By Scarlett Burns
House MD Fan Fiction
Summary: Set after the events of "Nobody's Fault" and "Chase" in season 8. House and Chase have a much needed talk, and come to understand each other in the process. One-Shot. Friendship.
Author's Note: Just a little something I'd have loved to see. A little bit of foul language below, but not much. Thanks for reading!
"You were right," a familiar voice said from behind him, sounded irritated by the admission.
"I'd think you'd be used to that by now," House said wryly, watching two joggers run past. He didn't turn around to face Chase, instead tracking the joggers' progress up the hill until they hit the bend at the top and were obscured by the trees.
The sun would be setting soon and the breeze was cooler then it was fifteen minutes ago, yet he'd had no intention of moving from his post on the picnic table. However, now that Chase had sniffed him out, he wasn't so sure that would remain the case.
"Doesn't mean I have to like it," Chase replied, awkwardly limping into his view, quirking an eyebrow in irritation and sitting down next to him at the picnic table.
Unlike himself – butt on the table & feet on the bench – Chase actually sat down on the bench. "I just couldn't do that to her after what you said."
House turned his attention fully to his fellow. Despite Chase's vagueness, he knew exactly what was being discussed between them. Chase's hot nun had recently been discharged, her faith in God found, making the decision to also cut herself off from the outside world in the process. Chase had wanted to prove her newly restored beliefs false, but apparently couldn't bring himself to go through with it after all.
Still, the fact that Chase had gone out of his way to find him at the jogging park and tell him was a little surprising. Not quite sure where Chase was going with this, all he could think to say was, "It was the right thing to do. Think of your potential offspring; blonde hair, creepy eyes, British accent... would have been like raising your own Village of the Damned, one frightening child at a time." House mock shuddered. "The world isn't ready."
Lightly chuckling, Chase finally turned his attention to House, studying him for a moment before asking, "Why do you come here?"
"Isn't it obvious? It's like watching Baywatch without the beach," House lamely joked, but he wasn't feeling it. Chase was quickly crossing over to private territory, and it was beginning to make him edgy. He hoped that Chase wouldn't pick up on it, but he had a feeling he wasn't fooling anyone today; the events of the past couple weeks had left him feeling drained and conflicted.
"Yeah, those forty year old guys that just ran by had quite the rack," Chase said, then paused briefly before continuing. "I haven't seen you come out here in quite a while."
Sighing, House leaned back onto his elbows and looked up towards the sky, watching a plane as it flew overhead. He didn't want to admit Chase's stabbing had brought a lot of feelings to the surface that he thought best to leave buried. Watching everything Chase had gone through; thinking he was never going to walk again, going through PT, graduating to crutches, and now to a slight limp… it reminded him of his infarction more keenly than anything he could remember.
Only for Chase, his progress would not stop at the limping stage. He'd graduate with flying colors… he'd make a full recovery. Part of House couldn't be more relieved for the fellow he'd known for almost ten years… yet the other more ugly part of him was raging with jealousy.
He was a cripple. He'd always be a cripple. Chase would be spared that fate.
He'd never regain what Chase would regain, no matter how much PT or how many drugs he put into his system, or how hard he wanted it.
Realizing he hadn't responded to Chase, he finally looked back at him and answered, "I would have leapt over the prison walls to come here for my daily outdoor exercise but my bionic leg never arrived."
Chase's expression shifted from vaguely amused to something he couldn't quite place. To be honest, House didn't want to place it. He had the sinking feeling his own expression had somehow given him away.
He was glad for Chase… wasn't he? He didn't want Chase to be like him; had told Chase that only a few days ago and meant it.
"You know what I mean. I haven't seen you out here in years, even before… that."
"Are you stalking me or something? Because serenading me in my office would be more effective."
"Why don't you just admit it?"
House wasn't sure why Chase was pushing this point so hard. Bristling, he pierced Chase with an angrier stare then his words probably warranted. "Admit what, exactly?"
"You miss running."
House sucked in a breath of crisp evening air and turned away. He didn't discuss what he missed, how much his disability interfered with his life, or frustrated him. And on the rare occasion it did come up… it certainly wasn't with any of his fellows.
Despite House's uncomfortable silence, Chase continued. "I remember after the Ketamine treatment; you ran to work every day. You rode that ridiculous skateboard. You jogged up and down the stairs. You loved it. I'd never seen you like that… and I haven't since."
House rubbed his face tiredly. He didn't want to think about that. He didn't want to think about how happy… yes, happy… he'd been after the shooting; the all too brief glimpse into a life that was free of pain while the Ketamine had worked.
OK, so he came here and he remembered what it felt like. He remembered what it was like to not have to worry about excruciating pain, or his leg giving out, or the distance from one place to another. He came here to remember what it was like to be able to run until his heart pounded and he was exhausted. But none of that was Chase's business. No one needed to know that he sat here, thinking about everything he'd lost.
Angry that Chase was able to read him so easily, House snapped, "Where did you get this sudden idea that we were mates?"
Putting both hands underneath his bad leg to move it down off the bench, he stood to leave, stretching his stiff, aching leg as he did so. He didn't want to talk about any of this. It never led to anything good.
Chase snatched up his cane from where it had been lying on the table. House shot Chase an incredulous look. "Give it back," House demanded warningly, his patience hanging on by a thread. It hurt to even have to ask for it; to not be able to just get up and leave without worrying whether or not he could make it back to the hospital without stopping to rest his leg.
"Just… please, hear me out," Chase said, twisting the cane nervously in his hands, but not giving it up.
"As lovely as this trip down memory lane is, I think it's time I got back to our patient."
Chase looked at him… really looked at him. It reminded House of the time Chase had told him he'd always be the boss during the whole Dibala mess, except it was far more intense this time around. Having had enough, House turned to go.
"Even now, you can't admit it," Chase said from behind him, sounding a little surprised.
House spun around, angry, and shouted, "You have no idea-"
"No," Chase interrupted, meeting House's furious gaze with a steady one of his own. "No, I don't, not completely. But I've… had a glimpse into what it's like."
Waving off Chase's statement, House turned and started to walk away without his cane. He sure as hell didn't come out here to form some sad, pitiable bond with Chase; a bond that would eventually be forgotten when Chase fully recovered and left him limping in the dust.
Chase couldn't understand, and if he didn't end this now he knew he'd explode and say things he'd regret later.
He heard Chase get up from the bench and follow after him. They were both slow, so Chase didn't catch up immediately, but House's limp grew more pronounced with each step he took up the hill, and became slower the longer he walked, until the pain in his thigh made him stop next to a large tree, half way up the incline.
Smacking the tree angrily with his right hand, he let out a growl of frustration while his hand stung satisfyingly in response. He leaned against the tree, taking the weight off of his right leg. Chase finally caught up and handed House his cane without a word.
Taking it, House couldn't bring himself to look up from the ground, and he couldn't yet trust his leg to support him any further, even with the cane. He wished Chase would just leave, but the longer he stood there the more apparent it became that Chase wasn't going to give up so easily.
When did Chase grow a backbone?
"I know I have it easy compared to you, House," Chase finally said, breaking the silence, his voice sounding a little less certain then before.
Apparently the backbone wasn't completely finished growing, and clearly this was outside both of their comfort zones.
House rubbed his forehead, trying to keep his frustration in check. "It's not a damn contest. Just drop it."
The firmness in which Chase said it made House look up and meet his eyes again. He was startled to find steely resolve in there.
"These last few weeks have really opened my eyes…"
"What were you, a week old kitten?"
Chase ignored his comment, clearly determined to say whatever he wanted to say and not be sidetracked. "It takes a lot of energy and a lot of strength, House. I want you to know that I know that, and I respect you for it."
House stared long and hard at Chase, at a loss for something to say. People just didn't say things like that to him. He couldn't remember the last time anyone had acknowledged that; the fact was life was harder now then it was before, and even a standard day could leave him exhausted.
But… he'd never wanted that, had he? He didn't want people to know how hard it was.
"Why are you telling me this? Is this some weird cleansing after your near death experience?"
Shaking his head, Chase answered, "I wanted you to hear it."
House was nonplussed. Chase's frankness was throwing him off, and he didn't like it. After a moment House tried to turn the tables. "Is that what you wanted to hear?"
This time it was Chase's turn to look away. "I did hear it. I just don't think you've heard it in a long time."
House wasn't sure if he ever did hear it; not without a healthy dose of 'suck it up' right along with it. Certainly not since right after the infarction. "Why should I? It's been 14 years," House said, ashamed to hear some bitterness taint his words.
Chase looked back at him and stated simply, "Because it's been 14 years."
Perhaps it was the way Chase said it, as if he understood the sheer willpower it took, understood that for him the struggle was never ending... or perhaps it was just hearing someone else say how long it had been, but House felt a swell of emotions rise to the surface suddenly & unexpectedly. Closing his eyes, House took a long, deep breathe to get his emotion in check.
Fourteen years. Fourteen long years and counting.
"Old news," House finally said, about a minute later, when he could trust his voice again. "Plenty of people have it worse."
Chase didn't answer right away. What was there to argue with? They saw people all the time with diseases and accidents that left them far worse off than he was.
He felt a couple drops of water hit his face. It was starting to rain. Great.
"It's not a contest," Chase said, throwing House's words back at him.
Opening his eyes, House looked at Chase and felt… mutual understanding there.
He twirled his cane around once, and then set it back on the ground. He was taken aback; the understanding actually felt… good.
However, it was short lived. "But I can't accept your apology, House."
It felt as if Chase just dumped a bucket of cold water on him.
Momentarily frozen, the sound of someone walking by with their dog shook House out of his dismayed silence, and he preoccupied himself with watching a golden retriever piss on a nearby tree.
He'd hoped, perhaps stupidly, that when Chase had chosen to return to Diagnostics things were OK between them. But then again, could he blame Chase for holding a grudge? He'd been stabbed. Nearly lost his life. Nearly lost his ability to walk.
"You shouldn't," House said at last.
"No, I shouldn't. Because it wasn't your fault, you stupid bastard."
The words caused House to snap his attention back to Chase, once again caught off guard. "What?"
"You shouldn't have apologized. Wasn't your fault," Chase said firmly.
House's head was spinning. It had been his call that had set the wheels in motion for this monumental fuck up. How could Chase ignore that? "But I-"
The bluntness of it made House snort in amusement. "Is that what you told Cofield?" House asked, tapping his cane on the ground.
"More or less," Chase smirked.
Shaking his head, House started back up the hill, towards the hospital, anxious to get back to the patient… at least, that's what he told himself.
It wasn't because this conversation had ventured well beyond his comfort zone. Or that the grass would soon become slick when the sprinkles became a downpour, making it more difficult to get up the hill.
Chase followed and seemed content to be silent, having said everything he set out to say; maybe more.
"You know your sanity has gone walkabout, right?" House said after a minute, faking an Aussie accent.
Chase rolled his eyes, but was amused nonetheless. "Piss off."
As they reached the top of the hill, PPTH coming into full view, House smiled for the first time all day.