Chapters 1-18 by You're out of your vulcan mind
Chapters 19+ by Mara-DragonMaster
The next few days went by quickly. They had a case which turned out to be a kind of brain cancer that, for some reason, in this particular instance was presenting itself in the spine, which was why they hadn't found it before. Then it was the night before Eloise was going to leave.
It was also the Big Night.
Chase met Cameron at Bacco's at seven. They were given a nice little table next to a window, a votive candle burning in a crystal holder in the center of the table next to a single red rose. Cameron looked beautiful in a little black dress and diamond earrings, her lips painted red and her eyes lined with black. She looked alluring, sexy, and Chase wondered why he had waited so long to ask her out.
They sat down, and for a moment just looked at each other.
"You look beautiful." Chase commented. He lifted his hand. "Your hair looks good like that– pulled up. It shows off your face." For a moment he kicked himself. It 'shows off your face?' What was he thinking?
"Thank you." Cameron smiled, and tucked a piece of waved, loose hair behind her ear. "You look pretty good yourself." She indicated the pale blue shirt and grey sports jacket. "It brings out your eyes."
Chase nodded, trying to hide his pleasure at her comment. Thank you, Eloise. he thought, since she was the one who had suggested the blue.
As they glanced through the menu and made their choice they were silent, only speaking when the waiter came to take their order and bring them a bottle of red wine.
"So," Chase drawled when the waiter left. "I see House has got you doing his clinic hours for him."
She nodded. "He's trying to spice it up. Throws the nametag at me thirty minutes and forty-five seconds after he comes in. I think he's trying to change his schedule so he can catch you off guard once you're able to do clinic again."
"Ah. Well, thanks for warning me."
There was another pause. Cameron looked around and sighed, a small smile on her face. "This is a nice place. I've never been here before." She paused, and lifted her lashes, looking at Chase. "This is nice." She said. "I don't know why we waited so long."
Well– because you had eyes for only House, and I was just a substitute? Chase thought, and then mentally shook himself. He didn't need to be thinking like that, not now. That didn't matter anymore. They were here. Finally.
"I don't know." He said. "Guess we were just too used to seeing each other as coworkers."
Cameron laughed. "Well, I'm glad that's changed."
Their food came. As they ate they continued to talk in short little conversations; mostly about work, about House, and the usual 'first date' questions: favorite food, night owl or morning person, what high school did you attend, most embarrassing moment, what did you want to be as a kid, etc., etc. By the end things had reached a level of comfort, but there was still a sense of professionalism– as if they couldn't quite let go of their need to be proper around each other. Still, it was a decent time. They packed up the remainder of their food, and went outside onto the dark street, lit by glowing street lanterns. There was a slight breeze, cool enough to make Cameron wrap her arms around herself. Before she left for her car she paused beside him, bathed in the golden light pooling out from the restaurant's windows.
"I had a good time tonight."
Chase nodded. "Me too."
For a moment nothing happened, and then Cameron bit her lip, and began to lean close. Chase closed his eyes and smelled the honey scent of her perfume, and then felt the softness of her lips on his. It was gentle, and sweet. When she pulled back they looked at one another for a moment, and then she smiled. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight." He said. He watched her go, slipping into her car and driving away. For a moment Chase just stood there on the sidewalk, leaning on his crutch, the skin slightly creased between his brows. Then he shook himself, and hailed a cab.
Eloise was waiting up on the couch, a bundle of pins and needles, wrapped in a warm bathrobe and fuzzy purple socks. She had soothed her nerves with a combination of chocolate fudge ice cream and a cooking show called Ace of Cakes where she learned how to carve cakes into pretty much any sculpture she wanted, and then decorate it.
She glanced at the clock.
It was getting late.
When the door opened she clambered to her feet, setting the half-eaten carton of ice cream on the coffee table. "Hey! How'd it go?"
Chase looked up, shutting and locking the door behind him. "It was good." He said. But there was a confused wrinkle between his brows as he set his box of food on the kitchen counter.
Eloise cocked her head. "You sure?"
"Yeah; yeah, I just– I don't know. It seems like something wasn't right– like something was missing." Chase frowned, then shook his head. "I'm probably just imagining things."
Eloise eyed him curiously; well, something wasn't right. "What did you do?"
Chase limped in and slowly sat down on the couch. "We just sat and talked. We had red wine, I complimented her hair, said she looked beautiful, she complimented my shirt, we talked about work– She kissed me goodnight."
"Well, that sounds like a success to me." Eloise sat down next to him, hooking her one foot under her other leg.
"Yeah. Right." Chase was frowning again. She could almost see the wheels in his head turning, going over the events of the night over and over again, looking for a clue that probably wasn't even there.
"What is it?"
"The kiss–" he shifted, his frown deepening. "I mean, don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad– it was good. But it wasn't– great. Not like how I'd imagined it."
"Oh. Well, probably just chalk it up to first-date jitters." Eloise waved it aside. "You've been co-workers for how long now? It's bound to feel awkward at first, right? Just give it some time."
"Yeah. You're probably right." Chase sighed and pressed his fingers to his eyes. When he looked back up he was smiling. "You know, I need to thank you."
"Me?" Eloise looked surprised. "For what?"
"For helping me take that first step." His eyes were very blue as they held her, his expression soft. "Wasn't it you who said that the best things in life always come with risk?"
She smiled ruefully, gazing at him. "I think you said that first." She said in a quiet voice.
He shook his head. "I never said it. You did. You gave me the courage to take that risk with Cameron. Thank you."
Swallowing, Eloise gave him a smile. "You're welcome."
The next morning came far too early. Chase woke long before his alarm, when the pale pink and yellow of sunrise met the cool blues of the nightly shadows. There was a warmth at his back, a small hand gently resting on his shoulder. Chase didn't move; the sleeping arrangement they'd made when she'd first come to stay with him hadn't been necessary for a few days, but both had been loathe to give up the comforting presence of the other. If he moved, she would wake up, and then she would leave.
So he did not move.
How long he lay there, he did not know. He had silenced his alarm before it could go off, and had soaked in the warmth of the woman asleep beside him. At last she stirred, making a small, high sound as she stretched and yawned.
"Good morning." He whispered.
They ate breakfast in quiet, comfortable conversation. Her things had been packed the day before into her suitcase, and the moving truck was ready. There were subtle meanings in their words, little glances, miniscule touches of fingertips-to-hands. Then it was time.
Chase stood on the sidewalk with her, his coat buttoned closed against the morning chill. Eloise put her suitcase in the front of the truck, on the passenger seat, and then she approached him with her hands in her pockets. Her hazel eyes seemed especially green today, more so than brown, almost all color as her pupils contracted in the morning light.
She stopped in front of him, shifting uncomfortably. "I don't want to go." She suddenly said.
"I don't want you to." Chase replied in a whisper.
Tears filled her eyes, and she glanced away, taking several deep breaths and swallowing. As a tear spilled onto her cheek she looked up again. "Goodbye, Robert."
Chase put his arm around her, and they hugged. His face pressed into her neck and hair, and he closed his eyes, breathing in her scent. Raspberries.
Then she was pulling away, brushing tears from her face. She climbed into the truck, and then she was pulling away, towing her car behind the truck. As she turned at the end of the block she slowed down, and looked back, waving a hand. Chase returned the wave.
Then she was gone.