The Creative Utilization of Storage Rooms
Summary: Who said he couldn't stop being an idiot long enough to snag the most brilliant woman he had ever met? All hope was not lost. Chase had a plan. ChaseCameron.
Disclaimer: I once played poker with David Shore and Fox. I bet my soul, and they bet House. Yeah… Kinda got the short end of the stick that hand… House belongs to David Shore and Fox. I just like to play with their toys.
Author's Note: This is my submission to LJ's House Het Ficathon. I wrote for iheart(underscore)chameron, who wanted:
Chase/Cameron of course :)
3 things that must be included in the fic: Romance, kisses, perhaps an engagement.
3 things that cannot be included in the fic: Chase or Cameron with anyone but eachother, smut, character death.
This does not take into account the events of "Sleeping Dogs Lie".
My inclusion of House and Wilson is just me being indulgent. I couldn't help myself. –shame- But hey, that's how I got the title! Indulgence with general benefits! –feels less guilty-
This is my first try at nearly pure fluff and Chase/Cameron, so feedback would be most appreciated. (AKA, Reviews/Reviewers are loved. –grin-)
Thank you and enjoy!
The Creative Utilization of Storage Rooms
Chase had discovered that he was a man who experienced intense moments of blatant idiocy.
Although he was certain that most women would argue that this was an apt description for any man, Robert felt that he managed to master the ability beyond that of the average chap.
Just examine the evidence.
Exhibit A: When his job was threatened, Chase promptly turned his back on his coworkers and boss, spying on them for the very person who put him in the unfortunate position to begin with. Not only did House torture him for months because of it, but he had also, through the brilliant move, lost the respect of his colleagues and friends.
Exhibit B: When he had learned of his father's death, instead of taking the day off and using the time to grieve properly, like any rational person would have done, Rob decided to stay at work and pretend that nothing had happened. Of course, pretending only got him so far, and a patient had died because he was distracted by his regrets.
Exhibit C: Chase had been interested in a woman for over a year, waiting for the perfect time and opportunity to make his intentions known. However, being the genius he was, he chose to 'make his move', when she was drugged out on crystal meth and petrified that she had contracted HIV. True, she had started kissing him first, distorting his judgment while he had internally celebrated, but nonetheless. He should have retained enough sense to realize that having sex with Allison while she was high and scared was not a good way to kick off their intimate relationship. Even if the encounter was, despite these unfortunate conditions, spectacular.
Exhibit D: He then told her that he didn't want it to happen again, effectively destroying any chance of building something meaningful from the shaky start.
Based off of this evidence, and a lifetime of similar events not called into play, Robert had reached the only logical conclusion.
When faced with the slightest possibility of emotional upheaval, Chase reacted in positively stupid ways.
Inspired by instant, knee-jerk, responses of self-preservation that had allowed him to function for the past twenty-odd years, his instincts gave him clear instructions on how to handle each situation. Having had to rely on them for so long, Robert followed them blindly.
He had to maintain his livelihood.
He had to do his job, despite distractions.
He had to make her better because she asked him to.
He couldn't give her the opportunity to disappoint him.
Sometimes, these decisions were smart ones. Mostly, however, they were rash and stupid.
At least they were now, in his adult life, when he didn't need to worry if his mother would make it home that night. When he didn't need to constantly prepare himself for his father's continued absence. When he didn't need to crush every hope that she would get better, that he would come back and that someone, anyone, would take care of him (please, just once?).
This was the troubled thought process of a child with too much on his plate and no one to turn to. When everyone he had thought he could depend on turned their back on him, leaving him alone with burdens that no child should have to bear.
Suffice to say, Robert was no longer in this situation, leaving his coping skills woefully outdated. They were a shoddy set of standards for Chase to live his life by, making him function as if he was playing a new card game with an old set of rules, causing him to lose miserably at every hand.
And he regretted each loss deeply, because he knew, in some far off corner of his brain, buried under years of conditioning, that they were largely unnecessary. That if he just picked up a new rule-book, he could be back in the game.
The most pronounced regrets were inspired by Exhibit D. That particular decision, (a decision that, Chase was certain, could only be made by a man with the emotional maturity of an eleven year old) haunted him daily.
In every smile she gave a patient and not him. In the way she would look longingly at House, but only stare at Robert fondly. In each hug of greeting she gave Foreman when she would only pat Chase awkwardly on the shoulder.
It was driving him mad, to be around her every day but unable to touch her. To watch her as she moved, leisurely walking down halls with a subdued grace, with a divine sway that made him overfill his cup of coffee every morning when she came through the door. To see her demonstrate an unbelievable kindness to every person she came in contact with, her pure generosity of spirit radiating from her and spreading to everyone she touched, whether she was aware of her effect or not. To look at her eyes when she got upset, unmasking a small spark that only hinted at the passion she had in her, just waiting to be tapped.
To know that it could have worked, that he could have been the one to tap that passion, if only he had shown any inclination of what he wanted. If he hadn't been too much of a coward to seek her out, to take the risk of admitting that he gave a damn.
Now she simply overlooked him, in a friendly sort of way. Where she told him good morning each day, worked with him for hours on end and had a number of conversations with him, yet never actually saw him. A fond detachment that was far more painful than if she had blatantly ignored him.
He created his own trap, been the cause of his turmoil. He had his moment to catch her, and he missed. Simply watched as she passed him by. She was gone, and he was left holding onto air.
It was an extremely depressing thought.
One that Chase was not at all satisfied with.
Something which he felt he should modify.
Who said that he couldn't have a second chance? Couldn't stop being an idiot long enough to snag the most beautiful, kind and brilliant woman he had ever met?
All hope was not lost.
Chase had a plan.
Allison Cameron thought herself to be a relatively tolerant person.
Really. She could be counted on to interact with the most irritating of patients without losing her temper, helped fellow doctors and the hospital's med students without complaint, coped with the prejudice sent her way due to her looks and gender. She had even managed to deal with House for over a year and a half, sanity still intact.
But this was pushing her to her limits.
When it had started a week ago, she never would have thought that it would lead her to this point of desperation. After all, it was innocent enough.
It had been a long day at the hospital, and Cameron was more than ready to go home.
"I never thought I would say that I miss med school," Chase muttered, shoulders slumped and head hung down in exhaustion, "but I miss med school."
"I have run more tests, treated more patients and seen more vomit today than in my entire medical career until now." Foreman looked similar, his eyes dropping closed even as he spoke. "The result is an experience I never wish to repeat."
Cameron nodded, suppressing a yawn. "Epidemics and a miserable Greg House do not make for a good blend."
Another meningitis outbreak had occurred and, once again, Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital was the lucky recipient of hundreds of sick people, flocking from a nearby shopping mall to be cured of their ills. This, combined with House's foul mood and a very sick patient in diagnostics, had made for a trying twelve hours.
The three young doctors were in an elevator, heading for the parking lot, each showing the signs of working for far too long and with far too little rest. Cameron, herself, was internally debating whether or not she should simply fall asleep in the lift. Her car was awfully far away, and driving took up energy of its own…
The floor could be comfortable in the elevator. If she went back upstairs and used her lab-coat as a pillow, it could even be homey.
Allison shook herself.
She was not going to sleep in the elevator. She we going home and then promptly falling asleep on the first soft surface she came in contact with. Preferably her bed, but she wasn't picky. If her cat got her way, he would work just as well.
"At least they'll all be gone tomorrow." Foreman noted dispassionately, transferring his brief-case from one hand to the other.
"Why did General Hospital have to be playing reruns today?" Chase was almost moping, staring down at his feet. "If he had a proper distraction from all the patients he might have shown us some pity."
"House? Show pity?" Foreman snorted. "Not unless there's a bet."
"At least it's over with," Cameron muttered, tilting her neck and hearing several disconcerting pops as some of the tension that had been building throughout the long day was released.
She smiled when the boys flinched at the sound.
There was a comfortable silence as the team waited for the doors to open, too tired to attempt more conversation. Soon the panels parted and the three made their way to the exit, Cameron waving to nurses and doctors as the three headed towards a well-deserved freedom.
"I parked in the garage," Foreman said once they were outside, gesturing to the complex. "Goodbye, goodnight, see you in a week when I wake up." He slapped Chase on the shoulder and then turned to Allison, giving her a hug before staggering off to his car.
Chase sighed and she looked up.
"What is it?"
He shook his head. "Nothing. Feel a bit like I've been run over by a bus," he sent her a small smirk, "but I'll get over it."
Cameron grinned. "A day like this one does seem to have that effect on people, doesn't it?"
He grunted in agreement and they continued to make their way across the pavement.
In moments they had reached Cameron's car, both stopping in front of the vehicle and staring at one another.
Cameron nearly flinched while looking at him. He was as handsome as ever, but he also seemed on the verge of exhaustion, every feature strained, eyelids drooping, lines appearing on his skin that no man so young should have. Even his hair seemed tired, blond tendrils matted down close to his face and getting into his eyes as he smiled sleepily at her.
Cameron smiled back, charmed by him, despite the fact that he looked as if he was about to collapse. Chase had the affect on her; able to make her happy without seeming to try, to make her laugh with a look or a grin, to make her feel... nice.
But also an uncontrollable guilt.
She had, after all, used him the most foul of ways. Taken advantage of him when he had come to her as a friend. Slept with him to try and erase her fear, ease her uncertainty. It had been a horrible thing for her to do, to abuse his generosity, mar their relationship in her blind panic. And it had left an ugly mark. Forced them out of their formerly comfortable status as friends into something else. Something more.
And also, something less.
They couldn't go back to what they had been before they slept together. It wasn't possible, not after sharing that intimate act, seeing one another in reckless abandon. Memorizing features, textures and sensations in the dark. Fumbling towards connection, finding it and embracing it fully.
No, this was not something that could be forgotten.
But nor could they move forward. Chase had made that clear, and Cameron certainly couldn't blame him for such sentiments. She was an unwanted complication in his life, a problem that had forced itself on him, and done it in the most insulting of ways.
So, they were stuck in limbo. More than friends, less than lovers. A hazy grey area in which Allison didn't know her place. It was a confusing sensation, to be in this no-man's land, to feel guilt mixed with affection. It made her uncertain around him, unable to express anything towards him save for a kind detachment that, although she didn't show it, left her deeply unsatisfied. Because she knew that if she hadn't had been a fool, they could have been more. Perhaps not lovers, but share something greater than this string of uncomfortable moments.
However, the opportunity to mend these wounds had long since passed, and it was not her place to attempt to recapture it.
With a slight sigh she looked back to the man, extracting herself from her thoughts and prepared to say her farewells.
When he had kissed her. On the cheek.
It was startling if only because she couldn't remember him being so close to her less than a second earlier, the change sudden, intimate without being uncomfortable. Nothing save for his lips touched her, and yet she could feel his proximity, his body-heat spanning the mere millimeters between them to seep into her skin, warming her without contact. The hair that was notorious for getting into his eyes falling into her own, brushing against eyelashes.
It was chaste, in every aspect of the term. Simply his mouth pressed to her cheek, lips closed pertly, although she could sense a small upward tilt to them. The kiss of a young boy to his sweetheart.
It lasted only an instant, and yet it was enough to nearly leave her gasping when he stepped away from her.
"See you tomorrow, Ally."
And with that, he had spun on his heal and continued down the rows of vehicles, not sparing her a backwards glance.
Cameron shakily got into her car and turned the key in the ignition, exiting the parking lot and heading home.
She had only one coherent thought spinning through her head.
She imagined the weight of his lips on her cheek all that night.
Cameron had dismissed the incident. They had both been tired and the friendly kiss was likely the result of this mild exhaustion. Drowsily induced affection, nothing more.
Or at least, that had been what she thought until it happened again the next day in the Diagnostics Lounge. House had been avoiding clinic duty with Wilson, whereas Foreman had actually been doing clinic duty, leaving the two younger doctors alone for a few moments while Cameron dealt with the mundane horrors of paperwork and Chase looked over medical journals.
Glancing up at the clock and likely realizing that the lab would now be free, Chase had gotten up with a groan, said something about feeling like a minion off to do his master's bidding and given her a small kiss on the forehead on his way out the door.
It was just as quick, just as innocent and just as private as the peck from the night before. And just as surprising.
With a, "See you in a bit Ally," he was gone.
On the night that followed Cameron had been saddled with monitoring their patient until morning. Chase stayed late, one of his walk-ins from the clinic needing more attention than expected with a sever infection and heart defect, and he had reluctantly taken charge of the case. Ever since Kayla he had been avoiding becoming directly involved with patients, quickly handing the work off to someone else if he felt he would have to take a greater responsibility in their treatment. Although he liked to pretend otherwise, her death had affected him deeply and it was, for better or for worse, a burden that he would never be relieved of.
As for the kisses, Allison determined that the best course of action was to ignore them. Chase had been overworked lately, (as had they all) and one tended to get a bit loopy when left in the company of House for too long. The past two days had been isolated incidents, never to occur or be thought of again.
They were in the Diagnostics Lounge once again, Chase gathering the last of his things together and preparing to leave while Allison reviewed the patient's file once more before beginning the long night of observation.
"You should walk me to the elevator."
Cameron looked up from the stats and raised an eyebrow. "You scared of the big bad nurses at the station?"
"Petrified. I'm convinced that Brenda wants to jump me."
"I'm serious! I have no doubt that she's just waiting until I'm alone to take advantage of me." He sent her a pleading look, "Cameron, you can't abandon me to that fate. If you're not my defender then," He paused and peeked out of the glass wall, eyeing Brenda wearily, "I'm doomed."
Allison grinned and stood up from the table, "As amusing as seeing Brenda jumping you would be, I suppose I must take pity at such a pathetic request." She walked to the door and gestured Chase ahead of her at his apprehensive glance. "No worries. I'll be right behind you. Brenda tries to seduce you and I'll be glaring and hissing. Very scary stuff. She'll back off."
Chase smirked, slowing down his pace so she could catch up to him once they were outside of the office. "Doctor Cameron; always helping the helpless."
Cameron smiled back. "And you're one of these numbers of unfortunate helpless I'm out to save?"
"In more than one sense." He looked at her as they continued their leisurely walk down the hallway, his eyes seeming to bore into her, suddenly intense. It was odd, coming from Chase, who seemed to rarely take anything as seriously as he ought. It made her simultaneous uneasy and anxious with anticipation. Weary, but excited. Intrigued.
Before she had the time to puzzle out a response, he gave the tinniest of gestures to her left, causing her to glance over her shoulder and see the glaring form of Nurse Brenda. And every ounce of that hateful stare was aimed directly at Allison.
Cameron was certain she hadn't been sent a dirtier look in her life.
She struggled to keep a straight face as they continued down the hallway, muttering out of the side of her mouth. "I thought you were kidding. She looks like she wants to butcher me."
"I never joke when my virtue is at stake." He quickly glanced over his shoulder at the station and, for lack of a better term, whimpered. "Look at how she's eyeing me," Allison turned at saw the woman practically salivating. "I feel like a piece of meat."
"Better than the way she was looking at me. I do have to stay here all night, you know. Now I'm worried that she'll poison my coffee or attack me in an empty room."
Chase waved his hand casually. "Nah. Brenda wouldn't do it. She's too much of a stickler for the rules. Murder is definitely out. General harassment, sure. But I don't think you'll have to check coffin sizes. At least not until Friday."
"Haha," Cameron glared at him. "Ever heard, 'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned'?" She subtly jerked her thumb behind her while sending Chase a significant glance. "If that doesn't look like a woman scorned, I don't know what does."
"You can handle it."
"Easy for you to say; you're going home."
"Yep. Escaping the meat locker while you wait to be slaughtered." He grinned. "My hero."
They had reached elevator, both stopping as Chase pressed the 'down' button and Allison crossed her arms over her chest. "Last time I rescue you, mister."
She smiled at his disheartened look.
"Don't say that," the tone was far less playful than Cameron had been expecting. "Although," a significantly lighter mood now, "perhaps for the best, as in a few moments Brenda will be out for your blood and you'll need all of your energy to save yourself."
Allison raised an eyebrow. "And what will cause her to shift from her policy of 'general harassment' to the far more violent 'out for blood' strategy?"
He smirked, gently tugging on an arm until she reluctantly uncrossed it. He then sought out her hand with his, holding her fingers as he grinned.
He kissed the back of her hand.
Brief, innocent and completely unsettling.
The elevator dinged as the doors opened, Chase smiling as he entered the small compartment.
He faced Cameron, grinning wider now. "Goodnight Ally."
The doors dinged closed.
Allison's mouth had fallen open a while back, and for the life of her she couldn't shut it.
It wasn't just the kiss, although that alone had been startling enough.
No, it was how deliberate the action had been. The twinkle in Chase's eye as he brushed his lips against her skin, the way he held onto her a moment longer than he needed to, the small squeeze he had given her before he released the hand, the smile at her shocked expression. The incidents from the past two days could have been dismissed as casual and friendly, thoughtless expressions of affection.
This kiss, however, wasn't casual. Wasn't an accidental slip of what was appropriate for friends, the unconscious crossing of lines.
This had been calculated. Entirely intentional in its intimacy.
She headed back to Diagnostics, completely missing Brenda glaring daggers at her as she entered the Lounge, too distracted by her thoughts.
Allison was on guard the all throughout the next day, tensing-up every time Chase entered a room, never looking at him directly, doing her best to avoid being alone with him. It wasn't that she was afraid or anxious; she was just tired of letting the Aussie get the best of her.
Or at least that's what she told herself.
She had been doing well until she left Diagnostics to head for clinic duty, entering the elevator and sighing in relief as the doors began to close. She believed she was safe, relaxing the tension she had maintained all morning. It was exhausting, looking over your shoulder constantly, preparing yourself for ambush at any second. It was a relief to finally be certain she was safe.
These were her thoughts right before Chase slipped in through the silver panels.
Then he had the audacity to grin when she let out a frustrated sigh.
"Not happy to see me then?"
Cameron resisted the urge to flee to the corner of the elevator and repel him by the sheer power of her glaring. "What are you doing?"
"Going to the morgue. House wants some information on a former patient." He eyed her up and down, "You look kind of nervous."
She forcibly unclenched her arms from around her middle, bringing them down to her sides. "I am not nervous."
He smirked and faced the front of the elevator, saying nothing but rocking back and forth on his heels, looking smug.
She glared. "What are you playing at?"
He turned to her, eyebrows raised innocently. "Playing at?"
She narrowed her eyes at him, unconvinced by his childlike expression but unwilling to press the issue. If he was going to pretend that nothing was going on, then so would she.
"Nothing." She turned back the sliding doors.
There was a small silence before Allison looked up, noting that they had almost reached the main floor.
She began to step forward, eager to leave the inexplicably cramped space, only to be pulled back by a strong hand. She ran into Chase's chest, placing her free hand on his sloppy dress-shirt as he grinned down at her.
"Before you go," he took a small step backward, turning her hand over in his own and bringing it to his mouth, lips brushing against the sensitive skin of Allison's wrist.
She simply stared at him as he lowered her arm, noting the smoky tint to his blue eyes as she heard the ding from the elevator and the whoosh from the doors as they opened.
He released her hand. "Bye Ally."
Cameron all but ran out of the lift.
Today had been the tipping point, the straw that broke the camel's back and the end of Cameron's tolerance.
Suffice to say, Allison had enough.
She had been in the lab, examining a bit of DNA from their patient under a microscope, when she had felt a presence behind her. Assuming it was House being impatient, she began to rattle off facts, talking about blood type, mutations and infections.
As such, she had been caught completely unawares when a hand brushed her hair behind her ear. Before she could turn there was a hot breath on the side of her neck, followed by the gentle pressure of soft skin pressed against her pulse point, making her shiver as she felt the lightest of suctions.
The lips were gently removed. "Good morning Ally."
There was a faint sound of the tapping of expensive shoes on tile and the light noise of the door opening and closing while Cameron remained frozen on her chair. She was frantically fighting the desire to bring her fingers to the place he had kissed, to make certain that the sensation had been real.
This, she determined, was quite enough.
Currently, she stood up from her chair, walking rapidly out of the lab and searching for Chase.
She saw him just as he was about to turn a corner down the hall.
"Stop right there!" Cameron didn't notice the puzzled glances she got from the rest of the personnel on the floor, marching straight for the blond man who had spun around at her yelling.
"Yes, you." She came to a halt in front of him, arms across chest and glaring fiercely. "What game are you playing? Do you and House have a bet? You and Foreman?"
Chase adopted a doe-eyed expression. "Game? What game?"
"You know what I'm talking about."
"I'm not sure I do."
"Chase," she was all but growling at him. "This has been going on for a week and I've been very patient. I've waited, hoping that you'd get it out of your system. I haven't yelled at you, haven't slapped you, as I'm sure any other sane woman in my position would have done, haven't sent my family out to hunt you down. Considering the circumstances, I've been more than a little understanding." She sent him a defiant look, "But this is enough. I demand an explanation." Allison took in a deep breath, staring intently at the man in front of her as his face remained infuriatingly neutral. "Now stop being dense and explain yourself."
"Cameron, I'm not being dense." He looked genuinely confused, "I just need you to explain to me what this 'game' you're referring to is."
She sighed and let out a quick and low, "Youkepkissinme."
Chase furrowed his brow and leaned a little closer to her, "What was that?"
"You keep kissing me!"
Cameron blushed as dozens of eyes suddenly focused on her, feeling more than a little ridiculous for losing her composure. But she was resolute, holding her ground and staring up at Chase.
He was smirking at her. In fact, it looked as if he was doing his best to suppress laughter.
She glared as he lightly gripped her arm, pulling the two of them into a much smaller and rarely frequented hall.
"This isn't funny, you know."
He shook his head emphatically, doing his best to keep a straight face. "Not at all."
His best wasn't good enough.
"I'm serious Chase!" The corners of his mouth ceased their upward tilt. "Why are you doing this?"
He sighed, looking down at his shoes and biting his thumb nail. "I wanted you to stop pretending."
He looked up at her and she nodded, encouraging him to continue.
"Ever since we slept together you've been acting as if you're indifferent to me, and I've," an uncomfortable pause as he shifted his feet, "missed you."
Cameron felt pity for the man; Chase was not the sort to willing share feelings deeper than scorn or mild amusement. His lack of familiarity with the process was apparent in every awkward motion and uncertain gesture. An ineptness that managed to be oddly endearing.
She shook her head at the man. "But why not just talk to me?"
"You wouldn't have listened."
She narrowed her eyes, upset at the assumption. "That's not true. If you just would have said something we could've had this whole thing settled months ago."
"Right," Chase sent her a doubtful look. "Well, this worked just as well."
"Yes, well, 'this' is the equivalent to throwing rocks at a girl to get her attention from across the playground." Allison was annoyed. Those little pecks (the feel of his lips on her skin, the smell of his cologne, the thoughts of him that had been tormenting her all week), had been nothing more than attempts to get her to notice him. Just Chase tired of being ignored and wanting to have some fun. To play with her emotions and watch her squirm. "Why couldn't we just talk like adults? It could have spared us both some uncomfortable moments."
"This worked just as well, didn't it?"
Cameron stared at him in mild disgust. "This is ridiculous. You acted like a child who was upset because he wasn't getting enough attention."
"Cameron, it wasn't like tha-"
She held up a hand and shook her head sadly, berating herself. For a moment she had thought...
Well, that didn't matter now.
She sighed. "No more of your games. You want to mess with someone's head, go to House. He can appreciate it more than I ever will," she started to back away. "I'm going to go back to work now."
She exited the hall and began making her way to diagnostics.
Chase was hot on her heels. "Cameron, I wasn't trying to 'mess' with you."
"Right," the sadness was gone and had been quickly replaced by anger. "Because every time you start to grow distant with Foreman you start sucking on his neck," she didn't look at him, increasing her pace, "Silly me."
"Allison, let me explain,"
She stopped abruptly and turned to him, glaring. "I think you've explained things well enough, thanks. Now please excuse me; I've got a job to do."
She began her quick pace again.
Only to be jerked back, "Oh no you don't."
A hand at her elbow quickly swung her around and then pushed her forward, Cameron stumbling slightly before she staggered to a fully upright position.
She was in darkness, felt cramped and was absolutely furious.
He had just shoved her into a storage room.
He had just shoved her into a storage room.
Yet another Exhibit for the 'Robert Chase Hall of Shame'.
Why had this seemed like a good idea again?
Oh, right. Forcing her to listen to him. Alrighty then, time to get to the talking.
He leaned a bit more firmly on the door before beginning. "I'm sorry," he said, doing his best to sound sincere, pointedly ignoring the stares being sent his way from nurses who had seen him push Cameron into the room. "But I couldn't let you go yet." He wouldn't let her pass him by again.
"Funny." She certainly didn't sound amused. "Now let me out."
Chase took in a breath. "Nope."
"Robert Chase, let me out of this room right now!"
"Look, I wasn't trying to hurt you or play with your head this week, I swear."
He waited for the screaming, but was slightly encouraged when this declaration was met with silence. So far, so good.
He looked around, quickly making sure no one was close enough to hear the conversation taking place, before continuing. "I just didn't want to let you ignore this anymore."
"Ignore what? You?"
Ouch. That sounded a bit vindictive.
"No," Chase bit his nail, shifting his feet. "Us."
"There is no us!"
Chase grinned. "Then there should be."
There was a short silence that felt far longer than it should have as Chase remained pressed against the door, praying that Cameron wasn't about to screech at him.
A small intake of air from the other side of the wood, "You said-"
Chase sighed. He was going to have to 'communicate' now, wasn't he?
"I was being an idiot."
"I didn't mean it." With a slump of his shoulders Chase resigned himself to abandoning his dignity in a ditch somewhere. "I said those things because I thought needed to, not because I wanted to." He paused and then amended, "Except for the bit about the sex not sucking. Trust me," he grinned, "it didn't."
He heard the soft sounds of her breathing through the wood, a faint thump. Probably her forehead resting on the door. "But you said that you didn't want to-"
"It wasn't true." Chase leaned his own head against the pine. "My life needs complication."
A pause. "Do you want to have sex with me again?"
He jerked away from the door. "No!"
Wait, did he just say that?
"Well," he inclined his head slightly, "yes." Only an idiot would pass up sex with Cameron. "But not just that."
More silence. "Is this you asking me out on a date? Because if so, it's sorely lacking in the romance department."
"No," Chase grumbled, "this is not me trying to ask you out on a date. Now, the constant kissing; that was me working up the nerve to ask you on a date and to eliminate your indifference" A sigh. "This storage room chaos, however, is the result of my being a moron."
A long pause.
"Chase," a resigned sigh, "you make it impossible for me stay angry with you."
He wasn't certain how to respond. "This is good news for me, right?"
"In this case, yes. I should be livid," a snort. "You locked me in a storage room for God's sake."
Chase smiled. "I will let you out, you know."
"Well that's good. Didn't want to decay in here. You got a time frame I can work with? I don't want to waste too much effort decorating if I'll only be in here a few months."
"Well that depends," he smirked. "Will you go on a date with me?"
He felt an irrational pride at her use of his first name, conveniently overlooking the fact that it was screamed at him. "Hey, I tried being romantic, but where romance fails the threat of a life rotting away in a storage closet will have to do."
"Jimmy, are you taking notes?"
Chase whipped around to see House leaning on his cane, one hand stroking his chin. Wilson was behind him, face in palm and shaking his head.
"Is that House?" Cameron sounded a little panicky.
"Nope. Just some insane cripple from off the street. Feel free to ignore me and continue with the drama; this is good."
Chase only barely stopped himself from banging his head violently against the door. Date-making was not a spectator's sport.
House turned to Wilson. "Now, really Jimmy. Pay attention. Your wives would have stuck around if you knew how to creatively utilize a storage room. Your wife tries to walk out on you? Lock her up, of course." House nodded sagely as Wilson glared. "Simplicity is key."
Wilson sighed and sent Chase a remorseful glance. "Sorry," he grabbed the back of House's jacket and tugged, "we're leaving now."
House stumbled as he was pulled backwards, limping awkwardly as he tried to regain his footing. "Hey! I was watching that! You know how angry I get when you turn off General Hospital? Well this is so much worse."
His mutterings faded as Wilson dragged him down the hallway.
"Now that House has, once again, stuck his nose in business that is not his own," Cameron mumbled from behind the door, "will you let me out?"
Right. Girl he wanted to date was currently locked in a closet. Needed to fix that.
"Not until you agree to go on a date with me."
"Just one date!" She couldn't say no now, couldn't leave him so close to hope just to shoot him down. "I'm not asking you to have sex with me, or for a guaranteed second outing. Just dinner. Come on," he looked to the door, trying to see through it, convey his desperation. "Please?"
Chase waited, anxious and nervous, scared and excited. Anticipation left him tense, straight as a board. The fear of caring so much about a person (about her), and admitting it to himself (a luxury he hadn't allowed himself in many years), making him sweat.
Please, let her say yes, he thought, mind reeling. I don't know what I'll do if I lose her again. Let her say yes.
"Alright," Chase let out a breath he hadn't known he has been holding. "One date."
Chase opened the door, relief and pure joy coursing through him.
TWO YEARS LATER
"I can't do this."
"What if she says no?" He took the pen he had been chewing out of his mouth. "You think she's going to say no, don't you? Hell, I think she's going to say no. If I was her I'd say no-"
"If you were her you'd have enough sense to calm down."
Chase glared at Foreman. "I hope you won't be expecting any sympathy when you're in this situation. I won't be giving you any."
Foreman watched his friend pace in front of him, practically wearing a hole in the carpet. "Look, Chase. You have nothing to worry about. Everyone but you seems to know that she loves you. Relax, it'll be fine."
Chase continued to pace, apparently ignoring him.
Foreman sighed. "Stop moving!"
Chase halted in his tracks and Foreman stood up, clapping Robert on his shoulders and giving him a focused look. "It. Will. Be. Fine." He punctuated each word with a small shake, attempting to force calm into the man.
"Here, sit down." Eric guided the intensivist into a chair, nodding once the younger doctor was seated, taking a chair opposite. "You are going to propose to the woman you love today. It will be romantic, charming and perfect. What's more, she is going to say yes and you are going to become the happiest man alive. Of course, this is only if," Foreman gave a pointed stare, "you don't exhaust yourself before then. Understood?"
Chase nodded mutely.
"Good." Eric leaned back in his chair, satisfied.
"I still think she's going to say no."
Foreman lowered his head in defeat.
"Why did Cuddy want me to go to the lab, again?"
House smirked. "To run gels with me."
"Anyone could do that." Cameron grumbled, turning back to the medical instruments and making some adjustments. "Specifically, Robert could do that. He is your slave now, not me."
"This is true. But I doubt Cuddy saw him as fit supervision." He gave a satisfied smile. "I've been blowing things up lately. She probably thinks Chase would just encourage me to make the stuff create a louder 'boom' upon exploding."
Cameron rolled her eyes. "Boys. You do know that I'm taking time away from my department to do this? And that there are over a dozen cases I'm overseeing and ignoring in favor of running simple tests for you?"
"And you aren't the Head of Immunology, so it shouldn't matter. Jenkins is supposed to be the one who looks over the cases, not you."
"Would you want Jenkins to look over your case?"
House paused, then gave an exaggerated nod. "Point taken."
She grinned, "Just don't forget that I'm not your lap-dog anymore. Chase, however, is." She turned to a computer, looking at the results from the tests. "A fact he reminds me of constantly." She glared at her former boss. "Very annoying, I might add, and which I blame you for entirely. I doubt you would torture him so much if you had to live with him."
"Fortunately, I don't live with him, so I'll torment him as I see fit." House tapped his cane against the ground idly.
Cameron sighed and shook her head sadly. "Alright," she gestured to the computer, "there are the results. I'm going to go back up to my floor and check on some patients. I'll help you with the final diagnosis when I'm through."
"Here, I'll go with you," House slid off of the chair and trailed Cameron out of the lab. "Jars filled with creepy things in there. Very spooky. They make me nervous."
"And bored." She sent him an amused look. "You could just go do clinic duty. While not exactly fun, you would be occupied."
"Never," House eyed both sides of the hallway, making sure the coast was clear and that everything was in place. "Cuddy would go into shock if I voluntarily did work at the clinic. Couldn't have that. She's the Dean of Medicine, after all. She can't work and the hospital falls apart."
"Is that how you rationalize it?"
"Yep," he spotted the partly open door a few feet away and angled himself accordingly. "My conscious is clear."
Cameron shook her head and gave him an exasperated stare. "Do you even know what guilt is?"
"Nope," he stopped, turning to her. "Making me not at all sorry for what I'm about to do."
Cameron sent him a confused expression just before he gave her a sharp push with his cane, propelling her far enough to get her inside of the storage closet. Hobbling quickly to the door, he closed it firmly. In seconds he felt a fist pounding on the wood and heard some angry jabbering from within.
The smirk that had been on his face since the initial cane jab grew into a full-fledged smile.
"I saw that, you know." Wilson had appeared from around a corner, Foreman just behind him. "You enjoyed the whole process way too much."
"It was awesome," House was still grinning. "Do you have any idea how long I've been holding myself back from poking Cameron with my cane?"
Foreman rolled his eyes. "You haven't changed."
"Not a bit. Been missing me Eric? They say Florida's the sunshine state, but without me all your days must be gloomy."
"Right," Foreman blinked. "I'm heartbroken, truly. Getting respect and recognition is nothing compared to the pain of your absence."
House nodded. "I can sense your grief." He turned to Wilson. "So, where's the rest of the parade?"
"You mean Cuddy?" The oncologist shrugged. "Probably trying to appease some patient you insulted."
"That wouldn't be startling to learn."
There was a lull in the conversation, abruptly broken by Foreman's sigh. "This has got to be the cheesiest thing I've ever seen, much less participated in."
House nodded in agreement, "Yeah," he sent Foreman an appraising look. "I got to poke Cameron. What's your excuse for being here?"
The neurologist glared.
House smirked, stretching his legs in front of him, resting his cane against the wall and leaning more fully against the door. "Still, despite the poke, this is all very lame."
"But," Wilson waved when he saw Cuddy turn a corner into the hallway, "she likes lame."
Cameron was trying to prevent herself from doing something stupid such as kicking the door. While it would, momentarily, make her feel much better about her current situation, it would also hurt and, overall, accomplish very little.
Instead she contended herself with pounding on the door and sending malevolent thoughts House's direction. Being jabbed by his cane had hurt, and after she had helped him, no less.
Last time she did that man a favor, despite Cuddy's pleas.
She was amusing herself with thoughts of strangling House when there was a small jangle behind her.
Allison wheeled around, frantically looking for the source of the noise. Another jangle, and an overhead lamp was turned on, illuminating the gleaming surfaces of the empty shelves of the storage room, the normally dust-covered, equipment-filled and pest ridden space spotless, lacking rodents, dirt and medical tools.
She continued her observations to see Chase standing directly bellow the swinging bulb, grinning broadly with his hands clasped behind his back.
Cameron was speechless and quite certain that any attempts at communication would be woefully inadequate.
So, she remained silent.
Robert took in a large breath. "Two years ago today you agreed to go out on a date with me, after being housed in this," he gestured to the small and cramped space, making an odd face, "charming and quaint room."
Cameron smiled, remembering how furious she had been with him that day, not realizing what a blessing the whole fiasco had been. After all, had Chase not locked her in this closet, she never would have allowed herself to love him, too ashamed of what she had done to him to attempt it.
It had been surprising, once the uncertainty and awkwardness had been eliminated, how well she got along with Robert. How easy it was for her to care about him. To take joy in his faults and insecurities, find his odd habits and once frustrating mannerisms endearing. It had taken time, as he was a hard man to know, hiding himself under carefully built layers of indifference, humor and charm that provided him with a solid shield against the world. Only after months of persistent whittling had Cameron been able to delve deeper into his personality, discover the more complex aspects of him, the emotions he would rather lock away than expose.
And once she had dug beneath these layers, loving him turned out to be a remarkably simple thing to do.
He was kind and considerate in a cautious, unassuming, way that she never would have expected from him. The small, thoughtless, deeds were never obvious, as Chase wasn't the sort to willingly display any action that did not serve his own self-interest, but they were still there, in subtle things that most would overlook. How he would throw back the covers to her side of the bed at night before she came into the room. His tendency to highlight articles in the medical journals they both read that he thought she would be interested in. The way he would notice when she was having a bad day and be certain to find a moment to kiss her.
These and a thousand more little aids, tiny reminders of how he cared for her, seduced her in ways that no kiss ever could. Sex could make a people want one another, yearn for touch and sensation. But it was the other, smaller, things that made people need one another. Love one another.
Chase coughed slightly and shifted his feet, bringing Cameron's attention back up to him. "I think we both learned then that any attempts at romance on my part were doomed to failure, so I skipped pretenses and thought I'd go with a technique I knew to be effective."
She blinked as he went down on one knee in front of her, looking up at her earnestly. There was a small glimpse of blind panic on his face, but it was masked quickly, Robert taking another deep breath before continuing. "I love you Ally. I know I'm not the best guy in the world, that I can be inexplicably stupid most of the time and that I don't deserve you," he grinned sheepishly. "But I can't live without you." His expression became serious. "I tried before, to be happy without you, but it wasn't enough, and I don't want life to be that way again."
Another gasp of air. "I want you. In every moment of my idiocy, every second of self-doubt and each time I know I'm about to do something stupid. I want you to be there to tell me I'm being a moron, to force me up when I'm down, stop me from doing the stupid things that keep me from being the person you think I can be. I know it seems like a lot to ask, but it's no more than what you've already done and the promise that you'll do it forever." He paused, "Which actually, probably is a lot to ask."
Cameron grinned as he continued. "As ridiculous as it sounds, you're my compass. You're the only thing pointing me to the life I want; the only thing keeping me from wandering off of the path."
He stared at her intently, his eyes locking with her own. "I need you."
Cameron stopped breathing in that instant, moved beyond words, beyond thought. Chase could want, he could hope for, but he had never allowed himself to need.
"And if you need me too," he dug in his pocket, pulling out a small velvet box, unconsciously stroking the case as he opened it, "please marry me."
Still unable to speak, Cameron stared at him for a moment, finding that her vision was getting fuzzy.
Chase shifted on the floor slightly, "And just so you know, I'm not telling House to let us out until you say yes."
Allison laughed, feeling a tear slide down her cheek as she grinned. "Yes," she smiled down at him. "Of course, yes."
Robert stood up, relief and joy apparent on his every feature. "Thank God."
Before Allison could comment on his being absurdly thick for ever doubting her response, he was kissing her, slipping the ring onto her finger as lips met lips.