Disclaimer:I, as always, own nothing.
A/N: Here it is, everyone! The final chapter - epilogue - of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Thanks to the reviewers from last time; you all made my week! Enjoy, as always.
Seven months later…
The air around her was so tense, it threatened to choke her. No one in the room made a sound, the silence so pronounced that it was deafening. She sat stock still, her hands twisting in her lap as she tried desperately to distract herself from what was about to come. She didn't know how she was supposed to act. She knew she couldn't be the only one in the room who was nervous. She just wanted the answer, but she knew she wouldn't be able to bear it if it were the wrong one…
"Has the jury reached a verdict?"
"We have, Your Honor."
She exhaled slowly. Of course they had. She wanted these procedural questions over and done with. She was tired of procedure. She was tired of rules, and laws, and statutes. She was tired of police, of detectives, of prosecutors and defense attorneys. She was ready to be done. She wanted it all to end.
The last seven months had been heaven and hell combined. If she were religious, she supposed she would have called it purgatory, the place she waited for the decision of whether she'd spent the rest of her time in heaven or hell. She had been dragged through hellish questioning, by the police, then the prosecutor, and then, finally, the defense attorney. She had been waiting for this moment, the moment when it could all finally just be over, or a very long time.
But the past seven months had not been all bad; she looked at the man sitting next to her and knew she could never condemn every moment of the last seven months. He had been there, just been there, so firmly and dependably there, the entire time. He had offered her space in his apartment when she had been unable to return to her own. He had comforted her in the late hours of the night when she had been woken up by nightmares. He had made her breakfast and taken her to dinner, and had treated her like she really meant something to him.
He looked at her now, eyes soft and gentle. She knew he could sense her discomfort, her utter and unending desire to make it just all go away. She knew he wished he could make it all go away for her, but they both knew that wasn't going to happen. She looked back at her hands, concentrating on her fingers, waiting, just waiting…
"On the first count, domestic violence, how do you find?"
She looked up, startled. She could feel the weight of the court room pressing upon him, the judge staring at him through stern eyes. She felt her breath catch in her throat and she struggled to exhale. Her heartbeat quickened and she felt moisture building on her upper lip. What was he doing? This was certainly against procedure…
If she hadn't been so uncomfortable, she would have laughed out loud at the absurdity of it all. There she had been, mere moments earlier, wishing that procedure could never slow time again, and here she was, mere moments later, praying that procedure could make time fly. She didn't want to know what he was doing, and she certainly wished he would just be quiet. Why had he picked now, now, of all times to interrupt?
"Mr. White, please control your client -"
"No!" he insisted frantically. "No – Your Honor, please! I – I just wanted to say that I'm sorry. I just – I just –" He turned directly to her now. "Allison – I'm sorry!"
She felt as though all of the air had been sucked from her lungs. She opened her mouth and closed it a few times, unable to form a sound. She felt the room spinning; she couldn't breathe. She blinked once, twice, trying to clear her mind, but she couldn't focus…
"Sit down, Dr. Chase!"
The courtroom murmured its disgust. She tried to swallow, to blink, to make her body do anything, but she was frozen. She couldn't move…she couldn't think…
Suddenly, she felt a firm grasp on her hand. Startled, she looked down. House squeezed her fingers gently, sending a wave of comfort and warmth over her. Her eyes met his for a brief moment and he stared back at her, urging her silently to calm down, to breathe. It will be all right, he told her. He can't hurt you here.
"I made a mistake, I'm sorry!" he continued frantically. "I should never have touched you – I know! I didn't mean to hurt you -"
The courtroom erupted into loud protests. The judge banged the gavel several times. "Order, order!" he insisted. "Dr. Chase, be seated, or I shall have your removed from my courtroom!"
She saw him open and close his mouth stupidly a few times before sinking back into his chair. She turned away before she saw the desperate look that he sent her way.
"On the first count, domestic violence, how do you find?"
"We find the defendant…guilty."
She felt House squeeze her hand again and she sighed audibly in relief. She felt as though a huge weight had been lifted from her chest. Finally, after so long, after so many months, someone believed her. Twelve people believed her, and they were punishing him for it. All the times she had spent living in fear…all the nights she had lain awake crying silently into her pillow…all the times she had begged God, should he exist, to save her…after all that time, she was finally saved. They finally believed her. She was no longer an empty entity, just a pretty face with a pretty body…she had a voice, and the law had finally heard it. They had finally listened to her.
"On the second count, attempted murder, how do you find?"
"We find the defendant…guilty."
She closed her eyes and then opened them again to make sure she wasn't dreaming. She let go of a long breath she hadn't even realized she had been holding and squeezed House's hand back. He nodded his approval and she returned his nod with a weak smile.
The cry darted her attention back to Chase. He was staring at his high profile defense attorney with a look of incredulity on his face. She could see the defense attorney was trying to calm him down, but wasn't getting too far. The court officers were placing his hands behind his back, locking them securely with the handcuffs. They began walking towards the exit.
He passed where she was sitting and managed to catch her eye. She felt her body tense, and she stared back at him as resolutely as possible. She could see many emotions in his eyes. She could see fear dilating his pupils and shock and disbelief etched in his corneas. She could see him pleading with her, pleading with her to forgive him, to help him, to release him. He opened his mouth to say something, but she shook her head ever so slightly.
"It's too late to apologize," she whispered.
His eyes widened, but before he could say or do anything else, the officers forced him away. He shot her one last look of desperation before turning his back to her for the final time.
I can't believe we've finally reached the end. Seeing this story finished, I'm filled with a mix of excitement and sadness, and I'm not sure if I should be proud or sad, so I guess I'll be both.
When I first began DADT, I had no idea what it was going to turn in to. It was not originally a story about domestic violence. In fact, I had this idea, this strange idea, question maybe, that popped into my head: "What if Chase raped Cameron?"
Of course, by now, you can all see where this is going. Domestic violence was one of three options I posed to myself, and I ended up choosing it because I thought it would give me the most possibilities. I did have extensive knowledge of domestic violence, having debated the topic for two months last year, so I thought I'd combine my knowledge and my ideas and produce this piece you now see before you.
I struggled throughout writing DADT to keep Cameron as close as possible to a victim of repeated domestic violence. I found that characterization infinitely easier than trying to write Chase as an abuser. It struck me early on that this was definitely would not happen on the show for Chase – some of you reviews consider my portrayal of Chase as OOC – and that made my writing more difficult. One of my biggest regrets with this story was making Chase Cameron's abuser. Halfway through, I knew if I could have gone back and done it again, the abuser would have been some original character that I just made up. By that point, I figured I might as well continue and finish what I had started.
Writing this piece has been one of the most amazing experiences for me. I had no idea that it was going to be this popular. To those of you that reviewed this story, whether it was every chapter, or just once, positive feedback, or even the flames, I thank you. To those of you that gave me compliments, you kept me going, you gave me motivation, and you made me want to write. To those of you that gave me criticism, thank you. You kept me in my place, whether you know it or not, and you forced me to remember to keep it real.
There will be no sequel to DADT, no matter how many times you ask me for one. If I've disappointed you, I'm sorry. I just don't think that I could write a decent sequel for this story. Rest assured, however, that I am not done writing House fanfiction. My next piece, entitled Ten Days in October, will probably be up sometime in late May. If you're interested in reading, I suggest you put me on your author alerts so you'll be the first to know when I get it up!
I believe that's all I have to tell you. If you have any additional questions or comments about DADT, feel free to post them in a review, and I will get back to you. Thank you all again for sticking with me through this long journey; I could not have done it without you!