Chase yawned, leaning back in the chair as he listened to the news.
He pressed a button on his watch, sighing.
"Hey," he started, "House?"
"What?" came from the kitchen.
"Can I ask you something?"
House plopped down on the couch next to him.
"Um... there was something... you know, forget it."
Chase shook his head.
"Oh come on. What?
Chase shook his head.
"Forget it, I said."
"I suck at that."
"I... haven't... seen anyone in over six months. The last time only sort of counted, given it was when I woke up after the explosion, and I was just trying to figure out who the hell I was lying on top of."
He heard House shift a little bit.
Chase turned towards him.
"Go ahead, Chase."
"Why are you saying yes?"
"Because I've been living in the same apartment with you for the last half-year and pretty much accompanying you everywhere outside of it. God forbid touching should occur."
"With you you never know."
"Actually I know. It's you that doesn't."
Then he reached out, finding House's shoulder.
House swallowed, watching Chase kneel on the couch, his hands carefully moving up to touch the older doctor's face.
The fingers ran over his cheek, brushed over the jaw, lingered at the corners of his eyes....
He saw Chase swallow.
"Yeah?" asked House, voice strangely husky.
"Why are you tensing up?"
"Because despite touching being ok, it still makes me edgy."
Then he frowned.
"These weren't as deep five months ago."
House blinked under Chase's fingers.
Chase was touching the pain lines around his eyes
"Yeah, so? I've gotten older."
"House, I may be blind, but I'm not stupid."
"Seriously. It's not that they're really deeper, the pain's just kind of bad today. It gets stiff in the winter, and it's getting pretty cold out."
"House. Are you BS'ing me?"
The head under his fingers shook side-to-side a little.
"Fine. I still don't know if I believe you, but fine."
Chase bit his lip, pulling his coat tight around himself.
He knew he was cold.
He knew he was probably seriously cold.
He dug his finger down through all the layers, pushing the button on the temperature sensor.
"94.3." it informed him. He calculated the difference between skin temperature and internal temperature.... 97.2. great.
"How far are we?"
"Ten minutes. I can turn around, go home. That'll only be about five."
"I think that's probably a good idea."
Three minutes later, Chase pressed the button, "93.4."
House pulled over, made sure the heater was turned up to maximum, talked Chase through climbing into the back seat, climbed in with him, pulled off his coat, pulled off Chase's layers, put them over the younger doctor with his own coat, and sat behind him, head resting back against the cold glass.
Chase bit his lip, waiting.
Neither of them were sure if the warmth they were feeling was purely physical.
Chase sighed, walking out into the living-room.
He walked forward, frowning.
He knew House had gotten up...
He could hear labored breathing from the direction of the couch.
His hands eventually found a shoulder, warm, damp, trembling.
He sat down next to House, hand on the older doctor's back to measure House's breathing.
Ragged, heavy, panting.
"Hey," said Chase, worried, "are you ok? It your leg?"
A soft, pained sound. If it had come from anybody else, Chase would have called it a whimper.
He bit his lower lip, carefully navigating his way down to House's bad leg.
He found House's hands clenched tightly over it, muscles in his forearms taught.
"Do you need to go to the hospital?"
"Did you just nod? Or shake your head? 'cause that's very useful."
One of the hands lifted off the leg, gripping Chase's hand and turning it so the thumb was facing downwards. He could feel it shaking.
The hand let go.
"We need to be there soon. Dying patient and all that."
"House. Seriously, does your common sense go out the window when you're in pain? I can't see what you're d--"
He was interrupted by a sharp gasp coming from the older doctor.
"Ok. Ok, forget it. Forget it. Just... are you sure?"
Chase lifted himself off his heels, finding House's carotid.
He waited until he heard the slightly louder tick of the minute hand on the wall clock, then started counting until he heard another one..
Shit. That was way too high.
"House, you really need to relax. I know it hurts, but your pulse is close to two hundred. You need to calm down. Relax."
He kept his fingers on the artery, measuring both the pulse rate and the tension of the muscles.
"House, I can't do much by myself, so I need you to communicate with me."
Why wasn't House talking?
"House? House, can you hear what I'm saying?"
Nod, he could feel the skin move under his fingers.
"Ok. Can you answer me?"
"Ok," Chase got up onto the couch, sitting next to House again, his fingers still on the older doctor's neck.
"House, this really seems..."
The pulse was getting even faster.
"House, I'm gonna have to call an ambulance soon, if you don't calm down."
Had that been... had House nodded?
"Do you want me to call an ambulance?"
Very quick, small nod.
Chase reached for the phone, just as he felt the tension leave House's body, as the older doctor slumped against him.
House had seriously passed out from the pain.
He bit his lip, holding House around the shoulders, as he dialed with the other hand.
"Yeah, my friend just collapsed. He's got chronic pain from an injury in his thigh, and he was experiencing severe breakthrough pain, until he passed out. His pulse got over two hundred, but no arrhythmia—no, I'm a doctor, I used to be an intensivist, but now I'm blind, which I suppose you should know. Yeah. I... crap, I don't know the number. There's a B on the door, I know that much, hold on... it's bakery street, there's an orange motorcycle and an old dark gray Chrysler parked out front, I think the door's green. There's a door across the hall, I can go ask what number—oh. Dr. Gregory House. Yeah, Princeton Plainsboro. Ok, thanks. Yeah, I'll remain on the line.
Chase sat, House still unconsciously leaning against him, breathing steadily as he lay there.
Chase gently touched the corners of his eyes.
The wrinkles were definitely deeper than five months ago, even when he was unconscious.
Maybe the sense that he was starting to limp more and more heavily wasn't an illusion after all.
House groaned, opening his eyes.
It was dark, and really cold.
He could feel a tube going into the vein on the back of his hand, and sighed.
"Chase?" the room was so dark he could barely make out the outlines.
"Hey," said Chase's voice from off to his right, and a searching hand touched his arm, then moved down to his wrist, measuring the pulse there with sensitive fingers, "How's the pain?"
"Better. Why's it so..."
Chase laughed quietly.
"Believe it or not, I actually know the answer to that one. It's the same reason it's so cold, the power was knocked out by the snowstorm. The emergency generators are working, but the second one only sort of, so they're directing all the power to the first and second floors, they moved all the critical care patients down there, everyone who needs machines."
He could see that Chase's outline was bulky, like he was wrapped in a lot of blankets.
"You cold?" he noticed that he himself was covered in a thick fleece thing.
"Yes. But not really cold." he pressed the button on the sensor.
"95.1." it informed them.
"So around 98. that's pushing it."
"Well what am I supposed to do?"
"What you did last time."
"Dude, it's using me as a heating blanket. Don't try to make this personal, 'cause if you do, I'm not doing it."
"Two guys in the same bed under the covers in the hospital they work at."
"Oh. Who cares?"
Chase shrugged, and climbed up with some difficulty, scooting under the covers and spreading his personal blankets out over both of them.
He ended up resting his head on House's shoulder, sighing. The soft warmth felt so good compared to the last seven or so hours of sitting in the cold room.
He could feel House tense a little beneath his cheek, and lifted his head.
"Yeah. Just a little."
Chase nodded, resting his head back down.
A half hour later, House was woken after dozing off to the sound of Chase's breathing by something touching his thigh.
He could see Chase's eyelids jittering, the younger doctor was dreaming.
He had let Chase in so much... he wondered how the younger doctor would react to being allowed to see the scar the same way he saw faces.
House gently shook the blond's shoulder.
Chase raised his head a little bit, then, realizing what he was touching, started to jerk his hand out from beneath the coverers.
House's hand caught his, though, and gently guided it back down to the depression.
"What?" asked Chase, quietly.
"Um.... are you...?"
"Sure? Yes, I am. Go ahead."
Chase bit his lip, hesitantly touching the edge of the scar with the tips of his fingers.
House watched his face as his fingers carefully mapped out the ripples of skin, drawn together at the center by a ropy line.
The amount of muscle missing....
House shouldn't really be bearing weight on this, there was so much of what was either atrophy or the initial removal gone....
He felt the remaining muscles clench under his fingers, and House went tense with pain.
He bit his lip and gently, so gently, rubbed his fingers over the cramping area.
The knot eased under his fingers, and House unclenched, panting slightly.
"How long has it been getting worse?"
House shrugged underneath his head, still breathing heavily.
"Since... a while. Don't know exactly."
Chase nodded into House's shoulder.
"It's so weird," he said after a while.
"What is?" asked House, realizing that Chase's warm hand on his leg felt better than any heating pad ever could.
"The hospital. With the power out. It's so quiet. You never notice how noisy it is until it isn't."
House swallowed, as Chase shifted a little bit further on top of him.
"You still cold?" he asked, slightly nervously. Chase would never push it too far, but still...
"No. I just like you."
The room, quiet as it had been before, went dead silent.
"That came out completely wrong."
There was a long pause, during which he wondered if he had sent House into shock.
He raised his head.
"Did it come out wrong?"
An even longer pause.
"No. It didn't. I just know how--"
He stopped talking as a callused right hand touched the side of his face.
"You're more than just interesting, you know that right?"
Chase was silent.
At that moment, he wished the most that he had ever wished that he could see. Because he wanted to know what that feeling looked like in those brilliant blue eyes.
"Why? Why aren't you running away?"
"Because I can barely stand up."
Chase rolled his eyes.
"Because you're not going to suddenly realize I'm a jerk. You've been around me for five years, you know who I am, you know what you're getting into."
"So... it's not...."
"Because you're blind?"
"Technically, it is."
"Because if you weren't blind, I wouldn't have spent this much time around you, and if I hadn't spent this much time around you, I never would have figured it out."
Chase was silent for a moment longer.
Then he smile, for the first time in a long time.
He carefully spread his hand out over House's face, guiding himself as he leaned down.
Chase decided that he could live with not seeing the eyes, if it meant the emotions he wanted to see would actually be there.
A week later, he was sitting on the couch, leaning against House as they watched some movie with lots of loud bangs and engine noises, when the doorbell rang.
He got up—House's bad leg was still bothering him—and answered the door.
"Um, hi?" he asked, unsure who it was.
He stepped back to let Wilson in.
House looked up at the odd sound of Wilson's voice.
Wilson had his hand over his mouth, obviously hiding a huge grin.
House rolled his eyes.
"Oh, shut up."
Chase blinked, having missed the reason for House saying that completely, but realized that half of how House and Wilson communicated was just expressions, and passed it off as that.
The blond doctor hesitated for a moment, unsure whether it was ok to cuddle in front of Wilson.
"You coming back here or not?"
Chase smiled, working his way back over—House was habitually leaving random stuff on the ground, and though Chase was pretty sure he would stop if asked, he didn't really mind that much.
Wilson sat down on the couch next to them, and they watched the rest of the movie in companionable silence.
Chase sat there, leaning sideways against House, with Wilson laughing quietly on his other side, and wondered when the last time he had felt like this was. Felt this happy, this close to another person. Shared another person's life. He couldn't even place exactly what the feeling was.
Another knock on the door, he heard Wilson get up.
Cameron and Foreman's footsteps entered.
Chase raised his head, blinking.
He heard them come in, sit down next to Wilson on the couch.
The doorbell rang again.
Cameron's footsteps went to get it, Cuddy's clacking, high-heeled footsteps entered. Chase heard the air go out of the cushions on the recliner.
"House, what the hell....?"
"It's your birthday, moron."
"Oh. That makes more sense."
That was what the feeling was.
The feeling that he hadn't had for fifteen years.
The feeling that he was part of a family.
He rested his head back on House's shoulder, smiling quietly to himself.
On his last birthday, he had been in a MRI at Princeton general, knowing before the scan had even started that he had cancer.
This birthday was turning out to be much more enjoyable.
END (until the sequel)