"You've been here the longest," says House. His voice sounds unnaturally loud, like it's coming from a loudspeaker or microphone. Somehow the rest of the room has gone eerily silent. "You've learned all you can, or you haven't learned anything at all. Either way, it's time for a change."
It takes a very long moment for those words to sound any more coherent than the Spanish Esteban and his wife have been speaking. Even then, Chase can't be sure whether the sting in his throat is from pride or anguish.
"Fine," he says at last, and flees the room. He tells himself he's hurrying because he's anxious to get out, not because he's afraid of having to see the others before leaving the hospital. (For the last time, he says it over and over again to himself, because somehow it still doesn't seem real.)
The first thing that comes to mind when he reaches the locker room is the enormous pile of trash he'd found left here on his first day. He'd known from the beginning that House was tough, had heard from many people impossible. But he'd told himself he was used to tough, that beating impossible would have to finally mean something. And so when House had refused to so much as answer an email about hiring, he'd asked for the call, though it had pained him more than any prospect of a tyrannical boss.
The locker had been the first real clue he'd gotten. Junk was stacked up from floor to top, clearly having been left by several other people who'd worked here before. Why nobody had bothered to clean it out, he hadn't been sure, but he'd felt his first twinge of anxiety at the sight. A pair of scrubs, clearly for a woman, balled up and mascara-stained in the back. A lighter with an engraved gold casing. Several textbooks, and a folder of crumpled up papers. A feather duster. And finally the ping pong paddle, stuck to the side with tape, the words you got played scrawled in House's handwriting on the side facing out.
Chase isn't sure why he's never cleaned any of it out of the locker, being that it's constantly in his way, and he isn't the kind of person to leave something this disorganized. Somehow a day of waiting to see what House wants done with the trash has turned into four years of cramming his things in beside it. Now he wonders whether he ought to take any of it with him, or leave something of his own. He thinks maybe it's done him a favor, reminding him not to run like the others. Not to get played by House, but learn to play his game instead.
All this time he's clung on, refusing to run back home to family and security. Now there's nothing to run back to.
Forcing that thought aside, he pulls out a pair of sneakers and an armful of books. One of his ties is balled up in the corner, and he stares at it for a moment before deciding he won't be wearing it anymore. He isn't sure why he tries to pull it loose, but the ping pong paddle comes away more readily than he's expected, and once it's in his hand, he knows he isn't going to leave it here.
You got played, he reads for what seems like the millionth time, and wonders if it's true.