Chase had quit six months ago. Cut off all ties. Refused to answer the phone or the door, left a message saying that he wasn't dead, just ignoring everyone.
Personally, he wondered if House had left a similar message at one time or another. He guessed he probably had.
Chase missed the hospital. Missed his job, missed Cameron, missed foreman, missed Wilson, missed Cuddy, even missed House.
But it was what he had decided to do, he wasn't going to wimp out now.
Except it was really hard to give yourself stitches when you couldn't see anything.
He sighed, pushing the button on his watch that would tell him the time.
It was eight in the morning, none of the diagnostics department would even be there yet.
He felt for the phone for a moment, then called a cab, holding his left hand in the air above his head to keep it from bleeding too much.
Stupid knife. Stupid cutting board. Stupid tomato.
He sighed, sitting on the exam table, hand still in the air.
So far the only person he knew that had noticed him had been nurse Brenda, and she wasn't likely to tell anyone.
The door opened.
He didn't hear anyone come in.
Chase was on the verge of saying something, when the sound of rubber on tile and mismatched footsteps met his ears.
He got off the table, trying to push past the familiar person, but the door closed.
He stopped, feeling for the handle, knowing he was blushing.
A hand met his, pulled it off the door with surprising gentleness, and tugged it towards the exam table.
He lowered his head, letting himself be led back onto the table.
A hand touched his bleeding one, and he brought it down so House could get a look.
He felt something wiping the blood away, then a swab, which stung, and finally fingers, gently pulling on the skin, checking the depth of the cut.
He expected House to say something. Whether about the situation or the cut, it didn't matter. But it didn't happen.
He tried to picture how House would be looking at him, but the constant movement of the fingers on his hand made him think House wasn't looking at him at all.
Of course House would be shocked, but probably only that he was here, not that something was wrong with him. He couldn't imagine House looking at him with pity, House just didn't do that. He smiled a little to himself, as he realized that the most likely expression to be on House's face was one of annoyance.
House pulled his hand over his head again, he heard a drawer opening, and then felt a hand drawing his down.
He felt a burn, as the anesthetic was pushed into the muscles on his hand, then slight tugging pressure, as House sutured the edges of the skin back together.
A finger traveled over the palm of his injured hand four times, in a looping motion–four stitches. House wasn't going to say anything if Chase didn't.
He felt cool antiseptic cream being spread over the cut, then gauze being taped over the area surrounding it.
He heard a cabinet door opening, some boxes being shifted, then several paper packets being pressed into his good hand.
He felt the shape of the contents of one. Flat, flexible, with a rim that was thinner than the middle. Pre-taped gauze, which was easier to put on than just a large band-aid.
He nodded again, putting them in his bag.
A toothpaste-tube shaped object was placed there next, then removed.
A finger traced a hook shape on his palm, and a single spot of pressure. Question mark.
He shook his head; he already had some neosporin at home.
The tube didn't come back.
Two 'w's were traced next, then a pager was pressed briefly into his palm.
Two weeks. Page him.
Chase nodded, then opened his mouth to ask House not to say anything.
A hand brought his uninjured one up and forward, then pulled it in a zipping motion across House's mouth.
Chase smiled a little, nodding.
Limping footsteps to the door, as Chase got off the table.
The door sounded open, but a hand on his shoulder pushed him behind it.
He heard familiar voices in the lobby, foreman and Cameron.
They faded and he started forward, but the hand pushed back against him, stopping his motion physically, not just communicating.
He heard the reason a moment later, which proved to be Cuddy yelling at House, clicking heels coming closer.
House whispered something to him, quickly, as he was heading out the door, "Stay here. This might take a minute."
And was about to give up on waiting and risk someone seeing him, when the door opened, and limping footsteps came in.
The door closed, and he heard a long sigh.
He opened his mouth, but a finger placed over it stopped him.
He nodded. It wasn't because someone might hear, it was because House didn't want to talk, but he would follow it just the same.
Finally the door opened again, and House let him go past.
He stood for a moment, trying to get his bearings in the crowded lobby. He knew where the doors were in relation to the exam room, but the number of people between them was an issue.
He hated this. It made his head spin.
Finger on his palm, question mark again.
He grimaced and nodded.
The finger hooked around his pinky, leading him through the crowd with a minimum of embarrassment.
It put his hand on the cold brushed steel handle of the outermost door, and he nodded.
As he pushed the door open, there was a prickly feeling on the back of his neck, like someone was watching him.
As soon as he reached the vehicle honking at him to let him know which engine rumble was his ride, the feeling disappeared.
He smiled a little to himself.
House had made sure he got to his ride.
Two weeks later, he was sitting in the back of a cab, waiting for some sort of reply from House after paging him.
His phone rang.
He opened it.
"Cameron's in the clinic. I can't get rid of her. I'll meet you at the side entrance to the ER in three minutes."
House hung up.
Chase smiled a little, again, asking the cab driver to pull around to the correct part of the sidewalk.
As he reached forward, searching for the handle, the door opened and a hand touched his.
A rustle that was probably a shrug.
It was loud and busy and he wasn't that familiar with the layout, so he put out his hand. House took it, leading him in.
House guided him to a bed, and closed the curtain around him.
"It doesn't look too bad. The stitches look like they can come out now, but you should keep an eye on it. Watch for infection, 'cause it isn't all the way closed yet."
"You're doing that on purpose."
"Though, you really should be careful that it doesn't get infected. I wasn't teasing about that part."
House put a basin in Chase's lap, and brought the injured hand over it, then rinsed the cut and sutures with cool liquid.
A slight tug on each of the four sutures, then a release of tension on the first one, and another tug on that one.
As House was cutting the second one, a loud crash sounded from outside, and Chase jerked, surprised.
He closed his eyes reflexively, hoping he hadn't knocked the knife House had been holding.
"Sorry." he muttered.
House didn't do anything.
"Hold on. Stay here, I don't know who's out there right now. I think somebody might have hit your cab."
The curtains rustled a little, then he heard House limping away, until the distinctive footsteps mixed in with all the other ones.
He heard someone yelling the description of someone, and a rush of feet.
He tensed, as he heard someone heading towards him, then grimaced and lowered his head as he heard Cuddy's voice, saying that his bed was empty.
"Got a patient in that one." said House's voice, loudly, from a ways away.
"Since when do you... whatever, are they in worse condition than this guy? I think not. Someone get a wheelchair for Dr. House's patient so we can clear the bed. Get your patient ready to move, House."
Limping footsteps entered through the curtain.
Hand on his elbow.
"Keep your head down and don't say anything. And don't turn your head to the left, keep it facing right."
House pulled him through the curtains, then straight into the crowd.
Chase clenched his teeth.
He hated crowds.
He hated them.
The were too noisy, too confusing, they were overwhelming, they were....
"Don't say anything."
"House." repeated Chase, gripping the side of House's shirt.
He felt House pause, then felt the direction change, and the space around him clear a little, and heard the shape and acoustics of the area they were in change, as they went through a doorway. It sounded like a bathroom. A small one. Single person, lockable door.
He sniffed, shaking, and slid down the wall House guided him to.
It was stupid, it was embarrassing, it was pathetic, and he had done it in front of House.
He heard the door lock, limping footsteps, running water, limping footsteps, and felt the shock of something cold and wet touching his face.
He gasped, jerking away from it.
It left his face, he heard a grunt and awkward movements, then felt a hand set the cold thing in his uninjured hand.
Wet paper towel.
He took a deep breath, wiping his face with it.
"I'm sorry." he muttered, directing his eyes down and to the side, though he couldn't see House if he tried.
A long sigh and a rustle.
Chase held out the hand holding the paper towel.
"The other one, idiot."
Chase grimaced, switching hands.
House finished pulling the stitches.
"It was your cab, by the way."
"If you start feeling guilty, I swear I'll slap you."
Chase shook his head.
He might be responsible for the cabbie being there in the first place, but not for the fact he got hit.
"Good. Some people think it's wrong to hit a cripple."
"The only reason to say that is 'cause you want to see my reaction to you calling me a cripple."
"Well, am I pitiable, or just pathetic?"
Chase could have sworn he heard House grin.
Chase raised an eyebrow, waiting for the end of the sentence.
"If I was sappy in any way or form, I'd say I was proud of you."
Chase said nothing for a while.
"For not acting all dramatic?" he asked finally.
"I looked up what you'd been doing, after you'd left the clinic. The 24/7 consult thing was smart. You used what you had, and didn't mope about what you didn't have. And from the looks of it, you've gotten better at using what you have than you were when you were working here."
Chase closed his eyes.
"That's what I'd say if I were at all sappy, anyway. But I'm not. So I won't say it."
Chase took another moment. Then he opened his eyes and smiled, "Of course."
"Glad we got that cleared up. You need a ride home?"
"What?" asked Chase, surprised.
"Do you want a ride home, or do you want to hide in the bathroom until another cab gets here."
"There has got to be a catch."
"Motorcycle. Could be a catch, could be a treat, I don't know."
"Because if you hide in the bathroom until another cab gets here, then I'll have to hide in the bathroom until another cab gets here."
Chase considered for a while.
Chase heard a grunt, some rustling as House got awkwardly to his feet, the noise of the waiting room growing suddenly louder as the door opened, and then felt a hand on his arm.
Then the hand let go.
"What? Somebody there?"
The hand touched his briefly again, and he realized it hadn't withdrawn, just let go.
He smiled, gripping the edge of House's sleeve.
House wasn't going to lead him, he was going to follow House.
He... liked this. He liked being out of his apartment, he liked being somewhere familiar but different, but... most of all, he liked finding out that he hadn't lost respect. That he had gained it.
After several ducks into closets, they made it to the differential room and House's office, to get House's helmet.
Chase stopped, sniffing.
"You've got a neuro case. Or one with neurological symptoms."
He heard House turn to look at him.
Chase grinned, "foreman always gets to the coffee maker first when there's neurology involved. He rips the package a little weird, and some of the grounds spill on the hot plate when he puts them in the filter. He was doing that when you started letting him make coffee again after he was sick. I didn't say anything 'cause he glared at me when I saw. I smelled burnt coffee grounds, which is how I knew."
Chase knew House would be smiling, but was surprised when he heard a chuckle.
"Just don't start wearing fancy sneakers, kay?"
"Foreman couldn't handle the competition."
He heard a snort, then followed House in as the door opened.
Chase waited a few seconds, then heard rustling–House had to pack his backpack.
He made his way further in, sitting on the low bookcase right next to the door, one of his usual seats back when he had worked for House.
"Cameron always makes the flavored kind, usually chocolate or hazelnut, so that's easy to tell."
He heard a 'fwump', probably House slinging the backpack over his shoulder, then a clatter, probably the cane and the helmet.
"What about me?"
Chase smiled a little.
"You always made it really strong. But not so strong it was unpleasant, just strong enough to be really good."
A pause, then a slight chuckle, and the breeze of House going past him and opening the door.
"Before foreman got sick, he made it really strong too, but he overdid it." added Chase, following the sound of House's distinctive footsteps, rather than holding on to him. The hallway was quiet, other than them, so there wasn't any risk of him getting confused and following the wrong footsteps.
"You always took the lid off and waited for everyone to get theirs first when you made it." said House, making Chase blink, "Why'd you do that? I could never figure out why. It wasn't 'cause of the temperature, you'd drink the first cup of anybody else's."
Chase shrugged, silent. It was stupid.
"My dad always said the person who made it got the first cup, and got it the hottest. That always irritated me, so I do it the opposite way. It's stupid."
House started walking again.
"I lick the slush off the side of cups after I get crushed ice. Before I take a sip of the water, I lick it off. I used to get yelled at for doing it. That's the only reason I kept doing it."
What was this conversation?
Was it about drinks, random habits, or making a connection?
Chase couldn't tell, any more than he could tell what color House's shirt was.
He sighed, following House towards the freight elevator they had taken to get to this floor.
How, exactly, House had gotten the key to operate this elevator, Chase had no idea, and guessed he probably didn't want to find out.
By the time they made it to House's bike, Chase was thoroughly jumpy, and House was limping slightly more heavily than usual, from all the quick ducks into closets and such.
Chase heard some rustling, which he guessed was House putting on the helmet and getting on the bike. Then a hand touched his and he edged closer to the bike.
House steadied and directed him as he got on, then paused for a moment, and pulled Chase's hands around his waist.
"I'm not Cameron."
"No, but you're not gonna see the stuff in front of us, so if I swerve you won't get any warning, and I don't want to have to drag you right back to the ER because you fell off."
House started the bike, and they pulled out.
Chase was glad he was allowed to hold on like he was.