House to call me that?"
a/n: I took my first Tae Kwon Do class this weekend! It was really fun. I would recommend it to anyone. Anyway, thanks for following this story. I appreciate all the comments received, well except the flamers. My flame proof suit is on and fully tested, so give me your best shot.