PAIRING: Chase/Thirteen; (Chase/Cameron)

WARNINGS: Sex, Season 7 premiere spoilers

NOTES: Yes, I know I owe you guys the last chapter of Beginning Now. Yes, I also know this is sort of blasphemous for me to be writing. Don't worry, I haven't abandoned the faction or any of my current projects. This just popped into my head during the premiere tonight and demanded to be written. I'd love it if you'd give it a chance.


All his life, Chase has prided himself on being numbed to disappointment. He has grown up teaching himself to expect the worst, to distrust the best, and to camouflage total disaster. Yet the past few months have taxed the limits of this expertise, have threatened to break through his carefully-cultivated disinterest.

He has surprised himself this day, with the sudden unbearable need for any semblance of true closeness. He can't say what exactly has changed within himself, whether it is House's absence, or the prospect of yet another person in his life about to walk off into the ether, but he feels unhinged, in need of something to hold onto. Thirteen has seemed to emerge somehow as the safe choice, because of her aloofness, mystery, impossibility. Because even her name is still somehow impersonal to him. Because she is about to vanish from his life, the inevitable end clearly defined. There can be no future.

And yet her rejection stings in a way that is unexpected, still difficult for him to define. He has shared more than he's intended, and driving home in the dark feels as though his world is just a little emptier again.

The condo is silent and too cool in the moonlight. Chase makes his way straight to the refrigerator, popping the top off a bottle of beer and downing half of it in a few gulps before turning the lights on. It does nothing to dull the pain of the divorce papers lying on the counter, his future solitude finalized and neatly photocopied, folded neatly into an envelope as though somehow it might be simple. Finishing the drink, he runs his thumb over the neat loops of Cameron's signature, as though this last connection through ink might somehow allow him to reach across the distance. Closing his eyes, he feels almost as though he can smell her perfume, hear her bare footfalls on the wood floor at night.

He's lost track of time when the knock at the door shatters his reverie, sending him scrambling to pick up the pieces of his composure. His heart is pounding in his chest as he goes to answer it, ghosts of memories swirling before his eyes. Thirteen is standing there, looking small and somehow fragile under the harsh porch light, her arms wrapped around herself in a way that takes him back to another night and another doorstep.

"I'm not here to talk," she says, before Chase can manage any sort of greeting.

"I know you're not going to Rome," he manages, after a moment, swallowing. He can smell the sharpness of alcohol on her breath, and there's something about her eyes that makes him wonder what exactly she's taken before coming here.

"And I said I didn't come here to bare my soul," Thirteen repeats, stepping past him into the front hallway almost brusquely. "I didn't push it when you didn't want to talk last Thanksgiving."

Chase finds himself closing the door behind her almost before he's realized what's happening. His mind feels clouded and too slow, dulled by the mire of déjà vu. "Then what did you come here for?"

"Were you serious about having sex with me?" Thirteen shoves her hands into her pockets, looking up at him through her eyelashes in an expression which is equal parts familiar and inscrutable. "Because now's your chance. Onetime offer."

"Why?" asks Chase, suddenly unable to simply accept this. "What changed your mind?"

But Thirteen simply crosses her arms, meeting his gaze and staring in silence until the tension between them becomes unbearable. They are the same, Chase realizes, and that is the real reason why she is safe. There is no delusion that they might be able to complete each other, parallel gaping holes in their lives.

"Yes," Chase answers at last, firmly, decision made.

He doesn't wait for Thirteen to react, instead stepping forward and deftly finding the top button of her shirt. Her fingers capture his tie, skimming along its silky length before undoing the knot and letting it slither to the floor. Chase pushes her blouse from her shoulders, unhooking her bra in one fluid motion. Clothes pool on the floorboards between them until they are both naked, exposed before one another yet no closer to true intimacy.

Chase skims his hands along the curve of her back, feeling the subtle swell of vertebrae beneath his palms. There is a strangeness to her body which makes him feel off balance, surrounded by memories and yet distinct in this moment. She sucks in a breath as he circles her nipple with his thumb, her muscles all lithe, shifting tautness. Thirteen does not hesitate as she reaches out and takes hold of his erection, the caress of her thumb against the head of his cock making his knees feel loose and rubbery. But there is a coldness in her movements as well, the distance she keeps wrapped around herself like a shroud.

Taking hold of his shoulders, she steers him back toward the couch, and Chase sucks in a breath of relief. The bedroom is still too personal, still too filled with the shards of his marriage. Thirteen is as controlled in sex as she is in the rest of her life, and Chase finds himself wondering yet again what she is hiding in her impending disappearance. There is no hint of weakness in the rhythm of her body against his, no portent of death or disease in the quickness of her breathing. And yet she is utterly silent as she comes, as though she might already be nothing more than another ghost.

Chase is shaking as he sinks back against the couch, from more than simple physical exhaustion. This has been a mistake, yet another desperate stab at salvaging the world that is rapidly crumbling around him. And he is jealous, he realizes, that he is not the one vanishing into the void of the unknown. Frustrated that he has been unable to make the leap into any sort of new beginning.

Pushing herself off of him, Thirteen dresses in a rush, then leaves without a word. Chase lies there shivering for a long time, feeling suffocated by phantoms, yet more alone than ever.

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