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Map of the Problematique

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Summary: We don't know a lot about Chase before House, so what if he was a Watcher? And his past caught up with him in a very deadly way? Chase/Xander

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > House, M.D. > Xander-CenteredcrinaeaeFR18111,5386195,15528 Dec 0828 Dec 08Yes
Disclaimer: House, M.D. is property of David Shore, Fox, NBC Studios, and Bad Hat Harry Productions. Buffy the Vampire Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. This story is meant in no way to make a profit of any kind or infringe on these companies/persons in any way.

Map of the Problematique
Banner Made by the lovely TouchoftheWind

Map of the Problematique
A Twisting the Hellmouth Holiday Fic-a-Thon Story.

Chase stepped out of the shower, pulling on a worn pair of denims, a soft tee shirt, and a worn Fisherman’s jumper on his body as he shuffled around his tiny flat. He had just finished a case for House which had somehow resulted in his presence at the hospital for nearly three days straight, and he craved the warmth and comfort of the old clothes. He didn’t even work for the miserable bastard anymore, and he had the ability to work Robert to utter pieces. If he wasn’t so damned tired, it might’ve crossed his mind to be pissed off. His eyes crossed with exhaustion, and very bone, joint, and scar on his body ranging from ‘loud complaining’ to ‘screaming with pain’, he flopped on his couch, and poured himself a mug of willow bark tea from the pot he had set to steep before entering the steaming shower.

Cuddling into the leather pillows of the old couch he had gotten fourth, or maybe even fifth hand, he covered himself with the olive green hand knit blanket a friend had given him when he announced he was moving to the states. It was as heavy as the sweater he wore, and was covered with ornate, twisting cables that curled themselves into old knots and runes for everything from protection to luck.

Warm and comfortable, he let his mind drift as he sipped his tea, waiting for the last dregs of caffeine to work its way out of his body so he could finally collapse into ten hours of blessedly uninterrupted sleep. No man, Slayer, or demon would be able to slumber after consuming eight cups of the noxious toxin in the past hour alone, no matter how little rest he had gotten. Just when he felt he could keep his eyes open no longer, a banging started at his door.

Cursing under his breath, and wishing to all the hell dimensions that it wasn’t his so called girlfriend at the door, he pushed the blanket off of his legs, morning the lack of the heavy warmth as he shouted “I’m coming!” at the wooden slab.

It wasn’t Cameron who peered back at him through the spy glass in his door. It was Giles. Damnation and hellfire.

“Get your kit, Robert,” the man ordered stiffly before Chase could even get the door open to admit the Watcher.

“’Ello, Ripper, long time, no see. Yes, I’m fine, thank you for-“ Chase mumbled under his breath as he pulled on boots over his thick socks and shoved a thin blade into the sheath fitted into the stiff leather.

“A girl is dying and you want to be an arse?” Giles practically screamed at the man, his hands balled by his sides, fighting the urge to hit the doctor.

Startled, Robert looked at the man before him, taking in his haggard appearance from the thinning hair and deep lines around his eyes to the open leather jacket and untucked shirt soaked through with an impossible amount of dark and sticky blood. The amount sent a shot of adrenaline through Chase’s central nervous system, and propelling him into doctor mode.

“It’s not mine.” Giles ground out tersely, before the doctor could waste precious time unbuttoning the shirt in a futile search for the nonexistent source of the bleeding, “Grab your kit. Willow’s still in the car. I didn’t want to move her any more than I had to.”

He nodded his approval as he opened the coat closet to retrieve his winter jacket and an old fashioned black doctor’s bag. It had taken him years to convince those who fought the dark that moving an injured body was not the best thing for the injury. Of course, sometimes the person had to be moved, when in the face of rampaging demons, but more often than not, Slayers would drag their fellow warriors up stairs and through hallways for no good reason, frequently doing much more harm than good.

“What happened?” he asked, leather jacket on and half way out the door.“We were traveling to Cleveland from New York, and a demon appeared from bloody nowhere. She sustained a deep gash across her abdomen, and I think there may have been poison on his claws, or in the saliva. She’s won’t stop bleeding, and her breathing is shallow and ragged.”

“How long ago?” Chase asked as he ran down the three flights of stairs three at a time. It was faster than waiting for the elevator which may or may not be working. It was an old building, and at least three temperamental warlocks were his neighbors, and they had no qualms about cursing the lift when it aggravated them. Which was more often than not.

“Three hours.”

Cursing colorfully in a seamless blend of every language he had ever learned, Chase flipped open his mobile and pushed the second speed dial number programmed in his phone – Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. “Yes, this is Doctor Chase, I have a twenty-six year old female, prior good health, with deep lacerations on her abdomen, respiratory distress, and possible poisoning. I need a bus at my place of residence.”

“You can’t bring her to a hospital!” Giles yelled after him as they both ran to the car. “How the bloody hell will we explain the cuts?”

“Watch me, Watcher, she needs to go to a hospital before she stops bloody well breathing!” Chase snarled before pushing his long limbs into a dead sprint to the car, ignoring the twinge of pain in his funny knee. He flung open the back door, snapping latex gloves on his hands before he shoved the fire blanket covering the witch aside, he surveyed the damage in seconds. Three ragged gashes crossed her body in parallel lines starting at her shoulder and ending on her thigh, like a sadist with a serrated knife had carved her like a turkey on that inane American holiday he could never remember the name of for the life of him. Bad pun. Working quickly, he cleaned the gashes the best as he could with the supplies in his kit, making sure to remove any trace of the green gook that surrounded the wounds, and pressed gaze pads to the deepest parts on her chest and stomach.

“Willow? Stay with me, love,” he instructed in a calm tone at odds with his internal panic, “I need you to hold these down, okay? I’ll make the pain go away in a bit, I promise.”

“Am I going to die?” she choked out with gasping breaths, as she pressed the pads down with her already blood covered hands. The blood started to soak through in a matter of seconds, red flowers blooming on the white cloth.

“You’re going to be fine. No dying tonight,” He reassured her with the same winning smile he used on so many other patients as he injected her arm with a half dose of morphine – enough to take the edge off of the pain, but not enough to interfere with her labored breathing to the point of stopping it. He could hear the sirens of the ambulance he called minutes before, and thanked God that he lived so close to the hospital. “What blood type is she? Any medical conditions?”

“B negative,” Giles answered without thinking, “No allergies. Lots of magic.”

The ambulance pulled into the parking lot, and Chase ran over to them, filling in the paramedics as they rolled a gurney to the car. “I need a banana bag and B negative blood – she’s lost at least two units, maybe as much as three. She’s already had morphine. Call ahead and order and OR – her intestines were sliced to hell.”

“Sure thing, doc,” the lead paramedic nodded his understanding as they moved the woman carefully into the ambulance.

“Follow us in the car, Giles,” Chase snapped at Giles when they both hopped to ride along with the woman, “I’m more help than you here.”

“All right,” he nodded stiffly, getting into the car.

Willow should’ve been getting better. The ambulance had rushed the woman to the hospital at top speed, and the surgical team waiting in the ambulance bay managed to get her into the prepped operating room in time to sew together all of her intestines, before the waste began to seep into her bloodstream. But, nearly three days after the trauma, the gashes from the demon’s claws still remained open, simply refusing to knit together. Even the cuts from her surgery were healing slowly. Too slow for a human, and impossibly slow for a woman whose magic had repaired worse injuries faster than a Slayer.

Utterly frustrated, Robert rang all of his paranormal contacts in the area for any information on the rampaging demon, and faxed a full medical report to the Watcher’s Council headquarters in London, trusting them to send a copy to the other Watcher hubs set up around the world, along with a grudging request for help from any Slayers and/or witches who weren’t involved in one fight or another. He might not have had the best of experiences in dealing with The Council, but it had always been different for “The Scoobies”, as they insisted on calling themselves. Also, it was very likely that whatever was wrong with Willow couldn’t be fixed with his mundane medicine. Giles obviously thought as such, for he spent the days by Willow’s bed side, combing through dusty texts from Chase’s flat, the library, and his own reference collection he kept in the boot of his car for any reference to a demon who prevented the gashes from healing.

Then again, his medicine combined with House’s brilliantly crazy mind may just succeed were the mystical failed.“Doctor Chase, what can I do for you today?” Cuddy greeted him as he walked into her office, Willow’s file his hands.“I have a case that I need House for,” he stated without any preamble, “Twenty-six year old female isn’t healing from trauma to her torso after three days of hospital care –“

Holding up her hand to stop Chase’s recitation of the case file he had evidently memorized, she frowned, “Sounds right up his ally. So what’s the problem? He won’t take the case?”

“I, err, haven’t shown it to him just yet,” he shifted his weight from one foot to the other, squirming under Cuddy’s piercing stare. Her office never failed to evoke memories of being sent to the head mistress’ office for disrupting class.

“So, why come to me?” she asked as her attention turned back to the paperwork before her, “You don’t need my approval to hand a case off to House.”

“Willow’s my patient, and I want to keep it that way, Doctor Cuddy,” he stated confidently, resolutely pushing all thoughts of head mistresses and naughty school boys out of his head, “I know her and her medical history better than anyone else in the whole hospital.”

“Fine,” she nodded, pulling a batch of papers from her desk drawer, filling out the forms with her precise handwriting, “I’ll transfer you to Diagnostics for the case, and inform your boss of the arrangement.”

“Thank you, Doctor Cuddy,” Chase nodded, turning to leave the Dean’s office.

Just as he reached the door, Cuddy called out the question he had avoided thinking too carefully about himself, “Why is this case so important to you, Chase?”

Robert smirked, a bitter expression that spoke more than the three words (“I owe her.”) that he offered for an explanation. If he was lucky, no one else would ask him that question again, and he could finish the case without having to justify his actions to himself or anyone else.

House was in his office, both feet propped up on his desk as he played with his Game Boy, when Chase stalked into the conference room, the three fellows present all engrossed in some form of paper work or crossword puzzle. Walking over to the white board, he stuck three glossy, time stamped photos of Willow’s lacerations in the frame, the sound causing all of the doctors to watch him with questions in their eyes.“These are images of a twenty-six year old female’s stomach three days apart. Notice anything special?” he turned to the fellows, rocking on his heels, “Winner gets a gold star.”

“Other than the wounds are still open?” Taub answered with a bored glance at the photos. The past fellows could be worse than House about making a point when they wanted to be. “The girl has abnormally low clotting factors, treat with -”

“Gold star for you! Except for the part about the palettes. All of her clotting factors and bleed time tests all three days have been dead normal,” Chase tossed the file on the table, and picked up a marker, scribbling on the white board as he continued, “Other symptoms include respiratory distress, mild fever, and intermittent tachycardia. The respiratory distress she had three hours after the attack, and hasn’t gotten worse nor better. Tachycardia started in the EOR, causing her to go into v-fib. Fever was first charted a day ago, but the patient’s normal body temperature is three degrees below standard, so we really have no idea when it started.”

“Infection?” Thirteen chipped in.“If you would look at the photos, you would see the lacerations aren’t angry, and her LP came back clean. Going to join us in the differential, House, or should we keep going without you?”

“You’re doing fine without me, Wombat!” he shot back, engrossed in killing aliens on his Game Boy, “No reason for me to do my job, when you’re willing to do it for me.”

“If she’s immunosuppressed, then –“ Thirteen continued on, still convinced in her diagnosis.

“Haven’t you been listening? Fever. Clean LP. Normal white count.” Chase ticked off on his fingers, “Three strikes and immunosuppression is out.”

“How do you know? She still could have HIV, which turned into AIDS with the trauma-“

Shaking his head, he shot down the theory once more, “Not in her history.”

“No history in the file,“ Taub pointed out dryly, as he leafed through the pages upon pages of test results.

“I know her history,” Chase rebutted, tapping the marker against his hand impatiently, “If you looked on the front of the file, I’m listed as her primary care provider.”

“Was there any poison or toxin on the knife, or whatever did this?” Kutner pitched his idea next, leaning forward on his elbows to get a better look at the photos, “Only the lacerations are still open, the bruising around the cuts has shown improvement.”

“I tested for pretty much every known toxin in the lab while she was in surgery, all the tests were negative,” he sighed. He had been thinking along the same lines, analyzing the goo he had taken from the original cuts in the lab and writing meticulous notes in his seldom used Watcher’s journal. So far none of the components were in anyway toxic, but then again, it had come from a demon.

“Thirteen, echo the heart and lungs for any defects,” House barked as he emerged from his office to tug the photos off his white board, frowning as he reviewed them, “Taub, re-do the clotting factor test, and draw blood to test her TGF-beta and PDGF levels. Kutner, administer broad spectrum antibiotics for the breathing and fever. Someone page Foreman, get him up to speed and see if he has any brilliant ideas.”

Chase waited for the three fellows to scatter like mice before turning to his former boss, a frown marring his features, “And I sit on my arse?”

“Why do you have private patients?” he countered, looking up from the photos to peer at Chase with his all-seeing blue eyes.

“Do you honestly think that this was my first job out of med school? Hell, my first job in the States?” he ran his hands through his hair, itching to do something – even if it was to run more pointless slides in the lab.

“So you moved to the US to hook up with dominatrix’s and started to see patients out of your apartment?” he shook his head and tutted disapprovingly, in a perfect imitation of a mother hen, “You’re a very naughty boy, Chase.”

“If you must know, I was recruited during my residency to work for a multi-country paramilitary security firm based in England,” he explained, giving his ex boss the same, sterilized version of events he gave to all his employers asking about the Council on his CV, “Many of the people I worked with still come to see me every now and then, since they know me. They don’t generally trust doctors, as a rule.”

“Go get a history on paper,” House ordered, at long last as he hobbled back into his office, photos in hand. Something about the kid’s story sounded less than truthful, but damned if he knew what it was. “Chase?” he yelled as the doctor was about to leave, “What was the name of the company?”

“The Council,” he answered cryptically before vanishing to do House’s bidding.

“Did you read the file? It reads like a text book on every test ever invented, even if there’s no connection to her symptoms,” Taub mumbled to Thirteen as he pierced the woman’s arm, “I don’t know what the kid wants House to do that he hasn’t thought of already.”

“House has pulled some crazy stunts out of his ass before,” she retorted softly, her eyes on the screen, “Heart looks clean, moving to the lungs.”

“Rob’s pulled some crazy stunts with my health, too,” Willow coughed, her breathing as weak as her wane smile, “They’ve worked until now.”

“You should be quiet,” Thirteen scolded dryly, “your lungs can’t take much stress.”

“And you shouldn’t be dying so quickly,” Willow responded without batting an eye, “Anyway, my lungs are fine.”

“I don’t see any structural defects or liquid in the lungs,” she agreed tightly, trying in vain to rein in her tumultuous emotions, “I’ll go and give House the results.”

Chase nearly ran into the fellow as she fled from the room, her lab coat billowing out from her too thin body as she strode back to the safety of conference rooms and white boards. “Willow, what did you do?” he sighed, as he entered the room, crossing his hands over his chest.

“What makes you think I did anything?” she retorted softly, biting her lip nervously to stop her from giggling more than anything else. Chase and Giles may not get along, but the doctor reminded her of the Watcher as he sighed irritably, waiting for a better response from the witch. “She reminds me of Tara. She died young, too.”

“You’re going to live a long life, Wills,” Chase informed the red head with a tired sigh, the argument reeking of familiarity between the two. They had the same agreement, down to the same exchange of words every time Willow was under his care for more than ten minutes.

“I know, Rob, I’m going to outlive you all,” she sighed and closed her eyes, exhausted from the emotions flying around the room, “Is it such a bad thing for not wanting to?”

Without a word, Chase reached out, squeezing her hand, offering silent comfort and strength as Taub bandaged her arm from the bleeding test. At long last, he opened his mouth, “I don’t think that anyone would blame you for that, Wills.”Opening her eyes, she glared pointedly at Robert, “Xander would.”

“He’s lost people, too, and you are very dear to him,” he reminded her, as he stood to retrieve her chart from the foot of the bed, “What’s he’s up to these days?”“He’s been pulled back from finding girls to work with Faith.”

“As her Watcher?” That was a shock. Like him, Faith didn’t deal well with the Council, or authority in general. They would often bitch about the flaws in the Watching system over cups of coffee, and quiet patrols. Come to think of it, Xander didn’t strike him as the Watching type. Perhaps Giles, or whoever was in charge of the Slayer/Watcher assignments knew what they were doing.

Willow giggled, she had a similar reaction to the news when Buffy told her, “Yep.”

“Wow. Never thought that any Watcher would be able to deal with our hellion,” shaking his head, Chase took the woman’s arm again, his fingers resting lightly on her vein as he looked at his wrist watch. It was a bit slow, but still steady and strong. He made a note on the chart as he asked, “How’s that working out for them? Has she left him in the dirt yet?”

“They’re travelling together at the moment,” she replied with her eyes closed, her voice slightly slurred and slow, as if every word was an effort to pronounce, “but you can ask them when they get here.”

Putting down her chart, he shook her shoulder gently, “You all right?”

“Just tired…” she sighed, snuggling into the hospital issue blankets. She had four of them, even though her checks were flushed from the low fever.

“Willow, you have to focus for a bit more,” Chase urged, shaking her shoulder harder, “When did the fatigue start?”

“They took my blood, and they put it in a cup,” she mumbled distantly, her head lolling to the side, “I told them that it’s not my blood they want. My blood is powerless…”

“Shit!” Chase cursed, and slammed the red button for the nurse as he tore the pillows out from Willow’s head, and pushed the blanket off of her thin body. Nurses flooded the room, moving in a frantic ballet directed by his orders.

The blond doctor dragged himself into the empty and darkened diagnostics’ room. Even House had gone home for the night, trusting Chase to stabilize the patient. Picking up a marker, he scribbled on the white board, adding the symptoms he had battled to keep under some measure of control.

HALUCINATIONS – FATIGUE – HIGH FEVER! – SIEZURES

Pausing only to pour himself another cup of coffee, he shambled back to Willow’s bed side and slumped into the hard hospital issue chair for the night, his eyes closing before his body hit the chair. Dead to the world, he never noticed Giles creep into the room and wrap the doctor in the hand knit blanket from his flat.

Two days and fifty million normal tests later while Willow continued to spiral into decay, none other than Faith showed up at the hospital, wearing skin tight, black leather trousers tucked into military style boots with an excess of sliver buckles, and a black sweater that hugged her curves shamelessly . She found Robert in the cafeteria as he shuffled through the line in the cafeteria for a Ruben (with the dressing and extra pickles) he could eat while going over the patient’s files yet again, slinking up to him with the effortless and dangerous grace of a jungle cat.

Running a hand over his chest, the Slayer grinned lasciviously, and openly licked her lips, her voice a husky purr, “Hey, babe – where have you been all my life?”

“The aggressive sex kitten scene doesn’t work for me, Fi, you know that,” Chase retorted, unfazed in the least by her actions, unlike the majority of the hospital staff who were currently openly staring at the interaction between him and Faith with wide eyes and open mouths. Chase sighed, he would never be able to live this one down, the hospital rumor mill would see to that.

“And here I was, thinking I was the only man alive who was immune to her feminine wiles,” Xander chuckled as he joined the doctor and the Slayer. Like Faith, he was dressed in all black denim and leather, heavy construction boots on his feet and a dark sweater under his leather jacket. He stood with his hands in his pockets, elbows pressing his rib cage together tightly.

“Xander, it’s good to see you,” Chase smiled warmly as he let himself be pulled into the tightest bear hug of his life by the younger man. Of all of the Scoobies, Xander had been the first to welcome Robert into their group, and the two men shared a strong bond. Pressed up against his friend, Chase couldn’t help but notice the slight tremors in Xander’s hands, and the suppressed wince of pain that he made when the doctor pressed against his ribs as he returned the hug.

“We ran into some good times on the way here,” Faith shrugged, eyeing up the platter of wrapped sandwiches on the line. Leaning across Robert, she snagged a two large Italian subs and a can of Coke.

Grunting noncommittally, he ran his hand over the man’s torso, feeling the wrapped bandage through the sweater, “You need an X-ray for these ribs, at the very least, Mister Harris.”

“I wrapped them up, and I don’t think I broke any!” he protested as he picked out a sandwich, “Besides, Faith got slashed!”

“Which is why you need the X-ray, so we can find out how many you cracked,” he retorted, shoving Faith and Xander to the cashier at the end of the line. Paying for his and his companions’ food with a wad of crumpled bills from the bottom of his wallet, he grabbed Xander’s arm and pulled him to the Clinic, Faith watching the pair with an amused smirk on her face.

“How come I have to get poked full of needles and she doesn’t?” he whined even as he let himself be pulled away.

“I stopped carrying around vials of sedatives when I left the Council,” Chase snapped with a bitter tone that contrasted markedly with the wide, carefree smile on his face as he ribbed with his old friends, “although with you lot showing up, maybe I should take the practice back up…”

She smiled, and punched him none too lightly on the shoulder, causing him to stumble into Xander, “You know me too well, Robbie!”

“Hey! Watch where you’re shoving doctors, Faith!” Xander laughed gingerly, the pain of the ribs setting in more fully as he relaxed in the relatively safe haven, as Chase scowled at Faith’s choice of nick name for him.

“Rob, Robert, Chase, or Doc. Never Robbie,” placing his hands on his hips in his best impression of Giles, he continued, “Now, you stay here and eat. No bothering the other people, Fi.”

“Even if they want to bother me, Doc?” she grinned provocatively before pulling Chase into a one armed hug and slinking away to a table to eat.

Shaking his head at her antics, Robert pulled Xander out of the cafeteria, and into an empty Clinic exam room.

Grabbing an empty chart from the door, Chase waved a hand at the table, “You know the drill. Hop up and strip.”

“Now I see why you wanted me alone,” Xander grinned as he slowly pulled his sweater over his head, his sore muscles protesting the action loudly, and goose flesh rising on his arms form the sudden lack of warmth.

“You, sir, have been hanging around Faith for far too long,” Chase quipped in return, as he carefully untied the bandage holding his patient’s ribs together. Xander’s entire torso was colored in varying shades of black, blue, and purple, suggesting massive internal bleeding as well as the bruises. Gently, Chase prodded the ribs, feeling for any pieces of bone that may puncture Xander’s internal organs, “I don’t feel any pieces, and it looks like the majority of the hits fell on one through four, well away from both your false ribs and floating ribs-“

The dark haired man smiled, prompting - “But?” when Chase turned to scribble on his prescription pad.

“But, the color concerns me,” he continued, “I’m scheduling you for a CT and an X-ray to look at your ribs and any internal bleeding, but I’m not admitting you just yet. I’m also prescribing for some T-3s to take the edge off.”

“Wouldn’t an MRI be better?” he asked after a few seconds of mulling over the doctor’s orders. He had spent enough time in emergency rooms and around Robert to know a bit about the different scans used to look inside human bodies.

“It would,” Chase admitted while he gave Xander the bits of paper, “but you have multiple bullet shards in you that make an MRI impossible. I think I have some T-3s in here, so I can give you the first dose now…”

He watched the doctor rummage through the small cabinet of supplies as he leaned on the soft-ish surface of the padded exam table, “I’ve missed you, Rob.”

“I’ve missed you, too, Xander,”

“Are you happy missing out on dealing with us day after day?”

He told himself that he was checking his patient over for more bruises, as Chase ran his hands over Xander’s back, enjoying the feeling of warm, scared skin stretched over taught muscles under his hands, so different from Cameron’s soft curves and cold hands. The last time they had slept together had been during Chase’s suspension from the hospital. They had helped a few Slayers take care of a nest of rouge, demon worshiping vampires who had been trying to bring back the Master’s spirit and place it in a young girl. After the scrimmage, Xander came back to his flat, four stitches on a gash that was over his good eye. They had both been riding the wave of endorphins from the fight, and had fallen into bed together, the pain of their bruises only enhancing the pleasure.

“Dunno,” he answered softly at long last, his fingers stilling from their dance on Xander’s back, “Are you? Happy, I mean.”

“I think I could be,” he leaned in, his hands resting on Chase’s hips pulling him in close. They were pressed nearly chest to chest, the tension between them electric. Xander pressed his lips to Rob’s in a gentle kiss that the doctor was only too willing to return. It was easy to give in to the kisses that grew increasingly passionate as Xander held him tightly to his hurt chest with shaking hands.

“You’re shaking,” he mumbled and gripped Xander’s shoulders as he pulled away to kiss his neck.

“So are you,” he mumbled against Robert’s ear before he nipped the soft flesh there with his teeth, causing Robert to gasp, and drag Xander’s lips to his, pouring all of his desperation and fear into the one achingly poignant embrace.

Braking the kiss reluctantly, the doctor stepped away from the man, breathless, “We need to stop.”

“Seeing someone?”

“Err… Kind of,” he admitted with a sheepish smile, before he continued rapidly, “But an exam room’s not the place for this, even if I weren’t.”

“What’s she like?” he wrapped the bandage back around his ribs with a practiced ease that disturbed Robert more than he would like to admit. Even knowing what kind of dangers the man faced as faithful Watcher, even having faced some of them by his side, only those who were hurt in situations where they were alone could wrap up their own hurting ribs with that amount of confidence.

“Cameron’s… nice,” he settled on after a few moments of tense silence, “Mundane.”

“At least she’s not a reformed revenge demon!” Xander joked and pulled his sweater back over his body slowly, doing his best to ignore the pain in his shoulders and back, “Tell her about your other job?”

“I’m not marrying her! We have dinner and shag every once in a while,” he retorted as he opened the exam door, “Come on, you need to get to radiology. I’ll fill you in on the way.”

“Don’t bother, Doc. It’ll be easier to report to both of us at the same time.” Xander replied with a casual shrug, “How are you getting along with the G-man?”

“All right, for the most part he stays out of my way, and crashes at my flat, busy researching every demon and spell under the sun,” Rob waved him to the empty elevator and pressed the floor for radiology.

“I never understood why you two butt heads so much. You seem just like him at times.”

“The Council has never liked doctors or priests very much, you know that,” he avoided the question tentatively. His grudging respect and rampant distrust of the older Watcher wasn’t something he pondered on often himself, and it sure wasn’t on the list of topics he wanted to discuss in the middle of the gossip pit, otherwise known as the hospital.

“You didn’t deal with Glory or the Preacher,” Xander said tightly, his hands curling into fists at his sides at the memories of the havoc those two reeked.

“I didn’t say that you lot didn’t have reason to distrust me, I just” he sighed, “I just wish that Giles had told me that I wouldn’t be trusted before I signed up.”

“Would you have joined, Rob? If you knew, that is.”

“I don’t know, Xander,” Chase opened the door to the lab and followed Xander inside. Walking up to the desk, he signed him in and told the attending nurse to page him when the tests were done.

“Hey, Doc?” Xander called out as Chase moved to the door, catching his arm, “I’m glad that you joined us.”“So am I.”

“Have fun poking Xander full of needles?” Faith accused lightly as Chase reentered the cafeteria without her Watcher, and handed her a mug full of coffee, which she drained like a newly fledged vampire with a victim.

“Guilty,” he grinned and jerked his head to the door, “Come on, I’ll take you to Wills. Did you read the report I sent?”

“Do I ever?” she grinned back and fell into step with the man, “Tell me about our girl, Doc.”

“Xander’ll be out of radiology in a bit, and I’d rather go over it with you both at the same time,” Chase fidgeted,

“Look here, Doc, Xander doesn’t want to know what’s going on. All he cares is that Red’s sick and not getting any better,” “I want to know, so start with the ‘splain-y!”

“Medically, there is no reason why Willow shouldn’t be getting better, but she’s getting worse,” he started, his voice is filled with all the frustration from nearly a full week of tests, and still no answers, “All of her tests have come back clean as a whistle, but the wounds inflicted simply won’t heal, and the incisions made by the surgeon look infected, and are healing too slowly. Also, her breathing isn’t getting any better. She’s been intubated, for the time being. She’s also suffering from seizures and hallucinations.”

“She’s getting worse? That’s not possible, Doc. Her mo-jo keeps her in one piece better than us, at times,” she pointed out, finishing the coffee, and held the empty mug out to Chase, “More?”

“I know that, Faith. I know,” sighing, Robert walked through the conference room with Faith at his heels, stopping to plop the newest photos on the table covered with medical textbooks, as he made his way over to the full coffee pot.

“Really, what ain’t possible is a surgeon and his very hot friend stealing coffee from Diagnostics’,” a familiar voice mocked, occupied by the even more familiar sound of House’s cane making muffled thumps on the carpeted floor.

“Old boss?” Faith guessed, as she added cream from the small fridge into her mug and took a long gulp.

“Yep, that’s House. Here, look at this- ” he flipped Willow’s file open to the photos of her wounds he had taken every day since Willow’s admission to the hospital, and placed them in order on the table, pointing to the photos on either hand with his slightly chewed up pen, “This is the photo I took immediately after surgery, which makes it a good ten to twelve hours after she was attacked. This is the photo I took yesterday.”

“Want me to drop kick him?” she was only half joking as she frowned over the photos, holding the two he pointed to side by side, “Shit, Rob, you weren’t kidding about the slow healing. Her bruises look better, at the very least.”

“More than you know, Fi,” Chase leaned over Faith’s shoulder, pointing to both of the photos, “Trust you to be familiar with how bruises heal.”

“Occupational hazard, Doc,” Faith looked over the file once more, not understanding much of the obscure language all doctors spoke fluently, “Did you send these results to the Council?”

“And when did you become such a lover of procedure?” the tone of voice scathing with his skepticism of the notoriously rebelling Slayer’s words. He had dutifully sent everything to the London office upon Giles’ order, but the same request falling from his once ally against the Council lip’s only irked him.

“Procedure? What’s that?” she smirked.“Don’t give me that crap, Faith. You say that you do whatever the hell you like, but you still take orders from Buffy and the lot of them.”

“Fuck you, Rob,” she pushed herself away from the table and slinked her way to the doorway, “I’m going to see Red. Room number?”

“Four-oh-six,” he snapped irritably, “Giles should be with her. You two must have a metric shit ton of orders to agree on!”

“Wow…” House whistled lowly, swinging his cane in a perfect circle, “Do you come to blows with all of your bosses?”

“Only you House, and that’s because you’re special,” he sighed and ran his hands through his hair, “Have you come up with any brilliant ideas?”

House didn’t answer in words. He hobbled back into his office and turned up the rock on his I-Pod speakers until it shook the glass in its frames.

“Come to yell at me some more, Doc?” Faith asked, one hand on her hip, the picture of unconstrained sexuality as she leaned her long body against the door frame of Willow’s room. Chase could see the weariness in her every hip roll, the weapons near to every suggestive hand placement. He wondered if Xander could see it, too.

“Look, I wanted to apologize,” he sighed and leaned against the wall, hands shoved into the pockets of his pants, “What I said was out of line.”

“Damn straight it was!” she agreed readily, pushing herself upright as she crossed her arms under her chest, “Shit, Rob, we’re all on edge right now, and we can’t be.”

Reaching out, Chase put his hand on Faith’s shoulder, their version of a hug, “I know.”

“I know you know,” Faith smiled at him and backed into the room so he could enter, “Giles went back to your flat for more books and ‘some bloody drinkable tea’.”

“Great, he’s going to drink his way through my stash,” he muttered as he recorded Willow’s temperature and heart rate on her chart. The temperature was down, at the very least, but so was the heart rate. Chase sighed and made a note.

“You Brits and your tea!” Faith teased.

Rolling his eyes, Robert deepened his accent comically, adopting the less refined crocodile hunter rhythms, “Oi! I’m an Aussi, mate!”

“Fine!” sighing, she tossed her body onto the spare bed in the room, her boots-clad feet dangling off the edge, “Have your way with me, oh wicked medical one!”

“You’re letting me examine you?” Chase blinked. It was the first time any of the Slayers had volunteered for an exam. Even the ones who liked doctors due to a family member of the same calling often had to be tracked down for any type of examination.

“Got something better to do? Of course, if you don’t want to…” she started to ease herself off the bed.

“Oh, no you don’t! I’m not convinced that you weren’t hurt,” pointing at the bed, Chase waited until the Slayer had gotten back on the bed before he rummaged through the cabinets for a stethoscope, thermometer, and sphygmomanometer.

“Rob, this is off the record, okay?”

He nodded as he fits the sphygmomanometer over her arm and presses the cool metal of the stethoscope to her elbow, “Your blood pressure’s a bit low, but nothing to worry about, given that your heart rate is fine. Can you show me the wound? Xander mentioned you were slashed.”

Faith nodded as she peeled off the tight sweater and unbuttoned her pants, reviling a river of white gaze pads taped with thin strips of pewter duct tape that started high on her shoulder, and ended well below her hip, consecrated on her thigh.

“I’m probably going to have to reopen the gash in order to clean it and then stitch it back up,” Chasse said as he pulled the needed supplies out of the cupboard, glancing at Willow’s monitors on the way to and fro, “Want anything for the pain?”

“I can take it, Doc,” she said as she slipped the band of fabric she used as a bra over her head.

God save me from Slayers and their stoic natures, he sighed to himself, “I know you can, I’m asking if you want anything.”

“No, I don’t. Spilt me open and get it over with.”

Carefully, he peeled off the layers of gaze, revealing the first four inches of the gash on her shoulder. It was still wide open, and started bleeding anew as soon as he removed the gaze. Cursing under his breath, Robert pressed his palm against the wound, stilling the bleeding, as he reached for the pads he had put out.

“How long ago did you get cut?” he asked as he bound the gauze pad to her wounds.

“About two days ago,” she said slowly, surprised at the blood, “It was really deep, but I should be healed more than that.”

“Any trouble breathing?” he asked as he stuck a thermometer in her ear.

“Nope.”

“Still smoking? Drugs?”

“Had one before we came to the hospital, but I’ve cut way down. Doctors and hospitals give me a wiggins,” she grimaced apologetically at the doctor before continuing, “No hard drugs – demon or mundane.”

“You’re running a fever, and this is too close to Willow’s symptoms. I’m admitting you,” he told the woman in a tone that invited no argument. Defeated, Faith flopped back onto the hard hospital bed and toed off her boots. When Chase came to check on her after he finished all the paperwork, the woman had passed out.

“The nurses in the NICU said I could find you here,” Cameron explained softly as she handed him a cup of steaming coffee, “House gave you the night shift again?”

“Yeah, Wills been having nightmares, so I want to be here in case I have to sedate her,” Chase answered her, tossing his well chewed on pen down on the mass of notes he had taken and sipped the coffee gratefully, “Again.”

“What about the other girl?” she asked, and Robert pretended that the emotion tinting his so-called-girlfriend’s words was jealousy, instead of flat interest in the case. Maybe it was time they gave up the ghost and just ended it. The sex wasn’t that good.

“Faith? She came to see Willow, but I noticed the same symptoms from a similar source. No nightmares or hallucinations yet, which means I can’t put them down as a symptom.”

“She also suffered slashing trauma with a poisoned knife? At separate times?” her voice was skeptical, heavy with her experience working both for House and the ER.

“They both work for the same people, doing pretty much the same thing. It’s not that farfetched,” he shrugged, turning back to his files on Faith and Willow from the time he worked for the Council, searching for any commonalities between the two women. Maybe it had something to do with their life on the Hellmouth, triggered by the attack?

“How long have you known them?”

“I was their doctor for three years after my residency,” he shrugged again“Xander and I have kept more or less in touch, even though Willow is a more reliable correspondent.”

“It’s not really my fault that my old job kept me on the move, Rob,” Xander walked into the door, holding two cups one filled with coffee, the other with hot chocolate, “Sorry, I didn’t know that you already had some…”

“It’s fine, Xander, we can always do with more coffee,” Rob smiled at the man, before he turned back to his work, “Cameron, Xander, Xander, Cameron.”

“I recognize you from some photo’s at Chase’s, you used to work with him?” Cameron fixed the man with a piercing stare.“Uh… yeah, I did,” Xander coughed into his hand, “This is awkward.”

“What does Giles mean by this?” Chase muttered to the Watcher’s notes, pulling his journal close and flipping through until he found his Giles-shorthand-to-plain-English key, cursing the man all the while.

Glancing over to the paper Chase was still muttering over, Xander saw the mass of Latin “Giles sent over some notes?”“I don’t know what he wants me to do with them. He’s the researcher, not me,” sighing, Chase ran his fingers through his hair, “Jail Bait would be a better choice for slogging through these notes than me.”

“Buffy called and said you were still technically on the payroll under Giles, and you really have to stop calling her sister that before she kills you,” Xander sipped his chocolaty drink, crunching the hard mini marshmallows in his teeth, “Also, you can look at those long passages and figure out what kind of doctor-y things they’re talking about.”

“It still gives me a headache,” Chase retorted, reaching for the coffee Xander had brought and talking a deep sip that scalded the top of his mouth.

“Please. Latin’s not that bad!” Xander scoffed, “Egyptian hieroglyphics are so much worse.”

“And you’ve translated so many of those in your time as Watcher!” he laughed quietly, tossing a ball of scrap paper at the dark haired man’s head, who promptly tossed it back.

Cameron took a gulp of her coffee, fingers tapping on the outside of the mug nervously. The two men were obviously at ease with each other, more so than Chase had ever been with her or Foreman, even on their nights out together. It was weird to hear these strangers call her boyfriend by his given name, or variations there-of, in the hospital when she so rarely did. There was something else, a subtext buried in the two’s banter and shared worry for their friends, that made the immunologist feel as if she was intruding on an intimate moment between lovers as Xander leaned closer to Chase in order to whisper to him.

“How’s she holding up, doc?” Xander asked softly in the lull between flying bits of paper, with an eye on the bottle-blonde doctor who was currently lost in thought with her hand resting possessively on Rob’s shoulder. She most likely was the doctor he told Xander about in the exam room, and she was also probably consulting on the case, but caution never hurt anyone.“Nothing happened in the whole half hour you spent with Giles, Xander,” Rob retorted, but his tone was gentle instead of scathing, “I would’ve rung.”

“I know, but…” he sighed, gazing at Willow’s still form, “Giles’ still hasn’t made any headway.”

“It’s frustrating, I know, but we’ll figure it out,” Robert tried his best to soothe Xander’s frayed nerves, a task only complicated by his own need to pound a wall until his knuckles bleed.

Smiling wanly, he reached out and squeezed the doctor’s hand, “I trust you, and both of them trust you.”

“He comes!” Willow screamed, trashing in her bed, “No! no! Don’t let him drain me! My blood won’t! It can’t!”

Springing out of the chairs, all three rushed to the woman’s bed side. Xander threw himself over her legs, keeping her from kicking either doctor as they took vitals, and prepared a sedative.

“Her heart rate’s through the roof!” Chase yelled, to Cameron who grabbed the correct drugs and pushed the needles into the girl’s line, “God, she’s going to crash – call a code!”

Nurses flooded the room, prepping the defibrillator, pushing syringes into Chase’s open hands, and thousands of other acts as they danced around Willow frantically. One of them pulled Xander off of her legs, taking over as Chase yelled “Clear!” and pumped the girl with a few thousand volts at nearly the same time the heart monitor flat lined. Willow crashed back into life with a gasp, spewing garbled nonsense before Chase pushed another drug into her line, making her limbs limp and her eyes flutter shut. Tenderly, he eased her back onto the pillows a nurse had fetched from the floor.

“That makes three nights in a row,” Chase sighed, tossing his gloves in the hazmat trash, “She should be fine the rest of the night.”

“I’m going to call House. Maybe we can run another differential,” Cameron suggested.

“Don’t bother. This has happened before, and it hasn’t added anything,” he told her, his voice filled with thinly veiled despair, “Just go home, Cameron. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Okay, whatever,” she nodded, plucking her coat from the chair as she walked out the door, “I’ll see you.”

“That wasn’t a nightmare, Rob,” Xander’s voice was hoarse with pain as he pushed himself off the chair he had been pushed into. His ribs hurt from where Willow had kneed the bruised rib in her thrashing.

“I know that!” Chase snapped back, running his hands over his face, “Here. Sit. Let me have a look at your ribs.”

Silently, Xander sat in the hard visitor’s car, and took off his shirt, suppressing the resulting wince of pain as he leaned against the hard chair back.

“I don’t think I can save her, Xander,” he confessed softly, his hands trembling as he prodded the hurt ribs, feeling for more fractures or shifted ribs. Nothing seemed out of place, a small favor, but he would have to bribe Xander into another X-ray in the morning. “Please don’t hate me if she dies.”

“I don’t think I’m capable of hating you, Rob,” he muttered hoarsely, licking suddenly dry lips, as he pulled the doctor into his lap. His tongue replaced with Robert’s lips gently pressing against his, trembling like the rest of his body. The kiss was desperate and needy, full of all the pent up fear, anger, frustration of the past weeks. Both men nearly devouring the lips of the other.

“We should stop, Xander, before this goes any farther,” he whispered in between kisses, afraid and drunk on the feeling of the warm, scarred man beneath him.

“You keep saying that,” he pointed out, as he kissed the bare skin where Robert’s collar gaped from his neck.He gasped, clutching Xander’s shoulders hard enough to bruise, “Doesn’t make it any less true.”

“I don’t know, doc, I’m thinking I may need that physical,” he chuckled.

“This room’s occupied!” Faith groaned from her bed, too weak to throw a pillow at their heads as she so desperately wanted. In a flash, the doctor was off of Xander’s lap and shining a pen light into the Slayer’s eyes.

“How are you feeling?” he asked as he pressed his fingers to her neck, eyes on his watch.

“What’s beyond ‘crappy’?” she laughed shortly before coughing up half her lung.

“I don’t hear any fluid in your lungs, but I’m going to get you some cough medicine, to help you rest,” Chase informed her, leaving the room.

“You should go back to sleep,” Xander said, as he watched the doctor leave, “It’s just passed five.”

“Can’t sleep, to many weird dreams ‘bout that demon that sliced me and Red up,” she sighed, crossing her arms over her chest, and broke into a wicked smile, “You and Robbie have a good night?”

“Never left,” he answered, covering large yawn with his hand, “Willow had some medical thing, and I’m sure Rob’s doing some kind of caffeine pill. He was shaking a lot.”

“That’s not good,” she coughed, “doesn’t he work with babies or something?”

“I think that he’s only working this one case at the moment, Fi,” he punched her lightly on the arm, “feel special.”

The useless differential felt like it went on for hours, as the new doctors hashed over everything that had happened in the night. Cradling his head in his hands, Chase felt as if he was going to fall asleep and drown in his coffee.

“Go get some sleep, Chase,” House ordered gruffly, hitting him on the back of the head with his over sized tennis ball, “You’re useless like this.”

Oh, if only. Stumbling over his own feet, the doctor somehow made it to his second differential of the day, praying that someone would come up to some magical solution to the problem.

“The demon must be sapping Faith and Willow of their strength ritually,” Giles’ voice rang out as Chase entered the room, holding a fresh mug of coffee, “It explains why Willow goes into cardiac arrest nearly every night, as well as your odd dreams, Faith.”

“So, what do we do?” Xander asked, pulling Robert into a the chair next to him before the man fell down. Sighing, he rested his head on the table in front of him, cushioned by a large demon text book.

“We find it,” a new female voice said from somewhere around the doorway, “And we kill it.”

“Buffy!” the two Watchers exclaimed at once, pushing their chairs in order to greet the newly arrived Slayer.

Chase didn’t care if it was the second bloody coming. All he wanted was some sleep and food that didn’t come from a tin. A shower would be nice, too, especially if Xander was there to make sure he didn’t drown himself.

“So, how do we do that, oh great one?” he asked, lifting his head slowly.

“The demon wants to have Faith and Willow. So, we give it them,” she finished like it was the most obvious thing in the world, and crossed her arms over her chest.

Blinking, Robert ran the Slayer’s words through his mind once more, and came up empty of any logic in them, “What?”

“We set a trap, with Faith and Willow in the middle of its hunting ground, and watch them like a hawk. When the bad comes to collect, we shoot it, and cut off its head.”

“How the bloody hell are you going to get them out of the hospital?”

“We’ll figure it out.”

“You mean I’m going to discharge them AMA.”

“Yep,” she practically bounced, like a cheerleader on speed.

“Oh, bloody hell!” he sighed, standing up on shakily legs, “I’m going to get some sleep. Page me when you need me.”

Lying in the dark of the on call room, Chase ran through every symptom the two women had experienced, even treating them as one patient, looking for some kind of connection.

Giles! Willow first got hurt when she was with Giles, and Faith only started with the major symptoms after she talked to the Watcher. Plus, both of them were powerful, and close to the man.

“Everybody lies,” Robert whispered the oft repeated phrase, an epiphany dawning on his face. Swinging his legs off the side of the hard bed, Chase stormed out of the on call room at a jog, attracting the attention of House and his fellows as he passed the conference room. Skidding to a halt outside Willow’s room, he found Giles coming back from the cafeteria, as evident by the new Styrofoam cup filled with hot tea he held.

Fisting his hands in Giles’ worn tweed jacket, Chase slammed the man the wall across from the room, the cup crashing to the floor and spilling hot tea on both of the men’s legs, “What do you know, Watcher?”

“I don’t know anything, Robert!” Giles growled back at the doctor, “I swear to you, I know nothing.”

“Forgive me if I don’t quite believe you, Ripper,” Chase answered sarcastically, the anger in him so close to the surface, cracking through the calm mask he work every day of his life. It would be so easy to use the anger that fueled his power, to blast Giles from the face of the Earth once and for all, “You said that about another woman, not so long ago. And she died from your demons. Who knows how many more you have after your hide?”

“Whoa, Chase – take it easy” Foreman stepped closer, trying in vain to placate his raging coworker as he watched him shake the older man roughly again and again. House raised his cane across the hallway, stopping the man in his tracks, fascinated by the display. The very air crackled with raw energy around the doctor, shimmering like the open road under the heat of the desert sun.

“It’s not the same thing, Robert. You and I have both tested for that!” he protested wildly, still the image of innocence. Chase knew better.

“Like hell you have,” he spat into his face, “You know something! Tell me what you know!”

“I swear to you, I have never lied to you!”

“But you have lied to them. You lie to everyone you meet, Ripper, showing them the good little Watcher that never did anything wrong, or dark, or twisted!” Robert whispered hoarsely, punctuating each question with another shake, “Did you tell them about your past? Did you tell them what you did after you and Ethan disbanded your little group? Did you tell them about the true darkness you faced?”

“What about you, Robert?” Giles yelled back, pushing Chase across the hall to the other wall, “Did you tell your girlfriend your sins? Why you took the cloth in the first place? Why you gave it up?”

“You’re angry, Ripper,” he laughed, feeling Giles’ dark magic crackle over his skin, just as Robert knew his magic was running over his, “Does it feel the way you remember it? Is the rush the same? Come on, old man, let me have it. Maybe you’ll tell me what you’ve done, and those girls won’t have to die!”

“I have done nothing!”

“I don’t believe you,” he half-sung, gasping as Giles’ fist sunk into his gut, making him double over in white hot pain, and slide down the wall.

From out of nowhere, Buffy and Xander appeared, each holding the warring Watchers apart lest they tried for round two.

“I think you should both take a walk,” Cuddy suggested quietly, and Chase wondered when she had gotten there.

Growling, he shook himself out of Xander’s grip, and walked out the front door of the hospital, not stopping until he had to unlock the door to his flat. Tossing his lab coat over a chair, he rooted around in the very back of his cupboards for the emergency box of clove cigarettes he stashed when he first started working for House. Sitting on his desk amid piles of Giles’ research, he opened the window, letting the cold air wash over him as the burning smoke fills his lungs. Chain smoking and watching the city below him, he can feel the anger leaving his body bit by bit. After three cigarettes, a knock sounds at his door.

“Use your key!” he shouted from his perch, not wanting to move.

“Don’t have one!” the man on the other side shouts, and Chase guesses it’s House. Grumbling, he walked over to the door, cigarette hanging from him lip and ashtray in his hand like a three year old with a security blanket.

“What do you want?” he asked in a long exhale of smoke, secretly thrilled when House coughs dryly and blinks the smoke away.

“An explanation and a cigarette,” House said, leaning on his cane.

“It’s personal, House. Do you understand what that means? It means I’m not going to tell you,” he spoke slowly, like he was talking to a child. Looking over House’s shoulder, Chase spotted Buffy walking down the hall, and he called out, “What? You’ve come to yell at me, too?”

“I should,” Buffy crossed her arms over her chest, all business, “You’re technically my underling.”

“Like you ever enforced all of that chain of command rot,” he spoke through the hazy of smoke.

“Just sign the damn papers, Doctor Chase, and we’ll get out of your hair,” Buffy sighed, weary of all the sparring, and gave Chase the discharge papers she had nicked from the nurse’s station at the hospital.

“You’re discharging your patients?” House nearly yelled, “We don’t know what’s wrong with them!”

“You always need to solve the puzzle, Doctor House?” the Slayer asked, “Well, believe me when I tell you that some puzzles are better left alone.”

“And if he is responsible?” Robert asked, cutting off House’s sarcastic and/or offensive retort.

“Then he’ll answer to us, not you, Doctor,” she informed him, her tone reeking of finality.

He snorted, shoving the discharge papers in her chest, “You’ll never turn on him, Slayer. I just hope you open your eyes before he kills you.”

“You don’t know him like I do, Robert,” she told him sadly, putting the papers back into her bag.

“Oh, I know him better than you ever will, Slayer,” he laughed bitterly before sobering, “Now, get the hell away from me.”

“What is it with you and the crazy ex-girlfriends, Chase?”

“You can go to hell too, House,” he walked back into his apartment as he tossed his half pack of cigarettes at the man’s head, “Take some fags with you.”

“Oh, very witty, Chase!” he yelled at the closed panel of wood, his mind buzzing with more questions than answers.

The chapel in the hospital is nothing like the churches Chase spent most of his childhood in. That is an old monster, built with hand carved stone, mortar, blood, and sweat, and baptized with candle wax, incense, and mumbled prayers no one understood. The silence and the weight of years pressed on Robert as he gazed at the smaller stained glass window depicting Mary Magdalene and the other Mary tending to Jesus after the crucifixion. The cold of the church would seep into his very bones, as he sat in the pew for hours, rosary beads clutched like a life line, praying for his mother, himself, and for his father to return to them. The stained glass in this chapel is generic, just multicolored triangles leaning against one another for support, but he still stares at the smaller setting, as his fingers clutch to themselves, with no rosary digging into his hands. The three candles on the alter flicker, and Chase prays. It’s the only thing he can do. The hopelessness is suffocating.

Faith held Willow close within the circle of protective runes Giles and Xander drew with painstaking precision. The witch is shaking in her arms, muttering, singing, sighing words that make no sense, and blur together in a long strain of sounds. The Slayer wishes she would just shut up. The sounds are grating against her ears, and she needs to be listening for the demon, so she can scream her head off. Hopefully the other Slayers will be listening, and they can slay the monster before he takes a huge bite out of the two for one Slayer-witch special. She can’t do anything, all of her super strength has been stolen by this fiend.

“I don’t like Chase’s old friends,” House said without any preamble as he barged into Wilson’s office, “He’s too emotionally involved in the case.”

“And for you, being emotionally involved is the eighth deadly sin,” Wilson retorted dryly as he watched his friend pace across his office awkwardly, “You do realize that you don’t have to solve every puzzle.”

“The cute blonde chick said the same thing when she came to ream Chase out for beating up the old guy,” he said finally sitting in the couch with a heavy sigh.

“I thought Chase went home.”

“He did,” House looked away.

“You went to his apartment!” Wilson’s mouth dropped open to the floor, shocked.

Pursing his lips, House tilted his head to the side and asked, “Would you believe that I was concerned for his emotional well being?”

“No, House, I wouldn’t,” Wilson sighed, shaking his head.

Robert knew that there was nothing he could do. He knew that while he sat smoking cigarette after cigarette, the Scoobie gang was somehow moving the Slayer and the witch out into the park not so far from the hospital, where House liked to sit when his leg wasn’t hurting him so much. He can imagine the circle that the Watchers and maybe some of the Slayers drew on the ground, and the two girls gasping for breath inside it as they sit waiting for the demon to attack. He wonders if Faith and Willow feel as helpless as he does, sitting in a soulless chapel, aching for a cigarette and a rosary. He should be helping, but what can he do? Intubate the demon to death?

The sun dipped beneath the earth, and the light faded from blood red to dim purple gray before the demon showed it’s scaly face to the mass of Slayers. Compared to the battle over the Hellmouth with the First, it was pretty standard Slay-age with Buffy cleanly slicing the demon’s head off its shoulders. What wasn’t standard was the energy that crashed over Faith and the witch in her arms like a wave made of lightening. The power crackled in the air, filling Faith through her very pores and making her feel like a goddess. All too soon, the power settled in side her, and began to heal the slashes made by the demon. Willow sat on the ground, her hands and feet burrowed in the soft earth, sending the extra energy back into the ground as her own gashes healed in the blink of an eye.

“Something is going on with this bunch, at any rate,” House continued unashamed for his borderline stalker behavior, “Chase discharged the two woman.”

“He discharged his patients because the cute blonde told him to?”

“Apparently, she was his old boss, and it technically still his boss.”

“But he’s not working for them anymore.”

“Other than the odd patient, no.”

“This is confusing.”

“So you think something’s up with them, too?”

“No, House, I think everything is perfectly normal.”

Growling at his own stupidity, Robert stalked out of the hospital and headed for the park. It was fully night, and the lamps flickered to life above him as he parked his car in the small lot. Running along the path, he felt the energy fill the air, strangely pure as it rushed out of the demon’s fallen body and into the two woman he could barely make out in the darkness. The power washed over him, and part arched through the cooling air to fill his heart with the crackling energy.

“Look who’s here,” Xander muttered quietly to Faith as he helped her up. Robert was watching the clean up from the hill top, hands in his pockets and looking very awkward.

“Go and talk to him, he’s had a hard time,” Faith urged, hugging Xander, “You two look good together.”

“Hey, Xander,” the doctor shuffled his feet in the dirt, still sparking with the zap of energy, “Looks like I missed quite a party.”

“It wasn’t that big of one,” Xander reassured the man with a shrug.

“Does everyone hate me?”

“I don’t think it’s nothing a few bottles of scotch can’t smooth over.”

“I still don’t trust him.”

“Do you trust me?”

“Of course I do!” he sounded almost offended at the implication.

“Good.” Xander answered shortly, pulling Robert into a long kiss, the watching Slayers and Watchers whistling there approval.

“Everyone’s going to have to come back to the hospital so I can check you over!” Robert called out, laughing as he broke away from Xander’s embrace. Everything was going to be alright, he could feel it in his bones.

“I’ll find out the truth soon enough,” House tapped his cane against the floor, as if he hammered in the resolve.

“You hired Lucas for this?” he asked, not believing what his friend was capable of.

“No, I’m going to talk to them.”

“Have you considered stalking as a carrier if Cuddy ever does sack you?”

“No stalking this time.”

“How are you going to talk to them?”

“They all just came back to the hospital,” he smugly smiled.

“How do you know?”

“Because Taub just paged me,” House pushed himself out of the chair with aid of his cane, “Gotta go!”

-fin-

The End

You have reached the end of "Map of the Problematique". This story is complete.

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