NOTES: Written for house_of_fanfic prompt 331: Chase and Cameron go grocery shopping. Thanks to vitawash24 for beta.
The supermarket is eerily quiet at night, the fluorescent lights which make everything bright and shiny by day bringing out lines of exhaustion around customers' eyes, and dirty footprints yet to be washed clean from the faded tile floor. Only a handful of people are in the store, and Cameron feels the irrational need to keep her voice down, as though the frozen peas might hear and resent the interruption of their beauty sleep. Two days is far too long to be awake, she decides, dying patients notwithstanding.
"We could've just gotten takeout," Chase says, whining a little as they survey the produce section.
"What," she answers, "and for breakfast too? And lunch and dinner tomorrow? You don't have anything edible in your apartment, unless you plan to live on stale popcorn. And besides, I don't feel like drowning in grease at this hour."
Chase looks slightly taken aback, and Cameron realizes that exhaustion coupled with the frustration of a difficult case have made her punchy.
"'s not all greasy," he insists, and Cameron notices for the umpteenth time that he looks close to well-concealed tears. The memory of him standing there holding the contents of his locker comes floating back to haunt her, seemingly distant though she knows it is only a few days old, and Cameron feels a pang of guilt dulled by exhaustion.
"Your takeout repertoire consists of three options," she counters, smiling this time to soften the tone. "Pizza, Chinese, and Taco Bell. Seriously, they don't even know how to make a salad without slathering it in sour cream."
"Fine," Chase says, defeated. "We'll get whatever you want." He walks blindly toward the nearest display, frustration seeming to grow again when he realizes he's confronted by a multitude of green bananas.
Cameron is struck suddenly by the bizarreness of the situation: this thing between them still new and fragile, cloaked in tension and the remnants of past hurt, both of them still reeling from the sudden upheaval of their little reluctant family at work. And here she is, trying to convince him that the correct response to all of this is to eat some vegetables.
"You don't have to be here, you know," Chase says quietly, and Cameron can't tell if there's bitterness in that statement. "You've been working. And I told you I'm fine. You don't have to stick around to keep an eye on me."
Cameron frowns, trying not to be hurt. "I told you, I want to be here. I guess we could buy some microwave meals, if you're really dead-set on something quick."
"Right." Chase snorts softly, not looking at her. "Your idea of a good time is hanging around the supermarket at midnight with your newly-unemployed boyfriend and a bunch of under-ripe fruit."
"Well, you've got me there," Cameron shoots back dryly. "I'm secretly using you to get close to the tomatoes."
But the humor seems lost on him, only serving to upset him more. "I don't know what you want from me. I told you not to feel sorry for me. We don't work together anymore. And I told you I'd given up trying to get you to like me, so why—"
"Because I don't want to lose you," Cameron interrupts, surprising herself, the butterflies that danced in her stomach while she waited for him to open the door returning now in force. He is clearly anything but fine with the events of the previous day, but she knows addressing it now will only garner further protests against her pity. "Because I want us to have a chance."
Chase just stares at her, silent at last, pain and uncertainty naked in his eyes. This is a place of anonymity, neither the tension of work nor the façade they've clung to in their respective apartments can hide the truth now.
"We should get frozen waffles," Cameron decides quietly, remembering her mother cooking breakfast for dinner when she was younger and upset. "And pasta or sandwich fixings for tomorrow. Something easy."
"You're staying tomorrow?" Chase asks, surprised. "Don't you have to work?"
Cameron thinks again of his face, of the past four years reduced to an accumulation of junk in his arms. Of the way he'd looked trying to convince both of them that this is for the best. And suddenly she knows that he's right—whether they like it or not, change is going to happen. Regardless of what House does now, Foreman and Chase have crossed some intangible line, and there is no turning back. In this moment, amidst all the peculiarities which make up their daily lives, Cameron knows which side she needs to be standing on.
"I think I'm going to take some time off," she says, already thinking about revisions to the letter she's had saved on her laptop for years.
"You're—what?" Chase gapes at her like he can't quite compute the words that have just come out of her mouth, a picture of confusion Cameron has to admit is rather adorable. Instead of answering, she steps forward and draws him into a hug. Chase stiffens for a second before relaxing against her, practically clinging for a long moment.
"And we should find some food to buy before they throw us out," Cameron reminds him when he steps back at last. The barest hint of a smile lifting the corners of his mouth, Chase nods, Cameron takes his hand as they start toward the cereal aisle.