Wilson blinked in surprise at Chase's unexpected offer, a puzzled and uncertain frown creasing his brow. After a moment's consideration he finally ventured to ask in a slow, cautious voice.
"What, exactly... makes you think that you can help?"
With a slightly self-conscious quirk of his mouth, Chase glanced down at his lap for a moment before giving Wilson a rueful smile.
"I've... actually got a bit of experience in these matters."
Wilson's eyes widened in surprise that gradually shifted into recollection and understanding. "That's right. I remember, House mentioned that before. I don't know why I didn't think of it. You're... into this... this kind of thing..."
Chase laughed, shaking his head. "No, not really," he corrected. "I'm really not. I dated a girl once who was, and... well, I learned a bit about it from her... and for her... but, no... turns out I don't really enjoy the whole punishment and domination thing all that much. Just not really my thing. Not for me."
Chase was quiet for a moment, his smile fading as he gave Wilson a speculative look. "When did you decide that it... was for you?"
Wilson sighed, resting his head in his hands and closing his eyes for a long moment, shaking his head, at a loss. Finally, he ventured an uncertain, hesitant response, his voice halting and tremulous.
"I... I'm not really a hundred percent sure that it is," he confessed. "I just... just can't watch House hurt himself anymore. The whole reason I started this thing in the first place was because I couldn't stand to see what he was doing to himself. I was... trying to save him, but... I'm... not sure that's what I'm doing anymore."
Wilson was silent, waiting for some kind of a response from the other man -- but Chase was expectantly silent.
"I... I just couldn't stand it anymore. I told him that if he didn't let me take over -- start making the hard decisions for him that he couldn't seem to make -- I'd... well, I told him I wouldn't be his friend anymore... as… as grade school as that sounds."
He let out a nervous laugh, looking up to meet Chase's eyes -- and surprised at the utter lack of amusement he saw in the younger man's piercing gaze. There was an expression of alarm in Chase's eyes as he aimed a disapproving frown in Wilson's direction.
"I thought you said this arrangement was consensual."
A sick sensation beginning in the pit of his stomach, Wilson swallowed hard, a defensive frown forming on his lips.
"It is," he insisted.
"No. No, it's really not," Chase argued quietly, shaking his head. "Not if you actually told him that you'd... you'd dump him as a friend if he didn't go along with it..."
"He had a choice," Wilson cut him off defensively. "He didn't have to go along with it, and I don't have to let him in my life, if it's doing nothing but making me miserable and enabling him to self-destruct with my implicit approval..."
"Are you really this stupid, or does it just make you feel less guilty to pretend that you are?"
Wilson blinked, stunned to silence by the bluntly insulting words. Unfazed, Chase continued in an authoritative tone that left no room for argument.
"If your friendship -- your being in his life at all -- is what was at stake, then -- then, no. House didn't have a choice. Do you really think that he'd risk losing you, Wilson? You're the only friend he's got. You might have fooled yourself into believing that you had his consent, but you didn't -- not if those were the terms. And if you're honest with yourself, you already know that."
Guilt in his dark eyes, Wilson could no longer hold Chase's gaze. His eyes focused on his lap, Wilson swallowed hard, struggling to find the words to explain his actions.
"I wasn't… wasn't trying to hurt him. I just... I didn't know what else to do..."
"I know you want to help him," Chase acknowledged, his voice losing some of its sharp edge, and gaining a note of understanding. "But if this is going to work, then House has to have the option of backing out if he wants to -- if things get to be too much for him, or he gets scared by how much power you have, or… for any reason at all, really. He has to have the right to walk away. Otherwise, you'll end up doing more damage than good."
Wilson frowned in confusion, shaking his head in frustrated protest. "But if I leave him the option to back out, then he will -- the first time things get just a little bit hard, or I ask him to do something he doesn't want to do. If he has the choice to ignore my instructions, he will..."
"You might be surprised," Chase pointed out with a knowing smile. "From what I know of dominant-submissive relationships, Wilson -- House's personality makes me believe that he's most likely a natural sub. I think... I think he could benefit greatly from the leadership of a good, conscientious and dedicated dom -- and I think he wants that, even if he tries not to show that side of himself, because… because it makes him vulnerable. I'm not saying the entire idea was a bad one, Wilson. In fact, I think you might be onto something that could be very good for both of you in the long run."
A dark glint of worry shone in Chase's eyes as he shook his head, meeting Wilson's gaze and stating firmly, "But as long as he has no options... no choice in the matter... then there's no way this relationship can be what he needs. As long as he doesn't have a choice... then this is basically something you're doing to him against his will, and that means that there's no way he can trust you, Wilson."
"Oh, God," Wilson groaned, resting his head in one hand for a moment, his mouth twisted into a grimace of regret and disappointment. "I've ruined it, haven't I? There's no way this can work now." He looked up at Chase, shaking his head in despair as he admitted, "That's been the most difficult part of all of this -- getting House to trust me -- and no wonder he hasn't been able to. It's all my fault."
"Can't argue with you there," Chase remarked, with an unapologetic shrug in response to Wilson's resentful glare. "But... there may be something you can do to fix things. It might not be too late."
Wilson's resentful expression faded into a hopeful, almost pleading question, as he waited in silence for Chase to explain.
"You might be able to just... back up and start over," Chase suggested cautiously. "But you've got to give the whole thing a complete overhaul. You've got to make it clear from the start that House has the freedom to walk out of it anytime he wants to -- without the threat of losing you."
Wilson opened his mouth to protest, the fears that suggestion brought about clear in his eyes before he voiced them.
"You're asking him to trust you with everything, Wilson," Chase reminded him sternly. "You're going to have to offer a little trust in return. You're going to have to trust that he won't walk out on you if you give him the chance."
Wilson bit his lower lip, visibly struggling with the idea, before finally sighing, his shoulders slumping with resignation, and nodding his acceptance of the truth of Chase's words.
"You're going to have to respect his limits... his dignity... if this is going to work. There have to be some limits to your power in the arrangement."
"There are limits, right now," Wilson hurried to point out, seeming eager to prove that he had not done everything wrong in his arrangement with House thus far. "We have a written contract that we both agreed to beforehand -- signed and everything -- that spells out exactly what's expected of him, and what I'm allowed to do..."
Chase nodded slowly in cautious approval. "And... the two of you came up with this contract... together?"
Wilson's silence was answer enough.
"Did you even discuss it before asking him to sign it?"
Wilson looked down again in defeat as he admitted, "Not... not really. I mean... we talked about it, but... but I didn't... give him the chance to change the rules, really. I pretty much just asked him to... to accept it, or..."
"Or be abandoned by you," Chase finished for him dubiously.
Wilson nodded in silent, dejected guilt.
"You need to draw up a new contract -- and he needs to come up with his own terms, for you. He needs to put in writing what he expects of you in this relationship, and the two of you need to discuss your limits. Before you assume a position of power in your relationship, you need to know what lines House is absolutely not okay with you crossing." Chase's voice softened with sympathy as he added, "And... I'm sorry, but... right now, I'm fairly certain you wouldn't have a clue as to where most of those lines would be, because right now House is just trying to do whatever he thinks you want, just to keep from losing you."
Wilson's expression was sad as he nodded slowly, acknowledging the accuracy of Chase's observation.
"I know he's... not happy with... with some things about... how everything has gone so far."
"Like the marks I saw on his back in the shower, for instance?" Chase suggested, a single eyebrow raised in dubious accusation as he studied Wilson's face, gauging his reaction.
Wilson nodded again in subdued silence.
"What did you use?"
Wilson's voice was hesitant and halting as he replied with reluctance. "A... a riding crop."
Chase sucked in his breath through his teeth, eyes widening in stunned alarm at Wilson's answer.
"He chose it," Wilson hurriedly pointed out. "He had several options... several less severe options, by the way... and he chose it. I deliberately let him choose, and that was his choice."
"Have you ever used one before?" Chase asked in a thoughtful tone.
"No," Wilson sheepishly confessed.
"I'm not surprised. You obviously had no idea what you were doing," Chase observed, again with stark, brutal honesty. His tone was severe as he informed Wilson in a tone of cool authority, "You should never leave those kind of marks on House after a punishment -- and you should only use physical punishment at all for certain very extreme circumstances that the two of you have already decided upon in advance."
"You both did, or you did?" Chase clarified, looking thoroughly unconvinced.
Wilson found himself once again without an answer.
"Yeah," Chase concluded with a decisive nod. "If this is going to work for the two of you, Wilson -- you're going to have to slow things down. Take a bit of a break right here, and study it out -- be sure that you both know what you're doing before you really get into this. I really think that a legitimate, healthy relationship of this sort might be just the thing to help House -- but if you don't know what you're doing, Wilson... you could really end up doing much more damage than good."
"Well... I did a little reading, on the internet..." Wilson ventured, uncertainty in his small, hesitant voice.
"No," Chase cut him off, shaking his head with a dismissive wave of his hand. "Can't trust half of what you read there. If you're looking at making a significant lifestyle change that's supposed to be somewhat permanent -- you can't trust it to the internet. You need to speak with a professional."
With a rueful, embarrassed laugh, Wilson said, "That's... sort of what I... thought I was doing."
Chase returned his own short bark of laughter. "No, that wouldn't be me," he insisted. "I know a bit, but I'm by no means an expert. But... I do know someone, if you'd like me to arrange a meeting for you. I think you should talk to her -- both of you. I think she could really help the two of you get this going in the right direction. She's basically a stranger to you both, so House might feel a bit more comfortable with talking to her than he would with the idea that I know anything about this."
"No." Wilson shook his head with a rueful grimace. "No, I don't think he'd like the idea of this conversation we're having right now..."
"I won't let on that I know a thing," Chase promised. "But I will put you in touch with my friend. You can tell him you looked her up yourself."
Wilson nodded slowly. "Okay," he agreed at last. "Thanks. Get me her information -- but I need to talk to House before I make a final decision." He was quiet for a long moment, before adding softly, "I'm through going over his head on everything. I'm going to do things the right way in this relationship -- starting right now."