Disclaimer: Believe me, if I owned House do you think I'd be writing fanfiction for it? Yeah, didn't think so.
Chapter 1: Sanctuary
A test. You passed. I didn't.
He never even told me he was sick. I wish he had. It wou-
She wasn't your responsibility.
I know! She was yours.
I'm gonna hug you now.
It's just…I didn't feel like waiting.
He'll be waiting for you, when you're ready.
I was fifteen years old when you walked out. Now you're walking back in?
I left your mother. I didn't leave you.
Have you ever taken a life?
Get the hell out of my way.
Chase jerks himself awake and can still feel House's fist crashing into his jaw. He wipes a few beads of sweat off his forehead and rolls to check the clock. 5:19. He needs more sleep.
He tries to settle down again, but his heart is still pounding in his mind as he brushes more chilling sweat away. He rolls to the other side now, and for a swift moment he's almost shocked to see Cameron next to him. He still half expects her to leave in the night with the protection of the dark, even though it seems like forever ago since she has.
He struggles to fall asleep again, then gives up and succumbs to staring out the window at the growing and fading rays of headlights passing by.
He can't sleep well, anyways. His dreams are full of harsh memories, of regrets, of sorrow. Sometimes he dreams of a maze; he's running away but he can't get out. He's not sure what he's trying to escape from and he has no inkling as to where he's going, but he's almost certain he won't make it out, ever.
Today feels different, he notices as the coffee brews and the silence screams in his lungs. Today is the breaking point and he's made up his mind by the time he's handing Cameron a mug.
He's going to see House today. And he doesn't tell her.
Chase has been avoiding this hall for three whole weeks now, the hall he used to nearly live in. It's the same as he remembers, and it's crushing how everything and everyone's able to carry on without him.
Maybe House will see him, maybe he won't. It doesn't really matter though; Chase only wants a tiny glimpse at his ex-boss's new beginning. He just wants one slice of insight, one hint of truth as to how his world is carrying on without him in it.
The door seems to call to him naturally, and the pain and familiarity of it all is almost maddening. But suddenly it's gone almost as soon as it's there.
House looks up and the old connection sparks at Chase's shiver of a smile and for a moment, he feels the urgency to walk back in and take what's his. But then the crowd shuffles and he's out of sight out of mind again, he thinks.
Now he can't forget the piles of bills and patient information and God knows what else littering the clear glass table that Cameron no longer takes care of, the new fellows competing for what will be a guaranteed failure once again, and the shock splashed across House's face that really makes Chase hope he regrets this now.
"I went today. I saw him."
Chase sounds breathy and bitter, but Cameron doesn't need to question him to understand. "What did he say?"
"Nothing." He grabs the seat across from her and sits down slowly, sinking, falling. "He just looked up as I was walking by. His new fellows were in there too…" He doesn't know what else to say; he can't find the words to describe how much he needs to run back and plead for his job and rip House apart at the same time.
She bites into her sandwich, eyeing him delicately. Being fired really tore away at him, and now she sees he never honestly got over it and almost certainly never will.
"It's bound to happen. And we're going to have to talk to him, too, sooner or later. It's just how life works."
But his pager goes off, she gives him one last pitifully sympathetic glance, and realizes she feels the same way he does.
"I do." House's voice carries from above as she leaves the clinic for a moment, but resists the urge to look up. She feels his eyes on her back and knows she can't go on much longer without the past brought into the present.
He finds himself drawn to the window, even though he's sure House will notice. (And in a way, he wants him to.) This confrontation has been a long time coming, besides, and a part of him really believes that maybe it could change things for the better.
"Von Hippel-Lindau." The words spill from his lips before he can stop them and all of a sudden he's very aware of how much he doesn't belong anymore. "Raises red blood cell count, causes masses on the organs. One of the masses is a pheochromocytoma. It'd cause neurologic episodes and a heart attack." He's doing this for the patient, not for himself, and certainly not for House, he tries to convince the shadows that are always seem to lurk behind him.
But House mutters something to the man next to him and then looks to Chase again, now agitated. "This is a closed procedure. Gallery's off limits."
"Not to the surgical staff." And he abruptly wants House to know everything about the past three weeks and why he should regret firing him and that no, he won't come back.
"You going to hire that guy instead of us?"
It starts as a joke, then a sincere question to House, but he passes it off to Chase; the man that knows all is speechless and thunderstruck and maybe he has been regretting all along.
But then Chase shakes his head, because as much as he wants to go back and as much as House may want him back, he can't turn back time and he can't turn back himself. He's changed now and whether House sees it or not, the point of return's been left behind, because no one appreciated it then and no one can reach it now.
She turns and sees him watching; he's always watching. She takes in a great deal of air, tries her best to seem at ease, and walks over steadily, holding up three fingers. "Three weeks. For someone who never misses something small, you missed something big." Cameron stops and realizes how awful that sounds: it's big her, yes, but for House it hardly seems to matter at all. Everything feels off-kilter now and she feels a bit dizzy, and thinks that she's the one who needs to lie down.
"You're an idiot."
But now she's serious again; her façade was weak to begin with and was so easily broken under House's presence. "The hair, where I'm working, or both?" She now sees the hair was a poor attempt to differentiate the old her from the new, because here she is again falling into the role of House's plaything, and she feels as though she'll never change.
"The hair makes you look like a hooker. I like it."
She's not sure if it's a compliment or an insult, and she's not sure what she wants it to be either.
"Pulling pieces of windshield out of car accident victims and reattaching fingertips sliced off cutting bagels…at least Chase's move is only one step down."
This bites into her deeply; blood trickles down her arm as the sting of his words rip through her veins like wildfire. "I can do good here. Get it out of my system." She admits that everything he thought he knew about her is right, because there's no point in hiding anymore and maybe if he knows something will change. "Why'd you rat out your patient to NASA?"
"I don't know who's been gossiping about ethics instead of sex, but I hope they've already been fired. Which number was it?"
"Greta." And now the secret's out about how she still has an in on his cases, but part of her is almost relieved that he knows this.
She hates how he has to desensitize everything; life's not a game and people are people. "No number. The patient. How do you think she got your pager number? She came into the ER, didn't want to talk…" Now it hurts that he knows, because no matter how hard she tries, she's still this pathetic ex-somebody who just can't let go.
"I didn't rat her out."
"You, lied?" She feigns shock but then realizes that it is strange. She resigns, he starts to care…
"Suppose I should tell her that before she keys my car." Always jokes. Always to avoid answers.
"Why lie?" Now she's direct and trying to prove she can be on her own, but it's transparently obvious that this too is a lie.
"Had to stop some leaky faucets."
"Why did it matter?" she demands; subtly's never been her strong suit and she's too curious to hide it anymore.
"It was no one's business."
"Right." It's not fair that she knows more about him than all of the applicants put together, but it's utterly useless. They get to fill her shoes and the icy white tiles are stinging her bare feet.
"She's going to be the safest astronaut up there. Certainly more vigilant than the guy next to her who's got no clue about the aneurysm in his head ready to pop."
"Right," she repeats, because she knows her answer and she wants to leave now, suddenly. She turns to go before his commanding and painfully familiar voice carries her back.
"You got a better reason?"
She stops, wishing that maybe, somehow, he'll relate this to her and right his wrongs and turn her life back around again. "You couldn't kill her dream."
But his stare says it all and she knows her dream is long dead and was probably never alive to begin with as she leaves for real this time, the burning swell of tears pricking at the backs of her eyes.
After scrubbing away blood and misery, Cameron heads to Chase's, because they need to talk and maybe more, and she nearly lives there now anyways. The door seems to open a bit too easily with her key and she thinks that maybe she's just avoiding reality again. But she drives the thought away, because she doesn't want to face herself now and she's terrified of what will happen when she does.
She hears the pounding of the shower reverberating through the small apartment as she peels away at her coat and sinks into the couch.
She feels so tiny, so insignificant now. She used to matter to House; she used to count for something. And she knows it's vain, but shouldn't her sudden flight away mean almost as much to him as it does to her? Only he's turned replacing her into a game, and she's lonely and sorry and tinged with anger that she doesn't get to play this time.
And at least Chase has his faith to fall back on, when times are desperate, but whatever Cameron once had has been washed away and left behind nothing but shards of a broken trust.
It takes Chase a little longer than normal to get out of the shower. He knows she's just outside, waiting, but he wants to savor some serenity and even sanity while there's still a chance. But there's too much to say to ignore it all; the air is heavy with unspoken troubles as he inhales the steam filling the room. Finally, deciding he can no longer avoid their shared worries, he steps out of the bathroom, because maybe he does want to talk about it too.
"Hi," she says sharply, anxious and flustered and yet relieved to see him.
"Hey," he replies as calmly as possible, even though rationality is not an option. Life's grown too big to reason out, and even if he finds the answer somebody changes the question again.
"I saw him too. I talked to him." She pauses, because the hurt is still too much and she's almost sort of ashamed. "It's like nothing's changed. He couldn't care less."
Chase falls down next to her on the couch, gently resting his arm around her. "That's just how he is. He'll act like nothing's happened because he doesn't confront his own problems. Only other people's." Now it's his turn to advise, to comfort, but who will comfort him? Who will rescue him? He watches her gaze fall to her lap while she considers. "I talked to him, too. Saw him with the patient…" he feels the need to clarify.
Her eyes dart up to his, because the whole caring thing is embedded too deeply to go away. But he doesn't really want to talk about it anymore so she doesn't push it, and this, her, he grasps, has changed. The old Cameron would have prodded and pried him open until there was nothing left, but now she's different, and he's starting to like it.
"C'mon. Let's go eat," he says a bit too loudly, and his voice seems to echo emptily.
They dine and he still feels strangely hollow, and all of a sudden he needs to be holding her, to touch. He stands to meet her at the sink and tenderly snakes his arms around her waist. "Leave those for later," he says softly, yet urgently into her ear.
She pulls herself out of his hold, clasps his hand, and leads them back to the couch. There's sadness again in her eyes, reflected in his, as she shares their same desperate thought with the empty world amongst them. "We're not going back, are we? He really doesn't need us."
Chase avoids her eyes and the question (because he can't bear to hear the answer) as he finds a large, worn blanket and sets it over them, allowing it to billow and fall down slowly, forming a canopy above for a moment that gently lays to rest. Cameron watches intently. It's their sanctuary, like a child's tent in the yard where they escape from all the rules and share their core-kept secrets and run back inside when something gets too scary.
But she and Chase are in this together; he's all she's got and every so often she thinks she doesn't even deserve this. They're each other's support, though. They save the other and share the same meaningless hopes and defective dreams, she realizes as she clings to him desperately, dreadfully urgently. He's the only one who can feel her pain because they're both dying of the same infections disease: negligence.
Maybe, though, this is fate's way of showing her what she's been shielding all along. She moves closer and leans into him as everything withers away, and she decides not to go running back inside this time.
AN: I've been struggling over deciding whether or not this piece was ready or not, but I think it's a satisfactory intro as for what's to come. I promise there will be more Chase/Cam fluff (or as close as I can get to it) and more plot-like substance. This has gone through a lot of revision and I think it's ready. Suggestions welcome for future chapters. Let me know what you think!