House hardly smiles anymore these days, now that his best friend Wilson's gone. In fact, these days, he hardly does anything, except obsess over cases that get more complicated and time-consuming with each passing day.
Before, it was a blessing to have House smile, and---perhaps---even laugh. Now, Chase feels lucky if House even looks him (or anyone, for that matter) directly in the eye.
Not long ago, after House had moved in with Wilson, there followed what appeared to be a curious sparkle in his eyes; a significant spring in his limp. Cases flew by. More patients survived with a simple flick of Dr. Gregory House's wrist.
Now, he's more driven than ever, but it seems for a different purpose: survival.
Survival is an oxymoron when Chase finds himself picking House up at a bar, drunk as a skunk in the middle of the night. House doesn't say "thank you", ever, but Chase has known to accept that certain things about House will simply never change. He knows deep down that his actions are appreciated. "Thank you" is not something House has ever said. Yet, between them they know that there is an unspoken agreement that House has taught Chase almost everything he knows about medicine, and so this is how Chase wishes to repay him.
Chase drives House home, and, like a father, helps House---who, in his drunken stupor, doesn't protest---get undressed and into bed. Before long, finally (much to Chase's relief) the older man is out like a light: not passed out, but sleeping. Any evidence of pain---be it physical or otherwise---seems to fade all at once from Chase's vision, and for once House is at peace, drifting away into blissful oblivion.
Chase doesn't go home immediately. Instead, he sits by House's side and watches him sleep. He doesn't know why he does this; it's not like House isn't a grown man who can't take care of himself if he has a bad dream. Still, something keeps Chase glued to the other man's side, because if he goes back to his home, where loneliness constantly abounds, then he might wind up waking from a nightmare himself…sometimes about his ex-wife, sometimes about House…lately, though, more and more it's been about himself growing old. He doesn't want to die alone, and he fears that this will be his fate.
He stays for at least an hour before reluctantly dragging himself home, somehow convincing himself that House will get through the night.
In the morning, when Chase shows up at work, House is already there. Nothing is said about what happened the night before. Everyone knows that now, words are a landmine just waiting to explode…it's why Foreman has been letting House take a backseat for the last few months, and in fact has been doing most of the talking.
Wilson's name is never spoken, but it doesn't have to be for Chase to know that House is thinking about him. Sometimes, Chase catches a shimmer in House's eyes, but a second later it's gone, and he has to stop and wonder to himself if it was ever really there. Other times, he turns to ask House a question only to find the man staring out the window with a faraway gaze, clearly not paying attention at all. House is somewhere else entirely, and Chase knows where: he's wherever he and Wilson went, doing whatever it was they did together. Perhaps, eating lunch in the hospital cafeteria, which is the only thing Chase ever observed occurring during their "alone" time spent together.
House never asks Chase to call, but sometimes Chase does occasionally: mainly to sooth his own fears that House could be lying dead in a gutter somewhere, or perhaps dead on the floor of the condo that he and Wilson bought together last year.
Sometimes he doesn't know why he bothers at all, since it's always the same conversation playing itself over and over again anyway. It always begins with him asking what House did "for fun" that weekend…and always ends with House replying flatly in some form or another: "Get yourself a life, Chase." Click.
Sometimes, he wants to kill the drunk driver for taking Wilson away, knowing that House no doubt feels the same. (House, as far as he knows, has never once driven drunk: and if he ever did before, he certainly won't ever again.) Each time Chase picks House up from the bar, he has to drive House back the next day after work so that House can retrieve his motorcycle, no matter how bad his hangover is…but these are the sacrifices one makes; the price that one pays for living.
Chase won't kill the drunk driver, even though he already knows the man's address. He has already made enough mistakes; he had to sacrifice his marriage for the last one.
Sometimes Chase finds himself hating House for not going to Wilson's funeral. Then he reminds himself that House doesn't believe in funerals…that he did not attend Dr. Kutner's, even though from what Chase heard, Kutner was one of House's most esteemed fellows out of the entire new bunch. Chase has worked with House long enough to know that House doesn't do anything "normal", if there really is such a thing. Instead of wringing his hands at the sky about something that can't be undone, House finds more cases to solve. He turns a negative into a positive….that is, when he's not drinking himself into a stupor of numbness. Now, he uses alcohol to treat a different kind of chronic pain…the kind that can't be helped with a pill…the kind that not even an antidepressant can cure…because one must feel their way through, not merely go through the motions.
A year passes before House asks Chase something he never would have expected: "I'm going to visit Wilson today," House says simply, as they are preparing to go home after a long day from work. "You're driving."
Chase is stunned. He doesn't answer at first because he's too stupefied to say anything. "You…want me to take you to the cemetery?" he stammers.
"Duh," is House's flippant response, followed by a familiar exaggerated roll of the eyes which makes Chase smile with a secret relief. "Chop, chop," House orders then, clapping his hands twice as Chase continues to stand there dumbly, before following his boss out the door as fast as his feet will allow him.
They ride in silence and, once arriving, House exist the car without speaking and proceeds to lead Chase trudging slowly through the otherwise empty cemetery. Not a soul is in sight, only the hint of souls past, and there are many in this large graveyard that Chase wonders if House has already come here before, because House certainly seems to know where he's going. At last, they reach a headstone with the familiar name "James Wilson" printed clearly upon its clean and shiny surface.
House doesn't say anything for a while, simply stares down at the stone. Standing beside him, Chase is respectfully silent, knowing that silence often says more than words ever could.
Finally, House says something, but it takes a moment for Chase to realize what's been said. "Idiot," mutters House simply. "Always expecting the best out of people," House adds bitterly, staring grimly down at the ground. "Well…this is what happens when you do, Chase…this is what you get back in return."
After a moment had passed, Chase swallows back the lump in his throat before forcing himself to speak: "He did a lot of good for people, you know…so many people were a whole lot better off because of him…even if they knew that they were dying."
"False hope," is House's reply, after which he clamps up at once and doesn't say any more. Chase knows not to continue; he's probably already pushed the envelope. That House is talking at all, in this setting, is good; Chase knows he has to be satisfied with whatever House gives him, because to expect a particular reaction is to set himself up for sure disappointment. (He's learned this the hard way.)
The ride back is a long one, during which neither man says anything, but Chase is simply glad that House has chosen to share this moment with him, whatever it meant. It means House is making progress: and progress is all that Chase can hope for. That…and the chance for them both to begin a new day.