A/N: This was written for the House Big Bang challenge on livejournal. There are eleven chapters total, all written, though I'm still revising some of the later chapters. Updates should be fairly regular. Also, there is lovely artwork, made by people far more talented than I, to go with the story. I'll post a link at my profile for anyone who would like to see it. Mucho thanks to the beta services and overall support of three awesome people, blueheronz, everytimeyougo, and jesmel. Given that I'm still revising, any mistakes you find are all on me. Feel free to point them out, so I may correct them. Reviews will be received with gratitude.

This was written post Broken, based off spoilers and speculation (read: wishful thinking) on my part. I included a lot of canon, but obviously the show writers have very different ideas about what should happen than I do. Also, I wrote this as one long document, so dividing it up into chapters was difficult. Forgive me if some are short.

The end.

A stray beam of sunshine catches on the diamonds of her wedding ring, creating a waltz of light on the wall above her as she slides it off her finger and places it in her jewelry box. Beside it rests the simple gold band she wore a lifetime ago.

Diamonds are forever. Marriages are not.

As she packs up the disorganized remnants of her brief life with Chase, she thinks of a time when she believed in the power of love, the commitment of marriage.

"You're pleased," she says, looking down on House as he sits in his Aeron chair so casual and smug. "You think you've proved every marriage is a mistake."

"Do I look pleased?" he asks, and she's tempted to make a snarky reply, to shake him and tell him that he's wrong, that there is such a thing as a happy marriage. Instead, she plucks his winnings from the waistband of her pants and passes them over, a current flowing between their fingers as they meet and linger.

She views the memories as if they belong to someone else, observing them and then quickly stowing them away, like the wedding dress still hanging in the back of the closet obscured by a vinyl garment bag. Ignorance really is bliss.

Is she even meant for happiness? Because thus far, it feels like everyone she's ever loved has left her or shoved her away. And when they're gone she discovers the missing pieces of herself, and frantically clings to whatever she has left, reluctant to give any more away. That part of her that once believed in love and commitment just might be gone for good. The girl who thought that doing the right thing would render the right result fled a long time ago. And the girl that believed people could change for the better? She's on life support, just waiting for someone to come along and pull the plug.

House won't change. Chase won't change either. She can see it in his eyes as he hugs her goodbye. He's got something to prove, whether to himself or House she doesn't know and she suspects he doesn't either. What stings is the irony that it is Chase who has chosen House over her, after all the times he accused her of still harboring feelings for House.

Climbing into her car, she decides right then and there that she's done trying to diagnose the problem. It's more exhausting than it should be, and she's done with all of it and... all of them.

She doesn't know where she's going to go or what she's going to do. There's no plan. Chicago was a dream for two; a place for she and Chase to go together and break away from the hold House had on them. Now it holds no appeal for her. And neither does the practice of medicine at the moment. All the ethical dilemmas and justifications and bad decisions when lives are at stake, not to mention the manipulative bastards she's had to work with... she can't do it again. Not anytime soon. Maybe not ever.

XXXXXX

She finds her fresh start in the form of a beaten down house in a well-established neighborhood guarded by centuries old trees. The gnarled branches of elms and maples reach across the street to touch their neighbors, creating a canopy of leaves above the pavement. The sidewalks are buckled in places, pushed up from beneath by massive tree roots, and the homes are spaced apart just enough to give privacy without losing the neighborly feel. Each one is unique, like characters in a well loved book, she thinks. This is no cookie cutter development, where they mow down all the trees and slap down twenty or thirty indistinguishable houses.

Her house is a one story ranch with a wide front porch that stretches across the entire structure. The sagging steps and mismatched columns are weather beaten and the shutters hang from the windows like droopy eyelids. The paint, a shade of eggplant that is far less garish than it would seem, is peeling away from the house in papery wisps. To the casual eye, the house is cold and unfeeling, ravaged by time and the elements, but Cameron looks deeper and sees the heart and soul beneath the harsh exterior and she knows in an instant that she's found home.

On a whim, she yanks the car to the curb and dials the number of the realtor on the sign.

Half an hour later, she's taking a tour of her dream house.

The realtor, a middle-aged woman who is a little too eager to make a sale, expounds on the original moldings and woodwork and all the architectural features that make it so unique. But Cameron is barely listening. She's already mentally moved in, and making plans to restore it. Someone has already made a start on the work; the master bedroom and bathroom are fully renovated and breathtakingly gorgeous. The roof and heating system have been replaced, as well as all the electric and plumbing. The rest of the rooms are in various states of disrepair. But the clincher for Cameron is at the back of the house, a large glass enclosed room with an art deco style sunk-in pool and hot tub. Both are lined with spectacular blue tile that must have been gorgeous in its day. Now many of them are cracked and there are sharp bits scattered across the floor like a mosaic of destruction. They remind her of House, the color of his eyes, the havoc he creates. In a moment of sheer spontaneity, she scoops up a handful and tucks them in her pocket, tiny bits of home to carry with her.

XXXXXX