WARNINGS: Season Six spoilers. For real, you've been warned.
NOTES: Way back when we first started getting spoilers for season six, my wonderful friend and co-mod papillon-chaotique wrote Forgive Us Our Trespasses, which was the product of many speculative discussions. She did such a great job that it inspired me to try my own hand at a speculation fic for the same arc. In some ways, this is honestly how I hope it will go, and in others I really sort of hope I'm wrong. But I think that it makes for a good story, and I hope that you enjoy it. Thanks to vitawash24 for beta.
The first thing Cameron notices upon coming back to work after the honeymoon is that House seems to have dragged everyone around him into his delusional world. From the instant she finds out about his hospitalization—and she has to admit, she's grateful for everyone's decision to keep it from her and Chase until after their return—everything changes.
It's not obvious exactly what is different, at least not right away. Cameron continues working in the ER, and Chase continues to come and visit with every break he gets, and married life is never quite as blissful as she's always thought it would be. Still, there's something missing, though the department under Foreman's care has continued to take the slow but steady trickle of case referrals, and the hospital is strangely calm without House's tumultuous presence.
And yet—Cameron can't shake the feeling that there's a gaping hole where her career's soul used to be.
When he comes back, it isn't any better. Everyone notices it. They've spent the past three months in turmoil while House tried to heal, forced to admit just how dependent they've become on him. It's a relief when Cuddy asks them to rejoin the team; even Chase agrees, she can tell, the air of avoidant apathy he's adopted the past two years falling away in an instant.
But nothing gets better.
People don't change, House always says. Nothing changes.
But there's no way Cameron can believe that anymore, not after seeing the ghosts in the emptiness of House's eyes. People are no different from anything else in nature. Everything moves toward chaos, the law of entropy. People do change.
People fall apart.
It isn't the first time.
If Chase is completely honest with himself, he's never played this exact role before, but it is hardly the first time. In the past he's been the sole witness, been the one to lock the door and pull the blinds and—when he was more certain in his beliefs—offer a quick and silent prayer. There is no reason this time should be any different. He trusts House's judgment, despite what everyone's been saying, knows that he wouldn't have accepted the patient's wishes as necessity unless there were no other options.
Privately, Chase thinks he ought to consider it an honor, being the one House has trusted with this decision.
It isn't the first time, and it's no different from any other time before. Being alone in the room with the locked door and the closed blinds, being the one holding the syringe in his gloved hand and shutting off the monitors before they can alarm—none of this ought to give him any reason to feel more fear or guilt than he has in past.
Yet the hospital seems oddly cold as he makes his way back up to Diagnostics, and he shoves his hands into the pockets of his lab coat, keeping his back to the wall of the elevator.
Everyone is gone. All the lights in the office are out, papers collected neatly in the center of the conference table, chairs tucked underneath. Only the glow of House's computer monitor leads Chase into the inner office. House is hunched behind the desk, staring at the dark blank TV screen.
Chase pulls the case file from under his arm and drops it onto the desk with an airy snap. Loose papers drift to the floor in its wake, but neither man moves to retrieve them.
"It's done," Chase says flatly.
House turns slowly, eyes as empty as the television in the darkness.
Chase jumps, jarred from a place of not-quite-sleep, suddenly seeing the pre-dawn outside the loft's living room window. Cameron comes to stand in front of him, shower-damp hair framing the look of confused concern on her face. She smells of his soap, and the sensation tugs him away from ammonia-drenched asylum corridors and back into the present.
Cameron sighs. "You didn't come to bed last night."
"Working late. Didn't want to wake you up." It's a half-truth she ought to believe. After all, they chose this couch so she could sleep on it the nights she's on call.
"Working late doing what? We have our diagnosis. He's terminal. The case is over."
Chase gets to his feet and stretches, muscles protesting after hours of tension. "Now he's dead," he answers simply, careful to keep any suggestion of the truth out of his voice. Cameron's face fills with surprise. "Turns out when the dictator of a foreign country dies on your watch, there's a lot of paperwork to be done." It's a blatant omission, but a necessary protection. And House will back it up if need be, he is certain.
"Oh, god," Cameron breathes, softening, and Chase feels a wave of guilt.
Chase shrugs. "Guess House got the timeline wrong. Not quite back up to par and all that."
Stepping forward, Cameron slips her arms around his waist, completely oblivious to the sudden invisible distance between them, like a gate slammed down by the universe in retaliation for his crime. And that is exactly what it is, Chase realizes, unable to ignore that reality in the light of day, in the internal void keeping him from feeling any comfort as he returns Cameron's embrace. She rests her head against his shoulder, serenely unaware of the disaster scenarios running through his mind, everything from suspension to jail.
"Well, if the case is over, we've got no reason to work late tonight. Dinner out?" Cameron pulls away to look him in the eye, and Chase glances down quickly, unable to meet her gaze with this new litany of thoughts playing in his mind. "What's wrong?"
It's a relief when Chase feels able to step back into his own space. "Nothing. Just—realized I'm going to be late if I don't go shower." He manages a tired half-smile, though it feels all wrong in the muscles of his face. "Dinner sounds good."
That day, Cameron returns to the ER. Cuddy has given her permission to split her time wherever she is needed most, and it's obvious she misses working there. They are in limbo, weighed down by the failure of the last case, and still waiting for another chance. Her sudden absence in Diagnostics is at once a relief and a burden to Chase, leaving him alone with his thoughts.
When it's gotten to be noon and there's no sign of either House or a case, everyone vanishes to do clinic hours. Chase pulls an old medical textbook from the shelf and sits at the glass conference table, trying to forget how long it's been since he's had this much time to sit at work and drink in the sense that—just maybe—things haven't changed that much after all.
He's just about managed to lose himself in the space between memory and black-printed word on yellowed paper when House's cane comes down across the page with a crack. Chase jumps, startled out of the comfort of nostalgia and back into this world of walking on eggshells and waiting for the other shoe to drop.
"What the hell?" Chase snaps, closing the textbook. The room is empty except for them.
"In my office." House turns, retreating behind the second glass door with a surprising speed that leaves Chase scrambling after him.
"What is this?" Chase leans against the wall, crossing his arms over his chest, this morning's guilt beginning to creep up in the pit of his stomach again. "I'm not doing you any more favors. You owe me now."
House laughs bitterly, and the sound is shockingly discordant. "Is that what you're calling it now? A favor?"
Chase stiffens. "Why am I here?"
"Well I'd think you'd know that better than I would," House hedges, and Chase begins to wonder whether there's any real point to this conversation at all. "I would say you have daddy issues, but--"
"House!" Chase interrupts. "Tell me what's going on or I'm going back to surgery right now." It is a bluff he knows instinctively House will not call.
House's entire demeanor changes somehow, though he doesn't actually move at all. There's something strangely transparent about him lately, the empty places in his soul visible in the light. "It was an infection."
"What?" Chase leans harder against the wall, the pressure of it on his shoulder blades a reminder that this is real. "Are you high?"
"No!" House slams a hand onto the surface of his desk, ever-present papers flying in every direction. "It was an infection."
"What are you talking about? There is no case!"
"The Tyrant!" House snaps. "Pay attention!"
"Had a brain tumor! He's dead now! That case is over!" Chase takes a shaky breath, realizing that he's been shouting. What House is proposing threatens to destroy everything, every carefully-constructed rationalization, justification and belief. As completely as he trusted House's judgment in the dusk of the previous day, everything seems now to be constructed upon a teetering house-of-cards foundation.
"That's two out of three right. He had an infection," House insists.
"You—you're saying—he wouldn't have died? That you had me kill a man who could have gone on to lead a perfectly healthy life?" Chase feels sick suddenly, the sleepless hours of the previous night crashing down upon his shoulders with a weight that's making it hard to stay upright.
"If you call genocide 'healthy.'"
"No," Chase says firmly, mind searching feverishly for something—anything—which will prove House wrong. "We would have seen an elevated white count."
But House only shakes his head. "Abscess in his brain. Looked like a tumor on the scans. No elevated white count because it was contained and the immune system can't breach the blood-brain barrier."
"How can you possibly--"
"We're about to confirm." House gets to his feet. "Need you to do an autopsy for me so we can forge the report."
Chase feels as though all the blood has drained from his body; everything is happening in impossible nightmarish slow motion. "Are you crazy?"
House snorts. "Certifiable. Come on, do you want to lose your license? Go to jail for murder? Think Cameron's going to move with you when you get deported?"
Chase swallows, feeling the noose of his actions take a choke-hold against his throat.
Three days pass after the autopsy confirms their mistake. Three days of deceptive silence, of skin-crawling calm before the storm. Then, an investigation is opened.
Time passes in a blur, dusk bleeding into dawn and just as quickly darkness again, so that hours might as well be minutes and weeks are not so distinguishable from seconds. Cameron feels as though she is straddling the gap between Diagnostics and the ER, one foot on either side of an enormous void. Things spiraling more and more out of her control until she feels entirely powerless over her own life.
Nothing ought to be wrong. At least, nothing quantifiable, nothing she can put into words. No evidence, the part of her mind that's been forged on the crystal-sharp edges of science insists. Just an illusion.
And yet—there seems to be something more than strictly coincidental about the way she and Chase keep pulling opposite shifts, something more than pure concern for her sleeping habits in the number of late nights he's spent on the couch. There are dark circles under his eyes all the time now, and strangely they seem the most familiar of all.
At the end of the third week since House emerged from Mayfield, another case brings them all together around the glass table. It seems oddly too small now, like a forgotten piece of childhood playhouse furniture revisited years later, suddenly uncomfortably crowded and inclined to leave bruises on their knees. When everyone breaks from the discussion to talk to the patient, Cameron lingers, intercepting Chase with a hand on his wrist as he's about to follow House into the inner office.
"Can we talk?"
Chase stiffens almost imperceptibly, and House stops momentarily to watch them. But where Cameron is certain he would have made some biting crack before, House simply turns and continues on his original path.
Chase shrugs. "Now? We've got a case."
Cameron ignores him, walking out of the office and House's earshot. "I'm sure Foreman can take a competent history."
"Looks like that's about the only competent thing he can take," Chase mutters under his breath, and Cameron sends him a look of withering disapproval.
"Be nice. He's had a lot to deal with. I definitely don't envy him his position."
Chase snorts softly. "Right."
Cameron frowns, stung. His face looks strange in the dim hallway light, subtly haggard, and she has the sudden suspicion that he's been losing weight.
"Sorry," Chase mutters, not meeting her eyes. "You wanted to talk?"
Cameron bites her lip. "Is something wrong? Between us?"
"What?" Chase look taken aback, almost a bit panicked. "No!"
"I never see you," Cameron continues, sensing a harbinger of ruin even in his immediate denial. "I know you're busy, but it was never this bad before. We always made time."
Chase is concentrating hard on his shoelaces, and she can't remember the last time he looked her in the eye or spoke to her besides in passing. He's always been reserved, never entirely emotionally open with her or anyone. She'd accepted it as a necessary part of him after nearly six months together, when she'd found the generic birthday card from his estranged stepmother—blank inside but for the signature—tossed without comment on the top of his trash. But now she's seeing resurrected walls that have been gone for months, and Cameron can think only how profoundly she misses him, even standing less than two feet away.
"I know you," she insists. "I know something is wrong. You were always the one who wanted to talk about our problems before. What's so different this time?"
"It's not about you," Chase says at last, curtly, then turns on his heel and vanishes down the hall.
Cameron stands staring after him, letting the weight of his answer settle on her shoulders. Something is wrong, and terribly, but she is powerless to fix it.
Chase finds himself paralyzed by guilt, his ability to function at all dwindling by the day. The constant interviews with the lawyers and detectives involved in the investigation are overwhelming, the effort of keeping the nature of his involvement in them secret worse still. He wants nothing more than to go home to Cameron, let her take care of him if only in body. But he doesn't trust himself not to burden her with everything, has no confidence in his judgment even in the most mundane of circumstances. Not after the series of terrible mistakes he's made. And Cameron can't know, or his crime will be in danger of ruining her life as well. And so he spends more nights on the couch in the lounge than he does at home, the walls between him and everything he holds dear growing ever thicker.
When there are no cases, he retreats to House's inner office most days, as if glass walls can afford him some facade of protection. Six months ago, House would have ridiculed him for this intrusion of personal space, but now they sit in silence hour after hour. Chase feels, with a certain morbid fascination, that House seems almost grateful for the company.
"Cameron's been asking questions," Chase says at last, after their fourth fight in as many days. He feels as though he's beginning to see the first cracks in the foundation of their marriage, giving way to the monster he's let House create.
"Well that's not surprising." House rests his chin on the top of his cane, sitting hunched over in his chair. "You're acting like you've already been convicted. You expect her not to notice?"
Chase sighs, but it does nothing to ease the knots in his stomach. He feels full, saturated and nauseated by the awfulness he's allowed to fester inside himself. Weeks ago, after the autopsy, he'd spent the night sitting on the floor outside the chapel doors, unable to go inside. Now even that seems too close.
"What am I supposed to do? Act like nothing happened?"
House gives him a look of disapproval, like he is a particularly dim child. "Sounds like a good strategy to me."
"I can't do that!" Chase lets his arms fall to his sides in helpless exasperation. "Something happened. It's different. I'm—different."
House rolls his eyes. "Yeah, you're a special flower. Suck it up, it's not like you've never killed a patient before."
Chase flinches hard, tasting bile in the back of his throat. "House!"
"Tell her you're having an affair."
"What?" Chase gapes. "Are you trying to ruin my marriage?"
"Seems like you're doing a pretty good job of that yourself," House counters matter of factly. "If you can't convince her that nothing is wrong, then you need another lie she'll believe. You cannot let her find out what happened."
Chase bites his lip, words coming in a rush. "I could tell the detectives she didn't know until after, that she has zero liability. I mean—if I got caught. If it came to that."
But House only shakes his head. "You're an idiot. You really think you can trust her with this? Cameron, the moral compass of this entire hospital? You think if you tell her that you accidentally murdered a perfectly healthy man—king of another country, in fact—You think she won't turn you over to the police?"
Chase is silent for a long moment, shocked by these thoughts he's never even considered. But suddenly Ezra Powell's case springs to mind, and her disapproval over his convictions then. "Cameron loves me."
"She loves you that much?" House doesn't offer an answer before he turns away to stare out the window, the seeds of doubt he's planted beginning to take root.
Foreman is eating alone. Cameron sees him out of the corner of her eye as she's on her way to the parking garage. She's alone too and she stops short, detouring into the cafeteria. She makes her way through the tired line, picking up a cup of coffee that she has no intention of drinking, nothing more than a prop, an excuse to make her way over to his table and sit down.
Foreman looks up, surprised. "What are you doing here?"
"You're alone, I'm alone..." Cameron avoids his eyes.
"Ah. So clearly we should have a secret meeting. That is what this is about, isn't it?" He gestures with his fork. "Are you looking to check up on House? You want me to tell you that he's getting better, that he'll be a perfectly well-adjusted human being soon?"
"No." Cameron bristles, resenting his implications. It's an image she's beginning to think she'll never be able to escape in other people's eyes. "I want to know why I never see Chase anymore."
Foreman looks surprised. "Trouble in paradise?"
"I don't know!" It comes out louder than she's intended, and Cameron shrinks down in her seat as a few people nearby turn to stare. "He won't talk to me. I never see him at home. And anytime I try to ask what's going on, he acts like I'm the inquisition."
Foreman raises his eyebrows, looking vaguely amused. "Cameron, you are the inquisition. That's not news."
"Foreman," Cameron insists, hating the sound of desperation in her own voice. "It's been weeks. I'm asking for your help."
Foreman puts his fork down, turning serious at last. "I don't know what Chase's problem is. I have noticed he's been around a lot, but it's not my job to babysit him."
"Nothing at all? You see him more than I do." Cameron focuses on the napkin she's gotten with the coffee, shredding it one corner at a time.
"No." Foreman picks up his fork and dissects the mound of suspiciously gelatinous meat loaf that remains on his plate, looking thoughtful. "Although..."
"What?" Cameron leans forward, feeling little prickling tendrils of anxiety curling down her neck and into her stomach, once again beginning to overpower the exhaustion that's become her constant companion since House returned.
"He's been spending a lot of time with House," Foreman says at last. "And House--"
"Is House screwing with him?" Cameron asks, suddenly feeling more protective than angry.
But Foreman shakes his head. "No. Not that I can tell, anyway. House has just been—weird, lately."
Cameron frowns. "How do you mean? House is always weird."
"I mean weird for House. If I didn't know better, I'd think he's been high again lately. But nobody here would be stupid enough to prescribe Vicodin for him, and Cuddy would find out in a heartbeat if he tried to steal it." Foreman takes a bite of meatloaf and grimaces.
Cameron's breath catches in her throat, all of the pieces suddenly falling together in her mind. She's on her feet before she's even realized, nearly knocking her chair over backwards.
"Cameron?" Foreman looks concerned.
"I have to go." She pushes her untouched coffee toward him. "Here. Looks like you need this more than I do."
Chase is at home, for once, when Cameron gets there, sprawled across the couch asleep, the eleven o'clock news droning in the background. He looks like he's been through a war zone, and for a second she's hesitant to wake him. But the mere fact that he's asleep here instead of in their bed is incriminating, and so she closes the distance between them for the first time in weeks, touching his shoulder lightly. "Chase?"
He jerks awake, flinching away from her hand as though she's made some move of violence toward him, and Cameron wonders what he's been dreaming.
"What time is it?" he asks after a moment, voice muffled as he scrubs his hands over his face and through his hair.
"Almost midnight." Cameron switches the television off, the silence around them somehow louder. "That detective called. They want to interview me tomorrow."
Chase sits up straighter and clears his throat. "Yeah?"
"Do you have any idea what it's about?" Cameron asks, shrugging out of her jacket and pulling the elastic from her ponytail. "It seems like it's been going on for a ridiculously long time. And I wasn't even there when he died."
She sits beside him on the couch, struggling not to say exactly what's on her mind, and Chase seems to shrink toward the other end, as though he can sense the tension between them. "No idea. They just keep asking me if I knew anything about suspicious circumstances surrounding his death. Apparently when you endorse civil war and genocide, there tend to be threats against your life."
Cameron runs a hand through her hair, as if she can untangle the day's many revelations. "They think he might have been murdered? That's terrible. Just because he was a murderer, you can't just balance the scales by killing him. Justice doesn't work that way."
"Just telling you what I know," Chase interrupts sourly, and Cameron feels a fresh flare of anger toward him.
"Are you coming to bed?" She already knows the answer, but she wants to see his reaction.
"I--" Chase falters, and she can almost see the flurry of thoughts going through his mind, his attempt to build up some excuse she'll believe.
But now she knows the truth, Cameron is certain. "No, you're not. Because you'd rather avoid me so you can keep lying. I know what's going on here. I'm your wife!"
Chase blanches. "You—what?"
"You've been prescribing Vicodin for House. Did you really think no one was going to find out?"
"What?" Chase looks honestly shocked, and for a moment Cameron falters. It isn't that she doubts herself or her ability to figure out what's happening here, but the extent of his deception even now is staggering. Chase looks as though he is on the verge of losing control entirely, getting unsteadily to his feet in a rush. Her immediate instinct is to help him, but the acid of betrayal keeps her rooted to the spot.
"I have to go," Chase manages finally, and practically bolts through the door, barely pausing to grab his keys off the table.
The interview seems interminable. Chase is drawn to the bench outside the conference room, suddenly not caring how suspicious it might look. He knows that Cameron is inside, talking to the detectives. They are the only ones besides House who suspect the truth, and after the previous night, he finds himself wishing that this might give her some clue. The consequences will doubtlessly be worse when she finds out, but somehow now it seems more bearable than the false conclusion she's reached on her own. If she's going to condemn him—and she will, he's certain—it should be for the crime he's actually committed. It's what he deserves, after all, and suddenly retribution seems like a relief compared to this endless purgatory.
Finally, after what feels like hours, the doors open and the pair of detectives Chase has come to recognize pass him without so much as a sideways glance. As they vanish down the corridor, he turns and looks over his shoulder to see Cameron still standing in the doorway of the conference room, watching him with an expression of not-quite-surprise, thinly veiled anger boiling just beneath the surface. He can't tell immediately whether she's upset because of something she's found out, or if this is about to become the sequel to last night's fight, but both possibilities make his head pound, the room swimming a little in front of him.
"You didn't come home last night," she says finally.
Chase swallows. "I know. Came here." This time he'd spent the night in the observation deck over his old OR, watching the futile attempts of his former staff to save a little girl who'd been hit by a drunk driver, and wondering whether true mercy existed at all.
Cameron straightens, every movement exaggerated by palpable tension, like every cell in her body is on edge. She inclines her head toward the inside of the conference room from which she's just emerged, and Chase gets to his feet. The air inside seems thicker, difficult to breathe as though tainted with all the unspoken guilt of the meeting that's just occurred.
Cameron closes the door silently before turning to face him. "I know what you did. This time—I really do know. And I wish I didn't."
For a moment it's all he can do to breathe; he can hear the seriousness in the sound of her breath, and knows that she really has figured it out. And now the detectives must know too, he thinks. He feels oddly numb to that possibility, like he's been living in a constant state of panic for so long now that even in the face of this new information, it can't get any more intense.
"How?" he manages finally.
"They showed me the file. And the autopsy report." Cameron shakes her head. "The only time House spends that much time on paperwork is when he's forging something as a cover-up. And then—the rest of it just fit. You killed him."
Chase stands there dumbly, choking, wondering suddenly why he wasn't arrested on the spot.
Cameron continues before he can pull himself together enough to speak. "You killed him and you didn't tell me. And House knew. The two of you—this whole time--" She takes a breath, obviously struggling to remain calm enough to keep talking. When she continues, her voice is low and edged with danger. "I want you to get the hell away from him. And stay away. Before it ruins us worse than you already have."
And something breaks. All the guilt and fear, the sleepless hours and the secrets and the lies shattering the last dam of his reserve. He might as well be fifteen again, facing alone a reality in which everything he loves is crumbling around him. And now, as before, all he can do is lash out reflexively in the worst way possible, two decades of regret still insufficient to keep him from making the same mistake twice.
"Right," Chase snaps. "You're really concerned for me. You never were. You jumped at the chance to get back on the team. You were so eager to help out! Just wanted to be back around House. And now you want me gone so I won't be in the way of your pathetic crush."
Cameron closes the distance between them in a heartbeat, her palm glancing across his cheek before he can even register the sensation, and Chase stumbles backwards, his shoulders hitting the wall. She watches him in disgust as his knees buckle and he sits down hard on the conference room floor. Then, very slowly she turns and walks out.
When Cameron goes home next, it is the following afternoon, and with the assurance that Chase should be at work. She doesn't want to see him, possibly ever again, she thinks. She has a vague plan involving an overnight bag and a hotel room, or perhaps even asking Cuddy for an emergency leave and driving straight through the eight hours to her brother's house. Everything is gone, broken beyond repair, and she doesn't have the strength to try anymore besides.
She makes it in the door, halfway to the bedroom before she notices anything, senses momentarily dulled by exhaustion. But the scent of alcohol stops her in her tracks as she passes the bathroom doorway, almost chemical in its intensity. Sucking in a breath, Cameron turns to see Chase slumped on his knees in front of the toilet, a bottle broken on the tiles near his left hand.
Everything feels surreal as she goes to his side, like she's watching her own image in a dream. Careful to avoid stray shards of glass, she kneels, putting a hand on his shoulder and trying to get a sense of his breathing. He doesn't react immediately.
"Chase?" she asks softly. The anger and hurt are still there, not entirely overridden by her concern, but she's never seen him this drunk before, and at the very least knows she won't be able to live with herself if she doesn't make sure he's all right before she leaves. "I thought you had to work this afternoon."
"Couldn't," he mutters at last, letting go of the edge of the toilet and sliding down further still, palms braced against the floor. "It's all over."
Cameron frowns. "What do you mean?"
"You told them," Chase says flatly. "Told them that I—You told them. They'll be here soon. Take my license. Put me in jail. 's what I deserve." He takes a slow breath. "I didn't know he could've lived."
"I didn't," Cameron answers softly, feeling a sudden surge of backwards regret for being the cause of this much pain. It is his fault and it isn't, she realizes. In this moment she can see the web of guilt they've all woven, entangling one another by the simple act of being in each other's lives. And none of them is truly innocent.
"I didn't tell them." Cameron lays a tentative hand against his cheek, hoping he'll turn and look at her. He doesn't. "I told them—that you were home in bed with me when he coded. House did all the paperwork, and Foreman was the attending. They were satisfied. The investigation is over."
Finally he turns, regarding her with a look of shock, even through the haze of alcohol. "You—lied?"
Cameron catches her lower lip between her teeth and nods. "What else was I going to do? You made a mistake. You thought you were being merciful. It's not like you took a gun and shot him in the head. Nobody deserves to lose everything."
Chase makes a small noise in the back of his throat, visibly having trouble finding the breath to speak. "You—Oh, god. I'm so sorry. I can't--"
Not waiting for him to finish, Cameron takes him by the shoulders and coaxes him away from the broken glass on the floor. He shifts his weight immediately, instinctively, she thinks, so that his head is in her lap, her back braced against the bathroom wall.
"I know," she finishes for him. "I know you didn't mean what you said."
He swallows almost convulsively. "I just—wanted to do the right thing, for once. And then that went bad, and I couldn't—couldn't help House. Couldn't protect you. I can't ever--" A harsh sob slips from his throat and he looks away from her, visibly trying to regain control.
"It's okay," Cameron coaxes softly, brushing damp hair away from his forehead, then realizes exactly what she's said. "I mean—it's not—okay. But you can tell me. I want you to tell me."
Chase sobs again, curling his hand around her knee and holding on tightly. She can see now just how much pain he's kept hidden from everyone, betrayed by the vulnerability of the alcohol he'd looked to for empty comfort. She has the distinct feeling that she's seeing scars dating much further back than the past few weeks.
"I can't ever save the people I love," he manages at last. Cameron has the sense he's never spoken the words aloud before, but it's the statement she's been waiting two and a half years to hear, completing so many half-truths she's known about him. "I'm never enough. My parents—and now House. You. I always thought—at the very least, I could be enough to save myself. God knows nobody else was going to. But—turns out I'm not that either."
"Chase," Cameron whispers, finding it suddenly hard to speak past her own emotion. "It's not all on you. It never should have been. You can't save anyone who doesn't want to help themselves. And you don't have to do everything for yourself. All you had to do was tell me, and I would have—You have to let me take care of you sometimes. Please trust me."
"I was so sure you'd turn me in if you found out," Chase murmurs, suddenly unable to meet her gaze again. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have doubted you."
"I love you," Cameron answers, and it's almost enough of an explanation in itself, but not entirely. "And—I understand. Do you remember Ezra Powell? I never told you what I did, then. And I knew you wouldn't condemn me for it."
For a long moment Chase simply stares up at her, clearly overwhelmed, the lines of tension in his face just beginning to soften.
"Thank you," he mouths at last.
Cameron nods slowly, brushing away a few of his tears with the pad of her thumb and smiling ever so slightly. "Will you please come to bed with me now? It's been weeks."
Chase manages to nod at that, sitting up again with effort. It's barely a ghost of their usual connection, but it feels like a step toward regaining what's been lost.
Standing, Cameron wraps her arms firmly around his waist and rests her head against his chest so that she can hear the muffled sound of his heartbeat. They are already irrevocably changed; she isn't naïve enough anymore to think they've fixed everything in the here and now, or even that their relationship will emerge from this without scars. Yet there is a future, and in its existence lies the possibility of hope.
It is enough.
Feedback is love!