My dreams are composed either by my mind or by chance.
House/Chase, implied House/Stacy and House/Cameron.
Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.
- Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
This is a story titled Ariadne:
Time does not move as it might, here. It slips and bunches and curls around itself like water. He watches Cameron smooth out a slightly wrinkled family history four times, and listens to Chase give him what he thinks might be an ultimatum at least six times.
He watches dead and missing muscle return breathing to his leg; he watches it leave and wither just as quickly. The bitter taste of Vicodin never leaves his mouth. Wax on, wax off. He listens to the ticking of the clock, the rustle of Cameron's history.
"You have an hour," Chase says again. "Or he dies."
His leg throbs; Chase leaves. Cameron looks up and bites her lip.
"And he dies," House says.
Outside the office window, the sky darkens.
His name is written in grey on his door, backwards from both sides; the glass is scratched and dirty. He rubs his thigh through rough denim, pretends he doesn't hear Stacy walking up behind him. Her breath on his neck, her hands on his shoulders. She still knows how to get what she wants from him, and he still knows how to give in. Almost.
Her husband is dying and he doesn't know why.
Her husband is dead: in a different city, a different time, his hands are on her shoulders and there is no comfort left to be exchanged. He remembers how to give in.
The name of this city is on the tip of his tongue, a half-memory of cartography and geography, faint outlines of dead-end streets and curving boundaries. Oroboros.
There is nowhere new for this to go anymore.
In July he begins to lie in bed waiting impatiently for sleep to come; when it does it is exhausted and rushed, a stumbling unsatisfactory blackness that leaves no space for dreams. Time moves smoothly, slowly forwards.
He does not stop to wonder if this is an unmentioned stage of life: infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, atrophy.
This is a story titled Cities and Signs:
The architecture of this hospital, the almost non-functional design: glass walls and glass doors, hallways that crowd in the wrong places, rooms that somehow never let themselves be found. He will not be lost if he does not go too far. He has no interest in being lost. He's no Daedalus.
He stands near the entrance to the clinic and waits for Cuddy to notice him. Somewhere in there someone's kid is crying, someone's looking for drugs, someone's trying to get out of work, someone's just sick and scared. He wishes he didn't have to look through all of the walls.
When Cuddy finally storms out of her office and drags him in by the arm, he makes sure to take the examination room that allows him full view of the door to the street outside.
Chase's sulking defiance sits so oddly on him, like an overcoat tailored for a different man. After Vogler leaves, House only pushes hard enough for Chase to feel like he's been punished, only hard enough so that when it stops, he feels like he's been forgiven. Because the thing is, betrayal only hurts when you care. And House doesn't care, doesn't care at all.
One morning Chase walks into his office and is not carrying any memory of the last few months with him, at least not visibly. Neither of them say anything about it, content enough to fall back into comfortable patterns. Barely-remembered patterns. And if there's something new there, if there's an unsettled look in Chase's eyes, then - really - it's none of House's business. Not all puzzles are worth solving.
(Daedalus who escaped the labyrinth, whose son was too headstrong and arrogant; Daedalus whose son is dead.)
Caught, House thinks when Chase finally realizes he's beeing examined. House doesn't look away. He's got no shame.
Chase doesn't either, apparently (obviously - he's still here), and he stares back at House until one of them, both of them blink and look away. Chase stands up, and stares again. In a different city House would know what that look meant. He doesn't want to know, not here, not now.
Chase smiles. House can't ignore that.
He thinks: what did I miss, what did I read wrong? It's late, he's exhausted and trembling and self-loathing, self-centered, pressing down on his thigh like he half-expects it to be whole again. Chase takes a step forward and House closes his hand around the empty vial in his coat pocket. He's tired. There is no where else for this to go.
"Please stop me if this is not what you want," Chase says awkwardly, quietly, insincerely, and House says nothing in return because even now he doesn't really know what he wants. Who he wants. But silence is consent - Chase leans in close and kisses him, puts a hand behind his head and kisses him with soft lips and eager teeth.
House thinks about the knife-sharp bones and smooth young skin that must be beneath his pressed cotton shirt and tightly-knotted tie, those cloudy Dorian Gray eyes. He thinks about Stacy and Cameron. He thinks about how this is killing him. He doesn't think about anything at all.
Death is not a gentleman, death is a boy: death hands him his coffee and tells him about how the patient crashed last night, death closes glass doors with care.
Death lifts his hands to House's chest and leaves them there, feeling every inch of heart and unwanted life.