"You are my sweetest downfall.
I loved you first, I loved you first.
Beneath the sheets of paper lies my truth."
House was hanging around in the Emergency Room again. She watched him surreptitiously from under her eyelashes while filling out patient reports. She knew if he ever caught her watching him that he would make a smart-ass, sarcastic comment. So she always watched him whenever she thought she could get away with it, whenever he was distracted and his attention anywhere but on her. She knew his moods and body language so well by now. She knew when he had a new case, when he was bored, when Cuddy was riding him, when his leg was being especially painful.
She had no delusions about her feelings for House. It wasn't that she didn't love Chase. She just loved House first. She didn't know what she would do if House ever admitted feelings for her. Her feelings for Chase were real, but nothing like what she felt for House. Her love for Chase was like a warm, comforting blanket – it was always there when you needed it, but it didn't add anything special to her life. You could always go out and get another blanket.
House was like…a rollercoaster. Rollercoasters make you weak at the knees and your palms sweaty. You get nervous every time before you get on a rollercoaster, no matter how many times you may have ridden it before. Each ride is different from the one before. House made her weak at the knees, made her heart race, gave her a rush of adrenaline each time she imagined his hands on her body, his lips on hers. It was the image of House that kept her company on lonely nights, not Chase's.
But she still loved Chase, no matter what she may feel for House. A rollercoaster was thrilling and exciting for sure, but you never knew when the ride would break down or be closed due to bad weather. You always knew your blanket would be at home waiting for you whenever you needed it.
And there lay the crux of her dilemma – Chase would always be there for her. House's moods were too mercurial for her to depend on him to be anything except unpredictable. Any relationship with House, though it would be anything but boring, would never be stable. Despite Wilson reminiscing how House was when he was with Stacy, how loving, caring and happy he had been, it was post-infarction House that had driven Stacy away. Twice.
So she had kept her feelings to herself, only showing she cared in the most subtle of ways – getting in early to make the coffee just the way he liked it, having a cup waiting for him when he got in to work, doing his patient reports for him, checking and answering his mail. Sometimes she'd felt more like his PA than his Fellow. Sometimes he'd almost seemed to notice the extra lengths to which she went in order to please him. She could never tell if he was being coy or just obtuse.
Now that she was a senior attending physician in emergency she didn't get to see him as much. Sometimes, like now, he would come down to hide out from Cuddy, try and persuade her that she wanted back on his team, or try and find a case so he could avoid clinic hours. She'd had to find new ways of showing him she cared – playing politics with his Fellows to amuse him, running interference with Chase when House wanted him to do something, not telling Cuddy when he was hiding out in her department and, of course, keeping her eyes open for those special cases she knew would interest him.
Each time she found something worthy of his attention it gave her a little thrill. She tried to tell herself that it was just because she found the mystery exciting. She tried to fool herself into believing that it wasn't because she missed working the cases herself, missed working with him. Never that it was because she missed him.
So when one of those cases came her way she'd gather up the sheets of paper in the case file. She'd always sort the papers to put the less interesting test results on top just so she'd have an excuse to talk to him longer, prove that the case was worthwhile, to spend a little longer in his presence. And then she would go seek him out. She knew all his hiding places now, his little habits and routines. She sometimes felt she knew where he would be throughout the day better than he did. He always seemed surprised when she turned up unexpectedly with a case file in her hands. She liked that she could keep him on his toes.
She would hand him the file, careful to keep her expression neutral as he sneered at her. She'd ignore his taunts about her hair colour, her bust, whatever got his attention at the time. She'd remind herself that being recognised as lobby art meant that he was looking and admiring. Better to be lobby art than lobby shrubbery. Besides, she knew him well enough by now to know that House had more respect for people that could either ignore his rudeness as irrelevant, or give back as good as they got.
She'd watch as his nimble fingers flicked derisively through the first few sheets, dismissing the patient as boring. Then she would reach over and turn to the relevant page – the anomalous result or unusual observation that would pique his interest. Then everything except the case would cease to exist in his Universe. He'd pretend that he was doing her a favour or that he already knew what was wrong with the patient and she was an idiot for missing it. He'd head off to his office, file in hand. She would walk away, careful not to let him see her smiling, knowing that she'd made his day and that not much could top a new case for making him happy.
She'd go back to the ER, imagining him in his office, playing with his cane, cajoling and mocking his team, happy as a pig in mud. He'd never express any gratitude to her – she'd never get a thank you, a bunch of flowers, a box of chocolates, or even a handshake. He wouldn't come down and ask her to join him for lunch or a cup of coffee.
For everyday sentimentality she always had Chase.
Dependable old Chase would always call her around lunch time to see if she was free. He would always take her out for a coffee if they were both having a slow day. Chase was there for all the little moments in her day when she just wanted to spend time with someone where every conversational nuance didn't require analysing for underlying meaning. Chase was the man she could relax around – he made no demands on her. He was the warm, comforting, dependable blanket she could wrap around herself after a day at the amusement park riding roller coasters.
But despite all her realisations of the differences between Chase and House, she still had no answer to the big 'What If?' – What if House ever admitted having feelings for her? What would she do then? What would happen if that day ever came? She had no answer to that. So she was with Chase, committed to a life with him, and continued to watch House covertly, knowing that she would always love him first, that she would hide her love for him beneath sheets of paper in a case file.