1"Ready to go?"

Wilson looked up from the article he'd been half-heartedly authoring for Oncology Monthly. It was a case study in the topic of chronic pain management and not something he felt professionally or emotionally able to deal with at the moment. Exactly how much of the current situation with House was his fault was something that had been preying on him more and more.

"Well, let's see: I'm behind in my charting, I can't get this article off the ground, and my ass is spot-welded to this chair. Yeah, I'm ready." He powered down his computer and gathered his things.

Chase grinned. "I know the feeling," he said as they moved to the elevator. "No case lately, so I've been bounced between ICU and clinic duty."

"Oh, joy. Any interesting cases down there today?"

"Funny you should ask." Chase turned toward him, eyes sparkling with anticipation of a really good story. "An old couple came in today, both of them in their eighties and a little loopy. She has a UTI , so I give her antibiotics and wish her well. No big deal, right? I'm about to walk out when she says-" his voice turned high and cracked "-'Doctor, could this be causing all these infections?' Just then, she reaches in her purse and takes out a dildo."

Wilson dissolved into helpless laughter. "No way!"

Chase leaned closer, lowering his voice slightly. "Yes way, unfortunately. Worse than that, now they want to tell me about their sex life. Frequency, positions, accessories-everything. I'm spared no detail. You know how the elderly are. I couldn't get away. I spent half an hour listening to this."

Wilson wiped tears from his eyes. "God, the mental pictures you must have!" In the week since that first dinner and ride home Wilson found himself looking forward to time spent with the intensivist. He was constantly surprised by how much he liked seeing the glimpses of humor, compassion, and insight that he'd never given Chase credit for.

"And those are images I could've lived the rest of my life without having, believe me!"

"I'll bet you dream-"

Before he could finish his thought a cane pushed its way between them and jabbed the down button.

"Oh, don't let me interrupt," House said. "I know how awkward those new relationship conversations can be. I always find it easier to skip right to the fucking."

Chase stiffened and stopped smiling. He dropped his eyes to the floor and colored. "I'm just giving him a ride, House."

House snorted. "I bet you are, you Tasmanian devil, you." He looked the blond over with lecherous interest. "Question is, Jimmy, are you trading up or down? I'll give you points for the youth and great hair thing, but really! I thought you liked them a little more masculine."

Wilson sighed. He'd gotten through a week without a confrontation with House, but he knew the man was never one to let something go. He'd just hoped that when it came they would be alone. Foolish, really. Now, he held onto his patience. A public scene would give House an arena to humiliate Chase and be more obnoxious in an effort to make their private conflict open to the whole hospital.

"Enough, House," Wilson said quietly, hoping to earn a stalemate until another time. "If you want to talk, let's make it another time and place. I'm exhausted."

"Has my littlest ducky been keeping you up late? Early morning wake-up blowjobs? As I recall, those are your specialty, James. Tell me something: were you fucking him when you were with me, or is this something new?" House was gazing at Wilson stonily, waiting for a reaction.

Any other time, House's needling would have washed over him, to be tucked away for later comment or to be pushed to the back of his psyche along with all the others. But today, weary from the past couple of weeks, his tolerance for House's bullshit finally reached an end.

"Quit the shit, House!" he hissed, mindful of open office doors and passing colleagues. "You want to get a rise from me! You want me to say something nasty to you so you can go around feeling sorry for yourself. That way, you can start telling yourself that this whole thing is my fault and you were just an innocent victim."

"Yeah, and I don't have any reason to feel victimized," House snapped back. "You and the Wicked Bitch of the East lie to me, go behind my back, and decide you know my body better than I do! Should I buy a bumper sticker that says 'Get your laws off my body'? It'd look great on my bike."

"Oh come on! Cuddy is risking Tritter's wrath by prescribing for you and you know it!"

"Two pills every six hours-she's a real angel of fucking mercy, alright."

Chase cleared his throat. "I'll wait for you in the car," he said quietly, moving off toward the stairs. In the heat of his argument with House Wilson had forgotten that the other doctor was there.

"Don't forget that Wilson likes the left side of the bed, Blondie," House shouted after him.

Chase ducked his head and pulled his shoulders in against the attack. What Wilson saw in that wounded stance caused him as much pain as anything House had inflicted on him throughout the years.

"You know what? When you're ready to grow up and talk about this like an adult, call me. Until then, just fucking do me a favor and forget I exist." He pushed the door to the stairs open and went after Chase.

He caught up with Chase in the lobby and the two walked together in silence, reluctant to talk about what had just happened in the presence of prying eyes and ears.

"I'm sorry you had to be involved in that," he said finally as they seated themselves in the Jeep.

Chase shrugged. "It's okay. It's just House being House." He kept his eyes determinedly on the road. The sparkle and good humor were gone, leaving a stony lack of expression that worried Wilson.

"Don't do that, Rob," he said, bothered that Chase seemed unable to defend himself. "Don't dismiss what he said. You have a right to be pissed. I came this close to slugging him myself back there."

"Would it do any good? Me getting pissed, you slugging him?" Chase lifted his hands off the wheel in a generic gesture. "He's in pain, James. That's what this is about, not you and not me."

Wilson stared over at him in disbelief. "How can you sit there defending him?"

"I'm not defending his actions, just his reasons. The man lives every day with pain, but he still manages. His life isn't something I'd choose for myself, but it helps to remember that he didn't choose it, either."

"We all choose," Wilson said tiredly. "He chooses to believe that the pain in his leg is real because it's easier to pop a pill than fix your trainwreck of a life."

"Conversion disorder," Chase said. "I agree that he has it, but I think you've got the order wrong. The physical pain caused the emotional pain, and not the other way."

Wilson was silent for a moment, digesting that. "You think I'm wrong?"

"I think you're too close to the problem," Chase corrected gently. "You miss the old House, the way he was before the surgery. I don't blame you; I've heard you talk about how much fun he was, how athletic he was. But maybe you want the old House back so much that you aren't dealing with the new one."

The oncologist stared through the windshield, stunned and unseeing. Over the years of prescribing for House, he had thought vaguely along those lines, but once again Chase had managed to put Wilson's own feelings into perfect, coherent sense. Over the years, he'd come to dismiss those thoughts, although a deep, seldom-examined part of himself wondered if it had just been easier that way.

What if he has been in physical pain all these years? What if it has nothing to do with depression or losing Stacy or our weird relationship?

"I'm sorry. It wasn't my place to say that."

Wilson looked up. "No, it's not that. You-" he swallowed thickly. "-you just gave me some serious considerations. If you're right and I've been judging him wrong all these years, then I have some things about myself that I have to face that aren't so pretty."

"Like what?"

"Like maybe I'm a crappy doctor and a crappier human being." He stared morosely out the window, watching the snow gently cover the streets. It felt like his own depression blanketing his soul.

"That's harsh, don't you think?" Chase took advantage of the red light to look over at him.

"Why? Do you know how many times I've bitched at House for being insensitive to sick people who just need some understanding, then turned around and told him I didn't believe he was hurting?" Wilson laughed harshly. "You can add crappy friend to that list."

Chase was silent for a moment. "Why did you do it?" he asked finally.

"Do what?"

"Harass House about his Vicodin. Cut him off sometimes."

"Because," Wilson thought, fighting to articulate through the doubts that were whispering that he really had no good reasons. "Because he's hurting himself. He takes too many pills, drinks on top of it, and doesn't even care."

"So you're trying to save him from himself."

How many times had he watched House when the older man wasn't looking, watched him take another pill, another drink, race off on that ridiculous cycle in conditions unsuitable for that speed and thought, When will I get that call? The one that tells me he's finally gone, that it's too late for me to help him, that I didn't do enough. That I wasn't enough.

"Are you going to tell me he's not my responsibility?"

Chase took a deep breath. "Of course he is. Everyone we love becomes our responsibility. Nothing we can do about it; it just is. The point is," he paused to wet his lips, "that we can't always know what's best for someone else, but you did what you did from love and not from spite. You may or may not have been right, but you shouldn't beat yourself for trying to do the right thing."

Wilson smiled. "Hey, I'm Jewish. Guilt is what we do."

"And we Catholics perfected it." Chase returned the smile.

Wilson leaned back, feeling some of the burden of the past week lift once again. And once again, it had been Chase who seemed to know exactly what to say to lift it. He had a sudden image of the man as he would have been had he stuck with seminary school: sitting quietly in a pew, nodding and listening quietly until the right time came to speak. Knowing exactly what to say. Leaving the grieved, if not more enlightened, at least less bereaved.

He also remembered all the times he and House had made fun of Chase behind his back.

"Did you know my little blond Brit was going to be a priest?"

Wilson looked away from the Skinimax soft-core porn movie they'd been laughing at. "Chase?"

"Uh huh."

"The Robert Chase who loves thy neighbor unless that neighbor is fat, a nun, or doesn't have boobs?" He snickered drunkenly. "Can you imagine his parish? Our Lady of the Holy Hair Gel?"

House's eyes shone with glee. "The First Church of the Scorned Fat-Ass, no soul over 100 lbs saved."

Shamed, Wilson realized that neither of them really knew Chase. Even House, who made it his business to know everyone else's. He'd always suspected that House's extra abuse of Chase had been due to his inability to crack him. House loved puzzles, but only ones he could solve.

"Thanks," he said to Chase now. "I've done a lot of complaining and feeling sorry for myself lately. There are a lot of people who wouldn't mind listening to me bitch about House, but you're the only one who didn't chime in and make me feel like an asshole. I appreciate that."

"No problem. Sometimes you just have to vent." Chase pulled the Jeep up to Wilson's hotel. "Look," he said hesitantly, "I've been thinking, why bother spending money on this place? I have an extra bedroom. You're welcome to stay with me. If you want." He fiddled with the heater, avoiding Wilson's eyes.

Wilson hesitated, vaguely troubled. Hadn't there been a few times over the past week where Chase had stood a little too close, or let his gaze linger a little too long? They'd been working closely together, and Wilson enjoyed the feeling of closeness from someone who seemed to return it, but-

But with his feelings about House so jumbled and his relationship with the man in such flux, moving in with Chase might be a bad idea. It would definitely anger House and make a rapprochement that much more difficult, for one thing. For another-

For another, James, you have no idea what your feelings for Chase are, do you?

Still, Wilson was a social creature and the hotel room was becoming more unbearable and isolated with each night he spent alone, with no diversions to distract him from thinking about House.

"Sure," he said before he could Hamlet himself into more confusion. "If I won't be in the way."

"Nope. Plenty of room and I'd welcome the company."

For a moment, they locked eyes, warm brown met soft blue and something unspoken passed between them, an energy that caught Wilson by surprise and sent a shiver through him.

"I'll just go up and pack," he said, ignoring every ounce of common sense that screamed that this was a bad idea.