Chase sighed, putting the car into gear.
He looked over at House, who was sitting shotgun, looking out the window.
"House?" he asked, pulling away from the curb.
House twitched slightly, which let Chase know he was there, just acting weird.
"Is your leg bothering you?"
House shrugged, a tiny bit, and continued to stare out the window.
Chase's phone started ringing, and he reached down into his backpack, searching for it.
He glanced down to try and find it, and when he looked up, the car in front of him was not moving, and a foot away.
When he regained awareness, the first thing he saw was white.
Then he registered a hand on his shoulder, and he was pulled off the airbag, gently, and a hand brushed over his cheek.
He turned his head, looking to his right.
House was staring at him, nose bleeding freely, blue irises islands in the seas of panicked white.
"Chase," he said, in a hoarse whisper.
Chase sighed, and reached over, unlocking House's seatbelt, and then pulling the older doctor close with one arm.
"It's okay," he said, into House's bald spot, "it's okay. Shhh."
The horn started going off of its own accord.
Chase closed his eyes, and squeezed just a little tighter.
He felt a hand tangle itself in his shirt.
Chase's left hand had been on the top of the steering wheel, and when the airbag had deployed, it had done something to his forearm, and the seatbelt had dug into his shoulder. When he looked, he discovered his forearm was bent in the middle, where it wasn't supposed to be. But he couldn't feel it. In fact, he couldn't feel anything in that arm from the shoulder down.
House continued to hold onto him, even when the door opened, and Chase turned some to talk to the policewoman standing there.
"Is he alright?" she asked, frowning.
"Yeah," said Chase, "just a bit shaken up."
"There's an ambulance on its way, I just need to get your statement of what happened before they take you to the hospital."
Chase nodded, "my phone was ringing, I looked down to find it, when I looked up, the car was stopped."
As if on cue, the phone started ringing again.
Chase sighed, "I need to see if this is something important… I'm a doctor, and I've got a patient that's in critical condition…"
Chase gently pushed House a little bit away, while he reached for the phone, then let him hold on again, as he answered.
As he straightened a bit, the seatbelt dug further into his shoulder, sending intensely painful bolts of agony shooting up and down the length of his arm.
"Ahཀ" he yelled, dropping the phone, and clocking House on the side of the head with his elbow, when his right arm moved instinctively to grab the shoulder.
"Sorry," he gasped, "didn't mean to hit you."
House responded by reaching down, gripping the phone, and putting it to his ear.
Chase watched, panting, and a little surprised.
House seemed to have very little interest in the patients, or even the puzzles.
Chase still talked to him about the cases, but House never showed any interest.
Finally, after a pause, House responded, voice sounding… well, incredibly normal.
Sarcastic, grouchy, condescending.
"It's myelogenous meningitis," he said, then shut the phone with a snap.
He raised his head off Chase's chest, and his face, though smeared with blood, looked normal.
"House," said Chase, quietly, "it's okay. I'm okay. You don't have to protect me."
House closed his eyes and put his head down again, starting to tremble.
Chase sighed, and looked back at the policewoman.
"Sorry," he said.
"Is… is it okay that he…"
"It's fine. He's a doctor, just with some psychiatric issues."
She blinked, but shrugged, and started asking Chase more questions about the crash.
The ambulance arrived, and House had to let go while the emergency serviced guys got the shoulder and arm stabilized, the seatbelt off, and Chase onto a gurney.
House followed them, and wouldn't let go of Chase's hand for anything.
He didn't even seem to be there, anymore, just still holding on.
Chase explained what was up with him to the paramedics, so they would stop telling House he needed to let go when he wasn't hearing them at all.
By the time they got to St. Sebastian's, Chase was exhausted from the painful sensations radiating from his shoulder, and when they gave him pain meds, he just managed to ask for someone to call Foreman, who moved back to Princeton after Remy killed herself.
Foreman isn't exactly the picture of mental health right now, but at least he's more stable than House, who is completely not there, and doesn't seem to be waking up for any of the doctors trying to get him to let go of Chase's hand.
Then Chase succumbs to the medication, and sleeps.
When he wakes up, the pain shooting though his arm is just as bad, but his other aches and pains have diminished some.
He looks around, and sees Foreman sitting in a chair, reading, and occasionally glancing up from his newspaper to check on House, who is sitting on a cabinet, face still coated in blood.
His nose is slightly crooked.
Foreman looked up.
"I think his nose is broken."
"Yeah," said Foreman, getting up and gripping House's shoulders, gently easing him off the cabinet, "he wouldn't let anyone fix it."
Chase reached over, gripping House's hand, when it came in range.
"House," he said, quietly, "hey, can you look at me? Look here, okay?"
A sort of twitchy blink is the only response.
"House," says Chase again, squeezing the hand, "hey, buddy. Come on. It's okay. Look here, okay? Over here. It's okay. Hey, House. You in there?"
Another twich, and a few fluttery blinks.
Finally, House's eyes meander down to Chase's face.
But they don't clear, they're still unfocused.
Chase frowns, panic filling his chest.
But then House climbs onto the bed, and lays down next to Chase, draping himself across Chase's chest.
He rests his head so that his ear is right over Chase's heart, and grips Chase's hospital robe loosely with his right hand.
Chase sighs, and gently strokes House's hair, "I'm okay."
He mouths a thank you to Foreman, who nods in response, and picks up his newspaper.
House stays there for a long time without moving, and Chase continues to stroke his hair until he can't anymore because he's fallen asleep.
When Chase wakes, House is still awake. And this time he's really awake—he's there, and sitting up, and watching Chase.
"Hey," says Chase, quietly.
House takes a deep breath, and lets it out, slowly, though his mouth because his nose is quite swollen.
"Hey," he says back, and touches Chase's cheek in a way he has never done before.
It's not inappropriate, or even remotely sexual.
It's just this tender brush of his fingers against Chase's cheek, with his blue eyes at the same time sad and comforting.
Chase gently grips House's hand, and they stay there for a while, in silence.
"I think your nose is broken," says Chase, quietly.
House nods, "it is."
"Any word on my shoulder?"
"The nerves are damaged. They came in and stabilized it a while ago."
Chase frowns a bit, "you… did they need you to move or something?"
House had been there when Chase hadn't even been awake?
House shook his head.
"I had to listen to your heartbeat," he says, and he almost sounds ashamed.
Chase squeezes House's hand.
"Thank you," he says, with a bit of a smile, "I'm glad you were listening."
Chase frowns a bit, "don't what?"
"You shouldn't have to do this."
Chase sighs, and shakes his head.
"Come here. Lie down next to me."
Chase wrapped his hand around the back of House's head, pulling it close, until their foreheads were touching.
"You are worth any amount of sacrifice when you aren't here. You would be worth it, even if you were any trouble at all when you aren't here. Which you aren't."
House's blue eyes met Chase's aqua ones, a little confused.
"Don't you think for a moment that you're a burden to me, House. Because you're not. You're a blessing."
House snorted derisively, at that.
Or, rather, tried to.
All he managed to do was spray blood over Chase's face, his own face, and the bed between.
"Owཀ" he said, loudly, reaching up with both hands to hold his nose as he sat up, blood dripping off his chin.
Chase, still lying flat, face splattered with blood, laughed.
House looked at the younger doctor with watering eyes.
"Okay," said Chase, smiling a bit, "sometimes you are a little annoying."
"Yeah," said Chase, sighing heavily into the phone, "you heard me right, Charlie…"
'Why the hell won't he put on pants?'
"I honestly have no idea…"
'Well… what, I know you can't leave him alone… but you've got a case.'
Chase sighed, rubbing his forehead with his clumsy hand, as he held the phone to his ear with the other.
"She's already got a diagnosis. Treatment is someone else's job. Her regular doctor's. she can be discharged as soon as she's stable, you don't need me there for that."
'So… what, you're skipping work?'
"No, I'm taking a family emergency day."
'It's not an emergency, and he's not technically your family.'
"Charlie… how do you see this conversation ending? With me coming to work and leaving him half naked and alone? Or with you getting mad at me because you want me to do something you know I *can't* do."
A long sigh from the other end of the phone.
'Fine. But answer your consult emails.'
Chase hung up, sighing.
He held on to the phone for a moment, then lifted his hand off of it, and turned around.
House was sitting on the couch on top of a blanket, which was pulled up between his legs, and against his chest as he wrapped his arms around it.
It had been a compromise. So Chase didn't have to keep looking at House's balls.
Not that Chase really *minded* looking at House's balls, but… it was kind of distracting…
Chase walked over, and sat down next to him on the couch.
House grinned sleepily.
Chase looked at him.
Chase shrugged to himself, and wrapped an arm around House's back, pulling him over.
This had been happening more and more often, in the apartment. Nowhere else, just here.
At times when House wouldn't usually be there, he'd be… happy-looking, open, semi-responsive, and clingy. Chase had no clue what it meant, but House seemed to like being close to the younger doctor, when it was going on.
House wouldn't have been there right now, because Chase had lost his temper and yelled about the no pants thing.
It had been stupid, but he hadn't gotten much sleep, his patient's diagnosis was fatal, and he had a headache.
Actually, it was probably just having seen Wilson—who had moved back to Princeton, but still working pediatrics, having finished his specialty training—yesterday, that was making him this cranky.
"I'm sorry," he whispered, as House curled against him, close and warm, "I shouldn't have yelled."
He got nothing but a snuffling sound in response… but House was there now, just sleepy.
"Why won't you wear pants?"
House shrugged, not pulling away from Chase, "I don't want to."
Chase had absolutely no idea what this little exercise in pointless stubbornness and irrationality was supposed to achieve.
And he doubted House would tell him.
Later, House was sleeping on the couch, Chase's arm still around his back as he slept.
Chase found himself… curious.
Through all the last five and a half years, he had seen almost every inch of the older doctor. But he had been very, very careful to respect House's privacy, catatonic or not, about the scar.
Maybe that was…
Did House *want* him to look?
Was that what this was all about?
He didn't look, though.
This could also be about him*not* looking.
House stirs, and raises his head off Chase's chest.
Chase looks down, from watching the TV.
"You ready to get dressed yet?"
House looks at him, blinking sleepy.
"You didn't look," he murmurs, resting his head back down.
"No," says Chase, quietly, "I didn't."
"You want me to?"
House nods, and presses his face a little into Chase's shoulder.
"Are you sure?"
"Why else would I refuse to wear pants?"
"How should I know. I have no idea how your mind works, most of the time."
House laughs, quietly, and it's muffled by Chase's body.
Chase takes a deep breath, and looks.
It's ugly, and… damn, that looks like it hurts.
He looks back at House's face, but House has closed his eyes, almost grimacing.
Chase gently brushes his fingers along House's jaw.
"It looks like a scar from a muscle debridement surgery," says Chase, quietly, "House, I'm an intensivist, remember? I started out as a surgeon. You really thought…"
House looks at him, finally, and his blue eyes are uncomfortably needy.
"It's okay," says Chase, and places his good hand along the side of House's face, "it's just a scar."
Then he pulls his shirt up, and twists, exposing his back to House's scrutiny.
"Mum threw a gin bottle at me," he explained, "it shattered."
He felt a hand run over the hundred small scars, and shivered slightly, at the touch.
Then, suddenly, there were arms sliding around his waist.
He closed his eyes, and with a great effort, restrained himself.
He gently eased House's arms off, and turned to look at the older doctor.
"No," he said, gently, "I'm not…"
House just wanted contact, there was nothing sexual about it. He wasn't even there.
Chase gently pulled the blanket so it covered most of House, and let the older doctor rest his head on Chase's lap, as House drifted off.
Chase sighed, hand resting on House's back.
When House woke up, he was there, and a little confused as to why his head was in Chase's lap.
But he's found himself in situations like this, missing bits of time and holding on to Chase, or sitting close to Chase, or anything having to do with Chase, plenty of times before.
He sighs, and raises his head, sitting up.
Chase looks at him, frowning.
"You're upset," Chase says, quietly.
"Who am I?"
Chase swallows, looking slightly panicked, "you don't—"
"No… I mean, when I can't remember what I did… who am I?"
Chase sighs, "nobody. You're just sort of unresponsive. And recently you've been sort of clingy…but just to me, and just in the apartment."
House sighs, and rubs his face.
"You thought you had DID?"
House nods, "I used to do this when I was a kid. When bad things happened. I'd wake up somewhere, with no idea how I got there."
Chase looks at the older doctor for a while.
"Why? What bad things?"
House looks at him.
His mouth was open, as though he was going to say more, but nothing came out.
He closed his eyes.
Then laughed, bitterly, and much too loudly.
"What?" asks Chase, slightly alarmed.
"I can't… I literally can't talk about it."
Chase sighs, and puts his hand on House's arm.
The contact seems to help, and House leans against him, sighing.
Chase puts his arm around House's shoulders, and they sit that way for a while, silently.
House finally opens his eyes again, and looks at Chase.
Chase smiles, "TV?"
House shakes his head, and gets up.
He limps across the room, and stands in front of the piano.
Then he eases in behind it, and sits on the bench.
Chase holds his breath.
He had the piano moved here from House's apartment when House first woke up.
But House hasn't displayed any interest in playing it—until now.
Chase smiles, and leans his chin on his fists, as his elbows rest on his knees.
House plays for a long time, before his leg starts acting up from using the pedals.
He looks at Chase, tilting his head.
Then he gets up, and limps over, slightly more heavily than usual.
He sits down next to Chase on the couch, and grips Chase's hands, frowning at the palms and fingers.
Chase blinks, and lets him do whatever he's doing.
House *seems* like he's there, but…
"Violin," pronounces House, finally.
Chase splutters, "how did you…."
"You obviously still play it… but not in front of me. Why?"
Chase looks at him.
Then shrugs, "you didn't touch the piano. I don't know, I just thought I should be careful."
Chase got up, and retrieved his violin case from a drawer, then sat down on the couch, and opened it.
House closed his eyes, as Chase started to play.
"House?" asked Chase, alarmed, as he looked up from the violin music.
House opened his eyes.
He was sitting with his head in his hands.
The floor was wet under his head, and more wet was dripping off his nose. He was drenched in sweat as well as tears.
An arm was wrapped around his shoulders, shaking him gently.
He raised his head and looked at Chase.
"I…" he swallowed, "I guess I was wrong."
Chase shook his head, "it's okay."
He helped House stand, and walk shakily towards the bathroom.
The older doctor still seemed shaken and confused, so Chase stayed in the bathroom while he took a shower.
House stumbled out, and Chase could tell something was wrong.
He stood up off the closed toilet seat he had been sitting on, and took House's arm.
"Hey," said Chase, softly, "hey, what's up?"
House looked at him, shook his head, shook it again, and turned himself so he could sit on the toilet.
Chase knelt in front of him, taking his hands.
"House. Come on, what's up?"
House shook his head, violently, tears streaming down his face.
Chase squeezed House's hands, waiting.
Finally, House's eyes lifted off his lap to meet Chase's worried ones.
"Sorry," he mumbled, "sorry."
Chase shook his head, but kept gripping House's hands.
He sighed, shaking his head again.
"During my infarction, Wilson would sit outside the shower, in case I fell. My leg hurt worse than usual 'cause of playing the piano, and I just… got confused."
Chase sighed, nodding, and squeezed House's hands again.
"That's okay. Come on, let's get you dressed—pants included."
House smiled faintly, and let Chase lead him to the bedroom.
Once dressed, House sat on the bed, watching Chase.
Chase, halfway through sorting their laundry, looked at House.
"There's nothing to be sorry for," he said, simply, then turned back to tossing the clothes into two piles.
Suddenly, there was warm air on his neck, and he jumped, turning around.
House was lying on his stomach on the bed, watching Chase kneel on the floor.
"I assume you're about to ask my why I'm making two piles?" Chase has learned that House has almost no knowledge of things like mopping and vacuuming, and he assumes that laundry is probably under the same category.
House shook his head, "you don't grow up with a Marine for a father and not know how to take care of clothes. I just don't bother."
Chase blinked at him, "your dad was a Marine?"
House nodded, "yeah."
Chase smiled, "then you can help me sort."
House groaned, but seemed somewhat cheered.
House sat down at the table, as Chase worked through a stack of files.
Chase looked up, "what?"
House reached over, taking the file Chase had been working on, and looking through it.
Chase watched him, confused.
He couldn't honestly tell, these days, whether some of House's weird behavior was him literally being insane, or just the "insaneness" that had predated any actual mental illness.
House frowned down at the file for a few minutes.
Then looked up at Chase.
"Where's Foreman working?"
Chase tilted his head a little.
"Where… was the last place you knew he was working?"
House sighed, leaning his chin on his palm, "I know he moved to California with Thirteen. But when you crashed, he was in the hospital room. And this file was referred to you by him."
Chase nodded, somewhat sadly.
"She killed herself."
House looked at Chase, startled.
"I think because of the Huntington's. Foreman used to email me with how she was doing, just so he could get it off his chest. It progressed unusually fast, and she really wasn't doing well."
House sighed, looking back down at the file.
The room was quite for a while, while Chase waited to see if House would zone out from the information, or if he would be able to handle it.
Eventually, House looked up, back at Chase.
"It was referred from the research department of Princeton Plainsboro."
"Yeah," said Chase, reaching across the table to take the file, "he got a grant to work on a medication for type one Usher syndrome, to prevent vision loss."
Chase looked at the older doctor.
"Um… you don't sound like it's good."
House shook his head, meeting Chase's eyes, "no, it's good. I just… miss a lot, I guess."
Chase sighed, and reached over, gripping House's arm.
House looked down at Chase's hand for a while, but Chase didn't think he wanted the blond to remove it.
Eventually, House covered Chase's hand with his own.
Chase smiled a little, as he watched House sit.
House curled on the couch, resting his head on the arm.
Chase was sitting in the armchair, frowning down at his bad hand, as he squeezed the little red ball again and again.
"Why do you keep doing that?"
Chase looked at him, blinking, "why do I keep doing PT?"
"The lady already told you the function won't get any better."
Chase smiled a little.
"Five and a half years ago, your doctor told me you were probably never coming out of the catatonia and couldn't hear me."
House snorted, "that's psychiatry. This is science."
Chase rolled his eyes.
"Well, fine. It also helps keep there from being any regression."
Chase frowned, "yeah… atrophy, weakness…" House didn't usually blank on medical facts…
"I know that."
"Then why did you ask?"
"I meant, was there regression? Did you stop and then realize it was a problem, and then start again?"
Chase shook his head, "no, I never stopped."
"Don't you ever want to stop and see if it makes a difference? See if you can stop? Not have to deal with it? Not have to worry about it?"
Chase looked at House. He seriously doubted House was just curious about Chase's feelings about PT.
House met his eyes, and they looked at each other for a while.
Chase finally answered, slowly, "I… guess it would be nice… to not have to deal with it."
House nodded, and looked away.
The next day, Chase woke, and House was gone.
They usually slept in the same bed, just so House's nightmares would be kept at bay by Chase's presence.
Not have to deal with it.
Chase ran to the phone, called 911, ran out the door, got in the car, and drove around Princeton, hoping desperately that he was wrong, that House hadn't thought Chase's answer meant he didn't want to deal with House anymore.
His phone rang, and he had it to his ear in a microsecond, "yes?"
"Yes, this is him."
'We found Dr. House.'
Chase pulled over, good hand squeezed so tight his knuckles were white.
'He's checked into the Princeton general rehab clinic.'
Chase closed his eyes, and rested his head on the steering wheel.
That's what House had been talking about.
Just the pills.
"Thank you very, very much. I thought… I didn't know what happened."
'It's fine. I'm glad your friend is alright. Do you need the address?'
"No. thanks you again."
The officer hung up.
Chase just sat there for a while, body still trembling slightly from the horrible tension that had been spearing it just moments before.
Finally, he was able to start the car again, and pull back out into the street.
He drove to Princeton general, and got directions to the rehab center, and found House's bed.
He sat down on the foot of it, and watched House sit, not there at all.
"House," he said, quietly.
House twitched, and looked at the younger doctor, eyes red-rimmed and face covered in sweat.
"Hi," he mumbled.
Chase hugged him.
"I thought you killed yourself."
House choked, "what?ཀ Why would I do that?"
"I didn't know what you were getting at last night. I don't know, I thought you might be tired of dealing with losing time…" Chase did not tell House he had thought the older doctor had decided Chase resented looking after him. Because knowing House, he would immediately take the fact that Chase had come to that conclusion to mean Chase really did resent looking after him.
"I… sorry. I guess I should have left a note, or something."
"Yeah," said Chase, squeezing tighter, "that might have been a good idea."
Chase let go, and brushed House's sweaty hair out of the older doctor's face.
"You can do this at home, if you want. You don't have to do it alone like this."
House shook his head.
"No… I… I'm pretty sure I spaced out as soon as the detox started. If I'm at home, I'll be more of a bastard than usual, in a lot of pain, and puke all over the place. If I'm here, and you aren't, then I won't be a bastard to you, just anyone here, I won't experience the pain, and it'll be people who aren't you that I'm puking all over."
Chase smiled, a little, sadly, and continued to run his hand through House's sweaty, thinning hair.
House seemed to appreciate the contact.
"Okay," said Chase, "that makes sense. But I'll visit at lunch and after work, okay?"
"I'm glad," he said, then grimaced heavily as he shifted his bad leg.
House nodded, gritting his teeth.
He was really suffering right now.
"Hey," said Chase, "I'll leave… so you don't have to be here for this."
House shook his head.
"It's okay," he said, tiredly, "it's not that bad yet."
Chase nodded, and got a towel from the bathroom, wetting it with cool water, and wiping House's sweaty face with it.
House reached up, gripping Chase's hand, as he was about to draw the towel away.
House nodded, eyes half closed.
He was obviously exhausted.
Chase stayed, leaving the towel right where it was, as House grew drowsy.
Then he gently nudged House down to the pillows, and re-wet the towel, placing it in House's hands.
House smiled sleepily at him, then closed his eyes, and slept.
Chase got up, and walked out, feeling much, much less unhappy than he had when he had woken.
He did visit, after lunch, and after work.
But after two days, it became clear that House was better off if he visited at night, calming the demons in House's dreams, than during the day, when his presence only made House aware of the suffering his body was experiencing.
So after a lot of negotiating, and a promise to come to give a guest lecture on diagnostics, possibly with House, if it was at all possible, he got a second cot in House's room, and slept there, to House's right, his bad hand stretched across the space between the cots, gripping House's.
House was really miserable.
He would vomit, and that would set off a spasm in his leg, which would in turn cause nausea.
Chase ended up sitting on House's cot, with the older doctor lying across his lap, rubbing House's back as he heaved into a bowl on the cot next to Chase's leg.
Finally, House managed to break the cycle by getting up, grabbing Chase's cot, and slamming the metal frame of it down on his fingers, while Chase sat, kind of stunned.
Chase wasn't exactly sure how that had helped, but when House curled back on the cot, he seemed to be breathing easier, and fell back to sleep, cradling his injured hand close to his chest, his head resting in Chase's lap.
Chase watched him sleep, feeling relieved.
Four days later, House was released from the hospital.
He was in a lot more pain than before.
But, as he sat in the passenger seat of the car, he looked over at Chase, instead of staring out the window like he tended to do.
"Thank you," he said, quietly.
Chase shook his head, eyes on the road.
"You don't have to thank me. I want you to know that—that I'm not going away…. Not even if you want me to."
House chuckled, "and I want to thank you. Because I want you to know I want to thank you. Because I don't want you to leave. Because I want you to know I don't want you to leave. Wait, I think I went one to far on that one…"
Chase smiled, though he couldn't do much more than that while driving.
They drove for a while in silence, and were almost to the apartment, when House suddenly spoke up, "go to the hospital."
Chase glanced at him, "why?"
"Because I've got an appointment."
Chase rolled his eyes at House's neglecting to tell Chase these things, and turned around, "who with?"
He pulled over, and parked, looking at House.
"You made an appointment with a pain specialist. You went to rehab. You're clean."
House nodded, "and in pain, hence the appointment."
"And you're here most of the time."
House shrugged, "as far as I know."
Chase looked at him for a long time.
"House," he said, almost with a smile, "you're healthy."
House shook his head.
"I'm not healthy, Chase. Certainly not mentally. You know that. You know I could see someone who looks like Amber, and suddenly spend another five years catatonic. I'm not cured. I'm not healthy. I'm just…"
He tilted his head a little, considering.
Chase looked at him.
"You're just what?"
House reached across the space between their seats, gripping Chase's wrist, although his two splinted fingers stood straight out instead of curling.
Chase met his eyes for a long time.
Then he leaned across, and House leaned to meet him halfway.
Chase closed his eyes, as they kissed.
It didn't go far.
There wasn't even any tongue.
But it didn't matter.
Because it had finally happened.
And House wasn't the only one that was happy.