WARNINGS: sex, vague spoilers
NOTES: Written to fulfill a very, very belated birthday request for Vitawash. I hope you enjoy it!
Chase is not paying attention the first time he sees the photo. It is nothing more than a blur in his peripheral vision, a subliminal image rushing by, a split-second flash of golden hair and blue eyes.
He is too busy to register anything, consumed by a tangle of limbs, heartbeat racing in his ears, fumbling fingers grappling with buttons on well-starched linen.
He was not thinking about the past when he'd gone to the bar after dinner that night. He'd simply been desperate to escape the stifling monotony of a day filled with motivational speeches and research presentations. Cuddy had tried to send the whole department to this conference, but House and Foreman had predictably managed to worm their way out of the obligation. His sole focus had been the glass of scotch in front of him and the half-hearted thought of finding someone to spend the night with.
She'd appeared to him like a ghost in the corner of the bar, an apparition of blonde curls he'd been seeing repeatedly since the day she'd walked out of his life, manila envelope sheathing signed divorce papers slightly crushed between her fingers. For a moment he'd been convinced it was simply the alcohol, yet another wishful thought manifested by tired eyes. But then he'd looked again, scarcely daring to breathe as they'd locked eyes across the room. From there it had all been a blur, crisp bills hastily slammed onto the counter, a frenzied rush through the crowded elevator and back to her room.
"Trouble?" Cameron breathes against his ear, when nearly a full minute has passed and he is still struggling to open her blouse.
He hasn't had as much to drink as usual, yet his movements still feel clumsy, his head and his heart flying faster than the bounds of physics. Chase laughs. "Maybe."
She smiles enigmatically, and pulls her shirt over her head, the last two buttons popping off and bouncing away across the floor. Her bra is pink lace, and suddenly Chase wonders if she has somehow known he would be here, has planned this deliberately. She seems changed irrevocably, and at the same time reminiscent of the woman he'd first seen unmasked by the influence of drugs, when none of this had meant anything more than sex. He cannot articulate, cannot even consider the cataclysm of emotions her presence here tonight has unleashed in him; instead he focuses on the silky warmth of her skin, the curve of her back as he runs his fingers up her spine, raising goosebumps.
Chase leans over, whispering so that his lips barely brush against the tip of her ear. "This part I can do." He slips one hand beneath the lacy band at her back, deftly unhooking her bra and letting it fall to the floor. He has a momentary flash of unpacking a bag in her old apartment, the white slip of her underwear he'd often found in his laundry then.
Cameron shivers, unknotting his tie and using it to capture him around the shoulders, pulling him closer until she can kiss him, roughly, the way she had that first time, when the memory had remained a stinging scab on his lip for days. Chase groans into her mouth, finding her nipple with his thumb and forefinger. Cameron hisses in response, her breath sending a thrill down the back of his neck. Letting the tie fall from her grasp, she grazes her teeth across his clavicle, making his knees go weak. She has always seemed a study in contradictions, finding sympathy for the smallest hurt while bitterly holding grudges. The straight-laced moral compass with a penchant for the wild side in the bedroom. The wife who'd sworn unconditional support one moment, and walked out of his life the next.
She has been mostly quiet tonight, this thing between them at once immutable and unspoken. Cameron has his shirt unbuttoned in a matter of seconds, pushes it off his shoulders in a rush before moving on to his belt buckle. Chase mirrors her, unbuttoning her slacks and letting them fall to the floor in a heap. Her panties match her bra, sending a further sense of melancholy déjà vu stabbing through him as he sweeps them down her thighs. Cameron slides her hands over the bare skin of his hips, ducking her head again to kiss a line down his chest, pausing to curl her tongue around a nipple. Chase tangles his fingers in her hair, grunting as she presses her hips into his, grinding. Her impish grin tells him she is enjoying this immensely, hungry for his desperation.
Taking a chance, Chase sweeps her into his arms, and she laughs deep in her throat as they tumble back onto the creaky hotel bed. Cameron digs her nails into his shoulders ever so slightly, sending a wave of heat straight to his groin. Fisting her hand in his hair, she urges his head downward, as she sinks back into the pillows, the headboard lightly tapping the wall. He focuses on the rhythm of his tongue as her hips rock ever so slightly beneath him; the time and place feel very far away. This could be any moment from their marriage, from the blissfully turbulent years before. Chase's throat tightens as he feels her muscles begin to spasm, signaling her climax. He has dreamt of this night a thousand times in her absence, yet now that it is here, it seems to be slipping too rapidly through his grasp.
Cameron is still gasping as Chase crawls back up her body, breathlessly kissing her neck. She runs her hands up his back, and for one precious moment she catches him in a bone-crushing embrace, seeming to reflect his own loneliness, his own grief for her absence. But then she is moving again, rolling them over so that she is on top. Chase takes hold of her hips, crying out roughly as he guides her down. She begins to move immediately, fast and hard, as though already eager to be finished. Chase closes his eyes again, allowing himself to be lost in the heat of this moment. He remembers their wedding night, in a hotel not so unlike this one. How everything had seemed a possibility then, perfection he'd scarcely dared consider nearly within reach. He comes to the vision of a future that never will be, the ghost of a sob on his lips.
This is the part he has not dreamt before, the banality of falling asleep in the tangled sheets of a hotel bed, of waking up disoriented in a strange room. The realization that the fantasy has ended, and now they will both be forced to go back to their real lives, in which they are not together and in all likelihood will not seen one another again.
Chase wakes with a pounding headache, his mouth filled with cotton. For a moment he is unsure what time it is, or what has disturbed him. Cameron is gone, though her clothes are still lying in a crumpled heap on the floor. The clock on the nightstand reads 11:22, not as late as he's been expecting. Sitting up slowly, Chase scrubs the heels of his hands against his eyelids, trying to stop the incessant pounding in his temples. It is then that he hears Cameron's voice, muffled through the thin bathroom door, apparently on her cell phone.
"What time did he go to sleep?" She sounds concerned, and Chase wonders instinctively who she could be talking to.
Suddenly unbearably curious, he hurriedly pulls on his clothes and gets out of the bed. Turning on a light, Chase surveys the room. A small, black wheeled suitcase is sitting in the corner, two suit jackets hung in the closet. Beyond that, there is only an assortment of small items on the dresser. It is as though she has kept her personal life packed away as much as possible, in spite of the privacy afforded by the single room.
"Can you give me a call if he wakes up at all?" Cameron's voice, again, through the bathroom door. "I know, Mom. I know I'm being paranoid. Just humor me, please?"
It is then that he finds the photo again, remembers it from the first time he glanced at it a few hours before. It is in a tiny frame attached to her keychain, something she obviously never intends to be without. Turning it over, Chase catches his breath. In the photo is a rosy-cheeked, blue-eyed baby, feathery blond hair just beginning to fill in. Chase feels paralyzed, stricken by this revelation. There is an immediate sense of betrayal; they have fallen into bed together on what had seemed an old and unspoken understanding, but now all the terms have changed. Chase feels as though she has used him somehow, taken advantage.
Cameron is coming out of the bathroom before he's had a chance to regain his composure. She pauses just outside the door, wearing nothing but the hotel bathrobe, phone still in hand. She looks as shocked as he feels.
Chase puts the photo down in a hurry, turning to face her fully. "You have a son." He feels an unexpected surge of jealousy at these words, at the knowledge that in spite of their divorce, she now has the family he has scarcely dared hope for.
She is silent for a moment, swallowing visibly. "Yes." She says nothing else, offers no other details, simply resigned in this confession.
"You didn't tell me," Chase says slowly, making no attempt to keep the accusatory tone out of his voice. "When did—How old is he?"
"He'll be one next month," Cameron answers evenly. She crosses the room quickly, snatching up the keys and photo protectively.
"You didn't tell me," Chase repeats, the pounding in his head making the room swim. He has a momentary vision of her perfect family, the happiness he was never able to give her. Of the potential for this foolish night to ruin them both once again.
"I didn't think you'd be interested," says Cameron, backing away. "Everyone tells me you've been off enjoying the single life. I figured your priorities had changed."
"You have a baby!" Chase is scarcely aware of his own voice rising; he feels the sudden urge to run. "You have a baby and we are at a conference, and you just took me back to your room for casual sex! Who are you with?"
"What?" Cameron breathes, looking honestly shocked.
"Who is the baby's father?" Chase demands, breathing hard. He is afraid of the answer, he realizes, but at the same time needs to know.
Cameron blinks, taking a breath which sounds suspiciously like a sob. "You are."
The words come with an overwhelming rush of claustrophobia, nausea rising in his stomach. Chase says nothing in answer, simply turns and stumbles out of the room.
When Chase wakes again, he is back in his own hotel room, and there is light streaming in around the edges of the heavy curtains. For a moment he thinks that the previous night has been nothing but another dream, another wish desecrated by his subconscious. Sometimes it feels as though the deepest parts of his soul would prefer to be lonely.
But then he realizes he has been awakened by knocking on the door, sits up and notices that he has slept in his disheveled clothes. Not a dream, then. His world has been turned upside down in the space of two words, and he is still uncertain how to react.
Cameron is at the door when he answers it, immaculately dressed in a freshly-pressed suit. "I wanted to tell you that I'm going home," she says, quietly.
"Now?" Chase feels slightly panicked at this; he is not sure whether he wants her around in the aftermath of her confession, yet he does not want to see her leave, either. "There's two more days of the conference."
"I know." Cameron sighs, looking at the floor. She seems entirely different from the night before, subdued, strangely vulnerable. "But I already presented. And it's the first time I've been away since—I need to go back."
Chase takes a breath, trying to focus. "Okay. But—why come here?"
Cameron bites her lip. "I wanted to apologize. For not telling you. I was—scared, I guess. Everyone kept telling me things about you. I was afraid—you might not care."
"Allison," Chase whispers, feeling unable to articulate the depth of longing she has stirred. He reaches for her hands, lacing their fingers. "How could I not?"
For a moment Cameron locks eyes with him, and he feels as though it is yet another glimpse of what could have been. But that is not reality; they have both walked away from that chance, and now it is gone. This is painful truth, and it cannot transcend the confines of their present lives. She will fly home to her child, and when the conference ends, Chase will return to the emptiness of Princeton. And yet, nothing will be the same, not really.
"I'm still living with my parents," Cameron says softly. "You should call sometime."
She leans up, kisses him gently, then turns and is gone.
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