Disclaimer, as usual: I don't own any of these characters and don't profit from writing about them. I'm playing with David Shore's toys, but I play nice, and I always put 'em back.


"We need you to have another look at her, House."



House is sitting on the concrete wall around the fountain, in the dark. Got his right leg stretched casually to the outside, left curled under, intently throwing coins in. He seems satisfied with the forceful throws and the hard little splashes. That's because it isn't his money. Chase leans over and manages, in the theatrical flicker of the fountain-lights, to read the label on the coin jar. It's for a local children's charity, and he's pretty sure he's seen it in the hospital lobby. He doesn't bother wondering why this doesn't shock him; he's that used to House by now. Still, it's an excuse to keep talking. He rests his hands carelessly in his pockets, tilts his head at an angle he knows House finds irritating.

"Ignoring the dying patient and stealing from the orphans. I'll have a plaque made to commemorate the achievement."

House's glare tells him what he needs to know; House is, of course, not ignoring the patient in question. He's simply paying attention in the wrong place, and therefore, missing new clues that he would find if he were willing to walk into the actual hospital again. Things have changed. Chase is sure he knows what's wrong, but he's just Chase, so no one's listening very hard; and he'd rather save her life than say I told you so after she's dead. For that, it seems he'll need House. Him, they'll listen to.

He hopes that he won't get punched, this time, when it turns out that he's right.

At the moment the violence is already escalating: House is pinging pennies and quarters at his head, with surprisingly painful results. Chase dodges skilfully, and waits.

"Not stealing, moron. Recycling. They give all the fountain loot to the orphan kiddies anyhow, ya know. Except for what the interns steal, but providing Snickers bars for unworthy interns is a charity in itself."

"Her condition's changed."

"Told you it would. You should've—"

"Not the change we predicted, House. I want you to have another look."

"And millions of idiot fans want a Beatles reunion tour, yet it happens not. Go away."

Splunk splunk splunk.

He knows this one has gotten to House, this child whose deeper problems were originally hidden by the bruises and—other signs of trauma. She's eight years old. House actually likes this kid, and so he has fled the scene. Same thing House did when it was Foreman who'd been sick. Chase understands, because it's gotten to him too, but they're running out of time.

He doesn't flinch when the next coin makes a stinging hit on his cheek. Instead, he considers. It's October, and chilly enough so that certain things will be very uncomfortable, particularly for a chronic pain patient who has to ride a motorcycle home. What he wants is House, inside, in close enough proximity to fall victim. Close enough to hear the chatter and confusion and be compelled to get fully involved again. To see the latest stats, the sudden changes, for himself.

The calculations don't take long. He's glad House won't be able to run after him, but this mission is still extremely hazardous.

"It is stealing, House. Give it back." He comes forward, letting his adversary focus on his face and on his outstretched, grasping hand. He's a master of diversion, having had years of practice with his mother. The cane is lying on the concrete and, without even glancing at it, Chase uses his foot to send it skittering several feet away. Minimum safe distance. "Come on. Give." He's so calm he's almost whispering.

"Make me." They both know that, unlike Wilson, Chase has never tried to make House do a damn thing. House obviously believes that this means Chase isn't capable of such impudence. Maybe he wasn't; maybe it changed when House's fist connected with his jaw; but if there was a turning point, it's irrelevant just now.

The watery light ripples across two faces, one defiant, one serene.

When Chase lunges for the coin jar, House uncoils his left leg, braces it against the base of the little wall, and prepares to defend himself at all costs. Bereft of the use of his stick, he tries playing keep-away by moving the treasure constantly, intent on proving he can win without even getting off his butt. The coins make a waterfall of sound as he flings the entire contents of the jar gleefully into the shallow, glowing pool. He's a bit unbalanced by the motion, though, and he never sees it coming when Chase switches instantly from grasping at the jar, to grabbing his left calf and right arm and tipping him into the icy water, empty coin jar and all. House is a big guy, but the fountain wall's a nice fulcrum. Leverage is a wonderful thing.

"You are fired," he says, softly, when he has recovered enough to say anything at all. Chase knows how pissed he is, knows it could be true. But there's a change of clothes in House's office, along with the latest lab results, which House won't believe until he sees them. And that's why, rather than trying to explain it secondhand, he has just pushed his boss over the edge.

"Fire me after she lives," he replies, and feels himself smile just a little. "This job is not worth someone's life." He waits until House squishes his way out of the fountain, tosses the cane and watches House—still the athlete—catch it easily, though he's shaking from anger and cold.

He can't help taking a moment to admire the man, and he actually hopes House sees that, knows what it is, before he turns away and walks swiftly back across campus, leaving the magnificent drowned rat to fend for himself. His math gives it ten minutes before House makes it into Diagnostics and throws everyone directly into hell.

House gets there in seven, and his fury's worse than Chase imagined, but it's all right. Pissed as he is, he vindicates Chase, upholds his theory. Because he's House, they listen, and the girl lives. No one gets punched this time.

He wins $50 from Cameron and $200 from Foreman. One for the correct diagnosis; one for having found House and having made him reappear. They offer another $300 if he'll tell them why House came back soaking wet, but he declines. Some things just aren't worth the money.

He probably isn't fired, because he was right, and that's what matters to House, but he will certainly be punished somehow. And that's all right. He'll deal with that tomorrow.