a/n: Here it is, chapter three. This one is very different from the other two. This one is loaded with angst and strife over reality hitting them both. This will likely be the final chapter, for I have no idea how to go on with this.
"Thanks for coming in on short notice." Cuddy shut her office door after Chase entered. He casually took a seat and watched her to make her way over to the other side of the desk.
"My schedule isn't exactly full these days," he joked.
She smiled, glad to see he was keeping a sense of humor. "You should be pleased to know we have several options for you. Since word got around about your termination, I've been approached by several department heads asking if they could have you. Sadly the budget limited most of those requests."
Chase nodded in understanding. He was very curious who won out.
"First, the ICU has a supervisor position they want to offer. Since you are a Board Certified Intensivist, that guarantees a decent bump in salary and you'd have complete autonomy."
Chase nodded, still not saying anything.
"Second, the College of Internal Medicine would like you in a staff role of building new training programs for Intensive Care students, with heavy focus on diagnostics. This is a rapidly expanding program since the demand for skilled Intensivists is high. I don't need to remind you that such a position comes with normal 8 to 5, Monday through Friday schedule."
Chase still listened with curiosity, wondering if something interesting was going to come up. Cuddy ruffled through her pages to find the next option.
"I'm also going to offer you the same opportunity that Dr. Foreman turned down. Your own Diagnostic team. You'll have complete authority and your salary is doubled."
That got Chase's attention. "Foreman turned that down?" He paused for a few seconds, the idea why dawning on him. "Oh, he'd still have to go to House if there was a problem. He wouldn't like that."
"How about you? Do you have a problem dealing with House?"
"No hard feelings over being wrongly fired?"
"He had his reasons."
Cuddy nodded. "So, do any of those options sound appealing to you?"
"I'll need some time to carefully consider each one."
Cuddy handed him the folder containing all the offers. "Take all the time you need."
Chase ran his hand along the folder and began debating whether to ask what was on his mind.
"Do you have any questions?" She asked, noticing his hesitation.
"It's just...What sort of options are you giving Cameron?"
"I'm still working on those options."
"Are you going to offer her a Diagnostics department?"
"She's not ready Chase. I still question her decision making abilities."
"Can she and I both start a new diagnostics program as equal partners?"
"No. If anything, she could be on your staff, but I have a problem with employees dating their bosses."
Chase nodded. "Yeah, I'd object to that too. Anyway, you've given me enough to consider." He got up and shook Cuddy's hand. "Thank you Dr. Cuddy."
She smiled. "I'm sure you'll consider your options carefully. I look forward to your decision."
"So what did she say?" Cameron was bubbling with curiosity.
"I have a few choices." He handed the folder over to Cameron. He knew which offer was going to ruffle some feathers.
"ICU supervisor. Not bad."
"A glorified ICU attending position. I could easily do it, I'm just not sure if it would challenge me."
"A teaching position?"
"A chance to share my knowledge. The pay and the hours are wonderful, but I would be doing only a little hands-on medicine. I'd miss that."
Cameron's shock over the third option was every bit as real as he imagined it would be. The stunned look in her eyes and on her face said it all. "Is this for real?"
"She apparently offered this position to Foreman and he turned it down."
"This offer is too good to be true. You can't turn this down."
"I can and I will."
Chase hesitated, but knew he shouldn't hold back with Cameron. "Because you aren't getting a similar offer."
Cameron nodded, not at all surprised. "Cuddy doesn't like me very much. When we were together before, she warned me in a very subtle way that if we had trouble working together that I'd be the one fired."
"She said that?"
"No, she hinted it. Anyway, you can't hold back your career for me."
"She said you could come work for me, but we couldn't be a couple anymore."
"You know that would feel too weird for us."
"Yes, I just thought I'd mention it." He reached out and hugged her tightly, wondering how they were even having this conversation. "I don't have to take any of these. There are plenty of nearby hospitals you know, and my specialty is in high demand."
"Princeton Plainsboro has become your extended family. You belong there."
"So do you."
"I'll talk with Cuddy about me. You worry about what's best for you."
"I knew it wouldn't take long for you to show up." Cuddy said as Cameron entered.
"Thank you for agreeing to see me." Cameron said as she sat down.
Cuddy looked at her and waited for her to start.
"I know you don't care for me." Cameron said, trying to be respectful.
"My opinion of you is irrelevant. What did you want to talk to me about?"
"I know you don't have any firm options, but can you tell me what possibilities there are?"
"So far all I've got is a possible teaching position. We need someone to teach Diagnostics to med students."
"Is that the same position you offered Chase?"
"No, his was more hands on and classroom training for Intensive Care Specialists. This would be purely classroom and would deal with students from multiple programs. Your background would be ideal for it. The articles you published are attractive to the academics side."
"Are there other options?"
Cuddy sighed. "House is willing to take you back."
"As a fellow?"
"Yes, your old job."
Cameron got up, trying her best to hold back her terse feelings. "Thank you for your time Dr. Cuddy." She turned to leave.
Cuddy felt her frustration. "Cameron, don't be discouraged. There could be other possibilities. They just aren't firm right now."
"Oh, you mean like me getting my own Diagnostics department?"
Cuddy was surprised it took this long to come up. She held her forehead. "You aren't ready for it. I need someone who can make quick and hard decisions. You have drastically improved since you started working for House, but you aren't there yet."
"Foreman and Chase are? That's hardly a position to be offering two doctors just coming off a three year fellowship rotation."
"Why they were offered the position is none of your business. I'm on your side here Cameron. It's my job to match your skills to the best possible opening. It's just taking a little time."
"Take all the time you need." Cameron threw her an angry glare before storming out of the office.
He sat in his living room, the three offers laid out side-by-side teasing him. They were all decent offers, but none of them perfect. He questioned if the only perfect offer would be working for House again.
He had to give House the benefit of the doubt. House thought it was time for a change, so that must the case. Change was supposed to be good. He got to move on as a better doctor. Then why was he looking at these three new opportunities with malaise?
First, he played eenie-meenie-minie-moe. He went for two out of three, four out of five, then realized he was wasting his time.
He could pin them on the wall and throw darts. He could get out the Ouija board and ask the cosmos. He could throw all the offers into a hat and pick one. Or he could grow up and make a rational decision.
Long ago he learned to accept what he could control and what he couldn't. It was the only way he could succeed as an Intensivist, succeed under House, succeed with dealing with his parents. Now he had a golden opportunity to control his future. He rarely had such a chance in his life. The teenage faith healer was right, he always did what other people wanted him to do. He could now finally fix that.
"So what's the damn problem?" He begged to the sheets lying in front of him. Torturing himself like this was not working. He gathered them together and put them back in the folder. He picked up the remote, turned on the TV and started flipping through the channels. He found himself falling asleep on the couch during a boring repeat of Match Game on the Game Show network.
Her white wine was more than needed this evening. Cameron was so glad after her stressful day that Chase could meet her for a drink. She was sure his day was fraught with contemplation as well.
"I saw Cuddy," she told him as she played with the rim of her glass.
"Great, did she have any offers for you?"
"She didn't have anything firm, but she said she was still trying."
"Oh. I'm sure she'll have something good soon."
Cameron lowered her eyes and sighed. She didn't know how to tell him this. "I'm flying to Minnesota tomorrow. There's a research position at the Mayo Clinic that looks promising."
"That's great." He did his best to sound enthusiastic, but his words tinged with disappointment.
"It's only an interview."
"Yeah, I know. You'll impress them, I'm sure."
"I'll come see you when I get back and tell you all about it."
He smiled, his look showing both appreciation and fear. "I'm still driving myself crazy over my choices."
"I thought the Diagnostics choice was the best one."
"I'm still not convinced it's right for me."
She clutched his hand. "You just need some more time to think about it. You'll make the right choice."
"So will you."
He thought some sleep would give him a fresh perspective. A new day, a new frame of mind. Still, when he went back to staring at the offers, his mind started running in circles again.
He wasn't viewing the choices logically. He chose the logical approach and started to list out the pros and cons of each. Not far into this exercise, he stopped, realizing this wasn't a damn medical diagnosis. "This is your damn life!" He scolded to himself.
He wondered what Cameron would think of his methods. The thought of Cameron made his heart sink. What if she moved away? He struck that thought from his mind, knowing that whatever she did was beyond his control. He shook his head in defeat and grabbed his coat. He was going out to his usual hang out for a sandwich.
The long stroll from his home to the restaurant caused his mind to wander. He'd been alone his entire life. Why was the prospect of that happening again bothering him now? Maybe because he wasn't feeling lovesick emptiness before. No, he felt this way before. When she ended their affair. He just didn't have the stress of making a life-altering decision at the same time either. Work was a distraction. Here, his only distraction was a sandwich.
He again pushed his personal feelings aside. They were only muddying his thought process. He still didn't get it. Reality stared him in the face everyday. Every decision he made as a doctor was crucial to the life of another human being. Why couldn't he make this one? Considering it didn't involve life or death, it should be easy. He's always been brave with his choices. After all, what's the worst that can happen?
The waitress delivered his order to him at the counter. He frowned, noticing the sandwich didn't look as good today as it did a week ago.
Cameron gazed at the thick blanket of clouds brushing below the aircraft. There was something about the vast open space that gave her comfort. She felt like losing herself these days.
She came back a day later on purpose. She wanted to give Chase and her some time apart. They weren't ready to make such important decisions together. Being together for a weekend was one thing. They couldn't plan a lifetime yet.
She questioned how welcome she felt at Princeton Plainsboro. She never got appreciation for the work she did, but then again, look who she worked for. In the end, she finally saw that House would never change. He could try and change the circumstances all he wanted, but the man would never change. Was House her only reason for staying? No, she answered to herself smiling. She didn't know how much she needed Chase until he was gone. The old Cameron would find such a need frightening, where now she found it thrilling. Then why did she go to Minnesota? Stubborn career Cameron wasn't ready to give into need.
House once asked her if she loved Chase. She wouldn't answer because she didn't know how. If he asked the same question today, she would give him the same reaction. The difference would be her inner voice. Where before it said, 'I don't know', now it would say, 'Maybe.' She had come a long way in a few short months.
Chase had been nothing but patient. He saw something she didn't. House had accused her not being able to love, just need. Was that the case now? She didn't care if it was love or need, and she knew Chase didn't either. That made him right for her.
The announcement came over the speaker that they would be landing soon. She knew exactly where she was going as soon as she got on the ground.
"You came back." Her appearance at his door was a welcome sight.
"Why does that always surprise you?"
"I don't know, too much rejection in my life I guess. Come in, tell me about Minnesota."
"I'd rather not talk about it." She frowned.
She walked inside trying to sense his mood. She could see almost frantic in those worn eyes. "How's your decision going?"
"Not well," he confessed, shutting the door behind her.
She sat down on the couch. He sat down as well, creating a little distance between them. He had no idea what she was going to say, but he knew from her look she had decided something big.
"You know why House fired you?" She asked.
"He's an ass."
Cameron laughed. "No, because you finally overcame years of self doubt. You were ready to move on. Don't prove him wrong now."
"This decision is so hard." He said, dropping his eyes toward his lap.
"No, it really isn't that hard. Do you want to be an ICU attending?
"You'd suck in a teaching position."
"Yes, I would."
"Then why are you fighting yourself?"
"It isn't fair."
"I'll get over it."
He knew full well that she would. But would he? "I can't imagine doing Diagnostics without you there."
She closed the distance between them on the couch and put her hand on his knee. "You're going to have to. Foreman and I always knew you were more gifted for diagnosis. I think he turned down the position because he was scared. You shouldn't make the same mistake."
He smiled at her, knowing she was right. "So, you really won't have a problem if I take this?"
"Nope, and I hope you kick House's diagnostic ass."
They both laughed over the idea. After they calmed down, he sat uncomfortably, feeling vulnerable by her sympathetic gaze. "Okay, enough about me. What have you decided to do?" He was ready to deflect the attention.
"I was wrong to go to Minnesota. I don't want to work there."
He glanced at her with confusion, trying to understand where this was leading.
"I was angry Robert. Cuddy made me mad and feel unappreciated, so I did what I always do, I acted without thinking." She lifted her chin, looking directly into his tired eyes. "I belong here, with you."
His heart jumped about twenty notches. He had no idea what to say, probably because he was too busy fighting back the rush of excitement inside. The only thing he could do was lean over and kiss her. She returned the kiss with equal fervor. After they broke their embrace, they shared an optimistic smile.
"I would be good at a teaching position. I should work with Cuddy to see how viable that option is." She said.
"You'd be great at it."
"We'd still see each other at work."
"Yeah, we would." He agreed, trying to sound upbeat, but knowing it wouldn't be the same.
They each took a deep calming breath, both excited and scared to death about the new paths that lied ahead.
"Shouldn't you be talking to Cuddy?" She asked.
"Tomorrow. Tonight, it's just you and me. I've got a better selection of movies this time."
She was tickled with the suggestion, and it was welcome after a long day. "I knew there was a good reason why I chose to be with you."
Cuddy read the signed acceptance letter. "Congratulations Dr. Chase. I think you made the right choice."
"Now what?" Chase asked.
"You can start as soon as I get you an office. Give me a day or two. In the meantime, I'll give you access to resumes so you can start building your staff. Have you thought about the type of people you want to have?"
"I have some ideas. I know I want a nurse on my team. The routine procedures should be handled by a nurse."
He nodded and went to leave. "Chase, I need to know, is Cameron okay with this? Is she going to cause trouble?"
"She's the one that convinced me to take the job. She'll be talking with you later, but she's gotten over this."
Cuddy smiled. "Good. I'm glad to have you back."
"All set?" She asked as he entered her apartment.
"So, how long do we have?"
"A day or two."
"Hmm, so what do you want to do in the meantime?" She asked with a teasing smile.
"Curl up in bed and never let you go." He picked her up and carried her to the bedroom. House was right all along. Change is good.
a/n: Thank you so much for all the wonderful comments I've gotten from everybody over this. The response to this fic has been overwhelming and I'm rather flattered.