The problem with fantasies, Chase knew, was that nobody ever thought about what would happen after the fantasy was fulfilled. In all the time he had fantasized of kissing Cameron again, he had never stopped to wonder what her response would be. It had never occurred to him to wonder what she would say, or even assume she would be able to say anything at all. He had never imagined anything more than a moment after he kissed her, except to delve into a further fantasy of them in bed together, intertwined. Even those fantasies simply returned him to memories of the last time she kissed him, which did nothing but start the fantasy all over again.
As a result, he had no idea how to proceed. Sitting alone in his apartment, reliving the afternoon, Chase found himself at a loss. Part of him felt he should find Cameron and apologize to her, certain he had something to apologize for. He had assumed she would not protest his kiss, and she had not, outright. She had not seemed happy about it, either. She was just silent, and that distressed Chase more than he imagined anything she could have said would. Cameron was never silent, not when she had an opinion about something.
Therefore, Chase was forced to admit that perhaps Cameron had never thought about kissing him again, and had no strong opinions either way. He was surprised how much that hurt him, the idea that she might not care about him at all. He had never allowed himself to believe that his feelings for Cameron extended deeper than just the passion of that first drug-induced night. It never occurred to him that she had awoken something in him that night which he could not forget or repress.
He thought about calling her, but knew that if she was not willing to talk to him in person she was sure not to answer the phone. He thought about finding her and explaining himself to her in person, but worried that she might think he was there just to get her back into bed. He hadn't wanted to have sex with her, necessarily, when he pinned her against the wall in the closet; he had simply wanted to have that feeling back. That dizzying, exhilarating feeling of spontaneity and passion she had given him before. He had only wanted to kiss her, and had never thought of what would happen when the kiss broke.
He thought about doing nothing, just pretending he had never taken her off her guard in the first place, but that felt like the worst option of all. Cameron had consumed his thoughts more times than he cared to remember, but trying to forget about her would be impossible. He needed to face this, and so did she, but how to go about it was a mystery to him.
He stood and flipped open his cell phone, staring at the screen for a long moment before searching for her number. Her name, highlighted in blue, stared at him from the screen, challenging her to call him. He was not ready to face her in person, but knew that if he did not at least attempt a step towards a friendship, he could lose her entirely.
It seemed, suddenly, that the call button on the phone was the heaviest, most resistant thing he had ever encountered. He willed his thumb again and again to compress the button and begin a conversation, but his stubborn hand refused to respond to his commands. In his chest, his heart thumped as loudly as hers had in the closet, threatening to pound its way out from behind his ribcage entirely. He inhaled deeply and rested the phone against his forehead, chiding himself for his own weakness and immaturity. He had not been this nervous about calling a girl since he was a boy, summoning up all his courage to call the first girl he had ever thought was beautiful. She had turned him down. He had been disappointed, but survived. He hadn't fantasized about that girl for years, though, and certainly hadn't had her before.
With a surge of confidence and resentment towards his own thoughts, he pressed the button and brought his phone to his ear. He would get her voicemail, he was sure of that. He wouldn't actually have to talk to her. He would be able to leave a message. He would start the conversation, and she would come to him when she was ready.
In the hallway outside his door, a phone rang.
Chase turned and stared at the door, marveling at the coincidence. The phone rang again, quieter, and he realized with a flash that he recognized the ring. He'd heard it a hundred times, and the tension which gripped his chest at the sound reminded him that every time that ring sounded, bad news was to follow. Often the sound meant an insult from House was to follow, usually it meant test results were in and sometimes it meant someone had died.
It was Cameron's phone.
The ring sounded again, muffled and bordering on nonexistent as it moved farther down the hallway. He dashed for the door, phone still to his ear, and stepped into the hallway as Cameron's prerecorded voice indicated she had successfully ignored the call and sent him to voicemail.
"Cameron!" he called. She had almost reached the end of the hallway and was about to turn towards freedom when his voice stopped her in her tracks. He watched her pause and take a deep breath before turning around. Even at the other end of the hallway he could see her face was flushed with embarrassment, and he suspected it had taken every ounce of her confidence to come to his door just as it had taken all he had to dial her number. Spent and confused, they stared at each other down the hallway.
"I … I didn't think you were home," Cameron stammered. "I thought I would … leave a note or something."
Chase hurried down the hallway to meet her, afraid she might dash outside without warning. He panted as he reached her, so nervous he was close to reaching hyperventilation. He struggled to catch his breath before speaking, irrationally concerned it would appear to her that he was out of shape and hardly worth her time.
"I didn't mean to come here," she continued. "I couldn't sit at home and I just sort of … ended up here."
She was babbling, trying to fill the silence with noise so neither she nor he would have the time to stop and think. In romance movies the only sure way to stop someone stuck in the babbling streak was to catch them completely off-guard with a kiss, but Chase had the feeling that would do nothing to solve his problem.
"It's okay," he said, simply. "I didn't think you would answer your phone. I thought I would leave you a voicemail. I guess we're both trying to avoid each other without avoiding each other."
Cameron smiled weakly, and Chase's heart slowed its frenetic pace. So she wasn't angry.
"I don't …" he started, unsure of what words would follow, "I don't want to be uncomfortable about this. I didn't mean to make things get complicated, I just wanted to … the time was right, and I …"
Cameron smiled again, broader this time, and Chase let his sentence trail off with a sigh.
"I don't have anything to say," he admitted. "I'm an ass. We were in a situation, and I just took advantage of it."
"It's okay," Cameron said, the gentle tone of her voice letting him know that maybe it really was. "You don't have to explain anything."
A door behind them closed, and Cameron moved aside as Chase's neighbor stepped past them, nodding his hello towards Chase. Chase looked back towards his open apartment door, wondering what harm there might be in asking Cameron to come in for a while, and what she might think that meant.
"I should go," Cameron said, cutting his thoughts off before they could fester. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Right," Chase nodded. Cameron turned and headed for the street.
This wasn't right; he shouldn't feel like this. He'd done what he wanted to do and she didn't hate him for it, but something about this just didn't feel the way it was supposed to. He stood in the hallway, watching her go, and as she disappeared he knew that he had resolved nothing, for either one of them. There was hesitation in her step and he couldn't bring himself to turn back towards his apartment. It couldn't end this way. There was more to be said, and he couldn't wait for resolution again.
Cameron was halfway to her car, hurrying across the street in the shimmering twilight of the evening, when the door to the apartment building flung open and the soft footsteps pounded after her.
She stopped in the middle of the street and turned, crossing her arms over her chest as she did in her classic stance of self-protection. She had hoped she was free, able to put it all behind her.
"Chase, you don't have to say anything," she said before he even reached her. "Stop trying to make amends for something that doesn't have to be fixed. I just came here because I wanted to make sure we were okay and things weren't going to be strange between us, nothing else. I don't need anything from you."
"I haven't stopped thinking about you for months," he confessed, the statement falling from his mouth before he had a chance to think. "Not since … well, I'm sure you know since when. And I hate it. I hate that I can't look at you without thinking about pinning you to a wall and kissing you the same way you kissed me. So I took the opportunity to exorcise myself. Only I don't think it worked, because I just chased you into the street and I don't usually chase women I don't feel anything for."
"I'm sorry," Cameron said quietly. "I made a mistake a long time ago, but it's time for both of us to let it go. It's not me you've been thinking of, it's the situation. And it's not one that is going to happen again."
"What do you mean, 'both of us'?" Chase asked, latching on to the phrase and ignoring all else.
"What?" Cameron had not expected for him to respond, and had hoped to be able to walk away with the upper hand.
"You said it's time for both of us to let it go," Chase said. "What does that mean?"
"It means nothing," Cameron replied, "it's just a figure of speech."
"No," Chase retorted, stepping towards her. "You never misspeak. You're not capable of it. Everything you say is carefully plotted and planned to get the result you want."
"No it isn't."
"Yes, it is," Chase maintained. "You don't realize it, but it is. You have never once said something you didn't believe to be absolutely true, or done anything you didn't believe in, for that matter, so what do you mean, 'both of us'?"
Silence fell on the neighborhood as the sun slipped lower on the horizon. Cameron's hair shone auburn in the near-dark, and in the distance a dog barked but the neighborhood was otherwise silent. Chase listened for the sound of approaching cars as he waited for Cameron's reply, certain something would come along to interrupt their conversation and save Cameron from what Chase suspected was a painful revelation.
"My life cannot be based on one bad decision," she finally said. "I was always afraid of everything, afraid of the way people saw me and afraid of what I would have to do to get people to see me the way I want. I've always done everything I can to get the outcome I want. Only apparently that's not the way things go. I can plan and prepare and work, but you can't always get what you want."
House's influence, Chase noted, had reached her subconscious. All she was saying was true, but Chase knew she had changed in the years since she had come to work at Princeton-Plainsboro. She had found her true voice at Princeton-Plainsboro, and though she still did all she could to accomplish what she felt was right, she no longer did it with anyone else's approval in mind.
"It's not fair," Cameron continued, "that drugs got me what I wanted faster than anything else, and that because I was incapable of hiding my own insecurities, I can't have it anymore."
There it was, she had confessed. In a way.
"If I hadn't been high," she finished, "we never would have slept together, you would never have kissed me today, and we could have both gone on with uncomplicated lives."
Cameron's arms dropped to her sides. Chase wondered how long she had been holding that in. So she was still angry. Not at him, not exactly, but at herself. She had convinced herself just as he had that all she felt about him was based on one night, and had refused to allow herself to believe otherwise. His heart went out to her. Chase had spent months fantasizing about her, and Cameron, it seemed, had spent months berating herself for the same actions.
"You," Chase said slowly, "are so full of it."
She stared at him in shock. "Excuse me?"
"You don't want an uncomplicated life," he told her, placing his hands on his hips. Her face hardened as she set her jaw, preparing to refute any argument he could send her way.
"I'm sorry?" she haughtily asked.
"You do not want an uncomplicated life," Chase repeated. "Not even close."
"Do not tell me for one minute what I want, Chase," she warned.
"If you wanted simplicity you wouldn't have gone to medical school, wouldn't have become a doctor, and certainly wouldn't work for House," Chase listed with a chuckle. "You wouldn't play that little banter the two of you play, and you would never have told him you liked him. You wouldn't have married …" At the flash of pain in her eyes, he hesitated, then softened. "You wouldn't have done the things you've done, the things which make you, you. I know you see yourself as some sort of straight-laced girl who always followed the rules and missed out on a whole lot of fun stuff growing up, and maybe you were that way once, but you're not anymore. And you may not want your life to be defined by the stupid mistakes you make, Cameron, but it's those stupid little mistakes which make you alive. I made a stupid mistake that night too, and I may have done something stupid and out of place today, but you know what? I'm not going to look at it as a mistake because if nothing else it's lead us to this conversation right now, so I can tell you how amazing you are and how little credit you give yourself, and if you can't understand that Cameron then I'm sorry, but I won't regret it. Because you're complicated, and you're beautiful and I -- I like you that way."
Cameron stared at him, unblinking. She stood a little straighter, readjusting her posture and setting her jaw hard. Chase knew the stance. She was trying to appear intimidating, and as if nothing could touch her. For a moment, he considering retreating and allowing her to exist in her hardness just like she wanted him to believe she would be happiest.
Instead, he met her stance for stance and eye for eye in a stare down, challenging her to push him away. If she thought he had ignored key phrases in her confession, she was wrong. He had only begun to chip away at her hard shell, and had come too far to abandon the cause now.
"Did you want me before you took the drugs?" he asked softly, evenly.
Her jaw dropped a little, in spite of herself.
"What?" she asked.
"You said that drugs got you what you wanted," Chase repeated her words slowly, remembering every single word with delicacy. "Was it me?"
Cameron was silent before him, and as he watched her he could see the struggle behind her eyes. She was deciding what she wanted him to believe. If she confessed to him that she had wanted him, she would no longer be able to sit in ignorance as they worked side by side and would be forced to abandon her fantasies of simplicity and naïveté. If she lied, she would be denying herself the very thing she wanted. He already knew the answer to his question; had known if before he asked.
Chase reached his hand out and gently took Cameron's fingers in his. He lifted her fingertips to his face and kissed them, intertwining his fingers with hers as he lowered her hand again.
He took a short, shuffling step towards Cameron, closing the gap between them.
"It would have happened," Chase told her, referring to the night long ago which had started the cycle of torture and release, culminating on a quiet street in front of Chase's apartment building with just the two of them staring helplessly at each other. "I'm only sorry it took this long."
Cameron lifted her eyes to Chase's and pulled her hand away from his. Chase's breath stilted for a moment, afraid she would withdraw again. At her broad, gleaming smile he relaxed, and as she wrapped her arms around Chase's neck and pressed her lips to his he began to smile in spite of himself. He tucked his arms around her, holding her close as her sweet smell tingled in his nostrils and the taste of her melted on his lips. The kiss was soft this time, tender as the others had been passionate and hard, but in the middle of the darkening street he felt the same heat rising inside of him as he had felt pressed against the wall of her apartment or trapped within the dark walls of the closet. This kiss, in its innocence, was sweeter and simpler than any he had fantasized about, and he wanted her all the more because of it. His smile widened to a grin, and she broke the kiss and stepped back.
"I can't kiss you when you're smiling," she admonished, her own grin betraying her.
"Promise me the next time you want something from me, you'll just come out and say it," Chase requested. "Subtlety is not your strong suit."
Cameron laughed. "Okay. I promise."
Chase kissed her again, relishing the fact that this time he could hold her close of his own accord, and not because the resistance of a wall was crushing her against him.
"You still owe me a drink from that night, you know," Cameron reminded him, pulling away. "We never did get out of the apartment."
"You're right," Chase said, looking back towards his apartment building and pondering his still-open apartment door. "There's a bar not to far from here, we could --"
"I want to go upstairs," Cameron cut him off with finality. He stared at her, wide-eyed at her sudden certainty.
"Right," he said, "no more subtlety."
"Exactly," she shone a self-satisfied grin as he turned, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and pulling her towards him as they headed across the street and back toward his apartment building. Just as they reached the curb a car tore down the street, and Chase silently gave thanks that, for once, they had managed to have an uninterrupted moment of honesty.
"Things are going to be complicated tomorrow," Cameron said as he released her shoulders to open the apartment building door. He ushered her inside, pulling the door shut behind him. "Are you ready for that?"
"I'm ready," Chase promised, relieved to finally be free from his fantasies, no longer trapped against the wall. "Bring it on."