Life continues barreling on as it did the first time, as it always has. The weekend of celebration comes to an end, and Monday morning rolls around, and Cameron feels as she did before that things ought to seem more different. Years ago, she'd looked to marriage to be a miracle—to cure illness and ward off the gaping maw of death.
She doesn't believe in fairytales anymore, not since that day. And yet still it feels as though something ought to have changed now, the final piece of the happiness she's been building meticulously for years now finally clicked into place. Instead it's raining, and the alarm clock is vaguely annoying, and the stacks of boxes lining the perimeter of the new house still haven't magically unpacked themselves. On the other hand, Chase is out of bed and in the kitchen making coffee by the time she's out of the shower, which just might be a miracle in itself.
"Morning," he says, smiling with far more good humor than Cameron can find at the moment, and handing her a mug.
She takes it, narrowing her eyes a little. "Is there something that you want?"
"Why would you think that?" Chase asks innocently, ignoring the newly-set-up table and chairs and pulling himself up to sit on the counter.
"You're awake." Cameron sips her coffee appreciatively; he knows her more than well enough to make it exactly the way that she likes. "And you're ready to leave when I am."
Chase smiles at her over the rim of his mug, in his expression the admission that she's at least partially right. "Well, I was hoping that we could do some more unpacking tonight. And—that you might be home in time for dinner."
Cameron tenses at this, lowering her eyes to study the surface of her coffee as his words make her heart sink. She feels more and more torn lately, pulled in every direction by the commitments and people she cares about in her life, and always forced to choose somebody to let down.
"I don't know," she says after a moment, the warmth of the coffee already fading a little as she watches him blink away a look of disappointment. It hurts, but it's the truth, and it seems less cruel than making an uncertain promise only to have him left waiting for her for half the night. "I've been gone for five days. Things are going to be hectic. A lot to catch up on."
Chase sighs, not quite visibly upset, but obviously less enthusiastic about the morning than just a few moments ago.
"I'm sorry," Cameron says quietly, looking away from him and focusing instead on a dark stain on the far wall. This room will need to be painted, one more item in the endless list of things which have to be done before their lives can feel truly settled again.
"We should go," he says simply, glancing at the clock hung temporarily—and crookedly—above the sink. "You'll be late if we don't."
The ride to work is silent and slightly tense. Cameron knows he isn't really angry; they agreed a long time ago that the reality of work was inevitable and wouldn't come between them. Still, it's one more reminder of the world they're coming back to from this weekend of escapist bliss, this life in which there are bills to be paid and appointments to be made, and a work schedule which leaves them lucky to have four nights a week together, even living in the same house.
"You awake?" Chase asks, and Cameron jumps, realizing that they're in the parking garage already. Their new house is nearly twice as far from the hospital as her old apartment, but the time in transit this morning has been lost in the race of calculations in her head, the mental decision tree of time and priority.
Coming around her side of the car, Chase opens the door for her and gallantly offers his arm. Cameron rolls her eyes, stepping out and kissing him very lightly. "Dork."
Chase shrugs. "You're just figuring this out now?"
"No," she says nonchalantly, "but it's always nice to be reminded. Come on, it's almost nine."
Cameron takes a breath and then walks into the atrium with him. The feeling is just the slightest bit unsettling; she's acutely aware of people's eyes on them, knowing that by now word of the wedding must have traveled throughout the hospital. It's not that she's ashamed of people knowing, but after six and a half years here, her past is all but common knowledge, from her first doomed marriage to her disastrous date with House. Now she is protective of her relationship with Chase, wishing she could prevent it from being scrutinized and judged by the rest of the hospital.
"Damn, you came back." Foreman's voice makes Cameron jump again, stopping long enough to focus on him.
"Thanks," says Chase dryly. "You really know how to make friends feel welcome."
But Foreman is smiling. "We had a pool going over the weekend. I had a hundred bucks on the two of you running off on a real honeymoon."
"Sorry," Cameron deadpans, unamused at the confirmation of her suspicion that everyone's been gossiping while they've been gone. "Must've missed that memo."
"We were a little distracted," Chase adds, and Foreman looks thoroughly disgusted.
Still keeping half an eye on the clock, Cameron shakes herself. "Did you need something, or are you just here to chat? Because I have places I need to be."
"We've got a case," says Foreman, continuing before she has a chance to protest. "Or I should say, you have a case. House has everyone down there poking at one of your patients. Thought I'd give you fair warning."
Cameron groans inwardly, not ready to deal with House and the team on top of everything else she has to catch up on this morning. "Thanks. I guess really do have to get down there, then. Are you coming with me?"
Foreman nods. "My case now too, although I'm not sure why House thinks this should be one of ours. You'll see."
Cameron nods once, then turns back to Chase, grimacing apologetically. "I'll see you later? I'll try to make it as early as I can."
"Go," Chase says softly, face impassive, and leans in to kiss her cheek. "People need you."
Cameron lingers for a moment, trying to read him, then decides that if there is anything here it will have to wait for later. Tucking it away into a corner of her mind to be dealt with after work, she hurries after Foreman.
Chase is exhausted from the moment he gets into the locker room to change into scrubs. It isn't that he hasn't slept, but his dreams were tumultuous all night long, filled with images of decaying altars and the faces of people who ought to be proud of him but are instead absent.
Marriage is a thing he's wanted and feared simultaneously all his life. Its success is what's been missing for so long, responsible, he's convinced, for everything from his mother's death to the loneliness of his early adulthood. But now it seems at once a miracle and a reminder of the family he no longer has to welcome a wife into. The possibility for failure looms large and ominous, fueled by the admittedly ridiculous fear that Cameron has been married before and will somehow expect things of him which he as yet has no basis for. Knowing it's irrational doesn't help.
There have been several trauma patients brought in during the night, surgeries running long, and by the time the scheduled patients start arriving at the beginning of Chase's shift, the department is already four hours behind.
Chase spends most of the morning trying to remove a metastatic tumor from a little girl's brain. She's one of Wilson's patients, barely five years old, but already dying of lymphoma. The tumor is large, and very close to vital areas of her brain. One slip of the scalpel, one misjudgment by a fraction of a millimeter and the girl will wake up a vegetable, or blind, or worse.
In the end, he is unable to get all of the cancerous tissue, and is forced to concede that he's only managed to extend her life by a few months at best, rather than save it. Her parents look broken, shell-shocked and wasted, as though their daughter's disease has physically sickened them as well. They don't cry when Chase delivers the news, just accept it quietly and sincerely and thank him for the effort. That's almost worse, and by lunch all he wants to do is forget about everything for a little while. But all that's waiting for him in the locker room when he gets there is a text from Cameron saying that she's too busy to eat.
Throwing the phone back into his locker and slamming the door with a little more force than necessary, he makes his way to the surgical lounge, hoping just to sit and be left alone. But that's a mistake, Chase realizes as soon as he catches sight of House seated on the couch, his back to the door. Chase contemplates turning and leaving again, but he hesitates just a moment too long and House turns around, eyes clearly full of purpose.
"How's your patient?" House asks insincerely, and Chase can tell immediately that he has an agenda.
"Dying," Chase says tightly, swallowing down the surprising amount of emotion that comes with the statement. This girl's life is going to end before she ever has a chance to even begin growing up. For the first time, he thinks he can see into the world that her parents are facing.
"Too bad." House sounds totally unfazed. "Would she like to donate her liver, then? Because I've got a patient who could totally use it."
"What?" Chase sputters, shocked at House's audacity despite everything. He feels raw, defenses already depleted by the morning, leaving him vulnerable to House's attack. "She's not dying right now!"
"That's unfortunate," says House calmly. "Because my patient is unless she gets a liver in about…right now."
"You came here to scavenge my patient's organs?" Chase asks incredulously, shoving his hands into his pockets as they start to shake.
House stands up, seeming to tower over Chase despite the slight stoop as he leans on his cane. "No, not really. There's a guy dying down in the ER too. Old man. Fell down a flight of steps and fractured his skull. Brain's scrambled now."
"And you want—what?" Chase wonders if this accident is what has Cameron tied up, whether she's dealing with another grieving family right now. He feels too hot, and unable to focus.
"I want you to do the transplant surgery," says House, and suddenly everything starts to become clear. "I checked the board. You're covering trauma for the afternoon."
Chase narrows his eyes. "What's wrong with your patient? That was a quick diagnosis. Five hours? That's got to be some kind of record for you, right?"
"Don't know yet," says House, and Chase frowns. "But I do know that she's an alcoholic who's going to die of liver failure before we can diagnose her unless you do this transplant."
Chase goes rigid, every muscle in his body suddenly on edge. House's presence here shifts into something much more threatening than a simple annoyance on an already bad day. "That's not a trauma," he says tightly. "Have you even gotten the family's consent?"
"Alcoholics don't tend to have much family left to care," says House, and Chase tightens his jaw, feeling his heart beat faster. "Nasty thing about addiction."
"I meant the donor's family." Chase takes a long, slow breath, trying to keep his voice even.
House shrugs. "They're not going to want his organs back if you've already done the surgery."
"I'm not going to steal a liver from a dying man just so you can solve your puzzle!" Chase finally explodes. "Alcoholism probably is the diagnosis. It causes all kind of problems, you know that! I am not risking my license for someone who doesn't care enough about her own life to stop killing herself!"
"Wow," says House calmly, narrowing his eyes into an expression which says an outburst like this is fascinating to him. "Sounds like you're taking this personally or something."
"The answer is no," Chase says quietly, still fighting to regain control. "Ask someone else. You've got the whole hospital to harass." Chase turns to leave, but House is impossibly faster, taking a large step forward and hooking the cane in front of Chase's legs.
"They're not as much fun," he continues without missing a beat. "And besides, I thought for sure you'd want this opportunity."
"Why?" Chase snaps, feeling cornered and out of control. "Because you think I'm an idiot? That's the only reason I can come up with why someone would do this for you."
"Well," says House, "I thought you might appreciate the chance to redeem yourself."
The tone of his voice makes Chase's blood run cold. It's the sound he's heard far too many times over the years and always half-dreaded having directed at him. Behind the words is the unspoken warning that he's found a weak spot and won't hesitate to stab.
"I haven't done anything wrong," Chase insists, slowly and firmly.
"Well, not recently." House cocks his head. "Don't you religious boys believe in that karma thing, though? You couldn't save your mother, but you can help this patient."
"This has nothing to do with my mother!" Chase explodes, attempting to step over the cane. But House is too quick again, darting it out another foot, and in his haste Chase trips over it, sprawling on the lounge floor with a painful thud. He gets back up immediately, ignoring the protest from an ankle that's gotten turned. "There was nothing I could've done! I was just a kid!" He makes it to the door, but House's next words make him freeze in place, hand on the knob.
"Sure," House accuses. "People don't change. You're high and mighty about my patient now, you were high and mighty about your mother's drinking then. You resented her. For your dad leaving, for the loneliness of your childhood, for every bad thing that ever happened to you. Sure, you took care of her, but you didn't do everything. Hell, some days you probably hoped that she would kill herself a little faster."
"You know nothing about me!" Chase shouts, feeling completely unhinged and not caring. Everything is too much. The stress of a new life, of a new house, new pressures of marriage. The image of the little girl he's spent the morning trying to save, dying before she ever gets to start the first grade. And now the memories that House has brought back, unbidden. In a rush to get away, he pushes the door open, still yelling at House over his shoulder. "I never hoped she'd die! All I wanted was for her to get better! But your patient—She can die right this second for all I care!"
Turning to flee down the hall, Chase finds himself confronted by a harried-looking man and two young girls, obviously the patient's family. He can tell by the looks on their faces that they've heard everything, having played a role in the persuasive trap he's seen House use on so many people before.
Cuddy finds him several hours later, while Chase is holed up on the couch in the lounge, blessedly alone this time. He's spent the better part of the afternoon trying to apologize to the family, to explain why even if he was willing, the transplant surgery House has planned is ultimately illegal. The sound of the door swinging open makes him jump, and the distinct clacking of Cuddy's shoes on the floor brings his head around to face her.
"I'm sorry," Chase says quietly, having expected this.
But Cuddy looks grim, even more worn than usual. She takes a long breath before speaking quickly and formally. "Dr. Chase, I'm sorry. You're fired."