Saints and Saviors
By Enchanted April
The sun had set an hour ago but House continued staring out his office window as if watching the last rays cut across the sky. He hadn't bothered to turn on any lights, and the only illumination came from the fluorescents in the hall. His image reflected back to him in the window and he tried to focus through it to the pinpoints of light flickering on throughout the city. One of them was hers. When the hell had he become such an insufferable sap?
She'd been gone for two weeks. Hadn't called. Hadn't emailed. Hadn't stopped by the hospital. She'd made a clean break. It was more than he could say for himself. He had been hoping for more cases. Disease, infection, biopsies, drug interactions, necrosis, anything to keep busy. He hadn't thought about how strange it would be working any case at all with her gone, and every day he was pissed at himself for missing her. He'd made his choice. She'd made hers. They were both right, damn it. Unfortunately right and wrong had blurred the first time she'd responded to one of his acidic barbs with a gentle comment and the expression of a wounded Madonna.
A knock at the door and he was thrown back to the memory of Cameron's insistent knocking. He shouldn't have answered that door. This time he didn't have a choice. These walls were glass and whoever was out there could see him. He turned around in time to see Cuddy letting herself in. He was only mildly surprised that she hadn't just barged in. She'd cut him a lot of slack over the past couple of weeks. Actually everyone but Vogler had been giving him a wide berth. Vogler had just gotten worse. Cameron was gone and that bastard was still making his life miserable. Of course that stood to reason after the speech at the conference.
"So, to what do I owe the pleasure?" House launched right into bantering. It was comfortable and familiar. "You're lucky you caught me actually. My moping hours are only from six to eight you know."
Cuddy looked distinctly uncomfortable. Her face was drawn and her mouth set in a grim line. House leaned forward, wondering what Vogler had done this time.
"We've got a gunshot victim coming in by ambulance. The call just came in."
House shrugged. "And you're telling me because you think I'd enjoy hearing about it? Got any stories about mothers selling their kids and puppies drowning in rivers, because I can't get enough of them either."
"Greg, it's Cameron."
The sarcastic comeback died on his lips and his jaw went slack.
"It looks like she was attacked outside her apartment. Her landlord heard the shots and called it in." She was still trying to be gentle, but it was lost on House.
Fight or flight. Fight or flight. Pretend nonchalance or push past Cuddy and race for the elevator? The decision didn't seem to be his to make, because his body was already moving, cane thumping hard against the floor as he moved as fast as he could. Cuddy almost had to run to keep up.
They beat the ambulance but just barely. Two young, able-bodied EMTs were lifting the gurney out and the ER attending was shouting for a nurse to get two bags of O negative and a saline drip. House could see how serious it was from ten feet away. Jesus, there was a lot of blood. How the hell long had it taken the ambulance to get there? Then his eyes moved to her face and he felt his senses leave him again. Cameron was looking at him with such an expression of relief, as if she expected that he would be able to fix everything. Her lips were moving and he knew she was saying his name. He pushed his way to her side shouting out that he was a doctor to anyone who cared.
"Hell of a way to come for a visit," he resorted to quips.
Cameron was too lightheaded to even notice. She just knew he was there and he was talking to her and she gathered her energy and focused on his face. "Don't leave me," she murmured, the words half garbled, but he heard them perfectly. They were the words he was repeating in his head.
"No, I'm not going anywhere," he reassured her and then felt every muscle in his body contract as her eyes slid closed.
They'd tried to get him to leave. Apparently he needed to work on his reputation. There were still a few people who didn't tremble in his presence. As usual, Cuddy was there to say a few words to the right people in her low, cajoling voice. It would have taken security to drag him out, but he still appreciated the gesture. Maybe he'd even thank her.
The ER team was competent enough, but fucking Nihquist was the attending. Smarmy bastard. House knew him well enough to avoid him whenever possible and now the little shit was working on Cameron. House stayed by her head, not touching her, just staring at her and struggling to keep himself from shouting out orders.
There was an intern working on her too, and House wanted to hit him across the shins with his cane when he took too long intubating her and then suggested exactly the wrong drug when asked what the next step was. He wanted to hit him almost as hard as he wanted to kick Nihquist in the balls for treating Cameron like any other teaching case. The jackass seemed almost bored by the whole thing, right up until the heart monitor went flat and its alarm bounced off the cold tile walls. One of the nurses made the unnecessary announcement that Cameron was crashing and Nihquist finally pushed the intern aside and took over with manual chest compressions.
House concentrated on breathing and staring at Cameron's face. He didn't trust himself to speak. Hell, he didn't know what to say.
The alarm kept blaring and Nihquist kept working, calling for a crash-cart and trying to shock the life back into the woman in front of him. House had never thought about how grotesque it looked when three - hundred volts sent a body arcing into the air.
Shock. Pump. Shock. Pump. Another amp of epi. Shock. Pump. And House kept breathing and clenching his fists as the minutes passed. He only looked up when Nihquist ripped off his gloves and tossed them into the basket in the corner.
"We've lost her. The bullet must have pierced the heart. I'm calling it."
House heard him talking but the words didn't register until he followed them up with, "Time of death…"
"What?" House shouted as he launched into action and pushed his way around to the side of the table. "She's not fucking dead yet! It's been less than ten minutes!" He started doing chest compressions himself but stopped as a gush of blood spurted through the bullet wound. "And unless hearts recently relocated three inches to the left the damn bullet didn't hit it. It didn't hit the heart, it nicked an artery," he was still yelling as he grabbed a scalpel off the tray beside him.
He knew who he was cutting into. Rationally, emotionally, he knew he was slicing open one of the few people who mattered to him, but he couldn't let himself think that way. She had to remain just a body; a body that could still be saved. He could hear the ER doctor shouting at him but again, the words didn't register. By the time security got there he'd be half-way to her heart.
"Get me the fucking spreaders," he barked at the hapless intern standing behind him. A second later and they were being slapped into his hand. He didn't even wince at the sickening cracking sound as Cameron's chest was broken open and laid bare before him. Her heart was still and he reached in and wrapped his hand around it, pumping gently, moving her blood the only way he could. More blood poured out and he pointed.
"There! Right there! It's not the heart, morons, it's the artery. You! Get in here and put your hand around her heart and don't even think about moving," he was shouting at the intern again, and the poor boy looked shell-shocked as he rushed to obey.
House moved his deft fingers to the damaged artery and gently held it together. He was thanking God that the gun hadn't been a higher caliber. Anything bigger and the artery would have been shredded beyond repair. "Alright, now pump a few times. I want to get some blood flowing so she doesn't end up a vegetable."
The intern obeyed and this time the blood that leaked out was only a trickle. House turned to shout at the nurse but she was already there with a needle ready. He raised one eyebrow in appreciation and quickly repaired what he could. It was a shoddy job and he knew it, but it would hold until she could get to surgery.
"Paddles!" He shouted, and again the nurse was already there with long internal paddles.
"Charging," she announced as House pressed the circular pads to Cameron's heart. "Clear!"
Her body didn't rise off the table, but her heart jerked to life, pumping erratically at first and then evening out. House tried to remember the last time he'd seen something so miraculous and actually considered it miraculous. He turned and dropped the paddles back onto the crash cart.
"You can finish up, buddy," he said as he limped past the irate ER doctor.
He didn't turn around to see the rest of the staff crowding around Cameron's bed. He didn't want the image of her open chest burned into his retinas any more than it already was. Instead, he ripped off the flimsy gown he'd been given and tossed it in the trash. He needed to get to a sink. His hands were covered in her blood.
Three a. m. was a frighteningly quiet time in I.C.U. and House wished that someone besides the nurses would come by. Having someone he could yell at would take the edge off. Nihquist or Vogler sprang immediately to mind. Sitting around helplessly wasn't something he was particularly good at, but he forced himself to remain in the chair, one hand tapping against his good leg the only outward sign of his discomfiture. She'd been out of surgery for hours and still hadn't woken up. It wasn't unheard of, hell it wasn't even uncommon, but that didn't mean he had to like it. He tapped a little faster and then caught sight of the smallest movement out of the corner of his eye. It was followed by a shaky breath and a low moan.
"Cameron?" He turned all his attention to her face. She was still too pale and her eyes were sunken, with dark circles beneath them, but he ignored all that and willed those eyes to open. "Cameron, can you hear me?" his tone was brusque; as if he had just poked his head into the lab to demand some test results from her.
She grimaced but her eyes gradually opened half-way, dark lashes fluttering against her cheeks a few times before she managed to focus. "House?" It was both confusing and comforting to see him hovering over her.
"You're in the hospital. You were attacked. Do you remember?"
Her brows furrowed as she struggled to climb up through the fog of unconsciousness. "At my place?"
"That's right. The bastard shot you in the driveway." His words came out harsher than he intended.
"I remember," she said slowly with a voice raspy and hoarse from intubation. "I didn't have time to scream." As those moments of terror rushed through her mind she started to shake a little and took a deep breath, crying out when the action sent pain lancing through her.
House looked apologetic and met her questioning gaze. "We had to crack your chest to stop the bleeding."
She blinked a few times and frowned. "We? You were there?" As she finished speaking she lifted a shaky hand and pulled the sheet and gown away from her chest, looking downwards to see the row of stitches, dark and hideous running the length of her chest. Apparently they had decided that since she was a doctor she didn't need the niceties of a bandage that was really only meant to keep patients from getting too upset when they saw themselves. She forced herself to look away and looked up at House instead. "You were there?" she repeated. Her voice was louder but still barely above a whisper.
He hadn't known what to expect after telling her the seriousness of her injuries, but he was still surprised at her reaction. He could see in her eyes that she was angry. She almost never got angry, especially at him.
"Well, yes, if by 'there' you mean in the room."
"Did you work on me?" she asked pointedly and her voice, weak as it was, seemed to kick up a notch.
"In rather an unofficial way, you could say that." All of a sudden he felt awkward and gawky, like a pimply-faced sixteen-year-old standing in the presence of the prom queen. "You probably don't remember, but with your last words you asked me to stay."
"Yes… stay… like a normal friend. In the waiting room… not cutting me open… seeing me like that." Her words were halting and shaky. House wasn't sure if he should be glad or not as he watched some color return to her face. "But I forgot that we aren't friends and you don't even like me." She took a painfully long breath. "I should have expected that you'd only stick around if it was an interesting presentation." Her eyes, always so expressive, weren't accusing or angry anymore. They were deeply, painfully disappointed and that was infinitely worse than angry.
For the first time in recent memory House was dumbstruck. It wasn't a feeling he enjoyed. He stared at Cameron as she turned her face away from him; watched as she shuddered when a wave of pain coursed over her. He stared for at least a minute, waiting for her to turn back, but she didn't. Eventually words returned. Easy, professional words.
"They only gave you demerol after surgery. That shit wouldn't relieve a papercut. I'll have the nurse set up a morphine drip. You don't need to be in pain." He pressed his lips together as his own words mocked him. She was going to be in pain with or without the morphine.