Title: Ritual

Fandom: House, M.D.

Rating: PG

Genre: General/Romance

Pairing(s): Foreman/Chase/Cameron, one-sided Cameron/House

Warnings: mention of alcohol use, slash, het

Summary: It's a cycle, one that they hate and love and try to break free from. They wonder why they do it, but deep down they know the truth—it's because they love her.

Author's Notes: Uh…I don't know where this came from. I got a random idea to write a F/C/C fic—which is ridiculous, seeing as how I don't even like them as a threesome—but a muse is a muse, so I thought I'd give it a shot. Please don't hurt me.

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It has become a routine of sorts—a never-ending vicious circle that they can't escape and yet don't try to.

The morning will start out fine: they'll exchange brief pleasantries, teasing innuendos, and generally laze around until House arrives.

And everything will change.

Foreman's sense of humor will cool considerably, and he becomes focused and stern, no room for jokes. He is respectful towards House, friendly towards Cameron, civil to Chase. He takes his job seriously, and doesn't have time to play.

Chase's smile will vanish. Suddenly he's not safe anymore—the sheltering love of his fellow ducklings is gone with the entrance of House. He's a target, now, and has to speak cautiously, thinking before he words his ideas. There's no laughter in his voice, like there used to be—he's scared, with good reason.

Cameron will change, most of all.

She loses her confidence, her ability to stand up for herself and her ideas. She becomes a blushing schoolgirl, beaming with pride the smallest praise and looking crushed at the tiniest criticism. Foreman and Chase roll their eyes and tease her, but inside they know what's going on: Cameron's fallen for House, fast and hard, and they know that they're not going to get her back.

And House remains blissfully unaware.

They're slowly losing the bond they once had. They forget that Foreman doesn't really hate House; he just gets damn annoyed with him sometimes. They forget that when a patient dies, it's Chase, not Cameron, who feels it the most, because it's his job to save them during those crucial moments of cardiac arrest. They forget that Cameron, despite her Barbie-doll looks and trying-too-hard attitude, is a person too, and just because she tries to learn everyone else's feelings doesn't mean that she doesn't have her own.

Life is changing, a little more every day.

Work loses its spark, its sense of fun. They move through the motions of daily life in a blur of heart monitors, MRIs, and life-or-death situations. Some patients live, some patients die. It all fades into the background.

And after work, at whatever ungodly hour House lets them leave, they pile into someone's car and head to the nearest bar they can find. They drown their tears and their fears in alcohol, tossing back shots and arguing good-naturedly about the day, the patient, or whatever else they can think of.

Sometimes one of them needs to drink more than the others. Usually that someone is Cameron. Chase and Foreman are used to it.

So they weren't surprised to find themselves in their usual seats at the bar, listening to Cameron cry about how she loves House but he'll never love her back even though she knows he has feelings for her. They look on, not talking, and trying not to think about how once-upon-a-time they had enjoyed these evenings out together. Now they're wrenching at everyone's hearts, because truly they're all suffering from unrequited love.

"I just don't understand why no one loves me anymore…" Cameron sobs, sipping at her drink between gasps of air.

Chase closes his eyes as a flash of pain crosses his face. Foreman squeezes Chase's hand under the counter, just briefly, and then lets him go.

"I think;" he announces, "that you've had enough."

They work together to pry Cameron away from whatever nameless drink she's been downing all night. Foreman pays the bartender while Chase helps a wasted Cameron into her coat and scoops her up. He's realized long ago that there's no point in trying to get her to walk. He holds her like a child against his chest and she unconsciously snuggles into his arms. Chase meets Foreman's eyes. They're thinking along the same lines: once, that gesture of holding each other had been out of love, not necessity.

Foreman drives tonight, and they make it to Cameron's apartment building with no incidents. The receptionist in the lobby glances up as they enter, Cameron still held in Chase's arms, and gives them a tired wave. She's used to it, too.

The elevator ride used to be so much more fun—they would be slightly drunk but happy, jokingly staggering against each other, sloppy and teasing kisses trailing lightly over alcohol-flushed skin. Foreman unlocks Cameron's door with a key from his pocket, and they go directly to the bedroom.

With movements he's perfected after years of dealing with his mother, Chase slips Cameron's coat off her shoulders and starts unbuttoning her blouse. A long time ago, it would have been slow and sensual; his mouth following his hands, but now it's quick and distant. He takes the t-shirt that Foreman hands him and slides it over Cameron's head, maneuvering her arms into it with practiced motions. Same with her slacks and pajama pants—she's not protesting tonight, it makes it easier. He picks her up again and lays her under the blankets that Foreman has helpfully turned down. The other man has left the room, but returns briefly, a glass of water and two Tylenol in his hands. He places them on the bedside table and sighs, looking at Chase.

"Ready to go?" His voice is weary. It's been a long day.

"Yeah, I guess." Chase's tone is reluctant. There's always that hesitant note in his voice, as if he's hoping that Cameron will return to her old self and ask them to stay. The request doesn't come and he sits down on the edge of the bed. "Cameron, we're leaving."

She sniffles. Her tears still haven't died down—throughout the time that Chase was changing her clothes, the occasional whimper of "doesn't love me" has slipped from her lips.

Chase sighs. He didn't expect acknowledgement. "Well…goodnight." He starts to stand, only to be pulled into a surprisingly strong hug by the woman on the bed. Cameron crushes him against her chest, bursting into renewed tears.

"I love you so much;" she sobs, burying her face in his shoulder. "You're so good to me. I love you guys."

It's a drunken, almost ridiculous proclamation, but to Chase and Foreman it means the world. Chase strokes her hair back with one hand, not caring that her tears are soaking into his shirt. Finally, she calms enough to loosen her grip, and Chase pulls away. He presses his lips to her cheek. "I love you, too;" he murmurs. "And don't forget it." He stands, letting Foreman in. The other doctor bends down and kisses Cameron's other cheeks.

"We both do. Go to sleep, okay, baby?"

She nods sleepily, the depressant effect of the alcohol finally kicking in, and snuggles under her blankets.

Chase watches her distantly. It's like his mother all over again—slowly lapsing into an alcohol-soaked depression, and there's nothing he can do.

Foreman slips an arm around the younger man's waist. "Come on."

They return to Foreman's car in silence. Foreman holds Chase's hand gently during the drive back to Chase's apartment. When they reach the building, Chase starts to get out of the car, but Foreman catches his arm.

"Hey;" he says, his dark eyes meeting Chase's blue ones. "It's going to be okay."

He says that every night. Chase nods. "I know."

They kiss. It's gentle, filled with tenderness and a desperation to make up for what they no longer have.

When they break apart, Foreman's hand lingers gently on Chase's cheek for a moment. "I love you."

He says that every night, too. But this is something that Chase believes. A small, wistful smile curves kiss-swollen lips, and he leans over, brushing Foreman's lips with his own. "I love you, too." He gets out of the car and trudges up to the steps into the building, glancing over his shoulder as Foreman drives away.

-0-0-0-0-

The next morning, Chase arrives at work ten minutes later than usual—his alarm didn't go off. Cameron and Foreman are already there, giggling like teenage lovebirds over an article in the paper.

Cameron looks up as he enters and smiles brightly, asking him how he slept and teasing him about why he was late.

He smiles playfully, making up a response and giving her hair a gentle tug as he sits down on the edge of the conference table, leaning over the paper with them. As Cameron reads a particularly amusing political editorial out loud, Chase meets Foreman's eyes over the top of Cameron's head. Though the smiles stay on their faces, pain and love and dozens of unnamable emotions swirl through their eyes.

House enters the room, limping and barking out details to their newest case. The ducklings spring away from each other, returning to their respective chairs.

And the ritual begins again.

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—fin—

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Closing Notes: Okay. I'm sorry if this was…odd, but I couldn't get the plot bunny out of my head. Please keep in mind that this is the first time I've written het in…Oh, lord, I don't even know. Anyways, please review and tell me what you think. I'm going to run my head through the wall because of the monstrosity I've just written. Bye now!