WARNINGS: Spoilers through Big Baby
NOTES: The Forty-Eight Laws of Power are from the book by Robert Greene, and I make no claim to owning them. I toyed with the idea of using all of them in this fic, since I certainly think that every single one of them applies to the dynamics of the House characters. Unfortunately, I didn't feel that the duration of time I had to work with in canon could incorporate that many points, so here you have my selected few.
The Forty-Eight Laws of Power
Law Four: Always say less than necessary.
"Are you sure this is what you want?" Chase asks, lounging back against the bed and watching as Cameron stands in front of the mirror in her underwear, curling her hair. She's been up for over an hour already, a whirlwind of nervous energy, and it's not quite eight yet.
"It doesn't matter," she says evasively, twisting her wrist in a practiced motion to make a fresh blonde wave curl around her shoulder. "Cuddy needs to be there for her daughter."
"And you need to take care of yourself," Chase reminds her, stretching to rest his hands behind his head. He feels like he's getting a glimpse of what Cameron might have been like back when they were still working for House, in the private parts of her life which she never allowed him to see. He thinks he would be enjoying the view more if he wasn't so concerned that this is going to destroy her. "There are other people who can do this job. It's Cuddy's responsibility, not yours."
"She asked me," Cameron points out, finishing a final curl and bending over to unplug the iron. "I said yes. So now it's my responsibility."
Chase sighs, sitting up and swinging his legs over the side of the bed as Cameron makes her way over to the closet. Opening it to the now seldom-used side containing business clothes, she pulls out a navy blue skirt suit he's never seen before.
"When did you get that?" Chase asks, surprised. It's not like he pays that much attention to her clothes, but this outfit is different enough that he's absolutely certain he doesn't recognize it. Plus, he's been at her apartment all night, and he's relatively certain she didn't sneak out at four am to look for a suit befitting of a high school principal.
"A long time ago," she says vaguely, slipping it on. "I wore it when I interviewed to work for House."
"Oh." Chase narrows his eyes, suddenly suspecting that he doesn't have the full picture here. Cameron looks oddly feline in the suit, all sleek lines and green eyes framed by her now-immaculate hair. The image she presents is a far cry from intimidation. "You want this job, don't you? You're looking forward to it."
Cameron looks at him for a moment before shrugging, then steps in and kisses him quickly on the lips. "You should get out of bed sometime soon," she says, then grabs her purse off the nightstand and is gone.
Law Eighteen: Do not build fortresses to protect yourself—isolation is dangerous!
When she first steps into the room, Cuddy's newly renovated office feels strangely large and open. Cameron realizes suddenly the extent to which she's become accustomed to the crowded spaces and the ever-present noise of the ER.
She starts by walking around the periphery of the office, noting for the first time just what a large number of doors there are. Cameron locks all but the main one, and closes the blinds. The big wooden door at the front of the office she leaves ajar, as though inviting anyone who wishes to come in and see how she's doing. It isn't that she's overconfident—she's fully aware of how demanding this job is—but she's learned during her year and a half in the ER that presenting an air of absolute security keeps most questions at bay.
Moving over to sit behind the desk, Cameron swallows down the sudden and intense feeling that she's a child sneaking into grown-up space, that she's not supposed to be seeing the things Cuddy's left in neat piles for her. In the middle of the desk is a neatly categorized list of the projects currently in progress, emails she needs to send, and phone calls to be made. Cameron skims over it for a moment, then lets her attention wander to the stack of case files to her left.
Law Twenty-Two: Use the surrender tactic—transform weakness into power!
"You approved total body irradiation? Just like that?"
Cameron jumps a little, looking up from the paperwork she's been reviewing at the sound of Chase's voice. It's been barely half an hour since House left her office; she's been off the phone for less than ten minutes. She's always known about the tendency for gossip to spread like wildfire through the hospital, but this seems to be bordering on the absurd. She wonders for a second whether her new position with regards to House has become a catalyst for the rumor chain.
"Yes," she says simply, closing the file folder she's been holding and folding her hands on top of it as she looks up at Chase.
He frowns. "Are you sure that's wise? Everyone's talking. If this goes badly—"
"It won't go badly," Cameron interrupts, with slightly more certainty than she feels. "How many times did we watch him play Cuddy? If he was asking because his instincts tell him that it'll help the patient, then he's probably right. If it was a bluff to get me to say no, then he won't do it. He's insane, but he still wants to solve the puzzle. Which he can't do if the patient's dead." She looks at her hands again, then smiles slowly. "Either way, I win this round."
Chase stares at her for a very long moment, a grin spreading over his face to mirror hers.
Law Fourteen: Pose as a friend, act as a spy.
"Foreman's gonna sabotage the drug trial," Chase says immediately upon walking into the office. Cameron is sitting on the overstuffed sofa now, with old case files spread out all around her like her own private little library of strangers' tragedies.
"He told you that, or you're speculating?" Cameron asks, looking up.
"He told me he found out Thirteen's on the placebo and he wants to put her on the real drug. He was looking for my approval." Chase comes over and drops onto the couch beside her, righting a stack of file folders as they start to slide. There's something intoxicating about her presence today, a certain magnetism in the air of confident power she's carrying. In the past he thinks he would have suggested that they find a place to be alone, but right now it seems as though that would almost be insulting.
"What did you tell him?" Cameron asks, gathering up the papers in her lap and dropping the pile on the carpet with a muffled thud.
Chase shrugs, suddenly much more interested in her reaction than the actual information he's telling her. Knowing her ghosts, he wonders suddenly if he's making the right decision in sharing his opinion with her. "I told him—don't be an idiot."
"Good advice," answers Cameron, the barest hint of distance in her voice. "I'll keep an ear to the ground. Thanks for letting me know."
Law Twelve: Use selective honesty and generosity to disarm your victim.
Foreman reappears at her door barely an hour later, knocking first this time before sticking his head in. "You didn't mean that."
Cameron caps her pen with a soft little snap. "Well. I'm glad you let me know that you can read my mind. That'll save me a lot of embarrassment someday."
"I know you," Foreman insists, pulling out one of the chairs opposite the desk and sitting in it. "That wasn't you talking. That was repeating what Chase told you."
"I can't agree with him?" Cameron sits straighter in her chair and crosses her arms.
"You can," Foreman counters. "But in this case, you don't."
"What makes you so sure of that?" He's right, on some level, she knows. But in this case, her personal feelings don't matter. She's grown up enough to see the real difference between right and wrong. This is Foreman's sin to commit alone, and the choice to do so has to be his. Right now, she is his boss, and that is the place her advice has to come from. Neither of them can afford for her to talk to him as a friend today.
"Because you've been there," he answers stubbornly. "Because you could end up there again. Are you really telling me you wouldn't have done the same thing for your husband? That you wouldn't do it for Chase?"
"Of course I would," Cameron admits quietly. "But—don't be an idiot."
Law Forty-Seven: Do not go past the mark you aimed for—in victory, learn when to stop!
Chase is waiting in the locker room when Cameron finally leaves the trashed OR; he's watched the latter part of the spectacle on the monitor in pre-op, alerted by his staff despite her intentional failure to notify him of the procedure. She looks utterly devastated when she walks in, pausing at the sight of him like she's considering turning around and leaving again. Wordlessly, he gets to his feet and folds her into his arms.
"Why are you being nice?" Cameron asks, voice muffled into his shoulder.
"Um, let me think." Chase pulls back a little to brush the hair away from her face and find her eyes. "You're my girlfriend and I love you and I don't like seeing you upset?"
Cameron grimaces. "You were right. I can't do this job. I should have told Cuddy to find someone else."
"That is not what I said," Chase corrects her, dismayed by her interpretation. "I always knew you could do this job and do it brilliantly. I just didn't want it to destroy the person that you are."
"That woman will probably die because of an incorrect procedure that I approved," Cameron insists desolately. "We're at a dead end."
Chase lays his hand against the side of her face, stroking her cheek with his thumb. "You have no way of knowing that at this point. Sometimes the only choice you have is action or defeat. You chose action. Even if she does die, you did all that you could. There's no shame in that."
"You really believe that?" she asks uncertainly.
"Yes," says Chase sincerely. Then, just to tease, "And besides, I'm sleeping with the boss. Why wouldn't I want to make her feel good?"
Cameron rolls her eyes, the barest hint of a smile passing over her features, then swallows. "I have to go get dressed."
Law One: Never outshine the master.
Walking down Cuddy's driveway to the car where Chase is patiently waiting, Cameron feels as though a great many weights have shifted on her shoulders this day. There is a sense of disappointment in leaving this job behind and returning to her the familiar grind of the ER.
But something broke in the operating room today; for the first time she feels nothing but exasperation for the swirling vortex of chaos which seems to constantly surround House. Returning Chase's smile as she gets into his car, she thinks she finally may be ready to walk away for good.