Summary: Five steps toward togetherness.
Pairing: Robert Chase/Eric Foreman
Rating: PG-13 at the most.
Disclaimer: I don’t own a thing.
Original story: Culpable by sheikah
Notes: Takes place back in the days of the original fellows still being fellows.
“Eleven letters,” Chase mutters to himself. He doodles in the corner of the page, a sheep becoming a puppy becoming some sort of mutated elephant. “Stage of life, starts with an ‘a’…”
He doesn’t know why he challenges himself to crosswords. Maybe for the doodling space. It’s not like he can appropriate House’s whiteboard for his doodling, unless he wants House to turn his doodles into something perverse.
There’s a thought to kill his sex drive. The mutated elephant doing something dirty. He takes the pen away from the page and taps it against his teeth instead.
“What are you thinking about, Chase?” Foreman asks as he pours himself a cup of coffee, strong and sweet. He half-leans against the counter, arm across his chest as he sips at it.
Forget that about killing his sex drive. It’s back, in full force. The sight of Foreman standing there, arm slightly flexed like that…Chase reddens slightly. It’s a good thing he’s sitting. Just to be sure, he shifts closer to the table. “Thirty-three down.” Foreman isn’t House. He shouldn’t notice anything. “Eleven letters, stage of life, starts with—”
“Adolescence,” Foreman supplies. He tosses back the rest of his coffee and sets the mug in the sink. Foreman, Chase notices, doesn’t rinse his mug, even though it’s right under the faucet. “Drinks tonight? My place?”
Chase’s jaw tightens, very slightly. Foreman can’t know what he’s doing. Much as Chase would like to think he could get some of that ass, or even that mouth, he knows Foreman better. Even if Foreman wants that, he won’t have it. He’ll get a wife, cute kids, and a department headship, not furtive supply-closet fucking. “Busy tonight. Rounds.”
Foreman shrugs and leans in to pick his lab coat off the back of a chair. “Some other time.”
Chase swears it’s his imagination. Foreman’s face can’t have fallen.
“This is ridiculous,” Chase hisses at Foreman. Foreman kicks at his ankle, trying to ignore the pout that earns. “Nobody’s going to buy that we’re students.”
“Non-traditional,” Foreman mutters. “Besides, you look young enough.” He tries not to check out Chase’s ass as he pushes through wide auditorium doors, but it’s hard with how those jeans, soft-looking and worn, fit his ass. “Do you think they really pay attent—”
The words die in his throat. House didn’t mention that they were sneaking into an art class to see if there were environmental causes for their patient’s respiratory failure. House especially didn’t mention that the class had nude models or that they’d stand out among the fifteen or so apparently-regular, definitely skilled students.
“Uh…wrong class,” Chase stutters, turning back toward the door. “Sorry, I—sorry.”
“Looking for biology,” Foreman offers lamely as he follows Chase back out. As soon as the door closes, he says, “I’m going to kill him. At least spike his Vicodin with something. A placebo, maybe.”
“Then he’ll kill us,” Chase points out. He pushes his hair back. “Let’s get lunch while we’re here. We can try to expense it.”
Lunch between colleagues, obviously. Not even lunch between friends; there’s no point in thinking otherwise. Foreman shrugs. “Sure, it’s been a while since I’ve killed my stomach with school cafeteria food.”
Cameron buys the next round. Shots for all of them: tequila for her, gin for Foreman, whiskey for Chase. They all down them silently, only Chase's eyes burning at the sting. It’s not habit for him.
“He can’t be leaving,” Cameron bursts out. Foreman looks over at her, impassive.
“He can if he wants,” Chase says. “It sucks, but if he—”
“He hasn’t approved my article!” Cameron interrupts. Foreman stifles a snicker, and Chase starts thinking about calling a cab for her.
“You think he’ll ever approve it?” Foreman asks her. “Just tell him he doesn’t have to read it. That’s what I’d do.”
Cameron glowers at him. “That’s what you’ve done.”
“I think you’ve had enough.” Chase doesn’t want to get stuck with the two of them working on getting drunk and having the same argument. “You want a cab?”
“You’re always on his side,” Cameron sulks. She stands, wavering a little. “I’ll get my own cab.”
“I’m not on sides!” This is what it’s like to have siblings, Chase decides, except people don’t look at their siblings as people to take to bed. That also rules out children, especially since they’re both older than he is. “House won’t leave, Cameron. Go home and go to sleep.”
He watches her march away through the crowd, until Foreman says, “Think we should make sure she gets home?”
Chase shrugs, turning back to Foreman. “Nah, I’d rather stay here.” The words slip out before he can stop him, and Chase reminds himself—This is why you don’t drink.
“Anybody want to go to dinner?” The question would not have been to the room at large if House hadn’t left three hours earlier, claiming leg pain. Foreman suspects it’s more like groin pain, judging by the snippet of a phone call he overheard five minutes before House exaggeratedly hobbled outside.
Cameron shakes her head, picking up another chart. “I’m on for the night.”
Foreman cocks an eyebrow. “We don’t have a patient.”
“Dr. Cocker in Rheumatology asked me to observe a patient.” She shrugs, pen cap tracing along the paper in front of her. “I didn’t know dinner was on the table when I agreed.” She glances up at Foreman, flashing him a smile.
“Too bad. I was going to pay, too. Chase?”
“Backup date?” Chase shrugs on his jacket. “Sure. Cameron, you’re on call, right?”
“For our zero patients?” She rolls her eyes. “Yeah. I’m on call.”
“I’ll take the next zero-patient night,” Chase promises. Generous of him.
Foreman and Chase walk out together. Instead of the elevator, though, Chase pushes open the door to the stairwell. “Exercise,” he explains. “New Year’s resolution.”
“It’s June,” Foreman points out, smirking.
“Then Solstice resolution,” Chase shoots back. “You don’t mind, right?”
Foreman shrugs and starts down the stairs. “Has nothing to do with adding on ten pounds? Where do you want to eat?”
Chase’s squawk sounds more like a parrot than a person. “It is not ten pounds!” He pauses a moment. “Nine and a half. Somewhere with salad.”
“I’m pretty sure we could go to McDonald’s and get you a salad,” Foreman says dryly.
“Then the most expensive place you’ll treat to.”
“I do that when I’m going to get some after.” Foreman doesn’t look back to catch Chase’s reaction to that.
“Who says you’re not?”
Foreman’s foot catches on the next step.
Chase doesn’t keep his word that night. He waits until three nights later, when he can ask Foreman, sans eavesdroppers, “Do you want to get some in exchange for dinner now?”
Foreman does that thing with his eyebrow at the suggestion. “You think you could take me?” He’s playful, not serious, which Chase takes as a good sign.
“What’s your definition of take?” Chase asks back. He settles his messenger bag on his shoulder. “My place?”
Foreman shrugs. “As long as you have plenty of lube.”
“I hate going in dry,” Chase agrees.
“You know,” Foreman muses on their way out—as it turns out, no one else uses the stairwell—“I wouldn’t have guessed you like to top.”