`He broke his leg. On Friday afternoon as it happens, which is why no one heard until today. What was he doing alone on one of your break and entry jobs?'
`Did he find at least find something to shed some light on the case?'
`Dr House!' Cuddy screeched. `He broke his leg! Because you sent him there.'
`I send Chase lots of places.'
`But this is the first time he's needed treatment afterwards.'
`Oh don't be ridiculous. He's always getting himself into trouble. Kids these days.' House shook his head in mock-despair.
As Cuddy got ready to start another diatribe, probably about how it was `wrong' to send his staff places where they might get their legs broken, House left to find Chase.
`That he's a genius? A diagnostic mastermind? Just too damn handsome?' House asked hopefully.
Chase turned to the doorway. His face was pale, and he winced as Foreman leant too heavily on the cast while he signed it, but he managed to focus on his boss. `Here. Found these in the patient's medicine cabinet.' He tossed a bottle at House, who caught it easily.
`See?' House explained, although who he was explaining to was unclear, `he can be taught to fetch.'
Cameron gave him a reproaching look, and patted Chase's arm. `You'll be fine.'
`I know I'll be fine,' he answered in surprise. `It's just a broken leg.'
`You were in surgery, Chase! They had to put a pin in it!'
`Cameron, anyone would think you want me to be upset.'
`Of course I don't. I'm just... this is a big deal.'
`Do you want a ride home?'
`I'll get a taxi.'
`I can drive you.'
`Okay, okay,' she muttered. `I just wanted to help.'
`Sorry,' Chase replied, almost under his breath.
`Duckling on duckling violence is so cruel,' House mused. `So, tell me again how you managed to do this.'
`Did I tell you the first time?'
`Then what makes you think...?'
`Because I'm your boss, and you don't have a choice.'
Chase winced, and House pretended not to notice. So what if he wasn't above a little emotional blackmail? No one could prove that he was echoing Chase's words. And if reminding Chase of his betrayal got the job done faster, who would care anyway? Well, Cuddy maybe, but only because she had that stupid soft-spot for nice young doctors who had just been in surgery to stick giant metal pins in their legs.
`I went to Jennifer Glass's house like you asked me.'
`Don't make this my fault.'
`There was a window open downstairs, so I climbed in,' Chase went on without a pause. `I was looking through her medicine cabinet when I heard a noise. Turns out her brother had the key to her apartment. He hit me.'
`And broke your leg? Must have some punch.'
`That wasn't what broke the leg. He slammed it in the door.'
House grimaced involuntarily. `Why didn't you tell him you were her doctor?'
`You think I didn't try?'
`You don't have ID?' House called back in the same tone.
`Most people, when they think their sister's being robbed, don't stop and wait while you search your pockets.'
`Pity,' House responded blithely. He walked over to look at the x-rays. `Nasty. Crutches for you, gimpy. Are you trying to show me up?'
`If your crutches come with slimming go-faster stripes, I'll begin to suspect your motives.'
`You think I'm copying you?'
`I am an excellent role model,' House proclaimed. And on that, he left the room.
It was possible this was a bad idea. Chase was lying on the floor of the office, yelping pitifully. Foreman was sniggering and Cameron was trying, largely ineffectually, to help him back up. Eventually they managed to get him pulled up and hanging onto the chair. Chase took the crutches back from Cameron and swung them about as if he didn't know what to do with them.
House walked to his desk, ignoring the chaos, and set down his bag. Chase was still clinging onto the back of the chair. He poked at the floor with the crutch but didn't lean on it. He looked as if he was waiting for the ground to swallow him up.
House took what, in a lesser man, might be called pity on him. `Oh for the love of...' He walked over to beside Chase. `You've never had to show someone how to do this?' He poked his cane at Cameron, `And you've never helped some poor, tragically crippled kid to learn how to walk on his own again? And as for you!'
`I'm a neurologist!' Foreman exclaimed.
`You were laughing. I assumed this was because you knew what to do and were arrogantly enjoying his suffering. As that apparently wasn't the case - shut up.'
House hung his cane on the crook of his elbow, using Chase for balance instead. He plucked the crutches from Chase's hands, spinning him around so they faced each other, holding each other up. `Hey!' Chase complained.
House ignored him, gesturing with the crutches. `These are too tall. Someone,' he glared at Foreman, `seems to have adjusted them to my height rather than wombat height.'
Chase protested mildly, `I'm not that much shorter than you.'
`And my breasts are just as full and exciting as Cuddy's. Now that we've finished lying about our attributes, hold still.'
`What are you doing?'
`Twitchy, aren't we?'
House lifted Chase's arm, disregarding the quiet squeak, and moved the crutch under the intensevist's armpit. He measured out the distance with four fingers, and twisted the crutch down so that there was a hand's breadth between Chase's underarm and the top of the crutch.
`That won't hold me up.'
`Wasn't doing it before anyway. Or was that not you lying on the floor squealing?'
`I didn't squeal,' he muttered.
`Did too,' House answered distractedly. With careful hands, he adjusted the other crutch to match, and propped Chase up with them. `At an angle to your body, to make a tripod. Just like the creepy aliens in the movie. `
Chase looked as if he was going to complain again, and then changed his mind. House's actions were apparently enough to confuse him into submission. `Thanks,' he said softly.
`Can't have you trying to use this as an excuse to take more sick-leave.' House answered steadily. `Who would I send to read the four thousand causes of headaches?' He looked Chase up and down. `Weight on the wrists and hands,' he observed quietly.
Chase experimentally started around the room, painfully slowly. House snorted derisively and used his cane, much more quickly, to propel himself to the white-board. `What have we got?'
Cameron was still looking shocked at the display of almost affection from House towards Chase, but recovered hastily. `Twenty-seven year old male, symptoms...'
Chase continued round the table as the discussion progressed, offering his opinion as he shuffled in circles.
`Chase!' House snapped finally. `You're making me dizzy. Unless you believe, admittedly not without reason, that your shirt would be improved by me throwing up on it, sit down!'
Chase went to lean against the wall instead, observing House sulkily.
They had gone as far with the diagnosis as they could without their usual breaking and entering. House sent Cameron along with Foreman this time - funny as it might be for Chase to break the other leg, it would definitely hinder his work to be in a wheelchair, and House needed all three ducklings. He caught Chase's attention as the Australian limped out of the room. `Back up against the chair, crutches in left hand. Hold onto the chair and the crutches, and slide the injured leg forward as you sit. That's how you do it.'
A deep blush rose up Chase's cheeks. `I'm not an idiot.'
`Well, yes, you are, actually. You managed to break your leg in a single storey building, and without any kind of vehicle. That's very impressive - it breaks all kinds of trends. And you didn't tell anyone that the crutches weren't at the right height, or that you didn't know how to use them. But at this moment we'll put aside your idiocy and just point out that someone should have told you how to get into a chair with them. I might as well put my expertise to use.'
`It's harder than it looks,' Chase admitted.
`You just lack my natural dexterity,' House said. He smirked as a thought struck him. `Hey! We should race. Bet I can get to oncology before you can. Wilson can be judge.'
Chase shook his head, smiling slightly. `I'll stick to agonisingly slow limping for the minute, thanks.'
`Coward,' House sneered.
Chase just smiled again and, after some negotiation with the doorway, left to talk to the patient.
But instead there was something almost painful about it. Chase's awkwardness with everything else - social skills, family, authority - translated to the physical so it could be seen by everyone. And House knew that no one but him would see it that way, and he already knew about Chase's multitude of psychological problems. Still, there was something uncomfortable about it.
Chase glared, but came anyway. He was well-trained.
`Now, now, no need for that.'
Chase looked at House pointedly. After a moment, he attempted to fold his arms, forgetting about the crutches. He caught his balance and untangled himself, refusing to meet House's eyes now. `Did you actually need anything, or did you just call me over to trip me up?'
`First,' House pointed out, `I didn't call you, I whistled. Much more difficult. You have to put your lips together and blow.' He drew out the last word, mentally awarding himself points as Chase looked uncomfortable. `Second,' he went on, `I didn't trip you. That little display of grace was entirely your own doing. One would almost think you wanted to lie at my feet, the number of tumbles you've taken these past few weeks.'
`Couldn't be anything to do with these of course,' Chase answered petulantly, waving one crutch in House's direction. At least he didn't try and wave them both around this time. Although it would be interesting to see just how much humiliation Chase could take - it had to be in the high eighties today by House's personal count.
`Come on,' he said, walking off without looking to see if Chase followed. Of course, that never stopped him knowing when Chase did. And this time was like all the others. Chase was just like that. He'd follow House without asking why, preferring to ask all the questions as they walked. It saved time, he would be following anyway because House was his boss and he had to, and at any rate, House was always right. All of which made the whole Vogler episode even more puzzling. Chase was the one that liked him. Oh, Cameron had her whole crush thing, and Foreman respected him, but neither of them laughed at House the way Chase did. And neither of them trusted his diagnosis quite as often as Chase. His intensevist would argue with him until he was ordered to stop, but once House had made the call, Chase rarely questioned it. There was something just not quite right about Chase being the one to sell him out. House couldn't quite believe that there wasn't more to it than there seemed. Maybe he trusted Chase more than he thought. Or maybe he was just looking for a new puzzle.
`What are we doing? Is there a problem with Mr Thomas?' Chase asked, dragging House out of his reverie.
`He's jaundiced, yeah.'
`There's a problem with some other patient?'
`Just to see how long I could keep you guessing. Keep going, you're getting warm.'
`Nah I was just kidding. You're pretty cold.'
`Okay,' Chase answered in resignation. `We're going towards the lift. That could mean we're going anywhere.'
`You've got your bag, so we could be leaving the hospital? But you don't leave the hospital unless you're going for lunch with Wilson or you're going home.'
`I'm not Wilson, and I'm not following you home.'
`Good, because that would be creepy and stalker-like. Try again.'
Chase paused. `You have my bag.'
`And that means?'
`Apparently I am following you home.'
They were in the elevator now, and as House pushed the button for the car park, Chase's eyes widened comically.
`Close,' House said, `but no cigar. They're bad for you anyway. Put all sorts of nasties in your lungs.'
`So I've heard. House, what are we...?'
`I'm driving you home.' If Chase's eyes had been wide before they were saucers now. Giant blue saucers... House smirked. `What?'
`You're driving me home?'
`Well I asked Cameron but she seems to think you bite. I told her sometimes that's half the fun and she went a very odd colour and ran away. Why do you think that was?'
`A genius? Didn't we have this conversation before?'
`I don't get it. Why would you...'
`Are you going to finish a sentence anytime soon, or is this punishment for my guessing game? Get in the car. Don't scuff the seats or leave candy wrappers lying around.'
`I don't have any candy,' Chase answered weakly, levering himself into the seat.
`Well I'm not buying you any. You'll get high on the sugar.'
`Did you take too many pills today or something?'
`Why is everything I do blamed on my Vicodin?'
`Most of the things you do are blamed on you being you actually.'
House conceded that point, and drove silently to Chase's apartment. `There. Door to door service.'
`How do you know where I live?'
House ignored him. Checking the personnel files was too boring an answer and this way he got to see Chase get edgy and paranoid.
`Do you...' Chase started nervously, looking at his feet instead of House, `d'you want to come in for a coffee or something?'
`Dr. Chase! I'm shocked. Propositioning your boss like that could get you fired you know. '
Chase blushed again. For those keeping count, it was the seventh House-induced blush of the day. `I think it's the more often the other way round actually. Anyway, umm... thanks. Bye.'
`No, I think I'll take you up on the coffee after all. You might fall on the way up the steps, and I'd hate to miss that.'
Looking more comfortable now that their relationship was back to mockery, Chase got out of the car and led the way up the steps, treading carefully. They rode the elevator silently, and House waited at the door as Chase fiddled with the keys to get in. He got in eventually and House looked around at the apartment. It was nice, in a cold kind of way. Unlived in.
Chase gestured towards the couch and walked towards the other door. `Coffee, yeah?'
Chase returned with coffee just how House liked it. He supposed that months of being yelled at and having the coffees practically spat back at him was a good learning aid. Chase lowered himself into the couch carefully, following the instructions House gave him earlier that day.
`So,' House asked when Chase was settled down beside him. `How was your day?'
Chase looked at him, baffled.
`What?' House asked, as innocently as he could manage. `Isn't this what people do?'
He shrugged. `People. I don't know. Boring ones probably.'
`Most people just start into the conversation you know.'
`Okay, lets. Why did you sell me out to Vogler?'
Chase sputtered. `That's not what I meant!'
`I'm sorry, clearly I misunderstood. Answer the damn question, Chase.'
`Was that what all this was about? Act nice so you can drag all this up again?'
`I don't need to act nice to drag all this up again. This is me being nice - I didn't ask in front of Cameron and Foreman.'
`This is you being nice?' Chase asked incredulously.
`Don't change the subject. Why did you do it? Was it to get back at me for something? About your Dad maybe? Or was it jealousy in the playpen? Did I play with Cameron and Foreman more than you? Or did you just think your job was worth more than anyone else's?' House spat out the words quickly and more angrily than he had intended.
Chase's eyes were fixed firmly on the hands in his lap. `You were going to fire me.'
`I had to fire one of you.'
`And it was going to be me.'
`No, I was planning on playing eenie-meanie-miney mo to decide. Yes, it was you.'
`Your job means that much to you?'
`Enough that I would risk you, that's what you mean?'
`Well, yes. Cause that's the part that really gets me. It's my job, after all.'
`He was never going to fire you,' Chase answered dismissively.
`I think you'll find you're wrong.'
`He needed the board to do it, and you had Wilson and Cuddy.'
`That's where we come to the really amusing part of the story. You nearly lost Wilson his job too. Did it start to feel bad then? Or was that part of the fun?'
`I didn't think...'
`No, you didn't.'
`What's so wrong with it?'
`Not thinking? Well in our profession, Dr. Chase, it tends to get people killed.'
`Wanting to keep my job. I didn't think he would fire you. You're one of the best doctors in the hospital, one of the best diagnosticians in the world. The rest of us, for our whole careers, the most interesting thing on our CV is going to be that we worked for you. That you thought we were good enough. I didn't think he would fire you.' Chase finished simply, almost childishly.
`Stop, I'm blushing.
`Everything's a joke to you.'
`No, everything's a puzzle. They're just more fun if you can laugh at them.'
`So I've stopped being a puzzle now that I've told you?'
`You, Chase, are always a puzzle,'
Chase looked at House, shocked at the quiet sincerity. `I don't...'
`What did I tell you about finishing sentences?'
`That one day you're going to give me time to do it?'
`Hmm... it doesn't sound like me. Are you sure?'
`Must have been my other misanthropic, sadistic boss I guess.' Chase smiled unsurely, waiting to be told that he wasn't allowed to mock House again yet.
But mock wasn't quite the right word. He was teasing. House pondered that for a moment. Experimentally, he put a finger to Chase's cheek. Chase's eyes fluttered closed and he breathed in sharply.
`Shush. I need to concentrate.' Leaning in, careful of both their legs, he kissed Chase. He felt the gasp against his lips, and couldn't resist the slight smirk.
Chase backed away, looking hurt.
`What now?' House asked, glaring. `Did you miss me saying I needed to concentrate?'
`You can't just...'
`You want me to stop? Because I'll admit we're a little constrained in the variety of fun activities we can get up to tonight. One bad leg in a bed is quite enough without adding a second one into the mix. But you didn't seem to be objecting much to what I was doing.'
`Wilson was right,' Chase said in a strange non sequitur.
`Oh, what about this time?' he asked in mild exasperation.
`You just like things that are broken.' Chase was looking at his lap again.
House couldn't tell if he was talking about the leg or about himself. `I think he said crazy, actually,' he corrected. `And don't worry.' Chase looked up and House focussed on him, meeting the blue-eyed gaze unwaveringly. `I promise I'll still think you're broken in the morning.'
Chase smiled softly, taking the comment as an endearment. House leant towards him, hands in Chase's hair. Maybe it was.