5.20.06 and 2.18.07
A/N: I'm not sure if this would be pre-Hunting or post-Hunting, but please keep in mind that it's probably incompatible with season 3 since I have yet to see any of those episodes, but (unfortunately) have heard some spoilers about some ChasexCameron. The beginning is rough, but I highly encourage you to read to the end.
What was the time of death? The patient had died today. Nothing could have been done to save him. He was only twenty four, seemed young, healthy…well, just alive. Except he wasn't any more, and the disease had crept up on him so fast that he'd been dead within a couple of days. Just like that, and no one had seen it coming: it was extremely rare, had a high mortality rate of over fifty percent, and the diagnosis was late, since he had been asymptomatic until very recently. He probably hadn't even learned the name of what had ended up killing him—a gastrointestinal form of mucormycosis.
Cameron, her voice soft, explained to the parents and girlfriend that they had done everything to the best of their ability. House had sent her to talk to them of course, because she was empathetic, and because she genuinely cared. Somewhere down the line, most doctors got used to it, or at least as much as it was possible to get used to something like this. Cameron was neither naïve nor inexperienced, but she seemed to have never reached that threshold when, out of some basic instinct of self-preservation, the compassionate human withdrew in favor of the dispassionate doctor. House also sent Chase along…who knew why. To observe, perhaps, or maybe House knew more than he let on.
At the end of the day, they left the hospital separately, each to their own homes. Cameron called up a friend and chatted with her for an hour about inconsequential things, like whether she should dye her hair blonde or not, and whether it would look good on her. Her friend was enthusiastic, but in the end she decided not to. She dealt with enough from House; who wanted to have to listen to a series of dumb blonde jokes?
After dinner she changed into a spaghetti-strap top and a skirt. It simply felt good to know that she looked good, and why not? A little indulgence wasn't out of line. She watched TV with her thoughts far away, and laughed at the current popular medical shows because no one ever died badly, and the diseases were always rare, and somehow no two people ever showed up with the same disease. The phone beckoned; she told herself, firmly, no.
It would be a bad idea.
There were a dozen roses on the table in perfect bloom. He'd bought her red roses of course, the traditional dark color of passion and love and, she couldn't help but think, betrayal. She took them and put them in the cupboard, vase and all, consigning their beauty and symbolism into the dusty darkness.
Her car keys lay on the glass tabletop next to her purse. Cameron took a seat at the small, circular table and felt bogged down by these details. Odd, since immunology was mostly about the microscopic, the invisible—a virus was a detail that could kill. Of course, they could heal too, she admitted, thinking of the retroviruses used as vectors in gene therapy. They could inject the DNA they carried into the DNA of other cells, and unlike adenoviruses, the change was permanent. Perfect to use for the SCID kids, children born without a functional immune system and consigned to a life without contact with other humans or with the world around them—the 'boy in the bubble' being the most famous case. The therapy had been a success in France for a few years, had given so much promise to the new area of gene therapy. Until the children developed, of all things, leukemia.How? Why? For all the control famous in science and essential to scientists, nothing could control exactly where the retrovirus injected its DNA. So it had cured one disease and flipped the on switch for another. Some days were just like that—a loss of control. Human biology defeats the doctor.
Cameron picked up the keys and purse, opened the door, and realized she didn't know where she wanted to go.
Where was the escape? Chase didn't go straight home, but he had nowhere to go and nothing in particular to do. Working for House didn't exactly give him a lot of time to build up a social life, and he wasn't about to hang with Foreman. He ended up, of all places, in a bookstore. The background music was soothing as it was meant to be, the scent of coffee drew him to buy something sweet and barely caffeinated, and he picked up a book. Zen and the Art of the Motorcycle. It was touted as a bestseller and he thought it was okay. He wasn't much for philosophy, but after reading through a couple hundred pages in two hours, he bought it.
He had strong feelings about unhealthful foods – his high school English teacher back home in Sydney had drummed the difference between unhealthful and unhealthy into his head – and particularly despised American fast food. Usually he cooked for himself at home, obviously an unusual talent for a young white male bachelor, but Chase didn't care about what other people did or did not do. It was almost eight now, pretty late, and he was finally feeling hungry. So today he bought a burger and a drink, not quite able to convince himself to take the oil soaked fries, and ate it contentedly enough.
Truth to tell, he was reluctant to head home. It was a nice place; his money guaranteed that – and that meant his own money, not his father's. But it was a little too quiet, a little too alone. Chase didn't particularly need or always enjoy the company of others. In fact, he almost disliked people in general, or at least interaction with them, precisely because he did like being around them. It was one of those things that didn't invite long hours of self-analysis, but was acknowledged as the way it was.
He should head home; he should have headed home already.
Instead, somewhere along the way he took this highway instead of that, and made this right turn, a subconscious decision though he was perfectly aware of what he was doing. And in the same kind of state he took the elevator up and walked down the hall, and then stood in front of her door without knocking.
It wasn't a relationship, he knew, at least not one in any sort of conventional sense. They barely talked, or did any of the cute things couples did with each other, or moved beyond the here and now. There was always a kind of tension below the surface, something neither good nor bad. As further proof, they never went on dates, unless you counted occasions where it was required for House's team to show up—but then they never brought dates to the events, either. If it were more dispassionate, it could have been called an experiment, one with no control, where it was difficult to distinguish who was on which end of the microscope, and with an uncertain number of trials.
Cameron opened the door, looked at him without saying anything. How had she known that he would be standing here, waiting? She was dressed as if planning for a casual date; he shoved away the treacherous thought that she had dressed for him, paused a moment at the thought that she had dressed, indeed, for a date. He didn't smile at her; he simply entered and she followed, the door closing with a click behind them, and then she kissed him very hard on the lips.
Dangerous moods, dangerous emotions—he could see it in her eyes, feel it in her embrace, the lack of gentleness in their kiss. He didn't resist when he was tugged into the bedroom and pushed onto the bed, and he lay back as she unbuttoned his shirt. He ignored the faint tremble to her touch, her light touch skating down his prone body.
She tasted sweet and it smelled like roses, chasing away the antiseptic of the hospital. He caught her lower lip between his teeth, threaded her hair through his fingers. Maybe they didn't talk much because words weren't needed. He knew what she wanted, and she knew what he wanted.
He marked their failure today with gentle bites on all that smooth, warm skin, then the regret with tongue and lips. He pressed his tense body against her soft curves—she was so delicate made, really, and no one ever knew it when she was in her austerely white lab coat—and reveled in the contrast they made. They weren't lovers, but they made love in an alternating reality of rough and tender, fast and slow.
No words. Only sighs and harsh breaths, moans and the unique resonance of desire, through her, through him. Her hand stroked the shifting muscles of his back and all he could think of was whether it would mean anything to her if he died, and all he could see was the girlfriend crying at Cameron's news. He was glad that he couldn't read the thoughts behind the troubled gaze that locked with his own, and then her eyes closed in gratification as he entered her, and Chase thought that maybe, maybe that explained why. Mindless pleasure, an antidote to memory. Then there was the relief in knowing there was someone else, that they were alone together.
It was like they needed to reaffirm that they were alive. People lived for the future, always in fear of the future, and while they did so all the opportunities passed, until there were only regrets and dead wishes.
With bodies they chased away souls.
How had it happened? It had somehow become only natural between them. They fought it in the day with silence and avoidance, but still fucked at night. They'd always been attracted to each other, physically at least if not in other ways, and there was a kind of solidarity in their rituals. It was so straightforward, practically the definition of friends-with-benefits, although, of course, they weren't friends, and lately it wasn't straightforward.
It hadn't been since he had gotten a cup to pour coffee for her and opened the metaphoric and literal cupboard. She had emerged from the bedroom dressed in his shirt and he had handed her a steaming mug of the hot liquid for her, prepared the way she liked it, sweetened with cream and sugar to tone down the bitterness. And she knew where he had gotten the mug from, and where she had put the crimson flowers, as red as Carmen, and he knew why it always smelled of roses and told himself there was nothing to betray. Words like betrayal didn't fit into what they had, or didn't have.
He waited for her to call it off. It was the difference between Allison and Cameron, Robert and Chase. He'd never given her a single gift in the days that had turned into weeks, and into months. She was the one to come over on the night of his birthday and there was no difference, except the small pleasure he felt in the proof that she wanted it. He almost wanted for her to call it off.
She thought she might have been imagining it, that it was because she was becoming overly sensitive, but there was a new desperation, and new element of demand. It bled over to their professional lives too. House joked that Chase was growing a backbone. She couldn't shake off the feeling that Foreman knew, or suspected—it was pure fancy, of course, since they had evaded even House's too perceptive eyes.
Words were needed, and she chose the hospital as neutral ground, not knowing until it was too late that it would have been easier in any other setting. Chase followed her into the deserted lab, the soft hum of the machines somehow calling more attention to how quiet it was. He stared at the red biohazard sign as if he had never seen it before.
"I met someone," she said. It didn't surprise him; he'd been expecting this from the very start, and yet he couldn't explain away the sudden tensing of every muscle in his body, particularly those in that essential organ called his heart.
"Okay." He wondered who designed the biohazard symbol.
"I'm sorry, Robert."
"No need," he said, desperately wishing she had left off his name. He wondered if she would just transfer their little rituals, their cycle over to her boyfriend. Wondered if her boyfriend would know what days she was desperate for reassurance as a woman, because she had lost confidence as a doctor.
No for the first, yes for the second. There would be dating, and flowers, and it wouldn't be a ritual or a cycle, and who knows, she could marry him and never get off the merry-go-round like she was getting off now. And if this bloke was that great, he would know what she needed, and it was only male ego and injured pride speaking, if Chase thought her boyfriend would be somehow inferior in that regard to him.
She tilted her face up and kissed his cheek before he knew it, the kind of contact that in some countries were used as a greeting. He mentally counted. Nine words, that was all it took.
He nodded shortly and left, knowing she would stay a little while longer, because they were always careful not to leave together.
Who could possibly be calling him? He was roused out of fitful sleep by a phone call sometime in the early morning hours, and Chase groggily answered, certain that it was House. Sometimes Chase thought that working for House was a little like selling his soul to the devil, only he wasn't getting much back in return for total enslavement.
"Chase, can you come pick me up?" It took him a bit to recognize her voice, partially because he was still half-asleep and partially from surprise. But she also sounded odd.
"What?" Not the most intelligent response, but something was definitely wrong. Chase sat up in bed, looking blearily at the clock. 3:12 am. It was a Saturday night. For a moment he foolishly thought that she was calling him over to her apartment, before his logical side quashed the thought.
"Please, Chase. I-I'm not sure where I am. I was with Brandon but we argued, and he just told me to get out…" She sounded scared. That was why she sounded different. Brandon. The bloke who sent her roses? Chase had never asked, had never wanted to know.
"The fucking bastard left you in the middle of nowhere?" It came out before he could stop himself, although he knew better. He should have been reassuring rather than angry, and Chase usually kept good control over his temper, but hearing her voice, actually talking to her again and under these circumstances, was wreaking havoc on his emotions.
"Chase, I can explain but—"
He cut her off, made her tell him the closest street names, and frantically looked it up while keeping her on the line. Monroe and Willowbrook. He was driving when the reception fizzled out and the call was dropped; her cell phone hadn't seemed to be getting a very good signal anyway. Chase waited for her to call back, unable to stop wondering what was going on. Cameron wasn't the type of woman to be duped into a bad relationship. Okay, there was whatever had been between them, but he couldn't imagine her being abandoned on a street someplace.
"I'm here," he answered. "Just wait, okay? I'll be there soon. Try to stand under a streetlight," he instructed her, cursing when the call was dropped again. He waited a few minutes for her to call back, but when she didn't, tried calling her, only to be directed to her voicemail.
It didn't escape his notice as he was driving that they were obviously in a bad part of town, and he wondered what they were doing in the first place to be passing through the area. It was with extraordinary relief that he spotted Cameron, a solitary figure wearing a strapless dress that looked blue or black in the dim light.
She was hugging herself and, he realized, at least part of her misery came from the fact that she was shivering from the bitingly cold wind. The look on her face when she realized he was there—he never wanted to see the expression again, never wanted her to be in a situation that would cause such profound gratitude. He barely got the jacket he had grabbed on the way out around her before she started to speak in a rushed tone, as if she were justifying it all more to herself than explaining things to him.
"It was all a mistake, all of it. I thought he was going to come back, but I waited half an hour and…"
He heard only the first part of it and gripped her shoulders, fighting the urge to shake her. "Why did you wait so long to call me?"
In all the emotional ups and downs they had experienced together in the hospital and outside, Chase had rarely seen her cry, but she was close to tears now. He crushed her against him but rather than balk at his forceful strength, she put her arms around him tightly.
"Shh, Allison, it's okay now. I'm sorry. We'll talk later," he said against her cheek, one hand at the nape of her neck, her hair soft against his fingers.
God, he missed this. And it was so wrong.
When did he realize it was hopeless? Maybe it later in her apartment, making her a cup of hot chocolate—coffee was a stimulant, and she needed to calm down—and opening the same cupboard. Taking out the same mug that he knew was her favorite, and seeing bundles of dried roses shoved in the corner. He would have thought she had preserved them, but there were five dozen with wizened stems and petals falling off, and it looked more trash than treasure. One every week, he guessed. It had been five weeks since "I met someone." He didn't know what it meant.
"You want to talk about it?" he asked, sitting across from her after placing the mug on round table. Through the transparent glass surface he could see her hands clasped tightly together in her lap.
"There's not much to say," she replied distantly, eyes lowered. She didn't waste any more tears on the bloke; he had always liked that, her courage. But it was somehow easier to deal with a distraught woman than a cold one, and he hated that she was shutting him out, even unintentionally. Even as they fell into silence, Cameron seemed to realize it and made an effort.
"I thought I knew him, but I didn't," she said with a shrug, as if blaming herself for using such a cliché. She was still wearing his jacket but a great deal of the pale, flawless skin he remembered too well was still visible. The midnight blue dress was meant to entice, he guessed, although in his mind it was unnecessary. She had never worn a dress for him and he'd been seduced entirely too much.
"I thought I wanted him, but I didn't," she clarified, and Chase thought that he would perhaps regret asking. "He did all the right things, but it was just…it felt empty, compared to—"
She stopped abruptly but he could fill it in for her. Compared to us, Allison? Compared to the insane, somehow-wrong-by-normal-standards thing we had? Compared to a level of intimacy where it didn't matter whether there were flowers and dates, because all that was extraneous? Maybe the wrongness came because it was something so deep and so potentially messed up that they had tried their best to ignore and avoid and kill it, all in a futile attempt to protect themselves.
He was beginning to believe that that was the truth, only neither of them had known it, and that was why it was hopeless. They couldn't go on like this. Odd that it was when they weren't together that he felt what used to tell him it was time to break it off with whomever he was dating. The "it's just not working out" speech combined sometimes with a "it's me, not you," except it was completely inappropriate and redundant because they were already detached.
Physically, at least. It was hopeless because he was beginning to realize that it might take an eternity before emotionally could be added too that. Chase could see some of his same thoughts reflected in her eyes, and it made him realize that he was drained, and that she probably was, too. They had both worked hard on tempering House's brilliant but frequently amoral genius in treating the patient with biliary cystadenoma yesterday.
"You're exhausted, you should sleep it off," he told her. It was five in the morning, but she had Sunday off. He briefly debated taking the day off for her and was stopped by the thought that it would be too coincidental, with both of them being gone. What the hell. He didn't care anymore, and he had a feeling that she didn't, either.
"Chase," she said, and then stopped, biting her lip. She had never had that habit before, not until their kisses, and seeing it roused his desire a little, but it wasn't that, that he wanted. Or, it wasn't just that.
"Can you hold me when I sleep?" It was whispered so softly he barely heard it, and at first, he thought he had heard wrong. He couldn't imagine how difficult it must have been for her to ask.
It broke all the tacit rules between them, but he couldn't remember how they had first been established anyway.
He nodded, and they went into the bedroom.
Why couldn't they leave it well enough alone? There should have been a 'been there, done that' kind of sense, or at least common sense. Instead, House walked into the lab and found the two of them kissing. Then again, kissing was a mild way to put it. House found them devouring each other with lips and tongue and teeth, as if that physical union were some kind of immaterial authorization.
"And hearts number one and two, get ready, get set, go!"
Rather guiltily breaking apart, Chase and Cameron looked at a smirking House, and then exchanged rather puzzled looks with each other. House was probably high on pain meds, except he was evidently clearheaded enough to order them to go talk with their bratty eleven-year-old patient who most likely needed to be referred to a dermatologist.
Still, that was it. It forced them to face the possibility that he had simply known all along. It wasn't like House to pass up opportunities, though.
Of course, he seemed to be making up for the lost time with about two weeks' worth of lame jokes aimed at the two of them, which was actually worth it to see the expression on Foreman's face each time House brought up the subject of sex. On the other hand, House's outrageousness had its benefits. There was no point in restraint now that ninety percent of the hospital knew and eighty percent probably didn't care.
Five weeks apart, and it had been so long since they were so close, so long since the slide of hot skin against skin as she took off his shirt and he fumbled with her top. She kissed the hollow of his throat, grazed her teeth along his collarbone, all the things she wanted to do and thought she couldn't. She raked fingernails down Chase's bared stomach and then watched with a sort of unfathomable satisfaction as he jerked convulsively beneath the sharp contact, hips thrusting forward of their own accord. She loved it so much she did it again, drawing out a strangled sound of need from his throat, and then she wasn't satisfied, but eager for more. He relearned every inch of her, and Cameron thought that he felt like something she had lost without knowing it was priceless.
The ducklings walked in one afternoon and read the whiteboard of symptoms as House tapped the marker annoyingly. He asked for a differential diagnosis, as usual, and that was where the usual ended.
"Conjoined hands, tachycardia, frequent mouth to mouth resuscitation in the lab, ability to communicate with eyes alone (superpower?), sex in the conference room (table?)," Foreman read with a superior smile, before he realized what he'd last said and choked. Cuddy decided to come in that moment bearing two cases. The only thing missing was Wilson paying a surprise visit—which the oncologist did, due to the fact that House had done something or other to his breakfast that involved Pepto-Bismol.
House all but cackled with glee.
Eight hours later, Chase looked up from the patient history folder to meet a very familiar blue gaze, and decided that if Cameron willingly suffered through the morning with him, he really had nothing to lose.
"Take a look at this," he told her as she took a seat, sliding over a folded piece of paper.
"Okay, just wanted to let you know that Kacy's not responding to treatment that well, so House wants to double the dosage. Foreman's trying to convince him to take less drastic measures," she reported. Cameron opened the paper as he watched, her unguarded expression changing from surprise to incomprehension when she discovered it was a menu.
"Want to get dinner later?" he asked her softly when she looked at him. "There's a little Italian place that Wilson of all people recommended…"
It went unsaid that they had never done this, or even tried to. She gave him a luminous smile and her answer went unsaid, too.
A/N: This was written in a somewhat stylized and experimental way revolving around what, where, how, who, when, and why. If you like more usual stuff, try my other CC stories. I chose Synthesis as the title because it's the dynamic that I see working out in this story, as in thesis, antithesis, and finally synthesis. Just as some friendships become stronger after being tested by arguments, 'synthesis' is the coming together of two directions, neither of which are completely right.
Anyway, this story has been up for a while so most people don't bother to leave feedback, but please review, even if it's a few quick words letting me know you read. Thanks!