NOTES: This fic falls as a bridge between the end of Pause the Tragic Ending and the beginning of The Other Side. Incidentally, today is my two year House fandom anniversary. Feedback is love.
Enough for Now
Peace lasts for just over two months. Work settles into a pattern of staggered shifts and stolen lunches together, with nights at Cameron's apartment a near-constant. But then, gradually, things start to slip again, the calm of status quo vanishing with the change of seasons. By the time the beginning of February rolls around, fights have become commonplace again, and Cameron finds herself almost always on edge. She can't put her finger on what's different now, feels helpless to do anything about the growing distance between them, except to heed the sense of impending doom and prepare herself for the worst.
She's always had a strange relationship with Valentine's day. Growing up, she'd been a romantic in the most clichéd sense of the word, building a house-of-cards faith on the eggshell-walking belief that love could overcome everything from depression to death. And then everything shattered; suddenly fairytales seemed dangerous and false in their comforts, and she'd taken the cold and impersonal process of science as her armor. Even now, after Chase has spent the past two years diligently chipping away at her shell, there's something vaguely threatening about the holiday. It's like watching so many of her colleagues and friends about to naively walk off a cliff that only she can see.
And yet, despite her protests over the embarrassingly large display of flowers and balloons that had appeared on her desk the year before, Cameron finds herself oddly disappointed when Chase treats the day as though there's nothing special about it. He hadn't saying a word as they'd left for work, no surprises waiting for her in the apartment or locker. Now he's been frustratingly absent all day long, even during lunch, when she normally counts on seeing him. And his staff is uncharacteristically tight-lipped, insisting that he's backed up in procedures every time she asks, until she takes it upon herself to check the board of current OR assignments and his name is nowhere on it. By the time her shift ends and she leaves the ER to find him standing in the hallway just outside the doors, her stomach is tied up in knots of dread, and she's absolutely certain the apprehensive look on his face means they're about to have another blow-out, perhaps for good this time.
"Where have you been all day?" Cameron asks as soon as she's within earshot; the last thing she needs is to have this fight broadcast to the rest of the hospital. For a second she remembers another argument in this place, and wonders if that's a bad sign, and whether they should move.
"Working," Chase answers vaguely, starting to walk toward the elevator without waiting to see if she's following. "We've been backed up all afternoon. Lots of unscheduled add-ons."
"No you haven't," Cameron accuses, her heart jumping into her throat. The only reason he'd be lying is if the truth would somehow be more hurtful, she thinks, becoming more and more convinced that her suspicions are true.
Chase looks at her over his shoulder as he jabs the elevator button somewhat more roughly than necessary. "What, you've been spying on me?"
"I looked at the board," she insists. "When you weren't at lunch. I looked at the board and your name wasn't on it. Why are you lying to me?"
But then the elevator comes, and it's full of people on their way home or out to dinner with loved ones, and the conversation has to be put on hold. Cameron bites her lip, feeling sick, anger rising like bile in the back of her throat. They don't talk again until they've made it to the parking garage.
"I'm not lying," Chase answers maddeningly, but he doesn't meet her eyes as he unlocks his car and gets in.
"Yes, you are!" Cameron gets into the passenger side, slamming the door and fighting with her seatbelt like it's a living thing determined to defy her. In this motion, at last, anger overtakes fear, spilling from her lips like venom in a desperate pre-emptive strike against whatever it is he's going to say. "What is this? I know you know what day it is, and you've been avoiding me the whole time. Go home."
"What?" Chase glances over at her as he starts the car, looking maddeningly surprised as he continues to feign ignorance of the whole situation.
"You heard me," Cameron spits acidly, suddenly furious with his nonchalance in the face of the panic it's causing her. "If you can't stand to be around me, I don't want you in my apartment. Go home."
His face shifts quickly, from confusion into recognition, and then into bitterness mirroring that currently churning Cameron's stomach. "Can I drop you off first, or were you planning to walk?" he snaps.
"Oh, you're willing to spend the five minute car ride with me?" This, at least, is familiar. As long as she holds onto the fire of the fight, she can ignore the panic over its outcome. If she can convince herself to hate him, it won't hurt as much when the house of cards inevitably comes tumbling down.
"Last time I checked, you were the one kicking me out," Chase answers, not looking away from the road as he drives. "But then, that's never changed, so I don't know why it should still surprise me."
For a moment Cameron freezes; this is the lowest blow of all, one she hasn't heard in months, and the fact that he's jumped to it so quickly serves to further confirm her fears of the worst. "Let's race. It's a fun game. See who can ditch the other first."
"Yeah," he scoffs, turning onto her street already. "Like you haven't had me chasing after you this whole time. Could've saved me the trouble. Told me you'd never be ready to be caught."
"Right!" Cameron shoots back, the pitch of her voice rising as tears tickle at the back of her throat. "That's why I keep telling you I love you. And spending every second that I'm not working with you! That's why I'm upset that you've been avoiding me all day!"
"We've been together for two years!" Chase practically shouts, and Cameron jumps as the car's tires hit the curb in her building's lot with a bump. He shifts it into park with a shaking hand and turns to face her. "It took you getting shot and nearly killed to even tell me that you—Look, I told you I'd be patient, but—God, Allison, I'm not that good with tests of faith."
Cameron swallows back tears again, barely able to speak above a whisper, the anger suddenly forgotten. "What can I do to prove it to you?"
Chase shakes his head, face shifting into the mask of indifference that tells her he's incredibly hurt and ready to shut out the world. "I don't think you can. Hell, most couples that've been together this long would be engaged by now."
"Maybe if you'd asked me!" Cameron exclaims bitterly, feeling blindsided. "This is not all on me! You can't just—wait around for me to figure out what proof you need and then get angry when I don't know."
When she works up the courage to meet Chase's eyes again, he looks utterly stricken, staring at her wordlessly. For a few painful, silent moments, he remains that way, and Cameron holds her breath. Then, in a sudden flurry of motion he's out of the car, on her side and opening the door for her. Chase offers his hand, and she takes it after a second's hesitation, confusion and vulnerability superseding her anger once more.
"You're coming in?" she asks quietly as he leads her up the stairs.
Chase nods, still not speaking, and unlocks the door with his key to her apartment. Just inside the doorway, the floor is covered in delicate pink rose petals which send Cameron's stomach into knots once more. She realizes suddenly why he's gotten so upset so quickly, that this must be part of something he's been planning all day. Swallowing, she takes a step inside, seeing that the petals continue through the living room and down the hall, a beautiful trail to be followed turning her carpet to magic. Chase must have come here during lunch she thinks, regret for her outburst instantly rushing through her veins like the shock of ice cold water.
"Chase," she starts softly, trying to gather an apology out of the ruins of her composure. But he stops her with a hand in the air, gently taking hold of her wrist and urging her to follow the trail of petals.
Finding its end in the bedroom, Cameron stops in front of her dresser with a soft gasp, met with the sight of a large white gift box, adorned with a gold bow and sitting beside a stately bouquet of twelve whole red roses. Glancing uncertainly over her shoulder, she finds Chase still standing in the doorway, now regarding her with an air of uncertainty she's very rarely seen. All of the tension and anger is gone from his stance, leaving in its wake a soft wistfulness.
"Open it," he instructs.
The perfume of roses is almost overwhelming as Cameron closes the remaining few steps between herself and the box on the dresser; she doubts she could hear him speak through the pounding of her heart in her ears. The bow untwists itself in her fingers, the lid feeling deceptively light for its size as she lifts it. And then everything comes to a standstill, a singular moment of absolute clarity in which she catches sight of the tiny black velvet box seated on tissue paper inside the large one, and knows instantly what this means. When she turns to look at Chase again, he's standing beside her and reaching to take the box from her.
"I'm asking," he whispers, dropping to one knee and revealing the glint of simple diamond and white gold. "I want to spend my life with you. All of it. And any of it. Whatever you can give me. Are you ready for that?"
For several interminable heartbeats Cameron can only stare, surprise melting into guilt, only to be replaced by absolute certainty. "Yes," she mouths, still unable to find her voice.
Chase lets out a long breath, then gets quickly to his feet, and she doesn't think she's ever seen him look so purely happy before. His hands shake badly as he slips the ring onto her finger, and Cameron pulls them to her lips to kiss his palms before wrapping her arms tightly around his waist.
"Happy Valentine's day," he murmurs against her hair, then pulls back to give her a look which borders on impish. "I'm allowed to say that now, right?"
"Yes," she answers quickly, laughing against his lips as she leans up to kiss him.