It seemed like years had passed by the time Dennis returned with someone to help. He'd called 911 as well, so an ambulance wasn't far behind. Within minutes, they'd hoisted Cameron out of the creek and loaded her into the emergency vehicle.
I didn't even bother rushing to climb up that hill after them. I knew they had to whisk her off to the nearest hospital as soon as possible, so waiting for me to join them would take too long. As soon as I heard everyone's voices growing fainter as they moved farther away from the scene of the accident, I sank down onto a rock and took my pills out of my pocket. It was only then that I noticed how badly I was shaking. I almost felt like taking the entire bottle, but forced myself to only have one.
As I was putting the bottle away, I noticed that there was something white moving in the wind a few feet away from me. I knew what it was even before I picked it up - the cause of this whole mess. The piece of paper Dennis and Cameron had been fighting over. I was a little bit afraid to look at it, but I took a deep breath and slowly began to unfold it.
The paper had gotten a little wet, but the picture Dennis had drawn on it was still plain to see. My heart constricted when I saw it, and my eyes started to sting like I was going to cry. What was staring up at me from the dirty, wrinkled piece of paper was a perfect caricature of me.
Oh yes, Dennis had captured me well, while over-exaggerating my wrinkles, grey hair, and need for a cane. I felt like I was looking at an image of my future - fifty years into the future, to be exact. And coming out of my mouth were the words, "Am I still here? I don't see me anywhere."
I swallowed hard and crumpled the paper up again in my fist. So, that was what Cameron had almost gotten herself killed over. Dennis-the-Menace had been making fun of me, and it had made Cameron angry. She'd tried to get him to stop, but being the ass he is, he wouldn't.
It was a good thing he wasn't anywhere near me at that point, because if he had been, I probably would have killed him. Not for anything he'd done or said about me, but for hurting Allison. That was something I just couldn't let him get away with.
At that moment, though, all I could do was rest my arms on my knees, bury my face in my arms, and cry. I couldn't even remember the last time I'd cried, but it seemed that once the emotional dam I'd built had been breached, there was no holding it back. I didn't know what to do or where to go, so there I stayed, letting the water rise up over my ankles, until I felt strong enough emotionally and physically to tackle the world - and that hill - again.
It was almost two hours later before I got to the hospital Cameron had been taken to. I'd had to go back to the Peckford house first, as I had no idea where the hospital was and needed to change clothes anyway. Apparently, Dennis had called the housekeeper to tell her where Cameron had been taken, so I got my information from her, called a cab, and off I went.
Once at the hospital, it only took me a minute to find out Cameron's room number and get up there. I was hoping to just slip in, see how she was doing, and then leave, but when I saw Dennis sitting in the waiting room with his face in his hands, I decided to make a little detour.
I walked right up to him without a word, but he must have known by the sound of the cane who was coming. When he looked up at me, he looked scared. I have to admit, that gave me a nice feeling of satisfaction.
"How is she?" I asked, not even bothering to fake a friendly tone with him this time.
"She's... she's gonna be okay," he said. "I was told a minute ago that I could go in there, but..."
But he was feeling too guilty. Understandable. Not that I wanted to rub it in or anything, but I chose this moment to take the balled-up piece of paper out of my pocket and drop it into his lap.
He knew what it was as soon as he saw it, even though he didn't touch it. He just stared at it with utter conviction written all over his face.
"I hope the laugh was worth it," I said. Then I turned to go to Cameron's room.
"Greg... I'm sorry."
I swung back around to shoot him my best laser-eyed look. "Sorry for what? It's Allison you should be apologizing to, not me."
"I didn't mean to hurt her. I'd never hurt her..."
"And yet you did. Maybe you should think of that before doing something stupid next time."
It occurred to me as I walked away from him that perhaps I should follow my own advice on that one. I'd said some pretty stupid things to Cameron in my time, as well. Damn me and my big mouth.
I hesitated for just a moment before entering Cameron's room. Not that I feared what I might find, because I was sure she'd received the best care and would be just fine, but I think part of me was afraid of what I would feel when I saw her again. It didn't take me long to get a grip and march in there, though.
My fears turned out to be well founded - as soon as I saw her, my heart melted like ice on a warm spring day. She looked terrible. Allison Cameron should not look that terrible. Ever. She was young, vibrant, beautiful. She shouldn't look like just another patient.
I didn't know what to do. I was in a hospital, one just like the one I work in every day, standing by the bedside of a patient like I'd done countless times before... yet I felt totally lost. I knew I wasn't going to be the one to make her better, so I hadn't a clue why I was even there.
Still, it wasn't like she had anyone else. Either I would sit with her, or Dennis would. If neither of us did, she would be completely alone, and I didn't like the thought of that. Cameron loves people. She'd want someone to be there when she woke up. So, I shoved my feelings aside and sat down in the chair by her bed.
As I sat there watching her peacefully sleeping, I suddenly felt completely drained. I always did my best to stay as fit as I could, but I'd made my body do things it wouldn't ordinarily have been capable of doing in order to save this woman's life, and I was starting to feel it now that the adrenaline had worn off.
There was a stool under her bed, so I pulled it out and propped my feet up on it. Then I got as comfortable as I could in the chair, laid my head back, and closed my eyes.
I don't know how long I was out of it, but it couldn't have been for more than an hour. When I finally realized that I'd fallen asleep, I jerked myself awake again, looking around in disorientation for a second until I remembered where I was and what had happened.
"Dr. House?" a small voice said. "Am I that sick?"
I grinned when I saw Cameron lying there looking at me with a half smile on her face. "Funny," I said, sitting up straight in my chair and stretching out the kinks. "How are you feeling?"
She sighed. "Tired. A little sore. Other than that, I'm okay."
"Need something for the pain?"
She went to shake her head, but winced and stopped herself. "No, it's fine," she said. "I wouldn't mind some water, though."
"You mean you haven't had enough of that stuff today?" I joked. There was a cup of water on the stand by her bed, so I helped her take a few sips.
She watched me curiously as I did so, and when I sat back again she said, "You saved me."
I wasn't sure what to say to that, and the pain in my leg started to intensify as though it were trying to give me something else to concentrate on. I told it to shut up and settled for a slight nod and a, "Yeah."
"You said you loved me."
Woops. God, I'd hoped she wouldn't remember that. Where was amnesia when you needed it? Stay cool... brush it off... "Did I?" I said as casually as I could. "That's funny, I don't remember that. You must have been delirious."
That one soft word said more than a thousand ever could. She knew I'd said it. Now she wanted to know why. I sighed and looked down at my hands for a second before I could meet her gaze again. "You were dying," I said. "I had to say something that would get your attention."
Cameron smiled and nodded. "You do like me."
I rolled my eyes. "Would I be here if I didn't?" I said. "Go back to sleep."
Her smile softened, and she inched her hand towards me, holding it out with her palm up. I wasn't exactly a touchy-feely kind of guy, but I couldn't pass up a gesture like that. I took her hand in mine, but was careful to keep my expression guarded and neutral. No matter what had happened this weekend, I still wasn't ready to let myself go any further than that.
"I'm sorry about what I said," she whispered, even though her eyelids were growing heavy and her words were slurring together. "I'm glad you came."
I smiled as she drifted off to sleep almost before she'd finished her sentence. I reached out my free hand to brush her hair back from her face, and just sat there staring at her for a minute or two.
"Me, too," I said. I wouldn't have missed it for anything.