Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to House. This is in effect for any and all chapters of this story.
This is set somewhere around the end of the third season, an AU-ish spin on the whole Chase/Cameron relationship. Or beginning of the real relationship, so to speak. It starts after "Family."
So, enjoy. Feedback is appreciated.
Chapter 1: Escaping
Her sneaker hits the frozen pavement, creating a thud that sends a shudder through her body. Her teeth jar together. She picks up the pace, avoiding the puddle of ice, but going through the frozen leaves, sad remnants of a forgotten autumn.
The days of colourful leaves seems distant to Cameron. She doesn't remember anything from the fall. Days of differentials and tests and clinic duty and exhaustion have blurred together in her mind. Months of this routine that she's set out have dulled her memory. She doesn't count her life by years anymore, she counts it by cases. By lives saved and lives lost. By the books she's been planning to read, the ones piling up on her coffee table. By the takeout containers in her fridge. By the nights she's spent in the lab.
It's sad to her, the fact that she's become such a workaholic. She's a doctor – of course, that means constant work. But each day, she's surprised at how much she wants to help their patients.
She's surprised at how much she doesn't want to be this way. She cares too much. She feels too much.
So, she starts something she can't stop. In her efforts to expand the hole she's dug for herself, here, in Princeton, she's ended up with a bigger problem on her hands.
When she screws up, she has to make everything much worse.
She has Chase to deal with now.
Uncomplicated sex, was that so hard to follow through with? Simple. And he decides to change everything around on her?
She's still smarting from that blow.
It was a blow – Chase deviating from the plan. She had figured he would be fine with the situation. He seemed fine with the situation. And then, one day, he wasn't.
She wonders whose fault that was. Was it hers? She hopes not. She had to be better than that.
Strands of her hair are sticking to her neck. It's a thousand below zero – not really; she's just hypersensitive to temperature changes – and she misses the spring weather that they had. She hates this shift, back to chilling, frigid temperatures.
She's freezing and sweating at the same time. She reaches a hand up to remove the hair from her neck. She holds out a lock, looking at it. Her hair's getting longer than usual, and wilder; the natural wave is full-on ringlets today. She twists the piece of hair. She remembers Chase commenting on it.
Abruptly, she tosses her hair back. She runs faster.
She's sprinting when she rounds the corner. She enjoys running. She chooses where she goes. She chooses the speed. She chooses every detail of her morning run, and she likes it that way.
The reins of power are firmly in her hands here, and she can pretend that she's the one who calls the shots.
Because she's not usually the one making the decisions. She's the one who listens and the one who carries out the orders.
Unfortunately, she's had her first taste of control and her hunger is insatiable. Already, she wants more.
Mais oui. She's so predictable.
It's too bad, really, she thinks, that Chase took her power.
Now, neither of them have it.
Cameron is carrying the expression of guilty and expectancy. She's waiting. She's girding herself for something.
Chase knows what she's waiting for. He sees it in the flicker of her eyes at him, the rigidity of her spine as she sits beside him in the lab.
Her prefers to keep her waiting. He likes this new Cameron, the off-balance one. She's annoyed and confused at the same time. He draws some pleasure in this.
Finally, after her terse silence, he pauses. He looks at her. She ignores him now. She knows what's coming, so she gets her victory. He broke first. "It's Tuesday," he murmurs.
"So it is," she replies.
He's noticed this about this Cameron: her eyes can't lie. He glances at her. Clearly, she knows this, because she's concealed her face from him. Glasses and a microscope are astoundingly effective. He clenches his jaw. She's fighting him to win.
But he's not fighting back. She's frosty, he's not. he casually mentions the day of the week – okay, he has more than a little subtext highlighting the phrase – and she acts as if it's a personal insult. But she must maintain her composure. He sees her eyebrow twitch.
She thinks she's fighting and against him and what he wants.
"Just thought I'd mention it," Chase continues.
"That's great," Cameron says. "But I have a calendar."
"I know," he says.
"Good." She looks at him now. She gives a tight smile. "Couldn't you just e-mail me or something?"
"I'd rather tell you myself,' he says. "This way, you can't delete the message before hearing it."
"Nice to know you've got this thought out so well," she mutters.
Chase falls silent. He's not pushing it tonight; Cameron's on the verge of severe irritation. He guesses he still has several degrees of annoyance to hit before he progresses to her anger, but severe irritation on Cameron wears as fury.
He continues with the tests. She remains quiet. The only sounds are of her shoes clicking across the floor. Chase puts his back to her; because he doesn't want have to see her anymore. If he looks at Cameron, he hopes.
And she has every intention of crushing those hopes.
He ponders her hostile stance. She's been firm about where she stands with him. He's the one attempting to erase lines. She's the one attempting to draw them back.
They can't redraw lines that they've already destroyed. He knows this all too well. But she's stubborn about it. He tries to demonstrate it the only way he knows how.
She waits for him to do his bit. But he's waiting for her, too – he's waiting for her to stop running.
Cameron broke the silence by suggesting they order out for a meal. She thumbed through the stack of takeout menus, and chose pizza instead of her usual option of Chinese.
She's a Chinese food whore, after all. But the late hours made her restless and want to break from routines.
She sits across from Chase, holding her head up with one hand. A half-eaten slice of pizza is in front of her, and she blinks at it listlessly. The whiteboard is behind her. She can't see it, but she knows it's accusing and mocking them.
Who knew that a list of symptoms could be so irritating? She feels her back stiffen, trying to black out the whiteboard.
It's late; she knows when she starts imagining a cruel whiteboard taunting her, she needs some sleep.
She reaches for the slice of pizza and takes a bite, wiping her fingers on a napkin. She steals a look at Chase. He catches her, and stares back.
They're engaged in a staring contest. She breaks it off first, disgusted with herself. He gives her a half-smile, knowing and teasing. A flicker of annoyance courses through her veins.
The silence continues, though, and she feels awkward. There are people she enjoys sitting in silence with, she doesn't need to talk with them to feel a connection. With Chase, she wants to fill the air with words. Meaningless, trite ones and petty remarks. She needs to breach the silence when she's with him.
Chase breaks through the wall of quiet for her. "Why are you avoiding me?" he asks.
"I'm not avoiding you," is her automatic response. Such a transparent lie, she thinks. She is obviously avoiding him, in any way she can – be it during tests, differentials and anything else she can think of.
She's avoiding him so she can keep herself from entering conversations like this one.
Of course, all of her careful planning has backfired and now she's stuck.
He glares at her, not at all impressed by her poor ability in lying. She tries to change track. 'Why do you think I'm avoiding you?" she asks.
"Oh, I don't know," he replies. Sarcasm lies heavily in his words. "You're willing to do lab work with Foreman over me, and he doesn't even like you. You sit on the other side of a room during a differential, you take your lunch at a different time than I do, you schedule clinic time more often than you did before, and if you have to be in the same room as me for longer than a few minutes, you argue every point I make. Did I skip over anything, Doctor Cameron?"
"No, I don't think so," she fires back. "You have your answer."
"Yes," he counters. "A list of the ways you avoid me is such a helpful tool."
"I'm glad you agree," she comments, reaching for another slice of pizza. Conversation makes her ravenous. An argument requires a pint of ice cream afterward.
Surprisingly, Cameron enjoys some conflict. She thrives on ridiculous fights that have nothing to do with anything. Most people consider a love argument to be crazy, but she thinks the opposite.
However, this isn't one of those debates that sprinkled her childhood and adolescence. Chase is fixated on her face and there's something more serious at play here.
"You're not really upset that I'm avoiding you," she says.
He rolls his eyes. "Yes, because I enjoy a good dose of the silent treatment."
"Nice try," Cameron replies. "You're still upset about…" She lets her words drop, and she falters in her gaze.
She's upset, too.
"I would think you're more upset than I am," he says, "since you keep bringing our non-relationship up."
She bristles. How dare he accuse her of still being hung up over that! She's not – she's annoyed, maybe just a little – so he better not be.
But his eyes are challenging her – he does mean it. "I am not upset," she says. "It's over. I'm fine with that. You're the one who insists on reminding me every week."
"I could just say, 'It's Tuesday, I like you,' and leave it at that," he suggests. "You prolong the conversation, Cameron. Are you trying to tell me -"
"Yes, I am!" she retorts. She knows that he's egging her on, but she can't help but respond. "Nothing. A black, empty void. Get used to it."
She's being deliberately cruel, and she feels the instinct to shrink away from her meanness.
Too bad, too late. She folds her arms and glares him down. Chase doesn't waver. It's irritating that he can keep this up long than she can.
"I suppose it's lucky that I have no expectations, then," Chase says.
"It would seem that way." She deflates, she can only be so cold for so long, then she has to thaw out. "I'm sorry."
"You don't have to be sorry," he says.
"Do you really have no expectations?" she asks.
"I really have no expectations." He shrugs. "I don't see why this bothers you so much."
He quirks his eyebrows at her. She looks away.
Her spark of motivation has burnt out. She doesn't want to talk or argue or snipe at him anymore. She polishes off her pizza, daintily removing traces of grease from her fingers. She clears the table, tossing plates and napkins into the garbage can. She jams the pizza box into the fridge. She dusts of her hand and straightens, staring at him.
"Don't lie to me, Chase," she says. "You have expectations." Regally, she walks out of the office, the glass door swinging shut behind her. Chases stands, hearing the echo of her words.