Written for: hawkeyecat, who requested House/Chase and a bath brush
Spoilers: None that I know of
Disclaimer: Not mine, never mine (sark is mine!)
Author's Notes: So very sorry it's late! Computer problems, then coming back to school...well, no excuses. Hope you enjoy it; I know it's probably not exactly what you were looking for, but I hope it works. Thanks to Em for hosting the bubbleficathon and to my Becs for the beta work! She rocks by the way.
Distribution: For the bubblefic archive, it's all good, Em. For others, ask and ye shall receive. My loyalties are flexible, but stealing from me is not. No touchy or I go all banner ad on your ass.
Robert Chase was dying.
Or at the very most, he was praying fervently for death.
It’d been a simple cold, something that went around the hospital hundreds of times a year and usually it came and went without much notice.
For Chase, it had turned into the cold from hell. After a week his nose was bright red and so congested he was breathing through his mouth, his lips and cheeks were chapped raw and he had a constant headache.
Cameron had kept him up with herbal teas and Foreman had written all kinds of prescriptions, but House, being the kind and concerned sort that he was, had picked the suffering Chase up by the scruff of his neck and tossed him out of the office, telling him to ‘come back when he sounded less like Darth Vader and more like Luke Skywalker’.
It was now going on 15 days, and Chase was in no way getting better. In fact, he felt a hell of a lot worse. The congestion was the worst; he couldn’t sleep for longer than an hour because he’d wake up choking.
He flopped over onto his stomach, coughing roughly and kicking apart his sheets and blankets. He wanted to get up and take a shower. He hadn’t had the energy to bathe in a few days and it made him feel more like crap. He pushed himself up, but his head spun from being elevated and his arms shook like crazy. He knew he was weak from not eating anything but a few bites of bread now and then.
He fell back down and bunched his head under his pillows. Maybe if he could get a few hours good sleep, he’d be able to properly function, or at least eat. He coughed feebly, closed his eyes and drifted off.
In his dream, he was five again and his mum was giving him a bath. That used to be his favourite time as a child: just before bed, with the water the perfect temperature and loads of bubbles, and his ships and army men. He got to play by himself for ten minutes, as long as he didn’t splash all over the floor and then his mother would wash his hair with Johnson’s shampoo. Then when he was dry, she’d dress him in his warm flannel pajamas, comb out his hair, followed by stories and hugs.
In his sleepy haze he could smell the thick heat in the air, the scent of soap hanging around him. He waited to feel a soft hand brush aside his hair, hear his mum’s voice sing an old lullaby that she loved…
“My god you look awful. And you call yourself a doctor?”
He didn’t believe it. He had to be hallucinating.
Something hard poked him in the side and he jerked awake. He opened his eyes and blinked a few time to reassure himself that, yes, House was standing there in his bedroom, his cane resting beside Chase’s hip, ready to poke again.
“Go away,” Chase moaned.
“Get up,” House demanded, prodding the prone Chase again, a bit harder this time.
“I’m sick,” Chase complained. “Go away. I’m in enough hell as it is.”
“You’re sick; that’s why I’m here,” House used his cane to push aside the bedding. “Because you obviously can’t take care of yourself and I’m not going through the hassle of finding another intensivist because my old one is too stupid to look after himself when he’s sick.” The cane poked Chase in the stomach this time. “Get. Up.”
Chase rolled over and grabbed one of his pillows away from House’s cane. “How’d you get in here, anyway?” he grunted.
“Does that matter?” House asked, kicking aside the clothes littered on the floor. “Just because you have the sniffles doesn’t excuse you from general neatness. Or were you hoping Mommy would come by and do it for you?”
Chase scowled at his boss. “Ha ha, very funny and all that, now please just leave!”
House sighed. “See if I ever come to your help again.”
“I didn’t ask for your help! And you’re not helping!”
“Fine,” House smirked. “Just go and wash yourself up.” He gave Chase’s mattress another prod and left the room.
Chase scowled. Apparently if one was not bleeding out of every orifice, one was not sick, in House’s mind. Chase hugged his one pillow to his chest, but he wanted his blankets back. Damn House. He felt like staying in bed just to be stubborn, but he had to pee. He pushed himself to a semi – standing position and felt his way across his room and down the hall to the bathroom.
He wouldn’t have noticed, seeing as he was concentrating on staying upright, but he gave the mirror a quick glance while washing his hands. It was fogged.
He squinted. That wasn’t right. He wiped the condensation off.
“Get in the bath!”
He jerked himself up and the room spun. House…but at least outside the bathroom, with the door still closed tight. Chase blinked himself right and saw the bathtub.
The full bathtub.
House had…drawn him a bath?
He was going delirious. That was the only explanation. Or else he was still dreaming…only now it was a nightmare.
“If you don’t move, I’m coming in there.”
Christ, how did that man know?
Chase peeled away his boxers and gingerly stepped one foot into the full tub. Hot, but not unbearably so. He brought his other foot in, then slowly folded himself down. Hot water lapped at his shoulders and chest. He took a deep breath, let the heavy air run through his congested lungs.
It felt good. Days of lying around wrapped in dirty sheets and not properly washing slipped away. He closed his eyes and sank down, down, until his head was covered, then came back up before he was out of breath. He lay back, rested his head against the tub edge and sighed. He felt ten times better already. He wanted to stay there forever, let the water soothe and the bubbles wash away the days.
“Don’t bother drowning; won’t let your problems go away.”
Water sloshed over the side as Chase sat up quickly, drawing his knees up and his hands down to cover himself. “Bloody hell!”
“Oh relax,” House scoffed. “Nothing I haven’t seen before.” He poked Chase’s knee. “Or should I say, nothing much to see?”
“Shut up,” Chase blushed. “Alright, you’ve had your fun, you’ve earned your ‘good boy’ points for the year, so could you leave me alone?”
“Oh, I don’t think so,” House smirked. “I’d be worried that you might pass out and hit your head, or choke on your own vomit or something.” He shifted over and knocked the toilet seat and cover down with his cane before sitting down. “Can’t have you dying on me. All that paperwork, you know.”
“I’ll be fine,” Chase squirmed. He knew he was probably bright red from House’s scrutiny. House ignored him and bent over to open the cabinets under the sink. “What’re you doing?”
“Snooping,” came House’s muffled reply. Chase thought about telling House that he hadn’t looked down there for ages, but it wouldn’t make a difference. He brought his knees down, but kept his hands over his crotch. He was sort of glad he was sick and not comfortable enough to get an impromptu erection. That was a saving grace.
A box of plastic bandages landed with a plop near his shin. “Oi!” The bathroom floor was littered with various toiletries. “Now you’re just ransacking!”
“Oh, relax,” came the muffled reply. House emerged with a blue bottle in his hand. “Lavender?” he asked with a raised eyebrow.
“That was left…some ex-girlfriend…” Chase stammered.
“Uh huh. And you just happen to keep it around?”
“House, please. If you have to be a pain in my ass, can’t you do it quietly?”
“I’m going to find something to read,” House muttered. He shuffled off, kicking aside all the junk on the floor and closing the door behind him.
Chase counted to 100 three times before fully relaxing. He even took his hands away. The water had done its’ work and he was now not caring what House was doing at his place, or what rude comments House felt like making. After all, House was invading on his privacy. He let the water lull him to sleep.
He was dreaming of warm beaches and soft hands rubbing his back when he was bumped in the shoulder. “When I get better, I’m going to break that cane over my knee,” he murmured without opening his eyes.
“You wish,” he heard House say. “Lay a hand on my cane and you’ll be begging for mercy.” His last word was accompanied by a sharp ‘thwap.’
Chase opened one eye and peeked up. Then opened both eyes. House was leaning over him slightly, slapping the business end of a bath brush against his hand. “Wanna try a little sample of the punishment right now?”
“It’s a bath brush, House,” Chase said exasperatedly.
“Right up your alley. I mean, that’s your kink, isn’t it?” House ran his hand down the handle, then dropped the head to brush Chase’s shoulder.
“I think I’m ready to get out now,” Chase said hurriedly. He propped his hands on the sides to get up, but the bath brush dug into his skin. “Okay, I guess I’m not. Does this mean you’re gonna wash my back for me?”
House used the brush to bump Chase’s shampoo off the shower shelf. “You need to wash your hair.” He sat back down on the toilet seat and flipped open a book, one of the thick leather-bound theology texts Chase kept on the bottom bookshelf.
Chase sighed, lathered up and worked on scrubbing his hair. It was thick and knotty, the product of almost two weeks of his shifting around in bed. Water ran down his face and he closed his eyes to stop the soap from getting in them. It felt so good to be clean. Clean and comfortable and slightly less sick than he had been before.
Before he could duck under and rinse, there was a hand on his neck. He tilted his head back instinctively. The warm water slid across his head and down his back and he suppressed a happy moan. He kept his eyes closed the whole time, trying hard not to enjoy the hand on his neck more than he knew he should. He kept his eye closed even when the rinsing stopped and he heard House move away. When he finally opened them, towels and a fresh pair of pajama bottoms sat on the sink. His legs were a little shaky when he stood, but he was able to dry himself off properly and pull the pants on without falling over.
A quick look around the rest of the apartment revealed that House had left. Chase poured himself a glass of cold water from the tap and drank it slowly. While he felt 10 times better, he was relieved that it had ended the way it had, that House had left with no explanation. It was going to be weird enough from now on, facing his boss and thinking about this night. He refilled his glass and went back to his room.
The clothes on his floor were gone and it looked like House had changed the bedding and – Chase sniffed – sprayed some kind of air freshener. It made him smirk.
“Something funny about cleanliness?” House was standing by the dresser, closing one of the drawers.
“Thought you’d left,” Chase said, sitting down and tucking his legs under the covers. God, but it felt great to be clean.
“Remember what I said about the paperwork?” House said dryly.
Chase lay back and watched House pick up his cane from the dresser. He waited until House was at the bedroom door before speaking up. “Aren’t you going to tuck me in, too?” he said with a touch of sarcasm.
He held his breath as House paused, met his eyes when he turned back to look at Chase. He kept his eyes on House, watched him put the cane back down, walk over to the side of the bed, grab the covers and pull them up to Chase’s shoulders. He watched, frozen, as House’s face came down close to his, so close, mere centimetres from his. They stayed that way for long stretched out seconds before Chase tilted his chin up and let his lips gently brush against House’s.
House kissed him back, just that same soft press of lips for a minute before drawing back. Chase tried to sit up and follow, but he was pushed back down. “Get some rest or you’re fired,” House said gruffly. He stood and picked up his cane. Before he left the room he turned and smirked. “Unlike some people, I can’t afford to be sick.”
“Guess I’ll just take a rain check, hmm?” Chase murmured.