WARNINGS: Season four spoilers through 4.07 Ugly; smut.

NOTE: Reposted because ff.n and my school's network still don't play well together.

Damage Control

"It's no big deal, really." She hates the sound of her voice, her reflection all doe-eyed blonde and high school-cheerleader-bimbo. For the first time she regrets the dye job, misses the softness of her dark hair, and how ironic to be thinking about these things while trying to prove that she isn't actually shallow.

She hates that she can change her job and change her hair and change the things she does, but all anybody's ever going to see is the woman she was four years ago. The giggling blonde in the mirror she's spent her whole life trying not to be. How quickly the camera's turned her back.

On the bench behind her, Chase shifts uncomfortably, and her cheeks burn. Cameron turns in front of the mirror so his reflection is hidden behind her shoulder. She isn't sure what she's trying to prove by having him here to watch, except that sorry won't ever be good enough. It's no big deal, she repeats in her head. No big deal, just a stupid, careless thing to say.

"Why don't you just ask them to delete it?" Chase asks, sighing. "I mean, if you're so worried." He's too quiet, too accepting, and she knows she's haplessly torturing him again. The guilt is there in the pit of her stomach, like an ulcer eating away at her peace of mind.

Cameron frowns; she's thought of this, of course, but it's not as satisfying. Simply erasing her words isn't fair to him. It's as good as admitting that it wasn't a mistake at all, that everyone is right and she loves House still. Her stomach twists at the thought. It isn't true, and yet it's like banging her head against a brick wall and expecting the cracks to crumble; the harder she tries, the more strength she gives to her condemnation. Cameron shifts so that she can see Chase's reflection, meet his eyes in the mirror. She isn't sure she can face him for real.

"Would you really be satisfied with that?" No big deal, becauseI'm sorry won't even come close. What to say, then? I love you would maybe begin to brush the level of adequacy, but this isn't how she wants to say it.

"You know it wasn't true. Isn't true." Her voice is disgustingly pleading, and even now she can't seem to get it right. She's read somewhere that overcompensation can be more damaging than none at all, and she's starting to think she's living proof.

Chase shrugs, the darkness she's been seeing in his eyes since late spring lurking very near the surface. "I don't particularly care if you prove it to them. Prove it to me."

"I'm over House," she says to the mirror, and she's starting to think it's going to be her epitaph. Back to the top, in so many ways. "It's no big deal. It's a perfectly normal response, if you don't read into it." If anyone else said it.

"Not like that." Chase comes up behind her, movements fluid and silent and almost dangerous, reminding her of a gold-furred cat. She steps forward instinctively, pressed up against the counter as he comes to a stop behind her, hands on her waist. He pulls her lab coat from her shoulders, laying it in a heap on the sink top like a crumpled white flag. She starts to turn around, but he takes hold of her arms.

"Don't." His voice is a husky whisper in her ear, a breath on her neck that sends a thrill down her spine. She watches in the mirror as his long fingers work their way down her front, slowly and deliberately unbuttoning her blouse. He pulls the hem from her pants, but leaves it at that, hanging open, a hint of the black lace bra she's wearing in rebellion against the drabness of scrubs all the time just visible in the mirror. Chase's hands come up to her hair, pulling the band loose and fanning it out over one shoulder so it hangs to the right of her face like a curtain.

He drops his head so it's mostly hidden behind hers in the mirror, kissing the place where the vertebra at the base of her neck protrudes just a little. There's a hint of stubble on his jaw, and it's like sand paper, a cat's tongue against her skin as he moves along the side of her neck, pushing her collar away. His breath against her ear as he brings his head back up sounds like a soft growl. Her skin tingles with adrenaline she hasn't felt in a long time; the locker room door is unlocked, and it's probably a matter of time before someone walks in. Chase slips a hand under the hem of her shirt in the back, deftly unclasping her bra. She watches her mirror self as he lets go of it with a snap, the sudden shift of the lace stinging just a little against her skin, and then she does turn, getting one hand tangled in the hair at the nape of his neck and tugging down until she can reach his mouth with hers.

She kisses him hard, almost violently, her free hand bracing herself against his shoulder as she stretches her entire body upward. Chase takes another step toward her so she can feel his erection through the thin fabric of his scrubs, and he is so, so different from the man she thought she knew six months ago. She's almost a little jealous, because she's not sure whether he's really changed, or just made the world think he has, but it's more than she'll ever accomplish either way.

Cameron tries to get his shirt over his head, but he doesn't lift his arms, ignoring her and going for her belt buckle instead. He gets it undone quickly, but then fumbles with the button on her slacks, and she laughs into his mouth. Finally succeeding, Chase yanks her pants and underwear down her hips. Cameron yelps in surprise as he lifts her unexpectedly back and up onto the counter, the cold porcelain of the sink edge a shock against the side of her bare thigh.

Chase gets his fingers caught trying to undo the drawstring on his scrub pants and mutters a breathy "shit." Cameron looks at his hands and realizes that he's shaking now. She hooks a foot behind his back and urges him forward into her reach. She tugs hard at the strings, and shoves his pants down his hips with one hand. Chase hisses as she wraps a hand around his cock, gritting his teeth as she runs up and down his length. After a moment he stops her with a touch on her wrist. He presses a condom into her palm like sleight of hand, and suddenly she wonders whether he's planned this.

She bites down hard on his bottom lip and digs her nails into his shoulders as he sinks into her; there's something prickly in the way their skin feels today, crackling like static, like maybe this is meant for the camera too but the image isn't clear. It's cold in the locker room, and goose bumps run the length of her legs and arms as he starts to move. The edge of the counter is biting into the backs of her thighs, and she presses herself harder against it, the words stupidand careless and no big deal echoing his rhythm hollow and empty in her mind.

Chase quickens his pace, his hand tangling between them, scrabbling through dark, telling curls, to find her clit. Cameron bites back a cry as his fingers hit their mark, reminded suddenly of the door and how thin the walls are. She thinks for a fleeting second that there has to be something inherently wrong with letting guilt and pain be consumed in pleasure, but then she's coming and Chase is slumping against her, his arms around her for one exhausted moment like she hasn't hurt him time and again.

Pulling himself upright, Chase kisses her one more time, very gently, and then steps away. Cameron watches him as she fixes her bra and buttons her shirt; he looks oddly light, the dangerous edge she's just glimpsed gone. He meets her eyes for a moment, and she feels a sudden wave of warmth. It's no big deal, except it is. He'll wait, she knows, rationalize, let it slide. This time, she promises herself. This time she's going to finally get itright. She's running out of do-overs.

She doesn't talk as she shakes the wrinkles from her lab coat and wraps it snugly around herself, feeling oddly raw and heart-achey. Her hair elastic is on the floor, and she takes the moment to retrieve it, pulling her ponytail back into place. Behind her, Chase stands with his arms crossed, lips quirked in an odd little half-smile. No one will know, she thinks with a twinge of sadness, triple-checking her appearance in the mirror.

"I'll see you at home," she says, and lets the door slam behind her. She's been missing the point all along, focusing on the camera and not on herself. She decides not to tell the documentary crew anything at all.


Reviews are love! (And this is my twentieth posted House fic, so everyone gets cookies.)